Lately, I have been researching information on Napoleon Bonaparte. I had never really delved into his family and anything other than his thirst for conquering all he could. He had a large and interesting family, and here are some of the tidbits I had not known before.
Did you know Napoleon was actually of minor Italian nobility? He was born on Corsica, where his ancestors had moved the family, shortly after Corsica had become annexed to France. He was the 4th child of 8 born to Carlo Maria de Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino. He was born the year the Republic of Genoa ceded Corsica to France, after the French had conquered the island the year previously.
Napoleon’s mother was only 14 when she married and was a descendant of the noble Lombard family, who had lived on Corsica for centuries. Her dowry was land and businesses, which brought in an annual income equivalent to ten thousand British pounds.
Corsica was conquered by France the year before Napoleon was born. His parents had been involved in the resistance and battling France even up until his mother was pregnant with him. Carlo Bonaparte was a supporter of Pasquale Paoli during the resistance, but in 1777, he became a part of French government, representing the island (Corsica). Due to his father’s friendship with the military governor, Charles Rene, Napoleon was admitted to the Brienne cadet school at the age of 9, shortly after his father was given a certificate of nobility.
It is interesting to know the school restricted the students’ parents’ visits, and the boys were not allowed to leave the school for 6 years, though for some reason Letizia was allowed to visit her son. Makes one wonder if the school’s rule, at such a young age of the boys, had aided in forming Napoleon’s behavior. In my opinion, when you deprive children of their family’s (blood or by choice), it can cause issues with the child’s ability connect with others. One cannot declare war and cause the death and destruction of so many in a bid to control millions of people, if one has grown up with love and emotional security. At least, such is how I look at it. After the Brienne school, Napoleon attended the Royal Military School. I wonder how many of his instructors later regretted teaching him.
Napoleon was the second son of Carlo and Letizia named Napoleon. The first two children of the couple died shortly after birth. The couple had 8 out of 13 children survive. The first to survive was Joseph, who later became the king of Spain. The other siblings of Napoleon that survived were:
Lucien, Prince of Canino and Musignano
Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Louis I, King of Holland
Pauline, Princess of Guastalla
Caroline, Queen of Naples,
Jerome, King of Westphalia
In 1785, Carlo died of what was stated to be stomach cancer. This left Letizia a widow with 8 children at the age of 35. After his father’s death, Napoleon turned against Paoli’s rule, causing Paoli to retaliate, attacking the family home and burning it down. Letizia fled with her children to France. Due to this being the peak of The Terror in France, Letizia and her daughters hid their identities as a part of the aristocracy by claiming to be dressmakers, using passports Napoleon had secured for them. Only a month later, British forces took possession of the port of Toulon, to where the family had escaped. Forced to move to Marseilles, the family was impoverished, only receiving income from Napoleon’s salary.
His first major battle was in the spring of 1794, which he won, providing him a promotion to General de Brigade. This aided his family as it allowed Napoleon to move his family to a new home.
In 1796, Napoleon married his first wife, Josephine de Beauharnais who was 6 years his senior. Letizia was displeased with the marriage. Previously married to a viscount for around 15 years, Josephine was only married to Napoleon for 4 years. Her death came in 1814. In 1810, after annulling his first marriage, he married Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria. The only legitimate child of Napoleon’s was with the Archduchess. After his death, she remarried twice more. Her marriages were considered morganatically, meaning a marriage between people of unequal social rank.
After Napoleon’s win in the First Italian Campaign, he was able to move his mother and siblings back to Corsica, where his mother and uncle had roles in the running of Corsica. In 1798, Napoleon led a military unit to Egypt, then in 1799, he led a coup which made him the First Counsul of the Republic. In 1805, his military victories led to the Holy Roman Empire being dissolved. If you look through history, the Roman Empire was one of the strongest and far reaching empires.
In 1799, Napoleon led a bloodless coup, marking his rise to power and bringing his mother to live in Paris, where she lived on a pension of 25,000 francs a month.
After Napoleon had come into power, the family had a severe parting. His younger brother, Lucien, married secretly and against Napoleon’s desire. Letizia left Paris, siding with Lucien, and moved to Rome, where her daughter, Pauline, was living, as Princess Borghese. Letizia lived with her half brother who was Cardinal Fesch. Lucien and his family joined his mother and sister in Rome. His mother returned to Paris in 1804, living in a house she had purchased from Lucien for 600,000 francs, which she could afford, as Napoleon was providing her 500,000 francs a year. She did not attend the Imperial Court, nor did she attend Napoleon’s coronation.
I find it odd that when she was congratulated on Napoleon’s coronation, she replied “Let’s hope it lasts!” Talk about faith in one’s child. He later gifted his mother a castle to live in.
In 1814, Letizia and Pauline joined Napoleon in exile on Elba. Later, she followed her son when he returned to Paris in 1815. When she left him, she returned to Rome, where she lived under the protection of the Pope (Pope Pius VII). She lived in seclusion off of the money she received from selling her jewelry and liquifying her investments.
Letizia outlived Napoleon by 15 years, and her husband by almost 51 years. A chapel was built near her native home of Ajaccio, where her husband’s body was moved a hundred years later, in 1951.
When he led the coup, taking over France, Napoleon Bonaparte was only 30 years old, and only 51 years old when he died in 1821.
In the wars Bonaparte executed, there were anywhere from between 3 and 6 million people (civilian and military) deaths. What an unfortunate legacy to have.
Hope you learned something ,and I wish you a Happy Easter this coming weekend. Here in Utah, we may have to hide the eggs in the snow we received this week.
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