Maria-Letizia Buonaparte[a] (née Ramolino;[b] 24 August 1749[c] – 2 February 1836), known as Letizia Bonaparte, was a Corsican noblewoman, mother of Napoleon I of France. She became known as “Madame Mère” after the proclamation of the Empire. She spent her latter years in Rome where she died in February 1836.
|Mother of His Imperial Majesty The Emperor|
Letizia Bonaparte (Madame Mère)
by Robert Lefèvre c.1813
24 August 1750
Ajaccio, Corsica, Republic of Genoa
|Died||2 February 1836 (aged 85)|
Rome, Papal States
Imperial Chapel, Ajaccio, France
(m. 1764; died 1785)
|Father||Giovanni Geronimo Ramolino|
|Mother||Angela Maria Pietrasanta|
Maria-Letizia Ramolino was born in Ajaccio, Corsica (then part of the Republic of Genoa), the daughter of Giovanni Geronimo Ramolino and his wife Angela Maria Pietra-Santa. Letizia's father was an army officer with expertise in civil engineering, who commanded the Ajaccio garrison, the Ramolino family were low rank nobility from Lombardy established in Corsica several generations earlier.
Letizia was educated at home trained in nothing but domestic skills, like most Corsican women at the time. After the death of her father, when she was six, her mother married Franz Fesch, a Swiss officer in the Genoese Navy at Ajaccio. The couple married in 1757 and had two children, among them Letizia's half-brother, future Cardinal Joseph Fesch.
Marriage and childrenEdit
On 2 June 1764, fourteen-year-old Letizia married eighteen-year-old law student Carlo Buonaparte of Ajaccio. Carlo had been studying law at Pisa University but left to marry Letizia without taking his degree. The Buonapartes, also part of the Corsican nobility, originally came from Tuscany in the early sixteenth century.
First pregnant a few months later, she went on to give birth to thirteen children in all, of whom eight survived. A first son, named Napoleon, was born and died in 1765, followed by a baby girl who also died. Carlo then went to Rome where he spent the next two years, on his return, he joined republican leader Pasquale Paoli becoming his part-time secretary. Letizia fell pregnant giving birth to Joseph, originally named Giuseppe, on 7 July 1768.
In 1768, when Genoa formally ceded the island to France, a Corsican guerrilla movement led by Paoli rose in revolt against the French.[d] Carlo Buonaparte and nineteen-year-old Letizia, pregnant with the future Napoleon, joined Paoli and fled with the insurgents into the mountains near Corte. Letizia would fight beside her husband in the struggle for independence. After the failure of the rebellion in May 1769 Carlo and Letizia returned to Ajaccio. On the feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1769, while she was at Mass in Ajaccio Cathedral, a minute's walk away from Casa Buonaparte, Letizia went into labour. According to the legend, she gave birth at home on a carpet of the living room where battles of the Iliad and Odyssey were woven;[e] the little boy was christened Napoleone, after an uncle who had died the previous year. For the first time Letizia was unable to produce milk and had to hire a wet-nurse called Camilla Llati to act as a surrogate mother. She kept only one servant: a woman named Mammuccia Caterina, who lived with her without wages, Mammuccia also acted as a midwife and had delivered Napoleon. Letizia performed all the household duties while Mammuccia looked after the children.
Letizia and her husband Carlo befriended the new island's military governor, Charles Réné, Comte de Marbeuf and the intendant, Bertrand de Boucheporn, whose wife was the godmother of their son Louis. In 1777 Marbeuf secured Carlo's election as a deputy to represent Corsica at Versailles. At the end of 1778, Carlo took Joseph, Napoléon to the continent to study at the Collège d'Autun. The following year in May 1779, possibly because of Carlo and Letizia's friendship with the governor, and after Carlo was accorded a certificate of nobility, 9-year-old Napoleon was admitted to the Brienne cadet school under a scholarship.
In 1784 Letizia managed to visit Napoleon at Brienne, even though no boy could leave the school grounds for six years and visits by parents were restricted. In 1784 Napoleon was promoted to the Royal Military School in Paris and two years later he graduated as a second lieutenant and joined the 4th artillery regiment of la Fère based in Valence.
On 24 February 1785, Carlo died of stomach cancer, Letizia became a widow with eight children at the age of 35; Joseph returned to Corsica after finishing his studies at Collège d'Autun, as the oldest is now the head of the family. In September 1786 Napoleon returned to Ajaccio, after eight years away, a lieutenant in the Royal Army, he stayed until September 1787 The family financial situation worsened, Letizia had four children dependant on her as well as school fees to pay for Jerome and Joseph. Napoleon returned at the beginning of 1788 on a leave until June, the only breadwinner and as such the head of the family. He returned again in September 1789 entering Corsican politics with his brother Joseph.
In 1793, after Napoleon turned against Paoli, Letizia and her children fled to France on 31 May, while the partisans of Paoli pillaged and burned her house.
The family resettled in Toulon as the Terror was at its peak, Letizia and her three daughters to avoid being recognised as aristocrats were described as "dressmakers" in the passports provided to them by Napoleon. After the British fleet took possession of the port of Toulon a month later the family moved to Marseille. Penniless, Letizia had to queue for food at the soup kitchen, her only money came from Napoleon's salary as an officer. In the Spring of 1794, after winning his first major battle as artillery commander during the siege of Toulon, Napoleon became General de Brigade, with his new income, he was able to move Letizia and the children at the Château Salé in Antibes.
Letizia disapproved of Napoleon's marriage to the widow Joséphine de Beauharnais, on 9 March 1796, on which she was not consulted. When Joseph became ambassador at the court of Rome on 14 May 1796 she accompanied him to Italy. On 1 June 1797, after Napoleon triumphant First Italian Campaign, she visited him in Milan with Caroline and Jerome, she then moved back to Casa Buonaparte in Ajaccio, that had been rebuilt, renovated and redecorated for the occasion. Napoleon allowed his mother and uncle to exercise some supervision over the affairs of Corsica. The prefect of the island received orders not to make any appointment without consulting Letizia or Fesch. On 28 September 1799 Napoleon returning from his successful campaign in Egypt stopped in Ajaccio staying with Letizia until 7 October when he left for Fréjus about to seize power in the bloodless coup d'état of 18 Brumaire the beginning of his rise to power. Letizia moved to Paris. On the evening of 10 November 1799, while she was with her daughters at the Theatre, the play was interrupted and it was announced that an attack against Napoleon had just been foiled. She famously kept her composure and only left at the end of the performance. Even as the mother of the First Consul she was known to live in relative simplicity, receiving a monthly pension of 25,000 francs. When her son Lucien clandestinely married Alexandrine de Bleschamp, known as Madame Jouberthon, against Napoleon's wishes, the brothers fell out. Letizia sided with Lucien and left Paris for Rome, where Pauline already lived as Princess Borghese, and where she stayed with her half brother Cardinal Fesch. Lucien and his family soon followed her.
Mother of the EmperorEdit
While Napoleon had made his brothers and sisters imperial highnesses, except Lucien and Jerome, Letizia did not have an official title yet. In July 1804, Cardinal Fesch wrote to Napoleon, suggesting that a title be found for Letizia. By decree, she was given the title “Madame” but since this was also how the daughters of the king used to be called, “mother of his Majesty the Emperor” was added to the end. She became referred to as “Madame Mère” (Madame Mother).
On 2 December 1804, when Napoleon was crowned Emperor, despite being depicted in the famous painting of the coronation of Napoleon by David, Letizia Bonaparte did not attend her son's coronation. When she was congratulated on her son's successes, she famously replied: "Pourvu que ça dure" (Let's hope it lasts).
On 19 December 1804, Letizia left Rome and took up residence at the Hotel de Brienne, 92 rue Saint Dominique in Paris, a house that she purchased from Lucien for 600,000 francs. The Emperor gave her an appanage of 500,000 a year. She did not attend the Imperial court and lived from 1805 to 1813 at the Chateau de Pont-sur-Seine, a castle that Napoleon gifted her. On the occasions when she visited Paris she resided at her Hotel de Brienne. In 1814, she shared Napoleon's exile on the island of Elba with her daughter Pauline. In February 1815 she followed him to Paris during the Hundred Days, Letizia and Napoleon met for the last time at the château of Malmaison on 29 June 1815.
Later life and deathEdit
After saying goodbye to Napoleon, she traveled from Paris to Rome to be under the protection of Pope Pius VII. She purchased the former Palazzo Rinuccini, renamed Palazzo Bonaparte (now Palazzo Misciatelli) on the corner of piazza Venezia and Via del Corso, where she lived with Joseph. During her years in Rome, she lived in seclusion with very few visitors except for her brother, who rarely left her. Her great wealth acquired from jewellery and shrewd investment allowed her to live comfortably for the rest of her life. For a time the painter Anna Barbara Bansi served as her companion.
She died in 1836, aged 85, three weeks before the 51st anniversary of her husband's death. By then she was nearly blind and had outlived her most famous son Napoleon by 15 years. In 1851 Letizia's body was transferred to the Imperial Chapel specially built for it in her native Ajaccio. In 1951, Carlo's body was brought in a hundred years later, to rest next to her.
Letizia gave birth to thirteen children between 1768 and 1784; five of them died, two at birth and three in their infancy. Eight children survived.
- Napoleone Buonaparte (born and died 17 August 1765).
- Maria Anna Buonaparte (3 January 1767 – 1 January 1768).
- Joseph Bonaparte (7 January 1768 – 28 July 1844) King of Naples (1806 – 1808), King of Spain (1808 – 1813); married Julie Clary on 1 August 1794.
- Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821), Emperor of the French (1804 – 1814; 1815); married vicomtesse Joséphine de Beauharnais in 1796 (marriage annulled 1810); re-married to Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma , Archduchess of Austria, on 1 April 1810.
- Maria Anna Buonaparte (born and died 1770)
- Maria Anna Buonaparte (14 July 1771 – 23 November 1771)
- A stillborn son (1773).
- Lucien Bonaparte (21 March 1775 – 29 June 1840), Prince of Canino and Musignano; married Christine Boyer on 5 May 1794; re-married to Alexandrine de Bleschamp on 26 October 1803.
- Maria Anna (Elisa) Bonaparte (3 January 1777 – 7 August 1820), Grand Duchess of Tuscany (1804 – 1809), married Felice Pasquale Baciocchi on 5 May 1797.
- Louis Bonaparte (2 September 1778 – 25 July 1846), King of Holland (1806 – 1810); married Hortense de Beauharnais on 4 January 1802.
- Pauline Bonaparte (20 October 1780 – 9 June 1825), Sovereign Princess and Duchess of Guastalla; married General Charles Leclerc on 5 May 1797 (died 1802); re-married to Prince Camillo Borghese on 28 August 1803.
- Caroline Bonaparte (25 March 1782 – 18 May 1839), Queen consort of Naples (1800 – 1815), Grand Duchess of Jülich-Cleves-Berg; married Joachim Murat King of Naples in 1800.
- Jérôme Bonaparte (15 November 1784 – 24 June 1860), King of Westphalia (1807 – 1813), Prince of Montfort; married Elizabeth Patterson on 24 December 1803 (marriage annulled 1806); re-married to princess Catharina of Württemberg on 22 August 1807; married thirdly to Justine Bartolini-Baldelli in 1840 (religious) and 19 February 1853 (civil).
- Before the annexation of Corsica to France in 1768, the family used both spelling Bonaparte and Buonaparte After the family fled to France in 1793, they started using exclusively the French spelling of their names
- sometimes spelled Romolini in italian
- born either in late 1749 or early 1750
- In November 1755, Pasquale Paoli had proclaimed Corsica a sovereign nation independent from the Republic of Genoa
- she would later deny the story of the carpet
- Houghton Mifflin 2005, p. 97.
- Dwyer 2014, p. 27.
- Vita di Napoleone Buonaparte imperatore de' Francesi 1827, p. 12.
- Tulard & Waugh 1984, p. 77.
- McLynn 2011, p. 14.
- de Carolis 2014, p. 12.
- McLynn 2011, p. 4.
- Abjorensen 2019, p. 96.
- Carrington 1990, p. 12.
- Burton, Burton & Conner 2007, p. 10.
- Falk 2015, p. 29.
- Williams 2018, p. 11. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFWilliams2018 (help)
- Masson 2016, p. 42.
- Dwyer 2014, p. 32.
- McLynn 2011, p. 41.
- Dwyer 2014, p. 35.
- McLynn 2011, p. 35.
- McLynn 2011, p. 70.
- McLynn 2011, p. 77.
- Hibbert 2002, p. 57.
- Abrantès 1834, p. 5.
- de Carolis 2014, p. 24.
- Larrey & Larrey 1892, p. 276.
- Boissonnade, p. 55.
- Dwyer 2013, p. 135.
- Falk 2015, p. 300.
- Roberts 2014, p. 448.
- Williams 2018, p. 36. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFWilliams2018 (help)
- Dwyer 2013, pp. 510-511.
- Lévy 1852, p. 409.
- Ulbrich, von Greyerz & Heiligensetzer 2014, p. 61.
- Decaux 1962, p. 273.
- Volkmann 1998, p. 99.
- Valynseele, de Warren & Pinoteau 1954, p. 162.
- McLynn, F. (2011). Napoleon: A Biography. Arcade. ISBN 978-1-62872-025-9.
- de Carolis, P. (2014). Letizia R. Bonaparte, la mère de toutes les douleurs (in French). Place des éditeurs. ISBN 978-2-259-22968-5.
- Decaux, A. (1959). Letizia, mère de l'Empereur (in French). A. Fayard.
- Burton, J.K.; Burton, J.K.; Conner, S.P. (2007). Napoleon and the Woman Question. Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 978-0-89672-559-1.
- Tulard, J.; Waugh, T. (1984). Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 978-0-297-78439-5.
- Dwyer, P.G. (2014). Napoleon and Europe. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-317-88271-8.
- de Bourrienne, L.A.F. (1832). The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Carey and Lea.
- Dwyer, P. (2013). Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power (in French). Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-16243-1.
- Williams, H.N. (2018). Revival: The Women Bonapartes vol. I (1908): The Mother and Three Sisters of Napoleon I. Routledge Revivals. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-351-34236-0.
- Falk, A. (2015). Napoleon Against Himself: A Psychobiography. Pitchstone Publishing. ISBN 978-1-939578-72-3.
- Ulbrich, C.; von Greyerz, K.; Heiligensetzer, L. (2014). Mapping the 'I': Research on Self-Narratives in Germany and Switzerland. Egodocuments and History Series. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-28397-8.
- Masson, F. (2016). Napoléon dans sa jeunesse: 1769-1793 (in French). BnF collection ebooks. ISBN 978-2-346-10671-4.
- Roberts, A. (2014). Napoleon: A Life. Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-698-17628-7.
- Hibbert, C. (2002). Napoleon: His Wives and Women. HarperCollins.
- Lévy, M. (1852). Dictionnaire de la conversation et de la lecture (in French). Michel Lévy Frères.
- The Riverside Dictionary of Biography. Houghton Mifflin. 2005. ISBN 978-0-618-49337-1.
- Carrington, D. (1990). Napoleon and His Parents: On the Threshold of History. Dutton. ISBN 978-0-525-24833-0.
- Vita di Napoleone Buonaparte imperatore de' Francesi (in Italian). 1827.
- Abjorensen, N. (2019). Historical Dictionary of Democracy. Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements Series. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1-5381-2074-3.
- Abrantès, L.J. (1834). Memoirs of Celebrated Women of All Countries. E. Churton.
- Williams, H.N. (2018). Revival: The Women Bonapartes vol. II (1908): The Mother and Three Sisters of Napoleon I. Routledge Revivals. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-351-34245-2.
- Larrey, F.H.B.; Larrey, H. (1892). Madame mère: (Napoleonis mater) (in French). E. Dentu.
- Volkmann, J.C. (1998). Généalogies des rois et des princes. Bien connaître (in French). Gisserot. ISBN 978-2-87747-374-3.
- Boissonnade, E. 18 Brumaire an VIII: Le coup d'Etat de Napoléon Bonaparte (in French). Frédérique PATAT. ISBN 978-2-37324-008-5.
- Valynseele, J.; de Warren, R.; Pinoteau, H. (1954). Le sang des Bonaparte (in French). Selbstverl.
- Decaux, A. (1962). Napoleon's Mother. Cresset Press.
- Marek, Miroslav. "Bonaparte Genealogy". genealogy.euweb.cz Genealogy.EU.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Letizia Ramolino.|