The ‘emperor’ who has ‘taken a bride / To his gruesome side’ (ll. 29-35) is clearly Napoleon III, whose coup d’état of Dec. 1851 the Brownings witnessed during one of their periods of residence in Paris. He was proclaimed Emperor (after a plebiscite) on 2 Dec. 1852, and married Eugenia de Montijo, Countess of Téba, on 29 Jan. 1853. Looking forward to the marriage on Saturday 22 Jan. 1853, The Times commented on the personal attractions of the Emperor’s fiancée: ‘The Countess of Téba possesses considerable personal attractions, but more in the style of English than of Spanish beauty. Her complexion is transparently fair, her features regular and yet full of expression.’ An editorial on the Monday following the marriage, however, saw the magnificence and expense of the wedding ceremony as symptoms of France’s political instability: ‘The French revolution, and the powers which it has called into being, have continued for so many years to masquerade in one guise or another-now ghastly and now gay, sometimes burlesque and sometimes magnificent-that we have ceased to feel surprise at any aspect these Protean Governments may assume. Among the more stable sovereignties of Europe there is a greater sobriety of display, a more cautious use of the public money, and less disposition to catch the eye of a few thousand spectators by a species of exhibition which may be thought puerile or theatrical’ (cp. ll. 29-30). In a letter of 2 Mar. 1853, EBB. wrote: ‘What do I think of Napoleon’s marriage? Well-I like it’ (EBB to Arabella i 545); later she relates gossip she has heard about the occasion: ‘let me tell you that the “unfortunate Eugenie” fainted twice just before the marriage, when the “coiffeur” was engaged on her hair’ (ibid. 546; cp. l. 35). These events might well have produced a ‘quarrel’ in the Brownings’ household given their profound disagreements about Napoleon III; see headnote to Woman’s Last Word, p. 273.