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    A rare marriage document containing the signatures of both Napoleon and Josephine

    Napoleon and Josephine Document Signed "Napoleon" and "Josephine." Eighteen pages (two blank) in French, 8.25" x 11.75", n.p., circa 1805. The royal French couple have signed on the first page of this elaborate marriage contract for another aristocratic couple. Few documents exist today containing both Napoleon and Josephine's signatures, thus having them both on a marriage document is rare indeed. Both signatures are boldly written. The heavy ink line below Napoleon's signature has smudged. The signatures of four notaries and six other individuals follow. The stamp of Imperial France appears in the upper left corner of five early pages. Chipping along the edges of two pages. Held together by the original string with no loose pages; remnants of the original emerald green ribbon still exists.

    Marriage among the French nobility was a very complicated matter, as this document illustrates. It is comprised of six pages listing witnesses, notaries, and officiating monsignors, and ten pages containing twelve articles of the marriage. (Notaries were respected figures in France, responsible for important services such as contracts and investments.) Page five begins a listing of the many witnesses to the ceremony, along with lengthy family lineages. Page seven specifies the terms of the marriage contract and provides, possibly, space for signatures (the space has been left blank). The lower left corner of the first page contains what is likely the invoice for the marriage services.

    Josephine de Beauharnais became a widow in 1794 when her first husband was sent to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The sophisticated Josephine met Napoleon, who was six years younger, the next year, and they married on March 9, 1796, which disappointed his family. Their wedding was fraught with bad omens: Napoleon was late; their wedding documents were quickly and fraudulently drawn up; wrong dates were entered for the couple's birthdays; underage witnesses were used; and an unauthorized ceremony leader was used. Shortly after their wedding, Napoleon left on a military expedition to Italy, and Josephine began an affair. Their fiery marriage lasted until the couple divorced in 1810.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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