My previous blog was about a male musician (Jim Morrison) so I thought I’d give equal time to a female musician. One of Cyndi Lauper’s more popular songs was, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” I thought of this song as I was researching Pauline Borghese (aka Pauline Bonaparte—Napoleon’s sister). Actually, I’m listening to Cyndi’s CD while writing this blog. As we’ll see, Pauline was just a girl wanting to have fun.
Pauline Bonaparte (1780–1825) had quite a life, both in Paris and Rome. Never one to hold political or society ambitions (she basically owed her society existence to her brother’s position), Pauline’s life was one of moving from one affair to another (being married never stopped her). Simply put, Pauline just wanted to have fun. She was very loyal to her brother as evidenced by her moving to Elba to be with Napoleon during his first exile (she was the only family member to do so). She liquidated her assets to support him during this time. After Waterloo, Pauline moved to Rome under the protection of the Pope.
While in Paris, Pauline purchased the Hôtel de Charost in 1803—now used as the British Embassy. Built in the 1720s on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (no. 39), the hôtel was the site of many parties, receptions, and various events during Pauline’s ownership. Contemporary accounts reflect Pauline walking around naked while hosting her receptions and parties—she liked to be admired. She would have “magnificent men” carry her to and from her baths. When her feet got cold, Pauline would have one of her ladies-in-waiting lie down on the floor and she would warm her feet on the unfortunate lady’s body. Pauline would go on to commission a Florentine artist, Canova, to create two fully nude sculptures of her.
Before she moved to Elba, Pauline sold the Hôtel de Charost in 1814 to the Duke of Wellington. The duke paid her in installments, which she used to support Napoleon in his first exile. Napoleon was able to escape the following year and return to France in March 1815. Three months later at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington and a coalition of European forces defeated Napoleon. Isn’t it ironic that the duke and the English helped to partially finance Napoleon in his second attempt at conquering Europe?
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Pauline died in Florence at the age of 44 of cancer and is buried in the Saint Mary Major Basilica, Rome.
After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington was in charge of the English occupation of Paris. It was Jacques Necker’s daughter, Madame de Staël (a staunch opponent of Napoleon), who convinced the duke to withdraw many of the English troops. Madame de Staël and her father are highlighted in my first walking tour book, Where Did They Put the Guillotine?
I’d like to acknowledge Hugh Schofield and his BBC article (19 October 2014) entitled, “Scandalous Tales from the British Embassy in Paris” for providing some material for this blog post.
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