Joseph Bonaparte, successively king of Naples and of Spain, eldest brother of Napoleon I., born at Corte, Corsica, Jan. 7, 1768, died in Florence, July 28,1844. The grand duke of Tuscany having recommended Charles Bonaparte to his sister, the queen of France, he gained . admission for his son Joseph to the college of Autun, destining him for the church. Joseph, however, agreed with Napoleon to become a soldier; but the father prevailed upon him shortly before his death to relinquish this project, and to devote himself to the task devolving on him as the eldest son of attending to the education and prosperity of his younger brothers and sisters. Joseph having completed his education at the university of Pisa, the grand duke of Tuscany wished to attach him to his service, but he preferred to rejoin his family in Corsica. In June, 1788, he was admitted as advocate to the superior council at Bastia, and he became one of the most active and influential members of the municipality. He was an early and zealous supporter of the French revolution of 1789, became president of his district, published a pamphlet on the new French constitution, was a member of the committee appointed to invite Paoli to Corsica, and became his secretary in the Corsican administration.
During the English invasion of the island Joseph, who had been commander of militia, served at Toulon at the same time with his brother Napoleon. On Aug. 1, 1794, he married at Marseilles Marie Julie Clary, daughter of a rich merchant, and whose younger sister became in 1798 the wife of Bernadotte and afterward queen of Sweden. In 1796 he followed Napoleon to Italy as military commissary of his army, and was sent by him to Paris with Junot to deliver his trophies to the directory. Shortly afterward he was sent with a body of men to Corsica against the English; but they having evacuated the island before his arrival, he rejoined Napoleon, who procured for him the appointment of French envoy in Parma, which he exchanged in 1797 for that of French minister in Rome. His course during the commotions in that city in 1798 being approved by the directory, the mission to Berlin was tendered to him; but he preferred joining the council of 500 as member elect from Corsica, his presence in Paris enabling him to watch over the interests of Napoleon, to whom he sent his Greek friend Bourbaki to urge his immediate return from Egypt. He cooperated with Napoleon in the events of the 18th Brumaire, introducing Mo-reau to him, and through the medium of Ca-banis making the first overtures to Sieyes. He declined a place in the cabinet, but accepted a seat in the tribunate and in the council of state, and contributed essentially to the popularization of the new consular government by assisting Napoleon with his advice, and by rallying round him many supporters, his amenity of manners and conciliatory disposition making friends for him in almost all classes of society.
The same characteristics secured his success as the negotiator of the treaty of peace with the United States in 1800, with Germany at Luneville in 1801, and with Great Britain at Amiens in 1802; and subsequently in concluding the concordat with the Roman see. When assuming the imperial dignity, Napoleon offered the crown of Lombardy to Joseph, who however preferred to remain in France as the presumptive successor to the new throne. In 1805 he was prevailed upon by his brother to accept a military position; but as the latter had to leave for the seat of war, Joseph remained in Paris to share with Camba-ceres in the administration of the government. After the victorious return of Napoleon from Austerlitz, Joseph was sent with an army to Naples, entering the city in February, 1806, and assuming the title of king of Naples, according to the wishes of Napoleon, which had now become laws even for Joseph, to whom up to that time he had invariably shown great deference. The cares of the throne were not congenial to Joseph's quiet disposition; and they were made the more harassing by the futile attempts to conquer Sicily and by other internal complications, and especially by the interference of his brother with his conciliatory measures.
Yet he became attached to the genial climate and to the people of Naples; and after having reigned over them about two years with great mildness and with much solicitude for their prosperity, it was with reluctance, and only in obedience to his brother's inexorable will, that in 1808 he exchanged the throne of Naples for that of Spain. In an interview with Napoleon at Bayonne, Joseph insisted upon being recognized as king by the Spaniards previous to his departure for their country, and Napoleon at once had a junta convened (June 15), which lost no time in giving the prescribed recognition. The new monarch left for Madrid, but a day after his arrival there (July 20) he informed Napoleon of his deception and of the unconquerable hostility of the Spaniards. If left to himself, he might perhaps have made his rule acceptable to them; but he was compelled to govern Spain, as he had been to govern Naples, not in the interest of the nation, but according to the dictates of Napoleon, who disdained to listen to Joseph's repeated remonstrances, suggestions, and entreaties; neither would he allow him to relinquish the throne, though Joseph wished to be relieved from its burdens.
Three times during his administration of five years he was driven by hostile armies from his capital, the last time, in 1813, never to return. After transferring (July 12) the command of the army to Soult, Joseph retired to a chateau near Bayonne, and soon afterward he rejoined his family at Mortfontaine, near Paris. On Dec. 29 he wrote to Napoleon placing himself at his disposal, but yet expressing unwillingness to desert his duties as king of Spain. The emperor in January, 1814, made him lieutenant general of the empire in his absence, with large military and civil prerogatives as the head of the regency under Maria Louisa. In this capacity, when the allied army invested Paris in March, 1814, he authorized Marmont and Mortier to treat for a suspension of hostilities, and subsequently consented to a capitulation. He then joined Maria Louisa and her son at Blois, attempted in vain to rejoin Napoleon at Fontainebleau, and went to Switzerland, where he purchased the chateau of Prangins on the lake of Geneva. On hearing of the emperor's landing at Cannes, Joseph hastened to Paris, and endeavored to gain the support of Lafayette, Mine, de Stael, Benjamin Constant, and his other personal friends, for his brother's last desperate attempt at restoration, by holding out the promise of a constitutional form of government.
After the battle of "Waterloo he met Napoleon for the last time, June 29, 1815, and in vain proposed to take his place as prisoner, by passing himself off for him. Napoleon still hoping to be able to escape to the United States, the two brothers pledged themselves to meet there. "While the emperor was conveyed to St. Helena, Joseph embarked at Royan, July 25, under the name of Count de Sur-villiers, for New York. He purchased a house in Philadelphia, where he lived during the winter, and extensive grounds and a mansion called Point Breeze, near Bordentown, N. J., where he generally spent his summers. An act was passed in 1817 by the legislature of New Jersey to enable him, as an alien, to hold real estate; and at his request a similar act was passed in 1825 by the state of New York, where he resided some time in a secluded mansion on the edge of the great northern wilderness. He endeared himself to Americans by his benevolence, affability, and accomplishments; and he was elected to many philanthropical and learned associations.
His wife was prevented by her delicate health from joining him; but his two daughters and his son-in-law, the prince of Canino, lived with him in the United States. Among his other faithful companions was O'Farrell, formerly one of his ministers in Spain. His exile was cheered by the visits of Lafayette and other distinguished personages, but it was deeply saddened in 1821 by the death of Napoleon, to whom Joseph had never ceased to be tenderly devoted. As chief of the Bonaparte family, he ineffectually exerted himself after the revolution of July, 1830, for the recognition of the claims of Napoleon II. to the throne of France, and protested against the accession of any other dynasty. In 1832, on hearing of the duke of Reichstadt's illness, he went to Europe; but being informed of his death at Liverpool, he remained in England. In 1834 he joined his brother Lucien in a protest against the banishment of their family from France, disclaiming all unpatriotic and ambitious designs, and declaring their submission to the popular will.
In 1837 he returned to the United States, but in 1839 again went to England. Some time after his second arrival in London he was struck with paralysis, and sought relief in vain at "Wildbad, "Wurtemberg. In order to escape from the English climate and to rejoin his family, he wished to proceed to Italy. Even in 1841, however, he could only obtain the consent of the king of Sardinia to his residing in Genoa; but this example was soon followed by the grand duke of Tuscany, and he spent the rest of his life with his family in Florence. Joseph was not made for camps or thrones; his ambition was moderate, and he found the main sources of happiness in domestic and social life, and in the gratification of his literary and artistic tastes. His presence was elegant and courtly, and his manners were singularly winning. The correspondence between himself and Napoleon I., which has been published since his death, reveals the confidential intercourse of the two brothers, and throws considerable light upon the details of important events and transactions. Joseph presented the various insignia of the legion of honor which had been worn by Napoleon to the French government, and many pictures from the collection of his uncle Cardinal Fesch to Corsican towns.
The museum of Versailles contains a marble statue of Joseph, by Delaistre; a bust, by Bartolini; and a portrait of him by Gerard. See Memoires et correspondance politique et militaire du roi Joseph, by Du Casse (10 vols., Paris, 1853-'5; an English selection from the same, 2 vols., New York, 1856), and Memoires, by Miot de Melito (3 vols., Paris, 1858). - His wife died in Florence, April 7, 1845. Their elder daughter, Zenaide Charlotte Julie, married her cousin the prince of Canino, and died in Italy in 1854. The younger daughter, Chaelotte, born in Paris, Oct. 31, 1802, married her cousin, the second son of Louis, had no children, became a widow in 1831, and died at Sarzana, Italy, March 2, 1839.