Abandoned!

Jerome engraving-1
Jerome Bonaparte, 1813, Engraving by T.L. Potrelle and M. Gaudin after a painting by Kinson, Collection of the Maryland Historical Society

By Heather Haggstrom, Exhibitions Manager

Jerome left Elizabeth in Lisbon, promising her that he would convince Napoleon to recognize the marriage.

Shortly after his departure, Jerome wrote to Elizabeth saying, “Don’t cry because tears do no good and may do you much harm… Take care not to receive visitors or to make visits and to have someone always with you either Mrs. Anderson, the doctor, or William… I embrace you as I love you, and you know that I love you very much…”

He had assured Betsy that if he failed in his mission he would withdraw “with my little family in no matter what corner of the world.” When Jerome arrived in Rome, Napoleon refused to bend on his decision and gave him an ultimatum: either give up Elizabeth or be stripped of all his titles, removed from the line of succession and left without a cent.

He ordered Jerome to have no further contact with Elizabeth and sent him back to the Navy where he was to prove himself in battle. Jerome saw no other option but to comply with his brother’s demands. He later told Elizabeth that his plan was to prove himself in battle and then ask for her as his reward.

Meanwhile back in London, Elizabeth tried to keep a low profile. She did not want to draw more anger from Napoleon and make Jerome’s mission impossible. One London paper noted that she received very little company.

During Jerome’s absence, Elizabeth grew desperate for news and tried contacting him by any means possible. She sent letters to Jerome through Napoleon’s step-daughter, Hortense, and his brother Lucien.

The only news she heard was from a newspaper, recounting his arrival in Genoa and his reconciliation with his brother. In July she received a letter from a Dr. Garnier who stated that Jerome was very worried about her and he urged her to return to America as soon as she could travel.

Elizabeth discounted this letter as she didn’t trust Dr. Garnier. A letter from a more trustworthy source, Alex Le Camus, was sent to Mr. Patterson in Baltimore. Le Camus assured Mr. Patterson that Jerome was doing all that was in his power to make the situation right and again urged Elizabeth to return to America, set up house and await a summons to France. Mr. Patterson neglected to share this information with his daughter and left her wondering why her beloved husband had abandoned her.


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