Bonaparte, Pauline

BORN 20 Oct 1780, Ajaccio, Corse-du-Sud - DIED 9 Jun 1825, Firenze, Toscana
BIRTH NAME Buonaparte, Maria Paola
GRAVE LOCATION Roma, Lazio: Santa Maria Maggiore, Piazza di San Maria Maggiore (Borghese chapel)

Maria Paola Buonaparte was born eleven years after her brother Napoleon, the future emperor Napoleon I. She was known as Paoletta. Little is known about her youth but she had no formal education since the family was poor after her father Carlo's death in 1785. In 1793 the family had to flee to France after her brother Lucien had commented on the local Jacobins. In France she was called Paulette.

The family moved from Toulon to Marseilles, where Napoleon, by then a general, introduced her to Louis-Marie Stanislas Fréron. Fréron wanted to marry her, but her mother Laetitia objected. Although she loved Fréron, Napoleon made her marry General Charles Leclerc in Milan on 14 June 1797. In 1798 their son Dermide Louis Napoleon was born.

Leclerc was appointed governor of Saint-Domingue by Napoleon and in 1801 they sailed. There was a rebellion going on when they arrived and the climate was damaging Pauline's health. At the same time several of her husband's soldiers became her lovers. Leclerc fell ill in 1802 and died on 1 November, probably of yellow fever.

Pauline returned in France on 1 January 1803. On 28 August 1803 she married Camille Borghese, one of the richest men in Italy and the owner of the Villa Borghese in Rome. Soon she was disappointed in her marriage and she returned to taking lovers, among them Niccolò Paganini, the famous violinist. Her son Dermide died on 14 August 1804. In 1806 Napoleon made her Duchess of Guastalla, but she sold the duchy and only kept the title of Princess of Guastalla. There was tension with Napoleon when she showed her dislike of his second wife Marie Louise. But when Napoleon's power was fading they became closer again and in 1814 she visited him on Elba and supported him financially. Her house in Paris was sold to the British government and used by Wellington.

After Waterloo she moved to Rome, where she asked the protection of Pope Pius VII. She immediately received it, although he had been the prisoner of her brother from 1809 to 1814. She lived near the Porta Pia in a villa called Villa Paolina. Camillo had a long term mistress and moved to Florence to be far away from her. She was seriously ill and after she appealed to the new Pope, in 1825 he ordered Camillo to return to her. They live together until she died of cancer later that year, aged 44.

• Husband: Borghese, Camillo, 6th Prince of Sulmona (1803-1825)

Related persons
• was painted by Lefèvre, Robert
• has a connection with Paganini, Niccolò
• had a relationship with Talma, François Joseph

22/8/1814Wellington arrives in Paris as ambassador for the United Kingdon. The British government bought the Hôtel de Charost in de rue du Faburg St Honoré that had belonged to Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister. [Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of]
3/3/1815Pauline Bonaparte leaves Elba. She left Elba a few days after her brother Napoleon. She went to her sister Elisa in Campignagno-Sol-Monte. The night after her arrival she was imprisoned by the Austrians, but she was released after a while. 


Canova's statue of Pauline Bonaparte at the Villa Borghese, Rome.
Picture by Androom (27 Feb 2015)


Via Paolina in Viareggio, the former summer house of Pauline Bonaparte.
Picture by Androom (16 Feb 2018)


The Borghese chapel in the Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.
Picture by Androom (25 Apr 2023)


• Longford, Elizabeth, Wellington, The Years of the Sword, World Books, London, 1971
• Vanoyeke, Violaine, Les Bonaparte, Criterion, Paris, 1991
Pauline Bonaparte - Wikipedia

Bonaparte, Pierre Napoleon

Published: 26 Nov 2017
Last update: 31 Jan 2024