Elisa Bonaparte


Elisa Bonaparte
Elisa Bonaparte
Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Duchess of Lucca and Princess of Piombino
Countess of Compignano
Elisa Bonaparte (about 1805, painted by Marie-Guillemine Benoist).
Grand Duchess of Tuscany
Reign 3 March 1809 - 1 February 1814
Predecessor Ferdinand III
Successor Ferdinand III
Duchess of Lucca and Princess of Piombino
Reign 19 March 1805 - 18 March 1814
Spouse Felice Pasquale Baciocchi
Issue
Felix Napoléon Baciocchi
Elisa Napoléone Baciocchi
Jérôme Charles Baciocchi
Frédéric Napoléon Baciocchi
Full name
Maria Anna Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy
House House of Bonaparte
Father Carlo Buonaparte
Mother Letizia Ramolino
Born 3 January 1777
Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Died 7 August 1820(1820-08-07) (aged 43)
Trieste, Austrian Empire
Religion Roman Catholicism

Maria Anna (Marie Anne) Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi Levoy, Princesse Française, Duchess of Lucca and Princess of Piombino, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Countess of Compignano (3 January 1777 – 7 August 1820) was the fourth surviving child and eldest surviving daughter of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino, making her the younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. Her other elder siblings were Joseph and Lucien, whilst her younger siblings were Louis, Pauline, Caroline and Jerome.

As princess of Piombino and Lucca, then grand duchess of Tuscany, she was his only sister to possess real political power, though her sharp tongue often caused troubles in her relations with him. Highly interested in the arts, particularly the theatre, she encouraged them in the territories over which she ruled.

Contents

Life

French Monarchy -
Bonaparte Dynasty
Imperial Coat of Arms of France (1804-1815).svg

Napoleon I
Children
   Napoleon II
Siblings
   Joseph, King of Spain
   Lucien, Prince of Canino
   Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany
   Louis, King of Holland
   Pauline, Princess of Guastalla
   Caroline, Queen of Naples
   Jérôme, King of Westphalia
Nephews and nieces
   Princess Zénaïde
   Princess Charlotte
   Prince Charles
   Prince Louis
   Prince Pierre
   Prince Napoleon Charles
   Prince Napoleon Louis
   Napoleon III
   Prince Jérôme
   Prince Napoleon Joseph
   Princess Mathilde
Grandnephews and -nieces
   Prince Joseph
   Prince Lucien-Louis
   Prince Roland
   Princess Jeanne
   Prince Charles
   Prince Jerome
   Napoleon (V) Victor
   Maria Letizia, Duchess of Aosta
Great Grandnephews and -nieces
   Princess Marie
   Princess Marie Clotilde
   Napoleon (VI) Louis
Great Great Grandnephews and -nieces
   Napoleon (VII) Charles
   Princess Catherine
   Princess Laure
   Prince Jerome
Great Great Great Grandnephews and -nieces
   Princess Caroline
   Prince Jean-Christophe
Napoleon II
Napoleon III
Children
   Napoleon (IV), Prince Imperial

Youth

Élisa Bonaparte as a child (Lorenzo Bartolini)

Élisa was born in Ajaccio, Corsica. She was christened Maria-Anna but later adopted the nickname Élisa as her official name (it was originally given to her as a nickname by her brother Lucien, to whom she became very close in childhood). In June 1784, a bursary allowed her to attend the Maison royale de Saint-Louis at Saint-Cyr, where she was frequently visited by her brother Napoleon during her studies. The Legislative Assembly decreed the Maison's closure on 16 August 1792 and Élisa left on 1 September to be taken back to Ajaccio by Napoleon.

Around 1795, the Bonaparte family set up home in Marseille, where Élisa got to know Pasquale Baciocchi Levoy, who later changed his name to Félix Baciocchi Levoy (1762–1841). A Corsican nobleman who had formerly been a captain in the Royal Corse, he had been dismissed from his rank upon the French Revolution. He and Élisa married in a civil ceremony in Marseille on 1 August 1797 then in a religious ceremony in Mombello, where Napoleon had a villa and to which he had moved his family in June 1797. The religious ceremony went ahead, on the same day as her sister Pauline's marriage to general Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc, despite Napoleon's initial reservations as to Élisa's choice, since Félix had a reputation as a poor captain.

In July Félix was promoted to chef de bataillon, with the command of the citadel at Ajaccio. In 1799, the Bonaparte family moved to Paris, with Élisa setting up home at 125 rue de Miromesnil, in the quartier du Roule, where she held receptions and put on plays. On the rise of the Consulate, she and her brother Lucien held an artistic and literary salon at the hôtel de Brissac, at which she met the journalist Louis de Fontanes, with whom she had a deep friendship for several years. On 14 May 1800, on the death of Lucien's first wife, Christine Boyer, Élisa took Lucien's two daughters under her protection, placing the eldest, Charlotte, in Madame Campan's boarding school for young women at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. At the start of November 1800, Lucien had to leave his job as minister of the interior and was sent to Madrid as French ambassador to the court of the king of Spain, with Élisa's husband Felice Baciochi as his secretary. Élisa remained in Paris, but kept up a regular correspondence with her brother.

On 18 May, the French Senate voted in favour of setting up the First French Empire, and Élisa and Napoleon's other sisters were established as members of the Imperial family, taking the title "Altesse impériale" ("Imperial Highness"), with Felice Baciocchi being promoted to général de brigade and then made a senator.

Princess of Piombino and Lucca

Coat of Arms of the Princess

Her separation from her husband in 1805 was seen favorably by Napoleon (though on her promotion to Lucca he soon rejoined her). On 19 March 1805, Napoleon awarded her the Principality of Piombino, which had been French property for some years and was of major strategic interest to Napoleon due to its proximity to Elba and Corsica. Felice and Élisa took the titles of prince and princess of Piombino. In June 1805 the oligarchic republic of Lucca (occupied by France since late 1799) was turned into a principality and added to Felice and Élisa's domain, with their entry into Lucca and investiture ceremony following on 14 July 1805.

Napoleon had contemptously called Lucca the "dwarf Republic", due to its small size in terms of territory, but despite this it was a bulwark of political, religious and commercial independence. Most of the power over Lucca and Piombino was exercised by Élisa, with Félix taking only a minor role and contenting himself with only taking military decisions. The inhabitants of Lucca, under French occupation and grudging the loss of their independence, knew Elisa ironically as "la Madame" and had little sympathy for Napoleon, Elisa or their attempts to "Frenchify" the republic.

Very active and concerned with administering the area, she was surrounded at Lucca by ministers who largely remained in place right to the end of her reign. These ministers included her minister of justice Luigi Matteucci, her minister of the interior and foreign affairs Francesco Belluomini (replaced in October 1807 by his son Giuseppe), her finance ministers Jean-Baptiste Froussard (head of the cabinet) and later Pierre d'Hautmesnil (with the budget portfolio). She also set up a court and court étiquette inspired by those at the Tuileries.

On 31 March 1806 Napoleon withdrew Massa and Carrara from the kingdom of Italy to add to Élisa's possessions. Carrara was one of the biggest white marble suppliers in Europe and Élisa bolstered her prestige by establishing an Académie des Beaux-Arts designed to host the greatest sculptors and thus make Carrara an exporter of marble statues, which had a greater value than the raw marble. She also set up the Banque Élisienne to give financial aid to sculptors and workers on marble taxes. She reformed the clergy at Lucca and Piombino from May 1806, during which reforms she nationalised their goods and lands and closed down convents which did not also function as hotels or schools. She also carried out legislative reform in Lucca, producing laws inspired by the Code Napoleon (such as the notable "Codice rurale del Principato di Piombino", issued on 24 March 1808) and producing a new penal code which was promulgated in 1807 and first reformed in 1810.

In 1807 she set up the Committee of Public Charity for distributing charity funds, made up of clergy and lay-people, and also instituted free medical consultations for the poor so as to eradicate the diseases then ravaging Lucca's population. She demolished Piombino's hospital to build a new one in the former monastery of San Anastasia, with the new building opening in 1810, and also set up the Casa Sanitaria, a dispensary in the town's port. On 5 May 1807 decreed the established of the Committee for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Arts and Commerce to encourage and finance the invention of new machines and new techniques to increase the territories' agricultural production and experimental plantations such as those of mulberries at Massa, where an École Normale de la Soie (Silk School) was created on 16 August 1808.

Élisa also set up many teaching establishments in Lucca and, in 1809, a Direction Générale de l'Instruction Publique (General Department of Public Education). On 1 December 1807 she set up the Collège Félix, the only boys' secondary school in the principality. For girls, she began by fixing set curricula for convents that also operated as schools, then set up a body of "dames d'inspection" to verify that these curricula were being adhered to. Teaching of girls aged 5 to 8 was made compulsory, though the laws were not always well applied. On 2 July 1807 Élisa founded the Institut Élisa within the limits of a former convent for noble-born girls, to produce well-educated and cultivated future wives. On 29 July 1812 Élisa set up an establishment for young poor girls, the Congregazione San Felice, though this did not long outlive Élisa's fall.

As with Napoleon, Élisa set up city improvement works in her territories, mainly to expand the princely palaces. These works were hotly contested, especially in Lucca, where the expansion of the princely palaces necessitated the demolition of the church of San Pietro in March 1807. She also razed an entire block in Lucca to build a piazza in the French style in front of her city residence (now the seat of the province and the prefecture). That block had included the church of San Paolo with the venerated image of the Madonna dei miracoli [1] and so its demolition seriously affected the city's medieval architecture and almost sparked a revolt.

At Massa, she demolished a cathedral on 30 April 1807. The palace at Lucca was fully redecorated and the gardens improved, with the creation of a botanical garden with a menagerie and aviary in 1811. She also began road construction, notably the "route Friedland" to link Massa and Carrara, with work beginning on 15 August 1807 but becoming delayed and only completed in 1820. Lucca's status as a spa town was also bolstered by her improvement of the architecture and decor of the town's baths. She began construction of an aqueduct into Lucca in 1811, but this too was only completed after her fall.

Grand duchess of Tuscany

Elisa, as Grand Duchess of Tuscany, supported Napoleon’s desire to unify Italy under Bonapartist rule.

On 21 March 1801 Lucien Bonaparte and the king of Spain had signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso, which restored Louisiana to France and in exchange established the kingdom of Etruria by dividing Tuscany. The new kingdom was initially put in the charge of the infante Maria Louisa and her husband Louis, but he rapidly proved to be a poor ruler and was also soon widowed. Thus, on 29 October 1807, Napoleon signed the treaty of Fontainebleau with the Spanish court. This transferred Tuscany to France and in November that year Marie-Louise left the kingdom. From 12 May 1808 Tuscany was entrusted to an intermediary governor Abdallah Jacques Menou, a French soldier who had converted to Islam during Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, but his way of life and lack of interest in the territory's affairs forced Napoleon to recall him on 5 April 1809. From 1808 Élisa has wished to become governor of Tuscany, but at the end of that year an illness temporarily prevented her from taking part in state affairs. She recovered in February 1809 and on 2 and 3 March that year a decree officially created the grand duchy of Tuscany and made Florence its capital and Élisa its grand duchess, with Félix being promoted to général de division. However, unlike her relative autonomy in Lucca and Piomobino, in Tuscany Élisa was ordered to enforce the decisions of Napoleon and his ministers with no power to modify those decisions.

On 2 April 1809 Élisa arrived in Florence, where she was coldly received by the nobility, the more so since her arrival coincided with a revolt against compulsory conscription, in the course of which a mayor and a judge were assassinated. That conscription and the many new taxes imposed on Tuscany by Napoleon both proved the source of many conflicts in the region. As at Lucca, Élisa tried to nationalise the goods of the clergy and closed many convents. The first two volumes of the "Annali del Museo Imperiale di Fisica e Storia Naturale" of Florence were dedicated to her, in 1808 and 1809 - the observatory at that museum of physics and natural history was the ancestor of Florence's present-day Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri.

Élisa also got caught up in Napoleon's removal of pope Pius VII. Pius had opposed the Empire's annexation of the Papal States, refused to renounce his temporal powers and excommunicated Napoleon in the bull Quum memoranda on 10 June 1809, and so Napoleon put general Étienne Radet in charge of removing the pope and thus the opposition he was arousing against Napoleon. The removal occurred on the night of 6 July 1809 and in the following days took the pope towards Savona, passing by Florence, where Élisa not only did not welcome the pope in person but also asked his kidnappers to get out of the area as soon as possible, so as not to displease her brother by welcoming his enemy too comfortably or too long.

Élisa's relations with Napoleon were already becoming more and more strained, with Napoleon frequently recalling her for any irregularity in her execution of his orders in Tuscany. On 17 March 1810, Élisa arrived in Paris for Napoleon's marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria, but Napoleon took advantage of this to reclaim the payments from his grants of Massa and Carrara. Returning to Tuscany, she found Napoleon still claiming these payments via his envoys but refused to pay them, arguing that the territories had too few resources to pay (Napoleon was claiming 200,000 lira). He thus threatened to take Carrara back from her and in May 1811 also demanded conscription in Lucca, which had previously been spared this. On returning to Lucca from Florence did not find herself welcome. Back in Lucca, she restored the villa now known as the Villa Reale di Marlia.

Fall and exile

In 1813, with Napoleon facing the allied coalition after his Russian campaign, Caroline Bonaparte's husband Joachim Murat, king of Naples, put the defence of his subjects over support for his brother in law and split from him to join the Austrian forces. The Neapolitans marched on Rome and on 1 February 1814 Élisa had to abdicate her title as Grand Duchess on the restoration of Grand Duke Ferdinand III and leave Tuscany for Lucca. In March, the Neapolitans captured Massa and Carrara and the Anglo-Austrian forces under Lord William Bentinck captured Lucca, forcing the pregnant Élisa to flee on the night of 13 March 1814. She made several short stays in Italy and France, notably seeking support in Marseille for her to be able to return to Italy as a private individual. Those requests were denied and she was able to stay in Austria for a time thanks to her brother Jérôme Bonaparte before moving to the Villa Caprara in Trieste.

Napoleon was exiled to Elba on 1 March 1815 and Élisa was arrested on 25 March before being interned in the fortress of Brünn in Austria. At the end of August, she was freed and authorised to stay in Trieste with the title of countess of Compignano. She then acquired a country house at Villa Vicentina near Cervignano and began financing archaeological digs in the region. In June 1820 she contracted a fatal illness, probably on an excavation site, and died on 7 August aged 43, becoming the only adult sibling of Napoleon Bonaparte who did not survive him. She was buried in the San Petronio Basilica of Bologna.

Marriage and issue

She married Felice Pasquale Baciocchi Levoy, a member of Corsican nobility, on 1 May 1797, created Prince Français, Duke of Lucca and Prince of Piombino and Prince of Massa-Carrara and La Garfagnana. They were parents of four children:

  • Felix Napoléon Baciocchi Levoy (1798–1799).
  • Elisa Napoléone Baciocchi Levoy (1806–1869).
    She married Philippe, Comte Camerata-Passioneï de Mazzoleni, one son Charles Félix Jean-Baptiste Camerata-Passionei di Mazzoleni
  • Jérôme Charles Baciocchi Levoy (1810–1811).
  • Frédéric Napoléon Baciocchi Levoy (1813–1833).

Ancestry

Bibliography

  • (French) Florence Vidal, Élisa Bonaparte, éd. Pygmalion, 2005. 310 p. (ISBN 2857049692)
  • (French) Emmanuel de Beaufond, Élisa Bonaparte, princesse de Lucques et de Piombino, Paris : L'Univers (brochure hors-série du quotidien catholique), 1895. 32 p.
  • (French) Paul Marmottan, Élisa Bonaparte, Paris : H. Champion, 1898. 317 p.
  • (French) Jean d'Hertault, comte de Beaufort (under the pseudonym Jean de Beaufort), Élisa Bonaparte, princesse de Lucques et Piombino, grande-duchesse de Toscane (1777–1820), 1904 (brochure de 16 pages)
  • (French) Sforza, Giovanni, I figli di Elisa Baciocchi, in Ricordi e biografie lucchesi, Lucca, tip.ed. Baroni 1916 [ma 1918]. p. 269-293

References

Elisa Bonaparte
Born: 13 January 1777 Died: 7 August 1820
Regnal titles
Preceded by
To France
Princess of Lucca
1805–1814
Succeeded by
Maria Louisa of Spain
Preceded by
Antonio I Boncompagni-Ludovisi
Princess of Piombino
1805–1808
Succeeded by
Felice Boncompagni-Ludovisi



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