Early Years and Personal Life
Joseph was born Giuseppe Buonaparte in 1768 to Carlo Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino at Corte, the capital of the Corsican Republic. In the year of his birth, Corsica was invaded by France and conquered the following year. His father was originally a follower of the Corsican Patriot leader, Pasquale Paoli, but later became a supporter of French rule. As a lawyer, politician, and diplomat, Joseph served in the Cinq-Cents and was the French ambassador to Rome. He married Marie Julie Clary on 1 August 1794 in Cuges-les-Pins, France. They had three daughters:
- Julie Joséphine Bonaparte (1796–1796).
- Zénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte (8 July 1801 – 1854); married, in 1822, Charles Lucien Bonaparte.
- Charlotte Napoléone Bonaparte (31 October 1802 – 2 March 1839); married, in 1826, Napoleon Louis Bonaparte.
He claimed the surviving two daughters as his heirs. He also sired two children with Maria Giulia, the Countess of Atri:
- Giulio (1806–)
- Teresa (1808–).
Joseph had two American daughters born at Point Breeze, his estate in Bordentown, New Jersey, by his mistress, Annette Savage ("Madame de la Folie"):
- Pauline Anne; died young.
- Catherine Charlotte (1822–1890); married Col. Zebulon Howell Benton of Jefferson County, New York, and had issue.
In 1795 Joseph was a member of the Council of Ancients, where he used his position to help his brother overthrow the Directory.
The Château de Villandry had been seized by the French Revolutionary government; and, in the early 19th century, Joseph's brother, Emperor Napoleon, acquired the château for him. In 1806, Joseph was given military command of Naples, and shortly afterward was made king by Napoleon, to be replaced two years later by his sister's husband, Joachim Murat. Joseph was then made King of Spain in August 1808, soon after the French invasion.
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