The religious marriage of Napoleon I and Marie-Louise

The religious marriage of Napoleon I and Marie-Louise

Religious wedding of Napoleon I and Marie-Louise in the Salon Carré du Louvre, April 2, 1810

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet / H. Lewandowski

Publication date: January 2004

Historical context

In 1809, Napoleon had to face the Fifth Coalition, led by England and Austria. After its defeat at Wagram, Austria signed a humiliating peace in Vienna on October 6, 1809. On December 16, the Senate announced the dissolution of the marriage contracted by Napoleon and Josephine. Dominating an empire of 130 departments stretching from the Elbe to the Tiber, the Emperor has no heir, however. Under the influence of Metternich, Francis I, in order to put to sleep Napoleon's mistrust, arranged to let him know that he would grant the hand of his daughter, Marie-Louise, if he asked for it. Raised in hatred of a man who had inflicted cruel humiliations on his country, Marie-Louise was however gradually dazzled by the prospect of ascending the first throne of Europe and gave her consent to this union.

Image Analysis

The ceremony took place in the Louvre Square Salon, transformed by Percier and Fontaine into a chapel for the ceremony. The paintings were removed despite Denon's opposition (Napoleon had threatened to burn them!) In order to provide two floors of galleries. “The walls were hung with crimson and blue fabrics embroidered with gold, tapestries of the Goblins of the Old Testament after Coypel, and of the New Testament after Jouvenet. […] A large altar cross, six candelabra, a processional cross. "Rouget presents the moment when, after the blessing of the ring and the gold coins, the nuptial blessing takes place: Napoleon and Marie-Louise are standing, surrounded by princes and princesses, holding their right hands. The officiant is Cardinal Fesch. As the Wiener Zeitung reports, "The blessing of the ring and the gold coins being completed, the Grand Master of Ceremonies bowed to the Emperor and Empress. These went to the foot of the altar; they stood there, holding hands, after removing their gloves; the grand chamberlain received the gloves of the Emperor, and the lady of honor those of the Empress ". Then began the mass.


The similarities between this composition and Le Sacre are obvious. Rouget takes again verbatim the elements of David's composition to which he himself contributed so much. A frieze composition, shimmering colors (on the group formed by the ecclesiastics) seem to be taken from the Coronation. In fact, beyond the simple similarity due to the work that Rouget did with David for his great composition, it is obvious that, for Napoleon, this new marriage (from this union was to be born the King of Rome, heir to the French imperial throne ) deserved to be immortalized with as much pomp as the coronation ceremonies. It was, however, Louis-Philippe who, in 1835, acquired the work for the Historical Galleries of Versailles.

  • imperial dynasty
  • wedding
  • wedding of Napoleon and Marie-Louise
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • propaganda
  • Marie Louise
  • Emperor
  • Empress
  • square living room
  • Louvre


Jean TULARDNapoleon dictionaryParis, Fayard, new ed., 1999.

To cite this article

Jérémie BENOÎT, "The religious marriage of Napoleon I and Marie-Louise"

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