Napoleon's Son:

Although Josephine had had two children by her previous marriage, they apparently could not have children. Napoleon blamed himself for this failure, until 1809, when one of his mistresses delivered a healthy baby boy, which unfortunately Napoleon could not recognize legally as his heir. Hence he divorced Josephine and married Maria Louisa: The young Austrian princess did her duty, and 9 months after the marriage, a boy was born. He was christened: Napoleon François-Joseph Charles, and as heir to the French Empire, Napoleon gave him the title, King of Rome.

After Napoleon's fall, there was general expectation that the young King of Rome would be named his successor, under the regency of his mother, Empress Maria Louisa, but Talleyrand blocked this move and arranged for the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty. Maria Louisa was given the life-title of Duchess of Parma, while Napoleon's son was named the Duke of Reichstadt, the name by which history recalls him.




The young King of Rome / Duke of Reichstadt was never a healthy child, and soon wore himself out in the rather licentious court of his mother at Parma and his grandfather in Vienna. He apparently also suffered from TB and died in 1832 at the age of 21. His tragic end gave rise to a whole series of new Napoleonic images, including sentimental death-bed scenes, and one etching in which Napoleon welcomes his son to paradise!



Death of the King of Rome, 1832
 "Two victims" or Napoleon welcomes his son to Paradise


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