University Archives


Napoleon & His Older Brother Joseph Sign Financial Document

A 1p manuscript letter in French signed by brothers and co-monarchs Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844). Napoleon, in his role as French Emperor, has signed as "Np" near the center of the letter, while Joseph, in his role as King of Spain and the Indies, has signed as "joseph" at lower left. Napoleon's original command was directed from Paris on January 24, 1814, while the docket indicates that Joseph received the sum in question the same day. Expected light paper folds, gentle uneven toning, and a few chipped edges. Minor mounting traces verso. Else very good to near fine. 7.25" x 7.875." Ex-Good Speeds, per pencil notation from October 14, 1964 at top verso.

Napoleon instructed François Roullet, Baron de la Bouillerie (1764-1833), to give 500,000 francs to his older brother Joseph. De la Bouillerie had served in various financial capacities dating from Napoleon's earliest days as First Consul, including General Treasurer of the French crown after 1811.

Translated in full, with unchanged spelling and punctuation:

"Monsieur Baron Labouillerie, you will give to King Joseph five hundred thousand francs. You will attribute this payment to his appanage, as well as the one of 300,000 francs that was made to him previously. On this, I pray God keeps you in his holy care. Paris the 24 January 1814.

[signed] Np

[handwritten in another hand, possibly Joseph's] Received five hundred thousand francs 24 January

[signed] Joseph."

An appanage is a gift or grant bestowed on a lesser prince or their children to offset the costs of general maintenance.

Napoleon's meteoric rise to political power in France enabled him to also promote members of his family. A savvy politician, Napoleon used nepotism to surround himself with loyal satellites and consolidate his control over other European countries. Napoleon installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte, already named as a French Prince and Grand Elector, as King of Naples and Sicily following the French invasion of the territory in 1806. Joseph Bonaparte would be appointed King of Spain in the Indies in 1808. After Napoleon's fall, Joseph Bonaparte lived in the United States until the 1830s.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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