On This Day in Napoleonic History – 20 March 1811

The birth of Napoleon’s son

20Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte was born at 9.20 in the morning in the Tuileries. There was a great commotion in the palace as the court and functionaries of state waited with impatience, none more so than Napoleon himself. The Emperor was in a state of great agitation. He was overheard saying to Marie Louise’s obstetrician, ‘Pretend that you are not delivering the Empress but the bourgeois from the Rue de St Denis.’ It wasn’t an easy delivery and when asked who he would want to save in the event of an emergency, the mother or the child, Napoleon replied, ‘Save the mother,’ despite everything he had to go through for an heir.

It had been announced that the birth of a daughter would be saluted with 21 guns and that of a son by 101. When the people heard the 22nd boom of the cannon, there were great celebrations in Paris. The infant was proclaimed the King of Rome, a title of the Holy Roman Empire, and was nicknamed the Eaglet by the Bonapartist propagandists. ‘My son is big and healthy,’ Napoleon wrote to Josephine. ‘I hope he will grow up well. I trust that he will fulfill his destiny.’

Napoleon was a very loving father, who was inordinately proud of the boy’s bloodline, pointing out that the boy was related to the Romanovs through his mother’s brother-in-law, to the Habsburgs through his mother, to the Hanoverians through his uncle’s wife and to the Bourbons through his mother’s great-aunt. The fact that all four families currently longed for Napoleon’s overthrow didn’t seem to lessen his joy.

Leave a Reply