1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beauharnais, Eugène de
BEAUHARNAIS, EUGÈNE DE (1781-1824), step-son of Napoleon I., was born at Paris on the 3rd of September 1781. He was the son of the general Viscount Alexandre de Beauharnais (1760-1794) and Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie. The father, who was born in Martinique, and served in the American War of Independence, took part in the politics of the French Revolution, and in June-August 1793 commanded the army of the Rhine. His failure to fulfil the tasks imposed on him (especially that of the relief of Mainz) led to his being arrested, and he was guillotined (23rd June 1794) not long before the fall of Robespierre. The marriage of his widow Josephine to Napoleon Bonaparte in March 1796 was at first resented by Eugène and his sister Hortense; but their step-father proved to be no less kind than watchful over their interests. In the Italian campaigns of 1796-1797 Eugène served as aide-de-camp to Bonaparte, and accompanied him to Egypt in the same capacity. There he distinguished himself by his activity and bravery, and was wounded during the siege of Acre. Bonaparte brought him back to France in the autumn of 1799, and it is known that the intervention of Eugène and Hortense helped to bring about the reconciliation which then took place between Bonaparte and Josephine. The services rendered by Eugène at the time of the coup d’état of Brumaire (1799) and during the Consulate (1799-1804) served to establish his fortunes, despite the efforts of some of the Bonapartes to destroy the influence of the Beauharnais and bring about the divorce of Josephine.
After the proclamation of the Empire, Eugène received the title of prince, with a yearly stipend of 200,000 francs, and became general of the chasseurs à cheval of the Guard. A year later, when the Italian republic became the kingdom of Italy, with Napoleon as king, Eugène received the title of viceroy, with large administrative powers. (See Italy.) Not long after the battle of Austerlitz (2nd December 1805) Napoleon dignified the elector of Bavaria with the title of king and arranged a marriage between Eugène and the princess Augusta Amelia of Bavaria. On the whole the government of Eugène gave general satisfaction in the kingdom of Italy; it comprised the districts between the Simplon Pass and Rimini, and also after the peace of Presburg (December 1805), Istria and Dalmatia. In 1808 (on the further partition of the papal states) the frontier of the kingdom was extended southwards to the borders of the kingdom of Naples, in the part known as the Abruzzi. In the campaign of 1809 Eugène commanded the army of Italy, with General (afterwards Marshal) Macdonald as his adlatus. The battle of Sacile, where he fought against the Austrian army of the Archduke John, did not yield proofs of military talent on the part of Eugène or of Macdonald; but on the retreat of the enemy into Austrian territory (owing to the disasters of their main army on the Danube) Eugène’s forces pressed them vigorously and finally won an important victory at Raab in the heart of the Austrian empire. Then, joining the main army under Napoleon, in the island of Lobau in the Danube, near Vienna, Eugène and Macdonald acquitted themselves most creditably in the great battle of Wagram (6th July 1809). In 1810 Eugène received the title of grand-duke of Frankfort. Equally meritorious were his services and those of the large Italian contingent in the campaign of 1812 in Russia. He and they distinguished themselves especially at the battles of Borodino and Malojaroslavitz; and on several occasions during the disastrous retreat which ensued, Eugène’s soldierly constancy and devotion to Napoleon shone out conspicuously in 1813-1814, especially by contrast with the tergiversations of Murat. On the downfall of the Napoleonic régime Eugène retired to Munich, where he continued to reside, with the title duke of Leuchtenberg and prince of Eichstädt. He died in 1824, leaving two surviving sons and three daughters.