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.
|Ancestors of Alexandre Colonna-Walewski|
Adolphe Augustin Marie Billault (12 November 1805 – 13 October 1863) was a French lawyer and politician who played a leading role in the governments of Napoleon III.Adolphe de Forcade La Roquette
Adolphe de Forcade La Roquette (8 April 1820 – 15 August 1874) was a French politician.Charlemagne de Maupas
Charlemagne Émile de Maupas (8 December 1818 – 19 June 1888) was a French lawyer and politician who was head of the Parisian Police during the critical period when Napoleon III seized power in the coup of 2 December 1851.Charles, marquis de La Valette
Charles-Jean-Marie-Félix, marquis de La Valette (25 November 1806 in Senlis – 2 May 1881 in Paris) was a French politician and diplomat.
Charles de La Valette was Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs in the government of Emperor Napoleon III.He was French Ambassador to Constantinople before the Crimean War, then served as a government minister, before a posting to the Vatican (an ancestral family member Jean Parisot de Valette had been Grand Master of the Order of Malta).
An Anglophile, he finally returned to London in an official capacity as French Ambassador from 1869 to 1870.The Marquis married firstly at London in 1828 Maria Garrow Birkett (who died 1831, aged 24), daughter of the late Daniel Birkett. He married secondly in 1845 the widow of a Boston banker, Adeline Fowle (Mrs Samuel Welles), who died in 1869; he married thirdly, in 1871, Georgiana-Gabrielle de Flahaut, marquise douairière de La Valette, who died in 1907; she was sister of Emily, Dowager Marchioness of Lansdowne.Charles-Marie-Esprit Espinasse
Charles-Marie-Esprit Espinasse (2 April 1815 – 4 June 1859) was a French military officer who was briefly Minister of the Interior and Public Security in 1858. He died during the Italian campaign of 1859.Charles Léon
Charles, Count Léon (1806–1881) was an illegitimate son of Emperor Napoleon I of France and Louise Catherine Eléonore Denuelle de la Plaigne (1787–1868). He was the half brother of Alexandre Colonna-Walewski and Napoleon's legitimate son, Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt.
Léon’s daughter, Charlotte Mesnard, who was interviewed in 1921 at the age of 55 said her son had a striking resemblance to Napoleon but had been killed in World War I near Reims. According to the article, She also said that her three much younger half brothers were killed in the war as well.Claude Alphonse Delangle
Claude Alphonse Delangle (6 April 1797 – 25 December 1869) was a French magistrate and politician. He was Minister of Justice in 1851 under the Second French Empire.Edmond Valléry Gressier
Edmond Valléry Gressier (21 December 1813, Corbie – 1 November 1892) was a French lawyer, senator for Somme (and President of its General Council) and the Minister of Agriculture of France during the Franco-Prussian War.Ernest Arrighi de Casanova
Ernest Arrighi de Casanova, 2nd Duke of Padoue (26 September 1814, Paris – 28 March 1888) was a French Bonapartist politician. Son of the 1st Duke of Padoue.
He was a Senator from 1853 to 1870, and was Minister of the Interior in 1859.
During the French Third Republic he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies from 1876 to 1881. He sat with the Appel au peuple parliamentary group.Ernest Pinard
Pierre Ernest Pinard (10 October 1822 – 12 September 1909) was a French prosecutor and Minister of the Interior.
He is known for his indictments against Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal.Ernest de Royer
Paul Henri Ernest de Royer (29 October 1808 – 13 December 1877) was a French lawyer, magistrate and politician. He was Minister of Justice in 1851 under the French Second Republic, and again from 1857 to 1859 under the Second French Empire.Hippolyte Fortoul
Hippolyte Fortoul (4 August 1811 – 4 July 1856) was a French journalist, historian and politician.Jacques Louis Randon
Jacques Louis César Alexandre Randon, 1st Count Randon (25 March 1795 – 16 January 1871) was a French military and political leader, also Marshal of France and governor of Algeria.Lionel de Moustier
Lionel Désiré-Marie-René-François de Moustier (23 August 1817 – 5 February 1869) was a French diplomat and politician.Louis Henri Armand Behic
Louis Henri Armand Behic (15 January 1809 – 2 March 1891) was a French lawyer, businessman and politician who served as minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Public Works in the government of Napoleon III.Paul Boudet
Paul Boudet (13 November 1800 – 17 November 1877) was a French lawyer and politician who was Minister of the Interior from 1863 to 1865..Théodore Ducos
Jean-Étienne-Théodore Ducos (22 April 1801 – 17 April 1855) was a French politician and shipowner.Édouard Thouvenel
Édouard Antoine de Thouvenel (11 November 1818, Verdun, Meuse – 18 October 1866) was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1855 to 1860, and French Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1860 to 1862.