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Joseph I
Joseph I by José Flaugier.
King of Spain and the Indies
King of Naples
Count of Survilliers
Preceded by Ferdinand VII
Succeeded by Ferdinand VII
Preceded by Ferdinand IV
Succeeded by Joachim I
Personal details
Born 7 January 1768
Corte, Corsica
Died 28 July 1844(1844-07-28) (aged 76)
Florence, Tuscany
Spouse(s) Julie Clary
Religion Roman Catholicism

Joseph-Napoleon 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[edit | edit source]

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 title, 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 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.

Spain[edit | edit source]

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 for his alleged heavy drinking, an accusation echoed by later Spanish historiography, despite the fact that Joseph was abstemious. His arrival sparked the 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 defeat of the main French forces to 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 of America[edit | edit source]

Joseph lived primarily in the United States (where he sold the jewels of the Spanish crown he had stolen when he left 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.

He was also reputed to have encountered the Jersey Devil while hunting there.[6]

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

Joseph Bonaparte returned to Europe, where he died in Florence, Italy, and was buried in the Les Invalides building complex in Paris.[7]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Titles and styles[edit | edit source]

  • 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.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

  • Joseph Bonaparte Gulf in the Northern Territory of Australia is named after him.
  • Lake Bonaparte, located in the town of Diana, New York, United States, is also named after him.
  • A main character in play by Clifford Odets is named Joe Bonaparte after him.

Ancestry[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Growth of a Century: as Illustrated in the History of Jefferson County
  2. 1880 and 1910 US CENSUS Pennsylvania population via Ancestry.com
  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. http://www.flatrock.org.nz/topics/new_jersey/new_jerseys_ex_king.htm. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  6. Schlosser, S. E. (2011). "Joseph Bonaparte and the Jersey Devil". AmericanFolklore.net. http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/07/joseph_bonaparte_and_the_jerse.html. Retrieved July 8, 2011. 
  7. Kwoh, Leslie (10 June 2007). "Yes, a Bonaparte feasted here". Star Ledger. http://www.monmouth.edu/newswire/default.asp?iNewsID=4461. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

See also the University of Pennsylvania Press biography: The Man who had been King: The American Exile of Napoleon's Brother Joseph, by Patricia Tyson Stroud. This book received the New Jersey Council for the Humanities first place book award in 2006.

External links[edit | edit source]

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
— TITULAR —
Emperor of the French
King of Italy

22 July 1832 – 28 July 1844
Succeeded by
Louis I

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