Eugenie, Queen of France
- Category : Notable-Famous-Royal-family
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sphinx 2
Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick, 16th Countess of Teba and 15th Marquise of Ardales (5 May 1826 – 11 July 1920), known as Eugénie de Montijo , was the last Empress consort of the French from 1853 to 1871 as the wife of Napoleon III, Emperor of the French.
The last Empress of the French was born in Granada, Spain, to Don Cipriano de Palafox y Portocarrero (1785–1839), Grandee, whose titles included Count of Ablitas, 9th Count of Montijo, 15th Count of Teba, 8th Count of Fuentidueña, 14th Marquis of Ardales, 17th Marquess of Moya and 13th Marquis of la Algaba. and his half-Scottish, quarter-Belgian, quarter-Spanish wife (whom he married on 15 December 1817), María Manuela Enriqueta Kirkpatrick de Closbourn y de Grevigné (24 February 1794 – 22 November 1879), a daughter of the Scots-born William Kirkpatrick of Closbourn (1764–1837), who became United States consul to Málaga, and later was a wholesale wine merchant, and his wife, Marie Françoise de Grevignée (born 1769), daughter of Liège-born Henri, Baron de Grevignée and wife Doña Francisca Antonia Gallegos (1751–1853).
Eugenia's older sister, María Francisca de Sales de Palafox Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick, nicknamed "Paca" (24 January 1825 – 16 September 1860), who inherited most of the family honours and was 12th Duchess of Peñaranda Grandee of Spain and 9th Countess of Montijo, title later ceded to her sister, married the Duke of Alba in 1849. Until her own marriage in 1853, Eugénie variously used the titles of Countess of Teba or Countess of Montijo, but some family titles were legally inherited by her elder sister, through which they passed to the House of Alba. After the death of her father, Eugenia became the 9th Countess of Teba, and is named as such in the Almanach de Gotha (1901 edition). After Eugenia's demise all titles of the Montijo family came to the Fitz-Jameses (the Dukes of Alba and Berwick).
Eugénie de Montijo, as she became known in France, was educated in Paris, at the fashionable Convent of the Sacré Cœur. When Prince Louis Napoléon became president of the Second Republic, she appeared with her mother at several balls given by the "prince-president" at the Elysée Palace; it was there that she met the future emperor, whom she wed on 30 January 1853. In a speech from the throne on 22 January, Napoleon III formally announced his engagement, saying, "I have 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".
The match was looked upon dubiously in the United Kingdom. The Times editorialized: "We learn with some amusement that this romantic event in the annals of the French Empire has called forth the strongest opposition, and provoked the utmost irritation. The Imperial family, the Council of Ministers, and even the lower coteries of the palace or its purlieus, all affect to regard this marriage as an amazing humiliation..."
On 16 March 1856, the empress gave birth to an only son, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, styled Prince Impérial. Her husband often consulted her on important questions, and she acted as Regent during his absences in 1859, 1865 and 1870. A Catholic and a conservative, her influence countered any liberal tendencies in the emperor's policies. She was a staunch defender of papal temporal powers in Italy and of ultramontanism. She was blamed for the fiasco of the French intervention in Mexico and the eventual death of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
In 1868, Empress Eugénie visited the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, the home to Sultana Pertevniyal Sultan, mother of Abdülaziz, 32nd sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Pertevniyal became outraged by the presence of a foreign woman in her harem, and greeted the Empress with a slap in the face, almost provoking an international incident.
After the Franco-Prussian War
When the Second French Empire was overthrown after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), the empress and her husband took refuge in England, and settled at Chislehurst, Kent. After his death in 1873, and that of her son in 1879, she moved in 1885 to Farnborough, Hampshire and to her villa "Cyrnos" (ancient Greek name of Corsica), which was built at Cape Martin, between Menton and Nice, where she lived in retirement, abstaining from politics. Her house in Farnborough is now an independent Roman Catholic girls' school, Farnborough Hill.
After the deaths of her husband and son, as her health started to deteriorate, she spent some time at Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight; her physician recommended she visit Bournemouth which was, in Victorian times, famed as a health spa resort. During her afternoon visit in 1881, she called on the Queen of Sweden, at her residence 'Crag Head'. Then aged 88, the Empress visited Portsmouth on the 6th of November 1914 to inspect the gunboat HMS Thistle fitting out there.
The former empress died in July 1920, aged 94, during a visit to her relatives, the Dukes of Alba in Madrid, in her native Spain, and she is interred in the Imperial Crypt at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, with her husband and her son, who had died in 1879 fighting in the Zulu War in South Africa. She left her possessions to various relatives: her Spanish estates went to the grandsons of her sister, the Fitz-Jameses (Dukes of Berwick and Alba), the house in Farnborough with all collections to the heir of her son, Prince Victor Bonaparte, Villa Cyrnos to his sister, Princess Laetitia of Aosta. Liquid assets were divided into three parts and given to the above relatives, except the sum of 100 000 francs bequeathed to the Committee for Rebuilding the Cathedral of Reims.
Her deposed family's friendly association with the United Kingdom was commemorated in 1887 when she became the godmother of Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (1887–1969), daughter of Princess Beatrice, who later became Queen consort of Alfonso XIII of Spain. This baptism was an early example of ecumenism as Victoria Eugenie was baptised in the (Protestant) Church of Scotland.
Monogram of "N" for Napoleon III on the façade of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. The "E" is for the empress Eugénie
The Empress has also been commemorated in space; the asteroid 45 Eugenia was named after her, and its moon, Petit-Prince, after the Prince Imperial.
She had an extensive and unique jewelry collection, most of them were later owned by the Brazilian socialite Aimée de Heeren.
De Heeren collected jewelry and was fond of the Empress as both were considered to be the "Queens of Biarritz"; both would spend summers on the Côte Basque.Impressed by the elegance, style and design of the Jewellery of the neo classical era, in 1858 she had a boutique in the Royal Palace under the name ‘Royale Collection’.