Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte (1785 0 1879) was the first wife of Jerome Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon I of France.)

“Betsy” was born in Ireland, but came to the US before the American Revolutionary War. Her father, William Patterson was the wealthiest man in Maryland.

Jerome and Betsy met when he was visiting the US as a lieutenant in the French Navy. They married on Christmas Eve in 1803 and the gossip began IMMEDIATELY! She became well known for her very risqué taste in clothing (french styles of sheer fabrics and low-cut bodices), including her wedding dress! Zut Alors!

Napoleon, was less than pleased with the marriage and ordered his brother back to France WITHOUT his wife. In 1804, they both left by boat and headed for France. A very pregnant Betsy was not allowed to disembark in France or the Netherlands, per her brother-in-law. She was forced to give birth to her son in London. Jerome gave in to his brother’s demands soon after and ditched her to married a German princess (despite the divorce not being final.)

She returned to Maryland with her son “Bo” and lived with her father. She was well known for her royal connections, and used those connections to mingle in some very exclusive social circles.

In 1815 she finally got her divorce papers. Having independent financial and legal status was extremely rare for women in that time. Betsy never withdrew from society- but flaunted her fashion choices and lifestyle. Bravo! She spent her final years in Baltimore, building her estate, and getting sued by the state- they were trying to tax her out-of-state bonds. The supreme court eventually decided in favor of Maryland. Boo.

She never remarried, but was known as “Madame Bonaparte” until she died.

There is a historic fiction novel about her life, you can purchase here:

and a great article here: