Walewski was widely rumoured to be the (unacknowledged) illegitimate son of Napoleon I by his mistress, Countess Marie Walewska, although her husband (Athanasius, Count Walewski) 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.
Walewski was born at Walewice, near Warsaw in Poland. Aged fourteen, he rebelled by refusing 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.
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, seeing 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 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.
Later that year 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.
In 1855, Walewski succeeded Drouyn de Lhuys as Minister of Foreign Affairs and he acted as French plenipotentiary at the Congress of Paris the following year. As foreign minister, Walewski advocated entente with Russia, opposing his emperor's adventurous 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.
Walewski was created a duke in 1866, 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.
He married on 1 December 1831 Lady Catherine Montagu (1808–1833), 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.
He had seven children, two from his first marriage, four from his second marriage, and one illegitimate.
- By Lady Catherine Montagu (both died young):
- Louise-Marie Colonna-Walewska.
- Comte Georges-Edouard-Auguste Colonna-Walewski.
- By Maria Anna di Ricci (1823–1912):
- Isabel Colonna-Walewski (born Buenos Aires in 1847; she died an infant and 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, Comte de Bourqueney; leaving issue.
- Eugénie Colonna-Walewski (died 1884), married Comte Frédéric Mathéus; leaving issue.
- By Rachel Felix:
- Alexandre-Antoine Colonna-Walewski, (recognized 1844 and adopted by Walewski in 1860); has numerous surviving descendants.
|Ancestors of Alexandre 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
- Lucotte, Gérard; Macé, Jacques & Hrechdakian, Peter (September 2013). "Reconstruction of the Lineage Y Chromosome Haplotype of Napoléon the First" (PDF). International Journal of Sciences. Alkhaer Publications. 2 (9): 127–139. ISSN 2305-3925.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 270.
- Chisholm 1911.
- "Alexandre-Florian-Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski". Encyclopædia Britannica.
- "Burke's Peerage - The Official Website". burkespeerage.com.
- "La famille Colonna-Walewski". walewski.org.
- 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