Bonnie Effros; ‘Elle pensait comme un homme et sentait comme une femme’: Hortense Lacroix Cornu (1809-1875) and the Musée des Antiquités Nationales de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. J Hist Collections 2012; 24 (1): 25-43. doi: 10.1093/jhc/fhq044
This essay examines the contributions of Mme Hortense Lacroix Cornu to national archaeological projects in France during the reign of Napoleon III (Emperor 1852-1870). Cornu, whose mother had been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Hortense, knew Louis-Napoleon from early childhood. During his reign, Napoleon III respected Cornu for her loyalty and scholarship, and they shared mutual interests in history and archaeology. He followed many of her recommendations at court: at her prodding, he appointed Alfred Maury, Léon Renier, Victor Duruy, and Ernest Renan to his administration. Although her support for archaeological undertakings has largely been overlooked due to the unofficial capacity in which she operated, Cornu played a central role in the purchase of the Campana Collection (1861), the foundation of the shortlived Musée Napoléon III (1862), and the creation of the Musée de Saint-Germain (1862). While Napoleon III had long supported Gallo-Roman archaeology, Cornu's timely interventions ensured the allocation of sufficient resources to these institutions.