Eugenia de Montijo, was empress of the French from 1853 to 1870 by virtue of her marriage to Napoleon III; he was the last sovereign of France. Eugenia was born in Granada, during an earthquake, on May 5, 1826, the fifth anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. Eugénie, as she would have been known in France, had her mother's friends as teachers in her childhood, including Stendhal and then continued her studies in Paris.
When Louis Napoleon became president of the Second Republic, the Countess Eugénie began to appear, with her mother, at dances given to the Elysée by the prince-president, who became emperor as Napoleon III in 1852.
The councilors of Napoleon III wanted a royal wedding with the heir of a great dynasty. Adelaide, the teenage granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was proposed. Meanwhile the ministers were more and more evident the fall in love of Napoleon III against the charming Spanish countess, described by Victor Hugo as a "beautiful girl with golden hair, blue eye, beautiful features, the nose of a purity of remarkable shape; from the seductive profile, from the swan neck, from the most candid ivory shoulders of the marble of Paphos; from the elegant and proportionate figure that was admirably designed ".
When the idea of marriage, after some uncertainties, was discarded (it is not clear whether from Anna or Queen Victoria), Napoleon III immediately informed Eugenia, offering her the throne and crown, but also the dangers that the office of empress involved . The ministers opposed this disadvantageous marriage, but Napoleon III persisted in his decision and on January 22, 1853 officially announced the engagement: "I preferred a woman whom I love and compared to the union with a stranger who would bring benefits not without sacrifices. By putting independence, heart and happiness above the dynastic prejudice or ambitious calculation, I will not be less strong for being freer. "
The wedding was celebrated with great pomp in the cathedral of Notre-Dame. From the marriage a single son was born, Napoleone Eugenio Luigi, imperial prince, called Loulou in private.
With its beauty, its charm and its elegance Eugenia contributed greatly to the success of the imperial regime. She had a close friendship with Princess Pauline von Metternich, (her mother was the daughter of von Metternich author of the European order wanted by the Congress of Vienna), who played an important role in the cultural and social life of the court.
Eugenia, like Marie Antoinette in the previous century, dictated fashion: when in 1855 she started wearing crinolines, the whole of Europe followed her example and when at the end of the sixties she abandoned them, the women followed her again. The aristocratic elegance of Eugenia, the splendor of her clothes and the richness of her jewels are well documented in countless paintings. The interest of Eugenia for the life of Marie Antoinette had consequences on the fashions and art of the time: the empress, in fact, in addition to wearing clothes inspired by the eighteenth century, preferred furniture and furniture in the characteristic of the reign of Louis XVI.
Because of her education and her intelligence, her husband often consulted her on important matters of state.
The pro-Italian politics of Napoleon III, due to his devotion to the pope, was particularly so, since the first phase of the French alliance with the Piedmontese was born for his relationship with the Countess of Castiglione. The Empress's aversion was so great that he organized an attack against Napoleon III at his lover's home to distract him from that relationship.
On January 14, 1858, at half past eight in the evening, near the theater of the Opéra National de Paris, she was involved in the bomb attack by the Italian patriot Felice Orsini against her husband. Three bombs launched by Orsini, against the imperial parade, left Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie completely unharmed, but they caused eight deaths and injured 156 among the crowds crowded along the roadside.
When the Second Empire collapsed following the defeat suffered by France in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the Empress found refuge in England. The last sovereign of France, with the help of her American dentist, fled from Paris before the republic was proclaimed or any revolutionary attempt was made, reminiscent of what had happened to Marie Antoinette less than a hundred years before. As in fact, at the time in the streets of Paris was screaming "to death the Austrian", in those days the French began to shout "to death the Spanish".
Empress Eugenie landed in England on September 8th and was reunited with her son in Hastings. From that moment began a close correspondence with her husband, a political prisoner in the castle of Wilhelmshöhe, in Kassel, and with the other sovereigns of Europe, trying in vain to help in the prospect of a peace favorable to France.
Bismarck himself contacted the empress to initiate favorable peace negotiations. Aware that Prussia would demand territorial transfers, he appealed directly to William I, who replied: "Germany must be certain that the next war will find it ready to repel the attack that we can expect as soon as France will be resumed or have found allies. It is only this sad consideration - and not the desire to enlarge my country whose territory is already vast enough - that forces me to insist on territorial transfers that have no other purpose than to make the starting point of the French armies backward, in the future, they will come to attack us ".
This letter was later very important for the peace treaties of the First World War.
On 28 January 1871 the armistice was proclaimed which ended the terrible siege of Paris and the new official government was formed. Peace was signed on May 10 and as planned by Eugenia there were huge territorial transfers: Alsace and Lorraine became German.
The emperor was declared free and so the exiled kings and his son lived together from that moment in England. The imperial couple regained their lost marital serenity and led a rich bourgeois life: Napoleon III sold his property in Italy and the proceeds were successfully invested by the empress. Eugenia proved to be an excellent administrator and her investments and the sale of her private jewels guaranteed the family economic stability. In November 1872 the bladder trouble of the emperor began to worsen significantly and Queen Victoria sent him his best doctors. He consented to be operated. On January 2, the first intervention took place which only took away a part of the great calculation that made him suffer. Other operations followed and it seemed he was better, but he died on January 9, 1873.
The empress, in order for her son to widen her culture, decided to involve him on a long journey in Italy. Between 1876 and 1877 Luigi visited the main Italian cities, while Eugenia took up residence in Florence, near the Boboli Gardens.
At Palazzo Pitti it was received by Vittorio Emanuele II. The visit was not a success because Eugenia was dumbfounded in front of the king's desk where there were several photos but none of her husband. When Vittorio Emanuele asked her if she was amazed at what she saw, Eugenia replied: "I am amazed at what I do not see".
At the beginning of 1879, Luigi decided to go and fight under the English flag in South Africa, in the war against the Zulus. Although strongly opposed, the empress, to make her son happy, managed to get the necessary permits from Queen Victoria. On February 27, 1879, Eugenia said goodbye to her son: he would never see him again. The empress spent the following months in solitude and anxiety, constantly waiting for her son's letters and standing "at the mercy of the telegraph." On 1 June 1879 the Imperial Prince died in an ambush of the Zulus.
Empress Eugenie only received the news on June 20th. She was destroyed by the pain and at that moment extremely delicate she received the visits of many of her friends, including Queen Victoria. On the 25th he wrote to his mother: «Today I have the courage to tell you that I still live, since pain does not kill».  The coffin of the Imperial Prince arrived on 11 July and the empress stayed there all night long, until one of her lady came to pick her up the next morning.
Long months of apathy followed for the sovereign. A few months after Luigi's death, the news came that his mother was dying: Eugenia obtained permission from the French government to move from France to reach Spain first, but arrived late. The mother had already turned off: "My pain is wild, restless, irascible: I am not resigned at all and I do not want to hear about resignation rather than consolation. I do not want to be consoled, I want to be left alone. "
He left for South Africa to go to the place where his son was killed. From the Zulus he had the desired confirmation that he had died as a hero, fighting face to face with the enemy. Eugenia spent the night alone on the concrete cross erected on the site of the ambush. He later said that he had the impression that his son was next to her and that he had encouraged her to go home. To one of his friends he wrote: "No one can fill the immense emptiness opened up in my existence ...".
After the trip, Empress Eugenie decided to move and bought Farnborough Hill, a large house in Farnborough (Hampshire), along with many lands on which the Abbey of St. Michael was built, the mausoleum of Napoleon III and the Imperial Prince.
One of the people who helped Eugenia most out of her grief was Queen Victoria. She too had been shaken by many griefs and could understand the feelings of the French empress. Their friendship became ever closer and many summers passed together; Vittoria and Eugenia found sincere friends in each other and their relationships were interrupted only by the death of the queen, which took place in January 1901.
In 1891, near Menton, he met Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Princess Sissy) in constant flight from Vienna, especially after her son's suicide. The two empresses were approached by old age and suffering and became confident.
Elisabetta died in 1898 murdered in Geneva by an Italian anarchist: Francesco Giuseppe, grateful to Eugenia for the company he had done to his wife, sent her the umbrella and the fan that Elizabeth had with him at the time of the attack.
The empress loved to surround herself with bright young people and was always attracted by the news: she helped Guglielmo Marconi and supported her experiments. When in 1901 there was the first transoceanic wireless communication, the first message was directed to Edward VII, the second to Empress Eugenie.
In 1909 Eugenia assisted aviator flights William Cody; expressed a desire to know him and there are several photos of the empress and the pilot who explains the operation of an airplane. Eugenia supplied Farnborough with all the latest technological innovations: in 1907 he had the electricity and telephone installed. He also bought a car, a Renault, which he used for his travels around the city. Now over seventy years old also learned to ride a bike.
The empress, as in the days of the Second Empire, continued to support the position of women in society. In 1891 he welcomed Ethel Smyth, a female composer and women's rights activist, to Farnborough, who became a protege. Eugenia approved the suffragette movement, although she did not share the violent demonstrations, and invited Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters to his home.
In 1899 Villa Cyrnos began the long and affectionate relationship with Lucien Daudet: son of Alphonse Daudet, the young man was known in Parisian salons for his beauty and his relationship with Marcel Proust. Empress Eugenie made it her protégé, inviting him not to consume time and money but to dedicate himself to writing. Daudet was almost an adopted son for the empress: he called him by name (which he did not do with almost anyone else) or mon cher enfant. In 1910 Daudet decided to write a book about the empress. Eugenia initially denied him permission, as he had always done with all those who had asked him, because he did not want to justify his actions but he confided in the truth of history. Lucien, however, managed to convince her by promising that he would not talk about history but about his personality, his ideas and his tastes, "a written portrait". The book was published in Paris at the beginning of 1912 under the title L'Impératrice Eugénie and is one of the fundamental works written on Empress Eugenia as a woman.
The empress never lost sight of European political developments, she was always a great reader of newspapers.
When World War I broke out, he decided to transform Farnborough Hill into a military hospital: a wing of the house thus became a shelter for wounded officers.
The same empress was treated in her hospital in 1916 when she slipped from the large staircase of the house.
Eugenia dedicated herself to her hospital with passion, taking care to always buy the latest medical machines available on the market. She herself, for what her age allowed her, took care of the patients, going to see them and conversing with them. When bad news came to her, she did not show up at the hospital: "It's not good that they see me worried and sad. Patients need to be kept on morals, not being depressed. "
The empress was able to help France in a very thorny question. On June 5, 1917, deputies of the French government began to discuss the possibility of returning Alsace and Lorraine back thanks to future peace treaties.
The empress Eugenia kept the letter written in 1871 by Kaiser Wilhelm I, in which he declared that the annexation of those territories had been determined by political and war factors. Then they asked the letter to the empress, who made no objection to deliver it. The letter was read at a solemn meeting and would have been fundamental to the peace treaties to reclaim Alsace and Lorraine on the basis of the principle of self-determination of the peoples.
At the end of the war, Empress Eugenia exclaimed: "Thank God, the carnage is over!" Now the only survivor of the era of the great empires, he was ineffectual by the Treaty of Versailles (1919) He said: "What have you done? This is not a peace, here are the seeds of future wars. I see in every article of this peace a small egg, a nucleus of further wars ... You know what I always say about the need to impose all possible conditions. But the Allies are imposing impossible conditions. Not content, they are going to destroy the German merchant marine, its trade, everything! How will Germany ever earn the money necessary to keep its fair commitments? Madness! Pure madness!".
For his eye problems, Dr. Barraquer (of Barcelona) agreed to operate it on the cataract: the operation was a success and the empress returned to see, happy and lively, but soon felt ill during and was put to bed. She had taken a cold that was fatal to her age. At night he received his last unction, and at eight o'clock in the morning of July 11, 1920 he died peacefully. He was ninety-four years old.
The granite coffin with the simple inscription EUGÉNIE is still on the altar of the crypt of the San Michele abbey.
In 1857, the great asteroid was dedicated to the empress. 45 Eugenia and her satellite, discovered in 1998, was called Le Petit-Prince (the little prince) in honor of her son.