Saint-Cloud may be rebuilt!
American Friends of Saint-Cloud
The Chateau of Saint-Cloud may be rebuilt!
Laurent Bouvet is heading the international society “Reconstruisons Saint-Cloud” to rebuild the palace burned in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War.
New York attorney Mitchell Cantor has chartered the American Friends of Saint-Cloud and is founding local chapters throughout the United States.
Synopsis of the Series
Imperial Wedding of Old Paris Imperial Triangle of Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie and the Intriguing Duke of Sesto By Nancy Becker
Imperial Triangle of Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie and the Intriguing Duke of Sesto
By Nancy Becker
In desperation, she tries to kill herself twice. She first vies with her sister, Paca, for the Duke of Alba, and then falls in love with the most handsome of the Spanish Grandees of the 1840s in Madrid, the Duke of Sesto, who taunts her with his teasing dark eyes. The Duke, however, enjoys the company of many women, especially of Paca. Eugénie therefore finds herself out-classed by her sister. To her utter disgust, both of the men she adores prefer Paca. Even when Paca marries the Duke of Alba, Sesto is so intrigued with Paca that he cannot stay away from her. Eugénie has to adapt and decides she will bundle her love for the both of them.
Because Eugénie's beloved Sesto will not marry her, Eugénie makes the decision to accept the proposal of Emperor Napoleon III. Her father, after all, was a warrior for his uncle Napoleon I and the Duke of Sesto has made it clear that he never intends to marry her.
Eugénie and Napoleon III are married in one of the all-time magnificent weddings of France at the Cathedral of Nôtre-Dame and go on to forge one of the most glamorous periods of French history, the Second Empire. They live in the Tuileries and at least seven other palaces and entertain and dress regally.
Eugénie realizes the danger of her position and identifies strongly with the guillotined Queen Marie-Antoinette and starts collecting her possessions. She restores the Petit Trianon at Versailles where she displays many of the late Queen's treasures. Eugénie lives in the same suites at the palaces of Saint-Cloud, Fontainebleau and Compiègne that were previously occupied by Marie-Antoinette.
Eugénie becomes friends with Britain's Queen Victoria during their mutual State visits to London and Paris. Victoria and Albert's visit to Paris is one of the most opulent weeks ever in Paris, and includes a dance in the Hall of Mirrors and a magnificent display of fireworks in the Park of Versailles.
Eugénie revolutionizes French fashion, making such brand names as Louis Vuitton, Guerlain and Christofle chic, and wears one of the most dazzling displays of diamonds and jewels ever amassed by one woman, including the 140-carat Régent diamond. She is, as it turns out, the last woman to wear the historic Crown Jewels of France.
While Eugénie is Empress, she watches from afar as the Duke of Sesto becomes Mayor of Madrid and copies French style in Spain, establishing the Campos Elisios in Madrid as the Spanish answer to Paris's Champs-Élysées. He also has a probable liaison with Queen Isabel II, whose son Alfonso, Prince of the Asturias, as he matures, begins to look suspiciously like the Duke. Isabel’s gay husband, King Consort Francisco, continually plots to dethrone his own wife in conjunction with the duc de Montpensier who is married to Isabel's sister, the Infanta Luisa.
When Napoleon III goes off to the Italian War, he chooses Eugénie to be Regent of France. A devout Catholic, she urges the Emperor to keep French troops in Rome to protect the Pope and is distrustful of the Italian unification movement both before and after the war. The next year, her sister Paca dies, and Eugénie realizes that the dynamics between herself and the Duke could change but she needs projects that would involve them both. She then moves firmly into the seat of French power and encourages Napoleon to send troops on joint Spanish-French ventures to China and Mexico.
Like Don Quixote and his ideal Dulcinea, Eugénie places the Duke of Sesto on a pedestal and tries to perform deeds to honor and impress him. She treats the Two Sicilies as a special area of Italy, knowing that his family still owns properties there. She tries to involve Spain in European Congresses and make it the equal of any of its Continental peers. Reaching ever farther, she starts dreaming that she can revive the glories of Spain's conquistadors in the New World by restoring the Spanish colonies under the protective umbrella of France. Constantly, she seeks international projects with the potential to involve both France and Spain so that she and the Duke can deepen their liaison through a political alliance.
Eventually, she believes that Austrian Archduke Maximilian is the right choice for Emperor of Mexico. Meanwhile, Spain has sent troops to Mexico but withdraws them after General Juan Prim realizes the occupation is too great a challenge. When Eugénie goes to Madrid on a quickly-called State visit to convince Queen Isabel's court to stay the course in Mexico, she sees her native homeland nostalgically for the first time in 11 years and has a sweet sojourn with the Duke. From that point forward, she crusades for him to spend time in Paris.
However, Eugénie is rebuffed. This time she feels rejection not only from the Duke but from Spain. In reaction, she redoubles her efforts to direct the foreign policy of France and becomes Regent for the second time. Meanwhile, her husband Napoleon, knowing that his wife is in love with another man, keeps many mistresses and his court is known for its flirtations.
The Duke of Sesto's liberal political party is briefly overthrown and he steps down as Mayor, but it emerges again and he becomes Civil Governor of Madrid, and is charged with keeping the peace and repressing insurgencies. In the cholera epidemic of 1865, he comes down with the disease, and Eugénie anxiously sends him eight telegraphs. She also visits cholera hospitals in France to send him messages of her care and concern.
By the next year, the Duke's parents have died and his Union Liberal party is on the wane, so he finally agrees to come to Paris. When he arrives, Napoleon's half-brother, the influential Duke of Morny, has just died. The Duke of Sesto happens upon Morny's beautiful blonde widow, Sofia, while riding in the Bois de Boulogne, is properly introduced at a party and starts courting her, much to Eugénie's consternation. During the months when Eugénie is playing hostess to most of the royals of Europe for the Exposition Universelle of 1867, she is off balance knowing that the Duke is with her widowed sister-in-law who is considered such a model of feminine beauty that she's known as "The Greuze."
Early the next year, the Duke and the widow Sofia marry, and Eugénie has to adjust to the idea that her beloved Duke is out of reach, but she realizes she cannot afford to antagonize him and his bride. Therefore, she includes them in her inner circle and that fall, invites both to her series at Compiègne.
Within a matter of weeks, Queen Isabel is forced to flee from Spain in a generals' revolt called "The Glorious Revolution." The Queen sends the Duke of Sesto ahead to meet with Eugénie and Napoleon at Biarritz and asks them to provide refuge and temporary housing for herself and her children, including heir-apparent Alfonso. When Isabel and her family arrive in Paris, the Duke purchases an elegant house for them and buys the Queen a new wardrobe from Eugénie's favorite fashion designer, Charles Frédéric Worth. Eugénie, who is caring for her own Prince Imperial in addition to her late sister's three children, melds them with the Duke and Sofia's extended families plus Isabel and her four children. The Palace of St. Cloud is beginning to look like a grammar school.
By this time, the political atmosphere in France is souring, partly because the people resent the high expenditures and displacement while Napoleon III's plans for the rebuilding of Paris were carried out by the urban designer Baron Haussmann. Eugénie takes one last triumphal State visit to the inauguration of the Suez Canal, whose construction had been directed by her cousin, Ferdinand Lesseps.
The Duke of Sesto grooms young Prince Alfonso to be King of Spain. When the Cortes is seeking a new leader, the Duke talks Isabel into abdicating so that Alfonso, although only 13 years old, will automatically be considered the exiled monarch. Isabel reluctantly consents and they hold an official abdication ceremony at her house in Paris. The Spanish throne is officially vacant.
However, Spanish General Juan Prim has no intention of bringing Alfonso back under a regency. Having witnessed a series of failures including the Mexican occupation, he is no friend of France and invites a cousin of the Prussian king to take the Spanish throne. Three weeks later, France declares war against Prussia for trying to enthrone the Hohenzollern prince. Because of the family properties owned by Eugénie and the Duke of Sesto, and their numerous relatives in Spain, they are reluctant to accept any foreign interference in its affairs. Napoleon III is sick and reluctantly agrees that France should declare war against Prussia. His decision excites the French people who have just celebrated the national holiday, Bastille Day.
After war is declared, the Duke of Sesto goes to Saint-Cloud Palace to help Eugénie prepare for the Prussian invasion, and then has to resituate Queen Isabel and Alfonso in Geneva. No sooner has he returned than he has to go back to Geneva after the Queen telegraphs that the hotel is about to eject herself and Alfonso because they have no money.
The French army is not prepared for war; Napoleon is captured and surrenders to the Prussians, and Eugénie has to flee from Paris, catching a cab in front of the palace in the midst of 60,000 rioters screaming for her head. She makes her way to England via a perilous journey with the help of her American-born dentist. After a rough ride across the English Channel, she manages to get to England where she is given asylum by her friend, Queen Victoria.
The Franco-Prussian War is a major defeat for France and leads to the siege and starvation of Paris, the burning of the Palace of Saint-Cloud, and the Paris Commune, which destroys much of Paris including the Tuileries Palace. Within seven months, two of the most historic and art-filled palaces of France are in flames and ruins.
After the war, the Duke maneuvers to take the throne away from the Italian Amadeus, who has been chosen King of Spain. The Duke's wife Sofia is a Madrid social leader who stages "The Revolt of the Mantillas" and the ostracized King abdicates. The Duke and his allies prevail, and Alfonso enters Spain to be crowned. The Duke becomes the young King's chief of palace, managing his schedule and daily life.
Over the objections of his mother Isabel, Alfonso falls in love with the Duke of Montpensier's daughter, Princess Mercedes, and asks Sesto to submit a formal proposal for her hand in marriage. Alfonso and his wife are beloved, and through the guidance of the Duke and other advisors, he becomes a popular king known as "El Pacificador" ("The Peacemaker") who accepts a liberal constitution.But Mercedes dies after only six months, and the grieving King drowns his sorrow by going out on the town continually with a stream of women, including an opera singer who bears him two children. The Duke often accompanies the King on his nocturnal rounds but convinces him that he must marry again to carry forth the legitimate royal lineage. He scouts a royal bride and comes upon the idea of marriage to Maria Cristina of Austria. Alfonso consents to marry the straight-laced Habsburg princess whom he finds plain; he still sees other women on the side while siring his three royal children.
After two years in England, the former Emperor Napoleon succumbs to kidney and bladder disease. Eugénie devotes herself to building up the Napoleonic legacy and educating the Prince Imperial to retake the throne of France. But when the Prince joins the British Army in Africa for the Zulu Wars, he is killed. Eugénie journeys to South Africa and senses his spirit and comes home disheartened, having lost almost everything she has ever valued. She then begins to reconstruct her life, starts visiting Paris again, buys the Gothic Victorian estate Farnborough Hill, and builds a villa in the South of France.
The Duke of Sesto, meanwhile, has spent almost all his fortune educating and housing Isabel and Alfonso and amounted so many debts that he has to sell his centuries-old mansion in the heart of Madrid, move to a smaller house and watch the demolition of his family estate. Then King Alfonso dies at the age of 28, and Alfonso's widow, now Queen Regent, blames the Duke for Alfonso's extra-marital affairs and forces him to surrender his Duchy of Sesto. After Alfonso's death, she gives birth to his posthumous son, King Alfonso XIII and ejects the Duke from her court. His humiliation is complete.
A few years afterwards, the Duke's wife dies, and he submits to Eugénie'sé pleas that they rendezvous, and they have bittersweet meetings in Paris and Madrid. When the Duke dies, Eugénie is left to spend the rest of her life finding new meaning, including making her home into a hospital during the World War. She has the great satisfaction of seeing France and its allies emerge victorious over Germany and regain Alsace-Lorraine which had been the spoils of the Franco-Prussian War. Rather than surrendering to age, she finds new interests such as climbing Mt. Vesuvius and traveling as far as Ceylon, and revisits Egypt, where she had once triumphed at the Suez Canal.
In her 90s, she wants to have a cataract operation to restore her sight and is anxious to see Spain once more, so she returns to the land of her birth. There she visits with Alfonso XIII and his wife, her goddaughter and namesake, Victoria Eugenie (Queen Ena), and resavors the delights of her youth. Resting in her sister Paca’s rooms at the Duke of Alba's Liria Palace, she dies at the age of 94.
How she has managed to survive from the peaks to the valleys is the ultimate lesson of her life. The ultimate moral dilemma is whether anyone should ever marry out of respect, and not love, when that person is already emotionally committed to someone else.
Eugénie manages to sustain the Napoleonic legend alongside her deep lifetime love, her elusive girlhood dream. When she passes from the world scene in 1920, she has witnessed almost a century of European upheavals and exercised a strong influence over international destinies.
However, because of France's humiliating defeats in the Franco-Prussian War and the debacle of Mexico for which Eugénie is blamed, she has since been little-discussed. The museum of her treasures at Compiègne is little known or visited in comparison to most French historical museums.
For the last nine decades since Eugénie's death, she has been one of the most overlooked figures in all European history. Napoleon III's lingering reputation given to him by the critic Victor Hugo was "Napoleon le Petit" in contrast to his uncle, "Napoleon le Grand".
The Duke of Sesto was not merely a man of remote mystery or an obscure figure of history; he was a man so beloved by the Empress of the French that she performed deeds in his behalf that reshaped the world. However, to most people, including historians who have studied the Second Empire and Spain in depth, he was, and still is, unknown.