Charles, Prince Napoléon (Charles Marie Jérôme Victor Napoléon; born 19 October 1950 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France) is a French politician, and is the disputed head of the Imperial House of France and as heir to the rights and legacy established by his great-great-grand-uncle, EmperorNapoléon I. Other Bonapartists consider his son, Jean-Christophe, to be the current head of the house and heir.
Charles was the elder son of the late Louis, Prince Napoléon (1914–1997), and as such a great-great-grandson in the male line of Jérôme Bonaparte, King of Westphalia, Napoléon’s youngest brother. As neither Napoléon I nor Napoléon III of France has surviving legitimate issue in the male line, Jérôme’s descendants represent the only Imperial Bonapartes still living (the American Bonapartes were senior in descent from King Jérôme, but the last male of that line died in 1945 and this branch was never considered dynastic in France).
In 2011, a study of DNA extracted from Napoleon I’s beard and compared to that of Charles was found to match substantially, establishing that Charles was a member of the male-line of the Imperial House of Bonaparte (In 2013, published scholarship comparing DNAhaplotype evidence taken from Emperor Napoleon I, from Prince Charles and from a descendant of Napoleon’s reputed son, Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski, verified Walewski’s descent in the genetic male-line from Napoleon I’s patriline, however Walewski’s mother was never married to the emperor and he was raised as the legal son of her husband).
Charles’s mother was Alix de Foresta (born 4 April 1926), daughter of Albéric, comte de Foresta. Although she was the only consort of the surviving Imperial line not born a princess, her family had been nobles in Lombardy since the 13th century, becoming counts palatine in 1330, constables of Venice in 1425, then retainers of the powerful Doria family in Genoa. They settled in Provence, France early in the 16th century, where they acquired twenty-two manors and the title of marquis by 1651. Ironically, the Forestas distinguished themselves during the French Restoration as courtiers loyal to the House of Bourbon, and to Henri, comte de Chambord in particular. Long established as squires of large estates and rice paddies in the Camargue, the Forestas often welcomed Charles and his siblings there while they were growing up.
Charles was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, along with his twin sister, Princess Catherine. He was baptised at Saint-Louis-des-Invalides by the Apostolic nuncio to France Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII). Charles spent much of his youth at the family’s ancestral retreat-in-exile, the Villa Prangins on Lake Geneva between Lausanne and Geneva in Switzerland. He has two younger siblings, Princess Laure (born 1952) and Prince Jérôme (born 1957). His sisters are married but the French imperial line of succession never descended to or through women, while his brother married at the age of 56 and has no issue.