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Born in 1763 in Martinique, Marie-Joseph-Rose de Tascher de la Pagerie was sent to France at the age of 16 to marry Alexandre de Beauharnais. In 1795, by then a widow, she met Bonaparte, who feminized her second forename, and married her in a civil ceremony in 1796.
In 1804, he crowned her Empress during his coronation. The couple divorced in 1809, as Joséphine had been unable to give the Emperor an heir. She kept her rank, title and, notably, the Malmaison estate with all its collections.
Often described as frivolous, Joséphine owned a large collection of precious jewels, particularly pearl necklaces, which she especially liked, in all types of pearls: natural, pink-coloured, black, round, oval... These pearl and diamond earrings are a rare example, as few have survived; most suffered the usual fate of jewels, being dispersed, divided and re-used.
The Emperor's loyal head valet wrote in his memoirs: "Elegant and simple in her appearance, the Empress regretfully endured the necessity of the ceremonial toilette; only jewels were to her taste; she had always liked them; the Emperor himself also gave them to her frequently and in great quantity. It was a joy for her to use them and still more to display them."