Napoleon and the policy of alliances

Napoleon and the policy of alliances

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  • Wedding of Prince Eugène de Beauharnais and Princess Amélie of Bavaria in Munich.

    MENAGEOT François Guillaume (1744 - 1818)

  • Wedding of Prince Jérôme Bonaparte and Princess Frédérique Catherine of Wurtemberg.

    REGNAULT Jean-Baptiste (1754 - 1829)

Wedding of Prince Eugène de Beauharnais and Princess Amélie of Bavaria in Munich.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / J. Schormans

To close

Title: Wedding of Prince Jérôme Bonaparte and Princess Frédérique Catherine of Wurtemberg.

Author : REGNAULT Jean-Baptiste (1754 - 1829)

Creation date : 1810

Date shown: 22 August 1807

Dimensions: Height 402 - Width 646

Technique and other indications: (22 August 1807) Oil painting on canvas

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Picture reference: 78EE217 / MV.1558

Wedding of Prince Jérôme Bonaparte and Princess Frédérique Catherine of Wurtemberg.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Napoleon's international policy of establishing his dynasty led him to make allies among the new rulers and to secure their friendship through skillful, diplomatically arranged marriages.

Many Napoleonic marriages did not succeed. The descendants of this successful marriage continue to this day in the Scandinavian royal dynasties.

Image Analysis

Ménageot's painting

Late work of a painter four years older than David, a former pupil of Deshays and Boucher, who rallied to neoclassicism in a rather mellow style, the painting evokes in the background a very important diplomatic episode: the union from the Kingdom of Bavaria to the Kingdom of Italy, of which Prince Eugene was viceroy. The purpose of this alliance was to block the Austrian crossings on either side of the Alps.

The civil marriage of Prince Eugene and Princess Auguste-Amélie of Bavaria was celebrated in the Green Gallery of the Munich residence. Faced with Napoleon and Josephine, mother of Prince Eugene, and the new sovereigns of Bavaria, Maximilien-Joseph and his wife, the new couple step forward. Behind them sits Baron Dalberg, in ecclesiastical costume, soon Prince-Primate of the Confederation of the Rhine. It is he who will celebrate the religious marriage.

The marriage of these two young princes constitutes the first of the actions taken by the Emperor to integrate his dynasty into the reigning families of Europe, before he himself married Marie-Louise. This marriage will be followed in April 1806 by that of Stéphanie de Beauharnais with the crown prince of Baden, then, in 1807, by that of Jérôme, the youngest brother of Napoleon, with Catherine of Wurtemberg.

Despite this diplomatic background, Ménageot's work presents itself as a simple, very clumsy image, from which all solemnity is absent. A cold light, bright colors, a composition of a strict profile, further show the weakness of this aging artist who had long been director of the Académie de France in Rome.

Régnault's painting

Jérôme Bonaparte's marriage to Catherine of Wurtemberg was also the result of a political calculation. The kingdom of Westphalia, of which Jerome was king, had been formed by taking territories from Prussia in particular. It was thus the whole of Germany that finally found itself in the hands of the Emperor, blocking any attempt to invade France by Prussia or Russia. The alliance between the new kingdoms of Württemberg and Westphalia was therefore essential to guarantee the security of France.

The scene takes place in Diane's gallery in the Tuileries, just before the signing of the marriage contract.

Regnault was undoubtedly the only painter with David to have been able to transform Napoleonic subjects into masterpieces. Compared to the previous one, this painting is indeed one, first of all because of the skill of its composition which shifts the point of view by rotating it. It is to the beauty of the materials, to the silks, to the embroidery, that the artist, pupil and rival of David, became attached. The ample composition, in which Regnault had the idea to cut the canopy to use it as a drapery, is a pretext to develop the pomp of imperial ceremonial.

In small costume (see Goubaud's painting), Napoleon, alongside Empress Joséphine, welcomes his younger brother to whom he gave the hand of the daughter of the new King Frederick of Württemberg. Napoleon does not present here the usual passivity of paintings of this kind. Between the two brothers appears Madame Mère, Letizia Ramolino, and, forming a guard of honor around the advancing procession, stand the sisters and brothers of Napoleon and Jerome, as well as Julie Clary, wife of Joseph, Queen Hortense, Stéphanie de Beauharnais and Prince Eugène, as well as Félix Baciocchi, husband of Élisa, Prince Camille Borghèse, husband of Pauline, and Murat, husband of Caroline, without forgetting Cardinal Fesch.

It is therefore the entire Bonaparte "clan" that the painter brilliantly represented in this family picture which, despite its official character, allows fraternity to be expressed between the two main protagonists.


These two tables are not a priori than more or less brilliant images of events of the imperial era. But as often with the Napoleonic subjects, a much more important issue underlies them, in this case diplomatic questions related to the security of the state.

However, it is not here the hero's qualities that are declined, but his political views of overhauling Europe. In this sense, it is less Napoleon himself who is the subject of these paintings than the relationships between sovereigns.

  • Germany
  • imperial dynasty
  • Bonaparte (Jerome)
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • alliance policy


Claire CONSTANS, National Museum of the Palace of Versailles. The paintings, Paris, 2 vol., RMN, 1995.

Roger DUFRAISSE, Michel KERAUTRET, Napoleonic France. External aspects, Paris, Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 1999.

Georges LACOUR-GAYET, Napoleon, his life, his work, his time, Paris, Hachette, 1921.

Georges LEFEBVRE, Napoleon, Paris, PUF, 1969.

Eudore SOULIE, Notice from the Versailles museum, 4 vol., Paris, Mourgues Frères, 1861-1881.

Jean TULARD (dir.), Napoleon dictionary, Paris, Fayard, 1987.

Jean TULARD (dir.), The History of Napoleon through painting, Paris, Belfond, 1991.

Jean TULARD, Louis GARROS, Day by day Napoleon's itinerary. 1769-1821, Paris, Tallandier, 1992.

COLLECTIVE, From David to Delacroix, catalog of the exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris, 1974-1975.

COLLECTIVE, Dominique Vivant Denon. Napoleon's eye, catalog of the exhibition at the Louvre, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1999.

To cite this article

Jérémie BENOÎT, "Napoleon and the policy of alliances"

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