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The American Bonapartes

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2022 3:03 am

The American Bonapartes

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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December 28, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, The History Guy unpacks the largely forgotten saga of the Bonapartes who came to America. The story illustrates the pretensions and complexity of Napoleon's attempts to create a lasting dynasty.

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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

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To learn more, visit This is Our American Stories, and our next story comes to us from a man who's simply known as the History Guy. His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages on YouTube. The History Guy is also heard here at Our American Stories. If at the height of his power in 1810, someone had approached Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and told him that in about 100 years, his great nephew would be the Secretary of the United States Navy and be responsible for setting up arguably the most successful law enforcement agency in the world in the new country of America, he probably would have laughed or had you sent to an asylum. Here's the History Guy with the story of the American Bonaparte. On June 18, 1815, one of the most important and well known battles in history was fought in Belgium between the French army of the Emperor Napoleon and armies of the seventh coalition commanded by the Duke of Wellington, the Battle of Waterloo. A significant part of that story battle occurred on Napoleon's left at a walled farmhouse called Ugemont. Napoleon sent a division to attack the farm, which Wellington knew he must hold. Historians today disagree over whether that attack was merely a diversion intended to draw Willington's reserves away from his center, whether Napoleon thought that Ugemont must be taken. But in either case, the battle started at the walls of Ugemont, and by many accounts, was lost there, as the farm, although nearly destroyed, never fell. Wellington observed after the battle that the success of the battle turned upon the closing of the gates at Ugemont. The French commander whose division was to take the farm was Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon's youngest brother, and Jerome Bonaparte had a little known connection to his opponent, the Duke of Wellington, through the nearly forgotten American Bonaparte.

It is a story that deserves to be remembered. Jerome Bonaparte was born in Corsica in 1784, the youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. His father, Carlo Bonaparte died when Jerome was just three months old.

His mother struggled after the death of his father and he grew up an unruly child. While his brother, now the head of the family and a rising general in the French army, sent him to a Catholic university, Jerome was a lax student, more interested in the ladies than his studies. Exasperated, Napoleon sent Jerome to join the Navy in the hopes that the military would straighten him out. While he was a successful naval officer, Jerome was still not quite straightened out. In 1803, at the age of 19, Jerome was serving with the French Navy in the Caribbean when he decided to visit the United States.

It seems that he had inadvertently fired on a British ship and given that his brother was the first consul of France and France and England had signed a peace treaty in 1802, Jerome had to lay low for a while to avoid an international incident that might start another war. While in America, a friend advised Jerome, who always said that he just loved beautiful things, that the most beautiful women in America were in Baltimore. William Patterson was born in Ireland and came to America before the revolution.

He ran guns during the war and after became a successful and very wealthy businessman in Baltimore. He married and raised a large family including a daughter, Elizabeth Patterson, affectionately called Betsy. In 1803, Betsy Patterson was 17 years old, very wealthy and generally regarded as the most beautiful woman in America. It's not clear where Betsy Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte first met, likely at some ball or social gathering, but they fell madly in love. For Jerome, it may simply have been his love of beautiful things, but for Betsy, it was a chance at fame, at independence, and a way out of a dreary American marriage.

They married on Christmas Eve, 1803. But that was a problem for Jerome's brother, Napoleon. He wanted his brothers to have marriages that served his ambitions and expected to marry Jerome to European royalty.

Marriage to an American, even one of the wealthiest in the nation, was not acceptable. Napoleon ordered Jerome to leave Betsy and return to France. In the fall of 1804, Jerome took Betsy, now pregnant, with him to visit France in the hopes of changing his brother's mind. But Napoleon forbade her landing in France or even on the continent. While Jerome went to France to plead their case, she went to England, and in July of 1805 had a son whom they named Jerome Napoleon, affectionately called Beau.

But Napoleon Bonaparte was a man who did not take no for an answer. As Jerome pleaded his case and still made promises to Betsy, she gave up and sailed back to Baltimore in the fall of 1805. Napoleon annulled the marriage by decree. In 1807, Betsy got word that Napoleon had made her husband king of the newly created kingdom of Westphalia and had married Jerome to a German princess, Catherine of Wurttemberg. Many argue that he still loved Betsy Patterson but could not defy the will of his brother.

He wrote to his brother Lucian, You know the feelings of my heart, and you know the well-being and benefit of my family alone forced me to make other ties. The love affair between Elizabeth Patterson and Jerome Bonaparte was the subject of two motion pictures, 1924's Glorious Betsy and 1936's Hearts Divided. Their son was not allowed to use the name Bonaparte, although Betsy did manage to get Napoleon to provide a yearly stipend to help raise him. After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, Betsy traveled with her son to Europe and even met his grandmother, Maria Bonaparte, Napoleon's mother. She had hopes of marrying him back into the Bonaparte family, but he preferred America.

He returned to Baltimore and in 1929 married a beautiful heiress and took on the life of a gentleman farmer. In 1848, Jerome's cousin Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the son of Napoleon's brother Louis, became president of France and in 1851 proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III of the Second French Empire. In 1854 Louis Napoleon restored to his cousin the right to use the name Bonaparte, although he did not recognize him in the line of succession as that doing would invalidate the claims of Jerome's children by Catherine of Wurttemberg. It was now officially Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, the American Bonaparte. Both Bonaparte had two sons. The oldest, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II, attended West Point and served in the U.S. Army from 1848 to 1854 when it was invited by his cousin, Emperor Louis Napoleon, to join the French Army where he served in several campaigns and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

The younger son was named Charles Joseph Bonaparte. Born in 1851, Charles was a Harvard-trained lawyer who became a political reformer, one of the Republican progressives of the day. He helped to found the Reform League of Baltimore, which took on corruption in Baltimore politics. His interest in civil reform brought him to the attention of the most famous progressive of the day, future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1905, Roosevelt appointed him Secretary of the Navy, where he directed naval and marine personnel to assist in relief efforts following the San Francisco earthquake. In 1906, when Attorney General William Henry Moody was appointed to the Supreme Court, Roosevelt appointed Charles to replace him. As Attorney General, he was a tireless trust buster, breaking up the tobacco monopoly and became known as Charlie the Crook Chaser. And in 1908, he used Department of Justice expense funds to hire 34 employees who would serve as an investigative agency reporting to the Department of Justice.

The organization today is known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, the FBI was created by Napoleon Bonaparte's great-nephew. So what happened to the American Bonaparte's? Charles had no children and died in 1921 at the age of 70. His older brother Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II, who served in the French Army, returned to Baltimore after the Franco-Prussian War, married a widow, and they had two children. His daughter Eugenie married a German count. They have several surviving descendants, but being a daughter, she did not keep the name Bonaparte. His son, Jerome Napoleon Charles Bonaparte, the great-great-nephew of Emperor Napoleon I, died without children in 1945, the last of the American Bonapartes. And as for the one who started it all, Napoleon's brother Jerome, who married the beautiful American and couldn't take Huguemont at Waterloo, he went into exile after the battle, but returned to French politics after his nephew Louis Napoleon became Emperor. He was made a Marshal of France and served as President of the French Senate. He died in 1860.

His descendants, through Catherine of Wurttemberg, are the last remaining line of the Imperial House of Bonaparte. And I mention an odd connection to the Duke of Wellington, who led the coalition forces in the Battle of Waterloo. Betsy Patterson had an older brother, Robert Patterson, who married another heiress, Baltimore Belle, named Marion Catan. Robert died in 1822, leaving Marion Catan Patterson a widow.

She remarried a British peer named Richard Wellesley, the first Marquess Wellesley, who was the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. And the older brother of Arthur Wellesley, better known as the Duke of Wellington. A final twist in the story of the American Bonapartes. And great job as always by Greg Hengler, and a special thanks to The History Guy. And if you want more stories of forgotten history, please subscribe to The History Guy's YouTube channel. The History Guy, colon, history deserves to be remembered.

This is Our American Stories, the story of the American Bonapartes. When the world gets in the way of your music, try the new Bose QuietComfort earbuds, too. Next-gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears. They use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you, delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound. So you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose QuietComfort earbuds, too.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-28 04:26:41 / 2022-12-28 04:32:10 / 5

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