Among the many Staffordshire figures which Mrs. Moore and I have just inherited is a large equestrian figure of the Empress Eugenie–simply identified as EMPRESS OF FRANCE on the base of the figure. One must wonder why such a subject would be found on the mantle of an English cottage or country home during Victorian times. This is a very interesting story. The Emperor Napoleon III was determined to draw close to the British Royal Family and was invited on a State Visit to Britain by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Queen was swept away by the charm of her French guests. The Emperor Napoleon III, ever the suave politician and lady’s man, was popularly received at Windsor Castle. The Empress Eugenie was known for her great beauty and magnificent clothes and jewels and captivated the Queen. A great friendship started in England at Windsor Castle but grew when Victoria and Albert were invited on a return State Visit to Paris in 1855 where the city literally rolled out the red carpet. There were great banquets at Versailles, the Hotel de Ville, and the Tuileries. Fabulous gifts were exchanged and Queen Victoria honored the Empress with an HONORARY DAME GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE. In 1870, France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War forced the Imperial family from the throne; they went into exile in England at the invitation of Queen Victoria. The Empress, the Emperor, and their son the PRINCE IMPERIAL lived at Chistlehurst in Kent until after the Emperor’s death and after the Prince Imperial’s death in the Zulu War in Africa. The Empress then bought Farnborough in Hampshire in 1885 where she established a “shrine” and burial chapel for the Imperial Family; she moved the coffins of the Emperor and the Prince Imperial to the Imperial Crypt at Farnborough in 1885. The Empress who had been a sweeping figure for decades died at the age of 94 in 1920 while visiting her family the Duchess of Alba in Spain. She was buried at Farnborough. The Empress was a sort of mythical personality who captivated English society and ended up being memorialized by the Staffordshire potters. And now, that lovely figure of the Empress now resides in a display cabinet in our breakfast room in the United States. What an amazing story.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918