Hortense Engenie Beauharnais, wife of Louis Bonaparte and queen of Holland, born in Paris, April 10,1783, died at Arenenberg, Switzerland, Oct. 5,1837. She was the daughter of Alexandre Beauharnais and Josephine, afterward wife of Napoleon. On Jan. 3, 1802, in compliance with the wish of Napoleon, she became the wife of his brother Louis. The union was not a happy one. When her husband was made king she went to Holland with great reluctance. Louis abdicated in favor of his son in 1810, and she was appointed regent; but the emperor soon after annulled this arrangement, and united Holland with the empire. After her return to Paris Hortense lived apart from her husband, although the emperor would not allow them to be divorced, and is said to have led a dissolute life. Among her reputed lovers were the count of Flahaut, for whom she composed the popular air Partant pour la Syrie, and Admiral Verhuel, a Dutch naval officer, to whom is frequently attributed the paternity of Napoleon III. After the divorce of Josephine, Hortense remained on intimate terms with Napoleon, and had considerable influence with him. She alone, of all the Bonaparte family, remained in Paris on the restoration.
After Waterloo she lived successively in Augsburg, in Savoy, and at her castle of Arenenberg, on the borders of Lake Constance, in Switzerland, where she devoted herself to the education of her children. In 1831 her sons Napoleon Louis and Louis Napoleon (the future emperor) became involved in the insurrectionary movements in Italy, and the elder died at Forli. After that she returned to Paris, and was considerately treated by Louis Philippe. She passed several years again in Switzerland, but was called from her retirement in 1830 by the arrest of Louis Napoleon at Strasburg. She interceded for him, and after his exile to the United States returned to Switzerland, where she was much admired for her talents and benevolence.