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Jérôme Bonaparte

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Title: Jérôme Bonaparte  
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Jérôme Bonaparte

Jérôme I
A portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte by François Gérard.
King of Westphalia
Reign 8 July 1807 – 26 October 1813
Spouse Elizabeth Patterson
Catharina of Württemberg
Giustina Pecori-Suárez

Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte-Patterson
Jérôme Napoléon Charles Bonaparte, 2nd Prince of Montfort
Mathilde Bonaparte, Princesse de San Donato
Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte

Karl Philipp Heinrich Bach
Full name
Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte
House House of Bonaparte
Father Carlo Buonaparte
Mother Letizia Ramolino
Born 15 November 1784
Ajaccio, Corsica
Died 24 June 1860(1860-06-24) (aged 75)
Villegenis, France
Religion Roman Catholicism

Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (15 November 1784 – 24 June 1860) was the youngest brother of Napoleon I and served as Jerome I, King of Westphalia between 1807 and 1813. After 1848, when his nephew, Louis Napoleon, became President of the second French Republic, he served in several official roles, being created first Prince (and Count) of Montfort.

Early life

Jérôme was born "Girolamo Buonaparte" in Ajaccio, Corsica the eighth and last surviving child, fifth surviving son, of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino. He was a younger brother of his siblings: Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte, Pauline Bonaparte and Caroline Bonaparte.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Triple portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1804
Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia and Queen Catharina

He studied at the Catholic College of Juilly, and then served with the French navy before going to the United States. On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1803, nineteen-year old Jérôme married Elizabeth ("Betsy") Patterson (1785–1879), eighteen-year old daughter of prosperous ship-owner and merchant William Patterson, (1752-1835) in Baltimore, (then the third-largest city in America). Napoleon was unable to convince Pope Pius VII in Rome to annul their marriage, and so annulled the marriage himself (by a French imperial decree, 11 March 1805), as a matter of state. Elizabeth was pregnant with a son at the time, (Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II (1805-1870)), and was on her way to Europe with the elder Jérôme. When they landed in neutral Portugal, Jérôme set off overland to Italy to attempt to convince his brother to recognize the marriage. Elizabeth then attempted to land in Amsterdam, hoping to travel to within the borders of France in order for her and Jerome's baby son to be born on French soil, but Emperor Napoleon I issued orders barring the ship from entering the harbour. Being with child, Elizabeth went on to England where Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II [1805-1870], (later nicknamed in childhood as "Bo"), was born at 95 Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London, England. Emperor Napoleon instituting Roman Catholic and later French state divorce proceedings only after the birth of the baby, Jerome II. After considerable delay and internal struggle, Elizabeth was later declared divorced from Jerome by a special decree and act of the state legislature, of the General Assembly of Maryland in 1815.

King of Westphalia

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

Napoleon made his brother King of Westphalia, the short-lived German Confederation with Austria leadership, largely overriding prior claim of lesser states.

The Napoleonic realm of Westphalia had its capital in Kassel (then: Cassel). Jérôme was married, as arranged by Napoleon to HRH Princess Catharina of Württemberg, the daughter of Frederick I, King of Württemberg. A marriage to a German princess intended to boost the dynastic standing of the young French king.

When Jérôme and Catharina arrived in Kassel, they found the palaces in a plundered state. As such, they placed orders for an array of stately furniture and expensive silverware with leading Parisian manufactures. Local artisans, eager for commissions, oriented themselves with these French models. The King also intended to refurbish his capital architecturally. The court theatre ranks among the small number of projects realised. Jérôme had it designed by Leo von Klenze and constructed next to the summer residence, previously known as "Wilhelmshöhe", it was changed to "Napoleonshöhe". To emphasize his rank as a ruler, and pander to his own ego, Jérôme commissioned grandiose state portraits of himself and his spouse, Queen Catharina. Other paintings were to celebrate his military exploits, with many of France's most prominent painters taken into his employ.

As a model state, the Kingdom of Westphalia was expected by Napoleon to serve as an example for the other German states. It received the first constitution and parliament to be found on German soil (decades before other parliaments, legislatures, reichstags, bundesrats, etc. such as in Frankfurt in 1848). Jérôme imported the Empire style from Paris, bestowing the new state with a modern, representative appearance. The small kingdom thus received more attention since the famous "Treaty of Westphalia" which ended the Thirty Years' War a hundred and fifty years earlier in 1648. Thanks to these efforts by King Jerome, Kassel celebrated an enormous cultural upturn.

However, Jérôme's expensive habits earned him the contempt of Napoleon. His court incurred expenses comparable to Napoleon's court (which oversaw a vastly larger and more important realm), and Napoleon refused to support Jérôme financially.[1]

In 1812, Jérôme was given command of Corps of "La Grande Armee", marching towards the Russian frontier against Czar Alexander I. Insisting on travelling "in state", Napoleon reprimanded Jerome, ordering him to leave his court and luxurious trappings behind. In pique, of Napoleon's order, Jérôme returned with his entire court and train to Westphalia. After the defeat in Russia, the following winter, Jerome petitioned Napoleon to allow his wife to come to Paris, fearing the advance of the Allied armies. On the second attempt, Napoleon granted permission.

Jérôme briefly re-entered the army in 1813, when his Kingdom was being threatened from the east by the advancing allied Prussian and Russian armies. He led a small force to challenge their invasion. Following a clash with an enemy detachment, he made camp with his army, hoping for reinforcements from the French army in the west. However, before reinforcements arrived the main allied force captured the capital Kassel. The Kingdom of Westphalia was declared dissolved and Jérôme's kingship ended. He then fled to join his wife, the former queen, in France.

The Hundred Days

Early 19th century enamel with portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte.
Tomb of Jérôme Bonaparte, Les Invalides

During the "Hundred Days", Napoleon placed Jérôme in command of the 6th Division of the II Corps under General Honoré Charles Reille. At Waterloo, Jérôme's division was to make an initial attack on Hougoumont. It is said that Napoleon wished to draw in Lord Wellington's reserves. Whatever the intent, Jérôme was allowed to enlarge the assault such that his division became completely engaged attempting to take Hougoumont to the exclusion of any other possible deployment, without weakening significantly Wellington's centre.

Later years

Although Catharina was aware of Jérôme's womanising and affairs, she remained true to her husband. They had a son, Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte (1822–1891), also known as "Prince Napoleon" or "Plon-Plon." Their second child, a daughter, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, was a prominent hostess during and after the Second French Empire of Napoleon III (1852-1870).

After the dissolution of his Kingdom, Jérôme was given the title "Prince of Montfort" by his father in-law, King Frederick I of Württemberg. In 1814, the King forced Jérôme and his wife to leave the country. During their exile, they visited the United States (his second time). Jérôme later returned to France and joined Napoleon during his "Hundred Days"' attempt to restore the Empire.

Later, Jérôme moved to Italy where he married his third wife, Giustina Pecori-Suárez, the widow of Italian Marquess Luigi Bartolini-Baldelli.

In 1848, his nephew, Prince Louis Napoleon, became President of the second French Republic. Jérôme was made governor of Les Invalides, Paris, the burial place of Napoleon I. When Louis Napoleon became emperor as Napoleon III, Jérôme was recognized as the "heir presumptive" to the re-established imperial throne until the birth of the Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial. Jérôme was later named a Marshal of France, served as President of the Senate (the upper house in the French Republic's parliament, along with the lower house of the National Assembly), and received the title "Prince Français".

Jérôme Bonaparte died on 24 June 1860, at Villegenis, France (today known as Massy in Essonne). He is buried in Les Invalides.

His grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, (son of Jerome ("Bo") Napoleon Bonaparte II, [1805-1870]), served as United States Secretary of the Navy and United States Attorney General in President Theodore Roosevelt's administration, 1901-1909. In 1908, he established a Bureau of Investigation within the 38-year-old Department of Justice. The bureau grew under director J. Edgar Hoover and in 1935, was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Another grandson was Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte II, (1829-1893). In the early 1850s, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, was commissioned an officer in the United States Army, and served with the Mounted Rifles in Texas on the American southwestern frontier. He eventually resigned his commission and joined the forces of his cousin, the Emperor Napoleon III in his second French Empire.

Among Jérôme Bonaparte's illegitimate children was Baroness Jenny von Gustedt, born as Jeromée Catharina Rabe von Pappenheim (1811–1890). She became the grandmother of the German Socialist and Feminist writer Lily Braun.

In fiction and popular culture

The 1923 German comedy film The Little Napoleon is loosely based around his life. He is played by Paul Heidemann.

In the Hornblower television series, he was portrayed by British actor David Birkin. The last episode (Duty) introduces Jérôme and Elizabeth ('Betsy'). Adrift in an open boat, they are picked up by Captain Hornblower's ship; Jérôme poses as a harmless Swiss citizen, but Hornblower identifies him. After many diplomatic manoeuvres, the British government decides that Jérôme is of no political importance after all, and he is allowed to return to France while Elizabeth put aboard a passing American ship.

Jerome and Betsy's marriage is portrayed in the historical novel "The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte" by Ruth Hull Chatlien, published in 2013.

Jérôme may have been a source of inspiration for the character of Prince Hans, the primary antagonist of Disney's 2013 movie musical Frozen.


Titles, styles and arms

Monarchical styles of
Jérôme I of Westphalia
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire

Titles and styles

  • 15 November 1784 - circa 1795: Nobile Geronimo Buonaparte
  • circa 1795 - 1806: Jerome Bonaparte
  • 1806 - 8 July 1807: Jerome-Napoleon, French Prince
  • 8 July 1807 - 26 October 1813: His Majesty The King of Westphalia
  • 31 July 1816 - 2 December 1852: Jerome-Napoleon, Prince of Montfort
  • 2 December 1852 - 18 June 1860: Jerome-Napoleon, French Prince, Prince of Montfort

Full title

His Majesty Jérôme I, By the Grace of God and by the Constitution, King of Westphalia


See also


  1. ^ "La Grande Armée" by Georges Blond, translated by Marshall May, p. 303

External links

  • Online Biography of Jérôme Bonaparte (in French)
  • Online Biography of Jérôme Bonaparte (in German)
  • König Lustik!? Jérôme Bonaparte and the Model State Kingdom of Westphalia. State Exhibition of Hesse 2008. Museum Fridericianum Kassel / Germany
Regnal titles
Title created King of Westphalia
8 July 1807 – 26 October 1813
Dissolved the Kingdom
Titles in pretence
Dissolved the Kingdom — TITULAR —
King of Westphalia
8 July 1807 – 24 June 1860
Reason for succession failure:
Kingdom dissolved in 1813
Succeeded by
Napoléon Joseph
French royalty
Preceded by
Robert, Duke of Chartres
Heir to the Throne
as Heir presumptive
18 December 1852 – 16 March 1856
Succeeded by
Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial
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