Pauline Bonaparte

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Princess of Guastalla
Princess consort of Sulmona and of Rossano
Princess of France
Pauline Bonaparte princesse Borghese.jpg
Portrait by Marie Guilhelmine Benoist, 1808
Duchess of Guastalla
Reign24 March 1806 – 14 August 1806 [1]
Predecessor Ferdinand
SuccessorDuchy annexed by Parma
Born(1780-10-20)20 October 1780
Maison Bonaparte, Ajaccio, Corsica
Died9 June 1825(1825-06-09) (aged 44)
Florence, Tuscany
Gén. Charles Leclerc
(m. 1797;died 1802)

Issue Dermide Leclerc
Full name
Maria Paola Bonaparte
House Bonaparte
Father Carlo Buonaparte
Mother Letizia Ramolino
Religion Roman Catholicism

Pauline Bonaparte (20 October 1780 9 June 1825) was an Italian noblewoman, the first sovereign Duchess of Guastalla in Italy, an imperial French Princess and the Princess consort of Sulmona and Rossano. She was the sixth child of Letizia Ramolino and Carlo Buonaparte, Corsica's representative to the court of King Louis XVI of France. Her elder brother, Napoleon, was the first Emperor of the French. She married Charles Leclerc, a French general, a union ended by his death in 1802. Later, she married Camillo Borghese, 6th Prince of Sulmona. Her only child, Dermide Leclerc, born from her first marriage, died in childhood. She was the only Bonaparte sibling to visit Napoleon in exile on his principality, Elba.

Guastalla Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Guastalla is a town and comune in the province of Reggio Emilia in Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

Letizia Ramolino Mother of Napolean

Nob.Maria Letizia BuonapartenéeRamolino was an Italian noblewoman, mother of Napoleon I of France.

Carlo Buonaparte Father of Napoleon Bonaparte

Nob. Carlo Maria Buonaparte or Carlo Maria di Buonaparte was an Italian lawyer and diplomat who is best known as the father of Napoleon Bonaparte.


Early life

French Monarchy
Bonaparte Dynasty
Grandes Armes Imperiales (1804-1815)2.svg
Napoleon I
Napoleon II
Joseph, King of Spain
Lucien, Prince of Canino
Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Louis, King of Holland
Pauline, Princess of Guastalla
Caroline, Queen of Naples
Jérôme, King of Westphalia
Nephews and nieces
Princess Zénaïde
Princess Charlotte
Charlotte, Princess Gabrielli
Prince Charles Lucien
Prince Louis Lucien
Prince Pierre Napoléon
Prince Napoléon Charles
Prince Napoléon Louis
Napoleon III
Prince Jérôme Napoléon
Prince Jérôme Napoléon Charles
Prince Napoléon
Princess Mathilde
Grandnephews and -nieces
Prince Joseph
Prince Lucien Cardinal Bonaparte
Augusta, Princess Gabrielli
Prince Roland
Princess Jeanne
Prince Jerome
Prince Charles
Napoléon (V) Victor
Maria Letizia, Duchess of Aosta
Great grandnephews and -nieces
Princess Marie
Princess Marie Clotilde
Napoléon (VI) Louis
Great great grandnephews and -nieces
Napoléon (VII) Charles
Princess Catherine
Princess Laure
Prince Jérôme
Great great great grandnephews and -nieces
Princess Caroline
Jean Christophe, Prince Napoléon
Napoleon II
Napoleon III
Napoléon (IV), Prince Imperial

Maria Paola Buonaparte, the sixth child of Letizia Ramolino and Carlo Buonaparte, Corsica's representative to the court of King Louis XVI of France, was born on 20 October 1780 in Ajaccio, Corsica. [2] She was popularly known as "Paoletta", and her family soon took a French spelling of their surname, Bonaparte. Little is known about her childhood, except that she received no formal education. [3] Following Carlo's death in 1785, the family was plunged into poverty. [3]

Louis XVI of France King of France and Navarre

Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was the last King of France before the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution. He was referred to as Citizen Louis Capet during the four months before he was guillotined. In 1765, at the death of his father, Louis, son and heir apparent of Louis XV, Louis-Auguste became the new Dauphin of France. Upon his grandfather's death on 10 May 1774, he assumed the title "King of France and Navarre", which he used until 4 September 1791, when he received the title of "King of the French" until the monarchy was abolished on 21 September 1792.

Ajaccio Prefecture and commune in Corsica, France

Ajaccio is a French commune, prefecture of the department of Corse-du-Sud, and head office of the Collectivité territoriale de Corse. It is also the largest settlement on the island. Ajaccio is located on the west coast of the island of Corsica, 210 nautical miles (390 km) southeast of Marseille.

Corsica Island in the Mediterranean, also a region and a department of France

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island.

Her brother Lucien Bonaparte made seditious comments at the local Jacobin chapter in the summer of 1793, forcing the family to flee to the mainland. It was there on the mainland that she became known as "Paulette". The income the Bonapartes earned from their vineyards and other holdings on Corsica was interrupted by the English occupation. [4] Their existence became so dire that the Bonaparte women reportedly resorted to washing clothes for payment. [5] Regardless, they received, like other Corsican refugees following the English invasion, a stipend from the government. From their landing place, Toulon, they moved to Marseille, where General Napoleon Bonaparte, her elder brother, introduced her to Louis-Marie Stanislas Fréron, the proconsul of Marseille. [6] He intended them to marry, but Letizia objected. [4] Napoleon, despite the fact that Pauline loved Stanislas, married her to General Charles Leclerc in French-occupied Milan on 14 June 1797. [7] Napoleon returned to Paris and delegated the office of commander-in-chief of the French army in Italy to his brother-in-law. [8] Pauline gave birth to a boy, Dermide Louis Napoleon, on 20 April 1798. [9] In celebration, General Leclerc acquired a property outside Novellara worth 160,000 French francs. [10] Ill-health forced Leclerc to resign from his military post in October of the same year; he was transferred to Paris. Leclerc was again relocated upon arrival, this time to Brittany. Pauline stayed in Paris with Dermide. [11] Laure de Permond—the future Duchesse d'Abrantès—and her mother welcomed Pauline into their salon at the rue Saint-Croix. [12] Napoleon seized power in Coup of Brumaire in November 1799: deposing the Directory, he pronounced himself First Consul. [13]

Lucien Bonaparte French statesman

Lucien Bonaparte, Prince Français, 1st Prince of Canino and Musignano, the third surviving son of Carlo Bonaparte and his wife Letizia Ramolino, was a French statesman, who served as the final President of the Council of Five Hundred at the end of the French Revolution.

Toulon Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Toulon is a city in southern France and a large port on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department.

Marseille Second-largest city of France and prefecture of Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Marseille is the second-largest city of France. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on French Riviera coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 852,516 in 2012. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.


Saint-Domingue in the West Indies (modern-day Haiti) had been a French colony since 1697, but had been in rebellion against France since 1791. Napoleon wished to restore French authority there, and so organized an expedition. He put General Leclerc at its head, appointing him Governor-General of the island. [14] Leclerc, Dermide, and Pauline embarked for the colony from Brest on 14 December 1801. [15] Leclerc's fleet totaled 74 ships. [15] The gubernatorial family occupied the flagship, l'Océan. [15] After a 45-day journey, the fleet arrived in Le Cap harbour. [16] The Governor-General ordered General Christophe, who commanded a force of 5,000 soldiers, to resign Le Cap to French authority. [17] After all attempts at conciliation failed, Leclerc attacked the town under cover of darkness. Christophe responded by razing Le Cap to the ground. [18] Pauline, meanwhile, was left aboard the flagship with their son. According to Leclerc, in a letter dated 5 March to Napoleon, "The disastrous events in the midst of which she [Pauline] found herself wore her down to the point of making her ill." [19] Leclerc succeeded in requisitioning the capitulation of the rebel leader, Toussaint L'ouverture, in May. [16]

Saint-Domingue Former French colony on the isle of Hispaniola

Saint-Domingue was a French colony on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola from 1659 to 1804, in what is now Haiti.

Haiti country in the Caribbean

Haiti, officially the Republic of Haiti and formerly called Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola, east of Cuba in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) in size and has an estimated 10.8 million people, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the second-most populous country in the Caribbean as a whole.

Saint-Domingue expedition French military expedition

The Saint-Domingue expedition was a French military expedition sent by Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul, under his brother-in-law Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc in an attempt to regain French control of the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue on the island of Hispaniola, and curtail the measures of independence taken by the former slave Toussaint Louverture. It landed in December 1801 and, after initial success, ended in a French defeat at the battle of Vertières and the departure of French troops in December 1803.

However, celebrations were dampened by the advent of yellow fever season. 25 generals and 25,000 soldiers died from the fever. [20] Leclerc had initially guaranteed that slavery, abolished by the Jacobin republic in 1794, would stay proscribed; however, the inhabitants caught wind of its re-establishment in another French colony, neighbouring Guadeloupe, in July. [21] The French government had eliminated slavery in May. As a result, the indigenous residents of Saint-Domingue planned an insurrection for September 16. [22] Black troops in Leclerc's army defected to their old commanders, and the Governor-General had a mere 2,000 men against the rebels' 10,000. [23] Leclerc, fearing for Pauline's safety, gave express orders to Jacques de Norvin, a sergeant, to remove Pauline from Saint-Domingue at a moment's notice, [24] but these precautions proved unnecessary when Leclerc defeated the insurgents.

Yellow fever viral disease

Yellow fever is a viral disease of typically short duration. In most cases, symptoms include fever, chills, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle pains particularly in the back, and headaches. Symptoms typically improve within five days. In about 15% of people, within a day of improving the fever comes back, abdominal pain occurs, and liver damage begins causing yellow skin. If this occurs, the risk of bleeding and kidney problems is also increased.

Guadeloupe Overseas region and department in France

Guadeloupe is an overseas region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands, Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings.

The climate was taking its toll on Pauline's health. She could no longer walk and was compelled to a "reclining position" for several hours a day. [25] Both she and Dermide suffered from spells of yellow fever. [26] She did, however, find time to take numerous lovers, including several of her husband's soldiers, and developed a reputation for "Bacchanalian promiscuity." [27]

Leclerc attempted to convince Pauline to return to Paris in August. [28] She consented on the condition that "he [Leclerc]...give me 100,000 francs." When the Governor-General refused, she elected to stay in Saint-Domingue; observing that unlike in Paris, "Here, I reign like Josephine [Napoleon's wife]; I hold first place." [29]

To occupy herself, she compiled a collection of local flora and established a menagerie, inhabited by native animals. [29]

On 22 October 1802, Leclerc fell ill. A doctor from the military hospital in Le Cap diagnosed him with a fever "caused by the bodily and mental hardships that the general [Leclerc] had suffered." Biographer Flora Fraser believes that his symptoms were consistent with those of yellow fever. [30] He died on 1 November. Seven days later, Pauline, Dermide, and Leclerc's remains were hastily ferried back to mainland France.

Princess Borghese

Portrait by Kinson, 1808 Pauline Bonaparte.jpg
Portrait by Kinson, 1808
Venus Victrix (Canova) Scultura Canova - Paolina Bonaparte Borghese.jpg
Venus Victrix (Canova)

Pauline reached the Bay of Toulon on 1 January 1803. That same day she wrote to Napoleon: "I have brought with me the remains of my poor Leclerc. Pity poor Pauline, who is truly unhappy." [31]

On February 11, she arrived in the capital, where Napoleon made arrangements for her to lodge with their brother Joseph. [32] Parisian rumour had it that she extracted gold and jewels from the indigenous peoples in Saint-Domingue and brought the treasure back in Leclerc's sarcophagus, but this was not the case. [33] She inherited 700,000 francs in liquid capital and assets from Leclerc. [34]

Tiring of life with Joseph, Pauline went about acquiring Hôtel Charost from the duchess to whom it belonged. She confided in a friend that she "was bored" with the code of mourning outlined in the First Consul's civil code, compelling her to withdraw from Parisian society, which, before her time in Saint-Domingue, had had her at its center. [35] Napoleon did not wish her to remain unmarried for long; he tried—but failed—to betroth her to the Duke of Lodi and Vice-President of the Napoleonic Republic of Italy, Francesco Melzi d'Eril. [35] Pope Pius VII's envoy, Giovanni Battista Caprara, suggested Camillo Borghese, 6th Prince of Sulmona, a Roman noble. [36] The First Consul believed the union would consolidate ties with French-occupied Italy, where animosity toward the aggressor was rife. [37] That, combined with pressure from her brothers Joseph and Lucien, induced her to marry him. The marriage contract brought Camillo a dowry of 500,000 francs; to Pauline, it brought 300,000 francs worth of jewelry and the use of the Borghese family diamonds. [38] On 28 August 1803, they were married by Capara, but without the knowledge of Napoleon, who had wanted a November wedding for mourning protocol's sake. Upon discovering Pauline's deceit, he refused to acknowledge her new title: "Please understand, Madame, that there is no princess where I am." A civil ceremony was held in November to confirm the marriage. However, Pauline continued her extramarital affairs, including an affair with the violinist Niccolò Paganini. [27]

Camillo, Pauline, and Dermide arrived in Rome on November 14. Pauline, anxious to learn how to behave in Roman society, received tutorship in deportment and dancing. [39] Biographer William Carlton suggests that Pauline—a commoner from Corsica—would never have made such an advantageous match if it weren't for Napoleon's political eminence. [40] Pauline's initial amity toward Camillo soon morphed into dislike. [41] Her son Dermide, always a delicate child, died on August 14, 1804 in the Aldobrandini villa in Frascati, after a violent fever and convulsions. Three years later, in 1807, his remains were moved next to those of his father in the park grounds of the Château de Montgobert. [42]

After Napoleon's fall

In 1806, Napoleon made his sister sovereign Princess and Duchess of Guastalla; however, she soon sold the duchy to Parma for six million francs, keeping only the title of Princess of Guastalla. Pauline fell into temporary disfavor with her brother because of her hostility to his second wife, Empress Marie Louise, but when Napoleon's fortune failed, Pauline showed herself more loyal than any of his other sisters and brothers.

Upon Napoleon's fall, Pauline liquidated all of her assets and moved to Elba, using that money to better Napoleon's condition. She was the only Bonaparte sibling to visit her brother during his exile on Elba. Her home in Paris, the Hôtel de Charost, was sold to the British government and used by the Duke of Wellington as his official residence during his tenure as British Ambassador to France. Today the house is still the home of the British ambassador.

After Waterloo Pauline moved to Rome, where she enjoyed the protection of Pope Pius VII (who once was her brother's prisoner), as did her mother, Letizia, (then at a palace on the Piazza Venezia) and other members of the Bonaparte family. Pauline lived in a villa near the Porta Pia that was called Villa Paolina after her and decorated in the Egyptomania style she favored. Her husband, Camillo, moved to Florence to distance himself from her and had a ten-year relationship with a mistress, but even so Pauline persuaded the Pope to convince the prince to return to her only three months before her death from pulmonary tuberculosis in the couple's Palazzo Borghese. [43] [27]


See also

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  1. Carlton, p 151
  2. Fraser, Flora: Venus of Empire: The Life of Pauline Bonaparte, John Murray, London, 2009, ISBN   978-0-7195-6110-8, p 4
  3. 1 2 Fraser, p 5
  4. 1 2 Fraser, p 9
  5. Fraser, p 10
  6. Fraser, p 7
  7. Fraser, p 25
  8. Fraser, p 27
  9. Fraser, p 28
  10. Fraser, p 29
  11. Fraser, p 30
  12. Fraser, p 34
  13. Fraser, p 41
  14. Carlton, W.N.C.: Pauline: Favourite Sister of Napoleon, Thornton Butterworth, 1931, London (pre-dates use of ISBN), p 66
  15. 1 2 3 Carlton, p 71
  16. 1 2 Carlton, p 73
  17. Fraser, p 61
  18. Fraser, p 62
  19. Fraser, p 63
  20. Carlton, pp. 73–74
  21. Carlton, p 74
  22. Fraser, p 79
  23. Fraser, pp. 79–80
  24. Carlton, p 77
  25. Carlton, p 84
  26. Fraser, p 75
  27. 1 2 3 Laura Thompson (22 May 2009). "Venus of Empire: the Life of Pauline Bonaparte by Flora Fraser".
  28. Fraser, pp. 77–78
  29. 1 2 Carlton, p 76
  30. Fraser, p 83
  31. Carlton, p 83
  32. Carlton, pp. 83–84
  33. Carlton, p 86
  34. Fraser, p 90
  35. 1 2 Fraser, p 91
  36. Carlton, 99
  37. Carlton, p 100
  38. Fraser, pp. 96–97
  39. Carlton, p 113
  40. Carlton, p 106
  41. Fraser, p 102
  42. Napoleon, Prisonnier – Les militaires: Leclerc (in French) [retrieved 10 July 2013].
  43. Majanlahti, Anthony (2005). The Families Who Made Rome. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN   0-7011-7687-3., page 180-1
  44. Bouchon, Lionel A. (4 February 2017). "Genealogy of Napoleon – The Bonaparte Family". Napoleon & Empire. Archived from the original on 20 April 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2018.


Pauline Bonaparte
Born: 13 June 1673 Died: 15 October 1741
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duchess of Guastalla
Duchy annexed by Parma
French nobility
Title created Princess of Guastalla
Title extinct
Italian nobility
Preceded by
Anna Maria Salviati
Princess of Sulmona and of Rossano
Succeeded by
Adèle, Countess of La Rochefoucauld