This silence would break when he in time received news of his father’s death: He wept bitterly. The boy, largely ignored by his mother, died of the Habsburgs’ disease, tuberculosis, at the age of 21.
But his story does not end there. „Marie Louise’s sister-in-law, the Archduchess Sophie, had a great sentiment for him,” a scholar told me. „There were rumors. Peo¬ple said he was the father of her children, Maximilian of Mexico, the Emperor Franz Josef. Her husband was a very modest fig¬ure; the boy, very handsome.”
THE MARRIAGE to Marie Louise marked a turning point in Napo¬leon’s fortunes. Historian Owen Connelly told me: „In a way, Marie Louise killed him. Before, everybody—even Josephine—had been compartmental¬ized. But Marie Louise made him so happy that he lost the compulsion to work.”
The preeminent French Napoleonic scholar, Jean Tulard of the Sorbonne, said: „He was a realist, except for his women. After his marriage with Marie Louise, he was blinded by his love and did not think any more. He felt everything was working, he believed in his destiny.
„He was physically worn out, distem¬pered. He used to take very hot baths. Too much l’ amour. He did not go to Spain, where he was needed, not because he was afraid but because he was unsure. And he was with Marie Louise, and she was more pleasant than the Spanish.”
The tough, scrawny Corsican boy, ridden with ambition, given to pouring out his feel¬ings to a woman he loved, had vanished; in his place was a paunchy, middle-aged man.
Poor Josephine: When he had loved her, she had been unfaithful; when he decided to leave her, she tried to cling to him. At Mal¬maison, their country house outside Paris, her bedroom bespeaks that divorce. „Be¬fore,” curator Gerard Hubert said, „it was rectangular and decorated with frescoes; after the divorce she used fabrics to cover over the frescoes and make the room round.
„She had a tiny mouth,” he said, „which she always kept tightly closed because she had terrible teeth. She never laughed whole¬heartedly, because of these teeth.