During the upcoming Valentine’s Day week, history enthusiasts will have the chance to bid on a rare document bearing the signatures of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife, Josephine. Known for his military genius that helped lead France out of revolution, Napoleon went on to conquer much of Europe, as Emperor of the French. He was also a legendary romantic, writing lengthy love letters to his wife Josephine, while being away on his famous Italian Campaign.
The document in question is the marriage contract of General August Hulin (1758-1841) and Marie Jeanne-Louise Tiersonnier (1782-1826). Held on May 30, 1804, the Parisian wedding was attended Napoleon and his wife, who served as witnesses along with several other French dignitaries of the time. The contract, historians believe, was one of the first documents signed by Napoleon and Josephine as emperor and empress of France.
The artifact, which will soon be auctioned off by New York-based dealer Lion Heart Autographs, is expected to fetch at least $20,000, thanks to its rarity as one of the few known documents, containing Napoleon’s signature, to be in private possession. The auction is part of the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art and Antique Show that will take place between February 10 and 16 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Speaking about the artifact, David Lowenherz, the founder of Lion Heart Autographs, said:
I am thrilled to share the evocative nature of this historical document on Valentine’s Day. It is assuredly the finest marriage contract signed by Emperor Napoleon and his Empress Josephine available in the world. Napoleon and Josephine’s own marriage contract is preserved in National Archives of France.
In a similar auction, back in 2014, Napoleon and Josephine’s marriage contract was sold for a staggering 437,500 euros (around $563,700 as calculated at the time). Purchased by Paris-based Museum of Letters and Manuscripts, it fetched five times more than the estimated amount, and is regarded as a testament to the couple’s passionate, yet tumultous, love affair.
Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, Josephine belonged to a wealthy, high-class family. As a young socialite, she caught the eye of several well-known French political and military leaders. Her affair with Napoleon, and their eventual marriage, invited widespread criticism from the emperor’s family and friends. She was six years older than her husband, and also had children from a previous marriage.
During their 16-year-long relationship, both parties were accused of being unfaithful, with Josephine’s inability to provide an heir driving Napoleon to finally end the marriage in 1810. He went on to wed Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma. Nevertheless, it is believed that the emperor’s last words, while on his deathbed, were “France, armee, tete d’armee, Josephine” (meaning ‘France, army, head of the army, Josephine’). Lowenherz added:
I don’t think there is a person anywhere who isn’t fascinated by Napoleon and Josephine’s love story — a truly romantic couple joined together during a remarkable period in history. This contract, signed not just by them, but by family members and important military officers as well, all of whom gathered to celebrate the marriage of the man whose actions sparked the French Revolution, offers a rare glimpse into the splendid affairs of the royal household.
In the auction, several other documents of historical importance will be sold, including a letter authored by Albert Einstein about how intellectuals and the working class should join hands, a Harry Truman-signed document declaring the end of World War II, doodles sketched by former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and even a handwritten letter from Charles Darwin to a sailor aboard the HMS Beagle.
To know more about the sale, head over to Lion Heart Autographs’ official website.