After life’s fitful fever, French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s estranged family sleeps well in Baltimore.

So says the epitaph etched on Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte’s tombstone in Green Mount Cemetery. The fever perhaps first flared when her notorious brother-in-law objected to her nuptials to Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother, on Christmas Eve in 1803. Though the marriage eventually ended in divorce, it ignited for Elizabeth what would become a decadeslong legal battle for diplomatic recognition and legitimacy for her son.

“Nature never intended me for obscurity,” the Baltimore Bonaparte once stated in a letter to her father.

Long before Baltimore’s other famous divorcée Wallis Simpson fell in love with a European ruler, Patterson’s love story did not sit well with her new family in France. Thursday’s anticipated release of the biopic “Napoleon,” directed by Ridley Scott and starring Joaquin Phoenix, has renewed interest in Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and her tussle with the French emperor.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The Maryland Center for History and Culture ran an exhibit center on her story last year, displaying more than 100 objects associated with Elizabeth including the French dictionary she used as a girl, a pearl and garnet tiara and one of her “scandalous” French-style dresses. Earlier this month, a research team with MyHeritage, an online genealogy platform, published an account of Elizabeth Patterson and described it as a lesser-known story of Napoleon Bonaparte’s American legacy.

According to the Maryland Center for History and Culture, Elizabeth Patterson was born in Baltimore in 1785. Her father William Patterson, a shipping merchant, was one of the wealthiest men in Maryland. She developed a reputation in Baltimore for her wit, beauty, independence and daring fashion choices, which were considered risqué at the time.

Jérôme Bonaparte was young when his father died, leaving his elder brother Napoleon to take over management of his education, according to the National Archives.

Napoleon put him in the navy in 1800. Jérôme became a lieutenant by the time he was 16 years old. In 1803, he arrived in the United States and met Elizabeth but failed to obtain his family’s consent before marrying her later that December. Napoleon was unhappy to learn of the union and called his brother back to France so the marriage could be annulled, researchers at MyHeritage said.

Patterson was pregnant when she traveled to France with her new husband in hopes of convincing Napoleon to accept the union. The new emperor issued orders that prevented her from debarking at any port controlled by the French. She gave birth to a son, Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte, in England in 1805 and later returned to the United States.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The marriage was annulled in France and the senior Jérôme Bonaparte went on to marry Catherine of Württemberg. Back in Baltimore, Patterson for years fought inheritance claims for her son and grandchildren. She died on April 4, 1879.

Although the marriage didn’t last, Patterson’s relationship to the Bonaparte family remains written in stone at her grave site along with one final declaration: “She sleeps well.”