BONAPARTE, ELISABETH “BETSY” PATTERSON. (1785-1879). American socialite and first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoléon’s youngest brother. ALS. (“E. Patterson”). 1p. Oblong 12mo. (3½” x 7”). N.p. [London?], “Tuesday Evening,” October 25. To Mrs. Everet.

“I am just arrived at Morang’s Hotel Duke Street No 27. I shall be most happy to see you tomorrow morning…”

The daughter of wealthy Baltimore businessman William Patterson, Betsy met and married Jérôme Bonaparte, youngest brother of First Consul Napoléon, who was visiting the United States with the French navy. Despite her father and Napoléon’s disapproval, the young lovers were married by the bishop of Baltimore on Christmas Eve, 1803, and caused a sensation. Already known for her wit and beauty, Betsy further scandalized Baltimore society by dressing in revealing French fashions. Napoléon demanded that Jérôme have the marriage annulled and ordered him back to France. Defying his brother, Jérôme and his pregnant wife, set sail for Europe in 1804. After two failed attempts to reach France, Napoléon banned Betsy from disembarking and Jérôme left for Italy without her to reason with his older brother. Despite the diplomatic intervention of James Madison and Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Napoléon would not relent, and the couple never reunited. Betsy gave birth to their son, Jérôme Napoleon “Bo” Bonaparte, in July 1805 in London while the child’s father, deep in debt, returned to his naval post and, by order of Napoléon, married Catharina of Württemberg, a German Princess in 1807. After Napoleon made Jérôme King of Westphalia, which he ruled from 1807 to 1813, Jérôme offered Betsy a pension, a home in Westphalia and the title of Princess of Smalkalden but she refused, accepting, instead, an annuity from Napoléon, observing that she would prefer “being sheltered under the wing of an eagle to being suspended from the bill of a goose.” She returned to Baltimore where she lived with her son. In 1815 she was granted a divorce by a special act of the Maryland legislature but returned to Europe after Napoléon’s defeat at Waterloo, using the name “Madame Bonaparte.” Despite her severed royal connection, she continued to be a prominent member of society both in the United States and abroad. Her grandson, Charles Joseph Bonaparte, served as Theodore Roosevelt’s secretary of the navy and attorney general. Betsy’s love affair with Jérôme has been the subject of numerous plays, films and books. Curiously, Betsy’s widowed sister-in-law, Marianne Patterson, granddaughter of Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll of Carrollton, married the brother of Napoléon’s nemesis, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. When she died at the age of 94, Betsy left an estate of more than $1.5 million.

Age toned with some ink transfer; two tiny holes in the blank, left corner; in very good condition and quite rare. [indexhistory]

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