Eugénie de Montijo, as she became known in France, was educated in Paris, at the fashionable Convent of the Sacré Cœur. When Prince Louis Napoléon, son of Hortense de Beauharnais became president of the Second Republic,
she appeared with her mother at several balls given by the "prince-president" at the Elysée Palace; it was there that she met the future emperor, whom she wed on 30 January 1853.
Throughout the early 1850s Eugénie and Napoleon played cat and mouse. He tried to take her arm, she reminded him that her mother took precedence over her, and consigned her frustrated swain to escorting her mother on walks. She made it clear their was no action without marriage, he sent official emissaries to call on Dona Manuela and Eugénie to inform them that under no circumstances would he be marrying Eugénie. He sent her completely inappropriate gifts, the sort that men sent mistresses, not women they were courting, sheaccepted them, and reciprocated with…nothing! He invited Eugénie to events specifically engineered to tempt or trick her into an assignation, she stubbornly remained surrounded by chaperones and other men. At once house party Napoleon is reputed to have asked Eugénie the way to her room (some versions say ‘heart’), to which she coyly replied “through the chapel Sire.”