• Charles-Marie Bonaparte (1746-1785)
As a young Corsican aristocrat, Charles studied law in Italy and Corsica. He was ambitious and had a passion for politics, associating himself with Pascal Paoli, a political figure fighting for independence for Corsica, which had passed from the hands of the Republic of Genoa to those of France in 1768. Charles was to have eight children by his wife Maria Letizia: five boys and three girls. Anxious to provide his family with an education and a future, Charles took an active role in looking after their agricultural estates, sought assistance for maintaining his estates, and offered his children the best schools. Seriously ill, he travelled to the French mainland for treatment, in Montpellier, where he died at the age of 39.
• Letizia Ramolino (1750-1836)
Maria Letizia Ramolino was only 14 years old when she married the attractive Charles Bonaparte. As her husband was frequently away on family business, she brought up their eight children practically single-handed, with a mixture of strictness and affection. The death of Charles in 1785 left the family in a precarious financial situation. In 1793, political upheaval compelled the family to leave Corsica without delay and take refuge in Marseilles. When her son Napoleon was crowned French emperor, Letizia was given the official title of “Madame Mère”. From 1814 until her death, she chose to live in Rome.
•• Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844)
One year older than Napoleon, Joseph was the oldest of the family. He began a career as a merchant, before being swept along in the wake of his younger brother and supporting him during the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799). Appointed ambassador, he signed several major peace treaties, notably with England in 1802. Then Napoleon placed him on the throne of the Kingdom of Naples in 1806. Two years later, Joseph became King of Spain as Joseph I. He tried to modernise the country’s institutions and economy. However, the Spaniards opposed this king imposed on them by Napoleon I and held him in check with the aid of the English. Joseph had to abandon Spain in 1813. As the Bonapartes were forbidden from remaining in France after the fall of the French Empire in 1815, Joseph chose to live in the United States. He is interred at Les Invalides beside his brothers Napoleon I and Jerome, and Napoleon II.
Joseph and his wife Julie Clary had two daughters, Zénaïde and Charlotte.
•• Napoleon I (1769-1821)
Napoleon was born on 15 August 1769 in Ajaccio and left Corsica at the age of 10, with his older brother Joseph, to study in Brienne, then at the Ecole Militaire in Paris. His early military exploits were outstanding, especially during the First Italian Campaign: he won some amazing victories and began to organise the regions he had conquered both economically and politically. In the wake of his Italian victories and his expedition to Egypt, he enjoyed great popularity in France and organized a coup d’état, taking power on 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799). During this first period of his rule, called the Consulat, he introduced some major reforms: Code civil, Banque de France, Légion d’honneur, stabilisation of the monetary system with the Franc Germinal, administrative organisation with the creation of the posts of Préfet, development of universities, etc. He was crowned Emperor of the French under the name Napoleon I, on 2 December 1804. His reign was distinguished by a number of military campaigns and some major victories (Austerlitz in 1805, Friedland in 1807, and Wagram in 1809), which enabled him to extend his influence into some small countries and to annex others, and to impose his points of view on other European monarchs. But England persisted in uniting Europe against the French Empire. After the failure of the Russian Campaign in 1812, and the failure in 1813 to secure the Spanish throne for his brother Joseph, Napoleon was forced to abdicate in 1814, following a difficult campaign for France. Exiled to the small island of Elba (off Italy), he returned to France in March 1815, and regained power for just over one hundred days. His final campaign ended in Belgium, with the defeat at Waterloo, on 18 June 1815. Napoleon was once more exiled, this time to the small island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. He died on 5 May 1821. His body was brought back to France in 1840, to be interred at Les Invalides in Paris.
=> Marie-Joseph-Rose Tascher de la Pagerie (1763-1814), known as Josephine
Marie-Joseph-Rose was born in Martinique, an island in the French Caribbean, and arrived in Paris at the age of 16. Her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, a political figure with aristocratic origins, was guillotined during the French Revolution. Marie-Joseph-Rose, mother of two children, Eugene and Hortense, married Napoleon Bonaparte, then a young general with a promising career ahead of him. It was Napoleon who renamed her Josephine. The very elegant and sophisticated Empress Josephine influenced the fashion of the First French Empire, and was a patroness of artists. She turned her residence at Malmaison, near Paris, into an enchanting place. Sadly, being unable to provide her husband with an heir, she had to resign herself to a divorce in 1809.
=> Marie-Louise, Archduchess of Austria (1791-1847)
Marie-Louise, daughter of the King of Austria, was 18 years old when she married the Emperor Napoleon on 2 April 1810. Her husband had defeated her father the Emperor Francis I of Austria at the battle of Wagram. A year after marrying, on 20 March 1811, she gave birth to her only child, Napoléon-François-Charles-Joseph, destined to rule the French Empire in his turn. She was a sensitive woman, with a merry nature, and came across as happy-go-lucky, even with regard to her son. On the fall of the French Empire, Marie-Louise returned to Vienna to be near her father, to whom she entrusted the education of her son Napoleon. She became Duchess of Parma in 1815, and went to live there until her death. She remarried twice, in 1821 and 1834.
==> Their son > Napoleon II, Napoleon-François-Charles-Joseph (1811-1832)
When Napoleon-François-Charles-Joseph was born on 20 March 1811, a 101-gun salute alerted Parisians to the fact that the emperor now had a son! He represented all the hopes that Napoleon harboured of founding a new dynasty on the throne of France, the fourth after the Capetians, the Valois and the Bourbons. He reigned symbolically (he was only 3 years old) for a few days in 1814 under the name Napoleon II, as his father was forced to abdicate in April, having been defeated by the English and Russians. Then in 1815, when the First French Empire fell once and for all, he followed his mother Marie-Louise to Austria. There he received an Austrian education and was kept out of European political life. He fell ill and died at the age of 21. His body was repatriated to France in 1940 and he is laid to rest in Les Invalides, near his father Napoleon I and his uncles Joseph and Jerome Bonaparte.
•• Lucian Bonaparte (1775-1840)
Lucian was ambitious and an outstanding speaker with a strong character. He embarked on a political career with Pascal Paoli, who was defending the independence of Corsica which had passed from the hands of the Republic of Genoa to those of France in 1768. In 1798, Lucien was elected deputy for Corsica and made his headquarters in Paris. One year later, he helped his brother Napoleon to seize power during the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799). As a reward, Napoleon appointed him Minister of the Interior. But the two brothers did not share the same ideas, and Lucien refused to bend to his brother’s authority. A widower, he remarried without Napoleon’s consent. As a result he had to leave France, and elected to set up home in Rome. He was close to the pope, who made him Prince of Canino. There were signs of a reconciliation between the brothers in 1815, when Napoleon had regained power. On the fall of the French Empire, Lucien returned to live in Italy.
From his first marriage to Christine Boyer, Lucien had two daughters, Charlotte and Christine, then ten children with Alexandrine Jacob de Bleschamp, nine of whom survived: Charles-Lucien, Charlotte, Jeanne, Paul, Louis-Lucien, Pierre, Antoine, Marie-Alexandrine and Constance.
•• Elisa Bonaparte (1777-1820)
Elisa left her family and Corsica, the land of her birth, at the age of 7, to receive a careful education at a boarding school near Paris. In 1797, she married Félix-Pascal Baciocchi, a political figure in Corsica who was also in the army. The couple was placed at the head of the duchies of Piombino and Lucca in Italy. In 1809, Napoleon appointed Elisa Grand Duchess of Tuscany. She ruled her state herself with self-assurance, and for that reason she was said to resemble her brother Napoleon very strongly. She was passionately interested in art, being a patroness of artists and commissioning a number of paintings and sculptures.
Elisa and Félix-Pascal Baciocchi had five children, of whom two survived: Napoléone and Frédéric-Napoléon.
•• Louis Bonaparte (1778-1846)
As a child, Louis joined his brother Napoleon in Paris, where the latter brought him up and promoted his education. Then he accompanied his brother, now a general, on his early military campaigns in Italy and Egypt. In 1806, Napoleon I decided to place his brother on the throne in Holland. At the age of 28, Louis undertook the modernisation of this small country. However, he quickly ran into conflict with Napoleon who had never had the intention of allowing his brother to rule as he pleased. In 1810, Napoleon I annexed Holland to France, leaving Louis without a kingdom. Being of a delicate constitution, Louis therefore decided to take up residence in Italy, where he dreamed of being a writer and poet, without much success.
In 1802, Napoleon made him marry Hortense de Beauharnais, the daughter of Josephine’s first marriage. They had three sons, the third of whom became Emperor Napoleon III.
=> Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837)
Hortense was the daughter of Josephine’s first marriage to Alexandre de Beauharnais. She adored the theatre and would put on plays with her brother Eugène or her friends in order to entertain Napoleon. She had a gift for music and composed and wrote romantic songs. In 1802 she married Louis, one of Napoleon’s brothers, and became Queen of Holland in 1806. In spite of the birth of three children, the couple was not happy, since the marriage had been arranged by Napoleon for dynasty-building reasons. On the fall of the French Empire in 1815, she had to leave France and took up residence in Switzerland, at Arenenberg, with her third son Louis-Napoléon, the future Napoleon III.
==> Their son > Napoleon III, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873)
Louis-Napoleon was born in France, but on the fall of the French Empire in 1815, he had to spend a large part of his childhood in Switzerland, at Arenenberg, with his mother Queen Hortense. He followed a classical education, before entering the military academy at Thoune, in Switzerland. Louis-Napoleon was very interested in politics, and social and economic issues, and elaborated his ideas in several publications such as Rêveries politiques (1832), Idées Napoléoniennes (1839) and L’Extinction du paupérisme (1843). He made two attempts to seize power, one in 1836 in Strasburg, then in 1840 in Boulogne. His second failure led to his being imprisoned at the Fort de Ham, from where he escaped in 1846. Under government surveillance he nonetheless stood at the elections and became president of the French Republic in 1848. The coup d’état of 1851 modified the constitution and paved the way for the return of the Empire in 1852. Emperor Napoleon III took up some major challenges by modernising France and its economy: development of banks and credit institutions, railway, social laws and laws protecting the labour force, laws on education etc. His foreign policy was distinguished by the alliance with England in the Crimean War against Russia in 1854 (victories at Sébastopol and Malakoff), support for a resurgence of national aspirations in Italy, where he carried out a campaign against Austria in 1859 (victories at Magenta and Solferino). Furthermore, colonial France continued to expand, with pacification of Algerian territory, the conquest of New Caledonia and of Cochin-China (South Vietnam). It was an aging, sick Napoleon III, at the head of an ill-prepared and ill-equipped army, who opposed Prussia in 1870. The Emperor was taken prisoner during the Battle of Sedan on 2 September. Defeated, Napoleon III chose to go and live in England with his wife, Empress Eugénie, and their son, Louis. He died in England and is buried at Farnborough.
===> Eugenie de Palafox y Portocarrero, Countess of Teba (1826-1920)
Daughter of a Spanish count, Eugenie became Empress of the French through her marriage to Napoleon III in 1853. They were to have only one son, Napoléon-Louis, whom Eugenie looked after with a great deal of kindness. She was a woman of character, interested in the major political and social issues of her age, and she attempted from time to time to persuade Napoleon III of the validity of her beliefs. During the course of her long life (she died aged 94), Empress Eugenie would travel all over the world: to Algeria, Egypt (to inaugurate the Suez Canal in 1869, the construction of which had been led by the Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps), South Africa (where her son died in 1879), and Ceylon. She is buried at Farnborough, in England, alongside Napoleon III and their son.
====> Their son > The Prince Imperial, Napoleon-Louis (1856-1879)
Napoleon-Louis was very much loved by his parents, Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, and from very early on received an education destined to prepare him to succeed his father. Thus from his earliest years, the Prince Imperial took part in official ceremonies, visited military training camps, and accompanied his parents to Algeria. On the fall of the Second French Empire in 1870, he was 14 years old. He had to leave France with his parents, to live in exile in England, near London. Wishing to bring honour to his family name, the Prince Imperial insisted on making a career in the army and enlisted with the English army. In 1879 he was sent to South Africa, where the English were confronted with uprisings in their colony. He was killed during a reconnaissance mission to Zululand. He is buried at Farnborough in England, alongside his parents.
•• Pauline Bonaparte (1780-1825)
Pauline was a beautiful young woman who inspired numerous artists of her day, both painters and sculptors. First time around, she married General Leclerc and followed him on assignment to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern Haïti). After the death of her husband, Napoleon made her marry Prince Camillo Borghese, son of a distinguished Roman family, then made her Duchess of Guastalla in 1806. She was very close to Napoleon, and was the only one of his siblings to visit him during his first exile on the island of Elba. On the fall of the French Empire, Pauline went to live in Italy.
From her first marriage, Pauline had a son, Dermid, who died very young.
•• Caroline Bonaparte (1782-1839)
Caroline was the youngest of Napoleon’s sisters and the most self-willed! She was a woman of character who persuaded Napoleon to accept her marriage to a spirited and courageous general from his entourage, Joachim Murat. In 1808, the couple was placed in charge of the Kingdom of Naples, in the south of the Italian peninsula. Caroline loved art, was a patroness of artists and promoted the archaeological excavations at Pompeii, a town swallowed up by the lava from the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79. After the fall of the French Empire and the execution of her husband in 1815, she set up home for a while in Austria, then returned to Italy. She took the name Countess of Lipona (an anagram of Napoli, or Naples in Italian).
Caroline and Joachim Murat had four children: Achille, Laetitia, Lucien, Louise.
=> Joachim Murat (1767-1815)
Joachim Murat was born into a modest family from the Lot region (southwest France). He was a courageous general, perhaps a little hot-headed, and took part in all Napoleon’s campaigns in Italy, Egypt, Prussia, Austria, Spain and Russia. He was married to Napoleon’s sister, Caroline, and was rewarded for his bravery and loyalty by being appointed Maréchal of the French Empire, Grand Admiral, Grand Duke of Berg and Clèves. Then Napoleon placed Joachim and Caroline in charge of the little kingdom of Naples in 1808. In 1815, when Napoleon I was battling in Belgium to save his empire, Joachim Murat had to deal with an attempt by the previous royal family to regain their throne, aided by the Austrians. Defeated a first time at Tolentino on 2 May, Joachim Murat tried to regain power, but he was taken prisoner and executed by his captors on 13 October.
•• Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860)
The youngest of the Bonaparte family, Jérôme benefited from all the attention of his brother Napoleon, who initially put him down for the navy, then placed him in charge of a territorial regiment. In 1803 Jérôme married in the United States without his brother’s approval. Napoleon forced him to annul this union, and arranged a political marriage for him in 1806, with the daughter of the King of Württemberg (a small kingdom in Germany). The same year, Jérôme became king of Westphalia: this kingdom consisting of several small German states was part of the Confederation of the Rhine. However in 1813, the Prussians occupied it following Napoleon I’s defeat at Leipzig. After the fall of the First French Empire once and for all in 1815, the Bonapartes were banned from remaining in France, and Jérôme lived for a while in Switzerland, then Austria and Italy. In 1847, he obtained permission from the French government to return to France. With the election of his nephew Louis-Napoléon as president of the Second French Republic in 1848, Jérôme was made governor of Les Invalides and Maréchal de France. He is interred in Les Invalides, alongside Napoleon I.
From his first marriage, Jérôme had a son (Jérôme Patterson), and three more children from his marriage to Catherine of Württemberg: Jérôme, Mathilde and Napoléon.