Eulalia de Borbón, the Infanta who challenged Alfonso XIII and starred in the first divorce in the Royal Family


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The family environment where Alfonso XIII grew up was made up almost exclusively of women, including his mother, his two sisters, who would die young and always lag behind the pampered heir, and two sisters from Alfonso XII, Isabel and Eulalia, who had returned through different twists and turns from their marital adventures. From Isabel la ChataHis nephew acquired the habit of tuteo and a kindness that masked poorly concealed classism.

The Infanta Isabel defended that the heir was sovereign to do whatever he wanted, without anyone telling him otherwise. Well known is the anecdote that as a teenager the King ordered his aunt the Infanta Eulalia to eat a cauliflower:

“I don’t like it, I’ve never eaten it,” she clarified.

“Well, eat it now, I want you to eat it,” Alfonso replied.

The Infanta Isabel would have intervened then to be the most flattering of the subjects of the King of Spain:

—Eat it; The King wants it and, since he commands, it must be done.

As in this type of sobering and rather questionable anecdote, almost all the papers and words in it are embedded with the intention of capturing the essence of the court. Isabel, more papist than the Pope; Maria Cristina, so high that it does not intervene; Alfonso, as authoritarian as he is capricious; and Eulalia, as unruly as her biography tells.

From political defiance to family

The so-called Infanta derailed, traveler, black sheep, ended up colliding with that nephew of hers so little dialogue on palace matters. Married to a son of the Dukes of Montpensier, Eulalia was always the great darling of the family, with an unbridled tendency to rebellion and excessive language. Although the couple conceived three children in a few years, of which only two survived, Eulalia and her cousin ended up like the rosary of dawn when her misty personality emerged. The Infanta would divorce him in the City of Light, where at the beginning of the 20th century he settled with his lover Count Georges Jametel. It was the first divorce within the royal family and, of course, Alfonso XIII he was not satisfied at all.

Portrait of the Infanta.
Portrait of the Infanta. – Photo by Christian Franzen

The bad relationship between aunt and nephew began to develop when the Infanta, who thanks to her command of French, English, German and Italian exercised representation work for the Monarchy, was sent in 1893 to represent the Crown in Cuba and Puerto Rico and, in the midst of the independence revolts, appeared dressed in the red, white and blue colors of the insurgents’ flag. The Captain General of Cuba, Alejandro Rodriguez Arias, suffered several lipothymias during the visit and died before the end of that year in which a member of the Borbón family had been almost more seditious than the revolutionary José Martí.

After returning from her official trip to Cuba and the United States, Eulalia became a controversial character for her opinions about the Cuban reality. Her inappropriate public statements, her disagreements with her husband, who also led a dissipated life, and Eulalia’s own love affairs, pushed her in 1900 to move to live with her mother Elizabeth II in Paris. Shortly after, he announced his desire to legally separate, sparking a major family scandal.

Eulalia dedicated the following years to pilgrimage through the European courts as an illustrious guest, and to translate her advanced ideas in a book entitled ‘Over the course of life’ that the conservative press described as “an attack against religion, the monarchy, good customs and the established order.” Later he would publish other works about his life, about the popular topics of “Black Spain” and on the role that women should play in society. In these texts, despite showing a very open mind for the time, he also praised Mussolini as an example of what Spain needed.

The scandals of Eulalia’s son

Alfonso XIII, fed up with her airing the intimacies of his court, prohibited in 1911 by a royal order the entry of his aunt into Spain for several years. As the historian Javier Tusell tells in his book Alfonso XIII. The controversial king ‘(Taurus), when this public break with his aunt took place, it was the Monarch himself who delivered to the press the correspondence crossed with the Infanta, who continued to receive money from the State and demanded for one of his sons, an Army officer, a reward for his recent participation in the Melilla campaign.

At this stage as an outlaw, she continued her pilgrimage through Europe and during the first World War, Eulalia treated the war wounded in various hospitals in Paris. Although it cost her, the Infanta managed to reconcile with her nephew over the years to return to Spain in 1922.

Ceremony in the Patio del Alcázar with the King delivering dispatches to the new lieutenants.  On the right his aunt, the Infanta Eulalia.
Ceremony in the Patio del Alcázar with the King delivering dispatches to the new lieutenants. On the right his aunt, the Infanta Eulalia. – Francisco Goñi

Opposing the King was an undertaking within the reach of a few Bourbons. Eulalia dared and the other of her children, Infante Luis, pushed the challenge to its last consequences. This lover of parties and waste was lost in the last howls of the belle epoque and the so-called “crazy years.” The tunnel reappeared notoriously homosexual and with a strong addiction to cocaine, a drug that until then was not considered dangerous and was even consumed by Pope Leo XIII. Thomas Edison O Julio Verne through one of the many legal drinks that contained this substance.

Eulalia’s son spread scandals across Europe, including his involvement in the murder of a sailor in Paris in 1924, and his sudden expulsion from France. Not even when his cousin Alfonso XIII legally withdrew the title of Infante de España, did the definitive black sheep of the family mitigate his misconduct, who married María Say, a seventy-three-year-old French millionaire, for the sole purpose of squeezing his fortune and then if I have seen you I do not remember. In 1945, Luis died in Nazi-occupied Paris after undergoing a testicle ablation, probably as part of a prostate cancer treatment who suffered.

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