SIGStory #9

Dozens of pennies rest on top of the unmarked headstone of John Wilkes Booth in the eastern corner of the Booth family plot at Greenmount Cemetery Thursday, May 8, 2013. Booth, who assassinated Pres. Abraham Lincoln in April, 1865, was killed 148 years ago today. Photo by Karl Merton Ferron/staff               

An Assasin, An Emperor’s Sister- in -Law and A Former King

Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore City was dedicated in 1839 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Found there are nearly 65,000 grave plots scattered among buildings, sculptures and a hilltop chapel. Three of those plots bear the names of an assassin, an Emperor’s sister-in law and a former King.

The Assassin

John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in the Booth family plot. His tombstone is unmarked, the Booth family fearing it might become a shrine to the confederacy because of the number of confederate sympathizers living in Baltimore at the end of the Civil War. Today visitors leave pennies on the unmarked tombstone with President Lincoln’s likeness facing up “to lock the assassin in the ground”.

The Emperor’s Sister-in-Law

Elizabeth Patterson met Jerome Bonaparte in 1803. Elizabeth wanted to leave Baltimore which she considered provincial. Jerome wanted the wealth Elizabeth could provide him. Not long after they were married Jérôme’s brother Napoleon, Emperor of France, ordered his brother back to France and demanded that the marriage be annulled. In return Napoleon made Jerome King of Westphalia, a short lived appointment. Elizabeth, pregnant with Jerome’s son, learned of the annulment from a newspaper report.

Elizabeth returned to Baltimore and amassed a fortune through her own ingenuity and business acumen. Her formula for business was straightforward: “Never run the slightest risk in the pursuit of great profits—see clearly the transaction to its termination.” This approach benefited her greatly and ensured wealth for her son and grandsons. Unlike Elizabeth who often fretted over her financial state, the future generations of American Bonapartes enjoyed fortunes free from worry.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte spent her last years in Baltimore in the management of her estate, the value of which she increased to $1.5 million. She died in the midst of a court battle over whether the state of Maryland could tax her out-of-state bonds.The case reached the Supreme Court (Bonaparte v. Tax Court, 104 U.S. 592). The Court decided in favor of Maryland. She is buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore City.

The Former King

In Green Mount Cemetery, there are two burial plots that remain empty. They are owned by the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the former King Edward Vlll of England and Wallis Simpson of Baltimore City.

The story of the romance between the King and a twice divorced woman from Baltimore is well known. What is less known is the end of life plan made by the couple.

After the abdication of the King, the couple was without a country. Rumors of Nazi sympathies plagued the Windsors in the wake of a 1937 visit to Germany. The couple was banished to the Bahamas during World War 11 to keep them out of Europe and avoid potential embarrassment to the Crown.

Estranged from his family and his country, the Duke with the Duchess made plans to be buried in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore City, the childhood home of the Duchess. But Queen Elizabeth had a change of heart and in a 1965 agreement she allowed for her uncle, the former King Edward VIII and his wife, the Duchess of Windsor, to be buried near other members of the royal family in the Royal Burial near Windsor Castle. The Duke died in 1972, the Duchess in 1986. The cemetery plots they purchased in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore City remain empty.

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