The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
The Empress Eugenie
The Empress Eugenie.
By far the most interesting book in the Paternoster Row announcements is "The Recollections of the Empress Eugénie."
It was in a conservatory at a State Ball that Napoleon III. unexpectedly proposed to Mdlle Eugénie de Montijo, this young and dashing Spanish lady, with the suspicion of a reputation as an intrigante, in which line her mother was full blown. The lady had another daughter, in favour of whom, it is said, Eugénie was thrown over by a good "mark"—a Marcheso—and first-class match. Eugénie was in a desponding frame of mind—the worm i' the bud had begun to prey on her damask cheek—we don't know the materials of damask; peach bloom, violet powder, or patchouli—when this astounding turn of the cards came. She was as much taken aback on landing the prize salmon as Queen Victoria was when, as a trembling girl, she fainted away in the arms of her mother, under the portico of Kensington Palace, after being summoned at five o'clock on a fine summer morning, to hear of the death of William the Fourth.
We don't know what sort of an "Ask Mamma" Eugenie fluttered out upon the Emperor's plunge. But, of course, there was no "Ask Mamma" at all. An Emperor must be clinched at once. His divagation might be only the result of some pique, and page 53 Mother Montijo would have called her daughter the quintessence of a fool if she had hesitated for the most infinitesimal fraction of a second, as denoted by the keenest chronometer ever devised by Breguet, Bennett, or Benson.
Two ladies named Howard and Bellanger, one English and one French, had to be moved out of the road before the tall, slim, elegant, and beautiful Spaniard could be comfortably established at the Tuileries, as Empress. Mother knew, or guessed, all about these things, but "my poor, dear, innocent girl," of course—how could she? Once the barouche of Marguerite Bellanger was conspicuously and impudently driven across the track of the landau of the Empress. Hola! hola! Where are the Gendarmerie? Where is Mouchard, with his myrmidons, Reveillon and Cagnotte?
Our lamented Grenville Murray could tell us all about such stories, but we love not to linger on them. Suffice to say the Emperor was a good—French—husband. Eugenie was as good as any English wife.
Eugenie! We respect you as much as any queen that ever lived. They might call you a devotee—even a fanatic; but you had the spirit and the faith to insist upon visiting the hospitals when pestilence stalked through the land, appalling every heart by its terrors—except hearts like yours, leonine in bravery, and fortified by religion.
"And now," says the Empress, "I can calmly view my approaching dissolution, for I feel that I have the sentence of death within myself I have striven to bring every thought in submission to "the Evangile," even while I have been compelled to exhaust the treasures of Worth and Epinglard, set the fashions, and figure, for political reasons only, as the dazzling centre in the State-Box of the grand opera, or at the Courses of Longchamps."
The Empress will acknowledge to faults of awful moment, and may tell you that the worst was when, at the council of the Emperor, and his ministers, she insisted on the war with Germany. "Gentlemen," she said, "this is my war." Oh, my war! The war of Wissembourg, Spicheren, Forbach, Worth, Sedan, the Fall of Paris, the captivity at Wilhelmshohe, the broken-hearted death of the husband at Chiselhurst, and of the only son in Zulu Land.