Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987)





Director:     Richard T. Heffron.

Starring:     Armand Assante (Napoleon Bonaparte), Jacqueline Bisset (Josephine de Beauharnais), Stephanie Beacham (Therese Tallien). Anthony Higgins (Joseph Bonaparte), Nickolas Grace (Lord Nelson), Jane Lapotaire (Letizia Bonaparte), Patrick Cassidy (Capt. Hippolyte Charles), William Lucking (Sgt. Dupont), Jean-Pierre Stewart (Barras), John Vickery (Bourrienne), Leigh Taylor-Young (Madame de Stael), Ione Skye (Pauline Bonaparte, Anthony Perkins (Talleyrand), Paul Brooke (Junot), Jeremy Brudenell (Louis Bonaparte), Simon Chandler ( LeClerc), Paul Geoffrey Murat), Julie Graham Caroline Bonaparte), Jane Gurnett (Eliza Bonaparte), Colin Bruce (Lucien Bonaparte, Natalie Forbes (Yvonne Grande), Sally Bretton ( Hortense de Beauharnais as Child), Emma Harbour (Hortense de Beauharnais), Nolan Hemmings (Eugene de Beauharnais, as a child), Paul Herzberg (Cpl. Marchand), Dominic Jephcott (Villeforte), Pascale Kalensky (Louise), Stephen Schwartz (Eugene de Beauharnais), Geoffrey Beevers (Bussiere), Patrice Lebadezet (Capt. Foures), Jean Boissery (Goaler Antibes).

love affair of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine de Beauharnais



Spoiler Warning:




Paris 1794.  Napoleon is in a crowd watching a Duchess have her head cut off by the guillotine.  He doesn't like what he sees. 

Josephine and her two children are held in a make-shift prison.  A guard comes over and tells Josephine the she is to be guillotined tomorrow.  Her husband was guillotined today.  She ask for help from the guard, but he says he can't do anything.  She wants him at least to save her children and says she will do anything to save them.  So the guard tells her to meet him at the colonnade tonight.  The guard leaves. 

In his office Robespierre, a very important man of the French Revolution, sees Napoleon.  The leader says that Napoleon's military accomplishments are quite impressive, especially his victory over the English at Toulon.   [From Wikipedia:  "Siege of Toulon, (Aug. 28–Dec. 19, 1793), military engagement of the French Revolutionary Wars, in which the young artillery officer Napoleon Bonaparte won his first military reputation by forcing the withdrawal of the Anglo-Spanish fleet, which was occupying the city of Toulon and its forts.]  Robespierre says the Revolution needs daring officers like Napoleon.  There is an uprising that must be put down.  Napoleon says no to Robespierre, which makes the revolutionary leader quite angry.  He tells Napoleon that he will take this refusal very personally. 

Napoleon thinks the Robespierre is insane and also thinks he's the Almighty.  The bold artillery office doesn't get far before he is arrested and taken to prison. 

At night Josephine goes to the colonnade.  She asks for one more day, so she can talk with a woman, Therese Tallien, who might get someone to take her children in.  He gives her one more day.  During the night Robespierre himself is arrested and thrown in prison. 

The next day the guard tells Josephine that there is no need for them to meet now because Robespierre has been arrested for crimes against the revolution.  The Terror has ended.

A fellow soldier is there to release Napoleon from Prison.  He says Murat convinced the leaders of the revolution that Bonaparte is an innocent man wrongly imprisoned.  And Murat wants Napoleon brought to him in Paris.  There is a Royalist uprising that Murat wants Napoleon to put down. 

Josephine and her children are released from prison.  Therese Tallien introduces Josephine to the former aide to Robespierre, Paul Barras.  He is also the head of the new government.  He wants to put up Josephine and her family in an apartment given to him by the government for his position.  Josephine hears firing and is scared.  Barras reassures her saying he has found a very competent military leader who will subdue the Royalist uprising. 

Bonaparte leads the assault on the Royalist forces.  Barras gets scared and decides to leave in his carriage, leaving everyone else behind.  Napoleon arrives to tell Barras that the enemy is on the run.  [According to Wikipedia, "13 Vendémiaire Year 4 (5 October 1795 in the French Republican Calendar) is the name given to a battle between the French Revolutionary troops and Royalist forces in the streets of Paris. The battle was largely responsible for the rapid advancement of Republican General Napoleon Bonaparte's career."]

Now that the danger is over Barras introduces Josephine and Therese Tallien to Napoleon, the hero of the day.  Bonaparte tells Barras that the woman Josephine is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.  Napoleon leaves.

Island of Corsica.  The Bonaparte family have a ranch on Corsica.  His brother Joseph reads from a letter from Napoleon that he has been made a general.  Moreover, he has been put in control of an army.  The army is in bivouac and await the orders to march.  Additionally, Napoleon wants Joseph to come to Paris. 

Alexander, Josephine's young boy, goes to turn in his weapon as requested by the army.  There he sees Napoleon who is impressed by the boy.  He tells the boy that, since he wants to become a soldier, he should keep his sword.  The two males salute each other and Alexander returns to his mother's temporary abode.  When Alexander tells his mother about Bonaparte and becoming a soldier, Josephine tells her son that she does not want him becoming a soldier:  "I want you alive."  She tells her son that she'll probably go have a little talk with Gen. Napoleon. 

Josephine comes to see the general.  She says thank you to Napoleon for returning her son's sword to him, but then says she doesn't want him encouraged to become a soldier.  Napoleon is overwhelmed by her.  He blurts out that he's in love with her.  "First time I saw you."  Josephine gets offended and walks out on Napoleon. 

Barras throws a big party and wants to please Napoleon.  At the party, Josephine deliberately avoids Napoleon.  Barras tells her it is very foolish to snub Napoleon for his instincts tell him that the man is going to be very important one day.  Meanwhile, Josephine's daughter calls Napoleon to come over and talk to her on the steps.  She asks him to get her some champagne, but Napoleon won't do it.  Then she begs him to dance with her.  Napoleon is a terrible dancer.  Josephine comes over and has a good laugh at Napoleon's expense.  She tells Hortense to go up to bed.  She apologizes to Napoleon and asks him to dance with her.

At the ball, orders arrive for Napoleon to soon be heading out to Italy.

Joseph Bonaparte now sets out to see his brother in Paris.  Napoleon is glad to see Joseph.  He tells him that he is going to wed a widow with two children.  Joseph is a bit surprised. 

Josephine invites Napoleon to dinner with her alone.  After dinner she shows Napoleon around the rest of the house.  She kisses him.  He gets down on one knee and says he wants her for his wife.  She says no.  She tells Bonaparte that she doesn't want to be just someone's possession.  They kiss and he takes her top down. 

Brothers Lucien and Joseph tell Napoleon that Josephine is skilled in the arts of passion and she is not worthy of their distinguished brother.  Napoleon gets so mad at Lucien that he starts to chase after Lucien with a sword.  Joseph stops Napoleon, who now has a seizure.  Joseph motions for Lucien to get out of the room.  Lucien leaves after asking Napoleon to forgive him.  

Josephine tells Barras that she turnrd down Napoleon's marriage proposal.  Barras wants her to marry Napoleon and have her use her position to help Barras and Talleyrand, the foreign minister, make a lot of money off of providing war supplies for the military.  Barras says that if Josephine will not marry Napoleon, he will have to close down the house that Josephine and her children live in.  By marrying Napoleon, her economic future will be a secure one.  It doesn't take long before Josephine calls down to Napoleon to speak with her for a moment.

Napoleon is late for his own wedding.  In a very short ceremony, he is married. 

Napoleon's mother gets a letter from Josephine about her marriage.  Mother is not happy.  Nor are her children.  Mother says that Joseph has failed them.  So now she decides to send sister Pauline Bonaparte to Paris. 

After the short honeymoon, Napoleon goes to war.

Northern Italy.  Napoleon's army crosses the Alps and now are on the plains of Northern Italy.  He plans to force Italy to surrender before the Austrians can intervene.  During the Montenotte Campaign, Napoleon knocks Piedmont out of the war in two weeks.  The military leader is saddened by not having a letter from Josephine in four days. 

Meanwhile, Josephine is having to appear in public in various ceremonies.  She tells her friends that she hates to appear in public. 

Bonaparte writes to implore Josephine to come see him in Italy. 

Bonaparte besieges the Austrian troops and gets another triumph.  Following this victory, the French people swamp Josephine's residence.  Josephine wants to ignore them, but her children plead with her to go to the window to see them. 

Bonaparte is now demanding that Josephine come to Italy.  Barras thinks about this and comes up with an answer.  They will write Napoleon telling him that Josephine is pregnant and cannot travel such a long distance.  And then Bonaparte will remain in Italy. 

Therese Tallien tells Josephine that she doesn't have to worry about going to see Bonaparte for Barras has written him that Josephine is pregnant.  This upsets Josephine and she becomes angry at Barras for doing this. 

Talleyrand tells Barras that Napoleon is planning to sign a peace settlement with Austria.  Therefore, they must send Josephine to Italy, so that Napoleon will stay there too.    A captain flirts with Josephine and she responds to him.  Tallien notices that Josephine likes Captain Charles. 

Barras talks to Josephine.  She balls him out over the pregnant ploy.  But Barras says she should forget all that because she is going to Italy to be with Bonaparte as soon as an escort for her can be arranged.  Josephine asks how she can she go to Italy being pregnant?  Barras responds that Josephine will make up some accident and tell everyone that she suffered a miscarriage.  Josephine is furious with Barras, but he just tells her:  "You will do as you are told."  Josephine slaps Barras across the face.  She takes off crying to her room.  Captain Charles follows her.  He consoles her.  He kisses her and then they kiss each other.  Barras sees the two kissing and closes the door. 

Napoleon tells a close aide that Josephine was never in love with him.  He's really distraught over Josephine's lack of correspondence with him. 



Captain Charles says he has a surprise for Josephine and he can hardly wait to give it to her. 

Today Josephine will be escorted to northern Italy.  Josephine actually get two surprises.  Her brother-in-law Joseph is riding in the coach with her and also ridding with her is Captain Charles. 

Northern Italy.  There is grumbling among the troops that Bonaparte has sacrificed the troops because of Napoleon's love sickness for Josephine.  He is not happy about the grumbling, but is quickly cheered up when he gets a message that Josephine will soon be in Milan.  His joy is suddenly dimmed when he is told that Josephine lost the child. 

Napoleon is there waiting for Josephine's arrival as the coach pulls up to the mansion.  Napoleon walks down to her.  She doesn't say anything to him.  In their bedroom, Napoleon kneels before Josephine sitting on the bed.  He cries over the loss of their baby.  He tells her he needs her and is mad without her.  She tells him:  "I never realized how beautiful you are."  She kisses him.

The Austrians have come back to life.  They are attacking Mantua.  Napoleon will now have to go to Mantua.  Josephine tells him that she will go to Verona. 

Josephine tours an art gallery with Captain Charles.  She tells him that he got her here on false pretenses.  He objects and she admits that he was a person who she took advantage of for her own purposes.  She was weak, when she should have been strong.  A warning comes that the Austrian forces are near and they must leave.   She says goodbye to Charles. 

The Austrians have set up an ambush and they fire upon the stage convoy.  The French officer tells a corporal to guard Josephine and -make a run for it.  He guides her away from the fighting.  They stay hidden until the Austrians ride by them.  The corporal gets a horse and wagon and transports Josephine hiding in the wagon.  He hears horses coming and so makes Josephine get out of the wagon and run into the woods.  The Austrians catch up with the corporal, who kills two Austrians.  The Austrians kill the corporal. 

Napoleon reaches the ambush site and then takes off riding to find Josephine.  He finds her by the dead corporal. 

Back at the mansion.  Napoleon catches his sister Pauline making out with a soldier.  Pauline and her fellow run away from Napoleon.  Josephine tells Napoleon that she loves him.  He tells her that it seems to him like he has waited his whole life for her to say that. 

Napoleon scolds Pauline for making a laughing stalk of her brother.  Pauline says the one at real fault, is his own wife.  She tells Napoleon about Captain Charles.

At the dinner table, Napoleon signs the document for the execution of one Captain Charles.  When Josephine asks who is being executed, he tells her, and she chokes on her food after hearing the name of Charles.  Josephine asks her husband how can he do this?  He asks her is it true that Josephine and Captain Charles were lovers?  She says she never loved Charles.  Napoleon asks:  "You cuckold your husband with a man you don't love?"

The execution will take place as ordered.  Josephine says she's leaving Napoleon.  Napoleon has another one of his seizures.  This brings Josephine to Napoleon's side as he writhes on the floor.  He reawakens and calls off the execution of Captain Charles.  Napoleon says he's still obsessed with Josephine.  They kiss.  

Pauline marries the soldier she was making out with.  At the wedding ceremony, Josephine tries to speak nicely to her mother-in-law, but the mother tells Josephine that she's too old for Napoleon.

Paris, France.  Napoleon and his army come home to a great celebration by the townspeople.  At a ball in Napoleon's honor, Bonaparte tells Barras that he must make him a member of the Directory.  Barras says the 29 year old Bonaparte has to be 40 years of age to be a Directorate member.  Bonaparte tells Barras that his next triumph will be over Egypt. 

Lord Nelson's Flagship.  Nelson plans to make sure that Napoleon's fleet out of Toulon Harbor never reaches Egypt. 

Toulon Harbor.  Napoleon is told that he can't sail for Egypt.  Nelson and his ships are all ready for him in the Mediterranean Sea.  Napoleon is going to sail anyway.  Josephine will be taken to Plombieres Spa.  While there she trips on the grand staircase rolls to the bottom floor. 

The French fleet eludes Nelson and lands in Alexandria on July 1, 1798. 

Abukir Bay, Egypt.  The British fleet captures or destroys all but two French vessels.  Now Bonaparte won't be apply to keep his expedition supplied.

Captain Charles comes to see Josephine promising only to stay a moment.  As a gift, he brings her a new puppy dog.  Josephine likes the dog, but wants to know why Charles has come to see her?   He says he has come to warn Josephine.  He says there is complicity with Barras and others and Napoleon's enemies will use this information to try to harm Napoleon.  She asks Charles to please leave because his very presence compromises her.  Charles bolts from the room. 

Tallyrand and Barras learn of the meeting of Charles and Josephine and they will send someone out to Egypt to tell Bonaparte.   Bonaparte fights the Battle of Shubra Khit against the cavalry of the Mamluks, Egypt's ruling military caste.  Bonaparte wins the battle. After making the Mamluks swear that they would never fight again, Napoleon releases the Mamluk prisoners. 

General Junot now tells Bonaparte about Josephine and Captain Charles.  He says it seems the captain and Josephine are involved in some little scheme with Bowden and company in war profiteering. 

Napoleon decides to divorce Josephine.  Napoleon's letter, however, ends up in the hands of Lord Nelson. The letters from Bonaparte will now be printed in the British press.  Josephine reads about the divorce from reading the newspapers.   Josephine is very upset at the news. 

Josephine now complains about the news to Barras and Talleyrand.  The two men give her a share of the war profits made from Bowden and company. 

Napoleon is hurt by the men laughing at him forbeing a cuckold.  Bonaparte now becomes furious with the Mamluks when he sees recaptured men appearing once again in the line of some 8,000 prisoners.  Napoleon says they will kill the prisoners.  The prisoners are marched into the sea.  If they try to escape, they are bayoneted.  If they try to come back on shore, they are also bayoneted. 

Napoleon plays the David and Bathsheba trick.  He sends a blonde's husband back to France while he has sex with the wife in his quarters.

Napoleon decides to take his men back home to France.  He has read in foreign newspaper that a pro-Bonaparte spirit is raging through France and against the Directory. 

Barras and Talleyrand hold a fancy dinner at a mansion.   Josephine and Hortense are at the dinner.  Josephine thinks that Bonaparte is arriving.  She wants to talk to Bonaparte before others talk to him and feed him more lies about Josephine.  She has Hortense pretend that she is suddenly sick and she walks Hortense out of the dining room.  The people in the streets give Bonaparte a kingly reception. 

Josephine's coach breaks down and it looks as though she will not be the first to reach Napoleon's ear. 


Part 3.

Bonaparte arrives home at his mansion.  Josephine is not there and Napoleon is very disappointed.  He thinks she ran away with Captain Charles.  He gives an order to takes everything that reminds him of Josephine out of the mansion.  When Josephine arrives she finds all her things piled up outside. She goes inside the house, but can't  get to see Napoleon because he won't open the locked door.  Josephine pounds on the door to be let in, saying that she loves Napoleon.  Her daughter and son also plead with Napoleon to let them in.  He finally relents and opens the door.  The family all hug him. 

Napoleon takes Josephine to the royal palace.  She does not realize that Napoleon plans to move to the royal palace.  Bonaparte jumps on the bed in the royal bedroom.  He pulls Josephine into the bed and he starts kissing her.  Josephine says she doesn't want to mess up the royal bed, but Napoleon asks her:  "Why not?  It's our bed."  At first, Josephine doesn't believe him.  He says that the government has been replaced by a Consulate.  As First Consul, the royal palace will be the home of Napoleon himself.  The government is now completely under Bonaparte's control.  

As Bonaparte rises to power, his opponents, such as Duke Dernière, start conspiring together for if they are to restore the monarchy, Bonaparte must die.

Bonaparte throws a big ball.  An enemy of Napoleon throws a rock in through a window with a message saying Death to Tyrants. 

Tallyrand learns that there is a royalist plot against the government. 

The royalist rebels bring in a wagon filled with high explosives.   A lookout will signal when Napoleon's carriage approaches the square.  Another rebel will then light the fuse for the explosives.  Napoleon's women are running a bit late to the opera, so he decides to go ahead of Josephine and Hortense.  As Napoleon starts to near the square he asks the drive to go faster because they are late.  The driver goes faster and Napoleon's carriage passes by the explosives.  The explosives blow up between Napoleon's carriage and Josephine's carriage, thereby saving the Bonapartes from sure death.  Napoleon has a Duke executed.  Josephine feels betrayed by Napoleon for she gave him the name of one of her most influential royalists.  He then had the duke executed by firing squad. 

Now Napoleon tells Josephine that he will declare himself an emperor.  Josephine says she's afraid.  She is not sure she can play the part of empress. 

The Pope will officiate at Bonaparte's coronation.  Josephine says that she is not married in the eyes of the church, because she had a civil ceremony.  The Pope says then they must marry Josephine and Napoleon before the coronation.  So the couple is married in a chapel. 

The Pope tries to coronate Napoleon, but Napoleon grabs the crown from the Pope and crowns himself the emperor.  He then crowns Josephine as the empress.  The Emperor and Empress now walk down the aisle. 

To make sure that Napoleon can sire a child, his mother and sister Pauline get a poor young woman to have a child with Napoleon.  On the night of sex, Josephine wakes up and notices that her husband is not in his bed.  She opens the bedroom door and sees the pretty but poor girl coming out of a bedroom with an escort, as Napoleon stays back in the room.  She confronts Napoleon and he says she hates him.  He also tells her that he believes it's his fault that they can have no children, so he had to find out for himself.  Josephine says it wasn't his fault.  She had an accident.  She fell down the stairs at Plombieres Spa.

Austria. Napoleon comments:  "Once again, the royal houses of Europe are aligned against me."  He fights the Austrians at the Battle of Austerlitz.   [The Battle of Austerlitz:  "Widely regarded as Napoleon's greatest victory, the French Grande Armée commanded directly by Emperor Napoleon I decisively crushed a larger Austro-Russian army under the overall command of Tsar Alexander I. The battle took place near the village of Austerlitz in the Austrian Empire (modern-day Slavkov u Brna in the Czech Republic). Wikipedia]

Hortense has a baby boy but he dies early.

Now Napoleon conquers Poland. He sees a pretty woman among the people on the side of the road and he stops to talk with her.  Her name is Marie Walewska.  He flirts with her and she accepts his come-ons.  Now the pair go to visit at her mansion.  She introduces Napoleon to her husband who is 70 years old.  A little later the others in the room leave the two people alone. 

Napoleon asks Marie:  "What is this all this about, Madame Walewska?  Why have you and I so obviously been left alone together?"  She says Napoleon has conquered Poland, and Poland wants Napoleon to be good to Poland.  In return, Poland will be good to France and Napoleon.  He can stay the winter in Poland in one of their lodges in the mountains.  There she will do everything in her powers to make Napoleon feel at home. 

Napoleon and Marie are like lovers in the lodge, but she tells him that she doesn't want to fall in love with Napoleon for that would be too hard for her to endure, when Napoleon is with someone else.  She says she will have a son by Napoleon and that would give her and her husband a nice little family.  Napoleon says that he's so glad that she is having our child.  Marie says:  "So am I."  They kiss. 

Josephine is worried about the rumors she hears that Napoleon and Marie Walewska are lovers.  And now she is sure that Napoleon is coming back to tell her about his love for Marie, a 17 year old girl. 

Josephine and Napoleon walk and talk.  He says that Marie is with child and he is the father.  He adds that he must have an heir, the crown has to have continuity and France must be taken seriously by other nations.  Napoleon says he must divorce Josephine, and it must be soon.  Furthermore, this must take place in public.  Josephine wonders what will happen to her now.  Her husband says this divorce will make no difference between the two of them. 

Before the family and the court, Napoleon, with Josephine at his side, announces the divorce.  He breaks down and cries during the announcement.  Then Josephine breaks down and cries.  The couples leaves the room.  Talleyrand finishes Josephine's written statement.  She steps down because France needs an heir to Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Princess Marie-Louise of Austria is the chosen one for Napoleon.  Marie-Louise has a baby boy.  And now Bonaparte says he's off to fight a war, his last one, so he says.  He' going to fight the Russians.

Russia.  Napoleon now retreats from Moscow.  He came into Russia with 450,000 troops and leaves Russia with 40,000 men.  Napoleon goes ahead of his troops back to Paris. 

Tuileries Palace.  The Allied troops are all over the palace and its grounds.  The Allies will not deal with Napoleon until he resigns as the French Emperor.  Talleyrand has Napoleon sign the abdication agreement.  The talk is that Napoleon will be exiled to St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. 

Josephine is upset that the English are going to send her ex-husband to St.  Helena.   She wants to him to go to Elba Island, a little island in the Mediterranean Sea in Tuscany, Italy, that is not far from Corsica.   

Napoleon prepares to leave.  He goes up to say goodbye to Josephine.  Napoleon puts on a good act about his future in exile.  He tells Josephine that he loves her and he will love her always.  He now takes off for St. Helena. 

Josephine dies as Napoleon begins his exile on the Island of Elba.  He died seven years later, on May 5, 1821 at the age of 51.  His last words were:  "France, the army, at the head of the army, Josephine."


A TV mini-series about Napoleon and Josephine.  The series goes through the major highlights of Napoleon's military and political life, but constantly stresses the state of the relationship between Josephine and Napoleon.  Josephine starts as a tool of Barras and war profiteers helping them keep Napoleon under their control.  So Josephine is not a good wife to Napoleon.  She very rarely answers his many letters to her and this makes him go a little mad.  And she has an affair with the young Captain Charles.  Napoleon is told about the affair and plans to divorce Josephine.  Josephine and her children beg Napoleon to take them back.  He relents, but Napoleon has affairs with various women and has a child with the 17 year old Polish Madame Walewska.  Now that he knows he can have children, he get Josephine to agree to divorce him so he can marry a younger woman who will give him children.  He marries Princess Marie-Louise of Austria and has children by her.  But his love for Josephine continues through all his problems and travails.  Josephine dies as Napoleon begin his exile on the Island of Elba. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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