Henri-Fréderic Schopin: The Divorce of the Empress Josephine. And details. 1843.
After having survived to almost everything which probably would have destroyed any other marriage, reason of State caused Napoleon and Josephine’s divorce in 1809. On December 14, in the Throne Room of the Tuileries and in the presence of most of the Bonaparte family (with the exception of Lucien and Joseph). Talleyrand, as vice-grand elector, Cambacérès as archancellor of the Empire and Regnault de Saint-Jean d’Angely, secretary of state to the imperial family, were also there. Dressed in a simple white dress, without jewels, Josephine was scorted by her children Hortense and Eugène, who trembled violently. Both Napoleon and Josephine read statements praising each other. Napoleon read his with visible emotion. She was not able to finish hers: her voice choked with sobs, she passed the paper to Regnault who read the rest of the document.
The dissolution of the civil marriage was then formally signed and witnessed by the family. Napoleon embraced Josephine, leading her out. Her children followed them. At the ante-chamber, Eugène, who, according to Constant’s memoirs, had looked the most tragic of all the company reunited at the Throne Room, reeled and fell inconscious. Next morning he, of all people, had to give the Senate an explanation about the divorce. In Shopin’s painting, Eugène is at the Emperor’s side.
That night, the Emperor’s valet was surprised when a disperate Josephine came in the Emperor’s room. Both Napoleon and Josephine, oblivious at first of Constant, mingled their tears. It was the Emperor who finally noticed him and asked the valet to leave. After an hour, Josephine exited the room, still in tears. She left the Tuileries the next morning, after another dramatic scene narrated by Méneval (she clung to her husband until she fainted), Napoleon’s secretary. Followed by a caravan of carriages and with Hortense beside her, Josephine set off for Malmaison. An hour later Napoleon left for Versailles, shutting himself in the Grand Trianon. The next day he visited Josephine at Malmaison.