Napoleon and Josephine’s Marriage Certificate Sold for Almost 500,000 Euros at Auction

Napoléon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais’s love story was one of the greatest and most celebrated in history. And just recently, the document that sealed and legalised their union was sold at auctioneers Maison Osenat in Paris for the sum of €437,500 (includes commission and fees).

The document, signed on 8 March 1796, was sold almost over four times of its valued worth. Before the auction took place, the certificate was estimated to be sold for around €80,000 – €100,000.

The wedding between Napoleon and Josephine took place a day after the marriage certificate was signed. Their marriage contract was then registered in Paris on the 18th of March, ten days after the contract was signed.

The document was bought by the privately-owned Museum of Letters and Manuscripts situated in Paris. The museum holds around 136,000 historical handwritten documents that include the couple’s original divorce papers that were acquired in 2007 for the sum of €120,000.

Josephine’s copy of the contract was the one sold at the auction. Napoleon’s copy is already on display at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France) where it is well-kept as a national heritage.

Clauses in the document stipulated that none of them will be accountable for the debts and mortgages of the other. It also stated that there will be no shared assets between them.

At the time of their marriage, Napoléon was 26 while Josephine was six year older at the age of 32. And while it was Napoléon’s first marriage, Joséphine was already a widower with two children. Her first husband, who is the father of her two children, was executed during the revolution.

Even though the love Napoleon and Josephine shared was very strong, her inability to give him children led to the annulment of their marriage when she was 46. Napoléon wanted to have a male heir and decided to marry the Archduchess of Austria Marie Louise. They both had a son together.

After Napoleon and Josephine’s divorce in 1810, she moved to a chateau at Malmaison, a country house in the city of Rueil-Malmaison and about 12 km away from Paris. The property was given to her after their divorce and she also received a pension of 5 million francs a year for her upkeep, the Euronews reports.

Despite their divorce, Napoleon and Josephine were lifelong friends. On hearing about how Josephine died of pneumonia in 1814, Napoleon was alleged to have locked himself up for 2 days in his room and refused to see or speak to anybody.

In 1915, a year after Josephine’s death, Napoleon was defeated by British-led forces at the Battle of Waterloo where he was forced to surrender. He was then exiled to Saint Helena where he died six years later in 1821.

In spite of his second marriage and having mistresses, when Napoléon died in exile after being defeated, overthrown and suffering from cancer, the last thing he said on his death bed was the name, ‘Josephine’.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE