Joseph Bonaparte–#AtoZChallenge “J”

Welcome to “J” in the A to Z Challenge 2017. The 1st Duke of Wellington is my theme for this year’s Challenge. 

Joseph Bonaparte was one of the emperor Napoleon’s seven siblings. He was Corsican by birth and was the elder brother to the emperor. Why am I including Joseph Bonaparte in this Challenge and how does he relate to the 1st Duke of Wellington? Let’s find out.

Napoleon’s older brother was a French statesman and diplomat when his younger brother installed him as King of Naples. Joseph was judged to be a decent king for Naples, he instilled few changes, the people actually liked him, and he even made the state money. Napoleon then sent Joseph to Spain. The Spanish were not happy about this non-Catholic king and he was disliked extensively from the get-go. Propaganda prevailed that cast him as an alcoholic, even though he did not drink. The beginning of the Peninsular War began when Joseph arrived in Spain. He was King of Spain from 1808 to 1813, the time when England came to help Portugal and Spain oust the French. In 1813, Wellington was in command and defeated the French army in the Battle of Vitoria. After this battle, Joseph abdicated the Spanish throne and went back to France. The French generals in Spain really never paid attention to Joseph and would only follow what Napoleon had told them to do.

–Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s elder brother. Portrait by Jean-Baptiste Wicar, 1808. From Wikipedia.

Joseph was fleeing Vitoria and had with him a huge amount of valuable art and paintings. His coach was captured (he was not in it) and most of the cargo had been stolen from Spain by Bonaparte. The British army now had these treasures and Wellington intended to return the works to the rightful King of Spain. Due to Wellington ousting the French from his country, the King gave Wellington most of the loot that Bonaparte had failed to smuggle. Wellington accepted the king’s generosity and took the loot home to London. Much of this art is on display at Apsley House. 

Something interesting I did not know was that Joseph later lived in the United States for about 17 years (1817 to 1832). He lived in Philadelphia and New York briefly before settling in New Jersey. He had an estate where he entertained the upper echelon of the day. He returned to Europe and died in Florence in 1844. 

Previous A to Z Challenge 2017 posts:

Apsley House



Douro, Marquess of

Eton College

Fraser, Hugh

Guedalla, Philip

Harriet Arbuthnot


  12 comments for “Joseph Bonaparte–#AtoZChallenge “J”

  1. April 12, 2017 at 3:48 AM

    You’ve done so much research for these posts, Denise. They’re all so good! Thank you. ❤

    • April 12, 2017 at 9:41 AM

      Thanks, Martha. It’s all a bit time consuming. I hope I finish because I am going out of town. We’ll see.

  2. April 12, 2017 at 5:12 AM

    Wow, never heard of him before! You might enjoy mine – all about extraordinary women, many of them obscure, but a few well-known thrown in!

    J is for Dame Jane Goodall #AtoZ Challenge

    • April 12, 2017 at 9:40 AM

      Thanks for stopping in, Liz. Cheers, Denise

  3. April 12, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    Great idea to write about the sibling of someone famous. I certainly learned something new today. Thank you for posting this!

    Plucking Of My Heartstrings

    • April 12, 2017 at 9:39 AM

      Well, Wellington did get all of the art due to his theft! Those Bonapartes!!

  4. jaishvats
    April 12, 2017 at 9:24 AM

    I saw the post title and got reminded of Napolean…Had no idea about this story….

    • April 12, 2017 at 9:46 AM

      Thanks, Jaishvats. I enjoyed your juggling essay. Happy A to Z! Denise

  5. hilarymb
    April 12, 2017 at 10:40 AM

    Hi Denise – interesting extra by-line to Wellington’s story … and what wonderful art for Wellington to bring back to Britain …. which we can now see on display here … thanks – cheers Hilary

    • April 12, 2017 at 12:46 PM

      Hilary, there were so many paintings that it is said the soldiers were using the backsides to clean their boots or something similar. I cannot remember the details but I have read it in more than one place. No telling what kind of masterpieces were lost in the fields around Vitoria, Spain, due to Joseph being a dirty, rotten thief! Cheers, Denise

  6. May 8, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    17 Years in the US………a long time for a man who did so much and men in those days didn’t live long……….But……The king of Naples?? Fascinating…….except, now I have to pause from my catch up on your blog and find out what that’s all about; even though I have been to Naples a few times and think it’s Shite…..Great Post! As usual, I am learning a lot.

    • May 8, 2017 at 2:25 PM

      Napoleon installed him for a time and he was an ok king, apparently. I was more shocked that he lived in Jersey for so long. Who knew? That is why I like participating in the A to Z.

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