Alfonso XIII[b] (17 May 1886 – 28 February 1941), also known as El Africano or the African,[c] was King of Spain from 17 May 1886 to 14 April 1931, when the Second Republic was proclaimed. He was a monarch from birth as his father, Alfonso XII, had died the previous year. Alfonso's mother, Maria Christina of Austria, served as regent until he assumed full powers on his sixteenth birthday in 1902.
|King of Spain |
|Reign||17 May 1886 – 14 April 1931|
|Enthronement||17 May 1902|
Juan Carlos I (1975)[a]
|Prime ministers||Práxedes Mateo Sagasta
... among others
|Born||17 May 1886|
Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Kingdom of Spain
|Died||28 February 1941 (aged 54)|
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
|Father||Alfonso XII of Spain|
|Mother||Maria Christina of Austria|
During Alfonso's reign of the Kingdom of Spain, the country experienced four major problems that contributed to the end of the liberal monarchy: the lack of real political representation of broad social groups; the poor situation of the popular classes, especially peasants; problems arising from the Rif War; and Catalan nationalism. The political and social turbulence that began with the Spanish–American War prevented the turnaround parties from establishing a true liberal democracy, which led to the establishment of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera. With the political failure of the dictatorship, Alfonso impelled a return to the democratic normality with the intention of regenerating the regime. Nevertheless, it was abandoned by all political classes, as they felt betrayed by the King's support of the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera.
He left Spain voluntarily after the municipal elections of April 1931, which were taken as a plebiscite on abolishing the monarchy.
Alfonso was nicknamed "the Royal Knight of Charity" for his unprecedented work with the European War Office during World War I. For this endeavour, he was nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1917, and came close to receiving the award, but this was ultimately won by the Red Cross. To date, he is the only monarch that had been nominated to a Nobel Prize.
Birth and regencyEdit
Alfonso XIII was born at Royal Palace of Madrid in Madrid on 17 May 1886. He was the posthumous son of Alfonso XII of Spain, who had died in November 1885, and became King of Spain upon his birth. Just after he was born, he was carried naked to the Spanish prime minister Práxedes Mateo Sagasta on a silver tray.
Five days later he was carried in a solemn court procession with a Golden Fleece round his neck and was baptised with water specially brought from the River Jordan in Israel. The French newspaper Le Figaro described the young king in 1889 as "the happiest and best-loved of all the rulers of the earth". His mother, Maria Christina of Austria, served as his regent until his sixteenth birthday. During the regency, in 1898, Spain lost its colonial rule over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States as a result of the Spanish–American War.
Alfonso became seriously ill during the 1889–1890 pandemic. His health deteriorated around 10 January 1890 and doctors reported his condition as the flu attacked his nervous system leaving the young king in a state of indolence. He eventually recovered.
When Alfonso came of age in May 1902, the week of his majority was marked by festivities, bullfights, balls and receptions throughout Spain. He took his oath to the constitution before members of the Cortes on 17 May.
Alfonso received, to a large extent, a military education that imbued him with "a Spanish nationalism strengthened by his military vocation". Besides the clique of military tutors, Alfonso also received political teachings from a liberal—Vicente Santa María de Paredes—and moral precepts from an integrist, José Fernández de la Montaña.
Engagement and marriageEdit
By 1905, Alfonso was looking for a suitable consort. On a state visit to the United Kingdom, he stayed in London at Buckingham Palace with King Edward VII. There he met Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, the daughter of Edward's youngest sister Princess Beatrice, and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He found her attractive, and she returned his interest. There were obstacles to the marriage. Victoria was a Protestant, and would have to become a Catholic. Victoria's brother Leopold was a haemophiliac, so there was a 50 percent chance that Victoria was a carrier of the trait. Finally, Alfonso's mother Maria Christina wanted him to marry a member of her family, the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, or some other Catholic princess, as she considered the Battenbergs to be non-dynastic.
Victoria was willing to change her religion, and her being a haemophilia carrier was only a possibility. Maria Christina was eventually persuaded to drop her opposition. In January 1906 she wrote an official letter to Princess Beatrice proposing the match. Victoria met Maria Christina and Alfonso in Biarritz, France, later that month, and converted to Catholicism in San Sebastián in March.
In May, diplomats of both kingdoms officially executed the agreement of marriage. Alfonso and Victoria were married at the Royal Monastery of San Jerónimo in Madrid on 31 May 1906, with British royalty in attendance, including Victoria's cousins the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King George V and Queen Mary). The wedding was marked by an assassination attempt on Alfonso and Victoria by Catalan anarchist Mateu Morral. As the wedding procession returned to the palace, he threw a bomb from a window which killed 30 bystanders and members of the procession, while 100 others were wounded.
On 10 May 1907, the couple's first child, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, was born. Victoria was in fact a haemophilia carrier, and Alfonso inherited the condition.
Neither of the two daughters born to the King and Queen were haemophilia carriers, but another of their sons, Gonzalo (1914–1934), had the condition. Alfonso distanced himself from his wife for transmitting the condition to their sons. From 1914 on, he had several mistresses, and fathered five illegitimate children. A sixth illegitimate child had been born before his marriage.
World War IEdit
During World War I, because of his family connections with both sides and the division of popular opinion, Spain remained neutral. The King established an office for assistance to prisoners of war on all sides. This office used the Spanish diplomatic and military network abroad to intercede for thousands of POWs – transmitting and receiving letters for them, and other services. The office was located in the Royal Palace.
Alfonso became gravely ill during the 1918 flu pandemic. Spain was neutral and thus under no wartime censorship restrictions, so his illness and subsequent recovery were reported to the world, while flu outbreaks in the belligerent countries were concealed. This gave the misleading impression that Spain was the most affected area and led to the pandemic being dubbed "the Spanish Flu".
Rif War and Miguel Primo de RiveraEdit
Following World War I, Spain entered the lengthy yet victorious Rif War (1920–1926) to preserve its colonial rule over northern Morocco. Critics of the monarchy thought the war was an unforgivable loss of money and lives, and nicknamed Alfonso el Africano ("the African"). Alfonso had not acted as a strict constitutional monarch, and supported the Africanists who wanted to conquer for Spain a new empire in Africa to compensate for the lost empire in the Americas and Asia. The Rif War had starkly polarized Spanish society between the Africanists who wanted to conquer an empire in Africa vs. the abandonistas who wanted to abandon Morocco as not worth the blood and treasure. Alfonso liked to play favourites with his generals, and one of his most favoured generals was Manuel Fernández Silvestre. In 1921, when Silvestre advanced up into the Rif mountains of Morocco, Alfonso sent him a telegram whose first line read "Hurrah for real men!", urging Silvestre not to retreat at a time when Silvestre was experiencing major difficulties. Silvestre stayed the course, leading his men into the Battle of Annual, one of Spain's worst defeats. Alfonso, who was on holiday in the south of France at the time, was informed of the "Disaster of the Annual" while he was playing golf. Reportedly, Alfonso's response to the news was to shrug his shoulders and say "Chicken meat is cheap", before resuming his game. Alfonso remained in France and did not return to Spain to comfort the families of the soldiers lost in the battle, which many people at the time saw as a callous and cold act, a sign that the King was indifferent over the lives of his soldiers. In 1922, the Cortes started an investigation into the responsibility for the Annual disaster and soon discovered evidence that the King had been one of the main supporters of Silvestre's advance into the Rif mountains.
After the "Disaster of the Annual", Spain's war in the Rif went from bad to worse, and as the Spanish were barely hanging onto Morocco, support for the abandonistas grew as many people could see no point to the war. In August 1923, Spanish soldiers embarking for Morocco mutinied, other soldiers in Málaga simply refused to board the ships that were to take them to Morocco, while in Barcelona huge crowds of left-wingers had staged anti-war protests at which Spanish flags were burned while the flag of the Rif Republic was waved about. With the Africanists comprising only a minority, it was clear that it was only a matter of time before the abandonistas forced the Spanish to give up on the Rif, which was part of the reason for the military coup d'état later in 1923. On September 13, 1923, General Miguel Primo de Rivera, seized power in a military coup. He ruled as a dictator with Alfonso's support until 1930. It is believed that one of Alfonso's main reasons for supporting the coup was his desire to suppress the publication of the damning Cortes report into the Annual disaster. The poetic Generation of '27 as well as Catalan and Basque nationalism grew in this era.
Downfall and Second RepublicEdit
On 28 January 1930, amid economic problems, general unpopularity and an impending putschist plot led by General Manuel Goded of which Alfonso XIII was most probably aware, Miguel Primo de Rivera was forced to resign, exiling to Paris, only to die a few weeks later of the complications from diabetes in combination with the effects of a flu. Alfonso XIII appointed General Dámaso Berenguer as the new prime minister, leading to the period known as the dictablanda. The King was so closely associated with the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera that it was difficult for him to distance himself from the regime that he had supported for almost seven years. The enforced changes relied on the incorrect assumption that Spaniards would accept the notion that nothing had happened after 1923 and that going back to the prior state of things was possible.
In April 1931, General José Sanjurjo told him that even the army was not loyal. On 12 April, the monarchic parties won a thin majority but lost in major cities in the 1931 municipal elections, which were perceived as a plebiscite on monarchy. Alfonso left the country on the night of 14 to 15 April as the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed earlier that day in order to avoid a civil war but did not formally abdicate. He eventually settled in Rome.
In 1933, his two eldest sons, Alfonso and Jaime, renounced their claims to the defunct throne on the same day, and in 1934 his youngest son Gonzalo died. This left his third son Count Juan his only male heir. Juan later had his son crowned as King Juan Carlos I.
When the Army rose up against the democratically elected Republican government and war broke out, Alfonso made it clear he favoured the Nationalist military rebels against the Republic, but in September 1936 the Nationalist leader, General Francisco Franco, declared that the Nationalists would not restore Alfonso as king. (The Nationalist army included many Carlist supporters of a rival pretender.) Although Alfonso sent his son Juan to Spain in 1936 to participate in the uprising, General Emilio Mola had Juan arrested near the French border and expelled from the country.
On 29 September 1936, upon the death of Infante Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime, the Carlist pretender, Alfonso also became the senior heir of Hugh Capet and so was hailed by some French legitimists as King Alphonse I of France and Navarre.
Renunciation of claims to the defunct throne and deathEdit
On 15 January 1941, Alfonso XIII renounced his rights to the defunct Spanish throne in favour of Juan. He died of a heart attack in Rome on 28 February that year.
In Spain, the caudillo Franco ordered three days of national mourning. His funeral was held in Rome in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. Alfonso was buried in the Church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli, the Spanish national church in Rome, immediately below the tombs of Popes Callixtus III and Alexander VI. In January 1980 his remains were transferred to El Escorial in Spain.
Alfonso was a promoter of tourism in Spain. The need for the lodging of his wedding guests prompted the construction of the luxurious Hotel Palace in Madrid. He also supported the creation of a network of state-run lodges, paradores, in historic buildings of Spain. His fondness for the sport of football led to the patronage of several "royal" ("real" in Spanish) football clubs, the first being Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña in 1907. Selected others include Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Real Unión, Espanyol, Real Zaragoza and Real Racing Club.
An avenue in the northern Madrid neighbourhood of Chamartín, Avenida de Alfonso XIII, is named after him. A plaza or town centre in Iloilo City, Philippines (now Plaza Libertad) was named in his honour called Plaza Alfonso XIII. A street in Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales, was built especially to house Spanish immigrants in the mining industry and named Alphonso Street after Alfonso XIII.
Alfonso XIII appears as "King Buby" in Luis Coloma's story of Ratoncito Pérez (1894), which was written for the King when he was eight years old. The story of Ratoncito Pérez has been adapted into further literary works and movies since then, with the character of Alfonso XIII appearing in some. Alfonso XIII is also mentioned on the plaque to Ratoncito Pérez on the second floor of "la calle del Arenal".
Legitimate and illegitimate childrenEdit
Alfonso and his wife Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (Ena) had seven children:
- Alfonso, Prince of Asturias (1907–1938);
- Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia (1908–1975);
- Infanta Beatriz (1909–2002);
- Infante Fernando (stillborn);
- Infanta María Cristina (1911–1996);
- Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona (1913–1993);
- Infante Gonzalo (1914–1934).
Alfonso also had a number of reported illegitimate children that are known, including: Roger Marie Vincent Philippe Lévêque de Vilmorin (1905–1980; by French aristocrat Mélanie de Gaufridy de Dortan, married to Philippe de Vilmorin); Juana Alfonsa Milán y Quiñones de León (1916–2005; by Alfonso's governess Béatrice Noon); Anna María Teresa Ruiz y Moragas (1925–1965) and Leandro Alfonso Luis Ruiz y Moragas (1929–2016; both last two by Spanish actress Carmen Ruiz Moragas); and Carmen Gravina (by Carmen de Navascués).
Alfonso is occasionally referred to as "the playboy king", due in part to his promotion and collection of Spanish pornographic films, as well as his extramarital affairs. As king, Alfonso commissioned pornographic films through the Barcelona production company Royal Films, with the Count of Romanones acting as an intermediary figure between him and the company. Between forty to seventy pornographic films are said to have been shot in total (three of which have been preserved) and were screened in Barcelona's Chinatown, as well as during Alfonso's private screenings. The films, while silent and in black & white, were nonetheless very explicit for the time, showing full nudity and sex scenes. These films featured content which were considered especially immoral for the time, including sexual relationships involving Catholic priests, lesbianism, and "women with enormous breasts" (the last of which is said to have been Alfonso's passion). Most of these films were later destroyed during Franco's regime.
- 1,072nd Knight of the Golden Fleece, 1886
- Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III, with Collar, 1886
- Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic, with Collar, 1927
- Order of Santiago
- Order of Calatrava
- Order of Alcántara
- Order of Montesa
- Maestranza de caballería (Royal Cavalry Armory) of Ronda, Sevilla, Granada, Valencia and Zaragoza
- Founder of the Civil Order of Alfonso XII, 23 May 1902
- Founder of the Order of Civil Merit, 25 June 1926
- Austria-Hungary: Grand Cross of St. Stephen, 1900
- Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, 1902
- Czechoslovakia: Collar of the White Lion, 28 April 1925
- Denmark: Knight of the Elephant, 20 July 1901
- France: Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, January 1903
- Prussia: Knight of the Black Eagle
- Kingdom of Italy: Knight of the Annunciation, 20 September 1900
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta: Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion
- Empire of Japan: Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, 1930[d]
- Norway: Grand Cross of St. Olav, with Collar, 18 April 1911
- Persian Empire: Order of the Aqdas, 1st Class, 16 May 1902 – During his enthronement festivities.
- Kingdom of Portugal: 315th Grand Cross of the Tower and Sword, 1900
- Kingdom of Romania: Grand Cross of the Order of Carol I, with Collar, 1906
- Russian Empire: Knight of St. Andrew, 1902 – During his enthronement festivities.
- Siam: Knight of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri, 18 October 1897
- Sweden: Knight of the Seraphim, 16 May 1902 – King Oscar II of Sweden sent his youngest son, Prince Eugen to represent him at the festivities marking the King's enthronement, and he invested the King as a Knight in a special ceremony.
- United Kingdom:
- Honorary Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, 28 July 1897
- Stranger Knight of the Garter, 16 May 1902 – King Edward VII's brother, the Duke of Connaught attended the festivities marking the King's enthronement, and invested him as a Knight in a special ceremony.
- Royal Victorian Chain, 9 June 1905
Alfonso XIII is a rare example of endogamy. In the eleventh generation he has only 111 ancestors whereas in a standard situation one expects to identify 1024 of them. Here we are with a situation of implex of 89%.
- Check this list for other intermediate heads of state.
- In the languages of Spain, his name was:
- Due to his active involvement and support of the Spanish colonisation effort in Africa
- Emperor Hirohito's second brother, Prince Takamatsu, travelled to Madrid to confer the Great Collar of the Chrysanthemum on King Alfonso. This honour was intended, in part, to commemorate the diplomatic and trading history which existed long before other Western nations were officially aware of Japan's existence. Prince Takamatsu travelled with his wife, Princess Takamatsu, to Spain. Her symbolic role in this unique mission to the Spanish Court was intended to emphasize the international links which were forged by her 16th-century ancestor, Ieyasu Tokugawa. In the years before the Tokugawa shogunate, that innovative daimyō from Western Japan had been actively involved in negotiating trade and diplomatic treaties with Spain and with the colonies of New Spain (Mexico) and the Philippines; and it was anticipated that the mere presence of the Princess could serve to underscore the range of possibilities which could be inferred from that little-known history.
- Anchi Hoh, "'Royal Knight of Charity': King Alfonso XIII of Spain in WWI" in Library of Congress, January 2018
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- Magnificent Monarchs (Fact Attack series) p.21 by Ian Locke; published by Macmillan in 1999; ISBN 978-0330-374965
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- See: Ley concediendo la nacionalidad española a D. Alfonso de Borbón. Boletín Oficial del Estado no. 173, 20/12/1938, p. 3039.
- Paul Preston, History of the Spanish Civil War
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- "Japan to Decorate King Alfonso Today; Emperor's Brother Nears Madrid With Collar of the Chrysanthemum for Spanish King," New York Times, 3 November 1930; see also Nutail, Zelia. (1906). The Earliest Historical Relations Between Mexico and Japan, p. 2.
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- Shaw, Wm. A. (1906) The Knights of England, I, London, p. 423
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- Churchill, Sir Winston. Great Contemporaries. London: T. Butterworth, 1937. Contains the most famous single account of Alfonso in the English language. The author, writing shortly after the Spanish Civil War began, retained considerable fondness for the ex-sovereign.
- Collier, William Miller. At the Court of His Catholic Majesty. Chicago: McClurg, 1912. The author was American ambassador to Spain from 1905 to 1909.
- Noel, Gerard. Ena: Spain's English Queen. London: Constable, 1984. Considerably more candid than Petrie about Alfonso, the private man, and about the miseries the royal family experienced because of their haemophiliac children.
- Nuttall, Zelia (1906). The earliest historical relations between Mexico and Japan: from original documents preserved in Spain and Japan. The University Press.
- Petrie, Sir Charles. King Alfonso XIII and His Age. London: Chapman & Hall, 1963. Written as it was during Queen Ena's lifetime, this book necessarily omits the King's extramarital affairs; but it remains a useful biography, not least because the author knew Alfonso quite well, interviewed him at considerable length, and relates him to the wider Spanish intellectual culture of his time.
- Pilapil, Vicente R. Alfonso XIII. Twayne's rulers and statesmen of the world series 12. New York: Twayne, 1969.
- Sencourt, Robert. King Alfonso: A Biography. London: Faber, 1942.
- Tuñón de Lara, Manuel (2000) . La España del siglo XX. Vol. 1. La quiebra de una forma de Estado (1898-1931). Tres Cantos: Ediciones Akal. ISBN 84-460-1491-2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alfonso XIII of Spain.|
- Historiaantiqua. Alfonso XIII; (in Spanish) (2008)
- Visit by Alphonso XIII to Deauville in 1922 (with images)
- Newspaper clippings about Alfonso XIII in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
- Sanz, Carolina García: [https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/alfonso_xiii_king_of_spain