“She was christened Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, but was called Marie-Rose. Her first husband was named de Beauharnais, while her second, Napoléon Bonaparte, whom she married in 1796, rechristened her Joséphine, her most recognizable name to this day.
“While Napoléon made history, it was said that Joséphine — a French Créole born in Martinique — sponsored culture.
“Tonight we are attending one of Napoléon and Joséphine’s many weekend events at their Chateau de Malmaison near Paris. When Napoléon was not away fighting wars, Malmaison was his favorite retreat, where there was continual company at receptions, parties, salons, concerts, banquets, plays and other festivities.
“While of no particular date, our event happens during this relatively peaceful time for Napoléon, since it is between his and Joséphine’s coronation as emperor and empress of France on Dec. 2, 1804, and his as the king of Italy on May 26, 1805. More precisely it is in springtime during the year XII (1804-1805) in the month of Floréal (late April to early May) by the French Revolutionary calendar then in use. Suffice it to say, attendees include Joséphine’s ladies of honor and Napoléon’s military entourage.”
Thus was the stage set for one of Carnival’s most highly anticipated events Saturday evening: the bal masque of the Mystic Club and the revealing of the Mystic queen. The locale for the spectacle was the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.
“In December 1799, Joséphine bought the rundown chateau upon which she lovingly lavished time, money and imagination for its beautification. There were rich green lawns and English gardens enhanced by pavilions and tents. Swans — which became Joséphine’s symbol — swam on its lakes.
“For both, Malmaison was the only place that felt like home, and for Joséphine it was her natural habitat. Millions of francs were poured into exotic imported plants cultivated in greenhouses. Even when France was at war with England, Joséphine’s plant specimens were granted unhindered sea passage. Above all, there were roses — Joséphine’s obsession — which grew everywhere at Malmaison. A pale, flesh-colored beauty of a rose taken from the property in 1843 by a Russian grand duke has ever since been named Souvenir de la Malmaison.”
Reigning over the Malmaison festivities as Her Majesty, Empress Joséphine, was Mrs. Louis McDaniel Freeman Jr.
Ladies-in-waiting to her majesty were Mesdames André von Kurnatowski Hooper as Madame de Talhouët; Dennis Patrick Lauscha as Madame de Luçay; James Westfeldt Rapier as Madame de Lauriston; John Michael Selser as Madame de Lavalette; Charles David Thompson as Madame de Rémusat; and Charles James Van Horn as Madame Chastulé de la Rochefoucauld.
Young ladies, debutantes of the season, presented to their majesties were Misses Sarah Kent Agnew, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank de la Houssaye Agnew; Evelyn Burkenroad Bories, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Alan Bories; Margaret Magee Brown, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Michael James Brown; Catherine Clare Conwill, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Oza Conwill IV; Caroline Grace Geary, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Covert James Geary; Elizabeth Ashland Hines, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Hugh Hines; Katherine Renée Hodges, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Hodges Jr.; Sage Lyons Laborde, daughter and stepdaughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Peter Laborde Jr. and daughter of Ms. Pia Lyons Laborde; Charlotte Lane Langenstein, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry Langenstein III; Karoline Havens Mallette Patrick, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Joseph Patrick; Nicole Elizabeth Weinmann, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert St. George Tucker Weinmann; Leah Katherine Whann, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert James Whann IV; and Claire Michelle Zeringue, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne George Zeringue Jr.
Mrs. Freeman, the former Courtney de la Houssaye, is the mother of Louis McDaniel Freeman III, William Pierce Freeman and Sarah Jane Holbrook Freeman.
After attending the Academy of the Sacred Heart and graduating from Metairie Park Country Day School, Mrs. Freeman studied at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Newcomb College at Tulane University, earning a bachelor of arts degree in art history. She was a member of Chi Omega.
As a newlywed, Mrs. Freeman moved to Asia where her husband worked in Hong Kong. Her sons were born during her four years there. Mrs. Freeman was an active member of the American Women’s Association and was involved in local causes, including volunteering at an orphanage. With an appreciation for Asian art and culture, she collected Asian antiques and learned Szechuan cooking and the art of ikebana. She traveled extensively throughout Asia, Australia and the South Pacific.
Upon returning to New Orleans, Mrs. Freeman was involved in numerous community activities. She served on the Tulane University Provost’s Council and the boards of the Preservation Resource Center and Arts Council of New Orleans. She has contributed to the Audubon Institute’s Zoo-To-Do and her children’s school fundraisers.
Her philanthropic efforts also included serving as co-chair of various events, including the Preservation Resource Center’s Holiday Home Tour, Louisiana Children’s Museum’s Children’s World Fair, New Orleans Museum of Art’s Masterpiece Motorcade and Longue Vue House and Gardens’ Sentimental Journeys.
Advocating art, culture and travel is the driving force of her volunteer efforts.
Mrs. Freeman is an accomplished artist and has donated numerous works of art to charities for benefit auctions.
As a long-time member of New Orleans Town Gardeners, one of her artistic passions has been floral design. She has won numerous awards and recognitions in flower arranging given by NOMA’s Art in Bloom and the Garden Club of America.