Hortense de Beauharnais

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Hortense Eugénie Cécile Bonaparte (née de Beauharnais) (10 April 1783 – 5 October 1837), Queen Consort of Holland, was the stepdaughter of Emperor Napoleon I, being the daughter of his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais. She later became the wife of the former's brother, Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland, and the mother of Napoleon III, Emperor of the French. She had also an illegitimate son, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, duc de Morny by her lover Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut.

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Early life

Hortense was born in Paris, France on 10 April 1783, the daughter of Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie. Her parents separated shortly after her birth. Her father was executed on 23 July 1794, at the time of the French Revolution, a few days before the end of the Reign of Terror. Her mother was imprisoned in the Carmes prison, from which she was released on 6 August 1794, thanks to the intervention of her best friend Thérèse Tallien. Two years later, her mother married Napoleon Bonaparte.

Hortense was educated at the school of Madame Jeanne Campan at St-Germain-en-Laye together with Napoleon's youngest sister Caroline Bonaparte, who later married Joachim Murat. She was tall, slender with blond hair, large blue eyes, a heart-shaped face and fine features. She had an elder brother, Eugène de Beauharnais. Hortense was an accomplished amateur musical composer and supplied the army of her stepfather with rousing marches.[1]

Marriage

In 1802, at Napoleon's request, Hortense married his brother Louis Bonaparte. The couple had three sons:

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