Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spectacular Renaissance gardens + a little Maryland Bonaparte scandal - Château de Villandry

The Château de Villandry, Indre-et-Loire, France.

The Château de Villandry, Indre-et-Loire, France, was constructed in the 1500s, reportedly on the spot where King Philip II of France (1165-1223) once met Richard I of England (1157-1199) to discuss peace. Its Renaissance gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, & vegetable gardens.

During the French Revolution, the property was confiscated, & in the early 19C, Emperor Napoleon acquired it for his younger brother Jérôme Bonaparte, who had married Betsy Patterson in Baltimore, in 1803. Across the Atlantic, Napoléon, who was already planning his coronation as well as anticipating marriages for all his siblings with the major royal houses of continental Europe, was none too pleased to learn of his 19-year-old brother’s marriage on December 23, 1803.

Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte by Francesco Emanuele Scotto, circa 1806

Napoleon ordered his brother back to France demanding that his marriage to the American be annulled.  Jérôme ignored Napoleon's initial demand, that he return to France without his wife. On March 10, 1805, the young couple sailed for France. Furious, Napoléon ordered that Betsy be forbidden from landing anywhere in continental Europe but encouraged his brother to continue on without her. 

Napoléon offered the young bride an annual pension of 60,000 francs a year, if she would agree to leave & relinquish the Bonaparte name.  Betsy refused. She did not need the money. Betsy's father, Irishman William Patterson had come to Maryland before Revolutionary War. He had become the 2nd wealthiest man in Maryland.

1804 Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

Promising to sort things out with his agressive brother & have her received in proper state, Jérôme went off to reason with Napoléon, assuring forlorn, pregnant Betsy, who was left behind in neutral Portugal, that he would do everything he could to sort the situation out. Jérôme never returned. 

The Château de Villandry, Indre-et-Loire, France.

Waiting to hear from her husband & unable to disembark in either France or the Netherlands, Betsy gave birth to Jérôme's son on July 7, 1805, in London. 

Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, and Catharina of Württemberg, the daughter of Frederick, King of Württemberg

Meanwhile, Jérôme gave in to his brother, returned to the French Navy, & married the German princess Catharina of Württemberg on August 22, 1807. And Napoléon finally succeeded in having Jérôme's marriage to Betsy annulled.

The Château de Villandry, Indre-et-Loire, France.

In 1879, Elizabeth Patterson "Betsy" Bonaparte died, outliving her son Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte by 9 years. Her grandson Charles Joseph Bonaparte, in 1905, became Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy, & in 1906, he was chosen to be the U.S. Attorney General.

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