1794: Alexandre de Beauharnais, widowing Josephine for Napoleon

On this date in 1794, Napoleon Bonaparte’s future Empress became a widow.

Alexandre de Beauharnais — excuse me, that’s Alexandre Fran├žois Marie de Beauharnais, Vicomte de Beauharnais to you — a liberal noble from Martinique who had served as a general in the American Revolution, was a pol with some juice in the earlier stages of the French Revolution, even declining to become Minister of War in June 1793.

It was a long fall to a short chop when he was accused of allowing Mainz to fall to the Germans through incompetence and/or insufficient revolutionary ardor. His brother Augustin was also among the day’s batch.

Just another forgettable aristocrat, shaved by the national razor.

But surviving Beauharnais — in prison herself at this moment, and in some danger of following his footsteps were it not for the imminent coup of Thermidor — was his wife by arranged marriage, 31-year-old sugar plantation heiress Josephine, later immortalized by remarrying the officer who would go on to bend all Europe to his will, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Thanks to his widow’s well-chosen conquest, Beauharnais’ children, dynastically married off under Napoleon’s adoption, would go on to sire a plethora of European royalty.

Part of the Themed Set: Thermidor.