Alexandre Colonna-Walewski

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Alexandre Colonna-Walewski
Colonna-Walewski in 1860
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
7 May 1855 – 4 January 1860
MonarchNapoleon III
Preceded byÉdouard Drouyn de Lhuys
Succeeded byJules Baroche
Personal details
Aleksander Florian Józef Colonna-Walewski

(1810-05-04)4 May 1810
Walewice, Poland
Died27 September 1868(1868-09-27) (aged 58)
Strasbourg, France
NationalityPolish, French

Alexandre Florian Joseph, Count Colonna-Walewski (French pronunciation: [alɛksɑ̃dʁ kɔlɔna valɛvski]; Polish: Aleksander Florian Józef Colonna-Walewski; 4 May 1810 – 27 September 1868), was a Polish and French politician and diplomat, the unacknowledged son of French emperor Napoleon I.

He is best known for his position as foreign minister of France under his cousin Napoleon III and for his diplomatic efforts presiding over the Congress of Paris, which created peace in the Crimean War and laid the base for modern international law of the sea with the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law.

Early years[edit]

Alexandre Walewski in 1832, portrait by school of George Hayter

Walewski was born at Walewice, near Warsaw, in Poland to Countess Marie Walewska and her husband Athanasius, Count Walewski. He was rumoured to be the unacknowledged son of Napoleon I, although Athanasius legally acknowledged him as his own son. In 2013, published scholarship comparing DNA haplotype evidence taken from Emperor Napoleon, from his brother King Jérôme Bonaparte's descendant Charles, Prince Napoléon and from Colonna-Walewski's descendant indicated Alexandre's membership in the genetic male-line of the imperial House of Bonaparte.[1]

Aged fourteen, Walewski refused to join the Imperial Russian army and fled to London, thence to Paris where the French government refused Tsar Alexander I's demands for his extradition to Russia.[2]

Upon the accession of Louis-Philippe d'Orléans to the French throne in 1830, Walewski was dispatched to Poland, later the same year being entrusted by the leaders of the Polish November Uprising of 1830 as a diplomatic envoy to the Court of St James's. After the Fall of Warsaw, he took out letters of French naturalization and joined the French army, being in action in Algeria as a captain in the Chasseurs d'Afrique of the French Foreign Legion. In 1837 he resigned his commission to begin writing plays and working as a journalist for the press. He is said to have collaborated with the elder Dumas on Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle and a comedy of his, L'Ecole du monde, was produced at the Theâtre Français in 1840.[2]

Diplomatic career[edit]

Walewski and other participants at Crimean War peace negotiations, 1856 - Congress of Paris by Edouard Dubufe

Later that year the prime minister of France Thiers, also a man of letters, became patron to one of Walewski's papers, Le Messager des Chambres, before sending him on a mission to Egypt. Under Guizot's government Walewski was posted to Buenos Aires to liaise with the British ambassador, John Cradock, 1st Baron Howden. Prince Louis Napoleon's accession to power in France as Napoleon III furthered his career with postings as envoy extraordinary to Florence and the Kingdom of Naples before London (1851–55), where he was charged with announcing the coup d'état to the prime minister, Lord Palmerston.[3]

Count Walewski as president of Congress of Paris (1856)

In 1855, Walewski succeeded Drouyn de Lhuys as Minister of Foreign Affairs and he acted as President of, and French plenipotentiary at, the Congress of Paris the following year, leading to peace in the Crimean War and to the Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law. The latter treaty did contain an important novelty in international law, creating the possibility for nations that were not involved in the establishment of the agreement, to become a party by acceding the Declaration afterwards.[4][5]

As foreign minister, Walewski advocated a de-escalating strategy towards Russia, known as entente, opposing his emperor's strategy in Italy which led to war with Austria in 1859. After leaving the Foreign Ministry in 1860 he became France's Minister of State, an office which he held until 1863. He served as senator from 1855 to 1865, before being appointed to the Corps Législatif in 1865 and as president of the Chamber of Deputies by the Emperor, who returned him to the Senate after a revolt against his authority two years later.[2]

Walewski was made a duke in 1866,[6] was elected a member of the Académie des beaux-arts, appointed Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur and made a Knight of Malta, also receiving the Gold Cross of Virtuti Militari.

Alexandre Walewski died of a stroke at Strasbourg on 27 September 1868 and is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.


Portrait of Lady Cathrine Caroline Montagu in Byronic Costume by George Hayter, 1831.
Marie-Anne Walewska, born Ricci, by Edouard Louis Dubufe

He married on 1 December 1831 Lady Catherine Montagu (7 October 1808 – 30 April 1834), daughter of George, 6th Earl of Sandwich by his wife Lady Louisa Lowry-Corry. Following her death, he married secondly, on 4 June 1846 in Florence, Maria Anna, daughter of the Papal Count Zanobi di Ricci by his wife Princess Isabella Poniatowski. He also fathered a son by the actress Rachel Felix in 1844.[citation needed]

He had seven children, two from his first marriage, four from his second marriage, and one with a woman he wasn't married to.

  • By Lady Catherine Montagu,[7] daughter of 6th Earl of Sandwich (both died young):
    • Louise-Marie Colonna-Walewska.
    • Comte Georges-Edouard-Auguste Colonna-Walewski.
  • By Maria Anna di Ricci (1823–1912):
    • Isabel Colonna-Walewski (12 May 1847, Buenos Aires – c. 3 July 1847, Buenos Aires; is believed that she is buried in La Recoleta Cemetery).[8]
    • Comte Charles Walewski (4 June 1848, Florence – 2 October 1916, Villers-Cotterêts), married Félice Douay (1860–1952); no children.
    • Elise Colonna-Walewski (15 December 1849, Florence – 14 March 1927, Paris) married Félix, Comte de Bourqueney (1847–1912); leaving issue.
    • Eugénie Colonna-Walewski (30 March 1856, Paris – 22 December 1884, Arcachon), married Comte Frédéric Mathéus (1846–1929); leaving issue.
  • By Rachel Felix (1821–1858):
    • Comte Alexandre-Antoine Colonna-Walewski (3 November 1844, Marly-le-Roi – 20 August 1898, Turin), recognized 1844 and adopted by Walewski in 1860; has numerous surviving descendants.[9]



Arms of Colonna-Walewski


  • 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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucotte, Gérard; Macé, Jacques & Hrechdakian, Peter (September 2013). "Reconstruction of the Lineage Y Chromosome Haplotype of Napoléon the First" (PDF). International Journal of Sciences. 2 (9). Alkhaer Publications: 127–139. ISSN 2305-3925.
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Walewski, Alexandre Florian Joseph Colonna". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 270.
  3. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ Timon Schultz (April 2015). De verklaring van Parijs en Neutraliteit - Nederland en de ontwikkeling van het Internationaal Maritieme recht van 1856 tot de Eerste Wereldoorlog (in Dutch). Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculteit der Letteren, Geschiedenis.
  5. ^ The Avalon Project : Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. "Laws of War : Declaration of Paris; April 16, 1856". Yale Law School. Retrieved 30 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Alexandre-Florian-Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  7. ^ "Burke's Peerage - The Official Website".
  8. ^ "Isabel Elisa, la nieta de Napoleón que nació y murió en Buenos Aires y fue sepultada en Recoleta". Infobae. 16 May 2021.
  9. ^ "La famille Colonna-Walewski". Archived from the original on 6 September 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  10. ^ "Kawalerowie Orderu Virtuti Militari" (in Polish). Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d Clive Parry (1969). The Consolidated treaty series. Oceana Publications. pp. 105, 208, 361.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Treaties, France (1866). Recueil des traités de la France (in French). Vol. 7 1856-1859. Paryż. pp. 90, 152, 167, 186, 272, 275, 300, 375, 482, 532, 602, 666.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h "British and Foreign State Papers, Tom 45". Great Britain. Foreign Office. 1865. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  14. ^ a b c d Report. Sessional papers, Great Britain Parliament. Londyn: H.M. Stationery Office. 1856.
  15. ^ a b c Lewis Hertslet (1856). Hertslet's Commercial Treaties. Londyn.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  16. ^ a b c d e f Tadeusz Jeziorowski, Mariusz Skotnicki (2019). Blask orderów. Vol. I Ordery i odznaczenia dawnej Rzeczypospolitej, w Księstwie Warszawskim i Królestwie Polskim, XVII–XIX w. (1634–1831). Warszawa: Muzeum Łazienki Królewskie. p. 135-135.
  • Simon Konarski, Armorial de la noblesse polonaise titrée, Paris 1958
  • Nouvelle Biographie Générale, Tome 46, Paris 1866

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Ambassadors of France to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Preceded by Foreign Minister of France
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of State of France
Succeeded by
Preceded by Président du Corps législatif
Succeeded by