Life at Malmaison

During the age of the Consulate, youth and carefree living triumphed over etiquette far from the Tuileries Palace. Even the First Consul took part in the amusements; sometimes a table was laid in the park and evenings were spent playing parlour games (cards, backgammon, billiards) or reading new books. Balls were held in the château salons, and the theatre, which was attended by regular visitors to Malmaison, remained the favourite pastime of the society that flocked around Bonaparte, Joséphine and their close relations. Parties were also organised at Malmaison, both on a grand scale as for the one given to welcome the Etrurian rulers in 1801, and on a more modest scale, such as the Feast of St. Joséphine celebrated on 19 March every year.

In the autumn of 1802, the Consular Court moved to Saint-Cloud, and from 1806 onwards palace etiquette dictated the actions of the sovereigns in their various residences. After the divorce, Joséphine continued to entertain and maintained her former lifestyle in spite of her virtual solitude. She held open house and organised concerts in her gallery, sometimes receiving distinguished guests such as Tsar Alexander I. Napoleon returned to Malmaison only twice after 1809 to visit Joséphine, and stayed there for the last time from 25 to 29 June 1815 to dwell on his memories following his abdication.