On This Day in Napoleonic History – 29 May 1814

17Josephine dies of pneumonia at Malmaison at the age of 50

At a ball one cold evening, Josephine went for a walk in the gardens with Tzar Alexander and caught a cold. She never recovered.

Napoleon, who was in exile on the island of Elba at the time, declared two days of mourning on the news of his wife’s death and locked himself in the room, refusing to see anyone. ‘She was the wife who would have gone with me to Elba,’ he later said.

Despite her infidelity and his subsequent affairs, Napoleon had truly loved her and believed she was his good luck charm. His army shared this belief and with good reason. After all, it was soon after their divorce that fortune had turned against Napoleon.

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