María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox Portocarrero de Guzman y Kirkpatrick, Empress Eugenie, is one of history's tragic beauties, joining Empresses Elisabeth of Austria and Carlota of Mexico. She was beautiful and she married Emperor Napoleon III - what would sound like a girl's happily-ever-after dreams come true. But the Emperor was unfaithful, apparently flagrantly so, leaving her just one child, a son. Her son did what royal sons did and still do, served in the military, but in the British Army. When the Zulu contested British ambitions in South Africa, the Prince Imperial served there and died during the Zulu Wars - leaving her with no grandchildren.
I have read that she wasn't really that interested in clothes. But she was endowed with wonderful taste, elegant, and dressed like a true Empress. While royal wives often played second fiddle to mistresses in fashion (such as Louise de la Valliere, the Marquise de Montespan, and the Marquise de Pompadour), Napoleon III's numerous mistresses took back seat to the Empress Eugénie when it came to style. One objective of her dressing was to provide work for people in the luxury goods businesses. Her beauty and elegance doubtless also made for great propaganda; she was a wonderful trophy wife. A number of artists painted portraits of her, as shown in this subalbum. Her Wikipedia article mentions her contributions to fashion. One thing Empress Eugenie did not do is invent the cage crinoline, but she originally liked it and helped to popularize it.
She knew Princess Pauline Metternich, wife of the Austrian ambassador who self-deprecatingly referred to her simian features, who discovered the fashion hose run by Charles Frederick Worth, a British emigre. Princess Metternich is covered later in this subalbum. Princess Metternich brought Worth to the Empress' attention, ensuring Worth an unequalled role in fashion history. Worth created haute couture as it was known until recently with exclusive designers making custom-fitted clothes for exclusive clients. Designers operated from posh shops and displayed their creations on living manequins. The elite wore designer dresses that everybody copied. Now fashion does not flow down from designers to elite to everyone else. Fashion often flows up "from the streets." Stores watch sales to spot emerging trends so the style can be manufactured and rapidly stocked using just-in-time production and shipping techniques with electronic oversight.
Eugénie was born to a Spanish aristocratic family where she grew up with one sister who had better matrimonial luck, María Francisca. María (Paca), also covered in this subalbum, married the Duke of Alba. Eugenie's mother was a larger-than-life figure, María Manuela Enriqueta Kirkpatrick de Closbourn y de Grevigne, Countess of Montijo, the subject of this Wikipedia article.
Reunion des Musees Nationaux has 40 pages, each with nine images of Eugeniana. Some of those images are used here.