Skip to main content

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte papers

Identifier: MS 0142


The Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte papers consist of correspondence, account books, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks. Topics range from her life in Baltimore, her marriage to Jerome Bonaparte and exile from France, and her struggle to secure her son's inheritance. The collection is comprised of 20 boxes.


  • 1785-1879


Language of Materials

Includes official French translations of documents referring to Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's litigation with Napoleon III.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to the public without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical Note

Born 1785; daughter of Williamm Patterson, wealthy Baltimore merchant, banker and landowner. Married Jerome Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon Bonaparte) December 1803. Bore his son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte on July 1805. Marriage annulled by French council of state. Spent much of her time in Europe. Entered legal contest with Napoleon III, resulting in recognition of her son, but disallowing his right to succession. She died in 1879.


8.34 Linear Feet


This collection is arranged into five divisions.

Division I is made up of 9 boxes of correspondence. This includes business as well as personal correspondence, and also includes all invitations unless they have no name or date. Correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Division II is made up of 3 boxes of miscellaneous material. This includes all verses, pamphlets, pictures, drawings, menus, lists, checks, whole newspapers, recipe miscellaneous notes, etc. Material with dates is arranged chronologically in the first two boxes; material without dates is arranged alphabetically in the third box.

Division III is made up of 2 boxes of legal papers. This includes deeds, passports, birth certificates, marriage and divorce papers, papers relating to legal contests, legal opinions, etc.

Division IV is made up of 2 boxes of account books.

Division V is made up of two boxes of newspaper clippings and scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings.


Contains material relating to Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte previously found in MS 141-5, which has been divided into separate collections.

Scope and Contents

Section I is made up of 11 boxes of correspondence. This includes business as well as personal correspondence, and also includes all invitations unless they have no name or date. Correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's family lived in Baltimore, and she herself lived in Baltimore for much of her life, including her last 18 years. She also spent long periods of time in Europe, especially until 1840. This section reflects this pattern, being made up of letters from both Americans and Europeans. Although this section is arranged chronologically, for ease and clarity it will be described in two parts: American and European (for chronological listing of contents, see index following this topical description).

American Correspondence:

One large section of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's American correspondence deals with members of her own family. Her father's disapproval of her, his reduction of her share of the estate in his will, and her attempt to reinstate the provisions of her marriage contract are the topics of much correspondence.

Much of Elizabeth's correspondence, both to family members and others, is of a business nature. Correspondence includes business reports (about real estate transactions, collection of rent, changes in investments, rates of exchange, effects of politics on business, fluctuation of prices, etc.) from her cousin Ann Spear and her agent John White during the lengthy time periods while Elizabeth remained in Europe. Her brother Edward Patterson also reported such events as a boom in Bank of Maryland stock, difficulty in disposing of surplus capital, and Southern nullification of the tariff (Aug. 1831). Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's own letters, such as one to Prince Gortchacoff (c. 1829-37) reveal that she saw Jackson's actions as a threat to the U.S. economy. Letters from Wm. Mentzel (1860-64) report business conditions to her and describe how affairs affected her own real estate business. This set of letters from Mentzel discusses chiefly rentals of property and the effect of secession feeling and the draft upon business--the decline of rent, decreasing value of stocks and property, stoppage of the BandO Railroad, then the gradual increase in rents, etc. Elizabeth's letters, such as one to Mr. Guillardet (1864, April 19) bemoan the folly of civil war as it ruined the prosperity of the people and played into the hands of their enemies. Other business correspondence of interest include letters from George Peabody (1849-50) and 2 letters from Albert Callatin (1840, Oct. 10 and 30) asking Elizabeth's advice in finding an agent in Baltimore.

Some American correspondence dealt with the deficiencies of American life and society during the disturbances of the Civil War era. Virginia Warner corresponded with Elizabeth about conditions in Baltimore and (on Sept. 23, 1861) repeated stories of Gen. Beauregard's approach and the arrest of the seccessionist legislature. She described Baltimore as an insane asylum which was filled with the fashionable heresy, family division, and high prices. Elizabeth also received letters from Mrs. Virginia Mosby (mother of the famous John Singleton Mosby, Confederate ranger) before and after the Civil War, telling about her son and family and describing the hardships of life in the South after the war.

Much of Elizabeth's American correspondence deals also with the issues of her relationship with the Bonaparte family. She approached the French Embassy and corresponded with Gen. Turreau, Col. Toussard, French Minister Serrurier, Le Camus, Madam VolunBrun, etc. about negotiations for her pension, the possibility of acquiring a title, the custody of her son, etc. Elizabeth's correspondence with James Monroe (1808) on the advisability of sending her child to her husband Jerome prompted a letter of reply from him on the subject. At a later date, letters from Madame Toussard (widow of Col. Toussard) reveal a successful attempt to interest Joseph Bonaparte in his nephew.

Other American letters of interest include a letter of introduction by Thomas Jefferson (April 24, 1815); a letter regarding the French political situation by Elbridge Gerry (April 22, 1814); letters from Lewis Cass (Sept. 1, 1839) in regard to her son's proposed visit to Paris and (Jan. 15, 1859) in regard to a lost package; a poem from Horace Holley (April 2, 1818); a note from Bishop John Carroll (May 3, 1809) requesting her to postpone her son's baptism so that he may be there on time to see the perhaps future Prince christened; and several notes from Dolly Madison.

European Correspondence:

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte lived in Europe at different times, living occasionally in Rome, Paris, Geneva, Aix-les-Bains, London, etc. As an interesting connection of the Bonapartes and as a charming and witty woman in her own right, she made the acquaintance of many members of European society, including members of the minor nobility and literary circles. She later corresponded with many of these personages. Among her correspondents were Lady Morgan, the Irish novelist; the Marquise de Villette, the famous belle et bonne' of Voltaire; the Marquis of Douro, son of the Duke of Wellington and an admirer of Eliza; Teresa Guiccioli, last mistress of Lord Byron; the Marquis de Lafayette; Lady Jersey, the mistress of George IV; Mrs. Benjamin de Constant; Countess Rumford, the widow of Lavoisier; Mr. Sismondi, the historian; Francois Pascal Gerard, official portrait painter of Napoleon's court; Polish and Russian refugees, such as Prince Demidoff and Princess Galitzin, etc. Most of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's own letters in this collection concern her troubles with her own family and her rights as the wife of Jerome Bonaparte and the mother of his son. Much larger in quantity is the incoming correspondence of European friends. Most of the letters of her European acquaintances are of a light, gossipy nature, focusing around personal matters and social activities. Some mention of attitudes towards literary figures, such as Charles Dickens and Thomas Carlyle, is made. The correspondence reflects the attitudes and interests of European society of the time--attitudes towards romantic affairs and liasons, expressions of ennui, remarks upon the spirit of the times, etc. There are some infrequent comments about political events in Europe, especially in the letters of Harriet Stewart; Lady Sydney Morgan; Sophia Falion de Cimier, nee Kozloffake; and the Countess Gaeton de la Rochefoucauld. Particular attention is paid to the movements of Napoleon III (before and after he became emperor). Gossip about the Bonapartes (such as Plon-Plon) was often related to Elizabeth, especially by Princess Galitzin, who also gave advice on social etiquette.

Many of Elizabeth's letters are attempts to deal with the French government and the Bonaparte family, first in relation to her marriage and possible pension and title, later with regard to her son's legitimacy and rights of inheritance. Elizabeth corresponded with Lucien Bonaparte, Jerome Bonaparte, Joseph Bonaparte, the Emperor Napoleon, Cardinal Fesch, Pauline Borghese, Madame Mere, etc. Connected with correspondence with Princess Pauline are two letters from John Jacob Astor, who attempted to gain Pauline's help for Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, Elizabeth's son. Results of Elizabeth's attempts included a pension, recognition of legitimacy for her son but not rights of succession, and a legacy from Cardinal Fesch, etc. Some letters deal with legal contests with Napoleon III, public and private reactions to the issues, etc.

Section II is made up of 3 boxes of miscellaneous material. This includes verses from suitors; receipts for blacking, rouge, cures for looseness of bowels, etc.; bills of fare; tickets of admission; a phrenological analysis of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte; notes of conversations with French officials in regard to her pension; lists of property; attempts at verse; word sketches of her friends, pamphlets and newspapers in regard to the Bonapartes; notes on miscellaneous subjects, etc.

Section III is made up of 2 boxes of legal papers. A large portion of the papers deal with Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's inheritance from her father. Many others deal with the contest with Napoleon III relating to her son's legitimacy and rights of inheritance and succession. Leases, deeds, etc. relating to Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's real estate transactions are included. Also found in this section are passports, birth certificates, marriage and divorce papers, stock certificates, copies of wills, powers of attorney, etc. Papers of note include the legal opinions of Roger B. Taney, a certificate of divorce by Albert Gallatin, a passport signed by John Quincy Adams, and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte's marriage contract.

Section IV is made up of 2 boxes of 21 account books belonging to Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. Material in these account books covers the dates 1809-1879. The account books are of varying sizes and deal with overlapping time periods. Entries include daily and business accounts; lists of properties and rents; inventories of jewelry, stock, etc.; and occasional recipes, quotations, and personal remarks. Also included is one folder containing fragments of account books and loose accounting sheets.

Section V is made up of 2 boxes containing newspaper clippings and scripbooks. The newspaper clippings relate primarily to the Bonaparte family in Europe and in America and contain frequent annotations (including personal remarks) by Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. The scrapbooks are mostly unfilled and contain some newspaper clippings, newspaper cartoons relating to Jerome Bonaparte, and some drawings by Charles Bonaparte.

Guide to the Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte papers
Under Revision
Barbara Murray
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019-07-25: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States