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

Paperback | June 1, 2011

byNancy Nichols Barker

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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.

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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 bo...

Nancy Nichols Barker (1925–1994) was Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Format: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

PrefaceAbbreviations Used in the FootnotesI. FROM COUNTESS TO EMPRESS: “La Montijo Triomphe”A Mésalliance?The Eastern QuestionEyes across the PyreneesThe Beginning of Trouble with RomeII. THE ITALIAN WAR : An Apprentice in RevoltOrsini and the Empress’ Italian Phase“Our Cause is Good …”Madame la RégenteIn Defense of Altar——And ThroneIII. 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 HomeAnnexation of Nice and Savoy: An Idyllic InterludeFrustration and FlightRevolution PrevailsIV. THE GRAND DESIGN: Italy, Mexico, and Poland, 1861–1863Reversing the Revolutionary TrendThe Origin of the Mexican VentureThe Roman Question: A Trial of StrengthThe Fall of ThouvenelThe Polish Revolt: A Marriage of Inclination?V. EMPIRE IN THE DOLDRUMS : The Loss of Hegemony, 1863–1866A Woman ScornedReactions and Reprisals: Rome——And MexicoPrewar Diplomacy—Picking a LoserVI. AFTER SADOWA : “The Beginning of the End of the Dynasty”The Impact of SadowaThe Forage for CompensationsPolitical LimboThe Roman Question AgainRealignments and ReappraisalsVII. A TIME TO SPEAK : “II Faut en Finir”In Quest of AlliesFall of the Vice EmperorRevolution in SpainThe Hohenzollern Candidacy for the Spanish ThronePremature ExultationThe Demand for GuaranteesThe Declaration of WarVIII. A HOUSE DIVIDEDAppendix: Metternich to Rechberg, February 22, 1863BibliographyIndex