Joséphine de Beauharnais bought Chateau de Malmaison in April 1797. Her husband, General Napoléon Bonaparte was away on the Egyptian Campaign when he returned he complained about the expensive property Josephine had purchased. Joséphine de Beauharnais ( 23 June 1763 – 29 May 1814) was the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and the first Empress of France.
Her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais was guillotined during the Reign of Terror, and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until her release five days after Alexandre’s execution. She is the grandmother of Napoleon III and she is the great-grandmother of later Swedish and Danish kings and queens, as well as the last Queen of Greece. The current reigning houses of Belgium, Norway, and Luxembourg also descend from her.
Joséphine transformed the large manor house and the property into “the most beautiful garden in Europe, a model of good cultivation”. She actively pursued flora and fauna along with rare and exotic animals from around the world. Joséphine wrote: “I wish that Malmaison may soon become the source of riches for all [of France]”…
In 1800, Joséphine built a heated orangery with 300 pineapple plants. A few years later, she ordered the building of a greenhouse, heated by a dozen coal-burning stoves. From 1803 until her death in 1814, Josephine cultivated nearly 200 new plants in France for the first time. The Chateau Malmaison later was purchased by another owner but it is a beautiful site to visit even today.
After her divorce from Napoléon, Joséphine received Malmaison in her own right, along with a pension of 5 million francs a year, and remained there until her death in 1814. Napoléon returned and took residence in the house after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo (1815), before his exile to the island of Saint Helena.
In 1842 Malmaison was purchased by Maria Christina, widow of King Ferdinand VII of Spain; she lived there with her second husband Agustín Fernando Muñoz, 1st Duke of Riánsares. In 1861 Maria Christina sold the property to Napoleon III.