Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was born in Martinique in 1763. In 1779, she traveled to France and married Alexandre de Beauharnais. A member of the nobility, Alexandre was guillotined in 1794 during the French Revolution. During this time, Joséphine was imprisoned, where she met and befriended the cartomancer Marie Anne Lenormand. After being released, she became a popular guest at many parties and the lover of leading political figures, including Paul Barras.
Although he was already engaged to Désirée Clary, the military officer Napoleon Bonaparte soon became infatuated with Joséphine in 1795. He removed his attention from Désirée, who was beginning to form a relationship with his fellow officer, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte. Napoleon arranged to take Joséphine for a romantic stroll, and met her near the Palais Bourbon. He made his fellow officer Thomas-Alexandre Dumas promise to have the Assassin Arno Dorian protect him and Joséphine from a gang of royalists as they walked together.
Nervous, Napoleon had difficulty completing his sentences during the meeting. While Joséphine told about her former marriage, Napoleon fascinated her with his Corsican accent and military career. At the end of the meeting, a captivated Napoleon complimented her eyes and insisted that they meet again. Despite clearly being exhausted, he was confident that their stroll together had gone well. The relationship developed, and as Joséphine was older than Napoleon by a few years, she showed a consirably higher level of sophistication than him.
With the help of Barras, they married in 1796, although Joséphine initially did so to ensure her financial security. Their early marriage was marked by infidelity due to the large amount of time spent by Napoleon on campaigns in Italy and Egypt. In 1799, Napoleon overthrew the French government and became First Consul of the country. The year afted, he and Joséphine narrowly escaped death during the plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise. When Napoleon was crowned Emperor of the French in 1804, Joséphine was crowned along with him as Empress of the French, and the passion between them grew.
In 1810, Napoleon divorced Joséphine after she had failed to bear him any heirs, and married Marie Louise of Austria. Because of the passion that had existed between them, Napoleon insisted that she keep the title of Empress. Joséphine retired to the Château de Malmaison where she died of pneumonia in 1814.