Louis Bonaparte Biography

King (1778–1846)
Louis Bonaparte was Napoleon I's third surviving brother and was king of Holland from 1806 to 1810.


Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte proclaimed his brother Louis Bonaparte king of Holland in July 1806. By 1809, Napoleon considered annexing Holland to stop the trade the Dutch secretly conducted with England. In 1810, failing to negotiate with either England or Louis, the emperor dispatched French troops against the Dutch capital. Louis abdicated and fled his kingdom, which Napoleon annexed to France.

Early Years

Louis Bonaparte was the younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte and shared with Napoleon a difficult relationship their entire lives. Born Luigi Buonaparte in Agaccio, Corsica, to parents Carlo and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte, on September 2, 1778, Louis was ambitious, like Napoleon, but suffered from emotional problems that probably limited his accomplishments and respect in the eyes of his more accomplished brother.

Early Career in Military

Louis Bonaparte followed his brother into the army and received a military education. With Napoleon's help, Louis was commissioned a lieutenant in the artillery and by 1796 accompanied him on the Italian campaign, where he rose to the rank of capitan. In 1798, he accompanied his brother to Egypt, where he was Napoleon's aide-de-camp. By age 25, he had risen to the rank of general, due not to actual military accomplishments but to his brother's influence. In truth, Louis showed little aptitude for military life, and after 1804 he didn't participate in any military campaigns. In 1805, he became the governor of Paris.


In 1802, Napoleon and his wife Josephine arranged for Louis Bonaparte to be married to Hortense de Beauharnais, Josephine's daughter by her first marriage and, hence, Louis's step-niece. The forced union led to dreadful results, due partly to Louis's violent jealousy of his wife and his growing resentment toward Napoleon. It is also speculated by some historians that Louis suffered from a form of mental illness and confused sexual orientation. The couple had three children, Napoléon Charles Bonaparte, Napoléon Louis Bonaparte and Charles Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte.

King of Holland

On July 5, 1806, Napoleon installed Louis Bonaparte as King of Holland with the intention that he would serve as no more than the Dutch governor. He hoped that Louis would enforce French navigation laws on Dutch merchants secretly trading with Great Britain. However, Louis chose to defend Holland's national interests. His record is mixed, as he showed strength in leading relief efforts after a ship explosion in the city of Leiden and during a major flood, but showed seriously erratic behavior in frequently and senselessly changing the location off the Dutch capital city. But it was Louis' unwillingness to have Holland join the Continental System that led Napoleon to dispatch French troops against the Dutch capital and force Louis to flee his kingdom. Napoleon annexed Holland to France on July 9, 1810.

Later Years

After leaving Holland, Louis Bonaparte was given asylum from Austrian Emperor Francis I, and between 1811 and 1813 he took refuge in Graz, Austria, where he turned to writing and poetry. After Napoleon's defeat in the Russian campaign, Louis wrote to him several times asking to be restored to his former position but was denied. He eventually settled in Rome to continue his literary pursuits. During the revolution of the 1830s his two sons fought for Italian unity. Napoléon Louis was killed in battle in northern Italy in 1831. Charles Louis-Napoléon assumed the leadership of the Bonaparte cause and was imprisoned after attempts to overthrow the reigning Orleans king. Charles was later proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III of France in 1852, but Louis didn't live to see this, having died on July 25, 1846.

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