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There is hardly any other family who influenced European history between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries as much as the Bonapartes did. From the French Revolution to the Treaty of Versailles, the members of this family influenced all spheres of public and private life in politics, art, literature, science, administration, the military, and even landscaping. To this end, they corresponded in writing with all important contemporaries.
The database Napoleon – Letters and Papers, now available in open access, provides a wide audience with access to the Bonaparte family’s autographs and correspondence.
The database will begin by publishing the correspondence of Prince Louis Napoléon Bonaparte – who would later become Emperor Napoleon III – until 1838, thereby covering the period that the Bonaparte-de Beauharnais family spent in exile at Lake Constance. A 2023 database update will contain his correspondence until 1873.
Napoleon III is probably one of the most overlooked personalities in history. The database will, for the first time, compile his surviving autographs into a collection that will make it possible to reinterpret the emperor’s personality and biography.
The next publications planned for this database include:
Hortense de Beauharnais (launch planned for 2024)
Adopted daughter, sister-in-law, and – ultimately – mother of Napoleon III. Heiress of Napoleon I. Intermittently Queen of Holland during the First French Empire at the side of her stepfather. In 1815, she became the First Lady of France. Hortense was a networker whose correspondence until her early death in 1837 is remarkably extensive.
Eugène de Beauharnais-von Leuchtenberg (launch planned for 2025)
One of the richest people of his time. Viceroy of Italy, adopted son of Emperor Napoleon I, and successful general of the French Empire. After its collapse, appointed Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstätt by his father-in-law, King Maximilian of Bavaria. Intermittently under consideration as a candidate for French King.
The sources on Eugène de Beauharnais scattered throughout the world have never been compiled in one place. So far, the story of the role he played in European history has largely gone untold. Opening up these sources is therefore very promising.
Joséphine de Beauharnais (launch planned for 2026)
The first Empress of France, style icon and influencer of her time, mother of Hortense and Eugène de Beauharnais, and a princess with an affinity for gardening, albeit one who only seldom put pen to paper. Thanks to the extensive preparatory work carried out by Bernard Chevallier, the empress’s surviving letters can now be made available to a wide audience.
Christina Egli and Dominik Gügel
On behalf of Napoleon Museum, Arenenberg Castle
In collaboration with
Bernard Chevallier, conservateur général honoraire du Patrimoine, Paris, France
Twice a year