House of Bonaparte

The House of Bonaparte (originally Buonaparte) was an imperial and royal European dynasty of Italian origin. It was founded in 1804 by Napoleon I, the son of Genoese nobleman Carlo Buonaparte. Napoleon was a French military leader who had risen to power during the French Revolution and who in 1804 transformed the First French Republic into the First French Empire, five years after his coup d'état of November 1799. Napoleon turned the Grande Armée against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of military victories during the Napoleonic Wars. He installed members of his family on the thrones of client states, extending the power of the dynasty.

House of Bonaparte
French: Maison Bonaparte
Italian and Corsican: Casa di Buonaparte
French imperial family
Coat of arms assumed by Emperor Napoleon I
Country First & Second French Empire
Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Spain
Kingdom of Holland
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Westphalia
Principality of Elba
Principality of Andorra
Grand Duchy of Berg
Principality of Lucca and Piombino
Founded18 May 1804 (1804-05-18)[1][2]
FounderCarlo Bonaparte
Current headDisputed:
Final rulerNapoleon III
Style(s)Imperial Majesty (France)
Majesty (other Crowns)
1814 (1st) (1814 (1st))
1815 (2nd) (1815 (2nd))
1870 (3rd) (1870 (3rd))
1814 (1814)
1813 (1813)
1813 (1813)
1815 (1815)
Cadet branches

The House of Bonaparte formed the Imperial House of France during the French Empire, together with some non-Bonaparte family members. In addition to holding the title of Emperor of the French, the Bonaparte dynasty held various other titles and territories during the Napoleonic Wars, including the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Westphalia, the Kingdom of Holland, and the Kingdom of Naples. The dynasty held power for around a decade until the Napoleonic Wars began to take their toll. Making very powerful enemies, such as Austria, Britain, Russia, and Prussia, as well as royalist (particularly Bourbon) restorational movements in France, Spain, the Two Sicilies, and Sardinia, the dynasty eventually collapsed due to the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and the restoration of former dynasties by the Congress of Vienna.

During the reign of Napoleon I, the Imperial Family consisted of the Emperor's immediate relations – his wife, son, siblings, and some other close relatives, namely his brother-in-law Joachim Murat, his uncle Joseph Fesch, and Eugène de Beauharnais, his stepson.

Between 1852 and 1870, there was a Second French Empire, when a member of the Bonaparte dynasty again ruled France: Napoleon III, the youngest son of Louis Bonaparte. However, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the dynasty was again ousted from the Imperial Throne. Since that time, there has been a series of pretenders. Supporters of the Bonaparte family's claim to the throne of France are known as Bonapartists. Current head Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, has a Bourbon mother.

Italian origins

The Bonaparte (originally Buonaparte) family were patricians in the Italian towns of Sarzana, San Miniato and Florence. The name derives from Italian: buona ("good") and parte ("part" or "side").

Gianfaldo Buonaparte was the first known Buonaparte at Sarzana around 1200. His descendant Giovanni Buonaparte in 1397 married Isabella Calandrini, a cousin of later cardinal Filippo Calandrini. Giovanni became mayor of Sarzana and was named commissioner of the Lunigiana by Giovanni Maria Visconti in 1408. Their great-grandson Francesco Buonaparte was an equestrian mercenary at the service of the Genoese Bank of Saint George. In 1490, he went to the island of Corsica, which was controlled by the bank. In 1493, he married the daughter of Guido da Castelletto, representative of the Bank of Saint George in Ajaccio, Corsica. Most of their descendants during subsequent generations were members of the Ajaccio town council. Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, received a patent of nobility from the King of France in 1771.[1]

There also existed a Buonaparte family in Florence; however, its eventual relation with the Sarzana and San Miniato families is unknown. Jacopo Buonaparte of San Miniato was a friend and advisor to Medici Pope Clement VII. Jacopo was also a witness to and wrote an account of the sack of Rome, which is one of the most important historical documents recounting that event.[3] Two of Jacopo's nephews, Pier Antonio Buonaparte and Giovanni Buonaparte, however, took part in the 1527 Medici rebellion, after which they were banished from Florence and later were restored by Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence. Jacopo's brother Benedetto Buonaparte maintained political neutrality.[4] The San Miniato branch extinguished with Jacopo in 1550. The last member of the Florence family was a canon named Gregorio Bonaparte, who died in 1803, leaving Napoleon as heir.[5]

A Buonaparte tomb lies in the Church of San Francesco in San Miniato. Another in Ajaccio, the Chapelle Impériale, was built by Napoleon III in 1857.

Imperial House of France

Napoleon I is the most prominent name associated with the Bonaparte family, because he conquered much of Europe during the early part of the 19th century. Due to his indisputable popularity in France both among the people and in the army, he successfully took part in the Coup of 18 Brumaire, overthrew the Directory with the help of his brother, Lucien Bonaparte, president of the Council of Five Hundred, and participated in the creation of a new Constitution, which allowed him to become the First Consul of France on 10 November 1799. 2 December 1804, he crowned himself Emperor of the French and ruled from 1804 to 1814, and again in 1815 during the "Hundred Days" after his return from Elba.

Following his conquest of most of Western Europe, Napoleon I made his elder brother Joseph (1768–1844) king first of Naples (1806–1808) and then of Spain (1808–1813), his younger brother Louis (1778–1846) King of Holland (1806–1810; subsequently forcing his abdication after his failure to subordinate Dutch interests to those of France), and his youngest brother Jérôme (1784–1860) King of Westphalia, the short-lived realm created from some of the states of northwestern Germany (1807–1813).

Napoleon's son Napoléon François Charles Joseph (1811–1832) was created King of Rome (1811–1814) and was later styled as Napoléon II by loyalists of the dynasty, though he only ruled for two weeks after his father's abdication.

Louis-Napoléon (1808–1873), son of Louis, was President of France (1848–1852) and then Emperor of the French (1852–1870), reigning as Napoleon III. His son, Napoléon, Prince Imperial (1856–1879), died fighting the Zulus in Natal, today the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. With his death, the family lost much of its remaining political appeal, though claimants continue to assert their right to the imperial title. A political movement for Corsican independence surfaced in the 1990s which included a Bonapartist restoration in its programme.

Crowns held by the family

Emperors of the French

Kings of Holland

King of Naples

King of Westphalia

King of Spain

Grand Duchess of Tuscany

Heads of the House of Bonaparte (since 1852)

Disputed since 1997:

The family tree

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
Charlotte, Princess Gabrielli
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
Augusta, Princess Gabrielli
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

Carlo-Maria (Ajaccio, 1746–Montpellier, 1785) married Maria Letizia Ramolino (Ajaccio, 1750–Rome, 1836) in 1764. He was a minor official in the local courts. They had eight children:

  1. Joseph Bonaparte (Corte, 1768–Florence, 1844), King of Naples, then King of Spain, married Julie Clary, sister of Napoleon's childhood sweetheart, Désirée, who was to become the wife of General Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte (later Charles XIV, King of Sweden)
  2. Napoléon (I) Bonaparte (1769–1821) Emperor of the French
  3. Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840) Roman Prince of Canino and Musignano
  4. Maria-Anna Elisa Bonaparte (1777–1820), Grand-Duchess of Tuscany, married Félix Baciocchi, Prince of Lucca
    • Marie-Laetitia Bonaparte Baciocchi
  5. Louis Bonaparte (1778–1846), King of Holland, married Hortense de Beauharnais, Napoleon's stepdaughter
  6. Maria Paola or Marie Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825) Princess and Duchess of Guastalla, married in 1797 to French General Charles Leclerc and later married Camillo Borghese, 6th Prince of Sulmona.
  7. Maria Annunziata Caroline Bonaparte (1782–1839) married Joachim Murat, Marshal of France, Grand Duke of Berg, then King of Naples
  8. Jérôme Bonaparte (1784–1860), King of Westphalia
Carlo Buonaparte
Letizia Ramolino
Lucien Bonaparte
m.(2) Alexandrine de Bleschamp
Joseph Bonaparte
m. Julie Clary
Marie Louise of Austria
Napoléon I
Joséphine de Beauharnais
Alexandre de Beauharnais
Elisa Bonaparte
m. Félix Baciocchi
Pauline Bonaparte
m.(1) Charles Leclerc
m.(2) Camillo Borghese
Caroline Bonaparte
m. Joachim Murat
Betsy Patterson
Jérôme Bonaparte
Catharina of Württemberg
Napoléon II
Eugène de Beauharnais
m. Augusta of Bavaria
Hortense de Beauharnais
Louis Bonaparte
4 children
Achille Murat
m. Catherine Willis Gray
Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte
m. Susan May Williams
Jérôme Napoléon Charles Bonaparte
Mathilde Bonaparte
m. Anatoly Demidov, Prince of San Donato
Prince Napoléon Bonaparte
m. Marie Clothilde of Savoy
Charles Lucien Bonaparte
Zénaïde Bonaparte
Julie Joséphine Bonaparte
(b.&d. 1796)
Charlotte Bonaparte
Napoléon Louis Bonaparte
Napoléon Charles Bonaparte
Napoléon III
m.Eugénie de Montijo
Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II
m. Caroline Edgar
Charles Bonaparte
m. Ellen Channing Day
Napoléon V Victor
m. Clémentine of Belgium
Napoléon Louis Joseph Jérôme Bonaparte
Maria Letizia Bonaparte
m. Amadeo of Savoy
Joseph Lucien Bonaparte
Lucien Cardinal Bonaparte
Napoléon Charles Bonaparte
10 others
Napoléon IV Eugène
Marie Clotilde Bonaparte
Napoléon VI Louis
m. Alix de Foresta
Zénaïde Bonaparte
Mary Bonaparte
Eugénie Bonaparte
Napoléon VII Charles
(b. 1950)
Catherine Elisabeth Bonaparte
(b. 1950)
Laure Clémentine Bonaparte
(b. 1952)
Jérôme Xavier Bonaparte
(b. 1957)
Caroline Bonaparte
(b. 1980)
Jean-Christophe Napoléon
(b. 1986)
Sophie Cathérine Bonaparte
(b. 1992)

Bonaparte arms

The arms of the Bonaparte family were: Gules two bends sinister between two mullets or. In 1804, Napoleon I changed the arms to Azure an imperial eagle or. The change applied to all members of his family except for his brother Lucien and his nephew, the son from Jerome's first marriage.

DNA research

According to studies by G. Lucotte and his coauthors based on DNA research since 2011, Napoleon Bonaparte belonged to Y-DNA (direct male ancestry) haplogroup E1b1b1c1* (E-M34*). This haplogroup, rare in Europe, has its highest concentration in Ethiopia and in the Near East (Jordan, Yemen). According to the authors of the study, "Probably Napoléon also knew his remote oriental patrilineal origins, because Francesco Buonaparte (the Giovanni son), who was a mercenary under the orders of the Genoa Republic in Ajaccio in 1490, was nicknamed The Maure of Sarzane." The latest study identifies the common Bonaparte DNA markers from Carlo (Charles) Bonaparte to 3 living descendants.[6][7]

Lucotte et al. published in October 2013 the extended Y-STR of Napoleon I based on descendant testing, and the descendants were E-M34, just like the emperor's beard hair tested a year before. The persons tested were the patrilineal descendants of Jérome Bonaparte, one of Napoleon's brothers, and of Alexandre Colonna-Walewski, Napoleon's illegitimate son with Marie Walewska. These three tests all yielded the same Y-STR haplotype (109 markers) confirming with 100% certainty that the first Emperor of the French belonged to the M34 branch of haplogroup E1b1b.

Living members

Charles, Prince Napoléon (born 1950, great-great-grandson of Jérôme Bonaparte by his second marriage), and his son Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon (born 1986 and appointed heir in the will of his grandfather Louis, Prince Napoléon) currently dispute the headship of the Bonaparte family.[8] The only other male member of the family is Charles's recently-married (2013) brother, Prince Jérôme Napoléon (born 1957). There are no other legitimate descendants in the male line from Napoleon I or from his brothers.

There are, however, numerous descendants of Napoleon's illegitimate but unacknowledged son, Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski (1810-1868), born from Napoleon I's union with Marie, Countess Walewski. A descendant of Napoleon's sister Caroline Bonaparte is the actor René Auberjonois. Recent DNA-matches with living descendants of Jérôme and Count Walewski have confirmed the existence of descendants of Lucien Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother, namely the Clovis family.[7]

See also


  1. Raymond Horricks (1995). Napoleon's Elites. Transaction Publishers. p. 11.
  2. Frédéric T. Briffault (1846). The Prisoner of Ham: Authentic Details of the Captivity and Escape of Prince Napoleon Louis. T.C. Newby. p. 344.
  3. Jacopo Bonaparte: Sac de Rome. Écrit EN 1527 par Jacques Bonaparte. Témoin oculaire, hrsgg. by Bonaparte, Napoléon Louis, Florenz 1850
  4. Drake, Joshua F. (October 2005). "The partbooks of a Florentine ex-patriate: new light on Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Ms. Magl. XIX 164–7". Early Music. 33 (4): 639–646. doi:10.1093/em/cah154.
  5. Burke, Sir Bernard (1869). Vicissitudes of Families. London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dye.
  6. Lucotte, Gerard; Thomasset, Thierry; Hrechdakian, Peter (2011). "Haplogroup of the Y Chromosome of Napoléon the First". Journal of Molecular Biology Research. 1 (1). doi:10.5539/jmbr.v1n1p12.
  7. Lucotte, Gerard; Hrechdakian, Peter (2015). "New Advances Reconstructing the Y Chromosome Haplotype of Napoleon the First Based on Three of his Living Descendants". Journal of Molecular Biology Research. 5 (1). doi:10.5539/jmbr.v5n1p1.
  8. Herbert, Susannah (12 March 1997). "Father and son in battle for the Napoléonic succession". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 June 2007.
House of Bonaparte
Title last held by
House of Bourbon
Ruled as King of France
Ruling House of the French Empire
Succeeded by
House of Bourbon
Ruled as King of France
Title last held by
House of Orléans
Ruled as King of the French
Ruling House of the French Empire
Empire Abolished
Third French Republic Declared
Preceded by
House of Habsburg
Ruled as Nominal King of Italy
Ruling House of the Kingdom of Italy
Succeeded by
House of Habsburg
Ruled as King of Lombardy-Venetia
Preceded by
House of Bourbon
Ruled as Kings of Spain and Naples
Ruling House of the Kingdom of Naples
Succeeded by
House of Murat
Reverted to Spanish Bourbons in 1815)
Ruling House of the Kingdom of Spain
Succeeded by
House of Bourbon
Preceded by
New Creation
Succeeded the Batavian Republic
Ruling House of the Kingdom of Holland
Kingdom Abolished
Part of the French Empire
Kingdom of the Netherlands created in 1815
Preceded by
New Creation
Formed from the territories ceded by Prussia in Peace of Tilsit
Ruling House of the Kingdom of Westphalia
Kingdom Abolished
Dissolved after Battle of Leipzig
Status quo of 1806 restored
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