Empress Eugenie seen by cartoonists

Empress Eugenie seen by cartoonists

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  • The Imperial Rose.

    THE LITTLE Alfred (1841 - 1909)

  • Souvenir of November 15th.


  • The imperial menagerie, portrait-chargen n ° 2 of Eugenie, "the crane".

    HADOL, known as WHITE Paul (1835 - 1875)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

To close

Title: Souvenir of November 15th.

Author : FLAMBART (-)

Creation date : 1870

Date shown: November 15, 1870

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: National Museum of the Château de Compiègne website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet web site

Picture reference: 96-023037 / C59.696 / 6

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet

The imperial menagerie, portrait-chargen n ° 2 of Eugenie, "the crane".

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: May 2006

Historical context

Under the Second Empire, despite the relaxation of the press regime in the liberal phase of reign, no caricature made headlines in the newspapers. In fact, these caricatures help make the Empress - who assumed the regency while Napoleon III fought the Prussian armies - the atoning victim of collective guilt.

Image Analysis

Alfred Le Petit (1841-1909), Republican cartoonist, made Empress Eugenie an "imperial rose": the elongated crowned head of the sovereign surmounts a stem bristling with thorns; she wears a lace mantilla reminiscent of her Spanish origin; the nose is excessively prominent, and the look sly. Ten bees come foraging the imperial rose. On their insect body, the designer grafted the faces of court relatives: the Duke of Gramont, Émile Ollivier, Clément Duvernois, General de Failly, Julien-Henri Chevreau, the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Pierre Magne, Paul de Cassagnac, General Le Bœuf, Baron Haussmann.

Flambart, a caricaturist active around 1870, also uses a floral metaphor. The Empress is depicted in a bust on top of a rose bush planted in a crate. It is surrounded by violets and a wreath of roses whose flowers have been replaced by the heads of courtiers: General Fleury, Joachim Pietri, Émile Ollivier, Paul de Cassagnac and the Comte de Nieuwerkerke. The emperor, in a pitiful eagle, approaches the crate, holding in one of its talons a single violet which serves as a bouquet. The words "Que c'est comme un bouquet de fleurs ..." refers to the title and chorus of a song created in 1864 by Félix Baumaire and Charles Blondelet. Souvenir of November 15 refers to the feast of the Empress. On Sainte-Eugenie day, at the Château de Compiègne, the guests of the imperial couple offered bouquets of flowers to the sovereign.

In The Imperial Menagerie, collection of caricatures by Paul Hadol (1835-1875), Empress Eugenie is depicted in the guise of a crane. She hugs a tambourine in her left paw, alluding to her homeland. Symbolized by the ruins of a temple, a pyramid and a few palm trees, the Egyptian landscape in the background recalls the trip the Empress made to attend the inauguration of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869 Cruelty, Paul Hadol plays on the two meanings of the term “crane” by associating with the bird two faults which he attributes to the sovereign: the pose and the stupidity. In fact, he goes much further into the innuendo since a crane is not only a stupid person, but also a woman of light morals.


If the Empress was so often targeted by cartoonists, it was because she was closely associated with affairs of state. A fervent Catholic, she opposed the reduction of the Pope's temporal power and an Italian unity that would have absorbed the Papal States. In 1859, French intervention in Italy led him to exercise the regency for the first time in the absence of Napoleon III, and from then on his influence increased. Her deeply conservative attitude was not incompatible with progressive social views: she drew heavily on her cassette to help the most needy. A feminist before the letter, she supported Victor Duruy's program for the education of girls and personally financed the studies of Julie Daubier, the first Frenchwoman to obtain the baccalaureate. However, in the last years of the regime, the popularity of the Empress plummeted in public opinion; the heartbreaking outfit of Mexico, the failure of Sadowa, the economic difficulties, it was all the "Spanish" fault. Whether or not Empress Eugenie wanted war with Prussia or not, the disaster at Sedan sounded the death knell for the Second Empire and forced the imperial family into exile.

  • caricature
  • Nieuwerkerke (Emilien de)
  • Egypt
  • Empress Eugenie (Montijo de)
  • imperial menagerie
  • Napoleon III
  • Second Empire
  • court life


Hélène DUCCINI, "Caricature, two centuries of salutary derision", in Historia n ° 651, Paris, March 2001.Annie DUPRAT, Histoire de France par la caricature, Paris, Larousse, 1999.Jacques LETHÈRE, La Caricature and the press under the Third Republic, Paris, Armand Colin, coll. “Kiosque”, 1961.Christophe PINCEMAILLE, L'Impératrice Eugénie.From Suez to Sedan, Paris, Payot, 2000.Philippe RÉGNER, La Caricature entre République et censure.1830-1880, Lyon, Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 1996.William SMITH , Eugénie, Empress of the French, Paris, Bartillat, 1998. Jean TULARD (ed.), Dictionary of the Second Empire, Paris, Fayard, 1995.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The Empress Eugenie seen by the cartoonists"

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