Eugenie de Montijo (1826-1920) was a beautiful woman and she knew it. A Spaniard by birth, she had a great sense of style and was a fashion trendsetter of her day. She was known for her huge crinolines, tight fitting riding habits, Worth gowns and her diamond jewelry.

Louis Napoleon was the Beast to this Beauty - a short bow-legged unattractive man afflicted with tobacco-stained teeth and a strange lop-sided gait. His mother was the daughter of Empress Josephine by her first marriage before she married Napoleon Bonarparte and his father, the nephew of said Napoleon. What he lacked in looks, he made up in ambition as he succeeded in getting the French, who already threw out Louis Phillippe in the 1848 revolution, to accept a second Bonaparte empire and him as Napoleon III.

Louis lusted after Eugenie and she lusted after fine clothes and jewelry so the marriage was mutually beneficial at least in the beginning. Once Empress, she could afford to launch her career as a compulsive bejewelled clotheshorse. Diamonds were undoubtedly this girl's best friend. The Eugenie diamond, a perfect oval 51 carat diamond that once graced Catherine of Russia's hairpin was named after her. She wore it as the centrepiece of a diamond necklace. Amongst the French Crown Jewels is her brooch with Mazarin yellow diamonds. So obsessed was she with diamonds, she even once had a copy made of the Hope diamond.

As a foreign bride, she was not popular with the French and tried to curry their favor by turning down a gift of a 600,000 franc diamond necklace from the City of Paris. It must have choked her to have to spend the money instead on building an orphanage. It didn't work, as the French still derisively called her "The Spaniard". In the end, they got tired of Napoleon III too and proclaimed France a new republic.

The French government auctioned off her official jewels in 1887, many of them bought up by Tiffany of New York including the celebrated 222-diamond Mazarin necklace and hence into the hands of wealthy Americans. Her private jewels were also sold off to keep her in some comfort in her old age. By then, her interest in clothes was long gone.

Wikipedia : Eugénie de Montijo
Marian Fowler (2002). Hope: Adventures of a Diamond
Marian Fowler (1996). The Way She Looks Tonight: Five Women of Style
JJ Kent (2004) History of the Eugenie Diamond

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
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