HIS mother survived him by fifteen years, dying at the age of eighty-six. Her career was almost a summary of motherhood through the ages: uncertain mate, many children, joys and sorrows, fulfillment and bereavement, horror and loneliness, wonderment and hope. She had seen all the triumphs, riches, and misfortunes of her children, had saved for the day when they might need her; “Who knows but I may one day have to provide for all these kings?”1 She lived abstemiously to the end, protected and honored by the Pope whom her son had abused. From the standpoint of the race she was the strongest and sanest of all the Bonapartes.
Joseph, her oldest child, fond of books and money, happily married to Julie Clary, loved and burdened by his imperial brother, served him to the best of his limited ability, found a refuge in America after the Empire collapsed, returned to Europe, lived in rural peace near Genoa, and died in Florence in 1844, aged seventy-six.
Lucien, after rising to place under the Directory, and helping his brother to overthrow it, opposed Napoleon’s dictatorship, married against the imperial will, abandoned the scramble for power, became a papal prince, sailed for America, was captured by a British ship, was kept under surveillance in England, found his way to Napoleon’s side in the Hundred Days, defended him in the chambers, fled to Rome after the Second Abdication, and died at Viterbo in 1840.
Louis Bonaparte, after abandoning his Holland throne, and separating from Hortense, lived in Bohemia, Austria, and Italy, and died six years before his third son became Emperor Napoleon III.
Jérôme enjoyed his royal wealth in Westphalia, failed as a general in the first month of the Russian campaign, returned to his throne, lost it to the Allies in 1813, fought valiantly at Waterloo, and was almost the last Frenchman to leave the field of defeat.2 After the Second Abdication he wandered from country to country, returned to France in 1847, saw his nephew rise to power, became president of the Senate under Napoleon III, and died in 1860 after seventy-six years of a full life in an age when every year was a decade in events.
Elisa Bonaparte Bacciocchi was the oldest and ablest of Napoleon’s three sisters. We have noted her success as ruler of Tuscany, the cultural Attica of Italy. When it became evident that her brother could not withstand the united Allies, she withdrew to Naples, and joined her sister Caroline in helping Murat to preserve his throne.
Murat, after leading the cavalry for Napoleon at Leipzig, returned to Naples, entered into an alliance with Austria (January 8, 1814), and pledged the use of his army to the coalition against Napoleon, in exchange for Austria’s support of his authority in Naples. The Allies refused to sanction this pact. When Napoleon escaped from Elba, Murat risked everything by appealing to all Italy to join him in a war of independence against all foreign rule (March 30, 1815). His wife, Caroline, and her sister Elisa left him and found refuge in Vienna. Murat was defeated at Tolentino by an Austrian army (May 2) and fled to France, then to Corsica; Ferdinand IV recovered his Neapolitan throne. After the battle of Waterloo, Murat, now a man without a country, crossed from Corsica to Calabria with a handful of men, was captured, court-martialed, and shot (October 13). Napoleon at St. Helena described him fondly but mercilessly as “the bravest of men in the face of the enemy, incomparable on the battlefield, but a fool in his actions everywhere else.”3
The most interesting of Napoleon’s relatives was his sister Pauline (1780–1825). She was fated to spread happiness and trouble, for she was rated the most beautiful woman of her time. The men who saw her never forgot her, and the women who saw her never forgave her. She was not well adapted for monogamy, but she was apparently a loving wife to her first husband, General Leclerc, sharing his danger and yellow fever in St.-Domingue. When he died (1802) she returned to Paris; after a decent period of mourning she grew a new wealth of hair, bathed in five gallons of fresh milk every day,4 opened a salon, and charmed husbands by her beauty, and some by her generosity. Napoleon, who himself was chastely moved by her Pheidian form, hurried to marry her to the rich and handsome Prince Camillo Borghese (1803).
In Florence (1805) Canova asked her to pose for a statue of Diana the huntress; she was inclined to consent; but when she heard that Diana had asked Jupiter to endow her with eternal virginity, she laughed the idea away. She was persuaded, however, to pose for a nearly nude figure of Venus Victrix, which has made the Galleria Borghese one of the most frequented places in Rome. Borghese himself, conscious of his inadequacy, left for his military duties as an officer under Napoleon. Pauline amused herself scandalously, with some injury to her health, but there is no clear evidence that she contracted syphilis.5
This scandalous goddess was also a model of kindness, except to Josephine, against whom all the Bonapartes except Napoleon waged unremitting war. She gave abundantly, won many lasting friendships, even among her discarded lovers, and was more loyal to Napoleon than any other Bonaparte except her mother. She went out of her way to meet and console her unhappy brother on his journey to Fréjus in 1814, and soon she followed him to Elba. There she played hostess for him, and enlivened his life, and that of the island, with her parties, plays, and joie de vivre. When he left for the last gamble she gave him her finest necklace. Marchand managed to get it through to St. Helena. She was planning to go there when she received news of Napoleon’s death. She survived him by only four years, surrendering to cancer6 (June 5, 1825) at the age of forty-four. Her husband forgave her sins, rejoined her in her last year, and closed her eyes when she died.
Josephine had died (May 29, 1814) of a chill caught while receiving a visit from Czar Alexander at Malmaison.7 Her daughter, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783–1837), after her separation from Louis Bonaparte, had been protected by the Emperor, and later by the Czar. She did not live to see her son become Napoleon III. Hortense’s brother, Eugène, remained faithful to his adoptive father until the First Abdication; five days thereafter he retired with his wife to Munich, and was joyfully received by his father-in-law, the King of Bavaria. When he died there (February 21, 1824), aged only forty-three, all factions united in honoring him.
Marie Louise, taken from France against her will, was received in Vienna as a faultless princess rescued from a sacrificial altar. She was allowed to keep Méneval as her devoted gentleman-in-waiting, and he did his best to counter the influences that daily sought to detach her from fidelity to Napoleon. Méneval tells us that in her five weeks in Vienna she received several letters from her husband, found no way of sending a reply, but secretly hoped to join him in Elba.8 Her father, fearful for her health in a Vienna preparing for a triumphant Congress of the Allies, sent her to take the waters at Aixles-Bains; and on July 1, 1814, he appointed Count Adam von Neipperg to join her there as her personal aide. Though he was thirty-nine and she only twenty-two, propinquity had its way, and she accepted him as a lover when all chance seemed gone of reunion with Napoleon. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna awarded her the duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla. Neipperg accompanied her, and shared in the government. In 1817 she bore him a daughter. Napoleon heard of this in St. Helena, but he never took her picture down from the wall of his Longwood room, and, as we have seen, spoke of her tenderly in his will. After Napoleon’s death she married Neipperg, and lived with him in apparently faithful union till his death (1829). She married again in 1834, and died in 1847. All circumstances considered, she seems to have been a good woman, not deserving of the stones that have been thrown upon her memory.
Her son by Napoleon—called “King of Rome” (the traditional title of the heir to the Holy Roman Emperor) and “L’Aiglon” (the young eagle)—had been separated from his mother on leaving Paris, had been rechristened Duke of Reichstadt, and had been kept at the court of Vienna under constant tutelage in Hapsburg traditions. He remained faithful to the memory of his father, dreamed of having someday a kingdom of his own, suffered from repeated illnesses, and died of pulmonary tuberculosis, in the Palace of Schönbrunn, Vienna, on July 22, 1832, at the age of twenty-one.