Susan May Williams was born on 2 April 1812 as the daughter of Benjamin Williams and Sarah Copeland. In November 1829, Susan married Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte-Patterson, the son of Elizabeth Patterson, and Jérôme Bonaparte, who was the younger brother of Emperor Napoleon I. The marriage of Elizabeth Patterson, and Jérôme Bonaparte has been annulled after just three years so that Jérôme could marry Catharina of Württemberg.
The wedding of Susan and Jérôme was by Archbishop Whitfield, and because Susan was a protestant, the ceremony took place in the dwelling rather than the Cathedral in Baltimore. Elizabeth Patterson was against the match as she believed that he could do better. She reportedly told him, “You prefer to join the common herd, born to draw nutrition, propagate, and rot.” She wrote, “I had endeavoured to instil into him from the hour of his birth and connection ever to marry an American woman. I hated and loathed a residence in Baltimore so much that when I thought I was to spend my life there, I tried to screw my courage up to the point of committing suicide. My cowardice and only my cowardice prevent my exchanging Baltimore for the grave. I now repeat what I said in my last letter, that I would as soon have gone to Botany Bay as to have married any man in Baltimore.”1 Nevertheless, Susan was rich, and her fortune made them independent.
She was described as, “staunchly Union, a tall, handsome, black-eyed, Franco-American woman, decidedly masculine in mind, but true to her woman’s place. She captivated me, but being old enough for my mother, you needn’t be afraid.”2
Susan and Jérôme went on to have two sons together, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II (1830-1893) and Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921) and Jérôme was admitted to the Maryland Bar, but he did not devote his life to the practice as the family was rather well off. She was windowed in 1870.
Susan died on 15 September 1881. She had been unconscious several days leading up to her death, and her two sons were by her side. Newspapers reported the cause of death as “paralysis.”
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