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Weird News: The empress Joséphine's orangutan ate at the table

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An orangutan, kangaroos, llamas, parrots ... Joséphine de Beauharnais had populated her domain of Malmaison with very strange animals.

L’orang-outan de l’impératrice Joséphine mangeait à table © 4Х- $ Coll-Peter W / SUPERSTOCK / SIPA - The Art Archive / Malmaison Musée du Chateau / Gianni Dagli Orti The orangutan of the Empress Joséphine ate à table

Known for her passion for botany, Joséphine de Beauharnais was also interested in zoology. And if, in the early years of the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte's wife competed with the Jardin des Plantes in Paris for the acclimatization of plant species from all over the world, it was the same with exotic animals.

In the castle grounds of her Malmaison castle, the young woman from Martinique had her "menagerie". There lived, for example, kangaroos, llamas, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes or an orangutan.

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Joséphine burned politeness to the naturalists at the Jardin des Plantes

In the book "Joséphine. The swan paradox "published by Perrin, Pierre Branda says:" This female monkey was certainly the highlight of the live performance offered to Malmaison: "When someone approached the chair where she was seated, she was a curious thing to see her bring back on her thighs the sides of her long frock coat, take to greet a support full of decency and modesty. She ate at the table, and very skillfully used the knife and the fork, especially to cut turnips, dishes of which she was mad. When she had dinner, one of her great joys was to cover her face with her towel, and then to take it off with a thousand laughable faces, "wrote Miss Avrillion amused. »».

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Black swans, golden pheasants from China, brightly colored parrots, cassowaries, emus, ostriches…, Joséphine also had a real passion for birds.

The facetious orangutan of the Empress, which had been sent to her by the governor of Martinique, unfortunately did not look old. "Because of the cold winters, the acclimatization attempts at Malmaison were largely unsuccessful. Only the black swans were able to breed and continued to be admired by visitors. In 1814, only one kangaroo and a llama remained, the only survivors of the years 1803-1805, good years for zoology in Malmaison, "said the historian.

Which specifies that to get supplies of exotic animals, Joséphine took advantage of the return of scientific expeditions - notably the one that returned in March 1804 from Australia after three years of travel -, trying to burn up politeness, to "do its shopping To the naturalists of the Jardin des Plantes who are just as interested as she is in the species hitherto unknown on French soil.

To find out everything about Joséphine

The book “Joséphine. The paradox of the swan "by Pierre Branda was published by Perrin in December 2015 (464 pages, 24.50 euros). Heritage director of the Fondation Napoléon, this Nice historian reveals the true personality of Marie-Joseph-Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, who has gone down in history under the name of Joséphine de Beauharnais.

From his birth in Martinique in 1763 to his death in his beloved domain of Malmaison in 1814, far from the black legend like anecdotal gossip, the author traces the exceptional destiny of the one who was during five and a half years the empress the French.

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