The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Princess Pauline Metternich

Princess Pauline Metternich

Born in Vienna on 25 February 1836, Pauline Sándor married her uncle (actually, her mother's half-brother) Prince Richard von Metternich in 1856. Three years later, her husband was appointed the Austrian ambassador to the court of Napoléon III and his wife naturally accompanied him to Paris. She became a close personal friend and confidante of the Empress Eugénie. Possessed of exquisite taste, though somewhat simian of face, she was known as 'the best-dressed monkey in Paris', a soubriquet she coined herself. Charming, stylish and elegant, she set many trends, becoming a dominant force in the social and cultural life of the capital. It was she who introduced the English couturier Charles Worth to the Empress, and soon every woman in society wanted to be dressed by him.

Pauline was a regular attendant at all the balls at the Tuileries and a frequent house guest at the series of week-long parties held every autumn at the chateau of Compiègne. Whatever Pauline Metternich did or proposed to do, her friend the Empress acceded to her every whim. 'I leave it to you, Pauline' was her usual reply to any suggested plan for some new amusement that Pauline concocted in order to alleviate the boredom of life at court. She and the Princess supposedly once set off together to see what Paris looked like from the top of an omnibus, the pair of them disguised as men, the better to climb the ladder which was at that time the only means of reaching the upper-deck.

Princess Pauline died in Vienna on 18 September 1921. Her memoirs, published posthumously in two volumes, offer a fascinating, behind-the-scenes glimpse of life at the French court.

Photographed by Disdéri of Paris.


Code: 125764
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