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 with his nieces and nephews on the terrace at Saint-Cloud, by Louis Ducis, 1810. Napoleon and four of his siblings have living descendants.

Napoleon with his nieces and nephews on the terrace at Saint-Cloud, by Louis Ducis, 1810. Napoleon and four of his siblings have living descendants.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)*

Napoleon’s illegitimate son Alexandre Walewski, circa 1855. He has living descendants.

Napoleon’s illegitimate son Alexandre Walewski, circa 1855. He has living descendants.

Napoleon had one legitimate child, Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1811-1832), also known as the King of Rome or Napoleon II, who died childless at the age of 21.

Napoleon also had two acknowledged illegitimate sons, Charles Léon Denuelle* (1806-1881) and Alexandre Colonna Walewski* (1810-1868), both of whom have living descendants.

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)*

American actor René Auberjonois, a descendant of Napoleon’s sister Caroline, in 2013

American actor René Auberjonois, a descendant of Napoleon’s sister Caroline, in 2013

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

Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, a descendant of Napoleon’s brother Jérôme, in 2006

Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, a descendant of Napoleon’s brother Jérôme, in 2006

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:

10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon’s Family

Napoleon’s Family Tree

Napoleon II: Napoleon’s Son, the King of Rome

Napoleon’s Children, Part 2 (about Napoleon’s illegitimate children)

10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

15 commments on “Living Descendants of Napoleon and the Bonapartes”

  • David Kaplan says:

    I think there are some genealogical male descendants of Napoleon by Alexandre Colonna Walewski and his mistress Rachel Felix.

  • Pier Kuipers says:

    Fascinating as always, Shannon. Small typo: Louis is Napoleon’s brother, not his son 😉

  • David Kaplan says:

    Le sang de l’empereur continue de vivre!

  • RENÉ REMIS says:

    Ik lees regelmatig over de achternaam “Fox” waar Joseph een relatie mee zou hebben gehad…

  • Dubois says:

    Actually, I have cause to believe thru research-documents out of UK (listing all parties in county for census, etc) that Pauline had two children just prior to passing at Palazzo Borghese, as well these were children by Charles X Bourbon. She (Pauline) held rights as Empress under Code, and therefore, this pair of children would have held incredible power. Triple Header – Bonaparte-Borghese-Bourbon.

    Your thoughts?

  • Shannon Selin says:

    It seems highly improbable. I have not seen anything in the accounts of people close to Pauline, or close to Charles X, to suggest that they had an affair, or that Pauline had any children besides Dermide. She was in ill health for several years before she died, and probably no longer capable of bearing children.

  • Marie-Noëlle says:

    Jérôme was maybe the more “generous” with women. If the actual Prince Napoléon is a descendant of Jérôme, it seems that there are many little “Jérômes” but “par la main gauche” (by the left hand) as we say in France. When he was king of Westphalia, he had many mistresses who had children: Jenny and Pauline by Diane von Pappenheim. Pauline died without descendants (she was a none!) but Jenny, who, as a child, befriended Goethe and his family, married a German noble and had four children.
    Jérôme had other illegitimate children: Charles-Henri Bach who died with a descendance and Jérôme David, with no child.
    They are the official non official children of Jérôme but it seems that he had many others…

    Eliza’s daughter, Napoléone countess of Camerata seemed to be a real character: an adventurer, she was the only Bonaparte who met in Vienna the young Duke of Reichstadt in November 1831. She was expulsed by the Austrian authorities. She liked wearing men clothes, galloping on her horse, she was a good fencer and good with a pistol!
    During the Second Empire, after the death of her son by suicide, she bought a land in a remote part of Brittany. She built a school, a hospital, a church, roads, farms for poor families. She also tried oysters and fish raising. This became the community of Colpo.

  • Shannon Selin says:

    Thanks, Marie-Noëlle. I didn’t realize Jérôme had that many illegitimate children. I’m not too surprised, given how he liked to conduct himself! Elisa’s daughter Napoléone is one of my favourite Bonaparte descendants. She’s actually a character in the novel I’m currently writing (Napoleon in Texas), so I’ll write an article about her soon.

  • Sarah Drury says:

    I work for Case Auctions in Tennessee. A 19th century portrait of a gentleman has been consigned to our July 14, 2018 auction, and according to oral history, the subject is Jerome Bonaparte. I would be very curious to know if any descendants of Jerome concur. Photos and a description are here: https://caseantiques.com/?s=765.

  • Shannon Selin says:

    Thanks, Sarah. That’s a lovely portrait. I hope some Bonaparte descendants, or other experts on Jerome, see it and get back to you.

  • Jesse says:

    I am told by my grandmother (not sure if it’s true)) that Napoleon is my great great great great uncle somewhere down the great relative road. I have never seen any proof, so I honestly don’t know.

    • Shannon Selin says:

      That’s exciting, Jesse – certainly possible given the large number of descendants (both legitimate and illegitimate) of his siblings.

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We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.

Napoleon Bonaparte