III - Minor casualties and two defeats

Jul 2017
It may be unfair towards Messieurs Duroc, Rapp and Talleyrand to refer to them as "minor casualties" in Napoleons's war on bachelorhood. But as there's by far less information on their marriages, except that they didn't turn out to be happy, I'll cut these stories short.

- Géraud (or Gérard) Christophe Michel Duroc may have been the closest thing to an actual friend that Napoleon had. Ever since the campaign in Egypt, he also was best friends with both Eugène Beauharnais and Jean-Baptiste Bessières. The first waited patiently (if not exactly gladly) what destiny and his stepfather had in store for him, and the latter had wisely decided to marry himself to a young lady from his hometown Cahors before Napoleon could get any ideas with regards to him.
Duroc on the other hand had at one point dreamt about marrying Hortense; he even had dared to write her a love letter that Hortense claims to have returned to him unopened (very curious about its content, but unopened). Hortense's marriage to Louis Bonaparte in 1802 put an end to Duroc's hope but Napoleon tried to make amends by arranging, in the same year, for his trusted aide-de-camp to marry Maria de las Nieves Martinez de Hervas, the daughter of a wealthy Spanish financer and a close friend of Hortense from her happy days at Madame Campan's boarding school.
The happy days did not continue for Duroc. At least according to our trusty imperial chatterbox, the Duchess of Abrantes Madame Junot, who claims that poor Duroc had not known "a single day of happiness" in love, at least not in his marriage. Well, we do not know if Duroc ever found love elsewhere but we can guess where he looked for it, as he had a daughter with the famous opera dancer and pantomime Émilie Bigottini - a mistress he had taken on from his buddy Eugène Beauharnais.
The first child from his marriage, a son, would only be born in 1811 and die a year later. A daughter was born in 1812, a mere year before Duroc's death.

- Jean Rapp had been an aide-de-camp to general Desaix. After Desaix's heroic death at Marengo, Napoleon took Rapp into his own service. There's plenty of anecdotes about him in german books (in the narratives he often serves as some kind of "quota german" at Napoleon's court, despite him not being german but alsacian), particularly about his constant vigilance; he's said to be the one to have arrested Staps in Vienna in 1809.
Jean Rapp got married to the daughter of yet another financer whom Napoleon wanted to bind closely to his own destiny, in this case the merchant, grain trader and army supplier Joseph-Ignace Vanlerberghe. Both Vanlerberghe and Duroc's father-in-law had close business ties with Ouvrard, and all three of them were involved in the founding of the "Banque Nationale" and the occasional risky financial deals that threatened to ruin the liquidity of the whole of France.
Rapp married 15-year-old Barbe-Rosalie-Joséphine Vanlerberghe in 1805, and his marriage proved to be bad enough to be divorced in 1810. (There's some advantages to not being catholic.)
Starting in 1807, Rapp became governor of Danzig and stayed in that town for long periods of time. His Danzig mistress Juliane Böttcher bore him two children in 1812 and 1814. In 1816, after the Hundred Days, Rapp married Albertine von Rotberg (two more children). He died in 1821.

- Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord was unlikely to ever marry - being a catholic bishop and all. But I guess that's what revolutions are for.
Having given up his ecclesial career for the wordly one of shrewd diplomat and politician that would make him famous, he was actually officially laicised by Pope Pius and thus free to live a happy, unmarried life with (or at some point in the future maybe without) his long-term mistress, Madame Grand.
Or so he thought.
Now, who was "Madame Grand"? In short: a famous courtesan. Born as Noelle-Cathérine Verlée (sometimes spelled Worlée) in India, she had been married to British civil servant George Francis Grand, but the couple separated after a first scandal caused by the young wife. Her husband sent her to London, from where Madame Grand moved to Paris, taking a series of lovers. After a brief stay in London again during the Revolution, in 1794 she met Talleyrand with whom she had a long and by all appearances happy relationship until 1802 (she was 40 at the time).
While Talleyrand, being laicised, had in some aspect gotten clearance by the Pope for his lifestyle, he failed to take into account his rather prudish First Consul.
Napoleon Bonaparte demanded from Talleyrand to either get himself married to his lady asap - or to kick her out. After all, as one of Napoleon's ministers Talleyrand would need to meet with foreign delegates and embassadors. It wouldn't do for a mere courtesan to do the "honneurs" in Talleyrand's house.
Poor Talleyrand bit the bullet. As soon as the couple was married, their relationship seems to have gone sour. Madame Grand eventually moved back to London. Talleyrand found plenty of consolation elsewhere. If he forgave Napoleon this intrusion? Who knows. Those two surely had more than this bone to pick.


If we count the Lavalette marriage as a successful one, this puts Napoleon's total as a marriage broker so far to 1:4. But of course, the real defeats were handed to him by his own family. I suppose it takes a Bonaparte to truely humiliate a Bonaparte.

First, there was Lucien. Possibly the biggest pighead among the Bonaparte brothers, with Napoleon being a close second. During the Revolution Lucien had married his landlord's daughter Christine Boyer, who had died in 1800, making Lucien free again for a political marriage that Napoleon - by then First Consul of France - would arrange for him.
Well, at least that was the plan. Except that in the meantime Lucien had made the acquaintance of a certain widowed Madame Jouberthon, née Alexandrine de Bleschamps, who quickly became his mistress and - a couple of months after she had given birth to a son - his second wife. An infuriated Napoleon, who saw his plan shattered, and a stubborn Lucien, who would not allow his big brother to have a say in Lucien's private life, gratefully took the opportunity to add some private quarrels to their political ones, ending with Lucien's famous comparison of his own and his brother's marriage: "Like you, I married a widow. But at least mine ain't old and smelly."
By 1804, Lucien had taken his rapidly growing family to Italy, factually exiling himself and breaking off all relations at least with Napoleon (Letizia followed him to Italy, and he did keep a correspondance with other family members). But Napoleon never quite forgot about his plan to marry Lucien to some royal bride. As late as 1807, in a long interview, he tried to convince, coerce or bully Lucien into getting a divorce. The desired bride was Maria Luisa, widowed queen of Etruria. Both parties concerned were equally disgusted by that idea which, of course, did not bother Napoleon much.
Lucien never divorced. When Napoleon had factually annected the Papal States to his Empire, Lucien tried to flee with his family to America. He was captured by the British and allowed to settle in Ludlow. After Napoleon's first abdication in 1814, Lucien returned to Italy. He joined Napoleon during the "Hundred Days" and after the final abdication again lived in exile in his Italian estates. He and Alexndrine had nine children - by all appearances a happy marriage against Napoleon's wishes.

And then there was Jérôme. The Bonaparte's Benjamin, no less than fifteen years Napoleon's junior - a spoilt brat if ever there was one.
Aged fifteen, he had originally joined the Consular Guard but had to leave the same year after an illegal duel (the reason was, rather unsurprisingly, a woman) with Davout's brother. Napoleon decided that the marine would be the perfect place for his little brother to learn discipline.
It might have worked. With everybody but Jérôme.
After general Savary had taken the defiant youngest Bonaparte to Brest, he was explicitely ordered to stay in town until Jérôme's ship had left port and gotten out of sight - just in case Jérôme attempted to jump overboard and swim back, it is to be assumed. Despite his original defiance, Jérôme quickly rose to higher ranks, and by 1803 le capitaine Bonaparte suddenly showed up in the United States, in New York to be precise, very ready to let himself be celebrated in society as the brother of the famous First Consul of France.
In the course of these celebrations he met a certain Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson, daughter of a wealthy merchant from Baltimore, Maryland. Betsy had long decided that she deserved a better place of life than Baltimore and that only Europe was truely worthy of her. Meeting the brother of the most powerful man in Europe to her was a sign from heaven - and the young man was elegant and charming to boot.
In short: she would not let this prize escape her.
Betsy's father seems to have been a very sober-minded, practical man, and he calculated pretty early on that a son-in-law like Jérôme Bonaparte might, in the long run, be a costly acquisition, particularly as there were already warnings that the First Consul of France might not be happy about a wedding without his agreement.
But what do you do if the couple is as decided and stubborn as Betsy and Jérôme? The marriage took place on Christmas 1803.
In Paris, Napoleon fumed. That was the second brother who defied the matrimonial plans he had carved out for them - it was almost as if they had no faith in him! This meant that all of his brothers were married, and brought down Napoleon's chances to marry a male relative into one of the royal families to only one: his step-son Eugène.
But Napoleon was not ready to simply accept such a fait-accompli. He immediately declared the marriage invalid. Luckily for Napoleon, there always was an easy way to bring Jérôme to his senses: cut his fundings. The French Consul in the USA was forbidden to hand out any more money to Jérôme, and Mr. Patterson, who had no ambition to finance that wastrel of a Frenchman all on his own, suggested the young couple should try to come to an understanding with the all powerful brother in Paris. He sent one of his sons to France, who received mixed signals from the Bonaparte family regarding Jérôme's fate, and while in France Napoleon crowned himself emperor and traveled to Italy in order to crown himself king, Betsy (already pregnant) and her husband got onboard the "Erin" and crossed the Atlantic.
They landed in Lissabon - well, at least Jérôme did. Officials made it made pretty clear that Betsy would not be allowed to set foot on French soil, so it was suggested she stay on the "Erin" and go to the "neutral" port of Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, two French ships then denied the "Erin" passage. In the meantime, Jérôme was on his way to see big brother and to defend his and his wife's rights to marital happiness. As was to be expected, his resolve did not survive the first interview with Napoleon. He sullenly took up his naval duties again while writing to his wife that he was trying to work something out with Napoleon. Poor Betsy by then had finally reached London, where - a fine irony - she gave birth to one of Napoleon's nephews (Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte, nicknamed "Bo", who would grow up to be a very reasonable young man, not at all impressed by his oh-so-noble relations, and whose main concern during his only stay in Europe was that he was unable to get a good steak anywhere).
In the meantime, Jérôme may still have hoped to be able to one day reunite his little family. Hortense describes in one of her letters to her brother that Jérôme, on visiting her, had talked about nothing but his wife and how he would always remain faithful to her and never take another, no matter what Napoleon wished for. Hortense kinda ruins the effect however by adding "Well, that's what he said..."
Her scepticism was warranted. Once Napoleon had annulled Jérôme's marriage, he could always marry him off a second time - except that this time, Jérôme's first wedding having been a catholic one, the bride would need to be protestant. She was found by 1807: Katharina von Württemberg, a plump and rather plain little german princess, who was however quite happy to escape a tyrannical father and would bear Jérôme's neglect and constant infidelities with remarkable dignity (well, she later apparently did complain to Marie Louise, to the point that Marie Louise tried to escape her company).
As for Betsy, apparently Jérôme never quite forgot her. Once he was safely installed in his kingdom of Westphalia, he suggested Betsy and "Bo" should move to a nearby castle. Betsy, infuriated by a suggestion that would factually turn her, Jérôme's rightful wife, into his mistress, refused and instead accepted a financial agreement with Napoleon.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
Lecture I liked. on family Politics and Napoleon.

Power and Pettiness - Lecture 1 - Domestic Dramas : The Beauharnais versus the Bonapartes