Kingdom of Holland--Queen Hortense (1806-10)

Figure 1.--François Gérard painted this wonderful image of Hortense at about age 4 years probably in 1788. Others say she is 6 and painted in 1790. Hortense's mother Joséphine cultivated who was one of the most popular portraitists of the day. Notice the very high waistband.

Hortense de Beauharnais was the daughter of Emperess Josephine. The beiefly became Queen of Holland after marrying Napoleon Bonapartes brother Louis. She was the mother of and for the most part raised the future Emperor Napoleon III of France by herself.


Hortense was the daughter of Napoleon's first wife and true love, Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie. Her father was Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais. Although an aristocrat, her father had important posts in the Revolutiona and commands in the Revolutionary Army. Her father resigned his commission and was eventually executied during the Reign of Terror. Joséphinewas imprioned and also nearly executed, but was release when her file was lost for lack of evidence. Joséphine subsequently married Napoleon Bonaparte who took an interest in and adopted her children.


Hortense had one sibling, her brother Eugene. Through his daughter's marriage to Oscar I of Sweden, their mother Joséphine is related to many European royal families.


Hortense was born in Paris on April 10, 1783. Her mother took her to Martinque (June 1788) and they returned 2 years later (October 1790) after the Revolution had begun. Hortense is said to have charmed the rough sailors with her dancing.

Childhood Clothing



Louis Napoleon

Hotense's mother reportedly chose Napoleon's brother Loius. She may have thought it would help tie the two families together. Both Hortense and Louis objected to the mairrage. The Emperor, however, supported Joséphine. Emperor Napoleon insisted and as a result Louis and Hortense narried (1802). It was not a happy marriage. The couple sepatated in 1810 when Louis lost his crown.


Louis and Hortense had three sons. There were infidelities. The identity of at least one of the children's fathers is disputed.

Napoleon Charles Bonaparte (1802-07)

Napoleon Charles Bonaparte was born December 10, 1802. His title was Prince Royal of Holland. His untimely death was a great tragedy for his parents and the Bopnaparte family. When he died at 4½ years of age in 1807, his parents reigned in Holand. The boy's body lay in state at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He died on May 5, 1807, and is buried at Saint-Leu-La-Foret, Ile-de-France.

Napoleon Louis Bonaparte (1804-31)

Napoleon Louis Bonaparte was born October 11, 1804. Napoleon Louis lived to adulthood, but died relatuvelt young. After the death of his older brother, he was next in line in famoly senority. After his death, it was his younger brother, Louis Bonaparte, who became the Emperor Napoleon III of France in 1851. Napoleon Louis died on March 17, 1831. He is buried at Saint-Leu-La-Foret, Ile-de-France.

Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873)

Charles Louis Napoleon was born in Paris> He was the third and youngest son. He succeeded in becoming Emperor Napoleon III of France (1852-1870). French Emperor Louis Napoleon or Napoleon III was a nephew of Napoleon I. Louis was the son of Louis Bonaparte who his brother had installed as King of Holland for a brief time. He was largely raised by his mother, Queen Hortense and his father who was estrainged from his mother was rarely present. He was very closed to his older brother. Napoleon III seized power in France from the short-lived Second Republic. He conducted a disastrous foreign policy, leading to the unification of Italy and more importantly the emergence of the militariy orinented Prussians as the leading power in Germany. This was to leading to the loss of his crown and Alsace-Loraine in the Franco-Prussian War and the unification of Germany by Prussia.

Kingdom of Holland (1806-10)

Napoleon decided to take control of Holland. He demanded Schimmelpenninck be dimissed (1806). He then insisted that his brother, Louis Napoleon, be invited to rule as king. The country was renamed the Kingdom of Holland. Louis traveled north and reached The Hague (June 23). Contrary to some expectations, he was well received. Many Dutch thought that Napoleon might simply annex their country. Louis preceeded to implement some badly needed reforms. He introduced a single currency throughout the country. He compiled and implemented a penal code modelled basically on French law. He also adopted a range of progressive measures concerning health care and education. Considering the fact that he was French and had been imposed on the Dutch, he actually proved fairly popular. Louis' wife Hortense was a daughter of Emperess Joséphine. Neither Louis's rule or the marriage proved successful. One of their children was to rule France subsequently as Napoleon III. Napoleon wanted a compliant ruler in Holland. His brother proved less than satisfactory in his judgement. Napoleon introduced the Continetal System severing all trade with Britain (November 1806). This proved very unpopular and costly to the Dutch who were a trading people many found ways of evading controls. Louis annexed East Frisia (1807). Louis oversaw the founding of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Literature, and the Arts in Amsterdam and the Royal Library in the Haag (1808). Louis introduced a law code based on the French Naopleonic Code (1809). Louis gained considerable popularity by aiding the victims of floods (1808 and 1809). The British invaded Walcheren (Zeeland), but in part because of Louis' popularity achieved little success (August-December 1809). Even so, Napoleon was not happy with his brother's rule in Holland. He did not think that the Dutch resisted the British in Zeeland with much enthusiasm, but was incensed with wide spread evasion of the Continental System and trade with Britain. Napoleon insisted that his brother ceed the south of Waal and Merwede to France (March 1810). Louis was unable or incapable of standing up to his brother. Hde complied with his brother's demands but was unhappy. As a result he abdicated (July 1).

Count of Flahaut

After leaving Louis, Hortense took a lover, the Count of Flahaut. The couple had another son, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph (1811-1865). Later the Emperor Napoleon III made his half brother Duke of Morny.

Later Life

Hortense remaoned loyal to her step-father the Emperor Napoleon even though he virtually forced her to marry his brother Louis and divorced her mother Joséphine. She publically supported him during his brief return from exile on Elba (1815). After his final defeat at Waterloo, the Royal Government banished Hortense from France. She travelled in Germany and Italy with her sons. She finally purchased the Château of Arenenberg in the Swiss canton of Thurgau. She lived at the Châteauuntil until her death on October 5, 1837.


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Created: April 19, 2004
Last updated: April 19, 2004