On 2 April, 1810, the famous “second” marriage between Napoleon I and Marie-Louise of Austria took place. The grand ceremony took place in the “Salon Carré”, in the Palais des Tuileries, which had been transformed into a chapel especially for the occasion by the architect Fontaine.
For the ceremony, the future Empress was dressed in the imperial cloak, made of crimson velvet with gold stitching. This was the same one that Josephine wore for Napoleon’s coronation ceremony on 2 December 1804. The long train was carried by four ladies of the Imperial family: the Queens of Naples (Caroline Bonaparte), Spain (Julie Clary), Holland (Hortense de Beauharnais) and Westphalia (Catharina of Württemberg).
Under the cloak, Marie-Louise wore a creation by the great dressmaker Leroy, who had made his name as the arbiter of female elegance during the Directory and the Empire. This success was largely down to the Empress Josephine, who acted as his patron and wore his designs. Marie-Louise’s wedding outfit, which cost a mere 12,000 Francs, was a magnificent dress made from silver tulle netting, embroidered with pearls and lamé. The high waist dominates the long, flowing dress, and the whole outfit hugged the figure. Her blond locks were covered by a veil in Alençon lace, held in place by a superb diadem. On her feet she wore white satin slippers, embroidered with silver. Created by Janssen, they were in actual fact too small for her and caused her much discomfort. The young Austrian finished off her wedding outfit with diamonds belonging to the French Crown Jewels.
To mark Marie-Louise’s arrival in France, Napoleon had a sumptuous trousseau prepared for her, which included fine linen, rare silk, numerous hats, capes, fichus and shoes, gold-leaf fans, embroidered shawls, ball gowns, day dresses, hunting outfits, overcoats, a gold and ruby “nécessaire” (see here for details on such an object) designed by the celebrated goldsmith Martin-Guillaume Biennais, and seventy-one sets of jewels created by the jeweller François-Regnault Nitot.
Emmanuelle Papot (tr. & ed. H.D.W.)