Who Is the Empress Eugenie? How Is She Associated with Tiffany's Signature Blue Box?

The Empress Eugenie was born on May 5, 1826 the daughter of a Spanish nobleman and a lesser pedigreed mother of Scottish descent. Eugenie, whose full name was Eugenia de Teba, relocated to France from Spain as a little girl. She became the wife of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1853 after he became Emperor Napoleon III and the ruler of France’s Second Republic. Louis-Napoleon was both his country’s last monarch and first president.

Empress Eugenie was said to be rather stunning. She had blue eyes, red hair, and a flawless complexion. She was also pretentious, concerned about her appearance, and quite independent. She was heavily involved in politics and in fact, became regent in her philandering husband’s absence on three separate occasions. But it was her sense of style that stood out. Eugenie became the fashionista of France and an example of beauty, style, and extravagance to French women.

The Empress was fascinated with Marie-Antoinette, her predecessor who married King Louis XVI in 1770 before he became king. Before she settled into her role of wife and mother, Marie-Antoinette was also an independent soul and had a keen sense of fashion. She was considered rebellious by some, unpopular by most, and was blamed for many a palace faux pas. She was convicted of treason and guillotined in 1793. Marie-Antoinette’s favorite color for her dresses, as seen in her paintings, was blue, Nattier blue; so-called after the French painter Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766). Nattier used this soft shade of blue in many of his portraits of royalty and the ladies of the court of Versailles during the reign of King Louis XV.

Following her idol, nattier blue became the favorite color of Empress Eugenie. Her personal designer Englishman Charles Frederick Worth used it frequently in her haute couture clothing and furnishings. It is said that she also collected jewelry and other belongings of Marie-Antoinette’s. When the Empress became widowed and was exiled to England in 1870, she took many of her favorite blue items with her.

Eugenie reciprocally became the fascination of a young American entrepreneur, John F. Young. In 1837, he and his partner Charles Lewis Tiffany opened a “stationary and fancy goods store” called Tiffany and Young in New York City with five hundred dollars from each of their fathers. In 1841, they partnered with another man, J.L. Ellis, and were able to add authentic jewelry, watches, clocks, bags, fragrances, dinner sets, and other miscellany to their store. They became so successful; it allowed John Young to make a buying trip to Paris, France where he later opened another store. He was also able to purchase some of the crown jewels belonging to Marie-Antoinette due to the fall of that era’s French rulers.

Young was lucky to be in France at the time the Empress Eugenie had become the celebrated fashion icon. Her inspiration led the American marketing wiz to capitalize on her signature nattier blue and he chose the color for his store’s brochures and product packaging. With the support of Charles Tiffany, the Tiffany blue box was born in 1850. One hundred and seventy-five years later, 2012, the company we now know as Tiffany & Company has had many shifts and changes in products, structure, and management, but its trademarked blue color, now called Tiffany Blue, is still going strong.

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