Thursday, November 29, 2012


Santa Croce, Florence Italy
According to Gourgaud, Napoleon Bonaparte once said, "Io sono Italiano o Toscano, piutosto che Corso" ( "I am more Italian or Tuscan than Corsican").  In spite of having been born in Ajaccio on Corsica, the etymology of his name is completely Italian.  "Leone" is the Italian word for "Lion," thus his first name means "Leone di Napoli" or "Lion of Naples".  "Buona" means "good" in Italian while "Parte" means "parts" or "sides" thus his surname "Buonaparte" means "Goodparts".

Napoleon's brother Lucien lived in Florence for while (see earlier post Napoleon and the Rebel, 10/24/12).  His sister Pauline (the beautiful one sculpted by Canova) died in Florence, though she is buried in Rome.

Bonaparte Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence
The Bonaparte or "Buonaparte" family had roots in the small Tuscan town of San Miniato, about 40 kilometers from Florence.  Napoleon was the King of Italy as well as The Emperor of the French.  His short-lived Kingdom of Italy was an inspiration for subsequent Italian nationalists such as Cavour and Garibaldi.

Tomb of Julie Bonaparte 1771 - 1845, Santa Croce, Florence IT
A contemporary visitor to Florence can easily find reminders of Napoleon and his Italian connections.  Step inside the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Croce (see photo above and link... and you will find the tomb of Napoleon's sister-in-law Marie Julie Bonaparte ( who was married to his eldest brother Joseph, the King of Spain.  She had been born Marie Julie Clary the daughter of a prosperous silk merchant from Marseille.  Her sister Desiree Clary married Napoleon's Marshal Bernadotte who later became the King of Sweden.  The Swedish royal family of today are, therefore, linear descendants from the French bourgeoisie with an assist from Napoleon.

Charlotte Napoleone Bonaparte 1802 - 1829
Facing Julia's tomb in Santa Croce you will see the tomb of her daughter and Napoleon's niece, Charlotte Napoleone Bonaparte (  Charlotte had married her first cousin Napoleon Louis, the second son of Louis Bonaparte and Hortense de Beauharnais.  Charlotte Bonaparte, much like the fictional Lady Sybil Branson (of Downton Abbey), died in childbirth at age 26. Unlike Sybil, however, Charlotte's child did not survive her death.

Lady Sybil Branson (played by Jessica Brown Findlay), Downton Abbey
Commander Kelly says "Charlotte Bonaparte is a poignant reminder of the precarious and vulnerable position of women in the 19th century. Her tomb in Santa Croce is a tangible proof of Napoleon's Italian heritage and his lasting impact on Italy."

Tomb of Charlotte Napoleone Bonaparte, Santa Croce

Charlotte (on left) and sister Zenaide Bonaparte by Davide


P Scott Cummins said...

Note to all in the blacked-out colonies, DOWNTON ABBEY SPOILER ALERT - and its a doozie!

Unknown said...

This looks so interesting! Hoping to read it more thoroughly when I have time.

Mad Padre said...

Thanks for this helpful post. I was in Santa Croce last week and noticed the Bonaparte Chapel there, but didn't possess a good command of the Bonaparte family tree at the time and wasn't sure who was buried in that tomb. I mistakenly thought it was NB's second wife. I was also pleased to see some NB items at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, including his imperial bathtub, though I'm not sure he got to soak in it much.
Ciao, Michael Peterson