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One of the most beautiful women of her time, nicknamed by her brother Napoleon "the little pagan", Pauline Bonaparte was immortalized by the sculptor Canova as a marble Venus named after Venus Victrix, lying on a couch, a sheet covering her legs. On the eve of his disappearance, Napoleon absolves her of his sins by saying "Pauline, the most beautiful woman of her time was and will remain until the end the best of living creatures ..."
Pauline Bonaparte and General Leclerc
Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon Premier's favorite sister, was born on October 20, 1780 in Ajaccio. At the age of thirteen, she left Corsica to take refuge in Marseille with her family. Lovely, she is courted first by Napoleon's aide-de-camp Junot, then by Stanislas Fréron, but Napoleon does not want to hear about it and brings his sister to Milan. A deep bond of loyalty, friendship and affection will bind them for life. Several suitors show up for the wedding: Duphot is refused, Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc, one of his best officers, is accepted.
He married Pauline in June 1797 and a son named Dermid (name derived from the poetry of Ossian, Scottish bard of the 3rd century), was born the following year. She accompanies her husband, who has become captain general, on his expedition to Santo Domingo. The conquest is almost complete when the blacks revolt and yellow fever appears. The general asks Pauline to embark for France, but she refuses, addressing the women who urge her to leave "are you crying; you are not, like me, Bonaparte's sister. I would only embark with my husband or I will die "...
Finally, her husband died of this fever in November 1802. During this expedition, Pauline had many adventures, with soldiers and officers, mainly hussars. Unfaithful wife can be, but courageous wife, because when her husband disappears, she cuts her hair, deposits it in the coffin, has her heart put in an urn and repatriates the remains to France.
Pauline and Prince Borghese
Napoleon is not done with his sister. In the presence of Joséphine and in a mad rage, one fine day in 1803, he counts the number of lovers of the beautiful Pauline on the fingers of his hand: six! Six lovers in four months… he intervenes to dismiss Jean Joseph Amable Humbert from all his titles, following an affair with Pauline. She must be remarried!
She married, for diplomatic reasons, in November 1803 Prince Camille Borghese, possessing a rich palace and vast estates. Thinking of a flattering alliance, the prince quickly becomes disillusioned, given Pauline's lifestyle, this union even turns out to be ruinous. Despite her excesses, Pauline wants to do good, she is involved in the unfortunate, and has charity houses built for the education of orphans. Passionate about art and letters, she became a patron.
In love with luxury and lacking Parisian pleasures, she finally gets tired of Rome. Her husband aspiring to a calmer life, no longer supporting Pauline's slightly dissolute life, leaves her to retire to Florence. She then decides to return to Paris to settle in the Château de Neuilly. In 1804, she moved to rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré and had to face two sad trials: she lost her son, then during the coronation of her brother who became Napoleon the First on December 2, 1804, she had to carry with her sisters, the drags of Josephine… reluctantly and reluctantly!
Duchess of Guastalla
During this time, her husband became colonel of the carabinieri and appointed general. Napoleon offers them the Duchy of Guastalla, Pauline therefore becomes Duchess, and comes back to him for a while.
In this icy Borghese palace, she falls ill ... boredom. She recovers happily in Plombières, then back in Paris, settles in the Petit Trianon, in Versailles. Always in search of pleasure, she spends more time in Paris with her friends - Maurice de Balincourt, the conductor Félix Biangini, Armand de Canouville, her dear hussar, Achille Tourteau de Septeuil - than in Rome with her husband.
Removed from the court by her brother, following a breach by the Empress Marie Louise in 1810, Pauline spent her time in the south of France, in particular in Gréoux-les-Bains where she took the waters which are famous throughout the country.
Since 1807, she has lived in the Château de la Mignarde near Aix en Provence, a mansion in the Italian tradition, which shelters her love affairs with Count Auguste de Forbin. For more tranquility and rest, it makes the ponds beat to frighten the frogs which croaked too much! She demands a marble bathtub installed there, in which she takes donkey milk baths.
Helping his dear brother Napoleon
In 1813, at the end of her affair with Forbin, she found herself in Nice. When Napoleon fell, she joined him on the island of Elba in 1815, serving as hostess and advisor, and thanks to her, Murat was forgiven, Lucien was reconciled. She uses her own funds and jewelry to improve the life of her dear brother. But she will not be able to join him in Saint Helena, and although Metternich was one of her lovers, he refuses her, on the pretext that her charm risks causing havoc in the garrison!
Encouraged by the Pope, Pauline finds the Prince of Borghese in his villa Paolina, the current French Embassy to the Vatican, to live with him his last years. At the end of her strength, weakened by illness, she died in Florence in June 1825, at the age of forty-five, four years after Napoleon.
- Pauline Bonaparte: Princess Borghese by Antonio Spinosa. Tallandier, 2005.
- Pauline Bonaparte, the Venus of the Empire by Flora Fraser. Editions A. Versailles, May 2011.