When the Revolution broke out, the Bonapartes were in a difficult position as they were staunch supporters of Republican ideals, and in opposition to Paoli and Pozzo di Borgo who sided with the English. In May 1793 Letizia suddenly left Ajaccio with her children and sailed for the continent, where she would live with her children in Marseille.
Her home and all the family properties were completely looted, and the house was subsequently requisitioned by the English to store animal fodder and weapons, and to billet officers on the upper floor.
It was not until the end of 1796, when the French had expelled the English from Corsica, that Joseph was able to return to Ajaccio. As soon as he arrived, he bought Ignazio Pianelli’s apartment on the second floor and employed Samuel-Etienne Meuron, a Swiss architect and businessman who had designed the fortifications for the main square in Ajaccio, to help him renovate the house.
The law of 31 January 1797, compensating Corsican victims of the English occupation, meant that the Bonapartes received sufficient funds to restore the house, and Letizia returned to oversee the renovation work.
The house seems to have been entirely renovated: bricks, floor tiles and roof tiles came from Genoa and from Marseille; Letizia employed stonemasons, carpenters, blacksmiths and locksmiths. New pieces of furniture were added to the few items to have escaped the looting. Elisa sent for wallpaper and damask wall coverings as well as chairs, trumeau mirrors and a marble table. A banister rail was made and sent to Ajaccio. Joseph had the gallery built.
In 1799 the work was completed, enabling Letizia, Fesch and young Louis to leave the island and rejoin the family in Paris. The house was then left in the charge of Camille Illari, Napoleon’s nursemaid.
A deed executed in 1805 and transferred to the Château de Malmaison, stated that the house in Ajaccio be given to Letizia’s cousin André Ramolino. It stipulated that within two years and at his own expense, he was to build a square in front of the house by having other buildings demolished. This is the origin of the garden situated in front of the house. When he died in 1831, the property passed to his relative and godson Napoleon Levie Ramolino, but Letizia contested this inheritance, initially citing the birth of the King of Rome (1811), and later as her grandson’s heir after 1832.
The inheritance finally passed to Cardinal Fesch (Letizia’s half brother), then to Joseph Bonaparte who eventually managed to reclaim full possession of the estate in 1843. By then the house had been emptied of all its furniture: Napoleon Levie Ramolino had taken everything.
Joseph’s daughter, Zénaïde, Princesse of Canino, relinquished the house in favour of her cousin Napoleon III in 1852. He had the buildings restored by Alexis Paccard the architect of the Palace of Fontainebleau and by the painter Jérôme Maglioli. The Emperor and his wife were disappointed to find the house empty when they visited in 1860, and so the Crown Wardrobe negotiated with Levie to repurchase the furniture. The Empress Eugenie returned in 1869 with her son on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte, but this was to be their last visit, as the house was confiscated in 1870.
It was restored to the Prince Impérial in 1874, and on his death it reverted to Eugenie and finally to her heir Prince Victor who donated it to the State in 1923. The house is listed as a Historic Monument, and became a national museum in 1967. Today it is administered by the Musée National du Château de Malmaison.