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Empress Eugenie

Maria Eugénia Ignacia Augustina Palafox de Guzmán Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick, 9th Countess de Teba, aka Eugénia de Montijo (May 5, 1826 - July 1920) was Empress of France (1853-1871).
- Empress Eugénie -

The future and last Empress of France was born in Granada, Spain to Don Cipriano Palafox de Guzmán y Portocarrero, Count de Teba, Count de Montijo, and his half-Scottish, half-Spanish wife, Maria Manuela Kirkpatrick, a daughter of the Scots-born William Kirkpatrick, a naturalized American citizen who became U. S. Consul to Malaga and later operated a wine bar. Her sister, Maria Francisca de Sales, aka Paca, inherited the Montijo title as well as other subsidiary family titles, married the duke of Alba, and died in 1860. According to some sources, Don Cipriano was not the father of his daughters, and rumor had it that Eugenia's father was actually a British diplomat, George William Frederick Villiers (1800-1870), later 4th Earl of Clarendon, who gained fame as British Foreign Secretary.

The Countess de Teba, as Eugénia/Eugénie was known before her marriage, wed Emperor Napoleon III on January 30, 1853, not long after he had been rebuffed in his eager attempts to marry Queen Victoria's teenage niece Princess Adelaide von Hohenlohe-Langenburg. The Teba/Bonaparte union was not a match looked upon with complete delight. According to an article in the London Times, “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 ...." Apparently, a 26-year-old Spanish countess was not considered nearly good enough for a Bonaparte (in any case, evidence suggests that the emperor was probably not even a blood Bonaparte, but the result of one of his mother's extramarital affairs).

As she was educated and very intelligent, Eugénie's husband usually consulted her on important questions, and she acted as Regent during his absences. When the Second Empire was overthrown after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), the empress and her husband took refuge in England, where she continued to live after his death in 1873.

The former empress died in July 1920 at the age of 94, during a visit to her native Spain, and she is interred in the Imperial Crypt at Saint Michael's Abbey[?], Farnborough, Hampshire, England, with her husband and her son, the Prince Imperial, who died in 1879 in Africa during battle with Zulu warriors.

Her deposed family's association with England was commemorated when the second daughter of the present Duke of York was named Princess Eugenie.



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