Category Archives: Spanish Royals

Breaking News: Infanta Cristina of Spain Acquitted, Her Husband Found Guilty

Infanta Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI of Spain, and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, outside a court in Mallorca, Spain in June 2016. Photograph: Cati Cladera/EPA

On February 17, 2017, Infanta Cristina of Spain was acquitted of tax fraud and money laundering and her husband Iñaki Urdangarín was found guilty of embezzling about 6 million euros in public funds for sporting events through his nonprofit foundation and of political corruption by using his former title of Duke of Palma de Mallorca as the husband of the Infanta Cristina. Urdangarín was sentenced to six years and three months in prison.

Infanta Cristina is the second daughter and the second of the three children of former King Juan Carlos of Spain and his wife Queen Sofia.  King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son King Felipe VI of Spain.  In 1997, Infanta Cristina married Iñaki Urdangarín, a professional team handball player, a member of the Spanish Olympic Handball Team in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics, winning bronze in 1996 and 2000, and serving as team captain in 2000.  The couple has three sons and one daughter.

In early 2011, allegations were made against Urdangarín regarding misappropriation of public funds through his Nóos Institute. He took a leave of absence from his position with Telefónica in Washington, DC, and the family returned to Spain in 2012. After it was discovered that large sums of money were transferred to several foreign accounts, it was announced that he would no longer take part in any official functions of the Spanish royal family. In early 2012, he began testifying before the courts in response to the allegations. He, along with several others, were investigated and were charged with embezzlement, fraud, breach of trust, forgery, and money laundering.  Infanta Cristina was also charged with tax fraud and money laundering in mid-2014. The trial began in January 2016.

In June 2015, King Felipe VI of Spain formally stripped his sister, Infanta Cristina, of her title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. Neither the Infanta, nor her husband are permitted to use the title any further.

Maria Theresia of Austria, Queen of France

Painted by François de Troy, source: Wikipedia

Maria Theresia of Austria, Queen of France

Maria Theresia was the first wife of King Louis XIV of France. She was born on September 10, 1638 at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial in Madrid, to King Felipe IV of Spain and Elisabeth of France. As the Spanish monarchs at the time were part of the House of Habsburg, she was styled as Archduchess of Austria, as well as Infanta of Spain and Portugal. The youngest of eight children, Maria Theresia was the only one of her siblings to reach adulthood. One brother, Balthasar Charles, Prince of Asturias, died at age 16, while the others died in infancy or childhood. She also had five younger half-siblings from her father’s second marriage to Mariana of Austria:

As Spain allowed for females to ascend the throne, Maria Theresia was heiress-presumptive to the Spanish throne from 1646 until 1657, between the death of her elder brother Balthasar Charles in 1646 and the birth of her younger half-brother Felipe Próspero in 1657. And for five days in 1661, she was again heiress-presumptive following Felipe Próspero’s death and the birth of King Carlos II.

Maria Theresia of Austria, painted c1684 by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo. source: Wikipedia

Maria Theresia was brought up in a very strict Catholic household. Her mother died when she was six, and two years later, her only surviving sibling – Balthasar Charles – also died. The following year, her father married Mariana of Austria – who had been her brother’s fiancée, as well as first cousin. Mariana was just four years older than Maria Theresia, and the two were very close.

As part of the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, which ended the Franco-Spanish War, Maria Theresia was betrothed to King Louis XIV of France, son of King Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria. (Maria Theresia and Louis were first cousins twice over – his father and her mother were siblings, and his mother and her father were siblings.) She was forced to renounce any rights to the Spanish throne and was to receive a large financial settlement in exchange. This money was never paid, and become one of the factors that led to the War of Devolution in 1668.

Marriage of Louis XIV of France and Maria Theresia of Austria. source: Wikipedia

The couple were married on June 9, 1660, at the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France. Taking the French version of her name – Marie-Thérèse – the new Queen and her husband made their Joyous Entry into Paris on August 26, 1660. They had six children, only one of whom lived to adulthood:

Queen Marie-Thérèse with her mother-in-law (and aunt) Queen Anne, painted by Simon Renard de Saint André. source: Wikipedia

As Queen, Marie-Thérèse was groomed by her mother-in-law, and aunt, Queen Anne. However, she had little interest in taking on the role, preferring to spend time with her court of Spanish ladies, playing cards and gambling. She remained very devout, often inviting members of the King’s court to come and pray with her. Intensely private, she was humiliated by her husband’s numerous, and very public, affairs and his countless illegitimate children. She did, however, take great interest in caring for the sick and disadvantaged in France. She often visited the hospitals, and helped to provide dowries for girls from the poorer noble families. She also served as Regent several times when the King was away.

By 1680, King Louis XIV had taken Madame de Maintenon as his mistress, and this brought about a change in the King’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse. He became more attentive and caring of his wife, much to her delight. She was also treated with great respect and reverence by Madame de Maintenon – something she had not seen with any of his prior mistresses, and returned that respect. Sadly, those happier times would be relatively short-lived.

At the end of July 1683, Queen Marie-Thérèse fell ill, the result of an abscess in her left arm which was not treated correctly. Septicemia quickly set in, and the Queen died at the Palace of Versailles on July 30, 1683. She is buried at the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris.

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

Maria Christina of Austria, Queen of Spain

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The second wife of King Alfonso XII of Spain, Her Imperial and Royal Highness Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, Princess of Hungary and Bohemia, was born on July 21, 1858 at Židlochovice Castle near Brno, Moravia (now in the Czech Republic). She was given the names Maria Christina Henriette Desideria Felicitas Raineria, but was called Christa in her family. Maria Christina was the third of the six children of first cousins Archduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria-Teschen and Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria.

Maria Christina had one half-sister from her mother’s first marriage to Archduke Ferdinand Karl Viktor of Austria-Este:

Maria Christina had five siblings, but two died in infancy:

Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska and her children – standing: Friedrich, his wife Isabella; sitting left to right – Maria Theresia, Maria Christina, and Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Maria Christina grew up in Vienna at the court of her second cousin Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria. She was well educated and excelled in languages, literature, and history. In 1868, Queen Isabella II of Spain was deposed and her family went into exile in Paris, France. Isabella’s eldest son Alfonso later attended the Theresianum, an elite secondary school in Vienna. It was during his time in Vienna that Alfonso first met Maria Christina. The Spanish monarchy was restored in 1874 and Alfonso became King Alfonso XII at the age of 17. He married his first cousin Princess Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans, but tragically she died five months later from typhoid fever. A year later, Alfonso agreed to marry Mercedes’ sister Maria Cristina, but she developed tuberculosis and died during their engagement.

Alfonso’s choice of a bride then fell upon Maria Christina, and the couple married on November 29, 1879 at the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha Madrid. Maria Christina and Alfonso had three children:

King Alfonso XII and his second wife Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Alfonso was not faithful to Maria Christina and in the beginning of their marriage, she endured these infidelities. Alfonso had an affair with Italian opera singer Adela Borghi, but the affair with Spanish opera singer Elena Sanz, with whom Alfonso had two children, Alfonso Sanz (1880 – 1970) and Fernand Sanz  (1881-1925), was the final straw. Maria Christina was finally able to prevail and Elena Sanz was sent into exile in Paris. Competing for the French Olympic Team, Fernand Sanz won a silver medal in cycling at the 1900 Olympics in Paris.

On November 25, 1885, three days before his 28th birthday, King Alfonso XII died from tuberculosis at the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, leaving two daughters and Maria Christina pregnant with their third child. It was decided that Maria Christina would rule as regent until the child was born. If the child were a male, he would become king and if the child were a female, Alfonso and Maria Christina’s elder daughter María Mercedes would become queen. On May 17, 1886, a son was born who immediately became King Alfonso XIII.

“The Death of Alfonso XII” or “The Last Kiss” by Juan Antonio Benlliure, 1887; Credit – Wikipedia

Maria Christina continued as regent until Alfonso XIII reached the age of 16 and took control of the monarchy in 1902. After 1902, she was styled Su Majestad la Reina Madre, Her Majesty The Queen Mother. Despite her political responsibilities, Maria Christina was an exemplary mother and spent much time dealing with her children’s education. She developed interests in many aspects of Spanish culture and even grew to tolerate bullfighting.

Maria Christina with her three children in 1897; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1905, on a state visit to the United Kingdom, King Alfonso XIII met Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (known as Ena), the only daughter of Queen Victoria’s youngest child Princess Beatrice, and the two developed a strong interest in each other. However, there were several issues that would need to be resolved before they could consider marriage. The first issue was religion. Alfonso was Catholic while Ena was Protestant. The second issue was the potential of Ena bringing hemophilia into the Spanish royal family. As Ena’s brother suffered from the disease, there was a very good chance that Ena herself was a carrier. The third obstacle was Alfonso’s mother, Maria Christina. She did not feel the Battenbergs were royal enough (due to the morganatic marriage which started that family), and wanted her son to marry a member of the Habsburg dynasty of Austria. Eventually all three obstacles were overcome and the couple married on May 31, 1906, at the Royal Monastery of San Jerónimo in Madrid, in a wedding attended by many royals from around the world. Alfonso and Ena had seven children and their oldest and youngest had hemophilia. See Unofficial Royalty: Hemophilia.

Maria Christina and her grandchildren around 1911; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

On February 5, 1929, Maria Christina attended the theater with Queen Ena and her daughters. The family dined as usual at the Royal Palace of Madrid, at nine in the evening. Following the meal, the family moved to the living room, where each night they viewed a film. Then they retired to their rooms for the night just after midnight. Shortly after going to bed, Maria Christina felt a sharp pain in the chest and could barely breathe. Her maid, seeing her pain, asked if she wanted to call her son the king, but Maria Christina said no. Soon, Maria Christina had another very strong pain, a fatal heart attack.

Maria Christina in the 1920s; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Maria Christina was buried in the Pantheon of Kings in the Royal Crypt of the Monastery of El Escorial.  Two years later, in 1931, in the face of overwhelming popular rejection, King Alfonso XIII fled the country as the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, followed by Francoist Spain after the Spanish Civil War. The monarchy was restored in 1975 when Maria Christina’s great grandson Juan Carlos became king.

Maria Christina tomb

Tomb of Maria Christina; Photo Credit – www.findagrave.com

Wikipedia: Maria Christina of Austria

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

 

Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans, Queen of Spain

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The first wife of King Alfonso XII of Spain, Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans, was born at the Royal Palace of Madrid on June 24, 1860. She is one of only three queens consort of Spain born in Spain. The other two are Archduchess Anna of Austria (born in Badajoz, Spain), fourth wife of King Philip II and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano (born in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain), wife of King Felipe VI. Known as Mercedes, the princess was the seventh of the ten children of Antoine of Orléans, Duke of Montpensier (son of King Louis Philippe of France) and Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain (daughter of king Ferdinand VII of Spain). Mercedes was both a French princess and a Spanish Infanta. Her maternal aunt Queen Isabella II of Spain and Isabella’s husband Francis, Duke of Cadiz and King Consort of Spain were her godparents. At her baptism, Mercedes was given a very long name: María de las Mercedes Isabel Francisca de Asís Antonia Luisa Fernanda Felipa Amalia Cristina Francisca de Paula Ramona Rita Cayetana Manuela Juana Josefa Joaquina Ana Rafaela Filomena Teresa Santísima Trinidad Gaspara Melchora Baltasara et omni sancti.

Mercedes had nine siblings:

  • Maria Isabel (1848–1919), married her first cousin Philippe, Comte de Paris, had issue
  • Maria Amelia (1851–70), unmarried
  • Maria Cristina (1852–79), unmarried
  • Maria de la Regla (1856–61), died young
  • Fernando (1859–73), died young
  • Felipe Raimundo Maria (1862–64), died young
  • Antonio, Duke of Galliera (1866–1930), married his first cousin Infanta Eulalia of Spain, had issue
  • Luís (1888–1945), married Marie Charlotte Say, no issue
  • Luis Maria Felipe Antonio (1867–74), died young

Infanta Luisa Fernanda and Antoine, Duke of Montpensier with four of their children; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Mercedes spent the first eight years of her childhood in Spain, but her family was forced into exile in 1868 when her maternal aunt Queen Isabella II was deposed. When the Spanish monarchy was restored in 1874 and Queen Isabella’s son Alfonso became king, Mercedes and her family returned to Spain and lived in the Palace of San Telmo in Seville, Spain.

Mercedes in 1874; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1872, Mercedes and her first cousin Alfonso, son of Queen Isabella II, started a romance. Queen Isabella opposed the match because of confrontations with Mercedes’ father. The Spanish government preferred that the young King Alfonso XII marry some other European princess. One of the marriage candidates was Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom , youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. Nevertheless, Alfonso and Mercedes married on January 23, 1878 at the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha in Madrid, Spain. At age 17, Mercedes was the youngest Queen Consort of Spain.

Alfonso and Mercedes; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Mercedes in her wedding dress; Credit – Wikipedia

In June of 1878, it was announced that Mercedes was pregnant and the country rejoiced. However, the joy was short-lived as Mercedes suffered a miscarriage. Shortly after the miscarriage, Mercedes became suddenly ill. Within hours, she was at death’s door with typhoid fever. Mercedes died two days after her 18th birthday, on June 26, 1878 at the her birthplace, the Royal Palace of Madrid. She was buried in the Pantheon of Infantes at the Monastery of El Escorial as she could not be buried in the Pantheon of Kings because she was not a mother of a king. On November 8, 2000, Mercedes’ remains were re-interred at the Catherdal of Santa María la Real de La Almudena in Madrid. Despite her short time as Queen Consort, Mercedes had been a driving force for the construction of the cathedral. In 2004, King Felipe VI and Letizia Ortiz Roscalano were married at the Almundena Cathedral.

Mercedes of Spain tomb

Tomb of Queen Mercedes in Almundena Cathedral; Photo Credit – www.findagrave.com

Inscription on the tomb; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

King Alfonso XII of Spain

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Alfonso Francisco de Asís Fernando Pío Juan María de la Concepción Gregorio Pelayo was born as Prince of Asturias, the heir to the Spanish throne, at the Royal Palace in Madrid on November 28, 1857. He was the son of Queen Isabella II of Spain, and officially, Francis, Duke of Cadiz and King Consort. Rumors circulated that Isabella’s children were not fathered by Francis due to his suspected homosexuality and that Alfonso’s biological father was Enrique Puigmoltó y Mayans, a captain of the guard.

Alfonso had eight siblings, but only four survived childhood:

Alfonso was first educated by tutors. He then attended the Collège Stanislas de Paris, the Theresianum in Vienna, Austria and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England.

Alfonso in 1870; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Queen Isabella II’s authoritarianism, her religious fanaticism, her alliance with the military and the chaos of her reign — sixty different governments — helped bring about the Revolution of 1868 that exiled her to Paris, France. The new government replaced Isabella with Amadeo I, second son of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.  During Amadeo’s reign, there was many republican uprisings and so he abdicated in 1873 and returned to Italy. The First Spanish Republic was declared, but it lasted a little less than two years.  Isabella had officially abdicated in 1870 and after the First Spanish Republic collapsed, 17 year old Alfonso became king on December 29, 1874.

During Alfonso XII’s reign, the monarchy was consolidated and government institutions were stabilized, repairing the damage that the recent internal struggles had left. For this Alfonso earned the nickname “The Peacemaker.” The new Constitution of 1876 was adopted and in the same year ended the Third Carlist War ended.

On January 23, 1878 at the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha in Madrid, Alfonso married his first cousin, Princess Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans , daughter of Antoine, Duke of Montpensier and his maternal aunt Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain.  Less than five months later, Mercedes developed typhoid fever and died two days after her 18th birthday, on June 26, 1878. A year later, Alfonso agreed to marry Mercedes’ sister Maria Cristina, but she developed tuberculosis and died during their engagement.

Wedding of King Alfonso XII and his first wife Princess Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans; Credit – Wikipedia

Alfonso married for a second time on November 29, 1879 at the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha in Madrid. His bride was Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, daughter of Archduke Karl Ferdinand of Austria and Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria and a second cousin of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria.

The couple had three children:

King Alfonso XII and his second wife Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Alfonso was not faithful to Maria Christina and in the beginning of their marriage, she endured these infidelities. Alfonso had an affair with Italian opera singer Adela Borghi, but the affair with Spanish opera singer Elena Sanz, with whom Alfonso had two children, Alfonso Sanz (1880 – 1970) and Fernand Sanz (1881 – 1925), was the final straw. Maria Christina was finally able to prevail and Elena Sanz had to go into exile in Paris. Competing for the French Olympic Team, Fernand Sanz won a silver medal in cycling at the 1900 Olympics in Paris.

On November 25, 1885, three days before his 28th birthday, King Alfonso XII died from tuberculosis at the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, leaving two daughters and his queen pregnant with her third child. It was decided that Alfonso’s widow Maria Christina would rule as regent until the child was born. If the child were a male, he would become king and if the child were a female, Alfonso and Maria Christina’s elder daughter María Mercedes would become queen. On May 17, 1886, a son was born who immediately became King Alfonso XIII.

“The Death of Alfonso XII” or “The Last Kiss” by Juan Antonio Benlliure, 1887; Credit – Wikipedia

King Alfonso XII was interred in the Pantheon of Kings in the Royal Crypt of the Monastery of El Escorial.

Tomb of King Alfonso XII (top); Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In 1902, Alfonso’s widow Maria Christina held a national contest for a design to build a monument in memory of King Alfonso XII. Catalan architect José Grases Riera won the contest and his design was built in an artificial lake in Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro in 1922.

Monument to King Alfonso XII; Photo Credit – Carlos Delgado, Wikipedia

Wikipedia: King Alfonso XII of Spain

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies, Queen of Spain

by Susan Flantzer

Credit – Wikipedia

The fourth wife of King Ferdinand VII of Spain and the wife who finally gave him an heir, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies (Italian: Maria Cristina Ferdinanda) was born in Palermo, Sicily on April 27, 1806. She was the second of the twelve children of King Francis I of the Two Sicilies and his second wife Infanta María Isabella of Spain, sister of King Ferdinand VII of Spain.

Maria Christina had two half siblings from her father’s first marriage to Maria Clementina of Austria:

Maria Christina had five sisters and six brothers:

Family of Francis I of the Two Sicilies, 1819; Credit – Wikipedia

Irish novelist and journalist Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington, who met Maria Christina on her Grand Tour of Europe, described her as having flawless facial features, beautiful teeth, expressive eyes, and a charming smile. Maria Christina was lively and cheerful, showed an early fondness for hunting, and a talent for painting. In 1829, the thrice widowed King Ferdinand VII of Spain was asked by the government to marry again to provide an heir to the throne. Luisa Carlotta of the Two Sicilies, Maria Christina’s elder sister, was married to her maternal uncle and Ferdinand’s brother Infante Francisco de Paula of Spain, and she suggested Maria Christina as a marriage candidate. It did not take long for the 45 year old Spanish king, who was Maria Christina’s maternal uncle, to decide that Luisa Carlota’s 23 year old sister was an ideal choice. The court of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies agreed and Maria Christina traveled to Madrid. On December 11, 1829, the wedding took place and the celebrations continued until the new year.

Ferdinand and Maria Christina, 1831; Credit – Wikipedia

Ferdinand was delighted with his young wife, who soon had a great influence on him. Until his marriage to Maria Christina, he had fathered no surviving child. While the moderate and liberal parties now pinned their hopes on an heir from the new queen, the absolutists (Carlists) favored Ferdinand’s younger brother, Infante Carlos, Count of Molina as the heir apparent.  Maria Francisca of Portugal, first wife of Infante Carlos, and her sister, Maria Teresa, Princess of Beira, second wife of Infante Carlos, competed with Maria Christina and her sister Luisa Carlota for influence at the Spanish court. Soon after her marriage, Maria Christina became pregnant. On March 29, 1830, Ferdinand VII issued the Pragmatic Sanction, allowing daughters to succeed to the Spanish throne as well as sons. This meant that Infante Carlos would be displaced in the line of succession by Ferdinand’s children of both genders. Infante Carlos and the Carlists fiercely resisted this decision.

Ferdinand and Maria Christina had two daughters:

María Isabel Luisa, Ferdinand’s elder daughter was Princess of Asturias, the title of the heir to the Spanish throne, from birth. In Spain, even if there is no heir apparent, the title can be (but is not necessarily) given to the heir presumptive – a daughter, sibling or matrilineal descendant of the monarch. King Ferdinand VII died on September 29, 1833, and his daughter, not quite three years old, succeeded to the throne as Queen Isabella II with Maria Christina acting as Regent. This precipitated a series of wars known as the Carlist Wars in which Ferdinand’s brother Carlos, and later his descendants, fought over the succession. Ultimately, the army’s loyalty to Isabella II proved the decisive issue in the war.

Two months after Ferdinand died, on December 28, 1833, Maria Christina secretly married an ex-sergeant of the royal guard, Agustín Fernández Muñoz (1808-1873). The couple had eight children.

Maria Christina painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, circa 1841; Credit – Wikipedia

Eventually the news of the marriage became public and it made Maria Christina very unpopular. In addition, doubts about her support of the Liberal ministers and their policies added to her unpopularity. Finally the army, which had been the stalwart supporter of Queen Isabella II, and the Liberal leaders of the legislature, the Cortes Generales, demanded an end to Maria Christina’s regency. On October 12, 1840, she resigned as regent and then left Spain with her husband. General Baldomero Espartero became regent.

Maria Christina and Agustín spent a brief time in Rome where Pope Gregory XVI gave them a dispensation for their morganatic marriage. Next, Maria Christina visited her parents in Naples and then settled in Paris, where King Louis Philippe received her with military honors and gave her apartments in the Palais-Royal.  In 1842, Maria Christina purchased the Château de Malmaison, formerly the home of Empress Josephine after Napoleon I divorced her.

In 1843, after General Baldomero Espartero was overthrown as regent, Maria Christina and Agustín returned to Spain. In 1844, Queen Isabella II bestowed the title Duke of Riánsares upon Agustín and gave official consent to Agustín’s marriage to her mother. In 1854, when there was a change in political leadership, Maria Christina was again exiled. She returned to France with her husband where they spent the rest of their lives. In 1868, Isabella II was deposed during the Glorious Revolution and lived the rest of her life in exile in France.

Maria Christina in later life; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Agustín died in 1873, at the home he shared with his wife, Villa Mon Désir in Sainte-Adresse, near Le Havre, France. Maria Christina survived him by five years, dying at the age of 72 on July 22, 1878 in their home near Le Havre, France. As the widow of Ferdinand VII and mother of Isabella II, Maria Cristina was buried in the Pantheon of Kings in Royal Crypt of El Escorial Monastery.

Maria Christina of Spain_tomb

Tomb of Maria Christina; Photo Credit – www.findagrave.com

Wikipedia: Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

Maria Isabel of Portugal, Queen of Spain

by Susan Flantzer

Credit – Wikipedia

The second of the four wives of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, Infanta Maria Isabel of Portugal (Maria Isabel Francisca) was born on May 19, 1797 at the Palace of Queluz in Portugal. She was the third of the nine children of King João VI of Portugal and Infanta Carlota Joaquina of Spain, the elder sister of King Ferdinand VII.

Maria Isabel had three brothers and five sisters:

On September 29, 1816, Maria Isabel married her maternal uncle King Ferdinand VII of Spain, who was 13 years older than her. Ferdinand’s first wife had died childless ten years earlier. The marriage was made with the aim of strengthening relations between Spain and Portugal, and of course, with the goal of providing heirs to the throne. Maria Isabel was noted for her culture and love of art. Because of this, she took the initiative to gather works of art from the collection of the Spanish monarchs and create a museum. The Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, opened on November 19, 1819, and today it is the main Spanish national art museum.

Maria Isabel pointing to the Prado; Credit – Wikipedia

Maria Isabel had a daughter, María Luisa Isabel, who was born on August 21, 1817, but sadly, she died on January 9, 1818. However, Maria Isabel soon became pregnant again, but the pregnancy was difficult. On November 29, 1818, Maria Isabel went into labor and there were terrible complications. The child, a daughter also named María Luisa Isabel, was in breech position and died in utero. Maria Isabel had lost consciousness and appeared to have stopped breathing, so the doctors believed she had died. When they began to cut her open to remove the dead child, she let out a cry of pain, fainted, and bled to death. Maria Isabel was only 21 years old and was buried in the Pantheon of Princes in the Monastery of El Escorial, and not in the Pantheon of the Kings, which is traditionally reserved for monarchs and spouses of monarchs who had been parents of monarchs.

Maria Isabel of Spain_tomb

Tomb of Maria Isabel (Isabel = Elisabeth) ; Photo Credit – www.findagrave.com

Wikipedia: Maria Isabel of Portugal

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily, Princess of Asturias

by Susan Flantzer

Credit – Wikipedia

The first of the four wives of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, Princess Maria Antonietta of Naples and Sicily (Maria Antonietta Teresa Amelia Giovanna Battista Francesca Gaetana Maria Anna Lucia), known as Maria Antonia, was named after her mother’s favorite sister Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (born Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria).  Princess Maria Antonia was the eleventh of the seventeen children of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies (before 1816, Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples and Ferdinand III of the Kingdom of Sicily) and Archduchess Maria Carolina of Austria, daughter of Franz I, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria Theresa of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia.  She was born on December 14, 1784 at Caserta Palace in Caserta, Italy

Maria Antonia had sixteen siblings, sadly, eight of them died in childhood from smallpox:

Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, and his Family (1783); Credit – Wikipedia

Maria Antonia married her first cousin Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias, heir to the Spanish throne, on October 10, 1802 in Barcelona, ​​Spain. At the same time, Maria Antonia’s eldest brother Francis of Naples and Sicily (later King of the Two Sicilies) married Ferdinand’s sister Maria Isabella of Spain.

Maria Antonia’s two pregnancies in 1804 and 1805 ended in miscarriages. Guided by her mother from Naples, Maria Antonia encouraged her husband to confront his mother Queen Maria Luisa, with whom she had a bad relationship, and the Queen’s possible lover Manuel Godoy, the Prime Minister of Spain. At the same time, Maria Antonia sought support for the cause of Ferdinand in the Spanish court.

Maria Antonia, aged 21, died on May 21, 1806 at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez from tuberculosis. Rumors at the time said Maria Antonia had been poisoned by Manuel Godoy and the Queen Maria Luisa, but there is no evidence that this is true. However, Maria Antonia’s mother, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples, was convinced that her daughter had been poisoned. Maria Antonia was buried in the Pantheon of Infantes in the Royal Crypt of the Monastery of El Escorial. The inscription on her tomb reads: ” Who God has loved, He has quickly freed from life.” Her husband succeeded to the Spanish throne as King Ferdinand VII and went on to have three additional marriages.

Maria Antonia of Spain_tomb

Tomb of Maria Antonia, Princess of Asturias; Photo Credit – www.findagrave.com

Wikipedia: Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily

King Ferdinand VII of Spain

by Susan Flantzer

Credit – Wikipedia

King Ferdinand VII of Spain (Fernando Maria Francisco de Paula Domingo Vicente Ferrer Antonio Jose Joaquin Pascual Diego Juan Nepomuceno Januario Francisco Javier Rafael Miguel Gabriel Calixto Cayetano Faust) was born on October 14, 1784 at El Escorial, a royal palace in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain about 28 miles from Madrid. His parents, King Carlos IV and Maria Luisa of Parma, had fourteen children and Ferdinand was the ninth child and eldest son of the six children who survived into adulthood.

Ferdinand’s siblings:

Family of King Carlos IV of Spain in 1802; Credit – Wikipedia

Ferdinand was educated by a priest, Father Felipe Riaza Scío, a teacher and translator, who became Bishop of Segovia in 1895. While growing up, Ferdinand was denied any participation in government affairs by his parents and his mother’s favorite and possible lover, Manuel Godoy, Prime Minister. Ferdinand was encouraged by his teacher to conspire against his parents and a group of supporters of Ferdinand called fernandistas arose. King Carlos IV’s popularity declined due to economic issues, rumors about a sexual relationship between the Queen and Godoy, and the King’s incompetence. After riots and a revolt, King Carlos IV was forced to abdicate in favor of his son on March 19, 1808. However, in April of 1808, both Ferdinand and his father were summoned to a meeting with Napoleon I, Emperor of the French who forced them both to abdicate, declared the Bourbon dynasty of Spain deposed, and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain.  Napoleon kept Ferdinand under guard in France for six years at the Château de Valençay in France until the Treaty of Valençay on December 11, 1813 provided for the restoration of Ferdinand as King of Spain.

Ferdinand married four times:

Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily; Credit – Wikipedia

1) Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily (1784 – 1806), Ferdinand’s cousin, married him in 1802. Maria Antonia had two miscarriages and died at age 21 of tuberculosis. There were rumors that Maria Antonia had been poisoned by Ferdinand’s mother and Manuel Godoy.

Maria Isabel of Portugal; Credit – Wikipedia

2) Maria Isabel of Portugal (1797–1818) was Ferdinand’s niece, the daughter of his older sister Carlota Joaquina and King João VI of Portugal. She married Ferdinand on September 29, 1816 and had one short-lived daughter and then died at age 21 after giving birth to a stillborn daughter.

  • Infanta María Luisa Isabel of Spain (1817 – 1818)
  • Infanta María Luisa Isabel of Spain (December 26, 1818), stillborn

Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony; Credit – Wikipedia

3) Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony (1803–1829) and Ferdinand married in 1819. There were rumors that Maria Josepha Amalia’s devout Roman Catholicism caused her to believe that sexual relations between spouses was wrong and that it took Pope Pius VII to convince her that such relations were permissible. The marriage remained childless and Maria Josepha Amalia died in 1829 at the age of 25.

Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies; Credit – Wikipedia

4) Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1806–1878) was another niece of Ferdinand, the daughter of his sister Maria Isabella of Spain and Francis I of the Two Sicilies. She had two daughters and survived her husband. Shortly after his death, Maria Christina secretly married an ex-sergeant from the royal guard, Agustín Fernando Muñoz and the couple had several children.

Maria Christina and Ferdinand’s two daughters:

Triumphal welcome of Ferdinand VII back to Spain in 1814; Credit – Wikipedia

When King Ferdinand VII was restored to the Spanish throne in 1813, the country had many problems and the citizens blamed the French, and at first, Ferdinand was welcomed. However, Spain was not the absolute monarchy it once was and Ferdinand was to reign under the liberal Constitution of 1812.  During the early days of Ferdinand’s restoration, he was encouraged by conservatives and leaders of the Spanish Catholic Church to reject the Constitution. On May 4, 1814, Ferdinand ordered the abolition of the Constitution of 1812 and then liberal leaders responsible for the Constitution arrested. Ferdinand ruled as an autocrat and was guided by a group of his favorites. During this period, the free press disappeared, universities were closed, and confiscated properties were returned to the Catholic Church. Most of the Spanish territories in the Americas declared independence and only the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico, along with the Philippines, the Marianas (including Guam) and the Carolinas in the Pacific, remained under the control of Spain.

In 1820, a revolt broke out in favor of the Constitution of 1812 and Ferdinand was taken prisoner. In 1823, France invaded Spain with the goal of restoring the throne of Spain to a descendant of King Henri IV of France, namely Ferdinand. After the Battle of Trocadero, Ferdinand was freed and once again took the reins of government. Rule by absolutism was restored and any opposition was suppressed.

Ferdinand VII and María Christina, 1823; Credit – Wikipedia

As Ferdinand had no sons, he persuaded the Spanish legislature to set aside the Salic Law, which allowed for only male succession. María Isabel Luisa, Ferdinand’s elder daughter by his fourth wife (and niece), was Princess of Asturias, the title of the heir to the Spanish throne, from birth. In Spain, even if there is no heir apparent, the title can be (but is not necessarily) given to the heir presumptive – a daughter, sibling or matrilineal descendant of the monarch. King Ferdinand VII died on September 29, 1833, and his daughter, not quite three years old, succeeded to throne as Queen Isabella II. This precipitated a series of wars known as the Carlist Wars in which Ferdinand’s brother Carlos, and later his descendants, fought over the succession. Even today, there are Carlist claimants to the Spanish throne. Isabella’s mother, and then Baldomero Espartero, Prince of Vergara served as regents during her minority.

Queen Isabella II of Spain as a child; Credit – Wikipedia

King Ferdinand VII was interred in the Pantheon of Kings in the Royal Crypt of the Monastery of El Escorial.

Ferdinand VII of Spain_tomb

Tomb of King Ferdinand VII; Photo Credit – www.findagrave.com

Wikipedia: King Ferdinand VII of Spain

Learn more about royalty, past and present here and share your thoughts on our forums.

The Royal Palace of Madrid

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia, photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

The Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid is the official home of the Spanish Monarchy. It is used for State and ceremonial functions, but has not been used as a royal residence since the reign of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie. With nearly 1.5 million square feet and over 3,400 rooms, The Royal Palace of Madrid is the largest palace in Europe.

When the Spanish monarchy was restored in 1975, the new King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia chose to remain at Zarzuela Palace, where they had lived since marrying in 1962. And upon Juan Carlos’ abdication in 2014, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia also chose to remain at their home, which is located just next to Zarzuela Palace. The Royal Palace of Madrid continues to be used for formal events such as State Dinners, and was the site of the wedding banquet for the current King Felipe and Queen Letizia in 2004. It is open to the public for the majority of the year.

The Alcazar of Madrid, from a 17th century painting. source: Wikipedia

The palace was built on the site of the former Alcazar of Madrid – a medieval fortress which had been transformed into a lavish palace by Kings Juan I, Carlos V and Felipe II who made it the official residence of the sovereign in 1561. The Alcazar was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve 1734, and King Felipe V decided to built a new Royal Palace. Construction began in 1738 and the building was completed in 1751, but it wouldn’t be occupied until 1764 when King Carlos III installed his court there. Despite this, the early monarchs spent only a few weeks there each year. Over time, it became the primary residence of the Sovereign, until the overthrow of the Spanish monarchy.

The palace is designed as a square, built around an inner courtyard. The principal state rooms are located on the southern and western wings.

The Southern wing, overlooks the Armory Square and is the main entrance to the palace. It contains the Grand Staircase, the Hall of Columns, and the Throne Room. These rooms were once part of the apartments of King Carlos III.

The Grand Staircase. source: Wikipedia

The abdication ceremony of King Juan Carlos in the Hall of Columns. source: Daily Mail/EPA

The abdication ceremony of King Juan Carlos in the Hall of Columns. source: Daily Mail/EPA

The Hall of Columns was initially part of the apartments of King Carlos III. It is one of the most used rooms in the palace, where the King often meets foreign ambassadors and the diplomatic corps as well as other official events. In 2014, it was the site of the abdication ceremony of King Juan Carlos I.

The Throne Room. source: Wikipedia

The Throne Room is today used primarily in conjunction with State Visits. It is here that the King and Queen are photographed with their guests prior to a State dinner. They also greet members of the government and other invited guests prior to the formal dinner in the Banqueting Hall.

The Western wing, overlooking the Campo del Moro Gardens, contains the Carlos III Room, the Porcelain Room, the Yellow Room, the Gala Dining Room, and the Music Room.

The Porcelain Room. source: Wikipedia, photo by Osvaldo Gago

The Porcelain Room features porcelain covering the walls and ceiling, as well as numerous porcelain objects on display. It was designed and built in the 1760s.

The Gala Dining Room. source: Wikipedia, photo by Jose Luis Filpo Cabana

The Gala Dining Room was once part of the apartments of the Queen, during the time of King Carlos III. It was King Alfonso XII who turned the room into the Gala Dining Room which is still used today for large formal events, such as State Dinners.

The Northern wing, overlooking the Sabatini Gardens, includes the Royal Chapel and several of the former royal apartments. On the ground floor of the Northwest corner of the palace is the Royal Library.

The Royal Chapel. source: Wikipedia, photo by Eric Chan

Once the main Chapel of the royal family, the Royal Chapel is today only used occasionally, most notably for funerals. The funerals of both the Count and Countess of Barcelona (parents of King Juan Carlos) were held here in 1993 and 2000 respectively.

The Royal Library. source: Wikipedia, photo by Fabio Alessandro Locati

The Royal Library, which spans two floors, was begun during the reign of King Felipe V, who joined his personal collection with that of the former Alcazar. Subsequent sovereigns added to the collection, and it was King Alfonso XII who began the task of counting and cataloging everything in the collection. Today, the library contains over 300,000 books, 4,700 manuscripts, 4,100 musical works, 7,000 maps, 200 engravings and drawings and 2,000 coins and medals.

The Eastern Wing overlooks the Plaza de Oriente and housed the private apartments of the sovereigns from the time of King Carlos IV. These rooms include the small Dining Room, the Billiards Room, the Room of Mirrors, and the Tapestry Room. Many of these rooms are used regularly for royal audiences.

The Billiards Room. source: Wikipedia, photo by Jose Luis Filpo Cabana

To the south are two wings which extend out, forming another courtyard known as Armory Square. The eastern wing contains the Royal Pharmacy and the apartments of Queen Maria Christina. Among these rooms is the Crown Room which was created in 2014.

The Royal Pharmacy. photo by Duimdog at nl.wikipedia

Since the reign of King Felipe II, the Spanish royal family have maintained a Royal Pharmacy, to provide them with any necessary medications. The Royal Pharmacy in the Royal Palace of Madrid – set up as a museum since 1964 – displays many of the old bottles and containers used to house various drugs and treatments, as well as the adjoining distillation rooms.

The Crown Room.  source: Patrimonio Nacional

The Crown Room. source: Patrimonio Nacional

Formerly one of the rooms in the apartments of Queen Maria Christina, the Crown Room was established following the accession of KIng Felipe VI in 2014 to display the symbols of constitutional monarchy – the original throne of King Carlos III as well as his crown and scepter; the collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece belonging to Queen Isabella II, and the Table of Sphinxes – the majestic Empire style desk acquired by King Carlos IV in 1803. It was on this desk that King Juan Carlos signed the Organic Act, confirming his abdication from the throne. Also on display are King Juan Carlos’ abdication speech, and a copy of the proclamation speech of King Felipe VI.

The Royal Armory. source: Wikipedia, photo by Jose Luis Filpo Cabana

The western wing houses the Royal Armory, which houses what is considered to be one of the best collections of armor in the world. Read more about the Royal Armory here.

Just to the south of the palace, across Armory Square, is the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Royal of La Almudena, which was the site of the 2004 wedding of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.

Learn more about the other Spanish Royal Residences here!