Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III, was born on May 5, 1826. I had no idea that she was born in Spain to a noble family. Althogh she had a whole host of titles. she was known in France as Eugénie de Montijo. She came to Paris to be educated at the Convent of the Sacré Coeur. When she and her mother attended balls at the Élysée Palace, she met the “prince-président.” Love blossomed and they married on January 30, 1853.
This match was considered scandalous – surely the Emperor should have made a great alliance of state. However, Napoléon III said, “J’ai préféré une femme que j’aime et que je respecte, à une femme inconnue dont l’alliance eût eu des avantages mêlés de sacrifices,” (zjay pray-fair-ay oon fam kuk zjem ay kuh zjuh ruhspekt ah oon fam an-kon-oo dohn lal-ee-ahnse ewt ew days av-an-tazj melay duh sack-ree-feese) which means, “I preferred a woman whom I love and respect to a woman unknown to me, with whom an alliance would have had advantages mixed with sacrifices.” Since Eugénie was a great beauty, that probably didn’t hurt the course of love.
Notwithstanding the scoffers, the marriage was ostensibly a happy one. She was rather a style-setter who loved elaborate jewelry. She revered Marie-Antoinette and had herself painted dressed in the style of the ill-fated queen. Charles Worth was her favorite fashion designer and their collaboration was good for both of them. The Imperial couple had a son, born in 1856. Her husband consulted Eugénie about matters of state, although this didn’t always work out well. Her influence apparently led to the disastrous French decision to intervene in Mexico and the death of Maximilian I. In another notable incident, the Empress was slapped across the face by the Sultana of the Ottoman Empire because she dared to enter the harem.
The Franco-Prussian War led to the end of the Empire, and the family moved to Kent, England. After the death of her husband in 1873 and her son in 1879, Eugénie split her time between England and the Côte d’Azur. She died on July 11, 1920 at the grand age of 94.
- An Imperial Bitch Slap (royalfoibles.com)