I have never ceased for a single moment to feel a brother’s heart beating in my chest
Memorial of Sant’Elena
In this article I will try to outline the relationship and role played by Napoleon Bonaparte’s family during his Empire and, in relation to the question often asked to me, why he did not respect the principle of merit in assigning the various Kingdoms, but rather, he preferred direct assignment to close relatives. In the answer Napoleon can help us directly than in Memorial of Saint Helena expressing a judgment towards her relatives: “But after all they were new to the exercise of sovereignty, young, surrounded by snares, surrounded by flatterers and scheming of every kind. […] which family in identical circumstances would have behaved better? […] It can be said, however, that such a large family has shown itself to be such, on the whole, that I can feel honored by it. […]. Joseph [prosegui l’Imperatore] it would have been the adornment of any society.
[…] To this we must add that, outside politics, we loved each other. I have never ceased for a single moment to feel a brother’s heart beating in my chest. I loved them all and I think that they too, intimately have reciprocated me with equal affection, and that in case of need they would be able to give me proof.“.
I would like to begin by describing the personality of the elder brother Joseph, and the role assigned to him, as a consequence of the trust the Emperor had in him. Even if the criticism of the time was ungenerous considering Joseph of a flattened character, without personality, in the shadow of the giant Napoleon.
Giuseppe, the eldest son of Letizia Ramolino and Carlo Bonaparte, was born just one year before Napoleon. As we well remember, the mother Letizia used to accompany her husband who militated with Pasquale Paoli for the liberation of Corsica, their native land, often on horseback in the suggestive mountains and in the woods challenging the dangers, with just one year old Giuseppe in her arms. .
Joseph Bonaparte was born on 7 January 1768 in Corte in Corsica. His parents desire an ecclesiastical career for him because of his inclination towards culture, but Joseph firmly abandons his ecclesiastical studies. At the age of 10 he had already distinguished himself for the excellent results received at the Jesuit college of Autun. He then graduated in law in Pisa. The relationship between the two brothers, Napoleon and Giuseppe, was one of heartfelt friendship, grown together as children, inseparable for common experiences, the deep bond that united them remained strong even in the face of disputes and misunderstandings, not so rare between brothers. Of different characters: patient Joseph, restless Napoleon, who certainly did not fail to criticize his older brother, but always respecting him. Giuseppe, cultured and refined, does not expect to receive power and money from Napoleon, since even before him he had acquired personal and economic success. Despite the different political ideas, especially with regard to the hereditary succession of the Empire – reason for the hard conflict between the two brothers – Giuseppe always supported Napoleon.
After the death of his father, Carlo Bonaparte, it was Giuseppe who assumed responsibility for his mother and brothers, the last of whom was not yet a year old. He demanded the utmost respect from them and only allowed Napoleon to speak with you. He embraces with conviction the ideas of the Enlightenment and revolutionize. After having held the position of lawyer of the Superior Council of Corsica, judge of the court of Bastia, secretary of General Rossi in Ajaccio, in 1796 Giuseppe fought with Napoleon the first Italian Campaign and distinguished himself as a skilled diplomat of the Italian Republic in the Piacenza duchy and Parma. Napoleon entrusted his brother with important roles of responsibility, during the Consulate and the Empire, in which diplomatic skills were indispensable. These roles were filled with mastery by Joseph, such as the Mortefontaine treaty of 1800 with the United States, the delicate concordat with the Holy See of 1801, the Treaty of Amiens with England of 1802, in which the legitimacy of the French state was recognized. , which together with the Treaty of Lunéville with Austria in 1801, put an end to the second coalition. In 1814 Giuseppe, lieutenant general of the emperor commissioned by his brother Napoleon, he governed the kingdom of Naples from 1806 to 1808 and from 1808 to 1813 Spain with the name of Giuseppe Napoleone I. He was not loved by the people for their hatred of Napoleon. He proved to be a king dedicated to culture and art and he deserves the credit for having contributed during his reign to the creation of the Museum of Fine Arts in Madrid, than in 1819 will be inaugurated by Fernando VII of Bourbon. Today known as the Prado museum, one of the most important art museums in the world. Joseph always proved to be indispensable to Napoleon.
Giuseppe in 1843 not being able to participate in the ceremony of repatriation to Paris of the remains of Napoleon, due to the exile still in force for all the members of the Bonaparte family, he sent the large collar, the ribbon and the insignia of the Legion d honor, worn by Napoleon.
He settled permanently in Florence in 1844, where he died on July 28 of that same year. He was buried in the Giugni Bonaparte chapel in the Basilica Santa Croce. In 1862, his uncle Napoleon III, emperor of the French, obtained permission for the body of the former king of Naples and Spain to be transferred to the Dôme des Invalides in Paris, near his brother Napoleon I.
Thus the two Bonaparte brothers, after so much glory and unexpected defeats, found their children’s hearts under the golden dome.