Caroline Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio, Corsica. She was a younger sister of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoléon Bonaparte, Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte and Pauline Bonaparte. She was an older sister of Jérôme Bonaparte. In 1793, Caroline moved with her family to France during the French Revolution. There, she fell in love with Joachim Murat, one of her brother’s generals, and they married on 20 January 1800. Caroline was seventeen years old. Initially, Napoleon did not wish to allow them to marry, however, his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais persuaded him to change his mind. Caroline had been a pupil at the school in St-Germain-en-Laye founded by Madame Jeanne Campan. She attended the school at the same time as Hortense, Joséphine’s daughter and Caroline’s brother Louis’ wife. She became Grand Duchess of Berg and Cleves on 15 March 1806 and Queen consort of Naples on 1 August 1808. She was intensely jealous of her sister-in-law Joséphine and her children, as she felt Napoleon favored them over his Bonaparte relatives. Caroline continuously plotted against Joséphine. It was Caroline who arranged for Napoleon to take a mistress, Éléonore Denuelle, who duly gave birth to his first illegitimate child. This had the desired effect of establishing that Joséphine was infertile as Napoleon showed he was clearly capable of siring children.
When Napoleon married his second Empress Consort Marie Louise of Austria, Caroline Bonaparte was responsible for escorting her to France. After meeting her at the border of Austria and her duchy, Caroline forced Marie-Louise to leave all her luggage, servants, and even her pet dog, behind in Austria. Consequently, she devoted herself to the interests of her husband Joachim Murat, the King of Naples. Her relations with Napoleon became increasingly strained in 1813–1814, as Joachim shifted allegiances. She supported his decision to make a separate peace with the anti-Napoleonic allies, keeping his throne while Napoleon was deposed. Then, during the Hundred Days of 1815, Joachim came out for Napoleon. He was defeated and executed, and Caroline fled to the Austrian Empire. Whilst in exile, she adopted the title ‘Countess of Lipona’; ‘Lipona’ being an anagram of ‘Napoli’ (Naples). In 1830, she married Francesco Macdonald (1777–1837), who had been Minister of War of the Kingdom of Naples in 1814 and 1815. She lived in Florence until her death in 1839. The couple had no children. Caroline Bonaparte died in 1839, Caroline was buried at the Chiesa di Ognissanti, in Florence. One of her direct descendants is the American actor René Auberjonois. Specifically, he is her great-great-great-grandson.
- March, 25, 1782
- Ajaccio, Corsica
- May, 18, 1839
- Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
- Cimetière du Père Lachaise
- Paris, France