Charles Léon

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Charles Léon Denuelle de la Plaigne
Count Léon
Born13 December 1806
Paris, France
Died14 April 1881(1881-04-14) (aged 74)
Pontoise, Paris, France
Noble familyBonaparte
Spouse(s)Françoise Fanny Jouet
FatherNapoleon Bonaparte
MotherLouise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne

Charles Léon Denuelle de la Plaigne, Count Léon[1] (13 December 1806 – 14 April 1881) was an illegitimate son of Emperor Napoleon of France and Napoleon's mistress Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne. Brought up in France, Léon began a military career in Saint-Denis where he was head of a battalion of the national guard.

Admirative of his father, he tried to keep the memory of the First Empire alive by organizing several commemorations. After the fall of his cousin Napoleon III and of the Second Empire, Léon retired in Pontoise, France, and died in poverty.


Charles Léon Denuelle de la Plaigne was born on 13 December 1806 at No. 29, Rue de la Victoire, 9th arrondissement of Paris, Paris, France, to Napoleon and Napoleon's sister Caroline Murat's maid, Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne.[2][3] Napoleon chose his second name of Léon.[4] He was Napoleon's first son, but was entrusted to a tutor and initially brought up in ignorance of his heritage.[4] Napoleon had thought for a long time that he was sterile because his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais, who already had two children from a previous marriage, failed to get pregnant. Léon's birth was of "undeniable political importance" since it showed it was not Napoleon who was sterile.[4] Napoleon considered adopting Léon, but realized his other illegitimate children would have claim to the crown and therefore abandoned the idea.[5] Although he did not legitimize Léon, Napoleon acknowledged Léon as his son and gave him a pension of 3,000 pounds a year and rights to the profits on wood sold from Moselle.[6][7]

Léon – short for Napoleon – was raised away from the imperial court, but always under his father's protection. The Emperor made him an heir in his will, and gave him the title of count.[1]

In 1832, Léon shot an orderly of the Duke of Wellington's, Charles Hesse, in a duel over losing 16,000 francs to Hesse in a card game.[8][2] Writer Gareth Glover stated Léon was "completely unmanageable" in adulthood and became a "hardened gambler", having to go to debtor's prison twice.[2] Biographer Andrew Roberts wrote he was an "argumentative drunken wastrel".[8]

He married Françoise Fanny Jouet, with whom he had four children live past infancy (sons Charles, Gaston and Fernand; and daughter Charlotte).[3][9] He died "poverty-stricken" on 14 April 1881.[8][3] He is buried in a mass grave in Pontoise, Paris, France.[10]

Léon’s daughter Charlotte Mesnard, who was interviewed in 1921 at the age of 55, said her father had a striking resemblance to Napoleon. She also said that two of Léon's sons and her own son were killed in the First World War.[11] Comte Charles Léon, Léon's grandson, died in 1994.[12]


Further reading[edit]

  • La descendance naturelle de Napoleon I: Le comte Léon; Le comte Waleswki[13] (translated in English): The natural descent of Napoleon 1st : Count Leon, Count Waleswki by Joseph Valynseele
  • Le Comte Léon, bâtard infernal de Napoléon[14] (translated in English): Le Comte Léon, infernal bastard of Napoleon by Joseph Verbet
  • Napoleon's Love Child: A Biography of Count Leon[15] by Dennis Walton Dodds, ISBN 9780718303334


  1. ^ a b Stacton, David (1966). Charles Léon. France: Simon and Schuster. p. 310. ISBN 9780671098605.
  2. ^ a b c Glover, Gareth (2020). Napoleon in 100 Objects. Frontline Books. ISBN 9781526731371.
  3. ^ a b c Bonaparte, Queen Hortense Eugénie Cécile (2016). The Memoirs of Queen Hortense, Volume 1. Pickle Partners Publishing. ISBN 9781786258380.
  4. ^ a b c Bedei, Philippe (2021). MINI DICTIONNAIRE DE L'HISTOIRE DE FRANCE: TOME 5. BoD - Books on Demand. p. 131. ISBN 9782322219667.
  5. ^ "The Three Sons of Napoleon". The English Illustrated Magazine. 25 (25): 127. April–September 1906.
  6. ^ Tsouras, Peter G. (2017). Napoleon Victorious!: An Alternative History of the Battle of Waterloo. Greenhill Books. p. 200. ISBN 9781784382117.
  7. ^ Vizetelly, Ernest Alfred (1907). The Court of the Tuileries, 1852-1870: Its Organization, Chief Personages, Splendour, Frivolity, and Downfall. France: Chatto & Windus. p. 179.
  8. ^ a b c Roberts, Andrew (2014). Napoleon: A Life. Penguin. ISBN 9780698176287.
  9. ^ Hennebicq, Maurice (February 11, 2011). "Le petit-fils de l'Empereur". Sud Ouest. Archived from the original on September 24, 2021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  10. ^ "Le fils de Napoléon enterré à Pontoise". Pontoise. Archived from the original on September 24, 2021. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on January 3, 2020. Retrieved June 12, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Weider, Ben; Forshufvud, Sten (1995). Assassination at St. Helena Revisited. Wiley. p. 471. ISBN 9780471126775.
  13. ^ Valynseele, Joseph (1964). La descendance naturelle de Napoleon I: Le comte Léon; Le comte Waleswki.
  14. ^ Vebret, Joseph (2018). Le Comte Léon, bâtard infernal de Napoléon (in French). De Borée.
  15. ^ Dodds, Dennis Walton (1974). Napoleon's Love Child: A Biography of Count Leon. Kimber. ISBN 9780718303334.