Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon's American nephew. From Shannon Selin:
Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte was born on July 7, 1805 in Camberwell, which was then a separate town south of London in the United Kingdom. His mother brought him to the United States a few months after his birth. Jerome spent his childhood under the care of Betsy and her father, the wealthy Baltimore merchant William Patterson. Betsy nicknamed Jerome “Bo.” She also called him “Cricket.” Though the Pattersons were Protestants, Betsy had Jerome baptized as a Catholic, hoping that the Bonapartes might one day acknowledge him in the imperial line of succession.

Betsy believed that Jerome should receive an education suitable to a person of high status. He took his early schooling at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. When Jerome was 14, Betsy moved to Geneva and placed him in a school there. One gets a sense of the boy’s life from a letter Betsy wrote to her father in April 1820:
The French Chargé at Amsterdam refused me a passport for [Bo] to travel through France.… [H]e said his resemblance to the emperor was so striking that it would expose me to great inconvenience in that country….
[T]his child has more conversation and better manners, a more graceful presentation than other children of his age…and I am constantly tormented with the fear of seeing him spoiled by the compliments paid him in society. … He has grown taller and much better looking; he is thought very handsome, but I do not myself think him by any means a beauty, and regret that others tell him so, as it is a kind of praise which never made any one better or happier. …
Bo has written to you for money to buy a horse, which I beg you not to send him. He pretends it will be more economical for him to keep a horse than for me to pay nine francs per week for riding lessons; but I prefer paying twice that sum rather than allow him to ride about the country. …
Bo has lessons of every kind. His hours of recreation are filled by dancing, fencing and riding…. He speaks French very fluently, as he takes all his lessons in this language, the knowledge of which I always considered highly important in his circumstances. (1)
Meanwhile, Bo was keen to get back to the United States. He wrote to his grandfather: “Since I have been in Europe I have dined with princes and princesses and all the great people in Europe, but I have not found a dish as much to my taste as the roast beef and beef-steaks I ate in South Street” (at his grandfather’s house). In another letter he added,
I never had any idea of spending my life on the continent; on the contrary as soon as my education is finished, which will not take me more than two years longer, I shall hasten over to America, which I have regretted ever since I left it. (2)
(Read more.)

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