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Louis Bonaparte

Louis Bonaparte

The French statesman Louis Bonaparte (1778-1846), younger brother of Napoleon I, was king of Holland from 1806 to 1810.

Louis Bonaparte was born at Ajaccio, Corsica, on Sept. 2, 1778, the seventh child of Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino. He received a military education in France, and in 1796 he joined his brother Napoleon in Italy, where he served 2 years with the army. In 1798 he accompanied Napoleon to Egypt as his aide-de-camp. Returning to France in 1799, Louis played no part in the coup d'etat of Brumaire. In 1802 Napoleon and Josephine arranged a marriage between Louis and Hortense de Beauharnais, Josephine's daughter by her first marriage. But the marriage was based on neither love nor mutual respect and proved to be an unhappy experience for both.

Louis showed no aptitude for military life and did not take part in the numerous French campaigns. In 1806 Napoleon placed him on the throne of Holland, but he was never satisfied with his younger brother's actions. The Emperor intended Holland to be a satellite kingdom governed in the best interests of France; Louis, however, chose to defend Holland's national interests. In 1808 Louis was offered the throne of Spain, which he refused; it was subsequently accepted by his brother Joseph. Napoleon's displeasure mounted through 1809-1810 because of Louis's lax enforcement of the continental blockade, which was ruining Dutch trade. Finally, in 1810, after repeated attempts to bring his brother into line, Napoleon sent French troops into Holland and forced Louis to flee to Austria.

Louis had unsuccessfully tried to divorce his wife in 1810; and when he fled the empire, she remained behind with their three sons, the youngest of whom later reigned as Napoleon III. Louis took no further part in the affairs of the French Empire. After his brother's abdication in 1814, he settled permanently in Rome. During the revolutions of 1830 he encouraged the nationalist and liberal factions in Italy and expressed satisfaction that his two sons fought for Italian unity. In 1831 his older son, Napoleon Louis (his firstborn, Napoleon Charles, had died at the age of 5), was killed in battle during the Romagna campaign. His younger son, Charles Louis Napoleon, having assumed the leadership of the Bonaparte cause, was imprisoned in 1840 after two unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the reigning Orléans king. Louis did not live to see his son proclaimed emperor of the French in 1852. He died in Rome on July 25, 1846.

Further Reading

There is no good biography of Louis Bonaparte in English. A. Hilliard Atteridge, Napoleon's Brothers (1909), and R. F. Delderfield, The Golden Millstones: Napoleon's Brothers and Sisters (1964), cover his life completely if not in great depth. The best available work on his unhappy marriage with Hortense de Beauharnais is Denis A. Bingham, The Marriages of the Bonapartes (2 vols., 1881; 2d ed. 1882). See also Alain Decaux, Napoleon's Mother (1959; trans. 1962). □

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Bonaparte, Louis

Bonaparte, Louis (1778–1846) King of Holland (1806–10), brother of Napoleon I and father of Napoleon III. He accompanied his brother in the Italian and Egyptian campaigns, became a general (1804) and governor of Paris (1805). Forced by Napoleon to assume the Dutch throne, he worked to restore its economy and welfare, but the French Continental System proved ruinous to Dutch trade. Napoleon felt he was too lenient and the conflict led Louis to abdicate.

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