Charlotte Napoléone Bonaparte was born on 31 October 1802 in Mortefontaine in France as the daughter of Joseph Bonaparte and Julie Clary. Her father was the elder brother of Emperor Napoleon I. Her eldest sister Julie died in infancy, but another sister named Zénaïde survived to adulthood.
Her father became King of Naples and Sicily in 1806, and later also King of Spain and the Indies in 1808 but Charlotte and her sister remained in France during his reign except for three months they spent in Naples. He was forced to flee from Spain in 1813 and took the title Count of Survilliers. After her uncle was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Joseph escaped into exile to the United States. Charlotte remained in Paris with her sister and mother until they were forced into exile in May 1816. They travelled to Frankfurt and then to Brussels. While in Brussels, Charlotte received drawing lessons from Jacques Louis David, who was the official painter for Napoleon.
Joseph built a large mansion on the Delaware River, but his wife never joined him in the United States. Charlotte joined him there in December 1821 and lived with him for almost three years. During this time, she used the title Countess of Survilliers. During this time, Charlotte spent much of her time drawing her surroundings. In the spring of 1823, several of her works were exhibited by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Charlotte was expected to marry one of her cousins, but she had many suitors in the United States. Joseph rejected them all in favour of her first cousin Napoleon-Louis Bonaparte, the eldest surviving son of her uncle Louis, sometime King of Holland.
Charlotte married her cousin in July 1824 in Florence, Italy. They spent their winters in Rome and their summers in Florence with her father-in-law. In Rome, she took drawing lessons from French painter Leopold Robert. Charlotte was widowed in 1831 when her husband died on a campaign, probably of measles. Charlotte went to live with her mother in Florence. Among the visitors to Florence was a Polish Count, who probably became her lover. In 1838, Charlotte found herself pregnant. She left Rome and headed for Genoa. On the way there, she began to haemorrhage, and she underwent a cesarean section at Sarzana. The baby was already dead, and Charlotte died not much later due to the blood loss. She was buried in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence.1