The Beauharnais were an ancient French family of pretended nobility. Through their relationship with Napoléon, they rose to high rank in French and Russian society. They descend from Guillaume Beauharnais, who lived in Orléans, France in the 14th century. The name means “good harness”.
François de Beauharnais, marquis de La Ferté Beauharnais (1714-1800), served as Lt. and Governor-General of the Islands of Martinique, Guadaloupe and Marie-Galande. He became a Chevalier of the Order of Saint Louis. His châtellanie of La Ferté-Aurain was erected into a marquisate by Letters Patent of Louis XV on 6 July 1764.
François’ son Alexandre, vicomte de Beauharnais (1760-1794) served in the American Revolution. He was Deputy of the Nobility of Blois to the States-General. During the French Revolution, he served as President of the Assembly and Major-General of the Army of the Rhine. He was arrested in March 1794, and executed during the Reign of Terror. His widow Joséphine married Napoléon Bonaparte, later Emperor of the French.
In 1786, the Genealogist of His Majesty’s Orders of Chivalry wrote of the Beauharnais family, “Monsieur [Alexandre] de Beauharnais is not entitled to the Court Honors which he solicits. His is a good middle-class family of Orléans which an old genealogy filed in the office of the Order of the Holy Ghost describes as having been originally known under the name of Beauvi, which it later abandoned to take that of Beauharnais. Some of its members were merchants, magistrates and minor judges in the tribunals of the same town, and other were counselors to the Parlement of Paris. One of its branches, known as Seigneurs de La Bretesche, was condemned by a judgment of M. de Machault, Intendant of Orléans, on 4 April, 1667, as usurping a title of nobility, to pay 2,000 francs fine, which was reduced to 1,000.”
Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824) came to prominence through his relationship with Napoléon. As the Emperor’s devoted step-son, Eugène became a General and was created “Prince français” in 1804, and Viceroy of Italy in 1805. He was adopted by his step-father, assumed the additional name “Napoléon”, and was named Heir Presumptive of Italy in 1806. The same year, he made a brilliant marriage to Augusta, daughter of Maximilian I, King of Bavaria. He became Arch Chancellor of the Empire and Prince of Venice in 1807. In a move that indicated he would not be Napoléon’s heir in Italy, he became Hereditary Grand Duke of Frankfort in 1810, but his installation was deferred. That same year he refused the Swedish crown. He remained loyal to Napoléon to the end. In 1817, after Napoléon’s fall, Eugène was created Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstädt by his father-in-law, with the qualification of Royal Highness ad personam.
Eugène’s daughter Josephine von Leuchtenburg (1807-1876) married Oscar I, a member of Sweden’s Bernadotte dynasty, and later King of Sweden. His son Maximilian, Duke of Leuchtenberg (1817-1852) married into the Russian royal family and became ancestor of the Princes Romanovski.
1. François de Beauharnais, Marquis de La Ferté Beauharnais (1714-1800), served as Lt. and Governor-General of the Islands of Martinique, Guadaloupe and Marie-Galande.
2. Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais (1760-1794), married Joséphine Tascher de La Pagerie (1763-1814). He served as an officer in the American Revolution, and during the French Revolution as President of the Assembly. He was arrested during the Reign of Terror and executed. His widow Joséphine survived the Revolution and became the famous Empress Joséphine.
3. Eugène Rose de Beauharnais (1781-1824), married Augusta of Bavaria, daughter of Maximilian I, King of Bavaria and Augusta of Hesse-Därmstadt. He received many honors as step-son and loyal supporter of the the Emperor Napoléon. After Napoléon’s defeat, Eugène became Duke of Leuchtenberg and Prince of Eichstädt.
4. Josephine von Leuchtenberg (1807-1876), married Oscar I, King of Sweden (1799-1859).