However, in October, 1804, the young couple set sail for Europe. But ill-luck attended them, for they were wrecked on the American coast, and delayed until March, 1805. It appears that by this time the representations from Paris had worked on Jerome, and he talked of going by himself "to see what he could do." Elizabeth, however, made up her mind to accompany him, and when she made up her mind it took a Napoleon to match her.
At Lisbon, Napoleon's ambassador went on board, and inquired what he could do for "Miss Paterson." She replied that "Madame Bonaparte desires her rights as a member of the Imperial Family " - not at all the sort of answer likely to appease Napoleon. She was forced to sail for Amsterdam, while Jerome She was very anxious to have a personal meeting with the Emperor, bu1 this was not granted her. Had the two met there is little doubt that Elizabeth would have conquered Napoleon's opposition. She might, of course, have angered him beyond bearing but six-was a clever woman, and though she might be haughty to the Emperor's ambassador at Lisbon, she would have known how to treat Napoleon himself.
The Emperor's Consideration
Even had she not had plenty of experience with her many admirers, she had by this time learned tact in dealing with Jerome, who cannot have been easy to manage, being, indeed, very much the spoilt boy. But she was forced to go to England, partly by her state of health, save for which she would certainly have persisted in her efforts for an interview with her great brother-in-law.
Napoleon would not even see Jerome; but he wrote that he would give Miss Paterson a pension of 60,000 francs a year (2,400) if she returned to America and did not take the name of Bonaparte. Bearing in mind the scope and vigour of the French marriage laws, he acted with great consideration to her, although when he was asked to be lenient to Jerome, as his brother, he made the famous reply: "Sole fabricator of my destiny, I owe nothing to my brothers." But Elizabeth was handsomely treated, for in the circumstances she could not have claimed marriage with the humblest French citizen. Napoleon paid her pension regularly, and Elizabeth herself never spoke against the Emperor, and years afterwards when her own son married against her will, her views on the matter might have been Napoleon's own.
The Emperor tried to induce the Pope to annul the marriage, but his Holiness would not do it. There was nothing left for it but to concentrate on Jerome. Jerome was never a strong man; and if he had been, he could scarcely have resisted the marvellous magnetic power of his eldest brother's character. Napoleon overawed him, charmed him, promised him promotion and a brilliant destiny. Elizabeth was far away in England, and even the birth of a little son in 1805 could not bring back warmth to Jerome's rapidly cooling letters. At last he said, in so many words, that she would be better in America. That made the separation definite.
Elizabeth went back to Baltimore. But the dull life there was not likely to appeal to her now, and, much to her father's annoyance, she came back to England, where she settled down for many years. Her wit and beauty brought a large circle of interesting and distinguished people round her, and her position aroused universal sympathy. She had no morbid regrets for the happiness she had lost; she was not an affectionate woman, and her reeling for her son was never warm enough to distract her with fears after the wont of mothers. As for her husband, she quickly grew to despise and detest him, and when, on August 12, 1807, he married a Wurtemberg princess, her chagrin was great, but her sorrow was light. She was merely disappointed, for she should have been Queen of Westphalia herself. Jerome wrote and offered her a home in his kingdom and the title of princess, and she replied that it was a large kingdom, but hardly large enough for two queens; and as for the pension he offered, she already had one from Napoleon, and "she preferred being sheltered under the wing of an Eagle to being suspended from the bill of a goose " - a reply which enchanted Napoleon, who promptly made her a duchess. However, his power had fallen before the patent could be made out.
Wherever Elizabeth went she had great social success. She took her son Jerome to Geneva to be educated, and there he was cordially received by his father.
Elizabeth had sufficient money to enable her to live in comfort, even though her father had partly disinherited her, less for marrying against his will, it seems, than for finding Baltimore dull after her separation from Jerome. He liked Baltimore himself; all his interests centred there, and from what we can hear of the rest of the family, they were quite satisfied with it, too. They failed to appreciate the disappointed restlessness of a girl who had been within an ace of a splendid destiny. Moreover, in Baltimore Elizabeth was more or less the prodigal daughter, while in England she was a persecuted heroine.
She and the rest of the family made plans for young Jerome's marriage with some great person. He was to revive the greatness of the family, and so forth. While they were talking about it, he married the daughter of an American merchant - and Elizabeth discovered what her own husband's relatives must have felt like when he did the same thing
She lived to the great age of nincty-five, and died in 1879 at a quiet boarding-house in Washington - a woman who had been within reach of a throne, who had reigned over a brilliant circle in many cities, but who had been renounced by a husband, denounced by a father, and disappointed by a son. and whose beauty had been smudged out by a lifetime of shattered ambitions. But her beauty was very great, although it was of the masterful rather than the fascinating type. In profile, moreover, her appearance, by some strange coincidence was truly Napoleonic. Indeed, were it not for her hair and the fart that the face is essentially a woman's face, the profile portrait which accompanies this article might be one of the great Emperor himself