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QUEEN VICTORIA EUGÉNIE OF SPAIN
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Victoria Eugénie's marriage to King Alfonso XIII of Spain was indeed full of drama from day one and were complete opposites - Alfonso was fiery and passionate, while Victoria Eugénie was shy.  The King continually had extra-marital affairs, and relations with his wife rapidly deteriorated after the birth of their children.  Victoria Eugénie threw herself into charitable work, in particular reorganising the Spanish Red Cross, but many Spanish people initially saw her as being 'too British' and was disliked.  She wrote to her husband - "I find myself in an insupportable and cruel position.  The English criticise me for becoming Catholic and the Spanish believe I am not sincere.  It seems to me that I should not live in a country in which I am not loved."  However, she worked very hard championing the Spanish Red Cross, improving its organisational protocols and hygiene standards, bringing it into the 20th Century.  In 1918, the first Spanish Red Cross hospital was opened in Madrid - were both of their daughters would undertake nursing training a decade later.  She received many awards for her work with the Spanish Red Cross including the Silver Cross of the Red Cross from Venezuela, the Italian Red Cross Medal, and the Golden Rose of Christianity from Pope Pius XI (1857-1931).

Victoria Eugénie with her god-mother -  Empress Eugénie of France ​


Queen Victoria Eugénie

with her god-mother -

Empress Eugénie of France

(the widow of Napoléon III,

Emperor of  the French) in 1920

a few weeks before her death aged 94yrs

Victoria Eugénie with her 6 surviving children ​


Queen Victoria Eugénie with her six surviving children in 1918 

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The 1926 portrait of Queen Victoria Eugénie

by Philip de Lászlo

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The 1927 portrait of King Alfonso XIII of Spain

by Philip de Lászlo

King Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugénie had seven children (but only six survived childbirth) -

 

  • Infante Alfonso 'Alfonsito' Pío Cristino Eduardo Francisco Guillermo Carlos Enrique Eugenio Fernando Antonio Venancio de Borbón y Battenberg, Prince of the Asturias (1907-1938).  He later renounced his rights of succession to the Throne to marry in June 1933 a commoner - Edelmira Sampedro-Ocejo y Robatoin (1906-1994), and took the title Count of Corvodonga.  The marriage was dissolved in May 1937 and he married two months later in Havana, Cuba - Esther Rocafort y Altuzarra (1913-1993), a fashion model, but separated after just two months and were divorced in January 1938.  He died in Miami, Florida, USA aged 31yrs in September 1938 due to complications from haemophilia following a motoring accident.  At the time of his death, Infante Alfonso was estranged from his father following his public announcement in 1938 that he was prepared to accept the Crown of Spain, should he be asked.

  • Infante Jaime Leopoldo Isabelino Enrique Alejandro Alberto Alfonso Víctor Acacio Pedro Pablo María de Borbón y Battenberg (1908-1975).  He was profoundly deaf and following his elder brother’s renunciation, Jaime himself renounced his rights of succession to the Throne in June 1933 and was created Duke of Segovia.  In March 1935 he married - Doña Emmanuelle de Dampierre (1913-2012) but divorced in May 1947 in Bucharest, Romania which was not recognised in Spain.  In August 1949, in a civil ceremony in Innsbruck, Austria, he married Charlotte Tiedemann (1919-1979).  After his father’s death in February 1941, he proclaimed himself as the legitimate heir to the French Throne as 'Head of the House of Bourbon' and took the title of Duke of Anjou. In December 1949 he retracted his renunciation right to the Spanish Throne and on 3rd May 1964 he took the title of Duke of Madrid and by some was recognised as 'King Jaime IV of Spain'.  In July 1969, he renounced his rights to the Throne again in favour of his nephew (Infante Juan Carlos) and died aged 66yrs in March 1975 in Switzerland a few months before his nephew came to the Throne.

  • Infanta Beatriz Isabel Federica Alfonsa Eugénie Cristina Maria Teresia Bienvenida Ladislàa de Borbón y Battenberg (1909-2002).  She married in Rome, Italy in January 1935 morganatically - Don Alessandro Torlonia, 5th Prince of Civitella-Cesi (1911-1986) and renounced her rights of succession to the Throne. She died in Rome in November 2002, aged 93yrs.

  • Intante Fernando de Borbón y Battenberg (1910-1910), stillborn.

  • Infanta Maria Cristina Teresa Alejandra María de Guadalupe María de la Concepción Ildefonsa Victoria Eugenia de Borbón y Battenberg (1911-1996).  She married in Rome, Italy in June 1940 morganatically - Enrico Marone-Cinzano, 1st Count Marone (1895-1968) and renounced her rights of succession to the Throne.  She died in Madrid, Spain visiting family for Christmas in December 1996, aged 85yrs.

  • Infante Juan Carlos Teresa Silverio Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg (1913-1993).  He joined the British Royal Navy as a Midshipman but could not accept a commission and retain his Spanish nationality. Following his elder brother's decision to renounce their rights to the Throne, he was created Prince of the Asturias and recognised as heir to his father.  In October 1935, he married in Rome, Italy - Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1910-2000).  Upon his father’s death he took the title Count of Barcelona.  In July 1969, General Francisco Franco (1892-1975), the Nationalist Head of State of Spain announced that Juan’s son - Infante Juan Carlos (b.1938) would be his designated heir taking the title Prince of Spain.  In November 1975, following Franco's death, Juan’s son was declared King of Spain taking the regnal name King Juan Carlos I.  Eventually Juan was persuaded to relinquish his claim to the Throne and in 1977, he was formally created Count of Barcelona by his son.  He died in April 1993 in Pamplona aged 79yrs and was buried with honours due to a King, under the regnal name Juan III (his title if he had succeeded to the Throne).  His grandson is now King Felipe VI of Spain (b.1968) - a god-son of Victoria Eugénie.

  • Infante Gonzalo Manuel Maria Bernardo Narciso Alfonso Mauricio de Borbón y Battenberg (1914-1934).  He too suffered from haemophilia and died in Krumpendorf, Austria whilst on holiday, following a motoring accident - in a car driven by his sister (Infanta Beatriz) in August 1934, aged 19yrs.

 

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ABOVE: The arms of Queen Victoria Eugénie

whilst Queen Consort of Spain

RIGHT: 
An official photograph of

Queen Victoria Eugénie, whilst Queen of Spain

Following World War I, Spain entered the lengthy yet victorious Rif War (1920–1926) to preserve its colonial rule over northern Morocco.  Critics of the monarchy thought the war was an unforgivable loss of money and lives, and nicknamed "Alfonso el Africano" ("the African").  After the disastrous defeat of the Spanish Army at the Battle of Annual in July 1921, the war went from bad to worse, and many people could see no point to the war and were unhappy at The King's perceived lack of indifference to his defeated Army.  On 13th September 1923, General Miguel Primo de Rivera, 2nd Marquess of Estella (1870-1930) seized power as Prime Minister in a military coup and behaved as a 'quasi-dictator' with The King's support until 1930.  Towards the end of the 1920s, the value of the peseta fell against foreign currencies, 1929 brought a bad harvest, and Spain's imports far outstripped the worth of its exports and soon Primo de Rivera's control of Spain came to an end and was forced to resign.  By the 1930s, Spain was economically crippled and the new Prime Minister - Dámaso Berenguer y Fusté, 1st Count of Xauen (1873-1953) formed a government seeking to restore the country to its pre-1923 state, as if the repressive Primo de Rivero rule had not happened.  In the April 1931 local elections, amidst calls for the abolition of the monarchy, were seen as a plebiscite on the Spanish monarchy. 

 

Victoria Eugénie whilst Queen of Spain
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King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1930

with his Prime Minister (right) - 

Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera, 2nd Marquess of Estella (who died soon after)


A short film by Pathé about King Alfonso XIII

leaving Spain in April 1931

and the establishment of The Second Spanish Republic
 

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Queen Victoria Eugénie c.1930s

Once in exile, King Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugénie decided to separate. The King had frequently been unfaithful (he fathered numerous illegitimate children) and the marriage had been unhappy following the birth of their first child in 1907, who was born a haemophiliac, but astonishingly, The King was to accuse his wife of infidelity too as a reason for the breakdown of their marriage.  He went to stay in Rapallo, Genoa and subsequently made his home in Rome, Italy.  Victoria Eugénie initially went to live at 34 Porchester Terrace, Bayswater,  near Kensington Palace, London (now the official residence of the Peruvian Ambassador to the Court of St James) to be close to her ailing elderly mother - Princess Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg (1857-1944), youngest daughter of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901), but in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, she was 'invited to leave' the UK and returned to Rome, Italy.  

 

The pro-Republican party won the election and two days later on 14th April 1931, King Alfonso XIII decided to leave Spain to avoid a Civil War and a Second Spanish Republic was declared.  The King (who did not abdicate) agreed to leave Spain quickly for the sake of peace and left The Royal Palace in Madrid within hours, separately from his wife and children. The next day, Victoria Eugénie and her children, accompanied by her sister-in-law Irene, The Marchioness of Carisbrooke, formerly The Lady Irene Denison (1890-1956) with her closest courtiers left Spain by train and eventually they were reunited in Paris, France.  Their first residence was Hôtel Meurice in Paris but soon moved to a private wing of the Savoy Hotel in Fontainebleau, Paris.

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Queen Victoria Eugénie

with her mother (left) - 

Princess Beatrice

(Princess Henry of Battenberg)

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Queen Victoria Eugénie

King Alfonso XIII was later diagnosed with angina and fearing death was imminent, he renounced his rights to the Throne on 14th January 1941, transferring his rights to his son - Infante Juan, later Count of Barcelona (1913-1993).  However on 28th February 1941 in his hotel room in Rome, Italy, King Alfonso XIII died (aged 54yrs) following a heart attack.  Victoria Eugénie and their children were present.  Upon the announcement of his death, General Franco ordered three days of national mourning throughout Spain.  The King's funeral was held in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, followed by interment in the Church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli (the national church of Spain in Italy).  His remains were finally returned to Spain in January 1980 at the request of his grandson - King Juan Carlos I of Spain (b.1938), who had been restored to the Throne in 1975.  King Alfonso's coffin was finally interred with his ancestors within the Royal Vaults at the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid, Spain.

 

King Alfonso XIII whilst in exile

ABOVE: King Alfonso XIII of Spain

in his later years

RIGHT: The arms of Queen Victoria Eugénie

(used after 1941) as a widow

BELOW: La Villa Vielle Fontaine, Lausanne, Switzerland - Queen Victoria Eugénie's home

in exile until her death in 1969

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Villa Vieille Fontaine -  Victoria Eugénie's home in Lausanne, Switzerland ​

In 1942, Victoria Eugénie was subsequently ordered by Mussolini’s Fascist government to leave Italy due to her "ill-disguised leanings to the Allied cause", there was even suggestions she was actively dabbling in espionage on behalf of the Allies. Victoria Eugénie subsequently settled in Lausanne, Switzerland and took up residence at La Villa Vieille Fontaine in Ouchy, overlooking Lake Geneva.