On This Day in Napoleonic History – 9 March 1796

9Marriage of Napoleon and Josephine

The future Imperial couple married in a civil ceremony with Barras, Eugene and Hortense as witnesses. Having just been appointed commander of the Army of Italy (the best wedding present he could ever wish for), Napoleon arrived to his wedding two hours late, having lost track of time studying the maps of Italy and planning his campaign.

They both lied about their age to minimise six year difference between them. Napoleon claimed in the marriage registry that he was born in 1768 and Josephine that she was four years younger, so that they could both be 28. Napoleon would always tease his wife about her insistence on hiding her true age. ‘According to her calculations, Eugene must have been born aged 12,’ he would say.

As a wedding gift, Napoleon gave her a gold medallion engraved ‘To destiny’. Their honeymoon, during which he was bitten by her dog Fortune, only lasted two days. Soon he left for his Italian campaign, where he would miss Josephine terribly. ‘I win nothing but battles but Josephine by her kindness wins all hearts,’ he said about his wife.

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