Letizia Ramolino  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Nobile Maria Letizia Buonaparte née Ramolino (Marie-Lætitia Ramolino, Madame Mère de l'Empereur) (24 August 1750 – 2 February 1836) was the mother of Napoleon I of France.

She was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, to Nobile Giovanni Geronimo Ramolino (13 April 1723–1755), Captain of Corse Regiments of Chivalry and Infantry in the Army of the Republic of Genoa, and wife Nobile Angela Maria Pietrasanta (circa 1725–1790). The distant cousins of the Ramolinos were a low rank of nobility in the Republic of Genoa. Letizia was not formally educated.

On 2/7 June 1764, when she was 14, she married at Ajaccio to attorney Carlo Buonaparte. She bore 13 children, eight of whom survived infancy, and most of whom were created monarchs by Napoleon:

She was a harsh mother, and had a very down-to-earth view of most things. When most European mothers, even those in the upper class, bathed perhaps once a month, she had her children bathed every other day.

When France under the Ancien Régime took control of Corsica, in 1769, French became the national language, but Letizia never learned the tongue. When she was 35, her husband died of cancer. She was decreed "Madam, the Mother of His Majesty the Emperor" (Madame Mère de l'Empereur), Imperial Highness, on 18 May 1804 or 23 March 1805. She died of old age in Rome, in 1836, aged 85, three weeks before the 50th anniversary of her husband's death. By then she was nearly blind and had outlived her most famous son Napoleon by 15 years.

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