She kept in contact with Julie all the time, and Napoleon accepted Bernadotte apparently because of her. In , Bernadotte was present at a failed assassination attempt on Napoleon, when a bomb exploded between the carriage of Napoleon and the carriage where she and Caroline Bonaparte were sitting. She was not interested in politics, but her good connections made her a puppet in the hands of her husband and Napoleon, who both used her to influence each other and to pass messages.
Napoleon suspected Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, and interrogated his wife, who naively told him that her spouse had not been involved, though he had met Moreau in their home and mumbled his name as well as the word conspiracy in his sleep. The couple was ready to sail, when the appointment was retracted. On 19 May , her spouse was made Marshal of France, which gave her the equivalent position. However, she was described as indifferent to social position, like her sister Julie.
At the Coronation of Napoleon on 2 December , she followed Josephine, whose train was carried by her sisters-in-law, carrying the handkerchief and veil of Josephine on a pillow. Her spouse was a leading general in the French army under Napoleon, and normally absent from Paris. He liked her to be a member of high society, and had her take lessons in dance and etiquette from an instructor Montel.
Bernadotte had a good relationship with the Bonaparte Imperial family. Upon the request of her spouse, she did not have to be a lady-in-waiting, and did not participate in court life. She lived in the circle of the Bonaparte and Clary family and also participated in high society, where she enjoyed music, theater and dance, while she spent her summers at spas or her country villas at La Grange and Auteuil. It is believed that she may have had a romantic relationship with the Corsican Ange Chaippe, who often acted as her escort. She lived mostly separated from her spouse in Paris during his absence.
She informed him about political events in Paris by correspondence. During her husband's time as governor of the Hanseatic cities and governor of Hanover , Bernadotte visited him in Hamburg with her son a couple of times but she never stayed long; each time she soon returned to Paris. She was not happy living anywhere but Paris. In , she was forced to accompany Empress Josephine to Mainz. When her spouse was made Prince of Pontecorvo in , she worriedly asked if she would be forced to leave Paris, but was happy when she was assured that she would not.
In August , Bernadotte's husband was elected heir to the throne of Sweden and she heiress, now in that position being given the official name of Desideria. She initially thought this was to be similar to the position of Prince of Pontecorvo, and did not expect to have to visit Sweden more than she had been forced to visit Pontecorvo: "I thought, that it was at it had been with Ponte Corvo, a place from where we would have a title. Desideria delayed her departure and did not leave with her spouse. She was delighted with the position she had received at the French court after her elevation to crown princess she had been invited to court events every week , and she was frightened by the stories of her reluctant French servants, who tried to discourage her from leaving by saying that Sweden was a country close to the North Pole filled with Polar bears.
On 22 December , Desideria arrived with her son Oscar in Helsingborg in Sweden, and the 6 January , she was introduced to the Swedish royal court at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. The Swedish climate was reportedly a shock for her: she arrived during the winter, and she hated the snow so much that she cried.
There was, in accordance with the Tolerance Act , no demand that she should convert, and a Catholic chapel was arranged for her use. Desideria was unable to adapt to the demands of formal court etiquette or participate in the representational duties which were required of her in her position of Crown Princess. Her French entourage, especially Elise la Flotte , made her unpopular during her stay in Sweden by encouraging her to complain about everything. In her famous diaries, queen Charlotte described her as good hearted, generous and pleasant when she chose to be and not one to plot, but also an immature "spoiled child", who hated all demands and was unable to handle any form of representation, and as "a French woman in every inch" who disliked and complained about everything which was not French, and "consequently, she is not liked.
Desideria left Sweden in the summer of under the name of Countess of Gotland , officially because of her health, and returned to Paris, leaving her husband and her son behind.
She herself said that the Swedish nobility had treated her as if they were made of ice: "Do not talk with me of Stockholm, I get a cold as soon as I hear the word. Under the same alias Desideria officially resided incognito in Paris, thereby avoiding politics. However, her house at rue d'Anjou was watched by the secret police, and her letters were read by them.
She had no court, just her lady's companion Elise la Flotte to assist her as hostess at her receptions, and she mostly associated with a circle of close friends and family. Her consort liked her to be placed in Paris, where she could calm Napoleon's rage over the politics of Sweden and keep him informed about the events in the center of European politics, but as their correspondence has been lost, it is not known how political it was. Before his attack on Russia, Napoleon asked Desideria to leave France.
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She made herself ready to leave, but managed to avoid it. As she officially lived incognito, she could avoid politics when Sweden and France declared war in The 31 March , upon the arrival of the allied armies in Paris after the defeat of Napoleon, her house was a refuge for her sister Julie. She met up with her spouse, who was among the allied generals to arrive in Paris. She did not return with him to Sweden when he left, however, which attracted attention. When asked why by the Swedish Count Jacob De la Gardie at Mortefontaine, she answered that she was afraid that she would be divorced if she did.
On 14 May , she was introduced to Louis XVIII of France , whose court she often visited the following years and whom she is said to have liked quite well. After the Hundred Days in , the members of the Bonaparte family were exiled from France. This included her sister Julie, and when Louis XVIII expressed a wish to do her a favor, she regularly asked him to make an exception for Julie and allow her to live in Paris.
In , she made plans to return to Sweden, but she wished to bring her sister, Julie, along with her. Her husband thought this unwise, as Julie was the wife of a Bonaparte and her presence might be taken as a sign that he sided with the deposed Napoleon. In the end, this came to nothing. In , Desideria's husband placed a Count de Montrichard in her household as his spy to report if she did anything which could affect him.
In , her husband became King of Sweden , which made Desideria queen. However, she remained in France, officially for health reasons, which caused speculations in the press in Paris and by her visitors. After she became queen, the queen dowager wrote to her and suggested that she should have Swedish ladies-in-waiting, but she replied that it was unnecessary for her to have a court as she still resided incognito.
She officially kept herself incognito and did not host any court, but she kept in contact with the Swedish embassy, regularly visited the court of Louis XVIII and often saw Swedes at her receptions, which she hosted on Thursdays and Sundays, unofficially in her role as queen, though she still used the title of countess. During this period, she fell in love with the French prime minister, the Duc de Richelieu , which attracted attention.
True or not, she did fall in love with him, but the affection was not answered by Richelieu, who referred to her as his "crazy Queen". During the summer of , her son Oscar made a trip in Europe to inspect prospective brides, and it was decided they should meet.
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As France was deemed unsuitable, they met in Aachen and a second time in Switzerland. In , Desideria returned to Sweden together with her son's bride, Josephine of Leuchtenberg. It was intended to be a visit, but she was to remain in Sweden for the rest of her life. She and Josephine arrived in Stockholm 13 June Three days later, the royal court and the government was presented to her, and 19 June, she participated in the official welcoming of Josephine and witnessed the wedding.
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Her coronation had been suggested upon her return, but her husband had postponed it because he feared there could be religious difficulties. There was actually a suggestion that she should convert to the Lutheran faith before her coronation, but in the end, the question was not considered important enough to press, and she was crowned all the same.
She was crowned at her own request after having pressed Charles John with a wish that she should be crowned as "otherwise she would be no proper Queen". Charles John treated her with some irritability, while she behaved very freely and informally toward him. The court was astonished by her informal behavior. She could enter his bedroom and stay there until late at night even though he hinted to her that he wished to be alone with his favorite Count Magnus Brahe.
Because of their difference in habits, they seldom saw each other even though they lived together. Because she was always late at dinner, for example, he stopped having his meals with her, and as he also preferred to have his meals alone, it was not uncommon for the nobles of the court to sit alone at the dinner table, without the royal couple present. There is nothing to indicate that Queen Desideria ever had any political influence, and she was praised for her lack of interference in politics.
Whenever Charles John became agitated, she was known to be able to calm him with the one firm word "Bernadotte! For every punishment he stated, she is said to have struck her fan in the table and said to the surrounding courtiers "He could not hurt a cat! Consequently, it was difficult for her to discipline her aristocratic ladies-in-waiting, who Charles John appointed without consulting her, and who preferred to sort out conflicts regarding etiquette among themselves instead of asking her to mediate, which on at least one occasion led to a scene which caused Charles John to reprimand her: "Try to make your ladies not to announce their actions and conflicts to the public as it happened the day you departed from Stockholm", after an incident when two ladies-in-waiting had "screamed like rower madams " about precedence in the seats of the queen's carriage during a journey.
After the departure of her niece to France, she often socialized with the rich merchant Carl Abraham Arfwedson , who had once been a guest in her childhood home. Desideria was interested in fashion, devoted a lot of interest and pride in her hair and wore low cut dresses until an advanced age. She enjoyed dancing: her standard question at court presentations were if the debutantes liked to dance, and she herself danced well also during her old age.
Her conversations were mainly about her old life in France. She never learned to speak the Swedish language, and there are many anecdotes of her attempts to speak the language. Her lack of etiquette became more accepted over the years, as she became known as an eccentric in other aspects.
Like her daughter-in-law, Desideria was a Catholic, but in contrast to Josephine, who was a devout and practicing Catholic, she never was. When the priest started to preach and reprimand her, she silenced him and stated that such talk irritated her nerves. To ensure that his passion does not lead to any pain, Peter B.
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