Disclaimer: Hans - Karl Weiß had asked about Eugène's relations to the royal Bavarian family that Eugène had married into in January 1806. I'd love to post about that but I still have no clue how to tackle it. I'm not even sure if this is the best place to put the post, as it's of course all intertwined with Napoleon's foreign policy. Anyway, I'll start with a brief introduction and will put everything else into the comments peu à peu. Also, if this should better be posted elsewhere, please let me know, I'll delete and repost it asap.
Munich, 12 April 1805 – Auguste von Bayern writes to her brother Ludwig (at that time on his "grand tour" through Italy), asking for his opinion on her recent and rather sudden betrothal to prince Carl von Baden and explaining in the process why there was such haste (quoted and translated from Adalbert von Bayern, "Eugen Beauharnais"):
[…] consider that dear Papa wished it [the betrothal to Carl], France was to be feared, I believe Herr Otto [French ambassador to Bavaria] even had the order to desire my hand for Eugen Boharnet [sic!]; if things were not so certain with Prince Carl, a refuse would have been very dangerous, I must not even think of what a disgrace it would have been for our house; I hope they will not open my letter, for I would not like others to know what I am writing to my dearly beloved brother, goodbye, I must stop, for church begins much earlier.
This is the very first evidence we have of future vice-queen Auguste taking notice of one Eugène de Beauharnais. As Eugène’s connection to the Wittelsbach family only started with his marriage to Auguste, I thought we could begin with this. As can easily be perceived, Auguste was not particularly thrilled with this marriage offer, which was also true for her whole family.
Some more curious things to note about this letter: It’s in German, whereas to her father Auguste would always write in French, the tone is still quite child-like (I particularly love the belated realization that the letter might be opened – ooops, look, dear French spy, this is a private letter to my brother, so don’t tell this Bonaparte person about it, okay?) and of course Eugène’s last name is misspelled. Françoise de Bernardy and Michel Kerautret seem to assume that Auguste did it on purpose, in order to make fun of this impossible candidate. But I would find it even funnier if this almost 17-year-old Wittelsbach princess really had no clue how to spell it, while being completely aware that a marriage to this person would be a disgrace.
As to her letter being opened – I do not know. But in any case French spies had no need of it, as they would soon open the letters of Auguste’s father, which were in the same vein.
I imagine most people are rather unfamiliar with such petty German princes of the era. So who belonged to the ruling branch of the Wittelsbach family at the time?
Maximilian Joseph IV. von Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, future king Maximilian I. Second son of the second son of the pre-to-last family branch of House Wittelsbach, he had been destined to serve in the French army (known as "prince Max" in Versailles – always in love, always in debt) and only inherited the title of elector because everybody in line before him managed to die without legitimate issue. According to French diplomat Thiard a man "without much character", which meant in the terms of the time that he was considered a weakling: hesitant, nervous, always worried about something or other, trying to wriggle his way out of every situation without actually committing himself, falling sick whenever he had to make an important decision. He also is unanimously described as friendly, fun- and peace-loving, unpretentious to the point of being confused with one of his servants on a regular basis, and much beloved by everyone he met. I tend to see him as a kind of anti-Napoleon as he really seems to have been the opposite of the French emperor in every single character trait. It is also to be noted that this rather ridiculous monarch managed to get his small country through a very challenging era unscathed. And yes, I do love him to bits, even if I could understand queen Karoline wanting to throttle him three times a day. Speaking of which:
Karoline von Baden. Daughter of Max Joseph's first cousin Amalie von Baden; sister to the Duchess of Brunswick, the Queen of Sweden, the Russian tsarina and the Prince Carl mentioned in Auguste's letter; also second wife to Max Joseph; future queen of Bavaria. Very anti-French, or at least anti-Napoleon, ever since the execution of the Duc d'Enghien with whom she briefly had been engaged in her youth. According to Bavarian de-facto prime minister Montgelas, like her sisters Karoline would always strongly be influenced by her overbearing mother. She in turn held a considerable influence over her husband, who was very proud of his young wife, loved her to bits and did not enjoy having to sleep on the sofa. Her relationship with Eugène would always be somewhat complicated, as Eugène in her view remained the guy who had stolen the bride destined for Karoline's younger brother.
Ludwig von Bayern, born in 1786, oldest son and heir of Max Joseph. Future crown prince and king Ludwig I. Extremely anti-French, pro-Austrian, at the time also hovering some romantic nationalist feelings (that would soon evaporate once he became king). Almost deaf, speaking with a stutter, had suffered from smallpox as a child. Highly educated, read and translated Latin and Greek texts. Prone to jealousy and distrust, also considered himself a poet. In my personal opinion, a lot weirder than his more famous namesake Ludwig II. Or weird in a different way. (The Wittelsbachs - everyone a different kind of crazy.)
Auguste Amalie, born in 1788, second child and oldest daughter from Max Joseph's first marriage. Author of the letter cited above. A very pretty princesse, for whom there had been plenty of marriage offers, including Austrian archdukes and the brother of Prussian queen Luise.
Charlotte, born in 1792, younger daughter of Max Joseph and sister to Ludwig and Auguste. The ugly duckling of the family, badly disfigured by smallpox, rather shy, very good-natured, according to Montgelas "au fond mieux" than her more beautiful sister. Suffered later through an arranged marriage to the crown prince of Württemberg and would end up as an Austrian empress (no. 4 of Francis’ wives).
Carl Theodor, born in 1795, the younger son from Max Joseph’s first marriage. Still a child at the time of the wedding, only played a role much later, when Eugène was already in exile in Bavaria. The same is true for the half-sisters from Max Joseph’s marriage to Karoline (they had twin girls, twice, in 1801 and 1805, then another girl in 1808 and the last daughter in 1810), some of whom were closer in age to Eugène's and Auguste's children than to their half-sister.
And finally, there was an unofficial family member, Auguste’s governess Madame de Wurmb, nicknamed "Machère", who had a great influence on her protégé and on top of that apparently scared the whole Munich residence into obedience. She was a staunch opponent of the French marriage and allegedly later had a funny interview with Napoleon over it.
So much for the protagonists, I’ll give a brief summary of how this marriage came to pass in the next part. Also, apologies in advance if I often come across as snarky – I’m unable to do otherwise. Most of the events that led to this marriage belong into a comedy show. Seriously.