Empress Eugenie

Empress Eugenie was the beautiful and fashionable wife of Napoleon III.

Eugenie Marie de Montijo (pronounced yu zhay NEE ma REE they mawn TEE hoh) became empress of France as the wife of Napoleon III. The empress set standards for beauty and fashion in the French Court, having the best designers at her disposal. She also became noted for her extravagance.

Eugenie was the daughter of a Spanish officer and her mother was from Scotch Roman Catholic descent. A Spanish countess, she was born in Granada, Spain, in 1826.

Eugenie visited Paris the year before Louis Napoleon became emperor and was married to him in 1853, the year after he gained the throne. The city of Paris gave her a wedding gift of six hundred thousand francs, but at her request it was used to found a female college. With her husband she visited Queen Victoria and from that time on the Queen and Empress were close friends.

Politically influential, Eugenie favored the more traditional Roman Catholic party and she did whatever was in her power to delay a more liberal government in France. Eugenie served three times as regent of France, first when Napoleon was absent in Italy, again when he was making his Algerian tour, and finally, upon his departure to wage war against Germany. In fact, on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, Eugenie urged warlike policy.

After the battle of Sedan, in which her husband was captured, she was urged to flee from Paris, as the streets were full of agitated people and the palace was being besieged by an infuriated mob. With the help of friends, Eugenie managed to get through the German lines which guarded Paris escaped to England, where the Emperor joined her upon his release. Napoleon and Eugenie were forced to live in exile from 1870 until her death in1920. They had one son to whom Eugenie was devotedly attached. He joined the English troops and was killed while on assignment in South Africa. This great grief, coupled with other reverses and losses, for a time threatened the life of Eugenie, but she was able to recover and lived many more years.

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