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apoleon Bonaparte is one of the most famous men in history. He was a revolutionary, a war hero, and an intellectual. Some even saw him as a god-like figure. Napoleon’s siblings, on the other hand, aren’t well-known. This is understandable. But sometimes it’s fun to dig into the unfamiliar parts of our past, and this is especially the case when it comes to Napoleon’s favorite sister.

Indeed, Pauline Bonaparte never shied away from the limelight. She was vain, outspoken, affluent, and — above all — highly promiscuous.

Men in uniform

Pauline wasn’t a fan of modesty. She knew she was beautiful and relished the effect she had on men. Her pale skin, her sensuous mouth, and her dark hair were enough to turn anyone’s head, regardless of sexual preference.

But Pauline was much more than a pretty face. She was a flirtatious extrovert who loved to be the center of attention. Wherever she went, it was impossible to ignore her.

Napoleon was fully aware of his sister’s antics. In 1797, he even caught her having sex in his study with Charles Emmanuel Leclerc, a dashing, chiseled general who was often referred to as “the blonde Napoleon”. Despite this rather embarrassing scenario, Napoleon supported his sister’s decision to marry Leclerc.

A painting of Charles Emmanuel Leclerc by François Kinson, 1804 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, Pauline was anything but faithful. Whilst her husband was abroad with the military, she juggled three lovers simultaneously: General Pierre de Ruel, General Moreau, and General Etienne-Jacques Macdonald.

And even when Pauline traveled with her husband, she loved to be promiscuous. In December 1801, the pair of them went to Saint-Domingue, and whilst Leclerc was attempting to crush a rebellion, Pauline engaged in a string of sexual affairs with both men and women.

Leclerc, meanwhile, contracted yellow fever and died in November 1802. According to Napoleon’s Civil Code, women were required to mourn the death of their husbands for ten months. But Pauline wasn’t one to listen to her brother when it came to matters of love.

Lovers and luxury

After returning to the French capital, Pauline was introduced to Camillo Borghese, a wealthy prince from a prominent Italian family with plenty of large properties in Tuscany and Rome. They married in August 1803, but — predictably — the relationship was far from ideal.

Though Borghese was besotted with his wife’s beauty, Pauline didn’t have much respect for him. She couldn’t resist flirting with other men, and there were even rumors she was sleeping with Napoleon.

A painting of Camillo Borghese by François Gérard, c. early nineteenth century (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Whilst her brother did have a reputation for promiscuity, historians have been unable to confirm this rumor. In any case, Pauline didn’t let these accusations influence her desire for more love affairs. During her marriage to Borghese, she had sexual relations with Niccolé Paganini, a violinist, Conrad Friedrich, a German lieutenant, and François-Joseph Talma, a famous actor.

When she wasn’t cheating on her husband, Pauline loved to surround herself with luxury. The capital cities of Paris and Rome were perfect for her lavish tastes, and she was obsessed with expensive shops, glamorous balls, and theatrical performances.

Bizarrely enough, Pauline also had an interest in the occult. She was fond of clairvoyants, tarot cards, prophecies, and divination. Though such a hobby was rather unremarkable compared with her lively love affairs, it did nothing to improve her reputation.

Afterword

Beneath Pauline’s beautiful exterior, she was also plagued with health problems. Abdominal pain and periodic pain were commonplace throughout her life, and this may well have been linked to her promiscuous lifestyle.

In June 1825, Pauline’s poor health overwhelmed her, and she died at the age of forty-four from a tumor inside her stomach. Though her actions were far from honorable, the life of Pauline Bonaparte was anything but dull.

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