It is one of the great ironies of history that Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-1821), a fervent admirer of ancient Rome and the man who declared “I am a true Roman Emperor; I am of the best race of the Caesars', never actually visited the Eternal City.
Napoléon named his eldest son the King of Rome, his sister Pauline married into the Borghese family, one of the leading Roman families, and, following his final defeat and exile to St Helena, his mother Letizia Ramolino retired to Rome, where she remained until her death in 1836. But the little Corsican never set foot in the city. And yet, since 1927, Rome has had a small museum devoted to him and his family.
The Museo Napoleonico was created by Count Giuseppe Primoli (1851-1927), a descendant of the Roman line of the Bonaparte family through his mother, Princess Carlotta.
Born in 1851, Primoli spent his early years at the French court of Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte. In 1870 Napoleon III fell from power, following the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, and Primoli divided the rest of his life between Paris and Rome, devoting much of his time to reconstructing the public and private history of Napoleon and the Bonaparte family.
The Museo Napoleonico is home to an eclectic collection of works of art, Napoleonic relics, and family mementos, all beautifully arranged on the ground floor of Primoli's palazzo.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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