The Bonaparte Women: Marie-Félix Blanc & Marie Bonaparte




marie felix blanc
Marie-Félix Blanc (public domain)

Marie-Félix Blanc was born on 22 December 1859 as the daughter of François Blanc, founder of the Monte-Carlo casino, and Marie Blanc (née Hensel). Prince Ronald Bonaparte was a grandson of Lucien Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, who probably was more in love with Marie-Félix’s money than Marie-Félix herself. They married on 17 November 1880 despite being impossibly ill-matched. Marie-Félix was known for her piety and immaturity. 1 By then, she was probably already ill with tuberculosis and shortly after the wedding, she was desperate for a child. Her husband too was desperate for a child, if only to keep her wealth for himself.2

She did become pregnant and on 27 March 1882, she wrote a will, “Wishing to give my husband, Prince Roland Bonaparte, a proof of my attachment, I leave to him in entirety: the whole of my fortune… (..) If I leave issue of our marriage, I leave to my husband all that the law permits me to dispose in his favour.” 3 At the end of June, Marie-Félix began a three-day painful labour which ended with the use of forceps. When their daughter Princess Marie Bonaparte was born on 2 July 1882, she was blue and not moving. Surprisingly, both mother and daughter survived the birth, but in the days that followed, Marie-Félix did not seem to improve much.4

On 1 August, she was well enough to get up, but as she did, she felt a sharp pain in her leg. They called for her husband, and she told him, “My poor Roro, I’ll never see you again!” She died of an embolism.5 Prince Ronald’s mother was overjoyed, “What luck for Ronald! Now he gets the whole fortune!” She moved in with her son to help care for his daughter.6

She was a lonely and fragile child and was fascinated with murderers and executions.7 She saw very little of her father, who had hoped that his marriage would help him find a place in society. Instead, he discouraged her studies and left her with a broken heart.8 Marie became deeply attached to her nursery maid and began to develop phobias9 She also found companionship in a little dog she had named Zéphyr.10

On 25 June 1899, shortly before her 17th birthday, her father gave Marie a grand ball. In her notebook, she recorded, “I am beautiful for the first time.”11 As she grew older her phobias and particularly her hypochondria became worse. Believing herself to have her mother’s illness, she wanted to study medicine.12 Her uncle wrote, “For five minutes I saw Mimi, bundles up in old-womanish clothes, living in a room without curtains for fear of microbes, without a fire for fear of oxygen. I talked with Jeanne for a moment. Mimi leads the oddest life imaginable, lives in terror of microbes, does not enter a drawing room where there are several people, for fear that the air might be contaminated, would consider herself lost if she were outdoors after four o’clock. Her father is very upset about it, declares her to be unmarriageable, and I agree with him. A husband – no matter how patient – would not put up with such nonsense for two weeks. Mimi admits that this life is painful for her.”13

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Despite his concerns, her father tried to find a husband for her. In January 1906, the name of Prince George of Greece, the son of King George I of Greece, was mentioned. Marie did not want to live in another country, but she went to a luncheon in the King’s honour anyway. She found Prince George charming nonetheless.14 Despite knowing her wish to stay in Paris, Prince George proposed to her. Marie was completely surprised and hesitated for 28 days. Then she accepted his proposal.15

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The civil marriage took place on 21 November 1907, followed by a religious service on 12 December. The wedding night was traumatic for her. She wrote, “You took me that night in a short, brutal gesture, as if forcing yourself, and apologised, ‘I hate it as much as you do. But we must do it if we want children.'” 16 She became pregnant not much later.

For the birth of her son, she recorded, “On December 3, 1908, I wake up at 6:$0, soaked in very warm water, and I awaken “Sucre d’Orge (the nickname for her husband) who was sleeping beside me. He puts on his beige bathrobe and turns on the lights since it’s dark outside. Mimau soon arrives, covered in shawls. The doctor suggests chloroform, but I refuse. Oh no! It was beautiful, it was grand thus to feel oneself giving life to a new being! After the cannon shot at the Eiffel Tower, at 12:05, the doctor said: ‘At the next pain, I’ll deliver you.’ Six endless minutes went by. Finally, the pain came. ‘Don’t push anymore,’ the doctor said, and he pulled out something weighty that looks to me very long.” Prince Peter of Greece was born.17

On 10 February 1910, she gave birth to a daughter named Eugénie. George was disappointed as he hoped for a second son. In 1913, Marie wrote, “My husband. He bores me, he keeps me in chains, but he is the only man who will love me until death.”18 Marie had several lovers over a period of times, whom she recorded in the “The Men I Have Loved.”19

She had begun to suffer from frigidity (later explained as a failure to have an orgasm in a missionary position), and her main occupation became to overcome it, even by surgical means. Under the pseudonym A.E Narjani, she published an article called Considerations on the Anatomical Causes of Frigidity in Women.20 In 1924, she underwent several operations. She had an ovarian cyst removed, her breasts “corrected” and a scar on her nose was retouched. She knew very well that these operations were being done because of her psychological state and she asked her doctor to write to Freud. He did so, “I do not know if rank has told you we spent an evening at the house of Princess George of Greece. The lady in question suffers from a rather pronounced obsessional neurosis, which, though it has not impaired her intelligence, has nevertheless somewhat disturbed the general equilibrium of her psyche.”21

She finally met Freud in person on 30 September 1925, and there was an immediate trust between them. Marie had finally found a father figure.22 She became obsessed with the idea that her frigidity meant that she was may be a lesbian and frustrated that she had not pursued a homosexual experience when the opportunity had presented herself in her youth.23 By 1926, she was following the rounds at the psychiatric clinic of the general hospital. Her own problems had sparked a lifelong interest.24 Over the years, she would publish papers and work as a psychoanalyst. She wrote of Freud in 1937, “The greatest happiness of my life is to have met you, to have been your contemporary.”25

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In 1938, after the German invasion of Austria, she attempted to persuade Freud to leave Vienna. She spent her time sorting through his documents, and he left Vienna in June.26 Marie was haunted by the atrocities she had already seen in Vienna. She would go on to help close to 200 Jews, and she channelled funds to Jewish organisations.27 Freud died on 23 September 1939 and Marie left for London to attend the funeral of her friend.28 The Second World War uprooted Marie, and she spent some time in Africa, where she met with women whose clitoris had been excised.29

In 1945, she and her family travelled to America, where she met up with old friends. 30 They returned to a newly liberated Paris the following year. By 19448, she began spending her winters in Greece. A broken wrist after a fall did not stop her from correcting proofs with her other hand.31

As she entered the last decade of her life, she had not lost the Bonaparte vigour. She remained active in her work, and she remained obsessed with her sexuality.32 She attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.33 Her husband died on 25 November 1957. She wrote, “I wanted to spend the night of his death alone with my husband…. Then I bent over his cold forehead and kissed it. Not his lips, which he had always refused me.”34

Princess Marie Bonaparte died of leukaemia on 21 September 1961. She was cremated in Marseilles, and her ashes were transported to Tatoi, where they were interred next to Prince George.35

  1. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 21
  2. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 22
  3. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 24-25
  4. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 25-26
  5. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 26
  6. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 26
  7. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 36
  8. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 38-39
  9. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 40
  10. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 46
  11. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 65
  12. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 66
  13. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 74
  14. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 84
  15. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 88
  16. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 94
  17. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 99
  18. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 111
  19. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 129
  20. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 140
  21. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 146
  22. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 155
  23. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 156
  24. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 159
  25. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 198
  26. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 200-201
  27. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 202
  28. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 209
  29. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 213
  30. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 224
  31. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 230
  32. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 243
  33. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 246
  34. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 251
  35. Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life p. 264






About Moniek 1438 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

2 Comments

  1. A quite interesting woman, worth reading more about it you are interested in psychology. I’m guessing this phrase contains a typo: “…she spent some time in Africa, where she met with women whose clitoris had been exercised.” Is that supposed to be “excised”? (Though with Marie Bonaparte’s obsessions, one never knows…)

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