On the 9th of March the marriage between General Bonaparte and the widow Viscountess Josephine de Beauharnais took place. Barras, as member of the government, was Bonaparte’s first witness; his second was Captain Lemarrois, his adjutant; and the choice of this witness was a delicate homage which Napoleon paid to his dear Josephine: for Lemarrois was the one who had first led the boy Eugene to Bonaparte, and had thus been the means of his acquaintance with Josephine.
The two witnesses of Josephine were Tallien, who had delivered her from prison, and to whom she owed the restoration of her property, and a M. Calmelet, an old friend and counsellor of the Beauharnais family. [Footnote: “Souvenirs historiques du Baron de Meneval,” vol. i., p. 340.]
In the pure modesty of her heart, Josephine had not desired that the two children of her deceased husband should be the witnesses of her second marriage, and Bonaparte was glad that Josephine’s bridal wreath would not be bedewed with the tears of memory.
On this happy day of Bonaparte’s marriage, so much of the past was set aside, that the certificate of baptism of the betrothed was forgotten, and the number of years which made Josephine older than Bonaparte was struck out.
The civil record, which M. Leclerc received of the marriage of Bonaparte and Josephine, describes them as being nearly of the same age, for it ran thus: “Napoleon Bonaparte, born in Ajaccio, on the 5th of February, 1768; and Marie Josephe Rosa Tascher de la Pagerie, born in Martinique, the 23d of June, 1767.”
Bonaparte’s glowing and impassioned love led him—in order to spare his Josephine the smallest, degree of humiliation—to alter and destroy the dates of the certificate of their baptism; for Bonaparte was born on the 15th of August, 1769, and Josephine on the 23d of June, 1763. She was consequently six years older than he; but she knew not that these six years would, one day, be the abyss which was to swallow her happiness, her love, her grandeur.
Two days after his marriage with Josephine, Bonaparte left Paris for the army, to travel in haste, an uninterrupted journey toward Italy.
“I must hasten to my post,” said he smiling to Josephine, “for an army without a chief is like a widow who can commit foolish deeds and endanger her reputation. I am responsible for the army’s conduct from the moment of my appointment.”
Carnot had told Bonaparte the truth concerning the state of the army in Italy. His statements were sustained by the proclamation which the new commander-in-chief of the army in Italy addressed to his soldiers, as for the first time he welcomed them at Nice.