As I mentioned in my last piece regarding the sons of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice, daughter to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, the story of Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena was quite a story on its own.
The first half of the twentieth century seemed to be quite a dangerous time for some of the granddaughters of Victoria and the royal curse of haemophilia
Victoria Eugenie known to the family and British public as Ena was no different and below I want to tell her story.
Victoria Eugenie was born on the 24th October 1887 at Balmoral Castle to Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom. She spent most of her childhood between Balmoral, Osborne House and Windsor Castle. As part of Victoria’s agreement for her daughter Beatrice to marry Henry she had to stay as her full time companion and personal secretary which meant Victoria Eugenie would spent a lot of her time as a child in Victoria’s household.
Victoria Eugenie was bridesmaid to Mary of Teck in her wedding to the future King George V in 1893. In 1896 her father died and in 1901 Queen Victoria herself also died. After this the Battenberg’s took up residence in Kensington Palace, London.
In 1905 King Alfonso XIII of Spain made an official visit to the United Kingdom and King Edward VII hosted a dinner at Buckingham Palace in his honour. It was known that Alfonso was looking for a suitable wife. It was thought that Princess Patricia, another of Edward VII’s nieces was the most suitable match for Alfonso but she was unimpressed by his advances and then his attention turned to Victoria Eugenie.
On his return to Spain Alfonso he wrote to Victoria Eugenie sending her numerous post cards. His mother Maria Christina didn’t approve of his interest in the British princess preferring for her son to marry from her own Habsburg family from Austria. There was also the issue of religion. Spain was a Roman Catholic country and Victoria Eugenie came from a Protestant background. The royal curse of haemophilia was also a concern.
This did not stop Alfonso and he would not be held back from his continued attention to the British princess and after about a year of communication and rumours about who Alfonso would marry, his mother finally caved in and agreed to the marriage. She wrote to Princess Beatrice telling her about the love her son had for Victoria Eugenie and things then moved quickly and a couple of days later at Windsor King Edward congratulated his niece on her future engagement.
Princess Beatrice and Princess Victoria Eugenie travelled to Biarritz on 22nd January 1906 and stayed at the Villa Mauriscot. Alfonso arrived, a couple of days later and spent three days chaperoned getting to know Victoria Eugenie more. Alfonso then took both Victoria Eugenie and her mother to San Sebastian to meet Maria Christina. On the 3rd February he left them to travel to Madrid while the two princess left for Versailles to be instructed in the Roman Catholic faith as would be required for her to be the future Queen of Spain.
King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie married on 31st May 1906 at the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo. The wedding didn’t go without a hitch as an assignation attempt took place. Mateu Morral threw a bomb at the the royal carriage. Victoria Eugenie turned at the same time the bomb was thrown to look at St Mary’s church in the city centre which Alfonso was pointing out to her. This action is believed to have saved her although her dress was splattered with blood from a Guard who was riding alongside the carriage. Fifteen people died. There is a statue to the victims of the bombing at the front of the Royal Monastery of San Jeronimo.
The couple’s first child was Alfonso, Prince of Asturias who was born 10th May 1907. This gained Victoria Eugenie some favour with her new people, to which her early relationship was quite strained. Doctors though on carrying out the new Prince’s circumcision noted that he did not stop bleeding showing that he had inherited the dreaded haemophilia.
King Alfonso never forgave his Queen for this fact. There youngest son also had haemophilia. The couple went on to have seven children in total, five boys and two girls. Once all the children were born the relationship between the couple went even sourer and Alfonso is believed to have had numerous affairs fathering several illegitimate children.
Victoria Eugenie devoted herself to working in hospitals and services for the poor. She was heavily involved in the reorganisation of the Spanish Red Cross. In 1929 in Barcelona a statue was raised to her in nurse’s uniform in recognition of the work she had done. The statue no longer stands and has since been destroyed.
In 1931 the whole Spanish Royal family went into exile after elections brought Republicans to power across many major cities and the proclamation of the 2nd Spanish Republic. The family went at first to France before later moving to Italy. Later Alfonso and Victoria Eugenie separated and she started to spend more time in the United Kingdom before she settled on the chateau Vielle Fontaine outside Lausanne, Switzerland.
The whole family though were brought together again in Rome for the baptism of her grandson Juan Carlos in 1938. On 15th January 1941 Alfonso XIII felling that death was close transferred his rights to the Spanish crown to their son Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona. The feeling Alfonso had was true and he suffered a heart attack on 12th February and died sixteen days later.
In 1942 living in Italy Victoria Eugenie was asked to leave for being ‘persona non grata’ to the Italian government. According to Harold Tittmann, a US representative to the Vatican at the time the reason for this was Victoria Eugenie’s ill disguised feelings of support for the Allied armies during the Second World War.
She did return briefly to Spain to stand as godmother to her great grandson Infante Felipe in February 1968. Felipe was the son of Infante Juan Carlos and Princess Sophia of Denmark and Greece. Felipe became King of Spain in June 2014 after the abdication of his father.
Victoria died back in Lausanne on 15th April 1969 aged 81 years old. It was exactly 38 years after she had left Spain in exile. As well as her great grandson being King of Spain her other godchildren include; Albert, Prince of Monaco; Queen Fabiola of Belgium and Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba.
She came from a generation and family that spread right across Europe and could include King of United Kingdom, Queen of Norway, Empress of Russia, Queen of Romania, Emperor of Germany, Queen of Sweden and Queen of Greece all as first cousins.