Eugénie (1826–1920)

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Eugénie (1826–1920)

Empress of the French and wife of Napoleon III who, by her elegance and charm, contributed largely to the brilliancy of the imperial regime and showed calmness and courage in the face of the rising tide of revolution. Name variations: Eugenie de Montijo; Eugénie-Marie, Countess of Teba. Pronunciation: ou-JHAY-knee. Born Marie Eugénie Ignace Augustine de Montijo on May 5, 1826, in Grenada, Spain; died on July 11, 1920, in Madrid, Spain; daughter of Cipriano Guzman y Porto Carrero, count of Teba (subsequently count of Montijo and grandee of Spain) and Manuela Kirkpatrick (1794–1879, daughter of William Kirkpatrick, U.S. consul at Malaga, a Scot by birth and an American by nationality); sister of Paca (1825–1860), duchess of Alba; educated at the convent of the Sacré Coeur and the Gymnase Normal, Civil et Orthosomatique; briefly attended an exclusive girls' boarding school, in Clifton, England; married Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III), emperor of France (r. 1852–1870), on January 30, 1853 (died, January 1873); children: son Napoleon Louis ("Lou-Lou," 1856–1879, known during the empire as prince imperial).

Don't dramatize life. It is quite dramatic enough as it is.

—Empress Eugénie

In 1853, Eugénie de Montijo, a Spanish noblewoman of partially Scottish descent, married Napoleon III, emperor of France; for the next 17 years, she reigned as empress of that glittering epoch in French history known as the "Circus Empire." Although praised for her beauty and credited with transforming the Tuileries Palace into a mecca for European society, Eugénie was more than an arbiter of style; she was one of the most courageous and influential women of her age. She endured three wars, a scandalous private life, and deep-rooted prejudice against her background. As Napoleon's health failed and his politics floundered, Eugénie grew stronger and more resolute in her attempt to protect the throne. Historians, however, have been less than kind to the empress, often citing her frigidity and her erratic judgment in politics and diplomacy as the cause of the fall of the empire. Biographer John Bierman attempts a slightly more balanced view, factoring in Napoleon's own shortcomings and calling Eugénie merely a contributor to the downfall. "For all her faults," he writes, "she was never quite the vindictive, self-centered, priest-ridden reactionary of republican legend.… [F]or all her virtues, she was never quite the strong, loyal, long-suffering, and misunderstood heroine portrayed by revisionist historians."

Eugénie's birth on May 5, 1826, coincided with an earthquake, an ill omen by all accounts, though she came to believe it might have meant that she was destined to "convulse the world." Given her ambitious mother and her Bonapartist father, her place in history seems preordained. Her father was the one-eyed Cipriano Guzman y Porto Carrero, the younger son and eventual heir of the count of Montijo, an impoverished noble who was one of the grandees of Spain. An enthusiastic admirer of Napoleon I Bonaparte, Cipriano joined with the French in 1808, fighting in the Bonapartist army and remaining loyal until the final battle at Waterloo in 1815. Owing to his part in the wars of the empire, he was prosecuted and imprisoned by order of Ferdinand VII, king of Spain, after Napoleon's fall. Released from prison after a year and a half, he remained under what might be considered house arrest until 1830.

Eugénie's mother, Manuela Kirkpatrick de Montijo , was the daughter of expatriate Scot William Kirkpatrick, the U.S. consul in Malaga and an exporter of Spanish fruit and wines. Manuela, whose mother Françoise Kirkpatrick was Belgian, profited greatly from her diverse background, combining, as one observer noted, "Andalusian grace, English genuineness and French facility." She was also a fiercely determined woman, intent on having the best life had to offer. Cipriano and Manuela, who first met in Paris in 1813, were married late in 1817, although, as David Duff points out, their opposing views on practically everything doomed the union from the start:

She loved entertaining—he could not abide people about the house. He was mean with money—she was open handed and generous. He believed in the benefits of privation and hardship—she revelled in luxury. He took politics in deadly earnest—she was prepared to shift her ground to suit her convenience. He lived much in the past—she walked in the present and dreamed of the future.

Given their differences, the marriage endured long separations, until the couple no longer saw each other at all.

It was not until 1825 that their first daughter Paca was born, followed a little less than a year later by the arrival of Eugénie. The sisters were opposites in appearance as well as temperament. Paca, a dark-eyed brunette, was passive and much her mother's girl. Eugénie, volatile in nature, not only inherited her father's red hair and blue eyes but also his passion for outdoor pursuits, especially riding. As might be expected, Cipriano and Manuela had separate notions regarding child rearing. Manuela wanted the girls schooled in the social graces to prepare them for brilliant careers in society. Cipriano favored serious education, simple clothes, and a plain diet, hoping his daughters would grow up to be rugged and independent. As children, both girls were placed in the convent of the Sacré Coeur in Paris, where their parents moved to avoid the revolutionary disturbances and cholera epidemics that were rampant in Spain. After two years, Cipriano, who as a nominal Catholic was unhappy about having his daughters under the influence of the nuns, enrolled them in the Gymnase Normal, an avant-garde co-educational institution specializing in physical training. Eugénie flourished in the freer environment but never lost her preoccupation with the outward forms of the Catholic faith.

Manuela and Cipriano's disagreements continued to weaken their marriage, and in 1835 Cipriano returned to Madrid, leaving his wife in Paris. During this time, Manuela resumed her friendship with author Prosper Mérimée, who took a grandfatherly interest in Paca and Eugénie. (He would later dictate Eugénie's love letters to Napoleon during their courtship.) Mérimée also introduced the family to then un-known author Henri Beyle ("Stendhal"), who, like Cipriano, was a fervent admirer of the Great Emperor and entertained the girls with the same Napoleonic legends first heard from their father. In 1837, Manuela placed her daughters in an exclusive English boarding school near Bristol and returned to Paris (supposedly to continue an ongoing affair with English diplomat George Villier). Teased and called "Carrots" because of her red hair, Eugénie hated the school and complained to her father that the place was dull and she wanted to come home. As a result, the girls were returned to Paris in the care of a new governess, Miss Flowers, who remained in the service of the family until the 1880s.

Eugénie, who missed her father terribly during his long separations from the family, was greatly affected by his death in 1840, and by her mother's subsequent lapse into what David Duff terms "middle-aged lechery." Now residing in Spain with a healthy inheritance, Manuela indulged herself. Eugénie, idealistic and devoted to her father's memory, did not approve of her mother's behavior, nor indeed of the lax morals of Spanish society at the time. Duff speculates that Manuela's conspicuous carnality may have had much to do with Eugénie's later aversion to sex and her deep contempt for men.

When not attending to her paramours, Manuela set her sights on finding husbands for her beautiful and marriageable daughters. Eugénie, now 16, obliged by falling in love with one of the greatest of Spanish nobles, the Duke of Alba and Berwick, her enormously rich 21-year-old distant cousin. Unfortunately, Manuela arranged for the duke to take Paca's hand instead, a decision that threw Eugénie into teenage despair, during which she threatened suicide or retreat to a convent. But Paca's marriage provided Eugénie with frequent respites from her mother, and she began to spend as much time with her sister and brother-in-law at the Palacio de Liria as she did at home. Eugénie turned her affections toward her sister with whom she remained close until Paca's death from breast cancer in 1860.

Paca (1825–1860)

Duchess of Alba. Name variations: Francisca Teresa; Paquita. Born Maria Francisca in 1825; died of breast cancer in 1860; daughter of Cipriano Guzman y Porto Carrero, count of Teba (subsequently count of Montijo and grandee of Spain) and Manuela Kirkpatrick, countess of Montijo (daughter of William Kirkpatrick, U.S. consul at Malaga); sister of Eugénie (1826–1920), empress of France; married the duke of Alba and Berwick.

After her first amorous disappointment, Eugénie perfected the art of the coquette—flirtatious and inviting, but eventually dismissive of any young admirer. One of her disappointed suitors was Louis Napoleon's cousin, Joseph Napoleon ("Plon-Plon"), who became enamored with her on a visit to Madrid in 1844. Now in her late teens, Eugénie was a dazzling beauty, but also something of a paradox. In contrast to the coldness she displayed to the young men of her acquaintance, she frequented bullfights and gypsy (Roma) camps, where she abandoned herself to the wild rhythms of the Flamenco. By some accounts, she was occasionally seen riding through the streets of Madrid with her hair flowing behind her and a cigarette clamped between her teeth. Her behavior, writes Duff, was both fascinating and repellent. "Her temper was quick and violent … and her voice was hard. She was often difficile and made clear her independence. She set high standards and was cruel in her censure if those standards were not met."

Shortly before her encounter with Napoleon III, Eugénie fell in love for a second time. The object of her affections was the worldly and wealthy Marques Pepe de Alcanizes, who was actually in love with Paca and used Eugénie to gain access to the Liria Palace. When Eugénie realized the situation, she was so humiliated that she attempted to kill herself by swallowing a home-brewed concoction of match heads and milk. It was only after Pepe further mortified her by visiting her bedside and requesting the return of his letters before she died, that Eugénie agreed to take an antidote. After this unfortunate affair, Manuela knew that, in order to marry off her difficult second daughter, she must leave Spain. Writes Bierman: "It was the start of a four-year Grand Tour in which an increasingly desperate mother vainly paraded a resolutely intransigent daughter around the marriage markets of Europe and the British Isles." While Manuela became known as the most energetic matchmaker in Europe, Eugénie rebuffed a trail of suitors.

During the early 1850s, Eugénie frequently appeared with her mother at the balls at the Élysée given by Prince Louis Napoleon, president of the Republic, nephew of the great French emperor, and soon to be Emperor Napoleon III; it was apparently at one of these affairs that Louis first noticed his future wife. Louis Napoleon, often referred to as "the sphinx of the Tuileries," was as much of an enigma as Eugénie. He was "compellingly likable," writes Bierman, but strange; "a dictator with democratic leanings, an imperialist who championed self-determination, a capitalist with socialist tendencies, a militarist who retched at the sight of a battlefield on the morning after."

At the time of his first encounter with Eugénie, Louis Napoleon, whose amatory exploits scandalized even the French, was romancing a mistress, Elizabeth Ann Howard , and secretly conspiring to pull off a royal marriage to Princess Adelaide of Hohenlohe-Langenburg , niece of Queen Victoria . In November 1852, Manuela and Eugénie were invited to a hunt at Fontainebleau, and it was in that picturesque setting that Eugénie, beautifully turned out on one of the stable's finest thoroughbreds, captured Louis Napoleon's heart. One contemporary, obviously dazzled, described her attire:

Her dainty figure was well-defined by a closely-buttoned habit; the skirt was long and wide, over grey breeches. With one of her tiny gloved hands she held the reins, while she used the other to urge on her excited horse with the help of a little ridingwhip, the handle of which was set with pearls. She wore patent leather boots with high heels and spurs. She sat her horse like a knight, and despised the saddle ordinarily used by ladies.

That evening, Louis Napoleon gifted her with flowers, followed the next day by the horse she was riding. Dazzled by his attention and entertaining thoughts of the imperial crown, Eugénie nonetheless made it clear to him that the only path to her bedroom was through the wedding chapel. For the remainder of the festivities at Fontainebleau, tongues wagged. "That devil of a horse," Eugénie would later say.

In 1852, Louis Napoleon was proclaimed Napoleon III, emperor of the French, heightening the mission to marry and sire a son. Though there was no doubt about his allegiances, Napoleon waited for Adelaide's reply to his proposal before pursuing Eugénie, who now endured the intense scrutiny of ministers and royal watchers. Some of the most bitter opposition to Eugénie came from the beleaguered imperial family. Princess Mathilde (1820–1904), Napoleon III's cousin, feared losing her position as the emperor's official hostess; Mathilde's brother Plon-Plon, once infatuated with Eugénie, faced the realization that with the birth of a male heir, he would have no hope of succeeding to the throne. Eventually, Princess Adelaide, heeding the advice of her family, refused Napoleon, stating in a dictated note that she did not feel capable of undertaking the job of empress. The emperor's long-time mistress Elizabeth Howard was subsequently dismissed with a settlement and a title.

On January 22, 1853, Napoleon III, appearing pale and drawn from strain, announced his engagement to Eugénie and justified what some

people considered a misalliance. "I have preferred," he said, "a woman whom I love and respect to an unknown one, an alliance with whom might with its advantages have brought the necessity for sacrifices. Without disrespect to anyone, I yield to my inclinations." On that same day, after moving into the Élysée Palace with Manuela (whom the emperor detested and bought off after the marriage), Eugénie wrote a melancholy letter to her sister, who would be unable to attend the nuptials because of the rushed wedding plans.

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.

On January 30, 1853, after a civil ceremony at the Tuileries Palace on the preceding evening, Eugénie and Napoleon were married against the backdrop of the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, which held some 2,800 spectators. By all accounts, the bride stole the day, appearing, wrote one historian, beside the sallow and paunchy emperor like "a captive fairy queen, her hair trimmed with orange blossoms, a diadem on her head." For the next few months, the couple appeared very much in love, although it is well documented that Eugénie barely endured her new husband's enamored advances, which were possibly less than sensitive to her inexperience. Her attitude toward sex was evident in a remark she made to a confidante: "But really, why do men never think of anything but that?" Napoleon was patient with his bride for six weeks before seeking the company of his former mistress, Elizabeth Howard.

In addition to the difficulties of the bed-chamber, Eugénie found the day-to-day formalities of court stultifying, though compared to the courts of the old monarchies of Europe, it was brash, glittery, and nouveau riche. "I have gained a crown," she lamented to her sister, "but what does that mean, other than the fact that I am the leading slave of my kingdom?" In another letter to Paca, Eugénie complained of the constant round of balls and ceremonies and her lack of privacy. When the formality and tedium became too much, she would occasionally insist on an after-dinner game which she called "potting the candles," whereby guests would kick rubber balls in the direction of the candles until they had put them out. After six months, however, even these outbreaks of girlish energy subsided. Baron Josef von Hübner, the Austrian envoy wrote:

She is no longer the young bride, the improvised sovereign.… She is the mistress of the house who is conscious of her position and asserts it by her manner, by her gestures, by the orders she gives to the ladies, by the glance—a little disdainful, a little blasé, but penetrating—with which she scans the hall allowing no detail to escape her.

Although intelligent, quick-witted, and forceful in manner, Eugénie lacked formal education and experience. Ignorant of history, politics, science, economics, and the arts, she appeared incapable of prolonged intellectual pursuits. Her ideas on religion were considered incongruous at best. While devoutly Catholic in practice, she followed the occult (fashionable at the time) and often held seances at court. According to Bierman, Eugénie also quickly lost any romantic illusions about her husband as a bold man of action. Having achieved his goal of supreme power, other facets of his personality came into play. "He was altogether too complex and cautious, too torn by the often contradictory elements in his political agenda, to conduct the affairs of France with the dash and decisiveness she had expected."

Although fully aware that her first priority as empress was to produce an heir, Eugénie was apparently not built to bear children easily. During the first year of her marriage, she suffered a mis-carriage, apparently brought on by an overly hot bath taken to alleviate the pain of an accidental fall. The ordeal sidelined her for weeks and provoked a deep depression. "What might have been the sad fate of my child?" she asked Paca. "A thousand times I would prefer that a son of mine should wear a less brilliant but more secure crown." Napoleon, while voicing concern for Eugénie's welfare, satisfied his needs elsewhere. "I need my little amusements," he told his cousin, "but I always return to her with pleasure."

Three years into the marriage, after a second miscarriage, Eugénie produced an heir. Prince Napoleon Louis ("Lou-Lou") was born March 16, 1866. Both the pregnancy and delivery were difficult, and Eugénie was left so weak by the ordeal that it was not until May that she could walk without support. The doctor reported that another pregnancy might cost her her life. There would be no more children and no further physical relationship between husband and wife. Napoleon, suffering his own health problems, lost no time in adding to his growing list of amorous liaisons, which eventually included the Countess Virginie de Castiglione (an Italian spy who was called "the most beautiful woman in Europe"), Marianne Walewska (the wife of the minister of Foreign Affairs), and Marguerite Bellanger (a circus stunt rider and would-be actress).

Accounts vary regarding Eugénie's reaction to her husband's philandering. Her detractors depict a vindictive woman, deprived of a conjugal role and dallying in affairs of state as consolation. Others saw her as maturing, realizing her limitations, and accepting a more enlightened view of her duties as empress. She was, after all, facing a less-than-predictable future. Her husband's rapidly declining health no doubt gave rise to concerns about preserving the French throne for her infant son. Another event, in 1858, cast an even more ominous shadow. On the evening of January 14, she and the emperor were the targets of an assassination attempt carried out by Felice Orsini and a small group of Italian terrorists who viewed Napoleon's regime as the keystone of European imperialism and suppression. As the royal carriage was pulling up to the steps of the Opera House on the Rue Lepelletier, an explosion rocked the street, followed by another and then a third. By a miracle, neither Eugénie nor the emperor were seriously hurt, although 12 were killed and many were wounded by the bombs. Though badly shaken and cut near the eye by a glass splinter, Eugénie displayed remarkable aplomb. "Let us show the assassins that we have more courage than them," she is quoted as saying. She then led her dazed husband into the theater to the front of the imperial box to show the audience they had escaped harm.

Whatever her motivation, Eugénie became increasingly more involved in the affairs of state, and Napoleon, physically weakened and perhaps remorseful over his own behavior, often let her have her way. Thrice, she acted as regent during the absence of the emperor (1859, 1865, and 1870), and she was generally consulted on significant issues. Against the wishes of the ministers, she often sat in on Ministerial Councils, where she slowly began to assert herself.

By about 1860, the emperor's approval rating among his subjects had fallen dramatically, and although Eugénie had certainly gained respect, she was still too Spanish and too reactionary to be totally embraced by the French. She believed that radicalism was a threat to the throne and should be forcefully repressed, a point of view increasingly at variance with that of her husband, who argued that reform was necessary to shore up the sagging popularity of his regime. On that point the emperor won, introducing a series of reforms in the 1860s that proved, however, to be neither effective nor popular.

Eugénie's influence in diplomacy proved more dominant and may have resulted in France's isolation from the other powers. By the end of the 1860s, there was speculation that the empire was approaching collapse. Eugénie felt an intense attachment to Pope Pius IX, who was so unpopular with his fellow Italians that he faced constant protest. The empress persuaded her husband to maintain a French army in Rome to protect the pontiff, a presence that was greatly resented by the Italian government. Eugénie was also involved in Napoleon's endorsement of the suicidal attempt by France to establish a puppet state in Mexico, under the rule of the Austrian Archduke Maximilian and Carlota (1840–1927). To Eugénie, this would demolish the Mexican republican movement and serve as a counterweight to the United States, for which the conservative empress had little use. The French monarchs persuaded the reluctant archduke to accept the Mexican crown, convinced he would rule with wisdom and clemency under tutorial direction from Paris, and outfitted the army that would place this prize in his hands.

The expedition succeeded in establishing Maximilian on the throne in Mexico City, but he was even more unpopular among his subjects than Napoleon and Eugénie were with the French. He would soon become engaged in a civil war which would end in 1867 with his capture and execution. This would do much to satisfy the Americans and a number of European powers, who considered the entire Mexican adventure an example of Bonapartist hubris. Maximilian's death would be a mortifying blow to Eugénie and Napoleon and one that would soon be followed by an even more alarming development.

Of all of their neighbors, France had watched Prussia with the greatest suspicion, for it was wealthy, ambitious, and in possession of a large, well-trained army. From 1862, the king of Prussia had as his minister-president the most remarkable, and most ruthless, diplomat in Europe, Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck was determined that all of Germany was to be united under Prussia, an accomplishment that he knew would be strenuously opposed by Austria. In 1866, Bismarck had concocted a war with Austria which the Prussians won with a spectacular show of force. On the brink of victory, in 1867 Bismarck had proclaimed the union of northern Germany under Prussia, obviously a prelude to the acquisition of the southern states. Napoleon had declared that he would go to war with Prussia rather than see Germany united. To prepare, he ordered the French army in Mexico to come home, thus insuring Maximilian's defeat at the hands of the Mexican revolutionaries. Bismarck was a man who could not be intimidated by threats, and it seemed likely that when he believed Prussia was ready to take on France he would go to war.

Eugénie was now seriously alarmed. The failure to win popular support through domestic reforms, as well as the diplomatic disasters in Italy and Germany, had further eroded Napoleon's popularity, as well as her own. It could be restored, and the imperial crown secured for her son, only by a policy of fortitude and determination. When, in the summer of 1870, a crisis broke out between Prussia and France over the candidacy of a German prince for the crown of Spain, Eugénie relentlessly insisted that it was an issue that called for war unless Bismarck gave in. She believed that France would win and resisted those who argued that it would be more prudent to deal with the matter diplomatically. Bismarck matched Eugénie in determination and was equally as focused on war. He therefore refused any compromise, and, on July 1870, a reluctant Napoleon declared war on Prussia.

By the end of six weeks, Napoleon had been defeated at Sedan, had surrendered his army, and had been transported to Germany as a prisoner. Eugénie, worn down by her duties as regent (which included daily visits to the hospital units she had set up in the Tuileries) and anguished over the lack of information from the front, broke down upon hearing the news. "No, the Emperor has not surrendered!" she screamed at her acting secretaries. "A Napoleon never surrenders! … I tell you he is dead and they're trying to hide it from me." She then contradicted herself: "Why didn't he kill himself? Why didn't he have himself buried under the walls of Sedan? Could he not feel he was disgracing himself? What a name to leave to his son!" As was always the case with Eugénie, her fury was shortlived, and she soon resumed her duties as regent.

On the following day, September 4, with a mob storming the Tuileries, the dethroned empress and her 14-year-old son Lou-Lou, the prince imperial, fled for their lives from a side door in the palace and sought refuge with the emperor's American dentist, Dr. Evans. He arranged for them to proceed incognito to England, where Eugénie took up residence in a rented house in Camden Place, Chislehurst, which ironically belonged to an executor of the late Elizabeth Howard. It was two weeks before Eugénie was once again in contact with Napoleon. Her rage diminished, she was now moved by his outpouring of love, as well as his dignity in defeat. (It did not hurt that tales of his bravery in battle had enhanced his international reputation.) Quite alarming to her, however, was the state of his health, which had deteriorated even further. Bismarck eventually permitted Napoleon to join his family at Chislehurst, and the deposed emperor relished the quiet life of exile, although Eugénie found it necessary to break up the boredom with holidays in the West Country and a trip to Spain to visit her mother. Although the tide in France was turning and for a time it appeared that Napoleon might be returned to power, his health remained an obstacle. After surviving several operations to remove a kidney stone, he died unexpectedly on January 10, 1873, the morning of what was to be the final surgery.

While she had lost a husband, Eugénie gained a friend in Queen Victoria, who was also widowed by the death of Albert in 1861. Victoria not only supported Eugénie against the revenge of Plon-Plon, who was furious over being completely ignored in Napoleon's will, but also helped fill the gap left in the life of the prince imperial by the death of his father. Welcomed by Victoria on visits to Osborne and Windsor, the prince felt more at home with royalty than at his dreary house at Woolrich, where he was enrolled as a cadet. Although the queen joined Eugénie in efforts to stir up interest in France in a Bona-partist restoration for the prince, a wave of enthusiasm that had been envisaged in 1874, did not materialize. The young prince, who eventually became an officer in the British army, perished in a war against the Zulus in South Africa in 1879. Upon news of his death, Eugénie was inconsolable. "I am left alone," she wrote, "the sole remnant of a shipwreck; which proves how vain are the grandeurs of this world.… I cannot even die; and God, in his infinite mercy, will give me a hundred years of life." Eugénie later visited the spot of his death and brought back his body to be interred beside his father.

Now 54, Eugénie did not dwell upon her grief. After seeing to it that the memory of her husband and son were suitably enshrined in a mausoleum at her new property at Farnborough Hill, she led a full and active life up until a few days before her death. She divided her time between England and a villa she had built at Cape Martin on the Riviera. She traveled extensively by train and yacht and surrounded herself with the young and beautiful. She visited Queen Victoria each summer at Osborne Cottage on the Isle of Wight and in the autumn at Abergeldie Castle on Deeside, where she rode and fished. The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 left Eugénie the senior member of the sovereign class of Europe. Her dignity in exile won her great respect, and as war with Germany loomed again, diplomats sought her advice. Amazingly young for her age, even at 80, Eugénie continued to travel in Europe and the Mediterranean, and in 1906, she climbed Vesuvius. In July 1914, she attracted the attention of the press when, during a trip to Paris, she made a pilgrimage to her former homes: Fontainebleau, the ruins of St. Cloud, Compiègne, and Malmaison.

When England went to war (World War I), Eugénie opened a wing of Farnborough Hill as a hospital for wounded officers, just as she had at the Tuileries in 1870. She purchased medical equipment with her own money and hired young and attractive nurses, believing that the soldiers would recuperate faster if allowed a bit of flirting. "It will do them good to fall in love," she said. In 1920, Eugénie made a last visit to Madrid where she stayed with her relatives at the Palacio de Liria. While there, she underwent a successful cataract operation, which allowed her to see clearly for the first time in years. However, on June 10, she suddenly became ill and slipped away quietly the following day. "I am tired," the 94-year-old Eugénie whispered to a relative not long before the end, "and it is time for me to go away."


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Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Eugénie (1826–1920)

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