The last Empress of the French was born in Granada, Spain, to Don Cipriano de Palafox y Portocarrero , Grandee, whose titles included 8th Count of Ablitas, 9th Count of Montijo, 15th Count of Teba, 8th Count of Fuentidueña, 14th Marquess of Ardales, 17th Marquess of Moya and 13th Marquess 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.

Eugenie, Countess de Teba (born 1826), was the daughter of a Spanish nobleman who had fought for the French in the Peninsular War. This crown was made for her as the Empress Eugenie, consort of Emperor Napoleon III, whom she had married in January 1853.Napoleon III, also known as Louis Napoleon, was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, who had been deposed as Emperor of France after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. In April 1848, after two attempts to restore Bonapartism in France had failed, the French people rose up against the monarchy, part of a wave of revolutions across Europe. In December Louis Napoleon he was elected president of the Second Republic, using his uncle’s reputation and promising to restore the glory of France. Three years later he overthrew the republic and created the Second Empire. He was crowned emperor on 2 December 1852, 38 years to the day since his uncle’s coronation.The Empress Eugenie. She was a devout Catholic woman from Spain, a woman who came to model herself somewhat after Marie Antoinette, and yet she was vastly different in many ways. This Spanish beauty was born Maria Eugenia Ignacia Agustina de Palafox y Kirkpatrick, Countess de Teba, on May 5, 1826 in Granada, Spain. Her parents were Don Cipriano de Palafox y Portocarrero, the Count of Teba and of Montijo, the Marquis of Algava and the Duke of Pearanda; and his half-Scottish, half-Spanish wife, María Manuela Kirkpatrick.

Eugenie most probably used her own personal fortune to pay for this renowned collective portrait representing the sovereign in 1855 surrounded by her ladies in waiting. Hung in Fontainebleau Palace during the Second Empire, the work was finally given to the empress in 1881, when it was hung in the entrance to her residence in Farnborough Hill.

Eugenie de Montijo came to Paris, France to be educated at the elite Convent of the Sacre Coeur. Already raised as a practicing Catholic, at Sacre Coeur she was even further grounded in the faith and became a very devout and zealous daughter of the Church. She first met Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte when he was serving as the President of the French Second Republic. Eugenie accompanied her mother to numerous balls held by the Bonaparte prince turned president at the Elysee Palace. Louis was immediately taken with the young Spanish beauty and already had a reputation as a womanizer. Eugenie became the object of his desire, but she made it adamantly clear that no man but her husband would ever have her. This should, perhaps, have told Louis that Eugenie might not be the right woman for him, but instead it only made her all the more desirable to him as the "forbidden fruit".A major reason why Napoleon III had rushed to marry after becoming Emperor was to have a legitimate son and heir. Empress Eugenie gave him the son he wanted on March 16, 1856 when the Prince Imperial Napoleon Eugene Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte was born. He was to be their only child. This did a lot to give the new French Empire an appearance of stability and Empress Eugenie herself did a lot of what would be called today "public-relations" work for the new government in France. She was beautiful, pleasant, impeccably polite and proper and simply glamorous in the way that royal consorts are supposed to be. She charmed many people around the world simply by her example into relenting in the prejudice held against having a Bonaparte ruling France once again. She was also, like Marie Antoinette, a fashion trend-setter such as when she wore the cage crinolines for the first time in 1855, all of Europe emulated her and likewise when she abandoned the large bell-like skirts that had been in style for quite some time, the western world followed her example. Empress Eugenie's fascination with Marie Antoinette also sparked a revival of the styles of dress, buildings and furnishings from the time of King Louis XVI.

Napoleon III, Eugenie and their Son. He was the only child of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.The French elite expressed envy disguised as scandalised propriety and snobbery at the match  Eugénie was a mere countess marrying an emperor. But at least it was for love, how romantic, how French.The rest of Europe expressed undisguised amusement, both at the elitism, and the claims of romance.  Eugénie was, after all, descended from a long line of nobility  Napoleon III was only three generations from an unknown Corsican family.

Generally, the French don’t like Napoleon III. They call him Napoleon le Petit and they say that he did nothing for the glory of France. They seem not to notice that their glorious Napoleon I turned Europe into a battlefield where he sacrificed an entire generation of Frenchmen and caused untold misery to people all over the continent from Spain to Russia. His nephew, on the contrary, was an achiever of another sort. Under his 18-year rule, France conquered the world with her culture and industry. He was the builder of Paris as we know it today, with the wide avenues and sanitary underbelly. He was a modern man in every sense and he truly cared for his people’s well-being.Fortunately, the new emperor was a bachelor and he could hope to find a bride of royal blood to solidify his lofty position. Unfortunately, he was also the slave of his hormones. While his emissaries were shopping for a suitable bride among the reluctant royal families of Europe they all still smarted from the consequences of his uncle’s conquests—Napoleon III met the woman of his life and she was not a royal.Even though Eugenie de Montijo was a stunning beauty, she would never have made the history books had she been only one of Louis Napoleon’s easy conquests. Let’s say it right here: the man had a long list of bedroom adventures although he wasn’t averse to having sex in any other room, in any stationary or moving vehicle, or even in a haystack – standing, sitting or laying down. His sexual appetite was legendary and sometimes embarrassingly noticeable. His Majesty the Empereur was renamed by his sneering courtiers His Majesty the Ampleur.In Eugenie he found a fortress to be conquered. The rules were laid down very early after the two met. He was still the Prince-President of the French Republic, she the 26-year-old daughter of a widowed Spanish countess. He invited the two women for a weekend in a country chateau. As he was returning from a horse ride, he spotted Eugenie at one of the numerous windows. The siege of Eugenie lasted eleven months before her would-be-conqueror declared defeat. By that time France had, once again, become an empire with Louis Napoleon on the throne. Everyone, especially his family, expected him to do his duty by marrying a virginal princess. Instead, he presented them with a Spanish adventuress of dubious virtue. They were furious. “But I love her,” he said simply.The new era of Napoleonic glory which the crown was intended to reflect did not last. On 11 January 1871, following defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, the Third Republic was proclaimed. The royal couple found exile in Britain. The former emperor died in 1873. He is buried at St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough.His son, the Prince Imperial lies near him. The Prince had been killed fighting to protect the British Empire against the Zulus in 1879. Eugenie continued to live for many years at Farnborough Hill. Part of her house was used as a hospital for wounded officers during the Great War. Though she died in Madrid, 11 July 1920, her body too was interred at Farnborough.

She said :" This is a sad time. I am saying farewell to my family and my country in order to devote myself exclusively to the man who has loved me sufficiently to raise me up to his throne.… I fear the responsibilities that will weigh upon me, yet I am fulfilling my destiny.… On the eve of mounting one of the greatest thrones of Europe, I cannot help feeling somewhat terrified".

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