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Eugenie

EUGENIE [Marie-Eugénie-Ignace-Augustine de Montijo] (1826- ), wife of Napoleon III., emperor of the French, daughter of Don Cipriano Guzman y Porto Carrero, count of Teba, subsequently count of Montijo and grandee of Spain, was born at Grenada on the 5th of May 1826. Her mother was a daughter of William Kirkpatrick, United States consul at Malaga, a Scotsman by birth and an American by nationality. Her childhood was spent in Madrid, but after 1834 she lived with her mother and sister chiefly in Paris, where she was educated, like so many French girls of good family, in the convent of the Sacré Cœur. When Louis Napoleon became president of the Republic she appeared frequently with her mother at the balls given by the prince president at the Elysée, and it was here that she made the acquaintance of her future husband. In November 1852 mother and daughter were invited to Fontainebleau, and in the picturesque hunting parties the beautiful young Spaniard, who showed herself an expert horsewoman, was greatly admired by all present and by the host in particular. Three weeks later, on the 2nd of December, the Empire was formally proclaimed, and during a series of fêtes at Compiègne, which lasted eleven days (19th to 30th December), the emperor became more and more fascinated. On New Year's Eve, at a ball at the Tuileries, Mdlle de Montijo, who had necessarily excited much jealousy and hostility in the female world, had reason to complain that she had been insulted by the wife of an official personage. On hearing of it the emperor said to her, "Je vous vengerai"; and within three days he made a formal proposal of marriage. In a speech from the throne on the 22nd of January he formally announced his engagement, and justified what some people considered a mésalliance. "I have preferred," he said, "a woman whom I love and respect to a woman unknown to me, with whom an alliance would have had advantages mixed with sacrifices." Of her whom he had chosen he ventured to make a prediction: "Endowed with all the qualities of the soul, she will be the ornament of the throne, and in the day of danger she will become one of its courageous supports." The marriage was celebrated with great pomp at Notre Dame on the 30th of January 1853. On the 16th of March 1856 the empress gave birth to a son, who received the title of Prince Imperial. The emperor's prediction regarding her was not belied by events. By her beauty, elegance and charm of manner she contributed largely to the brilliancy of the imperial régime, and when the end came, she was, as the official Enquête made by her enemies proved, one of the very few who showed calmness and courage in face of the rising tide of revolution. The empress acted three times as regent during the absence of the emperor, - in 1859, 1865 and 1870, - and she was generally consulted on important questions. When the emperor vacillated between two lines of policy she generally urged on him the bolder course; she deprecated everything tending to diminish the temporal power of the papacy, and she disapproved of the emperor's liberal policy at the close of his reign. On the collapse of the Empire she fled to England, and settled with the emperor and her son at Chislehurst. After the emperor's death she removed to Farnborough, where she built a mausoleum to his memory. In 1879 her son was killed in the Zulu War, and in the following year she visited the spot and brought back the body to be interred beside that of his father. At Farnborough and in a villa she built at Cap Martin on the Riviera, she continued to live in retirement, following closely the course of events, but abstaining from all interference in French politics.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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