The Forgotten Archduchess

Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second, lesser-known wife, achieved great political success while exiled in Parma. She should not be forgotten, argues Deborah Jay.

Portrait in 1810 by Jean-Baptiste Isabey
Portrait in 1810 by Jean-Baptiste Isabey

Everyone has heard of Josephine. Yet it was only when Napoleon found love with Marie-Louise, Habsburg archduchess and daughter of his enemy, Austrian emperor Francis II/I, that he found true marital happiness. Despite this, next to Josephine, Marie-Louise is almost unknown. 

When Josephine failed to deliver the heir Napoleon believed he needed, he looked to the leading dynasties of Europe for a second wife. Having subdued Austria for a second time in 1809, he forced Emperor Francis to surrender his eldest daughter on pain of losing his Habsburg throne. 

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