Princess Marie Bonaparte (2 July 1882 – 21 September 1962) was a French author and psychoanalyst, closely linked with Sigmund Freud. Her wealth contributed to the popularity of psychoanalysis, and enabled Freud's escape from Nazi Germany.
Marie Bonaparte was a great-grandniece of Emperor Napoleon I of France. She was a daughter of Prince Roland Bonaparte (19 May 1858–14 April 1924) and Marie-Félix Blanc (1859–1882). Her paternal grandfather was Pierre Napoleon Bonaparte, son of Lucien Bonaparte, who was one of Napoleon's rebellious and disinherited younger brothers. For this reason, despite her title Marie was not a member of the dynastic branch of the Bonapartes who claimed the French imperial throne from exile. However, her maternal grandfather was François Blanc, the principal real-estate developer of Monte Carlo. It was from this side of her family that Marie inherited her great fortune.
She was born at Saint-Cloud, a town in Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France. Her mother died of an embolism induced when giving birth to Marie.
On 21 November 1907 in Paris, she married Prince George of Greece and Denmark, the second son of King George I of the Hellenes, in a civil ceremony, with a subsequent religious ceremony on 12 December 1907, at Athens. She was thereafter officially also known as Princess George of Greece and Denmark. They had two children, Peter (1908–1980) and Eugénie (1910–1989).
Troubled by her difficulty in achieving sexual fulfillment, Marie engaged in research. In 1924 she published her results under the pseudonym A. E. Narjani and presented her theory of frigidity in the medical journal Bruxelles-Médical. Having measured the distance between the clitoris and the vagina in 243 women, she concluded after analysing their sexual history that the distance between these two organs was critical for the ability to reach orgasm ("volupté"); she identified women with a short distance (the "paraclitoridiennes") who reached orgasm easily during intercourse, and women with a distance of more than two and a half centimeters (the "téleclitoridiennes") who had difficulties while the "mesoclitoriennes" were in between.
Marie considered herself a "téleclitorienne" and approached Josef Halban to surgically move her clitoris closer to the vagina. She underwent and published the procedure as the Halban-Narjani operation. When it proved unsuccessful in facilitating the sought-after outcome for Marie, the physician repeated the operation.
She modeled for the Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. His sculpture of her, "Princess X" created a scandal in 1919 when he represented her or caricatured her as a large gleaming bronze phallus. This phallus symbolizes the model's obsession with the penis and her lifelong quest to achieve vaginal orgasm. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, condemned orgasm by clitoral stimulation and praised vaginal orgasm with a penis as the superior and only legitimate type. His condemnation echoed the social mores of his era which condemned masturbation as both morally harmful and as a cause of mental disorders.
In 1925 Marie consulted Freud for treatment of what she described as her frigidity, which was later explained as a failure to have orgasms during missionary position intercourse. It was to Marie Bonaparte that Sigmund Freud remarked, "The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’". She later paid Freud's ransom to Nazi Germany, and preserved Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess despite Freud's wish that they be destroyed.
Jacques Lacan, in his seminar 1960-61, "L'Angoisse", gave a particular lesson later named in Seuil' s Edition by Jacques-Alain Miller "Woman, more true and more real", in which he paints women as being "deuterophallic". He explains that by this he means the very simple fact that, if women are interested in phallic signifiers, paraphernalia or whatever, it is only as a means to reach men's desire, and in the strict function as this desire touches them.
Despite what she described as sexual dysfunction, she conducted affairs with Freud's disciple Rudolph Loewenstein, and Aristide Briand, the French prime minister.
On 2 June 1953, Marie and her husband represented their nephew, King Paul of Greece, at the coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in London. Bored with the pageantry, Marie offered psychoanalysis to the gentleman seated next to her, who was the future French president François Mitterrand. Mitterrand obliged Marie, and the couple barely witnessed the pomp and ceremony, finding their own activity far more interesting.
She practiced as a psychoanalyst until her death in 1962, providing substantial services to the development and promotion of psychoanalysis. She translated Freud's work into French and founded the French Institute of Psychoanalysis (Société Psychoanalytique de Paris SPP) in 1926. In addition to her own work and preservation of Freud's legacy, she also offered financial support for Géza Róheim's anthropological explorations. A scholar on Edgar Allan Poe, she wrote a biography and an interpretation of his work.
She died of leukemia in Saint-Tropez, was cremated in Marseilles, and her ashes were interred in Prince George's tomb at Tatoï, near Athens.