Napoleon Charles Bonaparte: Prince Royal of Holland (1802-07)

Figure 1.--This portrait of Queen Hotense with Prince Napoleon Charles was painted by François Gérard probably about 1806. Louis and Hortense became king and queen of Holland in 1806. Napoleon Charles was the royal couple's first son. The boy died about a year later in 1807, a great shock to his parents--especially Hortense. He wears a red velvet skeleton suit. Notice the short sleeves, this was not a common stylistic feature.

Napoleon Charles Bonaparte was born December 10, 1802. He is the boy on the portrait here with his mother (figure 1). His title was Prince Royal of Holland. He wears a classic red velvet skeleton suit--the height of fashion in the early 19th century. The short sleeves were rather unusual. The two here make such a charming pair that it is sad to report that the boy died not too long after the portrait was painted. He was a sickly child and died at age 4 in his mother's arms at the Hague (May 5, 1807). His untimely death was a great tragedy for his parents, especially his mother, and the Bopnaparte family. When he died at 4½ years of age in 1807 of diphtheria. His parents reigned in Holand. The boy's body lay in state at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris--an indication of the importance given to the tragedy. and is buried at Saint-Leu-La-Foret, Ile-de-France. As was the custom in France unrtil recent years, Louis and Hortense named their third child born after Napoleon Charles' death, Charles-- Charles Louis Napoleon. He would become the third Bonaparte emperor of France. A French reader tells us about the practice of nameing children after a brother or sister who passed away. "It was a common practice amoung French families to give the following child the same name as a dead brother or sister. So later our brother or sister who becomes an Angel has the responsibility to protect us. This was how I goy my name. Each Sunday I had to pray for him and I took this responsibility very seriously. I never forget to pray during the mass for my litlle brother whose my disappearance was a drama for my Mother. My Parents told me a long time later that he was dressed in a white satin tunic in his casket. It was during World War II and white child caskets were not vailable."


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Created: 6:58 PM 12/6/2007
Last updated: 6:58 PM 12/6/2007