In the opening scenes, Scott seems to base the romantic relationship on lust more than love. In a notable scene, Joséphine flashes Napoleon in a drawing room. By Scott’s estimation, the two didn’t really realize they were in love until political turmoil forced them apart. But not in a way that really separated them. Scott said:
“I think she was always becoming an influence on him, I think. Did she love him initially? I don’t think so. By the time they came to the idea, you cannot give me a successor, I have to divorce you … that was kind of tragic. She thinks she’s going to be cast out and she’s not. She walks away with an estate, two million francs, and I’ll visit you went I can. She could not see other men. She did anyway.”
It seems that the two loved each other, but also were tolerant of their respective romantic and sexual desires outside of their relationship. After a while, by Scott’s estimation, they didn’t take the infidelity too personally. It was a romance, but a pragmatic, kind of open romance. Scott continued:
“[T]hat’s why I had the young Russian prince go in and say, ‘You cannot hide yourself away just because he’s no longer with you.’ The Russian prince was a young, handsome guy who actually was later called the Wolf of Siberia. He evolved as being really ruthless and really brutal. Napoleon knew about them, but I can’t believe it would be that personal to the point where he needed to take Russia because the prince may have been bonking his wife.”
The Russian attacks were based on military hubris, of course. Not sexual jealousy.