Queer Places:
Villa Masséna Musée, 65 Rue de France, 06000 Nice, France

Image result for eugene murat by berenice abbottPrincess Eugène Murat (September 9, 1878 - July 19, 1936) was a French princess. She was a wealthy eccentric in turn-of-the-century France, who was well-known in artistic circles and a friend of Marie Laurencin, Berenice Abbott, Germaine Tailleferre and Winnaretta Singer. She is decipted with her extended family (Ney, Massena and Murat) in a mural on the staircase of Palais Masséna in Nice.

She was born Violette Jacqueline Charlotte Ney d'Elchingen, on September 9, 1878, in Rocquencourt, France, daughter of Michel Aloys Ney, duc d'Elchingen and Marguerite Laure Juliette Furtado-Heine. She married Prince Eugene Louis Michel Joachim Napoleon Murat (1875-1906), son of Prince Louis Napoleon Murat and Eudocia Michailovna Somova, on April 26, 1899. They had the following children: Pierre Eugène Louis Michel Joachim Napoléon Murat (1900–1948); Paule Caroline Mathilde Et Coligny, Blanc and Caroline Rose Eugenie David de Ghees.

In the decades of her widowhood, after the car-crash death of Eugene, Violette led a very gay life, and in all senses of the word. She was part of the Paris and Harlem Jazz Age scene. She entertained the likes of Igor Stravinsky and Jean Cocteau in her Paris home. She was a friend of the artist Augustus John who sketched her quite pleasingly while she introduced him to novel ways of taking hashish. In his autobiography he says: “I had already tried smoking this celebrated drug without the slightest result. It was Princess Murat who converted me. She contributed several pots of the substance in the form of a compôte or jam. A teaspoonful was taken at intervals.”

She famously stormed out of a very famous Paris dinner party, held in 1922 for Europe’s artistic elite. The guests of honour included Sergei Diaghilev, Stravinsky, James Joyce, and Picasso. But it was the appearance of the reclusive Marcel Proust that evinced Princess Murat’s all too visible disfavour. At the time everyone who was anyone was trying to identify themselves and others in the characters of Proust’s À la Recherche du temps perdu. Violette, who was renowned for meanness had seemingly provided the model for an extremely miserly individual.

The family who lived in the Palais de Masena
Prince Joachim Murat, nn, Violette Ney d’Elchingen (Princesse Eugene Murat), Victoire Masséna (Marquess de Montesquiou), nn, André Masséna Prince d’Essling, Princesse d’Essling, nn, nn, nn, nn, nn.

Victor Ney and Anne Masséna, nn, nn, Cecile Ney d’Elchingen (Princesse Joachim Murat), Rose Ney d’Elchingen, Charles Murat, Prince Eugene Murat, nn, nn.

She was, in fact, exceedingly generous with the cocaine, or so we discover in Sebastian Faulks’ book The Fatal Englishman, which includes the biography of the English artist, Christopher Wood. In it he describes Violette as “an enormous drug-addicted lesbian with a hunger for company.” She goes around with a bag of cocaine and lays out lines for Wood when he is struggling to complete a piece of work. Faulks tells, too, of Wood’s claim that she lost £5 or 6 million in the 1929 Stock Market crash. She ended her days, living in squalor, having overcome an earlier obsession with maintaining cleanliness, and died of barbiturate poisoning at the age of 58.

She died July 19, 1936, in Paris, France.

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