Zebulon Howell Benton (1811-1893)
Col. Zebulon Howell Benton, of Oxbow, New York
He married one of the illegitimate daughters of Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Naples and Spain. In her excellent book, The Man Who Had Been King, Patricia Tyson Stroud writes of Benton that he was, "so fascinated with becoming the son-in-law of a king that he pretended to be a man of great wealth and soon squandered in wild speculations the $30,000 Joseph had given his illegitimate daughter at the time of her marriage. 'Colonel' Benton had insisted that on a lavish wedding in Watertown (New York) with the couple riding in a carriage drawn by four horses in tandem and a footman in uniform. No more strangely costumed figure ever appeared in the Adirondack backwoods than Benton. Fancying himself a nephew of Napoleon, if only by marriage, he adopted a costume he wore for the rest of his life: a cocked hat, ruffled shirt and white stock, like Napoleon, and a long Prince Albert coat in a military cut. He usually had himself photographed , 'with hand in coat'". Perhaps unsurprisingly, his wife eventually left him and taking two of their five children went to Philadelphia where she supported herself by teaching French.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 06/02/2021 and last updated on 01/04/2021.
The Man Who Had Been King: The American Exile of Napoleon's Brother Joseph (2005) by Patricia Tyson Stroud