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Jérôme I
A portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte by François Gérard.
Personal details
Born (1784-11-15)November 15, 1784
Ajaccio, Corsica
Died 24 June 1860(1860-06-24) (aged 75)
Villegenis, France
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Patterson
Catharina of Württemberg
Giustina Pecori-Suárez
Religion Roman Catholicism

Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (15 November 1784 – 24 June 1860) was the youngest brother of Napoleon I and as Jerome I, King of Westphalia between 1807 and 1813. After 1848, when his nephew, Louis Napoleon, became President of the second French Republic, he served in several official roles, being created first Prince (and Count) of Montfort.

Early life

Jérôme was born "Girolamo Buonaparte" in Ajaccio, Corsica as the eighth and last surviving child, fifth surviving son, of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino. He was a younger brother of his siblings: Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte, Pauline Bonaparte and Caroline Bonaparte.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Triple portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1804

Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia and Queen Catharina

He studied at the Catholic College of Juilly, and then served with the French navy before going to the United States. On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1803, nineteen-year old Jérôme married Elizabeth ("Betsy") Patterson (1785–1879), eighteen-year old daughter of prosperous ship-owner and merchant William Patterson, (1752-1835) in Baltimore, (then the third largest city and growing rapidly in America). Napoleon was unable to convince Pope Pius VII in Rome to annul their marriage, and so annulled the marriage himself (by a French imperial decree, 11 March 1805), as a matter of state. Elizabeth was pregnant with a son at the time, (Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II (1805-1870)), and was on her way to Europe with the elder Jérôme. When they landed in neutral Portugal, Jérôme set off overland to Italy to attempt to convince his brother to recognize the marriage. Elizabeth then attempted to land in Amsterdam, hoping to travel to within the borders of France in order for her and Jerome's baby son to be born on French soil, but now Emperor Napoleon I had issued orders barring the ship from entering the harbour. Being with child, Elizabeth went on to England where Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II [1805-1870], (later nicknamed in childhood as "Bo"), was born at 95 Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London, England. However, the Emperor Napoleon only began instituting Roman Catholic and later French state divorce proceedings, only after the birth of the baby, Jerome II. After considerable delay and internal struggle, Elizabeth was later declared divorced from Jerome by a special decree and act of the state legislature, the $3 in 1815.

King of Westphalia

Made King of Westphalia, the short-lived realm (1807-1813), created by Napoleon from the several states and principalities in northwestern Germany (in the former thousand-year old Holy Roman Empire, later reorganized by Napoleon into the Confederation of the Rhine and then after his defeat, the Allies reorganized the German states into a German Confederation with Austrian leadership. This Napoleonic realm with its capital in Kassel (then: Cassel), Jérôme then married for a second time to HRH Princess Catharina of Württemberg, the daughter of Frederick I, King of Württemberg, in a marriage arranged by Emperor Napoleon. The connection to a German princess was intended to strengthen the reputation of the young French king. In order to emphasize his rank as a ruler, Jérôme commissioned grandiose state portraits of himself and his spouse, now Queen Catharina. Other paintings celebrated his military exploits. France's most prominent painters were placed in his employ.

When Jérôme and Catharina arrived in Kassel, they found the palaces in a plundered state. As such, they placed orders for an array of stately furniture and expensive silverware with leading Parisian manufactures. The local artisans oriented themselves with these French models. The King also intended to refurnish his capital architecturally. The court theatre ranks among the small number of projects realized. Jérôme had it designed by Leo von Klenze and constructed next to the summer residence previously known as "Wilhelmshöhe", but subsequently changed to "Napoleonshöhe".

As a model state, the Kingdom of Westphalia was to serve as an example for the other German states. For this reason, it received the first constitution and parliament to be found on German soil (decades before other parliaments, legislatures, reichstags, bundesrats, etc. such as in Frankfurt in 1848). Jérôme imported the Empire style from Paris, thereby bestowing the new state with a modern, representative appearance. The small kingdom received more attention since the famous "Treaty of Westphalia" which ended the Thirty Years' War a hundred and fifty years earlier in 1648. Thanks to these efforts by King Jerome, Kassel celebrated an enormous cultural upturn. At the same time, Jérôme's expensive habits earned him the contempt of Napoleon. His court incurred comparable expenses to Napoleon's court (which oversaw a vastly larger and more important realm), and Napoleon refused to support Jérôme financially.[1]

In 1812, Jérôme commanded a corps of soldiers in "La Grande Armee" marching towards the Russian frontier against Czar Alexander I. Because he insisted on traveling "in state", Napoleon reprimanded him and ordered him to leave his court and luxurious trappings behind. Angered by Napoleon's order, Jérôme returned with his entire court and train to Westphalia. After the defeat in Russia the following winter, he petitioned Napoleon to allow his wife to come to Paris, due to her fear of the advancing Allied armies. After two attempts, Napoleon granted permission.

Jérôme briefly re-entered the army in 1813, when his Kingdom was now being threatened from the east by the advancing allied Prussian and Russian armies. He led a small force to challenge their invasion. After a clash with an enemy detachment, he made camp with his army while hoping for reinforcements from the French army in the west. However, before the reinforcements arrived the main allied force captured the capital Kassel and declared the Kingdom of Westphalia dissolved. This ended Jérôme's kingship. He then fled to join his wife, the now former queen in France.

The Hundred Days

Early 19th century enamel with portrait of Jérôme Bonaparte.

Tomb of Jérôme Bonaparte, Les Invalides

During the "Hundred Days", Napoleon put Jérôme in command of the 6th Division of the II Corps under General Honoré Charles Reille. At Waterloo, Jérôme's division was to make an initial attack on Hougoumont, which Napoleon expected would draw in Lord Wellington's reserves, however Jérôme misunderstood the nature of his role and his division became completely engaged attempting to take Hougoumont outright.

Later years

Although Catharina was aware of Jérôme's constant womanizing and affairs, she remained true to her husband. They had a son, Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte (1822–1891), also known as "Prince Napoleon" or "Plon-Plon." Their second child, a daughter, Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, was a prominent hostess during and after the Second French Empire of Napoleon III (1852-1870). After the dissolution of his Kingdom, Jérôme was given the title "Prince of Montfort" by the King Frederick I of Württemberg, his father in-law. The King later forced Jérôme and his wife to leave the country in 1814, during which they visited the United States (him for the second time). Jérôme later returned to France and joined Napoleon during the "Hundred Days" brief attempt to restore the Empire.

Later, Jérôme moved to Italy where he then married (now his third marriage) Giustina Pecori-Suárez, the widow of Marquess Luigi Bartolini-Baldelli, an Italian nobleman.

When his nephew, Prince Louis Napoleon, became President of the second French Republic in 1848, Jérôme was made governor of Les Invalides, Paris, the burial place of Napoleon I. When Louis Napoleon became emperor as Napoleon III, Jérôme was recognized as the "heir presumptive" to the reestablished imperial throne until the birth of the Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial. Jérôme went on to be named a Marshal of France, served as President of the Senate the upper house (along with the lower house of the National Assembly in the French Republic's parliament), and received the title "Prince Français".

Jérôme Bonaparte died on 24 June 1860, at Villegenis, France (today known as Massy in Essonne). He is buried in Les Invalides, Paris.

His grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, (son of Jerome ("Bo") Napoleon Bonaparte II, [1805-1870]), served as United States Secretary of the Navy and United States Attorney General in President Theodore Roosevelt's administration, 1901-1909. He established a "Bureau of Investigation" in 1908 within the Department of Justice (which had been established in 1870 under the supervision of the A.G.), the precursor of the later Federal Bureau of Investigation, which grew and developed by the 1920s under director J. Edgar Hoover and was renamed in 1935.

Another grandson was named Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte II, (1829-1893), was graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, overlooking the Hudson River graduating in the early 1850s. He served first with the Mounted Rifles in Texas on the American southwestern frontier, then later resigned from the United States Army and went on to serve in the forces of his cousin, the Emperor Napoleon III in his second French Empire. There was a twenty year age gap between the older Jerome II, the military officer and Charles, the civic leader, reformer and politician.

Baroness Jenny von Gustedt, born as Jeromée Catharina Rabe von Pappenheim (1811–1890), one of Jérôme Bonaparte's illegitimate children, was the grandmother of the German Socialist and Feminist writer Lily Braun.

In fiction and popular culture

The 1923 German comedy film The Little Napoleon is loosely based around his life. He is played by Paul Heidemann.

In the Hornblower television series, he was portrayed by British actor David Birkin. The last episode (Duty) introduces Jérôme and Elizabeth ('Betsy'). Adrift in an open boat, they are picked up by Captain Hornblower's ship; Jérôme poses as a harmless Swiss citizen, but Hornblower identifies him. After many diplomatic manoeuvres, the British government decides that Jérôme is of no political importance after all, and he is allowed to return to France while Elizabeth is sent on board an American ship.


  • Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte (1805–1870)
    • Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte II (1830–1893)
      • Louise-Eugénie Bonaparte (1873–1923)
      • Jerome Napoleon Charles Bonaparte (1878–1945)
    • Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851–1921)
  • Jérôme Napoléon Charles Bonaparte, 2nd Prince of Montfort, Prince Français (1814–1847)
  • Mathilde Bonaparte (1820–1904) married Anatole Demidoff, 1st Prince de San Donato
  • Napoléon Joseph Bonaparte (1822–1891) married Princess Clotilde of Savoy
    • Napoléon Victor Bonaparte (1862–1926) married Princess Clementine of Belgium
      • Clotilde Bonaparte (1912–1996) married Serge de Witt
      • Louis Bonaparte (1914–1997) married Alix de Foresta
        • Charles Bonaparte (1950–) married Princess Beatrice of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Jeanne-Françoise Valliccioni
          • Caroline Napoléon Bonaparte (1980–)
          • Jean-Christophe Napoléon Bonaparte (1986–)
          • Sophie Cathérine Bonaparte (1992–)
        • Catherine Bonaparte (1950–) married Marquis Nicola di San Germano, Jean Dualé
        • Laura Bonaparte (1952–) married Jean-Claude Leconte
        • Jerome Xavier Bonaparte (1957–)
    • Napoléon Louis Joseph Jérôme Bonaparte (1864–1932)
    • Maria Letizia Bonaparte (1866–1926) married Amedeo, 1st Duke of Aosta

Titles, styles and arms

Monarchical styles of
Jérôme I of Westphalia
Grandes Armes Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860) 2.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sire

Titles and styles

  • 8 July 1807 – 26 October 1813: His Majesty The King of Westphalia

Full title

His Majesty Jérôme I, By the Grace of God and by the Constitution, King of Westphalia, French Prince, Prince of Montfort, etc., etc.


See also

  • House of Bonaparte
  • Kingdom of Westphalia


  1. "La Grande Armée" by Georges Blond, translated by Marshall May, p. 303

External links

Regnal titles
Title created King of Westphalia
8 July 1807 – 26 October 1813
Title abolished
French royalty
Preceded by
Robert, Duke of Chartres
Heir to the Throne
as Heir presumptive
18 December 1852 – 16 March 1856
Succeeded by
Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial

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