Joséphine de Beauharnais and ’s relationship is the stuff of legends. But before they met, de Beauharnais experienced significant hardship. Even after she married Napoleon—her second husband—her life was far from a fairytale.
Ahead of the release of Ridley Scott’s biopic Napoleon, here are 11 facts about Joséphine de Beauharnais, the woman who, for 14 years, stood in the emperor’s shadow.
1. Joséphine de Beauharnais was almost born British.
Joséphine’s family owned sugar plantations in tiny , a French colony in the Caribbean Sea. The French and British had been fighting for control over the island as part of the , with the British seizing control of Martinique in 1762. The conflict between the two countries ended with the , which saw Martinique pass back to French ownership just four months before Joséphine was born.
2. The name Joséphine de Beauharnais never existed—at least not within her own lifetime.