The engagement ring that Napoleon Bonaparte gave to his fiancée and future empress Joséphine will go on sale this weekend at the Osenat auction house in Fonatinebleau outside Paris, reports the Daily Mail. The auction house describes the ring as a “simple” band decorated with two tear-shaped gems. But while the ring itself may be simple, the love story behind it is far more complicated.
Bonaparte met Joséphine (or Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, as she was known then) in 1795. She was a widow six years his senior, and had been caring alone for her two children ever since her husband was guillotined during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. They married the following year, and Napoleon almost immediately left to command the French army near Italy. But the general was smitten with his new bride and wrote her numerous love letters expressing his desire that they be together:
“I am going to bed with my heart full of your adorable image… I cannot wait to give you proofs of my ardent love… To live within Josephine is to live in the Elysian fields. Kisses on your mouth, your eyes, your breast, everywhere, everywhere.”
(MORE: Top 10 Famous Love Letters)
However, Joséphine soon became indifferent to her husband’s demonstrations of love and began distancing herself from Bonaparte. She rarely replied to his correspondence and began an affair with a young officer, according to PBS. Even though his new bride’s infidelities filled him with rage, Napoleon continued to write impassioned letters.
“I don’t love you anymore; on the contrary, I detest you. You are a vile, mean, beastly slut… Soon, I hope, I will be holding you in my arms; then I will cover you with a million hot kisses, burning like the equator.”
The combination of Joséphine’s affairs, her extravagant spending habits and her inability to give the emperor a male heir finally ended the union and the marriage was annulled in 1810, writes the BBC. He quickly married the daughter of the Austrian emperor and a son was born soon after. However, Napoleon never forgot his love for Joséphine and it is believed his final words on his deathbed in exile on the island of St. Helena were “France. The army. The head of the army. Joséphine,” writes The Local.
Osenat auction house estimates that the Bonaparte engagement ring will sell for between €10,000 – €15,000 ($13,000 – $19,600). However, the ring is notably simple for a man who went on to become emperor of France. “At the time, Napoleon had very little money,” Osenat’s Jean-Christophe Chataignier explained to the Daily Mail. “The ring is a very ordinary one.”