The Napoleon-Josephine Divorce Prophecy

By Jim McKeague

AAAAA N and J divorce

For the past 200 years it has been claimed that Marie-Anne Lenormand predicted the divorce of Napoleon and Josephine. But did she? She herself claimed that she prepared a horoscope of Napoleon in 1807 which included this prediction, and that this written horoscope was confiscated by the police when she was arrested on December 11, 1809, five days before the civil dissolution of the marriage was publicly announced on December 16, 1809. This alleged successful prophecy featured strongly in her publicity and in the legend which has grown ever since.

In her first book, Les Souvenirs Prophetiques d’une Sibylle &c., Lenormand gives what she calls an “accurate extract” of this horoscope [1]. It is interesting as being one of the few examples of a “reading” by the famous fortune-teller which has come down to us. Here is that horoscope reading translated into English. Wherever possible, her phrasing and punctuation have been retained. Her words are in bold print, and my comments are in ordinary print within square brackets[ ].

(For the technically minded, Napoleon’s Natal Chart, the actual map of the heavens at the moment of his birth which Lenormand does not include, is given at the end of this article.)

Accurate Extract from the Natal Chart of Buonaparte – 1807

The consultant was born under a lucky star; at his birth all the stars found themselves in a favourable combination. The Sun, Mars and Jupiter lavished upon him all their gifts.

He was born on an island that is now integrated as part of France.

His father is no longer alive; he has 4 brothers and 3 sisters; 2 of his brothers were married twice….

His mother now lives in the capital; she owes him a great deal.

The character of the consultant is firm and pronounced; sometimes meditative; more serious than merry, he takes a great deal to heart; he does not like to be ruled, even by women, especially avoiding giving them too much ascendancy; he gives his trust with great difficulty, he fears the divine, which makes him conceal his slightest actions; he is sensitive to an offence, forgives with difficulty; he hates the ungrateful.

From a young age he was to be destined for the state military, he was taught the best principles, even those concerning artillery. – In the past, he was attached to a respectable corps, and he was even to be found in a besieged city by water. [Lenormand here is referring to the siege of Toulon in 1793 where Napoleon distinguished himself as an artillery officer.]

He has travelled beautiful Italy and entered the capital of the Christian world; at that same moment he was to be respected.

This consultant has seen a country which, in ancient times, was the birthplace of a religion [Egypt]; he had to be charged with a command where those who had co-operated in his journey thought they would not see him again; even his wife was losing hope; it was predicted to him, to her and to her assignees, that he would return. [Lenormand’s footnote here reads: I told her several times, to herself and to others, when she sent for me.]

Three weeks or three months were scarcely elapsed after his return, when he was invested with great powers (he even underwent two dangers, one by explosion), and finally dictated laws to his most outspoken enemies.

His wife is a foreigner [Josephine was from Martinique]; she is a kind woman who possesses a foundation of such grace, this being a quality he always seeks in people who surround him.

She is endowed with a sensitive and good heart; her soul is great and generous; she really loves, and is doubly upset at this time; she fears, with good reason, there will be changes for her; …. that statements made at random, and that the vulgar like to repeat, are leading towards uncertain results.

The consultant made the acquaintance of this kind lady in a very singular manner: a circumstance decided the marriage; a man of position was able to give advice; but it was the destiny of the one and the other to be united; there are incredible things in life ….. She was the widow of a blonde man [Alexandre de Beauharnais, who died on the guillotine in 1794], esteemed in the military, who had left her with two children, a boy and a girl.

This lady had lost her first husband by iron, and in a terrible way; she herself was confined in what was once a palace but in those unhappy times had become a prison; today this beautiful monument is a prime destination.

This wife, in more ways than one, should be dear to him; she brings good luck to all who surround her: it is sufficient for her to want a benefit for you and it arrives. – In short, everything should be successful for him. Her son is married to a German from a good home, who dictates the laws; he lives in a country where people like good music; her daughter is allied to the actual family of the consultant; she even bears his own name …. This young lady has already had to live in a country where the sea and trade are the basis of the inhabitants’ wealth; she has two sons, one is no more; she bears a third, and that will be well. (Prediction realized). [Josephine’s daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais, married Napoleon’s brother Louis and became Queen of Holland. Her third son was born on April 20, 1808. Lenormand is boasting here that her prediction came true. It was a fairly safe prediction to make. It is the first prediction of a future event in this horoscope.]

My consultant is very preoccupied; I see very uncertainly, which hardly ever happens; because he knows how to make a decision and act immediately. – A step which must be made concerning his wife (and which was advised) astonished many people, internally he can only be grateful. – However this lady will bring some obstacles. – Which much later will eventually level off. – This unique step will take place; but after a time (28 moons at most); and the consultant will one day see very painfully what this separation will cost him …. [In this second prediction, one of the most famous of all her prophecies, Lenormand foretells the divorce of Napoleon and Josephine, which was announced on December 16, 1809, and took place officially on January 10, 1810. Rather than being a “divorce,” it was actually dissolution of the civil marriage on December 16, and annulment of the religious union on January 10.]

The consultant is hot blooded, he even needs a little peace, which does not accord much with his fiery character. – He needs to moderate the exercise he takes and uninterrupted perspiration. Sometimes he has spots which appear on the surface of the skin. – Even just at this moment. [A footnote here by Lenormand reads: The good Josephine herself thought so every day when I was writing this prediction; its uniqueness and accuracy astonished them both; this production of mine has since been reported by eyewitnesses.] This comes from staying awake and travelling; but with plenty of good care he has nothing to worry about.

A grand alliance is being negotiated at this time; there is no stranger point. (It could even relate to him personally or to his family.)

The name of the consultant will be repeated to the ends of the earth: they even seek knowledge of him in the countries not far from the Great Wall [A footnote here by Lenormand reads: Persia]; he will participate in major events; he will be the mediator of great concerns. – It is predicted of him that he will be a unique man ….

I have already said he had seen a part of Europe, even Asia; but he could go farther ….

I told him four extraordinary things, mentioning time and place.

[In a lengthy footnote here, Lenormand says: This explanation was requested by another horoscope I sent some time after to Josephine; this is where I said: 1. That the war in Spain was politically unwise, and would become disastrous; 2. That it was specifically recommended to Buonaparte that he never touch a censer. – That he would become master of Rome; but all that he touched of the spiritual ought to be sacred to him; 3. That he be careful of the north wind, as it is from the north will come the breeding of his troubles; the fourth does not need explanation, she guesses sufficiently. – Buonaparte, on learning of my summing-up, remained a moment taken aback, and said while dining the same day, he was going to give orders against me. Josephine sent one of her women at 10 p.m. to warn me that I should be afraid, and to advise me to keep myself safe. – On the spot I consulted my private sources in the presence of the person, and I added that I had nothing to fear from him at this moment. – Indeed, the next day he spoke more, to the effect that this personal prediction and my incredible composure were striking.]

He must avoid them [i.e., the “four extraordinary things”] and protect himself from them …. One amongst others pertains to his life; this will happen 3 to 7 years at the latest.

The consultant is a statesman, he often works in the secrecy of his study and speaks with the great. He has 3 kinds of friends: really good friends, attached to him by gratitude; others who hold to the wealth of the present, and others who spy upon his slightest actions. As for him, a great end is foreseen; he will rise to the greatest honours to which a man can aspire; but if after 7 years he should consult me, and recollect my past predictions, so much the better for him …., because I see so many events for this consultant, that it would take a folio for me to relate them all….

[These predictions are so general that they could fit any number of events in Napoleon’s tumultuous life. The “four extraordinary things” are not enumerated, but we are told they were included in a later horoscope made for Josephine. Lenormand says one amongst these “pertains to his life” but without saying which one. As for “rising to the greatest honours to which a man can aspire,” Napoleon was already crowned Emperor of the French and King of Italy in 1804 and 1805, long before Lenormand says she wrote this horoscope in late 1807.]

I was ignorant of the rank, to which fortune had raised the person who consulted me; in making this singular horoscope, where I have left out some writing mistakes and repeat here just a feeble extract, I notice things so amazing and even so striking, that I hesitate, in fear of going too far; nevertheless for my safety, I confine myself to tight limits, and do not give great latitude to my mind which, with the passing of time, develops rules of prudence.

More than 6 months after, a person gifted with every virtue, a perfect model of filial love, Miss S.H. ….. (whom death has removed so young from her friends), finally gave me a copy of this famous theme [A footnote here by Lenormand says: It is deposited with the police, since December 11, 1809. She means this horoscope], and she told me that the messenger chosen to bring me the month and the hour of the birth of Buonaparte, and to return and pick up his horoscope, was simply a country girl, who could not read or write, and who, by the way, was deaf …. ; she held this commission from one who was unknown, as there was concern that I should not have some idea of the rank and importance of any such person.

[Lenormand here pretends that she did not know whose horoscope she was preparing in 1807. This is beyond belief. According to Lenormand herself, Josephine had been consulting her since the time she was still married to Beauharnais. Before Josephine married Napoleon she would almost certainly have given Lenormand the birth data for her prospective husband; and Napoleon’s birth data and chart would have been very familiar to every astrologer in France long before 1807. Perhaps it could be argued that Lenormand is only saying here that she did not know who requested the horoscope; however, her clever wording in this reading suggests, without actually saying so, that Napoleon himself is the “consultant” who is requesting the horoscope.]

Alas! If he had listened to me, he would be today the saviour of France; a long time ago the lilies would have blossomed again amongst us [the lily, or fleur-de-lys, was the symbol of the Bourbon Kings], and beneath their paternal shade protected by them, Buonaparte, even greater than Monck [George Monck was a famous English general from the 17th century who served under several governments, both Royalist and Commonwealth, but was always loyal to his masters while in their employment], would live peacefully amidst the happiness he would have created, and now his purpose would be that his sword should serve his King, and prevent and punish the attacks of the wicked, THAT is the great role he had to fulfil, and THAT is the mission with which he was charged, etc.


As mentioned, the above is an actual reading by Marie-Anne Lenormand of a horoscope, a reading she was very proud of because of her “prediction” of the Napoleon-Josephine divorce.

That is why she published it in 1814, after Josephine had died, and while Napoleon was banished to Elba.

But aside from the divorce prediction, which we will return to in a moment, it is disappointing, for most of the reading consists of past well-known events in Napoleon’s life. It is obvious it has been edited extensively when being published (she says she has left out some “writing mistakes”) so we cannot know how many failed predictions have been removed from it.

It is also noteworthy that Lenormand says “a great end is foreseen” for him, but she did not foresee or declare that he would escape from Elba in 1815, rule for a hundred days, meet his Waterloo, and be exiled to a miserable end on Saint Helena – all of which happened within the year after her publication of this horoscope.

Returning to the famous divorce prophecy: Lenormand tells us that she wrote this horoscope in 1807, and it must have been late 1807 because she says Queen Hortense of Holland is pregnant with her third son. She says it will be “28 moons at most” to the separation; and she says the written prediction was seized by the police on December 11, 1809, five days before the divorce was announced.

Supposing everything she says here is true, how could she have predicted in 1807 that Napoleon would divorce Josephine when he did?

It was really quite simple, and she did not need to be psychic or consult horoscopes or cards. I wish to be clear here. I am not saying that psychic experiences are all humbug. I am not saying that astrology and cartomancy have no merit whatsoever. There are many people who find value in such things. But what I am saying is that Lenormand could easily have produced this famous prediction by very ordinary means, and by looking at contemporary documents we can see how it was done.

Napoleon’s divorce was no sudden surprise. It had been known for years that he was seeking another wife who could bear him a male heir. In fact, a list of possible candidates selected from the princesses of Europe was drawn up in 1807, two years or more before the actual divorce. This list from the French National Archives was published by Henri Welschinger in 1889 and contained both Catholic and non-Catholic princesses. [2]

Even the English newspapers were repeating rumours of trouble in the marriage as far back as 1802: “The cabal for a divorce between Bonaparte and his wife is at an end” [3].

In December 1807 the English newspapers were reporting that Napoleon would divorce Josephine, and that this rumour had been around for some time: “The story of Bonaparte’s divorce gains ground. It is said, he is gone to the Pope on the subject; and that his union with a Russian Princess, was one of the secret articles of the treaty of Tilsit.” [4] (The Treaty of Tilsit was signed in July 1807.)

An American ship arrived in England on New Year’s Day 1808, bringing the gossip from France from prior to December 19th, 1807:

London – Jan. 4. – An American vessel which arrived on Friday from the coast of France, and which had information from Charante and Bourdeaux, down to the 19th ult. brings, however, nothing new or important, except a repetition of the report that Bonaparte intended to repudiate his present wife, with this addition, that the person destined to be his future consort is sister of the Emperor of Russia. The repudiated wife, it is said, after the divorce, is to be designated merely as Queen Dowager of Italy. The reason alledged (sic) for this intention of Bonaparte is, that he may have a chance of heirs to his Empire, Madame Beauharnois (sic) being past the age that might afford him any hope in that respect. If there be any truth in this story, the probability is, that he rather wishes to prop the succession of his family to the throne of France by a new alliance. Indeed there may be some foundation for this story, as most of the great designs of Bonaparte, respecting the elevation of his family, have been announced before they happened, even when they predicted events of the most incredible description. [5]

So in late 1807, when predicting the “separation,” Lenormand was simply repeating Parisian gossip of the time, using the professional fortune-teller’s well known technique of forecasting likely events and probabilities. Lenormand, with her information network, her contacts in high society, and her direct contact with Josephine, would know in advance far more than British newspapers about the entire drama.

But how did she produce the quite accurate time span of “28 moons at most” between the time of writing the horoscope and the actual separation? The reports of the era tell us the probable means for this, also.

In the Memoirs of Josephine’s daughter, Hortense, we are told that Napoleon informed Josephine on November 30, 1809, that the divorce would definitely go ahead [6]. This is supported by Napoleon’s valet, Constant, in his Memoirs [7], and is an undisputed fact of history. Many paintings and engravings are extant of this dramatic moment in Josephine’s life. She collapsed in a faint and was highly emotional about it.

 AAAAAA NJ divorce

She very probably contacted Marie-Anne Lenormand almost at once. Napoleon, knowing Josephine’s penchant for fortune-tellers, would not have wanted Lenormand messing with Josephine’s mind at that time, which is probably the reason why Lenormand was arrested a few days later.

In the days between November 30 and the arrest on December 11, Lenormand would have realized that her previously written prediction from 1807 was now solid gold as publicity, and she could easily have inserted the mention of 28 moons during that period. Or, if she was prepared to take a chance – and Marie-Anne Lenormand WAS always prepared to take chances – she could simply have inserted the reference to 28 moons at the time of editing the horoscope for publication in 1814, gambling that no-one would dig out the police’s copy from 1809 to check. Lenormand was quite prepared to tamper with documents in this way, as the story of the “Edinburgh Letters” elsewhere on this website shows.

So it is not just possible, but indeed probable, that in this simple manner she created this prophecy which helped make her famous and helped turn her into a legend.

Napoleon’s close friend and biographer, Count Las Cases, makes it clear that Napoleon thought of Lenormand as a charlatan. Napoleon on Saint Helena, when giving his opinion on religion, stated: “Such is the restlesness (sic) of man, that his mind requires that something undefined and marvellous which religion offers; and it is better for him to find it there, than to seek it of Cagliostro, of Mademoiselle Lenormand, or of the other soothsayers and imposters.” [8]


Napoleon was born around noon (the exact time was not recorded) on August 15, 1769, at Ajaccio, Corsica. A chart of the heavens calculated for that time and place shows the Sun in Leo high at the midheaven, Mars (the planet of war) in the 10th house (the house of career), and Jupiter (the “greater benefic” of astrology) in the first house, just about to rise at the eastern horizon. Judging by her opening paragraph, this is the chart which Lenormand used.

AAAAA napoleon natal chart

Without an exact birthtime, house cusps are only approximate. The planet Uranus was known in Lenormand’s time, but was apparently not used by her in her work. Uranus was just setting at the western horizon at Napoleon’s birth, extremely noteworthy to an astrologer, but she did not mention it.

In later years other birthtimes, birthdates and even birthplaces were put forward (often by enemies of Napoleon) as the “true” data for his birth; but most modern historians agree that no really credible evidence exists to overthrow the original statements which came from the Bonaparte family and from Count Las Cases. It should be noted, though, that this is disputed by some to this very day.

However, we are concerned here with what Lenormand was told, and there is little doubt that the chart above, or something like it, was what she used. Other astrologers studying Napoleon generally seemed to use a chart with a birthtime varying between 11 a.m. and noon.

© Jim McKeague 2014


[1] Le Normand, M.-A., Les Souvenirs Prophetiques D’une Sibylle: Sur Les Causes Secretes De Son Arrestation, Le 11 Decembre 1809, Paris: Author’s publication, 1814, pages 403 and following.

[2] Welschinger, Henri, Le Divorce de Napoleon, Paris: E. Plon, Nourrit & Cie, 1889, pages 270-271

[3] Parisian Gossip column in the Morning Post, England, Friday, January 1, 1802

[4] Lancaster Gazette, England, Saturday, December 26, 1807

[5] Caledonian Mercury, Scotland, Thursday, January 7, 1808

[6] Wraxall, Sir L., and Wehrman, R., Memoirs of Queen Hortense, Mother of Napoleon III, London: Hurst and Blackett, 1864, pages 118 and following.

[7] Martin, E.G. (Translator), Memoirs of Constant, First Valet de Chambre of the Emperor, on the Private Life of Napoleon, his Family and his Court, Vol. III, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1895, pages 107-108

[8] Count de Las Cases, Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena, Vol. 2, Part 4, London: Henry Colburn & Co., 1823, page 130

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