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How Demidov became related to the Bonapartes, and for which he publicly flogged the emperor's niece
How Demidov became related to the Bonapartes, and for which he publicly flogged the emperor's niece

The 19th century passed under the sign of Napoleon Bonaparte. The great commander became an idol not only for his compatriots, but also for foreigners. Among the Russian admirers of this extraordinary personality was Anatoly Demidov, a representative of the richest dynasty of Ural industrialists. A passionate Bonapartist, he collected all sorts of relics associated with Napoleon, and the most striking "rarity" of his collection was the niece of the French emperor Matilda. However, this adorable "exhibit" brought a lot of trouble to Anatoly Nikolaevich.

Clever intrigue, or why Jerome Bonaparte himself chose a husband for his daughter

Portrait of A.N. Demidov. Artist: Raffé

The dynasty of the Ural industrialists Demidovs was the richest in the Russian Empire for many years. One of the offspring of the family, Anatoly Nikolaevich, was born in Italy, was educated in France and lived almost his entire life in Europe. Having succumbed to the cult of Napoleon reigning in the 19th century, Anatoly became an ardent admirer of Bonaparte and spent a lot of time and money on perpetuating the memory of this extraordinary personality. And over time, he even became related with his idol.

By chance, Anatoly Demidov in Florence met with the young niece of Napoleon I. Matilda Laetitia Wilhelmina Bonaparte, daughter of King Jerome Bonaparte of Westphalia, the younger brother of the French emperor, was delighted with a new acquaintance - dressed like a London dandy, educated, handsome. The girl charmed the Russian millionaire with her beauty: an amazing complexion, wonderful golden hair, expressive eyes, and a regal bearing. In addition, she was smart and, what is most important for Anatoly, surrounded by an aura of kinship with his idol.

However, he did not pretend for more, since at that time his heart was occupied by Valentina de Sant'Alde Jonde, Duchess de Dino. Then Jerome Bonaparte, known in the world as a clever intriguer, entered the arena. His goal was extremely simple and materialistic - money. The fact is that by that time the Westphalian king was burdened with debts that were steadily growing. To return to his former well-being, Jerome decided to bet on the Ural millionaire and did everything possible to alienate him from the Duchess and bring him closer to his daughter. And his plan worked.

Generous Russian soul: diamonds in a million and a marriage contract

Jerome Bonaparte - King of Westphalia, younger brother of Napoleon I Bonaparte

Jerome Bonaparte did not miss the chance to improve his financial condition. Convinced that the young people were very interested in each other, he began to methodically "process" the potential groom. First of all, he announced to Demidov that his title of count was not sufficient to marry the emperor's niece. Matilda must, after marriage, keep the rank of princess - an indispensable condition. Therefore, Anatoly Nikolaevich had to buy the appropriate title - Prince of San Donato.

Further, Jerome made it clear to the future son-in-law that he was not able to give his daughter a dowry. Demidov bought the diamonds pledged by the bride's father, spending about a million francs on it, and he pretended to present them to his daughter as a wedding gift.Under various pretexts, Jerome postponed the wedding until he bargained for a comfortable existence for himself and his relatives. So, according to the marriage contract, Anatoly Demidov was obliged to allocate about 120 thousand francs annually for the maintenance of not only his wife, but also her father, brother and girlfriend.

How was the wedding ceremony of Anatoly Demidov and Matilda Bonaparte

Matilda-Letizia Wingelmina Bonaparte

The event, which was destined to be in the center of attention of high society for a long time - the wedding of Anatoly and Matilda - took place in November 1840 in Rome. The sacrament of the wedding was performed first according to the Orthodox canons in the Greek chapel, and then according to the Catholic ones - in the cathedral. The bride shone with a chic wedding dress made in London. A snow-white silk dress, trimmed with English lace, was complemented by family jewels - a rich pearl necklace inherited by Matilda from her mother, and jewelry with symbols of the Napoleonic dynasty.

J. Bonaparte's bill for 10,000 francs, paid by Anatoly Demidov

There were well-wishers and envious people in the huge crowd of guests. However, both of them agreed in one opinion: on this day, an alliance of two brightest personalities was concluded - a fabulous Russian rich man and an incredible beauty, the niece of the recent ruler of Europe.

Scourge for Napoleon's niece, or for which Demidov whipped his windy wife Matilda Bonaparte

Nizhny Tagil, view of the plant management and the plant. Second half of the 19th century

In secular salons, they admired the generosity and wealth of the owner of the Nizhny Tagil Mining District. The joint life of Anatoly and Matilda was short-lived, but stormy. At first, the newlyweds managed to create the appearance of a happy married couple, even though evil tongues spread rumors about the love of each of the spouses. Soon the juicy rumors were confirmed: Demidov resumed relations with his former passion, the Duchess de Dino, and his wife got a lover - Count von Neverkerk, a handsome woman known throughout Europe.

For five years, the quarrels between the spouses followed one after another, and in the end resulted in a grandiose scandal. Passions flared up after Anatoly Demidov announced to his faithful that money for her maintenance would be allocated only if she behaves in public as befits a respectable wife and does not interfere with his personal life.

Matilda's retaliatory move was impudent and rather reckless: at a ball in honor of her husband's name day, she insulted her rival Duchess in very rude terms. Anatoly reacted instantly and harshly - in front of everyone present, he slapped his wife two slaps in the face. Matilda was not long in coming and loudly called her husband a cuckold. This escapade did not go unpunished. Demidov dragged the brawler out of the hall, dragged her into the bedroom, tied her to the bed and whipped her.

The execution had consequences unexpected for Demidov. Instead of being ashamed of her antics and repenting, the wayward French princess collected all the jewelry from her dowry (by the way, her husband's property), grabbed a tidy sum of money and fled with her lover. This was followed by a lengthy divorce proceedings. In it, Matilda had a significant advantage - a kinship with the Russian emperor Nicholas I, who was her mother's cousin. Therefore, it is not surprising that she won the lawsuit. The marriage was dissolved, Anatoly Demidov until the end of his days paid Madame Bonaparte 200 thousand francs a year, and after his death, the duty to support Matilda fell on his relatives.

Later already another Bonaparte became a career soldier in the service of the Russian emperor.

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