Napoleon and Sarzana: City of origin of the Bonaparte

I Bonaparte and Sarzana

Buonaparte and Sarzana, a long indissoluble bond between this noble family and the City that saw the Buonapartes among the greatest exponents of city life as Mayors, Ambassadors, Procurators, members of the Council of the Elders, Notaries, related to important families like the Malaspina, the Calandrini. Then the emigration to Corsica, then under the Republic of Genoa, as Sarzana .; here these Sarzanese emigrants with a direct and uninterrupted descent, gave birth to the one who gave the greatest prestige to the family, becoming Emperor of the French and ruler of half of Europe: Napoleon Buonaparte. That Napoleon is a direct descendant of Buonaparte Sarzanesi is now beyond doubt, recent studies confirm this and have been stated on several occasions by him. The elder brother, Giuseppe, had been in Sarzana in 1789 in search of documents proving the noble origins of his own family whose history, although briefly, deserves to be told. Also a Bonaparte by marriage lived in Sarzana :: the Empress Maria Luisa, archduchess of Austria, was a guest of the Remedi marquises and slept with the Picedi counts on 16 August 1817, when she became duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla. The reader will find the surname Bonaparte or Buonaparte cited indiscriminately: it is not a transcription error, but the lexical evolution of the language, when the Latin turns into Italian and then, for example as in our case, the Bona becomes Good. Napoleon himself then retransformed his surname from Buonaparte to Bonaparte, eliminating the “uo” diphthong, difficult to pronounce in the French language.

In Sarzana i Bonaparte, who are almost all awarded the title of “Ser”, that is a notary and have often held important positions in the city government: some were elected to the office of Mayor, others of Prior, others still members of the Council of Elders, ambassadors and prosecutors of the city. With regard to marriages with important families, the contract between Giovanni Bonaparte and Isabella Calandrini in 1397 should be mentioned, the year in which the cousin of this one is born, Tommaso Parentucelli who became Pope in 1447 under the name of Niccolò V, great humanist and founder of the library Vatican. One of the five children born of this marriage, Cesare Bonaparte, married in 1440, Donna Apollonia Malaspina, daughter of Nicolò Malaspina marquis of Verrucola. The Malaspina marquises constituted one of the most noble families of the peninsula, as Napoleon himself will remember, also with Brunswick, the reigning house of England. Giovanni, Cesare’s son, is the first Bonaparte who, albeit temporarily, moved to Corsica, to Bastia, as regent on behalf of the powerful Campofregoso family who united their dominion over Sarzana and Genoa to rule over Corsica. In fact, between the Campofregoso and Bonaparte families there was a consolidated relationship of friendship revived by common literary interests, as shown by the frequent attendance of the library of the illustrious Genoese family in their home in Sarzanello by the learned Cesare Arrivano also for the Bonapartes, as often happens, the adverse fortunes and the son of Giovanni, Francesco, goes to Corsica as a mercenary and crossbowman on horseback in the pay of Genoa. Gabriele, Francesco’s son, also a mercenary on horseback, sells all the properties he has in Sarzana and settles permanently in Ajaccio; he is considered the forefather of the Bonaparte of Corsica.

Carlotta Bonaparte

A sad episode ties the Bonaparte back to Sarzana. This time by chance, by a strange coincidence, Princess Charlotte Bonaparte, daughter of Giuseppe Bonaparte King of Naples first and King of Spain then, that Giuseppe who fifty years before had come to Sarzana in search of news about his family, dies in 1839 in the city of its ancestors while pregnant, fleeing from Rome, to hide its status and avoid scandal. Charlotte was born in 1802 and spent her childhood in various cities (Naples, Madrid, Paris, Rome) following the vicissitudes of her family, linked to the fortunes and misfortunes of her uncle Napoleon. Permanently settled in Italy, in July 1826, at the age of twenty-four, Carlotta married in Florence with her cousin Napoleone Luigi. He spent his first and brief years of marriage between Florence and, in winter, Rome at Villa Paolina. He devoted himself to painting with good results. In 1831, at only twenty-nine, he remained a widow; her husband Napoleone Luigi died in Forlì following a scarlet fever epidemic. Shocked by the premature death of her young husband, Carlotta goes to live with her parents at Palazzo Serristori in Florence, where she spends a few years in solitude, avoiding parties and receptions. But right here, in this building frequented at that time as well as by the usual writers and artists, even by Polish adventurers. Carlotta does not remain insensitive to the courtship of one of these and if she falls in love; the princess following this relationship, gets pregnant. As long as Carlotta can hide her pregnancy and then, to avoid the scandal, she decides to take refuge in Rome at Villa Paolina. But even here, not being able to conceal his state for a long time, he takes the decision to go to Genoa to give light to the fruit of his forbidden love. And so, in the port of Civitavecchia, he boarded a sailing ship for Genoa. The weather is bad, Carlotta suffers from seasickness and is forced to disembark in Livorno to continue the journey in a carriage. He arrives in Lucca and here he is seized by a strong haemorrhage; having recovered, with great strength of mind, he decided to continue the journey to Genoa. This is how he reserves an apartment in Sarzana, in the Locanda Defornari (then located in front of the Cathedral). Here she is assailed by excruciating pain and is immediately assisted by two Sarzana doctors. His uncle Baciocchi, husband of Elisa Napoleone, called urgently because of the health of his niece, decides to call the illustrious Pisan gynecologist Regnoli. These, given Carlotta’s precarious condition, decide to attempt a surgery that will then be completely in vain. In the death certificate drawn up and existing in the municipal archives of Sarzana, there is no mention of the causes of the death of the princess, nor of the child, on which many doubts remain whether he really died or was entrusted to someone. So that day of February 27, 1839, at the age of thirty-seven, the tragic destiny of Carlotta, the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte, died out due to a tragic fate in the city of Sarzana, home of his ancestors. Now he lies buried in Florence, in Santa Croce, under a marble monument sculpted by the sculptor Bartolini.

Cardinal Spina

A Sarzanese in Paris to negotiate with Napoleon
the concordat between France and the Vatican

Napoleon was never in Sarzana but he knew this city as well as that of his ancestors. He had had the opportunity to talk about it in Grenoble, on his return from the Egyptian Campaign, with an important Sarzanese: Cardinal Spina, then still Monsignor with the title of Archbishop of Corinth. On this occasion he had the opportunity to appreciate his intelligence and the skills of a skilled negotiator; and it is precisely for this reason that when the need arises to negotiate the Concordat between the French Republic and the Church, Napoleon wants it in Paris. Spina arrives in the French capital on November 5, 1800 accompanied by a theologian: Father Caselli. The next day Spina meets in a hotel with the treacherous and astute foreign minister Talleyrand and Abbot Bernier. The issues to be dealt with are very delicate, we must restore the Catholic cult in France. Spina’s mandate is summed up in these words of Pope Pius VII: “Listen, see, explore and dexterously insinuate!” The positions of the parties are distant and it is thanks to the esteem that the First Consul has towards Spina that they do not stop even if there are moments of strong tension. The problem that has arisen in recent years in the discussion on the European Constitution arises: the Vatican wants the concordat to acknowledge that the Catholic religion is the religion of the French: the question is resolved by inserting in the preamble of the Concordat that “the Catholic religion is the religion of the majority of the French “. After lengthy and exhausting discussions, on 15 July 1801 (26 year old X) Giuseppe Bonaparte, Bernier and Crétier for the French government and Consalvi, Spina and Caselli for the Holy See, finally sign this important agreement that ends a deplorable schism and re-establishes relations of independence and union between the Church and the French State. At noon, Bonaparte signs his document. Monsignor Spina is appointed Cardinal and person in charge of business in France, where he will remain until the arrival of Cardinal Caprara.

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