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Lafayette L00451
Neg. Date: none

copyright V&A



Alfonso XIII (1886-1941), King of Spain and grandfather of the present King Juan Carlos.

This portrait by Lafayette bears no date. However, judging by the formality of the King’s dress, it might be presumed that the portrait was made prior to an official engagement in England.

The posthumous son of King Alfonso XII, he was proclaimed king at his birth, and reigned till 1931, with the first sixteen years under the regency of his mother Queen Maria Christina of Austria.

On 31 May 1906 he wedded Princess Victoria Eugenie (“Ena”) of Battenberg (1887-1969), the youngest granddaughter of Queen Victoria and godchild of Empress Eugenie, who – herself a Spaniard – was a strong advocate of this marriage. This came in the face of Alfonso’s mother’s objections that the union was unequal and that Ena was a potential carrier of haemophilia. Their wedding was marred by an assassination attempt by a Catalan anarchist Mateu Morral, who threw a bomb concealed in a bouquet at the royal carriage.

In the space of eight years they had seven children, of whom the eldest and youngest sons were indeed born with haemophilia – a fact that had dire consequences on their relationship. Alfonso embarked on extra-marital affairs which produced three illegitimate children.

King Alfonso’s political life presents a list of misjudgements, errors and, often, ignorance. Spain lost its last colonies and was exhausted by a prolonged war in Morocco. Social unrest at home, slightly delayed by the military dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera with the King’s support, led to the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic in April 1931. The royal family had to leave the country, and the King died in exile in Rome on 28 February 1941.

Daisy first met King Alfonso in England, a country he frequently visited. He was always there for the Cowes Week in July, followed by the Polo Week at Eaton, the residence of Daisy’s sister Shelagh, Duchess of Westminster. He openly admired Shelagh’s beauty – an admiration which she later flung in her husband’s face as their marriage fell apart. Both sisters toured Spain in 1908, and lunched with the King and Queen at the Palace in Madrid. In October 1908 Alfonso and his wife Ena were planning to spend a few days in Pless, after their official visit to Vienna, but he was hurriedly recalled to Madrid – much to his “disappointment, as he was looking forward to the shooting”.

Although exiled from Spain, there is still much of his legacy present there – the use of the name Real (royal) attached to many football clubs dates from the King’s grant of the term, and the Copa Alfonso XIII, established in 1902 (later the Copa del Generalísimo and now renamed the Copa del Rey) is one of the oldest football competitions in Europe.