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Friday, November 24, 2023

Is That Napoleon?

That's Napoleon.
No, that's not Napoleon.

Hanging in Staatsburgh's library, the life-size portrait of Staatsburgh's founder, Morgan Lewis, dressed an early 19th century military uniform, often prompts the question "Is that Napoleon?

While Ruth Mills' great-grandfather is not the French emperor, there are certainly reminders of Napoleon Bonaparte throughout the house. Tucked away in the southwest corner of Staatsburgh's library is a leather-bound, four-volume set titled Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life. Sitting upon Mrs. Mills' desk in her boudoir is a small brass sealing wax stamp crowned with a bust of Napoleon Bonaparte. Besides it, there sits a small tortoise box with a cameo of Napoleon Bonaparte. Outside of the guestrooms for unmarried ladies upstairs, hung among the portraits of American presidents such as George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt, hangs a print of Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps.

In anticipation of the upcoming Napoleon Bonaparte biopic, Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular emperor, we wanted to share some of Staatsburgh's own connections to the wider Bonaparte family. For a woman who vied to be Queen of New York Society, Ruth Mills seemed to surround herself with images of French royalty. Yet her and her family's ties to the Bonaparte family went beyond interior decoration. Several generations of Ruth Livingston Mills' family had connections to the famous French imperial family, reaching from the gilded palaces of Paris to the American Wild West.