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Blue-eyed auburn-haired Spanish beauty, Eugenia de Montijo, left of center,
surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting at the Chateau Compiègne,
1855. A Granddaughter of an American  Consul in Malaga,
William Kirkpatrick, she married  Emperor
  Napoleon III in 1853  and  became
Empress Eugénie of France.

by Eric Beerman, 10 August 1979
An Abbreviated GUIDEPOST Reprint
Bold type supplied



The late 18th Duchess of Alba, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, great-great-granddaughter of Maria Manuela Kirkpatrick, in 2005.

The Palace of Liria in the heart of Madrid some months ago was the scene for a famous and much publicized wedding between . . . [Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba] and D. Jesus Aguirre, the director of the Music Section of the Ministry of Culture. This beautiful Renaissance palace has held many other historical events, including the last days and death of the Empress of France, granddaughter of [the] American consul in Malaga [, William Wilson Kirkpatrick de Closeburn,] . . . at the turn of the 18th century.

. . . While [there], William Kirkpatrick married and had three daughters. [His] youngest daughter in turn had two daughters: the oldest became the Duchess of Alba and the youngest became Empress Eugénie of France (1853-1870), the wife of Napoleon III.

William Kirkpatrick was of Irish origin, though of Scottish ancestry. .  . [He] descended from the 13th century legendary Scotch hero Fien MacKool, as well as from Fingal de MacPherson and Robert Bruce. The King of Scotland, Alexander II, also made barons of Kirkpatrick‘s ancestors for services rendered for wartime action.

Near the close of the 18th century in Malaga, William Kirkpatrick married Francoise Grevigné y Gallegos, whose father, the Baron of Grevigné, came from a distinguished Belgian family, [while] her mother [was] a native malaguena. The Kirkpatrick-Grevigne couple had three daughters [the youngest of whom,] Maria Manuela, [was] baptized in Malaga on February 24, 1794. .  .

When the daughters were sufficiently old to travel by themselves, Kirkpatrick sent them to England and France to broaden their education . .  . In Paris they studied at Poissonnière and stayed with their maternal aunt, Catherine Grevigné. . . whose son Ferdinand would go down in history as the builder of the Suez Canal . . . Maria Manuela was a striking Andalusian beauty with a dash of Irish gaiety, and an intelligence that was a match for her beauty.

Cipriano Portocarrero, father of Eugenia de Montijo

In Paris the vivacious and charming daughter of the American diplomat met the son of a noble Spanish family, [the Madrid-born] Cipriano de Portocarrero y Idalquez, who [would become] the Count of Teba, and later, the ninth Count of Montijo. . .  

Portocarrero. . . continued the family tradition of a career of arms. . . and served with the Spanish naval squadron at the epic 1805 Battle of Trafalgar and was severely wounded. . . [He] broke a leg while engaged in action off Puerto de Santa Maria in the Bay of Cadiz. Later, at the Maestranza de Sevilla, a weapon exploded in his hands. As a consequence he suffered loss of his right eye and from then on wore a black patch over his eye though continuing his military career, rising to the rank of colonel.

With the Napoleonic invasion of Spain in 1808, Potocarrero sided with the French and served Napoleon’s brother, King Joseph of Spain (Pepe Botella). After the defeat of Napoleon’s army in the Iberian Peninsula, Portocarrero went to France with the withdrawing French force. At the time of the Hundred Days War when Napoleon returned from exile on the island of Elba and attempted to regain power in 1815, Portocarrero was named chef de escuadron. . .

. . .Like other Spaniards who had spent part of the war years in France, [he] returned to Spain and in no time he and his compatriots were able to reestablish themselve in their accustomed advantageous positions. He again met Maria Manuela, and they were married in Malaga. . .[but made their home in Granada.]

At that time Cipriano’s oldest brother, Eugenio Eulalio Portocarrero, also a grandee of Spain, was captain general of the Coast and kingdom of Granada, and this no doubt eased matters for Granada’s new residents. The children came late in this marriage. The oldest daughter, and future Duchess of Alba [Duchess consort of the 15th Duke of Alba], was born January 29, 1825 and was baptized Francisca de Sales (Portocarrero y Kirkpatrick). On the death of her father and her paternal grandmother. . . she inherited the following titles: the tenth Countess of Montijo, Miranda del Castañar, Fuentedueña, Casarrubias del Monte and San Esteban de Gormaz; the Marquise of Valderrabanos, Villanueva del Fresno, Barcarrota, Algaba, Bañeza, Mirallo and Valdejunquillo; Duchess of Peñaranda and the Viscountess of Palacios de la Valduerna, and twice grandee of Spain.

On February 16, 1844 the social event of the year took place in Madrid when Francisca de Sales married Jacobo Luis Fitz-James Stuart, the Duke of Alba and of Berwick (paternal great-grandfather of the present Duchess of Alba [, Cayetaba Fitz-James Stuart]). She died at a relatively young age in 1860. . .and her titles passed into the family of her husband, the Casa de Alba.

The youngest daughter was born in the same Andalusian city on May 5, 1826 and history remembers her as Eugenia de Montijo and 27 years later she was Empress of France. . . When Eugenia’s father died in 1839, she received the titles: the Countess of Teba, Mora, Baños, Ablitas, Santa Cruz de la Sierra; Marquise of Andales, Moya and Osera; and Viscountess of Calzada, and twice grandee of Spain.

The Hotel Reina Victoria on Plazas de Santa Ana and de Angel where the Ariza Palace owned by Maria Manuela’s father-in-law used to stand. 

On the death of her husband, Maria Manuela Kirkpatrick decided to move the family to Madrid which she correctly assumed would offer more adequate suitors for her two striking daughters than the provincial capital of Granada. In Madrid the three moved into Ariza Palace, which had belonged to Maria Manuela’s father-in-law, the Marquis of Ariza. This palace was located on the Plaza de Angel, a suitable district for an ambitious mother.

The palace has long since been demolished and on this site today stands the hotel of the toreros, the Victoria. For nearly 40 years, the palace was a social center of Madrid and was known popularly as the Casa de la Montijo until Maria Manuela Kirkpatrick’s death in 1877.

With her oldest daughter happily married to the Duke of Alba, Maria Manuela began to take her daughter Eugenia on more frequent trips to France. Eugenia had been born into a Francophile family and had heard all the stories of the feats of the great Napoleon from her father. She grew up with a romantic interest in the Napoleonic legend, and her family continued to be fervent bonapartistas.

Maria Manuela, the Consul’s vivacious youngest daughter who, in turn was the mother of Eugenia de Montijo. She made sure that Eugenia met Napoleon III.

On one of these journeys to Paris, Maria Manuela made certain that Eugenia met the very eligible and future emperor of France, Napoleon III (Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte), son of Louis Bonaparte who was the brother of Napoleon I. Eugenia had grown into a most attractive blue-eyed, auburn-haired Spanish beauty, and in 1849 her family established their permanent residence in Paris. . .[Her] attributes did not go unnoticed by the newly-crowned Napoleon III and he was quite taken with the Spanish beauty from Andalusia.

At first his intentions might have been considered less than honorable, but Eugenia insisted that the emperor think of her as a possible consort (empress) and not as another courtesan.

Influential and powerful French court circles had hoped to make a royal match with a princess of the House of Hohenzollern, but this fell through. . . Five weeks after the proclamation of the second French empire, Napoleon III proposed to Eugenia de Montijo in December of 1852, and she readily accepted.

Napoleon III: He was smitten with the auburn-haired Spanish beauty.

On the following January at Notre Dame Cathedral, the granddaughter of an American consul was married and became Empress Eugenia of France. . .

 . . .Eugene Louis was born to the emperor of France on March 16, 1856 and was given the title of the prince imperial. The foreign-born empress still had her opposition who could not yet forgive her for marrying Napoleon III. . . [And yet] on the three occasions, [when] Napoleon III was occupied outside of France, Empress Eugenie was regent and even her opponents admitted that she performed with considerable tact and skill.

Prince Imperial Napoleon Eugene Louis in 1879 in South Africa where he died.

The Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870. The armies of the Iron Chancellor Bismark decisively defeated Napoleon III, who surrendered at Sedan on September 2nd. The second French empire fell two days later. . . The French royal family went into exile at Chislehurst in England where Napoleon III died January 9, 1873. The young prince was educated at Woolwich. Eugenia was struck with yet another blow with the death of her mother at the Ariza Palace November 23, 1877. . . The grieving ex-empress found a friend in Queen Victoria who was of unfailing and invaluable support.

Eugenie resided at Farmborough, southwest of London, where she built a church, St. Michael de Detailleur, as a mausoleum for Napoleon III. Tragedy occurred again in the year 1879, when her only child, Prince Eugene Louis, took part in the British expedition against the fierce Zulus in South Africa and was killed. . . His remains were taken back to England and placed in the family mausoleum at Farmborough.

The Liria Palace which Eugenia de Montijo visited periodically and where she died in 1920.

Eugénie continued to reside at Farmborough or at Cap Martin on the French Riviera though she often visited her native land. The 94-year-old former empress was on one of her periodic trips to Madrid in 1920, visiting her favorite godchild – the Queen of Spain [Victoria Eugenia, granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland]. On the latter’s marriage to King Alfonso XIII of Spain, Princess Ena was baptized as a Catholic with the name Victoria Eugenia, thus combining the name of her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and that of her [other] grandmother, Empress Eugenie. The granddaughter of an American consul at Malaga died in this journey July 11, 1920 while staying at the Liria Palace, home of the Duke of Alba, and was burried at Farmborough alongside her husband and her son.


Featured image/uploaded by User LordT, Wikipedia, PD
Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart/Aurora Lemos, CC BY-SA4.0
Cipriano Portocarrero painted by Vicente Lopez Portaña/Source: Fototeca del Patrimonio Historico, PD
Hotel Reina Victoria/Ben Bender via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA30
Maria Manuela, PD
Napoleon III, 1855/Unknown source, PD
Prince Imperial, author unknown. Source: Ian Knight: Brave Men´s Blood. The Epic of the Zulu War, 1879. London 1990. /PD
Liria Palace/Luis Garcia (Zaqarbal), CC BY-SA3.0


by Eric Beerman
10 August 1979

Cover, GUIDEPOST, 10 July 1979

Maria Manuela made certain that Eugenia met the very eligible and future emperor of France, Napoleon III.