Queen Victoria: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview
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30
NAPOLEON III

'His lovemaking was of a character to flatter
her vanity without alarming her virtue.'

SOON AFTER Lord Palmerston's appointment as Prime Minister, it was decided to invite Britain's ally, the Emperor Napoleon III, to make a state visit to England. He had announced his intention of going to the Crimea himself to take command; and in both London and Paris it was considered necessary to do all that could be done to prevent him undertaking a mission which would be as much of an annoyance to the British Army as it would to the French generals.

Before operations had begun in the Crimea, Prince Albert had been to Boulogne to see the Emperor and had dictated a memorandum about the visit to his secretary. Surprisingly, Napoleon spoke French with a German accent, the result of his having been educated at a gymnasium in Augsburg after his mother had been banished into exile upon the defeat of his uncle, Napoleon I, at Waterloo in 1815. Prince Albert found him humorous and lazy, rather quiet, not very well informed, but quite without pretence. His entourage was undistinguished and seemed afraid of him. He was certainly the 'only man' who had 'any hold on France, relying on the "nom de Napoléon". He does not care for music,' the Prince added with some disapproval, 'smokes a great many cigarettes [which the Prince refused], was proud of his horsemanship in which [the Prince] could discover nothing remarkable'. 1

The Queen -- who had confessed that she was 'really upset' at having to part with her husband, though he was away for only three days -- was reassured by her husband's report. She had heard other far less favourable

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