Queen Victoria's visit to France (1855)

Queen Victoria's visit to France (1855)

  • Supper at Versailles in honor of the Queen of England, August 25, 1855.

    LAMI Eugène (1800 - 1890)

  • Reception of Queen Victoria by Napoleon III at Saint-Cloud.

    MULLER Charles-Louis (1815 - 1892)

To close

Title: Supper at Versailles in honor of the Queen of England, August 25, 1855.

Author : LAMI Eugene (1800 - 1890)

Date shown: August 25, 1855

Dimensions: Height 48.5 - Width 66.5

Technique and other indications: Watercolor

Storage location: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / H. Lewandowski

Picture reference: 90-000925 / MV7307

Supper at Versailles in honor of the Queen of England, August 25, 1855.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / H. Lewandowski

Reception of Queen Victoria by Napoleon III at Saint-Cloud.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - T. Le Mage

Publication date: April 2009

Historical context

Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie stayed for the first time in England from April 16 to 22, 1855. Empress Eugenie had personally ensured the arrangement of the royal apartments, where everything had to remind the queen of her residence in Windsor, as in testify the watercolors of Jean-Baptiste-Fortuné de Fournier (1798-1864) or Jean-Baptiste Van Moer (1819-1884).

The Sovereign's stay was punctuated by numerous official ceremonies, visits and entertainment: visit to the Salon des Beaux-Arts and the Universal Exhibition, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre, the Tuileries Palace, the Château de Saint- Germain-en-Laye; reception and banquet at the Paris city hall; evening at the Opera; night party, dinner and ball at Versailles ... Queen Victoria even wished to bow to Napoleon I's tomb at the Invalides. On August 27, 1855, the sovereign left France enthusiastic about the warm welcome she had received there, seduced by the strong personality of Napoleon III and won over by the friendly attentions of Empress Eugenie.

Image Analysis

Queen Victoria’s visit to France was a privileged source of inspiration for many painters, some of whom received official commissions from Napoleon III.

This is the case of Charles-Louis Müller (1815-1892) who sketched this preliminary study on tracing paper for his future composition Arrival of Her Majesty the Queen of England at the Palace of Saint-Cloud. If the first decree concerning this order dates from February 12, 1856, probably the painter was invited - in anticipation of it - to attend the event on the evening of August 18, 1855. In any case, the scene is lively, and the ordering of the characters seems more natural and less formal than in the final work, essentially dominated by Napoleon III. In this study, he focused on the meeting between the Queen of England and Empress Eugenie. The Emperor stands to the side, and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg is set back in the second row. Several of those present are identified by inscriptions, including Princess Mathilde, Prince Napoleon, General Rollin or General Magnan.

The work of Eugène Lami (1800-1890) is the repetition with variants of a watercolor appearing in the album offered to Queen Victoria for Christmas 1855. It represents the supper given on August 25, 1855 in honor of the sovereign in the Opera hall of the Palace of Versailles. Dinner was served between the first and second part of the ball. The table had been set for four hundred guests. They dine in the flowerbed and on the stage, among the flowers, by the light of the candelabras, to the sound of an invisible orchestra. The imperial and royal couples, Princess Mathilde and Prince Napoleon, her brother, had taken their places in the lodge of honor, along with the little British princes. The other boxes were full of spectators. At the end of this very successful evening, Napoleon III expressed his regret that Queen Victoria's stay was over: "But won't you, you will come back? As we know each other now, we can go to Windsor and Fontainebleau without much ceremony, can't we? "


Marked since the Vienna Congress of 1815 by an alternation of tensions and appeasements, diplomatic relations between France and England will enter the path of detente under the reign of Louis-Philippe, who twice invites the Queen Victoria in her castle in Eu, in 1843 and 1845. The revolution of 1848 and the fall of the July monarchy put an end to this first Cordial Agreement, and Great Britain did not witness the advent of the Second Republic, the coup d'état of Prince-President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte and the reestablishment of the empire.

However, the English alliance is one of the major objectives of the foreign policy of Napoleon III, a deeply Anglophile sovereign who engages in the Crimean war against the Russians, alongside the British, on March 27, 1854. The allies land in Crimea on September 14, 1854, but the Franco-British contingent was exhausted in the interminable siege of the fortress of Sebastopol. As the conflict seems to be bogged down, Queen Victoria's visit to France emerges as a strong symbol of the alliance between the two countries. No English sovereign had set foot on Parisian soil since the stay of Jacques II (1633-1701), an exiled monarch welcomed in Saint-Germain-en-Laye by King Louis XIV. A real friendship is born between Victoria and Napoleon III: "It is marvelous that this man, towards whom we were certainly not particularly well disposed, arrived by the force of circumstances to bond so intimately with us and to become a personal friend. », Writes the queen in her Journal. Forty years after Waterloo, Queen Victoria's official visit to France is a tangible sign that a page in the history of Franco-English relations has been turned: England is no longer the hereditary enemy. On September 8, 1855, the capture of Sevastopol crowned the year of the Entente Cordiale between the two sovereigns.

  • Cordial agreement
  • imperial feast
  • Napoleon III
  • alliance policy
  • Queen victoria
  • Second Empire
  • court life


Antoine d´ARJUZON, Victoria and Napoleon III. History of a friendship, Biarritz, Atlantica, 2007.Françoise de BERNARDY, “Queen Victoria in Paris”, in Mirror of History, July 1955.André CASTELOT, "When Queen Victoria visits Paris", in Historia, special issue n ° 37, May 1972. Jacques de LANGLADE, Queen victoria, Paris, Perrin Academic Bookstore, 2000. Jean-Claude YON, The Second Empire: Politics, Society, Culture, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "Queen Victoria's visit to France (1855)"

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