Joseph Bonaparte

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Joseph I
Portrait of King Joseph I.
King of Spain and the Indies
Reign 6 June 1808 – 11 December 1813
Predecessor Ferdinand VII
Successor Ferdinand VII
King of Naples
Reign 30 March 1806 – 6 June 1808
Predecessor Ferdinand IV
Successor Joachim I
Born 7 January 1768
Corte, Corsica
Died 28 July 1844(1844-07-28) (aged 76)
Florence, Tuscany
Spouse Julie Clary
Issue Zénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte
Charlotte Napoléone Bonaparte
Full name
French: Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte
Italian: Giuseppe-Napoleone Buonaparte
Spanish: José-Napoleón Bonaparte
House Bonaparte
Father Carlo Buonaparte
Mother Letizia Ramolino
Religion Roman Catholicism
French Monarchy
Bonaparte Dynasty
Grandes Armes Impériales (1804-1815)2.svg
Napoleon I
Napoleon II
Joseph, King of Spain
Lucien, Prince of Canino
Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Louis, King of Holland
Pauline, Princess of Guastalla
Caroline, Queen of Naples
Jérôme, King of Westphalia
Nephews and nieces
Princess Zénaïde
Princess Charlotte
Charlotte, Princess Gabrielli
Prince Charles Lucien
Prince Louis Lucien
Prince Pierre Napoléon
Prince Napoléon Charles
Prince Napoléon Louis
Napoleon III
Prince Jérôme Napoléon
Prince Jérôme Napoléon Charles
Prince Napoléon
Princess Mathilde
Grandnephews and -nieces
Prince Joseph
Prince Lucien Cardinal Bonaparte
Prince Roland
Princess Jeanne
Prince Jerome
Prince Charles
Napoléon (V) Victor
Maria Letizia, Duchess of Aosta
Great Grandnephews and -nieces
Princess Marie
Princess Marie Clotilde
Napoléon (VI) Louis
Great Great Grandnephews and -nieces
Napoléon (VII) Charles
Princess Catherine
Princess Laure
Prince Jérôme
Great Great Great Grandnephews and -nieces
Princess Caroline
Jean Christophe, Prince Napoléon
Napoleon II
Napoleon III
Napoléon (IV), Prince Imperial

Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte (7 January 1768 – 28 July 1844) was the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who made him King of Naples and Sicily (1806–1808), and later King of Spain (1808–1813, as José I). After the fall of Napoleon, Joseph styled himself Comte de Survilliers.

Early years and personal life

Joseph was born Giuseppe Buonaparte in 1768 to Carlo Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino at Corte, the capital of the Corsican Republic. In the year of his birth, Corsica was invaded by France and conquered the following year. His father was originally a follower of the Corsican Patriot leader, Pasquale Paoli, but later became a supporter of French rule.

As a lawyer, politician, and diplomat, Joseph served in the Cinq-Cents and was the French ambassador to Rome. On 30 September 1800, as Minister Plenipotentiary, he signed a treaty of friendship and commerce between France and the United States at Morfontaine, alongside Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu, and Pierre Louis Roederer.

He married Marie Julie Clary daughter of François Clary on 1 August 1794 in Cuges-les-Pins, France. They had three daughters:

He claimed the two surviving daughters as his heirs. He also sired two children with Maria Giulia, the Countess of Atri:

  • Giulio (1806– )
  • Teresa (1808– ).

Joseph had two American daughters born at Point Breeze, his estate in Bordentown, New Jersey, by his mistress, Annette Savage ("Madame de la Folie"):

  • Pauline Anne; died young.
  • Catherine Charlotte (1822–1890); married Col. Zebulon Howell Benton of Jefferson County, New York, and had issue:[1] Louis Joseph Benton (1848-1940) and son Frederick Joseph Benton (1901-1967)[2]

In 1795 Joseph was a member of the Council of Ancients, where he used his position to help his brother overthrow the Directory four years later.

The Château de Villandry had been seized by the French Revolutionary government; and, in the early 19th century, Joseph's brother, Emperor Napoleon, acquired the château for him. In 1806, Joseph was given military command of Naples, and shortly afterward was made king by Napoleon, to be replaced two years later by his sister's husband, Joachim Murat. Joseph was then made King of Spain in August 1808, soon after the French invasion.


Portrait by François Gérard, 1808
Propaganda caricature depicting Joseph Bonaparte in Spain

Joseph somewhat reluctantly left Naples, where he was popular, and arrived in Spain where he was very unpopular indeed. Joseph came under heavy fire from his opponents in Spain, who tried to smear his reputation by calling him Pepe Botella (Joe Bottle) for his alleged heavy drinking, an accusation echoed by later Spanish historiography, despite the fact that Joseph was abstemious. His arrival sparked the legitimate Spanish revolt against French rule, and the beginning of the Peninsular War. Thompson says the Spanish revolt was, "a reaction against new institutions and ideas, a movement for loyalty to the old order: to the hereditary crown of the Most Catholic kings, which Napoleon, an excommunicated enemy of the Pope, had put on the head of a Frenchman; to the Catholic Church persecuted by republicans who had desecrated churches, murdered priests, and enforced a "loi des cultes"; and to local and provincial rights and privileges threatened by an efficiently centralized government.[3]

Joseph temporarily retreated with much of the French Army to northern Spain. Feeling himself in an ignominious position, Joseph then proposed his own abdication from the Spanish throne, hoping that Napoleon would sanction his return to the Neapolitan Throne he had formerly occupied. Napoleon dismissed Joseph's misgivings out of hand; and, to back up the raw and ill-trained levies he had initially allocated to Spain—the Emperor sent heavy French reinforcements to assist Joseph in maintaining his position as King of Spain. Despite the easy recapture of Madrid, and nominal control by Joseph's government over many cities and provinces, Joseph's reign over Spain was always tenuous at best, and constantly resisted by pro-Bourbon guerrillas. Joseph and his supporters never established complete control over the country.

King Joseph's Spanish supporters were called josefinos or afrancesados (frenchified). During his reign, he ended the Spanish Inquisition, partly because Napoleon was at odds with Pope Pius VII at the time. Despite such efforts to win popularity, Joseph's foreign birth and support, plus his membership in a Masonic lodge,[4] virtually guaranteed he would never be accepted as legitimate by the bulk of the Spanish people. During Joseph's rule of Spain, Venezuela declared independence (1810) from Spain, the first nation to do so. The king had virtually no influence over the course of the ongoing Peninsular War: Joseph's nominal command of French forces in Spain was mostly illusory, as the French commanders theoretically subordinate to King Joseph insisted on checking with Napoleon before carrying out Joseph's instructions.

King Joseph abdicated and returned to France after the main French forces were defeated by the British at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. He was seen by Bonapartists as the rightful Emperor of the French after the death of Napoleon's own son Napoleon II in 1832, although he did little to advance his claim.

United States

Joseph lived primarily in the United States (where he sold the jewels he had taken from Spain) in the period 1817–1832,[5] initially in New York City and Philadelphia, where his house became the centre of activity for French expatriates, but later moved to an estate, formerly owned by Stephen Sayre, called Point Breeze in Bordentown, New Jersey. Joseph's home was located near the confluence of Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River. He considerably expanded Sayre's home and created extensive gardens in the picturesque style. When his first home was destroyed by fire in January 1820 he converted his stables into a second grand house. At Point Breeze, Joseph entertained many of the leading intellectuals and politicians of his day

Reputedly some Mexican revolutionaries offered to crown him Emperor of Mexico in 1820, but he declined.[5]

Joseph Bonaparte returned to Europe, where he died in Florence, Italy, and was buried in the Les Invalides building complex in Paris.[6]


Joseph Bonaparte was admitted in Marseille's lodge la Parfaite Sincérité in 1793.[7][8][9] He was asked by his brother Napoleon to monitor freemasonry as Grand Master of Grand Orient of France (1804–1815).[10][11][12][13] With Cambacérès he managed the post-revolution rebirth of the Order in France.[10][14][15][16]


Titles and styles

  • 7 January 1768 – circa 1795: Nobile Giuseppe Buonaparte
  • circa 1795 – 1804: Joseph Bonaparte
  • 1804 – 30 March 1806: Joseph-Napoleon, French Prince
  • 30 March 1806 – 6 June 1808: His Majesty By the Grace of God and the Constitution of the State, King of Naples.
  • 6 June 1808 – 11 December 1813: His Majesty By the Grace of God, King of Spain and the Indies.
  • 1815–1833 (styled, not officially) Count of Survilliers


Fictional portrayals

The romantic web between Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Julie Clary and Désirée Clary was the subject of the 1951 novel Désirée, by Annemarie Selinko.

The novel was filmed as Désirée in 1954, with Marlon Brando as Napoleon, Jean Simmons as Désirée, and Cameron Mitchell as Joseph Bonaparte.


See also


  1. The Growth of a Century: as Illustrated in the History of Jefferson County
  2. 1880 and 1910 US CENSUS Pennsylvania population via
  3. J. M. Thompson, Napoleon Bonaparte: His Rise and Fall (1951) 244-45
  4. Ross, Michael The Reluctant King, 1977, pp. 34–35
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Joseph Bonaparte at Point Breeze". Flat Rock. Retrieved 8 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Kwoh, Leslie (10 June 2007). "Yes, a Bonaparte feasted here". Star Ledger. Retrieved 19 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. La franc-maçonnerie Jean Massicot (Desnoël ed.)
  8. Les Francs-maçons et leur religion Jacques Duchenne (Publibook ed.)
  9. Revue d'histoire de Bayonne, du pays basque et du Bas-Adour, Numéro 159, page 176
  10. 10.0 10.1 Franc-maçonnerie et politique au siècle des lumières: Europe-Amérique page 55 – article Le binôme franc-maçonnerie-Révolution – José Ferrer Benimeli (Presses Univ de Bordeaux ed., 2006)
  11. Histoire de la franc-maçonnerie en France Jean André Faucher and Achille Ricker (Nouvelles éditions latines ed., 1967)
  12. Histoire du Grand Orient de France page 338, Achille Godefroy Jouaust, (Brissard et Teissier ed. 1865)
  13. Chronique de la Franc-maçonnerie en Corse: 1772-1920 page 66 - Charles Santoni ( A. Piazzola ed., 1999)
  14. Les francs-maçons: Des inconditionnels de l'espoir page 22 François Deschatres (L’Harmattan ed. 2012)
  15. Histoire de la franc-maçonnerie en France – page 231 Jean André Faucher and Achille Ricker
  16. Essai sur l'origine et l'histoire de la franc-maçonnerie en Guadeloupe - Guy Monduc (G. Monduc ed., 1985)

Further reading

External links

Joseph Bonaparte
Born: 7 January 1768 Died: 28 July 1844
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ferdinand IV
King of Naples
1806 – 1808
Succeeded by
Joachim I
Preceded by
Ferdinand VII
King of Spain
1808 – 1813
Succeeded by
Ferdinand VII
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Napoléon II
Emperor of the French
King of Italy

22 July 1832 – 28 July 1844
Succeeded by
Louis I