©2008 NewFoundations

Napoleon On "Woman"

edited 8/19/11

By birth a Corsican of lesser nobility, Napoleon capitalized on his military genius and shrewd political instincts to ultimately become Emperor of France. A brilliant tactitian, he conquered most of the continent before the bitter cold of the Russian winter destroyed his armies. The Russian fiasco was followed by a major defeat at Leipzig, and Napoleon was eventually exiled to the island of Elba. Undaunted, he engineered a return to France and rallied his armies. Defeated decisively by the Allies at the Battle of Waterloo, the erstwhile emperor was exiled to the remote island of St. Helena, where, according to recent historical findings, he was poisoned.

Although passionately in love with Josephine, the widow of Beneral de Beauharnais whom he married after her husband was guillotined; Napoleon was a reactionary pragmatist regarding women. To solidify his hold on Europe and to establish a French imperial dynasty, he divorced Josephine and married Marie Louise, the Archduchess of Austria.

Napoleon was convinced that marriage should not be an affair of hormones and propinquity, but of acquiring and transmitting property and conceiving and raising children, and that adultery was not a cause for divorce unless the man kept his mistress under the same roof as his wife. However, he declared a wife’s adultery as grounds for divorce--even though he twice forgave Josephine for cuckolding him.



Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) -- Emperor of the French, statesman, and military strategist who conquered most of Europe and established the bureaucratic structure of the modern French state

 Women have no rank.
-- Quoted in Jonathan Burwell Frost’s The Sayings of Napoleon

I have always thought that woman was made for man, and man for country, family, glory, and honor.
-- Letter, January 27, 1807

We treat women too well, and in this way have spoiled everything. We have done every wrong by raising them to our level. Truly the Oriental nations have more mind and sense than we in declaring the wife to be the actual property of the husband. In fact nature has made woman our slave. . . . Woman is given to man that she may bear children . . . consequently she is his property, just as a fruit tree is the property of the gardener.
-- Memoirs

The weakness of women’s brains, the instability of their ideas . . . their need for perpetual resignation . . . all this can be met only by religion.
-- Note on the State School for Girls at Ecouen, 1807

A woman, in order to know what is due her and what her power is, must live in Paris for six months.
-- Letter, 1795

Women . . . should not be regarded as the equals of men; they are, in fact, mere machines to make children.
-- Conversation, 1817

I do not like masculine women any more than effeminate men. Everyone would play his own part in this world.
-- Conversation, 1817

Nothing is more imperious . . . than weakness when it knows it is backed by strength; look at women.
-- Conversation, 1815

Women are always much better or much worse than men.
-- Conversation, 1817

Women . . . are capable of committing the worst atrocities. . If war broke out between men and women, it would be quite a different business from the struggles we have seen between nobles and the people, or whites and blacks.
-- Conversation, 1817

Vanity is the most active passion of the [female] sex.
-- Note on the State School for Girls at Ecouen, 1807

Let the women whine, it is their business.
-- Conversation, 1800

I . . . repent not having talked more with the ladies. I would have learned a great many things from them that men did not dare tell me.
-- Conversation, 1817