Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Victoria Eugenie, Queen of Spain ... née Battenberg.

Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena; 24 October 1887 – 15 April 1969) was queen consort of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom; also the first cousin of King George V of the United Kingdom, Queen Maud of Norway, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, Queen Marie of Romania, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Queen Louise of Sweden, and Queen Sophia of the Hellenes. The current King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, is her grandson.

Victoria Eugenie was born on 24 October 1887 at Balmoral Castle, in Scotland in the United Kingdom. Her father was Prince Henry of Battenberg, the fourth child and third son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine by his morganatic wife Countess Julia von Hauke, and her mother was Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, the fifth daughter and youngest child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
As Prince Henry was the product of a morganatic marriage, he took his style of Prince of Battenberg from his mother, who had been created Princess of Battenberg. As such Henry's daughter would normally have been born with the title Her Serene Highness Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. However, on 4 December 1886, Queen Victoria had issued letters patent granting the title of "Highness" to all sons and daughters of Prince Henry and Princess Beatrice, thus the Princess was born Her Highness Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. She was named for her two grandmothers and for her godmother, Empress Eugénie, the Spanish-born widow of the former Emperor of the French Napoleon III, who lived in exile in the UK. The last of her given names was chosen because of her birth in Scotland (her younger brother Maurice would receive "Donald" as the last of his given names for the same reason) and due to her lineage: Princess Beatrice had written 'Eua' on the birth document (a Gaelic form of 'Eve'), but this was misread by Dr. Cameron Lees, who presided at her christening, as 'Ena'. To her family, and the British general public, she was ever afterwards known as Ena.
Victoria Eugenie grew up in Queen Victoria's household, as the British monarch had reluctantly allowed Beatrice to marry on the condition that she remain her mother's full time companion and personal secretary. She therefore spent her childhood at Windsor Castle, Balmoral, and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Her father died while on active military service after contracting fever in Africa in 1896. After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Battenbergs moved to London and took up residence in Kensington Palace. During a summer in Osborne, Victoria Eugenie met Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia, a cousin to Nicholas II. The Grand Duke felt attracted to the beautiful British princess and when they met again in Nice in 1905, he proposed marriage to her. She was about to accept but declined at the last moment.

In 1905 King Alfonso XIII of Spain made an official visit to the UK. Victoria Eugenie's uncle, King Edward VII, hosted a dinner in Buckingham Palace, in honour of the Spanish King. Alfonso sat down between Queen Alexandra and Princess Helena, King Edward's sister. Suddenly he noticed Victoria Eugenie and he asked Princess Helena who was that princess with almost white hair. When she noticed the King's eyes upon her, Victoria Eugenie felt abashed. Everybody knew that King Alfonso was looking for a suitable bride and one of the strongest candidates was Princess Patricia of Connaught, daughter of King Edward's brother, the Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. But now Victoria Eugenie had drawn the King's attention and, as Princess Patricia seemed not to be impressed by the Spanish monarch, Alfonso's interest in Victoria Eugenie grew. So the courtship began and when Alfonso returned to Spain he constantly sent postcards to Victoria Eugenie and was very enthusiastic about her. His widowed mother, Maria Christina of Austria, did not like her son's choice, in part because she considered the Battenbergs non-Royal, because of the obscure origin of Prince Henry's mother, and in part because she wanted her son to marry within her own family, the Habsburgs from Austria. Another reason against the marriage was the religion of the British Princess (Alfonso was Roman Catholic; the British Princess was Anglican). Another reason was haemophilia, the disease that Victoria had transmitted to some of her descendants. Eugenie's brother Leopold was a haemophiliac, so there was a 50% probability that Victoria Eugenie would be a carrier, although the degree of risk was not yet known. Still, if Alfonso married her, their issue could be affected by the disease. However, Alfonso was not dissuaded.
After a year of rumours about which princess the King of Spain would marry, Maria Christina of Austria finally acceded to her son's selection in January 1906 and wrote a letter to Princess Beatrice, Victoria Eugenie's mother, telling her about the love Alfonso felt for her daughter and seeking unofficial contact with King Edward VII. Some days later in Windsor, King Edward congratulated his niece on her future engagement.
Princess Beatrice and her daughter arrived in Biarritz on 22 January and stayed at the Villa Mauriscot where some days later King Alfonso met them. At the Villa Mauriscot, the King and his future bride had a three-day-romance. Then, Alfonso took Victoria Eugenie and her mother to San Sebastián to meet Maria Christina of Austria. On 3 February, the King left San Sebastian to go to Madrid and Victoria Eugenie and her mother went to Versailles where the Princess would be instructed in the Catholic faith; as the future Queen of Spain, she had to change her Anglican religion for the Catholic one. The official reception of Victoria Eugenie into the Catholic faith took place on 5 March 1906 at Miramar Palace in San Sebastián.
The terms of the marriage were settled by two agreements, a public treaty and a private contractual arrangement. The treaty was executed between Spain and the United Kingdom in London on 7 May 1906 by their respective plenipotentiaries, the Spanish Ambassador to the Court of St. James's Don Luis Polo de Bernabé, and the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, Bt. Ratifications were exchanged on 23 May following. Among other conditions, the treaty stipulated:
BE it known unto all men by these Present that whereas His Catholic Majesty Alfonso XIII, King of Spain, has judged it proper to announce his intention of contracting a marriage with Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena, niece of His Majesty Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, and daughter of Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore (Princess Henry of Battenberg)...Article I. It is concluded and agreed that the marriage between His said Majesty King Alfonso XIII and Her said Royal Highness the Princess Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena shall be solemnized in person at Madrid as soon as the same may conveniently be done. II. His said Majesty King Alfonso XIII engages to secure to Her said Royal Highness the Princess Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena from the date of her marriage with His Majesty, and for the whole period of the marriage, an annual grant of 450,000 pesetas. His said Majesty King Alfonso XIII also engages, if, by the will of Divine Providence, the said Princess Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena should become his widow, to secure to her, from the date of his death, an annual grant of 250,000 pesetas, unless and until she contracts a second marriage, both these grants having already been voted by the Cortes. The private settlements to be made on either side in regard to the said marriage will be agreed upon and expressed in a separate Contract, which shall, however, be deemed to form an integral part of the present Treaty...III. The High Contracting Parties take note of the fact that Her Royal Highness the Princess Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena, according to the due tenor of the law of England, forfeits for ever all hereditary rights of succession to the Crown and Government of Great Britain...
The treaty's reference to the forfeiture of Ena's British succession rights reflected neither the British government's censure of the alliance, nor to any renunciation made by her. Rather, it was an explicit recognition of the fact that by marrying a Roman Catholic, Ena lost any right to inherit the British crown as a consequence of Britain's Act of Settlement. This exclusion was personal and limited: those among her descendants who do not become Roman Catholic remain in the Line of succession to the British Throne.
The treaty did not constitute compliance with the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which requires that descendants of King George II obtain the British sovereign's prior permission to marry by Order in Council. While an exception to this requirement exists for descendants of royal daughters that marry "into foreign families", Ena's father had been naturalised a British subject prior to his wedding.[dubious – discuss] Nevertheless, concern about reaction to the marriage among Protestants prompted the British government to avoid having the King consent to the marriage in his Privy Council. This omission would have rendered the marriage void in Britain, but the Government took the position that Ena was not bound by the Royal Marriages Act, apparently relying upon the law's use of the flexible construction "foreign families", since Prince Henry's father had been German and his mother Polish.
In any event, prior to her marriage to King Alfonso XIII of Spain in May 1906, Ena was styled Her Highness Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. On 3 April 1906, King Edward VII, in order to elevate her standing prior to her wedding, raised her status to Royal Highness per royal warrant which read: "Our Will and Pleasure is and we do hereby declare and ordain that from and after the date of this Warrant our Most Dear Niece Princess Victoria Eugénie Julia Ena, only daughter of Our Most Dear Sister Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore (Princess Henry of Battenberg) shall be styled entitled and called "Her Royal Highness" before her name and such Titles and Appellations which to her belong in all Deeds Records Instruments or Documents whatsoever wherein she may at any time hereafter be named or described. And We do hereby authorize and empower Our said Most Dear Niece henceforth at all times to assume and use and to be called and named by the Style, Title and Appellation of "Her Royal Highness" accordingly. Given at Our Court of Saint James's, the Third day of April 1906: in the Sixth Year of Our Reign. By His Majesty's Command. M Gladstone" This was accompanied by a formal published declaration which read: "Whitehall 3 April 1906. The KING has been graciously pleased to declare and ordain that His Majesty's niece, Her Highness Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena, daughter of Her Royal Highness the Princess Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore (Princess Henry of Battenberg), shall henceforth be styled and called "Her Royal Highness"; And to command that the said Royal concession and declaration be registered in His Majesty's College of Arms."

Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Eugenie married King Alfonso at the Royal Monastery of San Geronimo in Madrid on 31 May 1906. Present at the ceremony were her widowed mother and brothers, as well as her cousins, the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom).
After the wedding ceremony, the royal procession was heading back to the Royal Palace when an assassination attempt was made on the King and Queen. Anarchist Mateu Morral threw a bomb from a balcony at the royal carriage. Victoria Eugenie's life was saved because, at the exact moment the bomb exploded, she turned her head in order to see St. Mary's Church, which Alfonso was showing her. She escaped injury, although her dress was spotted with the blood of a guard who was riding beside the carriage. There exists a large statue in front of the Royal Monastery of San Geronimo dedicated to the victims of the bombing of May 31, 1906.
After the inauspicious start to her tenure as Queen of Spain, Victoria Eugenie became isolated from the Spanish people and was unpopular in her new land. Her married life improved when she gave birth to a son and heir to the kingdom, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias. However, while the baby prince was being circumcised, the doctors noted that he did not stop bleeding — the first sign that the infant heir had haemophilia. Victoria Eugenie was the obvious source of the condition, which was inherited by her eldest and youngest sons. Contrary to the response of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, whose son and heir by another granddaughter of Queen Victoria was similarly afflicted, Alfonso is alleged never to have forgiven Victoria Eugenie nor to have come to terms with what had happened. In all, King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie had seven children, five sons and two daughters. Neither of their daughters is known to have been a carrier of haemophilia.
After the births of their children, Victoria Eugenie's relationship with Alfonso deteriorated, and he had numerous affairs. It has been said that he had a dalliance with the Queen's cousin, Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but this is not true. There is some evidence that Alfonso tried to seduce Beatrice, but she didn't give in. The king, in anger, expelled her and her husband from Spain. Then the king's circle started to spread false rumours saying that Beatrice had been expelled because of her bad behaviour, which was not true. All this situation was very painful for Ena, who could do nothing to help her cousin.
Victoria Eugenie devoted herself to work for hospitals and services for the poor, as well as to education. She was also involved in the reorganization of the Spanish Red Cross. In 1929, the city of Barcelona erected a statue of her in a nurses uniform in honor of her Red Cross work (the statue has since been destroyed). Various Spanish landmarks have been named after Victoria Eugenie. For instance, in 1909, Madrid's stately neoclassical bridge crossing the Manzanares River was named after her as the "Puente de la Reina Victoria". In 1912, the monumental opera house and theater "Teatro Victoria Eugenie" in San Sebastián, Spain was named after her. In 1920, she launched the Spanish Navy Cruiser Reina Victoria Eugenie which was named after her.
She was the 976th Dame of the Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa. In 1923, Pope Pius XI conferred upon her the Golden Rose which was the first time this honor had been awarded on a British-born princess since 1555 when Pope Julius III conferred one upon Queen Mary I of England. She was also granted the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert by her grandmother, Queen Victoria. The Queen was also awarded the Spanish Red Cross Merit Order (First Class) and the jeweled breast star was paid for by a subscription undertaken by the Corp of Lady Nurses of the Spanish Red Cross.

Assassination attempt of 1906

Queen Victoria Eugenie with her six children, 1918.

The Spanish royal family went into exile on 14 April 1931 after municipal elections brought Republicans to power in most of the major cities, leading to the proclamation of the second Spanish Republic. Alfonso XIII had hoped that his voluntary exile might avert a civil war between the Republicans and the Nationalists. The royal family went to live in France and later Italy. Ena and Alfonso later separated, and she lived partly in the UK and, after being invited to leave this country by its government, in Switzerland. She purchased a chateau, the Vieille Fontaine, outside of Lausanne.
In 1938, the whole family gathered in Rome for the baptism of Don Juan's eldest son, Juan Carlos of Spain. On 15 January 1941, Alfonso XIII, feeling his death was near, transferred his rights to the Spanish crown to his son Don Juan de Borbon, Count of Barcelona. On 12 February, Alfonso suffered a first heart attack. Alfonso died on 28 February 1941.
Ena returned briefly to Spain in February 1968, to stand as godmother at the baptism of her great-grandson, Infante Don Felipe, the son of Infante Don Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón Dos-Sicilias (later King Juan Carlos I of Spain) and Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark (later Queen Sofia).

Ena died in Lausanne on 15 April 1969, aged 81, exactly 38 years after she had left Spain for exile. She was interred in the church of Sacré Coeur in Lausanne. On 25 April 1985, her remains were returned to Spain and reinterred in the Royal Vault in the Escorial, outside Madrid, next to the remains of her husband, Alfonso XIII, and her sons, Infante Don Alfonso, Infante Don Jaime, and Infante Don Gonzalo.
Ena's grandson Juan Carlos is the present King of Spain. She was also the godmother of Albert II, Prince of Monaco, the reigning Sovereign Prince of Monaco, the godmother of Queen Fabiola of Belgium, and the godmother of Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, the Duchess of Alba (the Duchess with the most noble titles in the world).

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