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Alfonso XIII

King of Spain who all but deposed himself

King Alfonso XIII

Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Habsburgo-Lorena (Alphonse Leon Ferdinand Mary James Isidore Pascal Anthony of Bourbon and Habsburg-Lorraine) was born in Madrid on May 17, 1886. The son of King Alfonso XII, who had died in November of the previous year, he was proclaimed King of Spain at birth. His mother, Maria Cristina of Austria, served as regent until his 16th birthday. The Regency years were marked by the loss of Spain's colonial territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898.


Unlike his father and mother, King Alfonso XIII found it difficult to stay out of the Spanish political process. This led to 33 governments being formed in Spain between 1902 and 1923, and the parliamentary system being steadily discredited.

Because of his family connections with both sides and a division of popular opinion, the king kept Spain neutral during World War I. He still contributed to the overall war effort, however, by establishing a a humanitarian office for prisoners and civilian relief at the Royal Palace in Madrid. In coordination with the Red Cross, the office provided relief to more than 200,000 prisoners-of-war and helped evacuate nearly 70,000 civilians from unsafe zones.

In postwar period, King Alfonso began to move toward a system of more personal rule, even seeking a means to rid himself of the legislature. Taking his role of head of the military very seriously, he intervened directly in the Moroccan War of 1921 with such disastrous effect that a subsequent commission of inquiry placed the blame squarely on him for the defeat at Annual. A week before the report was to be published, however, the government was overthrown by a coup d'etat led by General Miguel Primo de Rivera, on September 13, 1923.

General Primo de Rivera ruled as a dictator, with King Alfonso's support, until January 1930, when popular discontent forced him to resign. A temporary government under General Dámaso Berenguer was called on to save the king, and Alfonso tried various methods to bring about a return to a constitutional regime without the risk of elections. He was unsuccessful, however, and municipal elections were held in April of 1931. Those elections resulted in a landslide for the Republican and Socialist parties, both of which demanded the king's abdication. Although he refused to abdicate, King Alfonso XIII fled the country upon declaration of the Second Spanish Republic on April 14, 1931.

Post Reign

The self-exiled king took up residence at Le Meurice in Paris and Brown’s hotel in London before establishing a permanent residence in Rome, while Queen Victoria Eugenia eventually settled in Lucerne.

In 1933, the king's two eldest sons, Alfonso and Jaime, renounced their claims to the throne, and in 1934 his youngest son Gonzalo died. This left his third son, Juan, as heir apparent. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, the exiled king made it clear that he favored the Nationalists over the Republic. Although the Nationalists emerged victorious in 1936, their leader, General Francisco Franco declared that King Alfonso XIII would not be reinstated. On January 15, 1941, Alfonso XIII abdicated his rights to the Spanish throne in favor of Juan.

Alfonso XIII died in Rome on February 28, 1941. His funeral was held in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, the Spanish national church in Rome, and was interred immediately below the tombs of Pope Callixtus III and Pope Alexander VI. In January 1980, five years after grandson King Juan Carlos I restored the Spanish monarchy, his body was repatriated and buried at El Escorial, a historical residence of the King of Spain in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.

Marriage and Children

In 1905, seeking a diplomatic alliance with England, the king embarked on a state visit to the court of Queen Victoria. While there he met The Queen’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, at a Buckingham Palace ball, and immediately resolved to make her his queen. Despite initial objections from the king's mother, who was concerned about the possibility of Princess Victoria carrying the gene responsible for haemophilia, Alfonso and Victoria were married in Madrid on May 31, 1906. The wedding was marred by a Catalan anarchist, Mateu Morral, who threw a bomb at the royal carriage killing several bystanders.

The first child of the union, Alfonso, Prince of the Asturias, was born in 1907. When the infant was circumcised, he did not cease to bleed for hours, confirming that the heir was a haemophiliac. Prince Alfonso renounced his rights to the throne in 1933 in order to marry a commoner and became Count of Covadonga. He died in 1938.

Although Jaime, born in 1908, did not inherit haemophilia, a botched childhood operation left him deaf and mute. He also renounced his rights to the throne in 1933, at which time he became Duke of Segovia, and later Duke of Madrid. As a legitimist pretender to the French throne from 1941 to 1975, he was known as the Duke of Anjou. He died in 1975.

Born in 1913, Juan Carlos became heir-apparent to the throne in 1933. He assumed the title Count of Barcelona upon his father's death, but the suspension of the monarchy by General Francisco Franco prevented him from assuming the throne. Although the monarchy was reinstated in 1969, it was his son who took the throne, as King Juan Carlos I. The Count of Barcelona died in 1993.

The king and queen's fourth son, Gonzalo, was born in 1914. The haeomophilia curse returned with Gonzalo, and he died due to bleeding from injuries suffered in a car crash in 1934.

The king and queen also had one stillborn son, Fernando (1910), and two daughters. Beatriz (1909-2002) married Alessandro Torlonia, 5th Prince of Civitella-Cesi in 1935, and María Cristina (1911-1996) married Enrico Eugenio Marone-Cinzano, 1st Conte Marone-Cinzano, in 1940.

Blaming his wife for tainting the Spanish royal bloodline, the king and queen became estranged in 1914, after which the king embarked on a series of affairs. Those affairs led to five illegitimate children -- Charles Maxime Victor of Saint Glen (by Pauline of Saint Glen), Juana Alfonsa Milán y Quiñones de León (by Béatrice Noon), Ana María Teresa Ruiz y Moragas and Leandro Alfonso Luis Ruiz y Moragas (both by Spanish actress María del Carmen Ruiz y Moragas), and Alonso of Borbon Sousa (by Marie Sousa).

Encyclopædia Britannica
International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Puerto Rico
Spanish-American War
World War I
Spanish Civil War
King Juan Carlos I
Queen Victoria

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Spain >> 1886-Present

This page was last updated on October 16, 2017.