Born in Versailles on August, 28th in 1789 at the beginning of the French Revolution as a daughter of a count she is named Stephanie Louise Adrienne de Beauharnais. After being adopted by the French Emperor, she becomes Stephanie Napoleon and as wife of the prince heir of Baden, Charles Lewis Frederic, she is called Stephanie Grand Duchess of Baden.
The Portrait of Stephanie shows her some time around the year 1806 at the age of 17, when she arrived in Baden, not quite voluntary.
In April of 1806, Napoleon arranges her marriage to the young, but old-fashioned prince Charles Lewis Frederic of Baden to achieve a permanent French-Baden alliance. The Grand Duchy of Baden has benefits too: Stephanie brings an enormous dowry into the marriage, Baden obtains the Breisgau and the former princedom is raised to a Grand Duchy.
Their residence is the castle of Mannheim. During the summer months she enjoys staying in Schwetzingen, where her first daughter is born. After the early death of her husband, she resides in Mannheim as her widow seat.
The marriage has a rough start. During the wedding night, Stephanie denies her husband the entrance to her bedchamber and invites a “girlfriend” instead. At the royal court of Napoleon, she had all personal liberties, now she has to experience the provincial Baden that is no longer Paris.
Her fate isn´t easy, but she copes rather skilfully. Thanks to her youthful personality and her elegant, but not overbearing appearance, she is soon very popular among the population.
The theologian and alemannic poet Johann Peter Hebel writes, after seeing her for the first time a day after her arrival in Karlsruhe on July, 6th, 1806:
“Yesterday, as we paid our respects to her, the young princess surprised everybody and allured all. Dressed in a simple white robe, some flowers woven in the braid of her hair, she stood there at ease, more like a teenager with virginal grace than princely grandeur, accepting the welcoming compliments friendly and saying, judging the surrounding faces, many pleasant things that I didn’t understand.
She is of average height, leaning towards small, has a healthy look, significant eyes and is considered beautiful by most”.
She probably wore a similar dress as the one in the painting of Francois Gérard which dates to the years 1806/ 07 in Paris.
An empire-dress, sleeveless with flowing partly transparent white muslin covered in blossoms, in the style of ancient history. Underneath, the ladies often wore flesh-colored jerseys, which led to the term of “nude-fashion”.