On January 30, 1853, 168 years ago, the wedding of the year took place in Europe: Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, married at the age of 45 at the main altar of Notre Dame with a 26-year-old Spanish aristocrat named Eugenia de Palafox and Portocarrero, who would go down in history as Eugenia de Montijo and immortalized Concha Piquer in that song that said make me happy with your love and for that, I will make you my empress France. Dressed in a white satin model and wearing a diamond and sapphire tiara of her predecessor, Josefina Bonaparte, she pronounced “yes, I want to” before the Archbishop of Paris. On the way out, in the atrium of the temple, she turned to the assembled crowd of Frenchmen and bowed to them in an attempt to win over a people who would never accept her.
Eugenia, head of five counties, including Baños and Teba, three marquesados, a viscounty, and a barony, had a turbulent destiny, in which unpublished caroms were mixed, such as becoming an empress, with tragedies, such as exile and losing her only son, husband and sister. Daughter of Cipriano de Palafox, a noble, liberal, and French soldier who fought on the French side in the War of Independence, and of Manuela Kirkpatrick, of Scottish origin, from whom Eugenia inherited her red hair and beautiful blue eyes, she was born in the Granada’s family mansion on May 5, 1826. Her arrival in the world was turbulent since due to an earthquake, her mother gave birth to her in a tent set up in the garden in fear of the building collapse.
BORN “TO SIT ON A THRONE”
Eugenia was a peculiar being, endowed with great magnetism, beautiful, elegant, and intelligence, something that she strengthened thanks to the cosmopolitanism that surrounded her since characters passed through the family palace, such as the French writer Prosper Mérimée, who would be her great social supporter years later. in Paris. Which did not save her from some love disappointment, first with the Marquis of Alcañices, and later with the Duke of Alba, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, and Ventimiglia, her great love, who married her sister Paca. She thought of taking the habit, but the superior of the convent dissuaded her. “You are so beautiful that more seems to have been born to sit on a throne.
After his father died in 1839, and in the face of his mother’s obsession to place her daughters well, they moved to Madrid, where he managed to marry the eldest to the Duke of Alba, after which he returned with Eugenia to Paris, where he had spent part of his childhood due to the exile of his father. France was experiencing the apogee of the Second Empire with Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew and heir of the mythical general, who in 1851 proclaimed himself President of the Republic and a year later Emperor.
An inveterate don Juan, he now needed to find a wife to give an heir to the throne, and during a dance at the Elysium, he met Eugenia, whom he insistently wooed to surely make her his lover, since she had no royal blood. But the skillful resistance of the Spanish woman despaired the emperor to the point of begging her. “How could I get to you?”, To which Eugenia replied: “Passing by the vicarage, sir. On January 22, 1853, the emperor made public before the Senate his intention to marry Eugenia. Endowed with all the qualities of the soul, she will be the adornment of the Throne, he assured.
Although already married, far from being limited to being a figurehead, she began to develop an active work in charities and later in politics, with the approval of her husband, who appointed her regent on three occasions when he was absent from France. The birth of her only son, Napoleon Louis, in March 1856, after two miscarriages, seemed to consolidate her position. But her status as a foreigner, her sympathy for conservative politicians, her admiration for the hated Queen Marie Antoinette, beheaded in the revolution, and her taste for jewelry and expensive clothing made her many enemies. His charitable works and important initiatives were soon forgotten, such as promoting the French haute couture industry, the construction of the Suez Canal, or the Pasteur Institute.
The disaster of the Franco-Prussian war marked the end of the reign of Louis Napoleon because when he was taken prisoner, he was overthrown. Eugenia went into exile in England with her son, meeting with them her husband, who died in 1873 from a stomach ailment. In 1879, her son would also die, aged 23, fighting with the British in the war against the Zulu, something that Eugenia never surpassed, and prompted him to wear rigorous mourning until his death.
The death of her only sister, Paca, was the finishing touch for the former empress, who spent her last years retired from the fray and devoted to her charities. He alternated his English exile with stays in Madrid at the Liria palace, with his nephews the Alba, the only family he had left, and in Liria he died on July 11, 1920, at the age of 94, due to a kidney problem. Her remains were repatriated to England where they rest with her husband and son, in the Abbey of Saint Michel, in the county of Hampshire, which Eugenia had built as a mausoleum.