Famous Family History Napoleon Bonaparte Parents Part 1

About the family of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, biography and history of his mother and father.


NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (1769-1821), French emperor

A natural military genius, Napoleon rose quickly up through the ranks of the French army to become commander in chief in Italy and Egypt. As the result of a coup d'etat in 1799 he was named first consul, and in 1804 he had himself crowned emperor. Although he achieved spectacular military successes as emperor, he was forced to abdicate after his army suffered severe casualties in Russia in 1812, followed by a decisive defeat at Leipzig in 1813. He was removed to Elba in 1814, but he returned to France the following year and attempted to reinstate his empire. After his final defeat at Waterloo in June, 1815, he was exiled to St. Helena, where he died six years later.

His Roots: The mountainous Mediterranean island of Corsica was appropriate ground to nourish the roots of Napoleon Bonaparte, for it had seen centuries of political conflict, having been occupied successively by Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Lombards, Arabs, Pisans, Genoese, French, and then Genoese and French again by the time of Napoleon's birth in 1769.

Appropriately, too, Napoleon's parents (as he himself said later) saw themselves as the Bourbons of the island, the natural royalty. The Buonaparte family was of ancient Tuscan nobility, having emmigrated to the island in the 16th century. Carlo Maria was a most promising progeny. He was handsome and charming, and before he went to Pisa to study law at age 16, he made his intentions known to Letizia Ramolino, a black-eyed, chestnut-haired beauty, then age 12. Although less aristocratic, the Ramolinos were an even older Corsican family, and Letizia's mother's clan, the Pietra-Santas, were older yet. Families in Corsica were insular and proud. It was merely a matter of course that 14-year-old Letizia was escorted to the Ajaccio Cathedral by more than 50 male cousins on her wedding day, June 2, 1764.

During the 20 years that Carlo and Letizia were married, she bore him 12 children, 8 of whom survived infancy. The beginning of their married life was an exciting period spent at the political capital of Corte, where Carlo's oratorical abilities had placed him second in command to the revolutionary leader Pasquale di Paoli. Genoa had ceded Corsica to France, but when Louis XV sent troops to ensure the purchase, Paoli and his followers resisted. Six months pregnant, Letizia spent the month of May, 1769, crossing and recrossing the Corsican mountains on horseback and hiding out with Carlo and other partisans in the caves. But the French were too strong. The resisters made an honorable peace, and Carlo and Letizia returned to Ajaccio in time for the birth, on the Feast of the Assumption, of their second son, whom they named for Letizia's uncle and fellow partisan, Napoleone.

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