Monday 27 March 2023
After the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie lived with their son in exile in southern England. This book focuses on Farnborough Hill from 1880, the Empress’s refuge for 40 years after the death of her husband and son.
As one might expect from an architectural historian, the first chapter on the development of the house and floorplan is clearly written. The second chapter, likely to be of particular interest to members of the DAS, looks to the furnishings. Geraghty first explains the complex means by which Eugénie reclaimed her belongings after she was exiled and then identifies individual objects at Farnborough Hill during her tenure. These include Gobelins tapestries, cabinets and commodes by Adam Weisweiler and numerous paintings and sculptures of family members. Comfortable, typically Victorian, seat furniture is also shown.
The purpose of each room is explored, and similarities drawn with furnishing layouts created by the Empress at other properties. The last chapter focuses on the freestanding Mausoleum, while the main text is followed by a valuable epilogue and appendix.
The topic is well supported by archival material, quotes from sources and comparisons with other properties, with images used generously throughout. Although generally accessible, the use of language suggests that it is aimed at readers who have some knowledge of the history of French design. This is an enjoyable read, adding significantly to the body of knowledge about the Empress in this period, and will be of value to anyone interested in European history.
The Empress Eugénie in England: Art, Architecture, Collecting
Anthony Geraghty, Burlington Press, 2022, £40 hb
Condensed from a review by Ellinor Gray in DAS Newsletter No. 127