Alexandre Florian Joseph, Count Colonna-Walewski (4 May 1810 – 27 October 1868), was a Polish and French politician and diplomat. He was widely rumoured to be the (unacknowledged) illegitimate son of Napoleon I by his mistress, Countess Marie Walewska. However, Countess Walewska's husband legally acknowledged him as his son.
Walewski was born at Walewice, near Warsaw, in Poland. At fourteen, he refused to enter the Russian army, escaping to London and thence to Paris, where the French government refused to extradite him to the Russian authorities. Louis Philippe sent him to Poland in 1830, where he was entrusted by the leaders of the Polish November 1830-31 Uprising with a mission to London.
After the fall of Warsaw, he took out letters of naturalization in France and entered the French army, seeing some service in Algeria as Captain in the French Foreign Legion and the Chasseurs d'Afrique. In 1837 he resigned his commission and began to write for the stage and for the press. He is said to have collaborated with the elder Dumas in Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle, and a comedy of his, L'Ecole du monde, was produced at the Theâtre Français in 1840.
In that year his paper, Le Messager des chambres, was taken over by Thiers, who sent him on a mission to Egypt, and under the Guizot ministry he was sent to Buenos Aires to co-operate with the British minister Lord Howden (Sir J Caradoc). The accession of Louis Napoleon to the supreme power in France guaranteed his career. He was sent as envoy extraordinary to Florence, to Naples and then to London, where he announced the coup d'état to Palmerston.
In 1855, Walewski succeeded Drouyn de Lhuys as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and acted as French plenipotentiary at the Congress of Paris the next year. As foreign minister, Walewski was an advocate for the entente with Russia, but also an opponent of the Emperor's adventurous policy in Italy, which led to war with Austria in 1859. When he left the Foreign Office in 1860 it was to become minister of state, an office which he held until 1863. Senator from 1855 to 1865, he entered the Corps Législatif in 1865, and was installed, by the emperor's interest, as president of the Chamber. A revolt against his authority two years later sent him back to the Senate. He was created a duke in 1866, was a member of the Académie des beaux-arts, and was awarded a grand cross of the Légion d'honneur.
He married Lady Catherine Caroline Montagu (1808–1833), daughter of George Montagu, 6th Earl of Sandwich, and Lady Louisa Mary Anne Julia Harriet Lowry-Corry, on 1 December 1831. Following her death, he then married Maria Anna di Ricci, daughter of Count Zanobi di Ricci and Isabelle, Princess Poniatowski, on 4 June 1846 in Firenze. He was the father of a child by the actress Rachel Felix in 1844.
He had seven children, two from his first marriage, four from his second marriage, and one illegitimate.
- By Lady Catherine Caroline Montagu (both died at an early age):
- Louise Marie Colonna-Walewska.
- Comte George Eduard Auguste Colonna-Walewski.
- By Maria Anna di Ricci (1823–1912):
- Isabelle Colonna-Walewski (born in Buenos Aires in 1847. She is buried in La Recoleta Cemetery).
- Comte Charles Walewski (1848–1916), married Félice Douay (died 1952); no children.
- Elise Colonna-Walewski (died 1927) married Félix, Count de Bourqueney; had issue.
- Eugénie Colonna-Walewski (died 1884), married Count Frédéric Mathéus; had issue.
- By Rachel Felix:
- Comte Alexandre Antoine Colonna-Walewski, (recognized 1844 and adopted by Walewski in 1860); has numerous descendants living today.
- Un mot sur la question d'Afrique, Paris 1837
- L'Alliance Anglaise, Paris 1838
- L'École du Monde, ou la Coquette sans le savoir (comedy), Paris 1840
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Simon Konarski, Armorial de la noblesse polonaise titrée, Paris 1958
- Nouvelle Biographie Générale, Tome 46, Paris 1866
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alexandre Colonna-Walewski.|
- Walewski.org, Walewski family foundation
- NapoleonSeries.org, Genealogy entry
- PictureHistory.com, Photograph
- Spencer Napoleonica Collection at Newberry Library