Around 1805, there was suspicion that something extra was going on between Hortense and her Stepfather Napoleon. Later on chronologically in Hortense’s Memoirs, Hortense shows where she comes to believe that Napoleon had been deliberately fostering this belief. In the Memoirs, she kind of goes back on that supposition but it’s still there either way.
While Napoleon was preparing to invade England from Boulogne, according to his secretary Meneval, Napoleon hadn’t heard for a while from Hortense so he had a big short trip arranged for her. Her husband refused to come. In Hortense’s previous letter to Eugene, Hortense wrote that she was hoping to see the Emperor. So somewhere between that letter and the first one I posted, Napoleon had won her over.
Hortense describes all the martial and royal honors that were shown to her in her Memoirs. All of this must have surely cemented the idea in the eyes of many that something a bit strange was happening between Napoleon and his Stepdaughter.
Saint-Amand, 8 Fructidor, year XIII, August 26, 1805.
I just came back from a very nice trip, my dear Eugene.
[Napoleon showed off to Hortense what he was doing at Boulogne.]
I'm a little tired, but tomorrow I'll send you a little newspaper clipping about it. When I arrived back here, I found letters from you. You are wrong to be hurt at not receiving letters from Mom. During her entire Italian journey, I received only a small one. No one is lazy like her. If you knew that she cannot yet speak of you without crying, you would forgive her laziness.
I had great pleasure in seeing your aide-de-camp, and at the same time it was sad to see all the people you were usually with and to no longer find you amongst them. I must do justice to all your old comrades. They talked to me a great deal about you and they seem to be very fond of you.
Clarke told me that he often has received news from Italy [Where Eugene is] and said a lot of good things about you. Savary told me that he dared not write to you and give you news. He was afraid that the letters would be opened, but I assure you that everyone still loves you. I would have too many things to tell you if I had to repeat all that everyone told me about you and all the people who told me about you. Many said that they had written to you but that you did not answer them. Farewell, I kiss you very tenderly. Louis instructs me to give you his regards.
Napoleon was very a very good boy and not at all tired from all the traveling.
I had written to the Emperor to commemorate his birthday and his reply was arranging a trip for me to spend a few days with him, as well as Napoleon. This trip made me feel good.
There is nothing like freedom.
Hortense and Josephine Bonaparte’s Letters are available here.