Husband of Elizabeth, and King of Westphalia
(From "The Napoleon Dynasty")
In December, 1936, Edward VIII, King of Great Britain and Ireland, Emperor of India, and Defender of the Faith, gave up his throne for the sake of a twice-divorced Baltimore woman, Wallis Warfield. In December, 1803, Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, then First Consul and soon to be Emperor, married the beautiful Elizabeth Patterson, also of Baltimore, and thereby incurred the wrath of his brother and was shut out from the succession of the new French dynasty. The history of Edward's marriage is yet to be written. The marriage of Jerome and Elizabeth was full of sorrow and tragedy.
Jerome Bonaparte, the youngest of Napoleon's brothers, was born in Corsica, November 15, 1784. He was thus fifteen years younger than Napoleon. He was put to school at Juilly and at an early age entered the French navy. He is described as an affectionate though impulsive and wayward youth. Napoleon frequently referred to him as a little scoundrel. In his early days he spent much time at Malmaison with Josephine, who was ever fond of children. "This sojourn in the salon of his sister-in‑law spread over his while life a perfume of elegance and so to speak une odeur de femme: not only did he love the women which is common, but he knew how to talk to them and to please them. He had p18with everybody, even with men, polite manners which were not acquired; a greeting which left no one indifferent; a seduction which attracted even those who were forewarned, and a prodigality which showed how well he had profited by the lessons of his instructress."1
In 1801 Jerome sailed with the French expedition to Santo Domingo. In charge of this expedition was General Le Clerc, who had married Napoleon's sister, Pauline, regarded as the most beautiful woman of Europe, and whose beauty has been immortalized in the statue of the Venus of Victory by Canova in the Borghese gallery in Rome. In 1802 Jerome had a part in the taking of Port au Prince. For his gallantry he was rewarded with the rank of Ensign. The same year he returned to France bearing dispatches. Displeased with his expensive dissipations and with his delay in returning to his station, Napoleon wrote Jerome: "I have seen your letter and am waiting with impatience to hear that you are on board your ship, studying a profession intended to be the scene of your glory. Die young if you ever intend to disgrace your name; for if you live to sixty without having served your country, you had better not have been born."
Jerome returned to Martinique on the bark Epervier. In the West Indies he piled up extraordinary debts for a youth of eighteen. Speaking of Jerome to Las Cases at St. Helena, Napoleon said: "Jerome was an absolute prodigal. He plunged into boundless extravagance and the most odious libertinism. His excuse perhaps p19may be his youth and the temptation by which he was surrounded."
Disobeying orders to return with his ship to France, Jerome ordered his ship to sail while he himself took passage in an American pilot boat, arriving at Norfolk, Virginia, in July, 1803. He was accompanied by one Lecamus, whom he made his secretary. From Norfolk he proceeded to Washington where he called upon Pichot, the French charge d'affaires, to supply him with money and look after his comfort. In Washington he fell in with Joshua Barney, who had served for a time in the French Navy, and who was also one of the early officers of the United States Navy.
Pichot planned to get Jerome out of the country and for ten thousand dollars chartered a ship at Philadelphia, the Clothier, which was to carry Jerome back to France; but in the meantime Jerome had gone with his friend Barney to Baltimore. There he fell in with Elizabeth Patterson and all plans for returning to France were abandoned. Elizabeth Patterson was the daughter of a Baltimore merchant, William Patterson, born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1752. He was said to have been a descendant of Robert Patterson, the original of Scott's Old Mortality, that picturesque character who, mounted on his white pony, rode up and down Scotland searching out barren moors and in lonely glens the graves of the martyred Covenanters, and with his hammer and chisel renewing the inscriptions which pronounced the blessings of heaven upon the martyrs and called down maledictions upon their persecutors and murderers.
p20 William Patterson soon acquired a fortune in the shipping business in the new land, and rendered a great service to the Colonies during the Revolutionary War by bringing in on his vessels powder and other munitions and arms which he had purchased in France. In the letter which he wrote to Robert Livingston at Paris about the marriage of Elizabeth and Jerome, Thomas Jefferson said, "Mr. Patterson is President of the Bank of Baltimore, the wealthiest man in Maryland, perhaps in the United States, except Mr. Carroll, a man of great virtue and respectability. The mother is the sister of the lady of General Samuel Smith and consequently the station of the family is with the first of the United States." Patterson married Dorothy Spear, the day of a well connected family in Baltimore. So regular and methodical was he in his habits that after once establishing himself in Baltimore in 1788, he almost never in his life left the city either on pleasure or on business. He was the first president of the Bank of Maryland, and when the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was chartered, Patterson, then in his eightieth year, was one of its directors.
His daughter Elizabeth was then eighteen years of age and recognized by all as a girl of intelligence, beauty, wit, and charm. The three-fold painting by Gilbert Stuart shows a face of regular features and undoubted beauty. She is thus described: "Her features were perfectly regular; her brown eyes clear and sparkling; her hair black; her neck and shoulders marvelous; her form, her hands and feet, exquisitely modeled. In short she was a regular 'Irish beauty' with p21a little of the Anglo-Saxon race in her appearance. In the painting by Stuart it is impossible to find a fault, to note an imperfection: 'c'est la beauté !' and it is not the beauty of a statue but beauty full of life and spirit: brilliant, striking, laughing, alluring — a beauty which awakens desire and demands homage."2
Ancestress of American Bonapartes
(From "The Napoleon Dynasty")
The first meeting between Jerome and Elizabeth is thus related by James Gallatin, son of Albert Gallatin, who met Elizabeth long afterward in Switzerland. "Madame Patterson Bonaparte told us how she first met her husband, Jerome Bonaparte. He had gone to America in command of a ship, arriving at Baltimore. He was invited to dine with an old Frenchman, the Marquis de Poleon, who had escaped with his family from San Domingo during the massacre on that island. Two of his children with their nurses were killed. On account of the troubled state of France, he had thought it wiser to go to America. All the beauties of Baltimore were invited to the dinner — the Catons, etc. She was looking out of the window overlooking the drive with Monsieur de Poleon's oldest daughter. She continued: 'We saw two young men approaching the house. Mlle. Pascault exclaimed, pointing to the taller one, that man will be my husband. I answered, very well, I will marry the other one. Strangely enough, we both did as we had said. Henriette Pascault married Reubell, son of one of the Three Directors, and I married Jerome Bonaparte. Had I waited, with my beauty and wit, I would have married an p22English Duke, instead of which I married a Corsican blackguard.' "3
After this there were frequent meetings between Jerome and the beautiful Elizabeth; one a formal affair at the home of Samuel Chase, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. At their first dance the dress of Elizabeth became entangled with a gold chain, part of Jerome's uniform. While Jerome was disentangling her, not too eagerly or hurriedly, Elizabeth recalled a prophecy made to her as a child, that one day she would be a great lady of France.
Jerome had fallen deeply in love with Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, although a cold and calculating person, was greatly stirred at the thought of marriage with the youngest brother of the chief personality in the world at that time. William Patterson, the hard-headed Covenanter, warned by friends that Jerome was seeking only a home and a fortune, and that when he returned to France he would abandon Elizabeth, made every effort to break the engagement, as did also Pichot, the French representative at Washington. But Elizabeth declared that she would rather be wife of Jerome Bonaparte for an hour than the wife of any other man for life, and Jerome told the French Minister to mind his own business. Every effort was made in drawing up the marriage contract to protect the interests of Elizabeth in the event of the non‑recognition of the marriage or its annulment. Article 4 in this contract, which was drawn by Alexander J. Dallas, afterwards p23Secretary of the Treasury, read, "that if the marriage should be annulled on demand of the said Jerome Bonaparte, or that of any member of his family, the said Elizabeth Patterson shall have a right in any case to one‑third of the real, personal, and mixed property of her husband." As this turned out, this clause did not avail to protect Elizabeth's rights when the marriage was annulled by an Imperial decree.
Jerome and Elizabeth were married Christmas Eve, 1802, by Bishop John Carroll of the Roman Catholic Church. The wedding was witnessed by M. Sotin, the French Consul at Baltimore, by Lecamus, Jerome's secretary, and by the mayor of Baltimore. The wedding dress of Elizabeth, and which she kept ever near her until her death more than three-quarters of a century afterward, seems to have created something of a sensation. Lecamus wrote that "all the clothes worn by the bride might be put in my pocket." Another spoke of the gown as "a mere suspicion of a dress — India muslin covered with lace." Baltimore society leaders said with shocked accent after the wedding that the bride wore beneath her dress but a single garment!
A more careful observer describes the dress thus: "A slip of white satin over a dress of muslin, hand-sewn, with silver spangles and embroidered in a deep hem, with stars worked into a design of flowers and spray. Shoes of silver cloth; orange blossoms; and on the hair a veil worked into shimmering silver." On their honeymoon Jerome and Elizabeth visited Washington, where they were entertained by the French Minister, and made a tour of the Eastern states.
p24 Expecting that difficulties would arise concerning the marriage, Patterson sent his son Robert to France to sound out Napoleon. Robert sent back word that although the American Minister, Livingston, was using every effort to reconcile Napoleon to Jerome's marriage, the First Consul, soon to be Emperor, was greatly incensed over the marriage, all the more so because at that time he was enraged and disappointed over the marriage of his brother, Lucien, to Alexandrine de Bleschamps, or Mme. , May 25, 1803, the day after she had borne him a child. Robert Patterson had a meeting with Lucien Bonaparte on the 14th of March, 1804, when Lucien told him that his mother and the whole family, with the exception of Napoleon, approved the match. He referred also to his own recent marriage which had so displeased Napoleon, making the sensible marriage, "When we marry we are to consult our own happiness and not that of another. It matters not who else is or is not to be displeased." Lucien advised Jerome to remain in America and become an American citizen, and thought that an income of twenty thousand dollars a year might be secured for him. As a result of these interviews and negotiations, Robert Patterson advised his father to the effect that Jerome ought to remain for the present in the United States, but if he should decide to return to France, he was to bring his wife with him.
Napoleon's first move against the marriage was an order to the French Consul at New York that no money was to be advanced to the person of Citizen Jerome. The Consul was also informed that Jerome was to be p25sent back to France by the first French frigate to sail. All captains of French vessels were forbidden to receive on board Jerome's wife, and should she arrive in France, she was to be deported immediately to the United States. The Consul-General was instructed to appeal to Jerome's sense of honor and remind him of the glorious career which was still possible for him. In a personal letter to Jerome, the French Minister of Marine endeavored to rouse his ambitions. He said, "War is going on and you are quiet and in peace at a distance of twelve hundred leagues from the stage on which you ought to be acting a great part. How will men recognize in you the brother of the Regulator of Europe?"
To his Minister of Marine Napoleon said, "Jerome is wrong to fancy that he will find in me affections that will yield to his weakness. Sole fabricator of my destiny, I owe nothing to my brother. If I completely abandon him (Lucien), who in maturer years has thought proper to withdraw himself from my direction, what has Jerome to expect?"
The marriage of Jerome and Elizabeth was to all effect annulled when the French Senate prohibited all civil officers from receiving on their registers "the transcription of the act of celebration of a pretended marriage that Jerome Bonaparte has contracted in a foreign country during the age of minority without previous publication in the place of his nativity." To one of his Ministers, Napoleon said, "I will receive Jerome, if leaving in America the young person in question, he shall come p26hither to associate himself with my fortunes. Should he bring her along with him, she shall not put a foot in the territory of France. If he comes alone, I shall forgive the error of a moment, and the fault of youth. Faithful services and the conduct which he owes to himself and to his name will regain him all my kindness."
Such were the tidings from France that clouded the honeymoon of Jerome and Elizabeth. Still devoted to his beautiful wife, Jerome was determined to take her to Europe with him, confident that Napoleon once met her, her beauty and charm would overcome all prejudice; but Elizabeth was never granted the opportunity to charm the Emperor.
In October, 1804, Jerome and Elizabeth embarked at Philadelphia on a ship bound for Cadiz. The vessel was wrecked off Lewes, Delaware, and Jerome and Elizabeth narrowly escaped drowning. They took refuge at the house of a gentleman, where Elizabeth greatly displeased her aunt, Miss Spear, who was traveling with her, by enjoying a hearty meal of roast goose and applesauce, when, thought her pious aunt, she ought to be offering up prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. Before sailing, Jerome had received a letter from his always kind and good brother, Joseph, in which Joseph said, "Do not forget that everything I have is at your disposition. I shall share with you anything I have with great pleasure. Since your affections have led you far from your family, and from your friends, I feel for my part that you cannot renounce them. Tell Mrs. Jerome for me that as soon p27as she arrives and is acknowledged by the chief of the family, she will not find a more affectionate brother than I."
On the 18th of May, 1804, Napoleon declared himself Emperor of the French, and was crowned at Notre Dame, December 2, 1804. Joseph and Louis Bonaparte were declared princes of the Empire with the right of succession, should Napoleon fail of issue. Lucien and Jerome, by their marriages which displeased the Emperor, were both excluded from the right of succession.
In March, 1805, Elizabeth, now pregnant, and therefore all the more anxious to get to France before her child should be born, sailed with Jerome in one of her father's ships, the Erin — reaching Lisbon April 2. At Lisbon a guard was placed about the Erin and Elizabeth was not permitted to land. To the French Ambassador at Lisbon, who asked what he might do for "Miss Patterson," the proud Elizabeth replied, "Tell your master that Madame Bonaparte is ambitious and demands her rights as a member of the Imperial family."
The Erin then proceeded to Amsterdam, where, as at Lisbon, Elizabeth was not permitted to land. In fear for her life now, she sailed to Dover, where she landed amid the shouts of a great multitude, for by this time her vicissitudes had aroused immense interest in England. Her child was born at Camberwell, July 7, 1805, and was named Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte.
When Jerome attempted to see Napoleon, the Emperor refused to meet him, and instructed him to address him by letter. In reply to Jerome's letter, p28Napoleon wrote: "I have received your letter of this morning. There are no faults that you have committed which may not be efface in my eyes by a sincere repentance. Your marriage is null, both in a religious and legal point of view. I will never acknowledge it. Write to Miss Patterson to return to the United States and tell her it is not possible to give things another turn. On condition of her return to America, I will allow her a pension during her life of sixty thousand francs per year, provided she does not take the name of my family, to which she has no right, her marriage having no existence."
To his Chancellor, Cambaceres, Napoleon said of the marriage, "There was no more of a marriage than between two lovers who unite themselves in a garden upon the altar of love in the presence of the moon and the stars." When Jerome was first admitted to the presence of the Emperor, Napoleon, referring to the way in which Jerome had abandoned his ship in the West Indies, said to him, "So, Sir, you are the first of the family who has shamefully abandoned his post. It will require many splendid actions to wipe off that stain from your reputation. As to your love affair with your little girl, I pay no regard to it."
On May 24, 1805, Napoleon wrote to the Pope, Pius VII, requesting him to grant a bull annulling the marriage. The letter was accompanied with the present of a gold tiara. In his letter the Emperor wrote: "I have frequently spoken to your Holiness of a young brother nineteen years of age whom I sent in a frigate to America and who, after a sojourn of a month, although p29a minor, married a Protestant, a daughter of a merchant of the United States. He has just returned. He is fully conscious of his fault. I have sent back to America Miss Patterson, who calls herself his wife. By our laws the marriage is null. A Spanish priest so far forgot his duties as to pronounce the benediction. I desire from your Holiness a bull annulling the marriage. I send your Holiness several papers from one of which, by Cardinal Casselli, your Holiness will receive much light. I could easily have this marriage broken in Paris, since the Gallican church pronounces such matrimony null, but it appears to me better to have it done in Rome on account of the example to sovereign families marrying Protestants. I beg your Holiness to do this quietly, and as soon as I know that you are willing to do it, I will have it broken here civilly. It is important for France that there should not be a Protestant young woman so near my person. It is dangerous that a minor and a distinguished youth should be exposed to such seduction against the civil laws and all sorts of propriety."
In this letter there were a number of inaccuracies. The marriage was not solemnized by a Spanish priest, but by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Baltimore, and it was celebrated with all the formalities required by the Catholic laws. The real reason for Napoleon's objection to the marriage, and his request of the Pope for a bull of annulment, was not of course what he says, that he dreaded to have "a Protestant young woman so near my person," but that having recently been made Emperor, he wished his family to make distinguished p30connections in Europe. To the Emperor's amazement and chagrin, Pope Pius refused to issue the bull annulling the marriage. In his answer to the Emperor the Pope wrote: "In the crowded affairs which overwhelm us, we have taken all the care and given ourselves all the trouble to derive personally from all sources the means of making the most careful researches to ascertain if our Apostolic authority could furnish any method of satisfying the wishes of your majesty, which, considering their end, it would have been very agreeable to us to second. But in whatever light we have considered it, the result of our examination has been that of all the motives that have been proposed, or which we can imagine, there is not one which allows us to gratify your majesty, as we should be glad to do, by declaring the nullity of the marriage.
"The proposed impediments are four in number. On examining them separately, however, it has not been possible to find one which, in the present case, and according to the principles of Church, can authorize us to declare the nullity of the marriage contracted and already consummated. The difference in religion, considered by the Church as an absolute impediment, does not obtain between persons who have been baptized, even when one of them is not in the Catholic communion. This impediment obtains only in marriages contracted between a Christian and an infidel. These marriages between Protestants and Catholics, although disapproved by the Church, are nevertheless acknowledged as valid. We earnestly hope that your majesty will be satisfied that the desire which animates p31us of seconding your wishes is in this case rendered ineffectual by the want of power, and you will accept this very declaration as a sincere testimony of our paternal affection."
This courageous refusal of the Pope to annul the marriage of Jerome and Elizabeth was the beginning of a feud between Napoleon and the Vatican which led to the imprisonment of Pope Pius at Fontainebleau. Thwarted in his attempt to have the marriage annulled by the Church, Napoleon had the Council of State annul the marriage on the ground that Jerome was under age and had married without consent of his guardian.
For a brief period, Jerome wrote Elizabeth assurances of his loyalty and affection. On October 16, 1805, he wrote to her: "I loved my country; I loved glory; but I loved them as a man who is accustomed to fear nothing never will forget that he is the father of Jerome Napoleon and the husband of Elizabeth." In the mind of Elizabeth, however, there seems to have been a suspicion from the time that her child was born that Jerome would desert her, for five weeks after the birth of her son, Elizabeth, writing to her father that she had received a letter from Jerome indicating unchanging affection, says: "No matter what I think, it is unjust to condemn until we have some certainty greater than at the present, and my conduct shall be such as if I had a perfect reliance upon him. The Emperor has offered to give me twelve thousand dollars a year during my life, on condition that I return to America and give up his name. I request that you will not mention this p32proposal. I have never taken the smallest notice of it." She did, however, afterwards accept the pension and received it annually up to 1814.
In November, 1805, Elizabeth returned with her child to Baltimore. Jerome soon yielded to the will of his imperious brother, and acquiesced in the annulment of the marriage. On August 12, 1807, Jerome was married to Princess Frederica Catharine, daughter of the King of Wurttemberg. As a king, Jerome was, like his brothers, a failure. At the Emperor's request, Talleyrand prepared a coat of arms for the new King of Westphalia. The coat of arms "encaged in a single shield all the heraldic figuring in the arms of Brunswick, Hesse, and the other states. It made a regular menagerie: a horse and ten lions of every enamel, of every metal, and of every attitude, with the eagle of the Empire over all."4 Jerome's reign in Westphalia was marked by folly, foolish expenditure, and unbridled dissipation and licenciousness.
Some years afterward, Napoleon thought of putting Jerome on the throne of Poland. "I would put Jerome on the throne," he said to Caulaincourt, "and make a splendid kingdom for him; but he would have to do something for it, for the Poles love true glory. Jerome cares for nothing but pageantry, women, plays, and fetes. My brothers do not back me up. My brothers think of nothing but themselves; yet I set them a good example. I am the king of the people, for I spend nothing except on encouraging the arts and leaving p33memories that shall be glorious and useful to the nation. It can never be said that I endow favorites and mistresses. I give rewards only for services rendered to the country — nothing else."5
One thing greatly to the credit of Jerome as king of Westphalia was his treatment of the Jews. Because of the state of the treasury of the kingdom, he was obliged to borrow a large sum of money from a Hebrew banker, Isaac Jacobson. Some time afterward, a deputation of Jews from Westphalia presented to Jerome an address of loyalty. In answer to their address, Jerome said, "I like your address, gentlemen. The clause of my constitution which establishes the equality of religions is in unison with my own heart. No law ought to interfere with the exercise of the religious worship of any man. Every subject ought to be as free to observe the rules of his faith as the king himself. It is the duty of the citizen only that the laws of the government ought to regulate. I hope I shall never have cause to regret that I favorite and protect the Israelites in my kingdom." Henceforth Westphalia became a promised land to the Jews of Europe. The Minister of State, the Counsellor of Finances, the Commissary of War, the Superintendent of Hospitals, and the Burgomaster were all Jews.
Jerome's habit of playing at leap-frog with his courtiers and ministers at the royal palace add nothing to his dignity or to the prestige of his reign. He wasted his revenues upon worthless favorites and made royalty odious by his disgraceful amours. In 1812 he p34started with Napoleon on the Russian campaign, but after Smolensk, Napoleon, displeased with his conduct, placed him under the command of Marshal Davout, whereupon Jerome, in a huff, returned to Germany. During the Hundred Days, Jerome joined Napoleon at Paris, was placed in command of a division, and fought with great bravery and distinction at Quatrebras and Hougoumont. After the second abdication he took up his residence in Trieste. In 1847 he returned to France and was made a Marshal of France by Napoleon III. Jerome died in Paris June 25, 1860. By his German wife he had three children: Jerome Napoleon Charles, who died in childhood, Mathilde Laetitia Wilhelmina, and Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul, known as Prince Napoleon, and who became heir to the fortunes of the Napoleonic dynasty. The present head of the Bonaparte family, and Bonaparte Pretender to the French Throne, is Prince Louis Napoleon, a great-grandson of Jerome.
Jerome, who wished to have his son by Elizabeth Patterson with him, asked Elizabeth to come to Westphalia, promising her a handsome residence at Smalgalden,º with the titles of Prince and Princess for her son and herself, and an income of two hundred thousand francs. On receiving this letter, Elizabeth said that Westphalia was not a kingdom large enough to contain two queens. When Elizabeth heard that Jerome was displeased that she had declined a pension from him, but had accepted one of twelve thousand dollars a year from Napoleon, she remarked that she "preferred to be sheltered under the wings of an eagle rather than to be p35suspended from the bill of a goose." The French Minister to the United States, General Toureau, in 1808 informed the French government that there was a projected marriage between Elizabeth and the son of an English admiral, Sir Thomas Braves. From the general tone of her correspondence with the Emperor, and with French officials, one gets the impression that Elizabeth capitalized rumored marriages with Englishmen to extort money from Napoleon. She was supposed to be about to marry a Mr. Oakley, a secretary of the British Legation. She informed the French Legation that her family threatened to disinherit her if she did not marry Oakley. The French Minister thereupon offered her a credit of twenty-five thousand dollars.
Her child, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, born July 7, 1805, was not baptized until May 9, 1809. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop who had married her, John Carroll. Elizabeth herself never seems to have had any idea of renouncing her own Presbyterian faith, such as it was, although her son was brought up in the religion of his father. Discussing one day with a friend the matter of religion, and using the familiar argument for Roman Catholicism, she said that if she adopted any religion it would be the Catholic, because at least that was the religion of kings. Her niece who was present exclaimed, "How can you say such a thing? You would not give up Presbyterianism." To which Madame Bonaparte responded, "The only reason I would not is that I should not like to give up the stool my ancestors had sat upon."
p36 Through her marriage with one of the Bonapartes, and her frequent stays in Europe, Elizabeth developed a most extraordinary Europe-mania, and was ever in dread lest her son should degrade himself by marrying an American. It was wormwood and gall when her son, Jerome Napoleon, married on November 3, 1829, Susan May Williams, a lady of fortune and family, in Baltimore. When she first heard of the proposed marriage, she wrote: "I had endeavored to instill into him from the hour of his birth the opinion that he was much too high in birth and connection ever to marry an American woman. I hated and loathed a residence in Baltimore so much that when I thought I was to spend my life there, I tried to screw my courage up to the point of committing suicide. My cowardice and only my cowardice prevented my exchanging Baltimore for the grave. I now repeat what I said in my last letter, that I would as soon have gone to Botany Bay as to have married any man in Baltimore." In a letter from Florence, December, 1829, commenting on the marriage, she said: "I always told him that he should never degrade himself by marrying an American."6
Almost the only good thing that Elizabeth Patterson is reported to have said of her own country is related by Madame de Stael. She had given a dinner at her house in Geneva, to which Madame Bonaparte was invited. "Arriving very late, she delayed serving of the dinner for over half an hour. On one side of her was a Mr. Dundas, a great gourmand, who was much put out at p37having to wait. After the soup had been served, he turned to Madame Bonaparte and asked her if she had read the book of Captain Basil Hall7 on America. She replied in the affirmative. 'Well, Madame,' said Dundas, 'did you notice that Hall said all Americans are vulgarians?' 'Quite true,' calmly answered Madame Bonaparte, 'I am not in the least surprised. If the Americans had been the descendants of Indians, or the Esquimeaux, there might have been some reason to be astonished, but as they are the direct descendants of the English, it is perfectly natural that they should be vulgarians.' After this, Mr. Dundas did not open his mouth again and left at the first opportunity.8
Elizabeth and Jerome met just once after they separated at Lisbon in the spring of 1805. Jerome was walking one day with his wife through the gallery of the Pitti Palace at Florence when he saw Elizabeth. Drawing Catharine aside and pointing to Elizabeth, Jerome said: "That is my American wife."
However one sympathizes with Elizabeth in her abandonment by Jerome, hers is not a character which one can admire. When James Gallatin first saw her at Geneva, he wrote of her: "She is very lovely, but hard in expression and manner. I don't think she has much heart." There was no doubt about that. Elizabeth seems to have been an unsexed woman. Not that she was incapable of conceiving and bringing forth children, p38but that she was altogether devoid of love or passion. Her unmotherly and unfeminine nature is revealed in this sentence in a letter to her father, where, speaking of her son, she writes: "I hope he will reward by success all my cares, and I rejoice that I have no more children to toil after, never having envied anyone the honor of being the mother of a family, which is generally a thankless position."9
Although she amassed during her life a large fortune, she was singularly parsimonious. When she had her bedroom in her house in Baltimore carpeted, she gave instructions that the spaces under the bed and under the wardrobe were to be left out of the measurements. It was her custom to collect bits of bread after dinner and put them in her bag, for she said she was often hungry in the night. Once when living in Paris a crowd was seen to gather in front of her house. Some thought that the house was on fire, but a maid advised that they look in Elizabeth's bedroom. There it was found that her linen was suspended from the windows to dry, for she was her own washwoman. Once she fell in a stairway. When asked if she were hurt, she answered, "Hurt? Where are my false teeth? Are they broken? Alas, I paid five hundred francs for them only yesterday."
Elizabeth carried on an interesting correspondence with her Presbyterian father in Baltimore. Her father was disgusted with her distaste for her own country and her fondness for the fashionable circles of Europe. p39In one letter she wrote to her father that she is surprised at the enmity and jealousy of her American friends, and wonders that her friends do not have their pride gratified at hearing that she is in the first society in Europe. She warns her father that in Europe a woman who is handsome and is likely to have a fortune may marry well, but if the report gets about that her parents are dissatisfied with her, no one will marry her, even if she has the beauty of Venus and the talents of Minerva. The meaning of this was that her father had expressed dissatisfaction with her stay in Europe and she feared that this might become known and therefore interfere with her social promotion. Yet she affirms that she will never marry again without rank. "I would never marry without rank, for God knows I might have got money enough by marriage." Her wise father writes to her, "I cannot say that I am satisfied with the attentions you seem to receive from great people in England. They cannot be lasting. They must arrive chiefly from curiosity and compassion." In an appeal to her to return to her home in Baltimore, her father wrote: "What will the world think of a woman who had recently followed her mother and her last sister to the grave, had quit her father's house where duty and necessity calls for her attentions as the only female of the family left, and thought proper to abandon all to seek for admiration in foreign countries?"
William Patterson's final estimate of his daughter is expressed in his will, when he died in 1835. He left her a few houses and handed her down to posterity as an unfilial ingrate in these bitter words: "The conduct p40of my daughter Betsy has through life been so disobedient that in no instance has she ever consulted my opinions or feelings. Indeed she has caused me more anxiety and trouble than all my other children put together and her folly and misconduct have occasioned me a train of expense that first and last has cost me much money."10
The beauty and charm of Elizabeth were acknowledged in the highest circles in Europe, for she enjoyed great success in European society. Among her admirers were the astronomer Humboldt, the Duke of Wellington, Talleyrand, Madame de Stael, Chateaubriand, and other notable personalities of that day. The Russian statesman Gortschakoff said of Elizabeth, "Had she been near the throne, the allies would have had more difficulty in overthrowing Napoleon;" and Talleyrand paid her this compliment, "If she were a queen, how gracefully she would reign."
As the years went by and she passed into middle life, then into old age, and saw her son and her grandson disappoint her ambitions and "degrade themselves" by marrying American women, life began to lose its zest for Elizabeth. To her friend Lady Morgan she wrote, "I have been in such a state of melancholy that I wished myself dead a thousand times. All my philosophy, all my courage, are insufficient sometimes to support the inexpressible ennui of existence." When she was forty-seven years old, and still one of the most beautiful women in Europe, Elizabeth asked her family in p41America to send her a string of white topazes, which she would wear as a necklace and pretend they were diamonds. They were to be sent forward by private conveyance, so as to save the duties. Then she adds, "I am dying with ennui and do not know in what a person of my age can be amused. I am tired of reading, and of all my ways of killing time. I doze away existence. I am too old to coquette, and without this stimulus I die of ennui. The Princess (Gallitzen)º tries to keep me up to the toil of dressing by telling me I am a beauty. I am tired of life and tired of having lived." Such is the melancholy confession of this woman who had great beauty of body, but no beauty of soul.
In 1840 Elizabeth returned from her last visit to Europe. Even at that age her beauty was remarked by all, and age seemed to have made little inroad upon it. Although she had now a large fortune which yielded her an annual income of one hundred thousand dollars, the last eighteen years of her life were spent in a Baltimore boarding-house. Up to the age of ninety she visited her brokers and agents and conducted her business affairs with much acumen. Her summers were spent at fashionable watering places, Rockaway Beach, York Springs, and White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia. Her mordant wit never failed her, even to the end. At York Springs one summer a woman remarked to her, "Madam, I am very glad to meet you. I hear you were once very beautiful. How old are you now?" To which Madame Bonaparte curtly replied, p42"Nine hundred and ninety years, nine days, and nine minutes."11
Elizabeth always appeared with bare arms, and always wore bracelets. She was never seen on the streets without her red parasol. When she returned for the last time from Europe, she brought with her a supply of gowns which was to last many years. She brought also twelve bonnets which, she said, were to last her as long as she lived. She was remembered in Baltimore not only for her red parasol but also for a black velvet bonnet, trimmed with orange colored feathers.
Not long before her death, surrounded by her jewels and dresses, relics of a long vanished splendor, she said to one of her friends: "Yes, the Emperor dealt hardly with me, but I long ago forgave him. Did he not say of me to Marshal Bertrand at St. Helena, 'Those whom I have wronged have forgiven me; those whom I have loaded with kindness have forsaken me?' Ah, Napoleon, I have not let my grandsons forget that their grand-uncle was the Emperor." For the last two years of her life Elizabeth lived upon brandy and milk. She died April 4, 1879, having completed her ninety-fourth year. Shortly before her death she remarked bitterly, "Once I had everything but money. Now I have nothing but money." On her grave in the Baltimore cemetery are cut these words: "After life's fitful fever she sleeps well."
1 Masson, Napoleon et sa famille, p256.
2 Geer, Napoleon and His Family. Coward McCann Co., N. Y.
3 James Gallatin, Diary, p61. Scribner's Sons, N. Y. 1916.
4 Masson, Napoleon et sa famille.
5 Caulaincourt, With Napoleon in Russia, p41. Wm. Morrow & Co., N. Y. 1935.
6 Didier, Life of Mme. Bonaparte, p216. Scribner's Sons, N. Y. 1879.
7 Basil Hall visited St. Helena in 1817 and had an interesting interview with Napoleon, related in A Voyage of Discovery to the Western Coast of Corea. His father, Sir James Hall, visited Brienne when Napoleon was a student there. He was the first Englishman Napoleon ever saw. See Napoleon, Walter Scott.
8 Gallatin, Diary, p51. Scribner's Sons, N. Y. 1916.
9 Gallatin, Diary. Scribner's Sons, N. Y. 1916.
10 Didier, Life of Mme. Bonaparte, p244. Scribner's Sons, N. Y. 1879.
11 Didier, Life of Mme. Bonaparte, Scribner's Sons, N. Y. 1879.
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