Eugénie de Montijo: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Eugénie de Montijo
Empress consort of the French
Marchioness of Ardales and Moya; Countess of Teba, Montijo and Ablitas
Portrait by Franz Winterhalter
Tenure 30 January 1853 – 11 January 1871
Spouse Napoleon III of France
Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial
Full name
María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick
House House of Bonaparte
Father Cipriano de Palafox y Portocarrero
Mother María Manuela Enriqueta Kirkpatrick de Closbourn y de Grevigné
Born 5 May 1826(1826-05-05)
Granada, Spain
Died 11 July 1920 (aged 94)
Madrid, Spain
Burial Saint Michael's Abbey, Farnborough
Empress Eugénie
Styles of
Empress Eugénie of France as consort
Reference style Her Imperial Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial Majesty
Alternative style Madame

Eugénie de Montijo (Full name: María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick; 5 May 1826 – 11 July 1920) was the 18th Marchioness of Ardales, 18th Marchioness of Moya, 19th Countess of Teba, 10th Countess of Montijo and Countess of Ablitas. She 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, 11th Duke of Peñaranda Grandee of Spain, 17th Marquess of Ardales, 17th Marquess of Moya, 13th Marquess of la Algaba, 18th Count of Teba, 8th Count of Montijo and ?th Count of Ablitas (1785-15 March 1839), and his half-Scottish, quarter-Belgian, quarter-Spanish wife (m. 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 U. S. Consul to Málaga and later was a wholesale wine merchant, and his wife Marie Françoise de Grevigné (b. 1769), daughter of Liège-born Henri, Baron de Grevigné (baptised Notre-Dame-aux-Fonts, Liège, 2 June 1744) and wife (m. Málaga, 1766) Spanish-born doña Francisca Antonia Gallegos (1751-1853).

Eugenia's older sister, María Francisca de Sales de Palafox Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick, also known as Paca (1825-1860), 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, where she received a Catholic education. 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, not long after he had been rebuffed in his attempts to marry first Princess Carola of Vasa (later Queen of Saxony), a granddaughter of the deposed King of Sweden Gustav IV Adolph, and then Queen Victoria's teenage niece, Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.

Controversial marriage

In a speech from the throne on 22 January Napoléon 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 so-called love match was looked upon with some sarcastic comment in the United Kingdom. The Times wrote, "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..." A 26-year-old Spanish countess, of legitimate title and ancient lineage, the British newspaper implied with ill-concealed mirth, was not considered good enough for the House of Bonaparte (only two generations removed from obscurity in Corsica).

On 16 March 1856, the empress gave birth to an only son, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, styled Prince Impérial.

By her beauty, elegance, and charm of manner she contributed greatly to the brilliance of the imperial regime. She had a very close friendship with Princess Pauline von Metternich, wife of the Austrian ambassador in Paris who played an important role in the social and cultural life of the imperial court.

When the empress wore the new cage crinolines in 1855, European fashion followed suit, and when she abandoned vast skirts at the end of the 1860s, at the encouragement of her legendary couturier, Charles Worth, the silhouette of women's dress followed her lead again. Eugénie's aristocratic elegance, splendour of dress and legendary jewels are well documented in innumerable paintings, especially by her favourite portraitist, Winterhalter. Her interest in the life of Marie Antoinette of Austria sparked a fashion for furniture and interior design in the neoclassical style popular during the reign of Louis XVI of France.

As she was educated and very intelligent, Eugénie's husband usually consulted her on important questions, and she acted as Regent during his absences in 1859, 1865 and 1870. A Catholic and a conservative, Eugénie's influence countered any liberal tendencies in the emperor's policies. She was a staunch defender of papal temporal powers in Italy and an ultramontanist. Because of this, she was hated, and often scurrilously slandered, by anti-clericals in France.

She was also largely blamed for the fiasco of the French intervention in Mexico and the eventual death of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. Critics claimed that she had encouraged French involvement as a means of keeping herself busy and get over her husband's affairs.[1]

After the Franco-Prussian War

Empress Eugénie in mourning for her son, 1880

When the Second French Empire was overthrown after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), 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), that she had built at Cape Martin between Menton and Nice, where she lived in retirement, abstaining from all interference in French politics. Her house in Farnborough is now an independent Catholic girls' school, Farnborough Hill.[2]

After the deaths of her husband and son her health started to deteriorate. Her physician recommended she visit Bournemouth which was, in Victorian times, famed as a health spa resort. During her visit in 1896, a groundskeeper lit hundreds of little tea candles in the municipal Bournemouth Gardens to light her way to the sea at night. This event is still commemorated in the same gardens every September in an elaborate public display, set to music, of both static and floating lighted candles.[3]

The former empress died in July 1920 at the age of 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 Africa. She left all 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 funds 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 who was born at Balmoral was baptised according to the practice of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. A century later, the second daughter of the present Duke of York, born in 1990, was named Princess Eugenie.

The Empress Eugenie de Montijo

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.

Titles from birth to death

  • Doña Maria Eugenia Ignacia Augustina Palafox de Guzmán Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick (from birth till her father's death)
  • Her Excellency Doña Maria Eugenia Ignacia Augustina Palafox de Guzmán Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick, 19th Countess of Teba (from her father's death till her wedding)
  • Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of the French (1853–1870) as well as Her Imperial Majesty The Empress-Regent during several periods (including the Italian, Crimean and Franco-Prussian wars)
  • Her Imperial Majesty Empress Eugénie of France (1870–1920)

She was also the 475th Dame of the Royal Order of Queen María Luisa of Spain.

Film portrayals


  1. ^ Maximilian and Carlota by Gene Smith, ISBN 0245524185, ISBN 978-0245524189
  2. ^ Farnborough Hill
  3. ^

External links

Eugénie de Montijo
Born: 5 May 1826 Died: 11 July 1920
French royalty
Title last held by
Marie Amalie of the Two Sicilies
as Queen of the French
Empress of the French
30 January 1853–11 January 1871
Monarchy abolished


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address