Distaff Diplomacy: The Empress Eugénie and the Foreign Policy of the Second Empire by Nancy Nichols Barker

Distaff Diplomacy: The Empress Eugénie and the Foreign Policy of the Second Empire

byNancy Nichols Barker

Paperback | June 1, 2011

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The Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III and one of the most beautiful women ever to grace a throne, was the victim of her own inconstant mind. A daughter of an aristocratic Spanish family, she had a natural reverence for legitimate monarchy; yet her high-spirited temperament and chivalric outlook made her admire instinctively the boldness and aura of glory that she associated with the Napoleonic empire. The incongruous principles of Legitimism and Bonapartism battling within the Empress produced in her a double-mindedness that had tragic consequences.

The Empress has always been a controversial figure. Her enemies have blamed her the fall of the Second Empire and the defeat of France; her admirers have disclaimed for her any part in the mistakes that led to the disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870. To determine the actual role that Eugénie played, Barker, using material from public and private European archives and a wide range of published works, examines in Distaff Diplomacy the development of the Empress' views on foreign affairs and ascertains their effect on the formation of the policies of the Second Empire.

Eugénie's influence fluctuated widely over the years. As a bride she was neither interested in nor knowledgable about foreign matters; as a middle-aged woman, in the late years of the Empire, she was discredited by her past errors, but she continued to pull strings outside of normal diplomatic channels. Her most sustained and effective work, from 1861 to 1863, was largely the inspiration for a grand design to remake the map to assure French hegemony in Europe and to establish an empire in Mexico. The success of this design rested on an Austro-French alliance; but the design itself, reflecting the Empress' incoherent thinking, contained the fatal inconsistencies that made Austrian rejection of it inevitable. Since the Mexican expedition and the diplomatic muddle of 1863 were the watershed from which the subsequent troubles of the Empire flowed, the Empress must be held responsible for seriously undermining the foreign policy of the Empire. Despite Eugénie's many fine qualities—her generosity of spirit, her splendid courage, and her moral integrity—her diplomatic efforts, affected as they were by her background, temperament, state of health, and changing moods, did not amount to statesmanship. This first systematic examination of the Empress' influence on foreign policy delves deeply and carefully into the subject.

About The Author

Nancy Nichols Barker (1925–1994) was Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Title:Distaff Diplomacy: The Empress Eugénie and the Foreign Policy of the Second EmpireFormat:PaperbackDimensions:268 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:June 1, 2011Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292735928

ISBN - 13:9780292735927

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Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Abbreviations Used in the Footnotes
  • I. FROM COUNTESS TO EMPRESS: “La Montijo Triomphe”
    • A Mésalliance?
    • The Eastern Question
    • Eyes across the Pyrenees
    • The Beginning of Trouble with Rome
  • II. THE ITALIAN WAR : An Apprentice in Revolt
    • Orsini and the Empress’ Italian Phase
    • “Our Cause is Good …”
    • Madame la Régente
    • In Defense of Altar—
    • —And Throne
  • III. THE COLD WAR of 1859–1861: The Triumph of the “Italianissimes”
    • The Argument over the Preliminaries of Villafranca
    • “The Battle of Compiègne”
    • “The Pope and the Congress”
    • Complications at Home
    • Annexation of Nice and Savoy: An Idyllic Interlude
    • Frustration and Flight
    • Revolution Prevails
  • IV. THE GRAND DESIGN: Italy, Mexico, and Poland, 1861–1863
    • Reversing the Revolutionary Trend
    • The Origin of the Mexican Venture
    • The Roman Question: A Trial of Strength
    • The Fall of Thouvenel
    • The Polish Revolt: A Marriage of Inclination?
  • V. EMPIRE IN THE DOLDRUMS : The Loss of Hegemony, 1863–1866
    • A Woman Scorned
    • Reactions and Reprisals: Rome—
    • —And Mexico
    • Prewar Diplomacy—Picking a Loser
  • VI. AFTER SADOWA : “The Beginning of the End of the Dynasty”
    • The Impact of Sadowa
    • The Forage for Compensations
    • Political Limbo
    • The Roman Question Again
    • Realignments and Reappraisals
  • VII. A TIME TO SPEAK : “II Faut en Finir”
    • In Quest of Allies
    • Fall of the Vice Emperor
    • Revolution in Spain
    • The Hohenzollern Candidacy for the Spanish Throne
    • Premature Exultation
    • The Demand for Guarantees
    • The Declaration of War
  • VIII. A HOUSE DIVIDED
  • Appendix: Metternich to Rechberg, February 22, 1863
  • Bibliography
  • Index