Princess Marie Bonaparte

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Princess Marie Bonaparte
Princess George of Greece and Denmark
Spouse Prince George of Greece and Denmark
Issue Prince Peter
Princess Eugénie
House House of Bonaparte
House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Father Roland Bonaparte
Mother Marie-Félix Blanc
Born (1882-07-02)2 July 1882
Saint-Cloud, France
Died 21 September 1962(1962-09-21) (aged 80)
Saint-Tropez, France
Burial Royal Cemetery, Tatoi Palace, Greece

Princess Marie Bonaparte (2 July 1882 – 21 September 1962) was a French author and psychoanalyst, closely linked with Sigmund Freud. Her wealth contributed to the popularity of psychoanalysis, and enabled Freud's escape from Nazi Germany.

Marie Bonaparte was a great-grandniece of Emperor Napoleon I of France. She was a daughter of Prince Roland Bonaparte (19 May 1858 – 14 April 1924) and Marie-Félix Blanc (1859–1882). Her paternal grandfather was Pierre Napoleon Bonaparte, son of Lucien Bonaparte, who was one of Napoleon's rebellious and disinherited younger brothers. For this reason, despite her title Marie was not a member of the dynastic branch of the Bonapartes who claimed the French imperial throne from exile. However, her maternal grandfather was François Blanc, the principal real-estate developer of Monte Carlo. It was from this side of her family that Marie inherited her great fortune.

Early life[edit]

She was born at Saint-Cloud, a town in Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France. Her mother died of an embolism caused by giving birth to Marie.

On 21 November 1907 in Paris, she married Prince George of Greece and Denmark, the second son of King George I of the Hellenes, in a civil ceremony, with a subsequent religious ceremony on 12 December 1907, at Athens. She was thereafter officially also known as Princess George of Greece and Denmark. They had two children, Peter (1908–1980) and Eugénie (1910–1989).

Sexual research[edit]

Troubled by her difficulty in achieving sexual fulfillment, Marie engaged in research. In 1924, she published her results under the pseudonym A. E. Narjani and presented her theory of frigidity in the medical journal Bruxelles-Médical. Having measured the distance between the clitoris and the vagina in 243 women, she concluded after analyzing their sexual history that the distance between these two organs was critical for the ability to reach orgasm ("volupté"); she identified women with a short distance (the "paraclitoridiennes") who reached orgasm easily during intercourse, and women with a distance of more than two and a half centimeters (the "téleclitoridiennes") who had difficulties while the "mesoclitoriennes" were in between.[1] Marie considered herself a "téleclitorienne" and approached Josef Halban to surgically move her clitoris closer to the vagina. She underwent and published the procedure as the Halban-Narjani operation.[1] When it proved unsuccessful in facilitating the sought-after outcome for Marie, the physician repeated the operation.

She modeled for the Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncuși. His sculpture of her, "Princess X," created a scandal in 1919 when he represented her or caricatured her as a large gleaming bronze phallus. This phallus symbolizes the model's obsession with the penis and her lifelong quest to achieve vaginal orgasm.


In 1925, Marie consulted Freud for treatment of what she described as her frigidity, which was later explained as a failure to have orgasms during missionary position intercourse.[2] It was to Marie Bonaparte that Freud remarked, "The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'". She later paid Freud's ransom to Nazi Germany and bought Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess regarding his use of cocaine from Fliess's widow when he could not afford to. Freud wished the letters destroyed, but Marie refused, insisting that they were of great historical importance. She agreed never to read them, however, and they were not published until 1984. She was also instrumental in delaying the search of Freud's apartment in Vienna by the Gestapo and later arranged for Freud to smuggle some of his savings in a diplomatic pouch belonging to the Greek embassy. She persuaded Anton Sauerwald, a Nazi, to sign the papers enabling Freud to leave Vienna and also arranged for the transport to London of his books, collection of antiquities and analytic couch.[3]

Despite what she described as sexual dysfunction, she conducted affairs with Freud's disciple Rudolph Loewenstein, and Aristide Briand, the French prime minister.

Later life[edit]

On 2 June 1953, Marie and her husband represented their nephew, King Paul of Greece, at the coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in London. Bored with the pageantry, Marie offered psychoanalysis to the gentleman seated next to her, who was the future French president François Mitterrand. Mitterrand obliged Marie, and the couple barely witnessed the pomp and ceremony, finding their own activity far more interesting.

She practiced as a psychoanalyst until her death in 1962, providing substantial services to the development and promotion of psychoanalysis. She translated Freud's work into French and founded the French Institute of Psychoanalysis (Société Psychoanalytique de Paris SPP) in 1926. In addition to her own work and preservation of Freud's legacy, she also offered financial support for Géza Róheim's anthropological explorations. A scholar on Edgar Allan Poe, she wrote a biography and an interpretation of his work.


She died of leukemia in Saint-Tropez on 21 September 1962. She was cremated in Marseille, and her ashes were interred in Prince George's tomb at Tatoï, near Athens.


The story of her relationship with Sigmund Freud, including assisting his family's escape into exile, was made into a 2004 TV movie called Marie Bonaparte directed by Benoît Jacquot and starring Catherine Deneuve as Princess Marie Bonaparte and Heinz Bennent as Freud.


Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 2 July 1882 – 21 November 1907: Princess Marie Bonaparte
  • 21 November 1907 – 21 September 1962: Her Royal Highness Princess George of Greece and Denmark



  • "Le Printemps sur mon Jardin." Paris: Flammarion, 1924.
  • "Topsy, chow-chow, au poil d'or." Paris: Denoel et steele, 1937.
  • The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe: A Psycho-Analytic Interpretation with a foreword by Sigmund Freud – 1934 (translated into English, 1937)
  • Topsy – 1940 – a love story about her dog
  • "La Mer et le Rivage." Paris: for the author, 1940.
  • "Monologues Devant la Vie et la Mort." London: Imago Publishing Co., 1951.
  • "De la Sexualite de la Femme." Paris: Press Universitaires de France, 1951.
  • "Psychanalyse et Anthropologie." Paris: Press Universitaires de France, 1952.
  • "Chronos, Eros, Thanatos." London: Imago Publishing Co., 1952.
  • "Psychanalyse et Biologique." Paris: Press Universitaires de France, 1952.
  • Five Copy Books – 1952
  • Female Sexuality – 1953


  1. ^ a b Roach, Mary (2008). Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. New York: W. W. Norton and Co. pp. 66f, 73. 
  2. ^ Mieszkowski, Katharine (4 April 2008). "Getting It on for Science". 
  3. ^ Cohen, D. 2013 Freud and the British Royal Family, in "The Psychologist", Vol. 26, No. 6, June 2013, pp.462–463


  • Bertin, Celia, Marie Bonaparte: A Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1982. ISBN 0-15-157252-6
  • Loewenstein, Rudolf, Drives, Affects and Behavior: Essays in Honor of Marie Bonaparte, 1952

External links[edit]