Bonaparte (bō´nəpärt), Ital. Buonaparte (bwōnäpär´tā), family name of Napoleon I, emperor of the French.
Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, 1746–85, a petty Corsican nobleman, was a lawyer in Ajaccio. He supported (1768–69) Pasquale Paoli, then changed sides and became one of the staunchest leaders of the pro-French party in Corsica. He sent his sons to be educated in France. Napoleon's mother, Letizia, or Laetitia, Ramolino Bonaparte, c.1750–1836, was given the title Madame Mère at Napoleon's court. After the final downfall of Napoleon she found refuge in Rome.
Joseph, 1768–1844, was the eldest of the children of Carlo and Letizia to survive infancy. Having gained some note as French minister to Parma and Rome, he became (1797) a member of the Council of Five Hundred for Corsica. Joseph later negotiated a treaty (1800) with the United States and represented France in the peace negotiations at Lunéville (1801) and Amiens (1802).
When Napoleon became emperor, Joseph bitterly protested being left out of the line of succession. In 1806 Napoleon made him king of Naples, which Joseph administered very inefficiently, and in 1808 he was made king of Spain instead. Thoroughly unsuccessful in defending his throne during the Peninsular War, he reluctantly abdicated in 1813. From 1815 to 1841 he lived mainly in the United States—at Bordentown, N.J. He died in Italy. Napoleon I was born a year after Joseph, in 1769.
Napoleon's brother Lucien, 1775–1840, first became prominent as president of the Council of Five Hundred. He took an important part in the coup of 18 Brumaire (1799); by boldly haranguing the troops while the council was about to outlaw Napoleon, who had lost his nerve, Lucien succeeded in dispersing the Five Hundred. The Directory was overthrown, and Napoleon became First Consul. However, Lucien was critical of his brother's policies and married a commoner against Napoleon's wishes.
Lucien went to live in Italy under the protection of Pope Pius VII, who made him prince of Canino. When Napoleon made the pope a prisoner, Lucien attempted to flee (1810) to the United States but was captured at sea by the British and interned in England. He returned to Italy in 1814 and became reconciled with Napoleon, who was then in Elba. Lucien returned to France during the Hundred Days, and after Waterloo he tried to secure the throne for Napoleon II. He died in exile in Italy.
Napoleon's sister Elisa, 1777–1820, married Felix Pasquale Bacciochi, an insignificant captain of infantry. Napoleon made her princess of Piombino and Lucca (1805) and grand duchess of Tuscany (1809). Elisa was a competent administrator and was admired for her intelligence. After Waterloo she lived in retirement.
Napoleon's brother Louis, 1778–1846, was king of Holland (1806–10). He reluctantly married (1802) Hortense de Beauharnais. Napoleon forced him to abdicate because Louis, more concerned for the interests of the Dutch people than for those of France, defied the ruinous Continental System. He died in Italy.
Pauline, 1780–1825, was Napoleon's favorite sister. A woman of great beauty and a notoriously promiscuous seductress, she was the subject of considerable scandal. She accompanied her husband, General Leclerc, on the expedition to Haiti. After Leclerc's death Napoleon arranged her marriage (1803) to Camillo Borghese, a member of the Roman nobility, but they soon separated. Pauline, made princess of Guastalla in 1806, fell into temporary disfavor with her brother because of her hostility to Empress Marie Louise, but when Napoleon's fortune failed, Pauline, the only sibling to join him in exile on Elba, showed herself more loyal than any of his other sisters and brothers.
Another sister, Caroline, 1782–1839, went to France with the family in 1793 and married (1800) General Murat. Her ambition, joined with that of her husband, made her grand duchess of Cleves and Berg and later (1808–15) queen of Naples. There she did much to stimulate arts and letters and encouraged the recovery of the classical treasures of Pompeii and Naples. Her restless ambition was still unsatisfied; the birth of Napoleon's son destroyed her hope of succession for her own son. She and Murat entered upon intrigues with Napoleon's enemies, but with no positive result. After the fall of Napoleon, Clemens von Metternich tried to save Murat's throne. Murat's rashness, however, led to his execution, and Caroline fled to Austria.
Napoleon's youngest brother, Jérôme, 1784–1860, served in the navy and was sent to the West Indies. On a visit to the United States he met Elizabeth Patterson, whom he married in 1803, although, as a minor, he lacked the necessary consent. Napoleon refused to recognize the marriage and had little difficulty in changing the mind of the flighty Jérôme, for whom he made (1807) a new match with Catherine of Württemberg.
Jérôme became king of Westphalia (1807–13), fought in the Russian campaign, and led a division at Waterloo. He was more remarkable for his extravagant irresponsibility than for administrative or military skill. Leaving France after Waterloo, he returned in 1847 and later received honors at the court of his nephew, Napoleon III. There he was known as Prince Jérôme.
Of the second generation of the family the most important was Louis Bonaparte's son, Louis Napoleon, who became emperor as Napoleon III (see also separate article for Napoleon II, son of Napoleon I and Marie Louise).
Other members of the family also became prominent. Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, 1803–57, prince of Canino, son of Lucien, lived in the United States from 1824 to 1833 and was important as a naturalist, particularly as author of American Ornithology (4 vol., 1825–33, in English). He took part in the Roman insurrection of 1848. Pierre Napoléon Bonaparte, 1815–81, another son of Lucien, after an adventurous career as soldier of fortune, became a French politician. Although a Republican, he accepted the empire of Napoleon III. In 1870 he killed the journalist Victor Noir in the heat of a quarrel but was acquitted of murder.
Pierre was notoriously immoral, as was his cousin Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, 1822–91, commonly called Prince Napoleon or, more familiarly, Plon-Plon. The son of Jérôme and Catherine of Württemberg, he was named as successor to his cousin Napoleon III, in case the emperor should die childless. He was, however, a liberal and on occasion opposed the emperor's measures. His marriage (1859) to Princess Clotilde, the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II, was a move in Napoleon III's Italian policy.
Prince Napoleon became a pretender to the throne after the death of the only son of Napoleon III, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, 1856–79, the Prince Imperial, who was killed while fighting the Zulus as a member of the British army. Napoléon Victor Jérôme Frédéric Bonaparte (Victor Bonaparte), 1862–1926, inherited the claims of Prince Napoleon, his father.
The daughter of Jérôme and Catherine of Württemberg, the princess Mathilde Bonaparte, 1820–1904, was prominent during and after the second empire as hostess to men of arts and letters. Marie Bonaparte, 1882–1962, granddaughter of Pierre Napoléon, was a disciple and friend of Sigmund Freud. She helped Freud escape from Vienna after the German invasion in 1938.
By his American wife, Elizabeth Patterson, Jérôme Bonaparte had a son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, 1805–70, from whom the American line of the Bonaparte family is descended. The most prominent of this line was Charles Joseph Bonaparte.
See W. Geer, Napoleon and His Family (3 vol., 1927–29); F. M. Kircheisen, The Jovial King (1928, tr. 1932); R. M. Wilson, Napoleon's Mother (1933); C. E. Macartney and J. G. Dorrance, The Bonapartes in America (1939); S. Mitchell, A Family Lawsuit: The Story of Elisabeth Patterson and Jérôme Bonaparte (1958); M. Stirling, Madame Letizia (1961); D. Stacton, The Bonapartes (1966); O. Connelly, Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms (1965); F. Fraser, Pauline Bonaparte (2009); M. Simonetta and N. Arikha, Napoleon and the Rebel (2011).