What a love story – that of Josephine and Napoleon…Filled with devotion, passion, friendship and, yes, many tempestuous moments as well. History reveals this was a great and everlasting love.
Was there ever a love story that moved Josephine as hers did others? In fact there was; Josephine was devoted to the story of Heloise and Abelard - another love story that inspired many throughout the centuries.
Painting by Jean Vignaud 1819
Their tragic story began back in the Middle Ages. Heloise was a French philosopher and Medieval Scholar who, under the guidance of her uncle, the Abbot Fulbert, was made to continue her studies at home with Peter Abelard- a brilliant scholar and a teacher at the University of Paris. Abelard was given room and board at Fulbert’s home, and having given a vow of celibacy, he was considered as totally trustworthy with Heloise. Well, one thing led to another and the two naturally fell in love. When this was discovered, the Abott immediately separated them. But, it was too late- Heloise was already pregnant with Abelard’s son.
The two lovers escaped to Abelard’s home for a short while. They then returned to Paris with their son and secretly got married. However, it was important for them to live separately and keep their marriage a secret since this would have been a serious obstacle in Abelard’s academic career. So they pretended their relationship was over and it was decided that Heloise opt for the Convent; although without the wearing of the veil.
When uncle Fulbert heard about this he went wild. He was so furious that he arranged to get even with Abelard. Abelard was hunted down in Paris until he was found and then-castrated!. Consequently, Abelard entered the Dominican Order and became a monk. No sooner, Heloise, took up the veil, gave up her son and became a nun; later an abbess.
Although separated, and their lives having taken a drastic turn, the two continued to write to eachother until the rest of their days. It is said that their love lasted until their very end. Abelard died before Heloise and was buried in the Paraclete, according to his wishes. When Heloise died she was buried alongside her great love.
Throughout the centuries their bodies were dug up and moved several times. It was only after our tender-hearted Josephine, who thought their love story so very tragic, bbrought both bodies closer for their final move at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Josephine was very moved by these lovers and both she and Napoleon regularly paid tribute to their shrine.
I wonder if Josephine ever compared similarities with her own relationship; seeing that both Josephine and Napoleon’s story would also end with them being kept far apart for reasons of higher impediment. They too were physically separated, yet infinitely in love until the end…forever and ever.
Portrait from a 14c manuscript