Living Descendants of Napoleon and the Bonapartes
One question I am often asked is whether Napoleon Bonaparte has any living descendants, or whether a particular sibling of Napoleon has any living descendants. Another version of the question is whether there are any Bonaparte descendants living in America. Here’s a handy summary to help you keep track. An asterix (*) indicates the person has living descendants.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)*
Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844)*
Napoleon’s older brother Joseph had two legitimate daughters, Zénaïde* (1801-1854) and Charlotte (1802-1839). Charlotte died giving birth to her only child, who also died. Zénaïde married her cousin Charles Bonaparte* (1803-1857, son of Napoleon’s brother Lucien) and had eight children who lived to adulthood. She has living descendants.
Joseph also had two illegitimate daughters with his American mistress, Annette Savage. Pauline (1819-1823) died in an accident in Joseph’s garden at the age of 4. Caroline* (1822-1890) married an American, Zebulon Howell Benton, and had five children. She has living descendants, at least one of whom was born in America.
Lucien Bonaparte (1775-1840)*
Napoleon’s brother Lucien had 11 children who lived to adulthood. He has living descendants.
Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi (1777-1820)
Napoleon’s sister Elisa had two children who lived beyond infancy. Her son Frédéric (1814-1833) was killed in a riding accident at the age of 18. Her daughter Napoléone (1803-1869) married a wealthy Italian count, from whom she separated after a couple of years. Napoléone’s only child, Charles (1826-1853), committed suicide at the age of 26. He had no children, thus Elisa has no living descendants.
Louis Bonaparte (1778-1846)
Napoleon’s brother Louis, who was unhappily married to Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense de Beauharnais (Josephine’s daughter), had two sons who lived to adulthood. Napoléon-Louis (1804-1831), who married Joseph’s daughter Charlotte, died without any children. Louis’s second son Louis-Napoléon (1808-1873) became French Emperor Napoleon III. His only child, Louis-Napoléon (1856-1879) was killed in an ambush during the Anglo-Zulu War in South Africa at the age of 23. Thus Louis has no living descendants.
Pauline Bonaparte Borghese (1780-1825)
Napoleon’s fun-loving sister Pauline had one son, Dermide (1798-1804), who died of fever and convulsions at the age of 6. Thus Pauline has no living descendants.
Caroline Bonaparte Murat (1782-1839)*
Napoleon’s sister Caroline had four children: Achille (1801-1847), Letizia* (1802-1859), Lucien* (1803-1878) and Louise* (1805-1889). Achille, who moved to the United States and married a relative of George Washington, had no children. Lucien, who lived in the United States for 23 years, also married an American, Caroline Georgina Fraser from Charleston. They had five children: four born in Bordentown, NJ, and one in France. Lucien has living descendants, including American actor René Auberjonois. Letizia and Louise also have living descendants.
Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860)*
Napoleon’s youngest sibling Jérôme had one son with his first wife, the American Elizabeth (Betsy) Patterson: Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte (1805-1870). Jerome Jr., who was not recognized as a Bonaparte by Napoleon, had two sons: Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II* (1830-1893), and Charles Bonaparte (1851-1921), Charles, who served in President Theodore Roosevelt’s cabinet as Secretary of the Navy and, later, as Attorney General, died childless. Jerome Napoleon II had two children: Louise-Eugénie* (1873-1923), who married Danish Count Adam Carl von Moltke-Huitfeld and has living descendants; and Jerome Napoleon Charles (1878-1945), who fatally broke his neck by tripping over the leash while walking his wife’s dog in New York’s Central Park. Although Jerome Napoleon Charles had no children, reports that he was the last of the Patterson-Bonapartes are mistaken, unless one is referring only to the male line.
With his second wife, Princess Catharina of Württemberg, Jérôme Sr. had three children: Jérôme Napoléon Charles (1814-1847), who died childless; Mathilde (1820-1904), also childless; and Napoléon Joseph Charles* (1822-1891), who had three children and has living descendants.
Bonaparte pretenders to the French throne
Although Napoleon III was removed from power in 1870, and France – a republic – has not had a monarch since then, some members of the Bonaparte family are considered by some to have a claim to the non-existent French throne.
Under the law of succession established by Napoleon in 1804, only legitimate male descendants through the male line were eligible to assume the imperial crown. Lucien and his descendants were excluded from the succession plan because Napoleon disapproved of Lucien’s marriage. Over the years, the Bonaparte possessors of, or claimants to, the throne have been:
- Napoleon I (Emperor of the French, abdicated in 1815, died in 1821)
- Napoleon II (never actually ruled France, but briefly held the title of Emperor after his father’s 1815 abdication, died childless in 1832)
- Joseph (died in 1844 with no descendants through the male line)
- Louis (died in 1846)
- Napoleon III (Emperor of the French, removed from power in 1870, died in 1873 with no surviving descendants)
- Jérôme’s male descendants (with Catharina of Württemberg) through the male line. The current claimant is Jérôme’s descendant Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon (b. 1986). This claim is disputed by Jean-Christophe’s father, Charles, Prince Napoléon (b. 1950), who was excluded from the succession in his father’s will for having married without paternal permission.
The Bonapartes are not the only pretenders to the French throne. The Legitimists (successors of the senior branch of the Bourbons, ousted in 1830) and the Orléanists (successors of King Louis Philippe, ejected in 1848) also lay claim to the crown.
*Has living descendants.
You might also enjoy:
Napoleon’s Children, Part 2 (about Napoleon’s illegitimate children)
We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.