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André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri
Prince Napoléon and Princess Clothilde
Carte de visite
Prince Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte was the troublesome cousin of Napoleon III and the implacable enemy of the Empress Eugenie. Known in the family by the pet name of 'Plom-Plom' because he had been a round, fat baby, the name passed into general use by journalists and the public, who spelt it 'Plon-Plon'.
In 1858, he married the daughter of Victor Emmanuel II, King of Sardinia and later of a unified Italy. The marriage was a political alliance, designed to strengthen French ties with Italy, but the match profoundly shocked Europe. Clothilde was sixteen, described variously by her contemporaries as 'dull', 'simple', and most often, 'pious'. Her intended husband was a physically repellent, amoral atheist, a good twenty years older than his bride. Lord Cowley remarked that 'It is positively horrible to see that poor little frail creature by the side of that brute - I can call him nothing else - to whom she has been immolated'. His pity was wasted. Utterly self-contained and endowed with a sullen superiority, she remained emotionally detached, secluded behind the armour of her piety. She appeared more and more rarely at the splendid entertainments at the Tuileries, which was just as well, since her humourless and priggish nature cast a damper over any festivity.