In 1796, Napoleon married Josephine Beauharnais, the widow of an aristocrat who had been guillotined. On their wedding day, Napoleon was twenty-six and Josephine thirty-two. His future looked promising; she was bankrupt. He married for love, she for convenience. They had a tumultuous life together until 1809 when it became clear she could never provide him with a child.
Needing to shore up the future of his empire with a legitimate heir (preferably descended from established royalty), Napoleon reluctantly divorced Josephine and married Archduchess Marie Louise, the 18-year-old daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria. On March 20, 1811, the new empress gave birth to their son, whom Napoleon designated the King of Rome.
Napoleon loved to play with his baby boy and showed more affection for the child than the royally-raised empress was able to express. Unfortunately, when France was invaded in 1814, Marie Louise fled with the King of Rome back to her father’s court in Austria. Napoleon, although he lived for seven more years, was never allowed to communicate with either of them again.
I was surprised to learn recently that the popular British band, The Pet Shop Boys, had dedicated a song to the King of Rome on their 2009 album—one small example of the extraordinary influence Napoleon maintains to this day.