Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, in the service of France
Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 23 January 1914 in Brussels and died on 3 May 1997 in Genolier, Switzerland. Great-grandson of Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, brother of Napoleon I, he was the Head of the Imperial House of France from 1926 until his death, bearing the title of Prince Napoleon, and being considered by Bonapartists as ‘Napoleon VI’.
Born in exile because of the exile law of 1886, which struck at the heads of the former ruling families (Bonaparte and Orléans), he spent his youth in England and Belgium, before moving to Switzerland.
In 1939, he wanted to join the French army to defend his country, but the President of the Council, Edouard Daladier, refused his request. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte then joined the Foreign Legion under the assumed name of Louis Blanchard. On 3 April 1940, Legionnaire Blanchard was assigned to the company stationed at Saïda in Algeria. The end of the fighting in France came too soon for his unit to be engaged.
Prince Napoleon then joined the Resistance. Arrested in 1942 while trying to join Free France through Spain, he refused the proposals made to him by the Germans and asked to be deported to Germany or released without conditions or concessions. Among other things, he refused to support the repatriation of the ashes of the King of Rome (son of Napoleon I) from Vienna to France at Les Invalides, orchestrated by Hitler to improve his image in the eyes of the French. Placed under house arrest, he fled and joined the Resistance (ORA) under the pseudonym of Louis Monnier, participating in several operations.
On 28 August 1944, he was wounded by German gunfire. Mentioned in the army order, decorated with the Legion of Honour as a soldier, congratulated by General De Gaulle, he was demobilised after the victory. His attitude during the Second World War certainly contributed to the abolition, on 24 June 1950, of the law of exile which affected the Bonapartes.
In 1949, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte married Alix de Foresta, daughter of the Count and Countess de Foresta. The couple had four children: Charles, Catherine, Laure, and Jérôme. An avid skier, car racer and scuba diver, Prince Napoleon was involved in companies operating in the Sahara, Equatorial Africa and the former Belgian Congo.
In 1979, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte made a historic donation to the State of manuscripts, souvenirs, paintings, sculptures, swords, silverware, official clothes, and objects of the Emperors, from the estate of Napoleon I and Napoleon III, through Empress Eugenie and her father Victor. Far from any partisan considerations, Prince Napoleon considered it his duty to put his family’s heritage at the service of the Nation as he had done with his own person.
Driven by a high awareness of his historical mission, he wished to keep alive among his compatriots the memory of the two Empires of which he was the heir. What his ancestors had left him as an inheritance was for him a sacred legacy for which he was accountable and which was part of the glories of France.
Prince Napoleon now rests in the family crypt of the imperial chapel in Ajaccio. In his dynastic will, he named his grandson Jean-Christophe (not his eldest son Charles) as the new pretender to the French imperial throne, head of the Imperial House of France, and Prince Napoleon.