June 27 – Discovery of Asteroid 45 Eugenia (1857)

Asteroid 45 Eugenia, discovered on June 27th 1857 by Hermann Goldschmidt from his flat above the Café Procope, just off the Blvd St Germain in Paris, is a rather famous rock (at least by the standards of most 214km wide rocks invisible to the naked eye).  Claim to fame number 1 is that it was one of the first asteroids to be found to have a moon (the 14km diameter “Petit-Prince”, discovered November 1st 1998).  Number 2 is that it was only the second asteroid to turn out to have two moons, the second being the less poetically named (and even smaller at 6km diameter) “S/2004 (45) 1″.  And number 3 is that it was the first asteroid that could positively be said to have been named after a real person, rather than a character from mythology.

There’s not much else to say about Eugenia.  It’s a large, F type body, in the main belt, with two moons as I said, and very dark.

Empress Eugenie
Empress Eugenie

The lady after whom Eugenia was named had quite an extraordinary name herself.  She was (deep breath) Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick, wife of Emperor Napoleon III, and therefore an empress, known officially as Eugénie de Montijo, the last empress the French ever had.   Eugenia was born in Spain, which is why most of her name sounds suitable for a Spanish noblewoman.  The Kirkpatrick bit stuck on the end comes about because one of her grandfathers was a Scottish-born US consul.  Her marriage was slightly unusual, as it was apparently based on love, when at that time most men of Napoleon’s standing would be expected to choose a bride who would be “advantageous”.

After the overthrow of the Second Empire, Louis-Napoleon and Eugénie beat a hasty retreat and moved to Chislehurst in Kent, and following her husband’s death she retired to a nice little place in Farnborough (did I say “little”? – it’s now a 500-student school).  Empress Eugénie died in 1920, and is buried at St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough.