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Pauline Bonaparte

Pauline Bonaparte
Duchess of Guastalla
Princess consort of Sulmona and of Rossano
Princess of France
Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese, by Marie Guilhelmine Benoist, 1808
Duchess of Guastalla
Tenure 24 March 1806 - 14 August 1806[1]
Predecessor Ferdinand
Successor state annexed to the Kingdom of Italy
Born (1780-10-20)20 October 1780
Maison Bonaparte, Ajaccio, Corsica
Died 9 June 1825(1825-06-09) (aged 44)
Florence, Tuscany
Burial Saint Mary Major Basilica, Rome
Husband Charles Leclerc (m. 1797)
Camillo Borghese, 6th Prince of Sulmona (m. 1803)
Issue Dermide Leclerc
Full name
Maria Paola Bonaparte
Imperial House of Bonaparte
Father Carlo Buonaparte
Mother Letizia Ramolino
Religion Roman Catholic

Pauline Bonaparte (20 October 1780 – 9 June 1825) was the first sovereign Duchess of Guastalla, an imperial French Princess and the Princess consort of Sulmona and Rossano. She was the sixth child of Camillo Borghese, 6th Prince of Sulmona. Her only child, Dermide Leclerc, born from her first marriage, died in infancy. She was the only Bonaparte sibling to visit Napoleon on his principality, Elba.


  • Early life 1
  • Saint-Domingue 2
  • Princess Borghese 3
  • After Napoleon's fall 4
  • Ancestry 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Titles and succession 9
  • External links 10

Early life

French Monarchy
Bonaparte Dynasty
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
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
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]

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]


  • Mini-Biography on Pauline Bonaparte
  • Mini-Biography on Pauline Bonaparte
  • Spencer Napoleonica Collection at Newberry Library

External links

Pauline Bonaparte
Born: 13 June 1673 Died: 15 October 1741
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duchess of Guastalla
Succeeded by
sold to the Kingdom of Italy

title next borne by Marie Louise of Austria (1814)

French nobility
Preceded by
title created
Princess of Guastalla
1806 - 1825
Succeeded by
Italian royalty
Preceded by
Anna Maria Salviati
Princess of Sulmona and Rossano
1803 - 1825
Succeeded by
Adèle, Countess of La Rochefoucauld

Titles and succession

  • Fraser, Flora: Venus of Empire: The Life of Pauline Bonaparte, John Murray, 2009, London, ISBN 978-0-7195-6110-8,
  • Carlton, W.N.C.: Pauline: Favourite Sister of Napoleon, Thornton Butterworth, 1931, London (pre-dates use of ISBN)
  • Dixon, Pierson (1958). The Glittering Horn: Secret Memoirs of the Court of Justinian.


  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. ^ a b Fraser, p 5
  4. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c Carlton, p 71
  16. ^ a b 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. ^ Fraser, pp. 77 - 78
  28. ^ a b Carlton, p 76
  29. ^ Fraser, p 83
  30. ^ Carlton, p 83
  31. ^ Carlton, pp. 83 - 84
  32. ^ Carlton, p 86
  33. ^ Fraser, p 90
  34. ^ a b Fraser, p 91
  35. ^ Carlton, 99
  36. ^ Carlton, p 100
  37. ^ Fraser, pp. 96 - 97
  38. ^ Carlton, p 113
  39. ^ Carlton, p 106
  40. ^ Fraser, p 102
  41. ^ Napoleon, Prisonnier - Les militaires: Leclerc (in French) [retrieved 10 July 2013].
  42. ^ Majanlahti, Anthony (2005). The Families Who Made Rome. London: Chatto & Windus.  , page 180-1
  43. ^ Laura Thompson (22 May 2009). "Venus of Empire: the Life of Pauline Bonaparte by Flora Fraser". 


See also


[43][42] After

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.

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.

After Napoleon's fall

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.[38] 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.[39] Pauline's initial amity toward Camillo soon morphed into dislike.[40] 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.[41]

.[4] Niccolò Paganini 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 [37] 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, [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.

On February 11, she arrived in the capital, where Napoleon made arrangements for her to lodge with their brother Joseph.[31] 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.[32] She inherited 700,000 francs in liquid capital and assets from Leclerc.[33]

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."[30]

Portrait by Kinson, 1808

Princess Borghese

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.[29] He died on 1 November. Seven days later, Pauline, Dermide, and Leclerc's remains were hastily ferried back to mainland France.

To occupy herself, she compiled a collection of local flora and established a menagerie, inhabited by native animals.[28]

Leclerc attempted to convince Pauline to return to Paris in August.[27] 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."[28]

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."[3]

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.

[16], in May.Toussaint L'ouverture Leclerc succeeded in requisitioning the capitulation of the rebel leader, [19] 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." [18] After all attempts at conciliation failed, Leclerc attacked the town under cover of darkness. Christophe responded by razing Le Cap to the ground.[17], who commanded a force of 5,000 soldiers, to resign Le Cap to French authority.General Christophe The Governor-General ordered [16] harbour.Le Cap After a 45-day journey, the fleet arrived in [15].l'Océan The gubernatorial family occupied the flagship, [15] Leclerc's fleet totaled 74 ships.[15] on 14 December 1801.Brest Leclerc, Dermide, and Pauline embarked for the colony from [14]

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