chapter  5
20 Pages

Master of France (1852-63)?

H aving re-established the dynasty, Napoleon III was faced with the problem of how to perpetuate it. That meant, in the first place, providing it with an heir. As President, he had not felt confident enough about his future to marry, and had sought consolation in the arms of Miss Howard. She, however, was deemed an unsuitable consort for an emperor, and was hastily pensioned off with a title and a generous allowance. Princess M athilde, wooed in vain in 1836, once again became the object o f Napoleon’s suit, but she continued to decline his advances. A number of foreign princesses likewise turned him down. In January 1853 his luck changed. Having made the acquaintance o f Eugenie de Montijo, a beautiful Spanish noblewoman, he rapidly became engaged to her and then married her on 6 February 1853. The Emperor’s choice of spouse was not at all to the liking of his counsellors, who would have preferred a judicious alliance with one of Europe’s royal houses, but he justified it as a love match. In the long run, it was to prove a far from ideal partnership from either a personal or a political point o f view. In the short term, while emphasising the parvenu aspect o f the regime, it met Napoleon’s need for a wife and also provided beauty, brilliance and flair at court to enhance the prestige of the Empire. When, in 1856, Eugenie gave birth to a son, Eugene Louis, the Prince Imperial, the future of the dynasty began to look more secure.