Born in Corsica in 1750, Letizia Ramolino’s upbringing was unremarkable for the time. She received no formal education and, at fourteen, married a law student and settled down to what should have been a life of child-bearing and domestic monotony. She duly bore thirteen children over the next twenty years, eight of whom survived beyond infancy.
However, the death of Letizia’s profligate husband, leaving the family penniless, heralded a dramatic change in her life. Over the next fifty years, her financial situation fluctuated between poverty and incredible opulence. She was forced to flee first from Corsica and then from France, finally settling in Rome under the protection of the pope. Her eight surviving children all held royal titles including one emperor, three kings, one queen, a prince, a princess and a grand duchess.
Letizia’s husband was Carlo Buonaparte; her second son – Napoleon.