Caroline was born in Ajaccio, Corsica. She was a younger sister of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon I of France, Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte and Pauline Bonaparte. She was an older sister of Jérôme Bonaparte.
In 1793, Caroline moved with her family to France during the French Revolution. There she fell in love with Joachim Murat, one of her brother's generals, and they married on January 20, 1800. Caroline was 17 years old at the time. At first Napoleon did not allow them to marry, however his wife Josephine persuaded him to change his mind. Caroline had been a pupil at the school in St. Germaine founded by Madame Jeanne Campan. She attended the school at the same time as Hortense, Josephine's daughter and Caroline's brother Louis' wife.
Ambitious, extravagant, and power-hungry, she became Grand Duchess of Berg and Cleves on March 15, 1806. She became Queen consort of Naples on August 1, 1808. She was intensely jealous of her sister-in-law Joséphine and her children, as she felt Napoleon favoured them over his Bonaparte relatives. Caroline continuously plotted against Joséphine. It was Caroline who arranged for Napoleon to take a mistress, Eléonore Denuelle, who duly gave birth to his first illegitimate child.. This had the desired effect which proved that Joséphine was infertile as Napoleon showed he was clearly capable of siring children.
When Napoleon married Marie-Louise, Caroline was responsible for escorting her to France. After meeting her at the border of Austria and her duchy, Caroline forced Marie-Louise to leave all her luggage, servants, and even her pet dog, behind in Austria.
The birth of Napoléon II to her namesake brother and his second Empress Consort Marie Louise of Austria, destroyed any hope of her son Napoléon Achille Murat succeeding to her brother. So she allied with Napoléon's rival, Klemens Wenzel von Metternich. When he failed in his attempt to secure the throne for Murat, the latter was executed and Caroline fled to the Austrian Empire. She died in Florence. One of her direct descendants is American actor Rene Auberjonois.
Caroline and Joachim were the parents of four children: