Alfonso XIII of Spain

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Alfonso XIII
Alfonso XIIIdeEspaña.jpg
King of Spain
Reign 17 May 1886 – 14 April 1931
Enthronement 17 May 1902 (full age)
Predecessor Alfonso XII
Successor Niceto Alcalá-Zamora
as President of the Republic
Juan Carlos I
as King of Spain
Regent Maria Christina of Austria
Prime Ministers
Born (1886-05-17)17 May 1886
Madrid, Spain
Died 28 February 1941(1941-02-28) (aged 54)
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Burial El Escorial
Spouse Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
(m. 1906–41; his death)
more issue...
Alfonso, Prince of Asturias
Jaime, Duke of Segovia
Beatriz, Princess of Civitella-Cesi
Infanta Maria Christina, Countess Marone
Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona
Infante Gonzalo
Full name
Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Austria-Lorena
House Bourbon
Father Alfonso XII
Mother Maria Christina of Austria
Religion Roman Catholicism

Alfonso XIII (Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Habsburgo-Lorena; 17 May 1886 – 28 February 1941) was King of Spain from 1886 until 1931.

Alfonso was monarch from birth, as his father Alfonso XII had died the previous year. Until his 16th birthday in 1902, his mother, Maria Christina of Austria, served as his regent, in a period which saw Spain lose its Caribbean and Pacific colonies during the Spanish–American War. Due to family ties to both sides, Alfonso kept his kingdom neutral in World War I (1914–1918).

From 1923 to 1930, Alfonso supported the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera. In 1931, in the face of overwhelming popular rejection, Alfonso fled the country as the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed. In exile, he retained his claim to the defunct throne until 1941, when he abdicated in favour of his third son Juan. He died six weeks later.


Birth and regency[edit]

Alfonso XIII and his mother, María Cristina (who served as regent until 1902). Painted by Luis Álvarez Catalá, 1898.
As he was born King, early coins from Alfonso's reign, such as this 20 pesetas from 1889, featured his portrait as a baby.

Alfonso was born 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. The French newspaper Le Figaro described the young king in 1889 as "the happiest and best-loved of all the rulers of the earth".[1] His mother, Maria Christina of Austria, served as his regent until his 16th 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.

When he came of age in May 1902, the week of his majority was marked by festivities, bullfights, balls and receptions throughout Spain.[2]

Engagement and marriage[edit]

By 1905, Alfonso was looking for a suitable consort. On a state visit to the United Kingdom, he stayed at Buckingham Palace with King Edward VII. There he met Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, the Scottish-born 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.

Photograph taken moments after the assassination attempt on Alfonso and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg on their wedding day.

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 marred 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 or injured several bystanders and members of the procession.[3]

On 10 May 1907, the couple's first child, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, was born. However, Victoria was in fact a haemophilia carrier, and Alfonso inherited the condition. He bled continuously for many hours after his circumcision.[citation needed]

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 Queen for transmitting the condition to their sons.[4]

From 1914 on, he had several mistresses, and fathered five illegitimate children. A sixth illegitimate child was born before his marriage.

World War I[edit]

During World War I, because of his family connections with both sides and the division of popular opinion, Spain remained neutral.[5] 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."[6]

Rif War and the Marqués de Estella[edit]

Alfonso (left) in 1930 with his dictatorial Prime Minister, El Marqués de Estella.

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").[7] Alfonso had not acted as a strict constitutional monarch, and supported the africanistas who wanted to conquer for Spain a new empire in Africa to compensate for the lost empire in the Americas and Asia.[8] The Rif War had starkly polarized Spanish society between the africanistas who wanted to conquer an empire in Africa vs. the abandonistas who wanted to abandon Morocco as not worth the blood and treasure.[9] Alfonso liked to play favourites with his generals, and one of his most favored generals was Manuel Fernández Silvestre.[10] In 1921, when Silvestre advanced up into the Rift mountains of Morocco, Alfonso send a 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.[11] 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, and was informed of the "Disaster of the Annual" while he was playing golf. Alfonso's response to the news was shrug his shoulders, say "Chicken meat is cheap", before resuming his game of golf.[12] Alfonso remained in France and did not return to Spain to comfort the families of the soldiers lost at the "Disaster of the Annual", which many people at the time saw as a callous and cold act, a sign that the King could care less about 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 Rift 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 to Morocco, support for the abandonistas grew as many people could see no point to the war.[13] In August 1923, Spanish soldiers embarking for Morocco mutinied, other soldiers in Malaga 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.[14] With the africanistas 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.[15] On September 13 1923, General Miguel Primo de Rivera, 2nd Marqués de Estella, seized power in a military coup. He ruled as a dictator with Alfonso's support until 1930. 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 and Catalan and Basque nationalism grew in this era

Second Republic and Civil War[edit]

Postage stamps featuring Alfonso XIII, such as this 1930 issue, were overprinted when the Second Spanish Republic was declared in 1931.

In January 1930, due to economic problems and general unpopularity, the 2nd Marqués de Estella resigned as Prime Minister. Alfonso, as the Marqués's ally, shared the popular dislike. The King had so closely associated with the Primo de Rivera dictatorship that it was difficult for him to distance himself from the regime he had supported for almost 7 years. In April 1931, General Le Marqués del Rif told him even the army was not loyal. On 12 April, the republican parties won a landslide victory in municipal elections. The municipal elections were fought as a virtual referendum on the future of the monarchy. On 14 April, he fled the country as the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, but did not abdicate. He settled eventually in Rome.

In 1933, his 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, Count of Barcelona his only heir. Juan later was the father of Juan Carlos I.

When the Army rose up against the democratically elected Republican Government,[16] 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.)

Nevertheless, he sent his son Juan to Spain in 1936, to participate in the uprising. However, General 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, but also known to French legitimists as Charles XII), 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.

Abdication and death[edit]

On 15 January 1941, Alfonso XIII abdicated his rights to the defunct Spanish throne in favour of Juan. He died in Rome on 28 February of that year.

In Spain, the dictator Franco ordered three days of national mourning.[17] 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 Pope Callixtus III and Pope Alexander VI.[18] In January 1980 his remains were transferred to El Escorial in Spain.[19]


An avenue in the northern Madrid neighbourhood of Chamartín, Avenida de Alfonso XIII, is named after him. A plaza or town center in Iloilo City, Philippines (now Plaza Libertad) was named in his honour called Plaza Alfonso XIII.[20] 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.[21]


Madrid's Hotel Palace was built on Alfonso's wishes in 1912.

Alfonso was a promoter of tourism in Spain. The need for the lodging of his wedding guests prompted the construction of the luxury Hotel Palace in Madrid. He also supported the creation of a network of state-run lodges (Parador) 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.[22] Selected others include Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Real Unión, Espanyol and Real Zaragoza.

Marriage and children[edit]

On 31 May 1906, Alfonso married Scottish-born Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (1887–1969). A Highness by birth, Ena, as she was known, was raised to Royal Highness status a month before her wedding to make the union equal.

Alfonso and Ena had six living children:

Name Birth Death Marriage Their children
Date Spouse
HRH Alfonso, Prince of Asturias 10 May 1907 6 September 1938 21 June 1933
Divorced 8 May 1937
Edelmira Sampedro y Robato
3 July 1937
Divorced 8 January 1938
Marta Esther Rocafort-Altuzarra
HRH Infante Jaime 23 June 1908 20 March 1975 4 March 1935
Divorced 6 May 1947
Emmanuelle de Dampierre Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cádiz
Gonzalo, Duke of Aquitaine
3 August 1949 Charlotte Luise Auguste Tiedemann
HRH Infanta Beatriz 22 June 1909 22 November 2002 14 January 1935 Alessandro Torlonia, 5th Prince of Civitella-Cesi Doñna Sandra
Marco Torlonia, 6th Prince of Civitella-Cesi
Doñ Marino
Doña Olimpia
HRH Infante Fernando of Spain stillborn, 1910 1910
HRH Infanta María Cristina Teresa Alejandra Guadalupe María de la Concepción Victoria Eugenia of Spain 1911 1996 Enrico Eugenio Marone-Cinzano, 1st Conte Marone-Cinzano
HRH Infante Juan Carlos Teresa Silverio Alfonso of Spain[23] heir-apparent to the throne 1941–1969, Count of Barcelona. 1913 1993 Princess María Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz
Juan Carlos I of Spain
Infanta Margarita, Duchess of Soria and Hernani
Infante Alfonso
HRH Infante Gonzalo Manuel María Bernardo Narciso Alfonso Mauricio of Spain 1914 1934, a haemophiliac, like his elder brother Alfonso. He died due to bleeding from injuries suffered in a car crash.

Illegitimate issue[edit]

Alfonso also had six known illegitimate children:

By French aristocrat Mélanie de Gaufridy de Dortan (1876–1937), married to Philippe de Vilmorin, he had

  • Roger Marie Vincent Philippe Lévêque de Vilmorin (12 September 1905 – 20 July 1980)[24][25]

By Pauline of Saint Glen, he had

  • Charles Maxime Victor of Saint Glen (3 July 1914 – 20 May 1934).

By Béatrice Noon, he had

  • Juana Alfonsa Milán y Quiñones de León (19 April 1916 – 16 May 2005)

By Spanish actress María del Carmen Ruiz y Moragas (1898–1936):

  • Ana María Teresa Ruiz y Moragas (9 October 1925 – 6 September 1965)
  • Leandro Alfonso Luis Ruiz y Moragas (born 26 April 1929, died 18 June 2016), officially recognized by Spanish Courts on 21 May 2003 as Leandro Alfonso Luis de Borbón y Ruiz Moragas

By Marie Sousa, he had

  • Alonso of Borbon Sousa (28 December 1930 – 30 April 1934).


Royal Monogram


Spanish honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

  • Kingdom of Portugal 315th Grand Cross of the Order of the Tower and Sword in 1900
  • United Kingdom 815th Knight of the Order 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 on 16 May 1902.[36][37]
  • Sweden Knight of the Order of the Seraphim - 16 May 1902 - King Oscar II of Sweden sent his youngest son, Prince 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 on 16 May 1902.[36]
  • Qajar dynasty Order of the Aqdas - 16 May 1902 - The King received the Persian order in a special ceremony during his enthronement festivities.[36]
  • Russian Empire Order of St Andrew - 1902 - During his enthronement festivities.
  • Empire of Japan Order of the Chrysanthemum, 1930: Emperor Showa'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 daimyo 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.[38]

In the Royal Library of Madrid, there are many books with different emblems and super libros of the king.[39]


Alfonso XIII appears as "King Buby" in Luis Coloma's story of Ratoncito Pérez (1894), which was written for the King when he was 8 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".


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Happiest Living Monarch", New York Times. 14 August 1889.
  2. ^ "Alfonso's Reign Begins on 17 May; He Will Take the Oath on That Day – Festivities to Last a Week," New York Times, 29 March 1902.
  3. ^ "Royal Wedding #1: Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg & King Alfonso XIII of Spain". Edwardian Promenade. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "Reinas Borbones de cuidado". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  5. ^ his wife was British, his mother Austrian, amongst other family relationships.
  6. ^ Barry 171.
  7. ^ "Rebelion. Prlogo para "Alfonso XIII: un enemigo del pueblo" de Pedro L. Angosto". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 274
  9. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 286.
  10. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 276
  11. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 280.
  12. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 284.
  13. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 286.
  14. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 286.
  15. ^ Perry, James Arrogant Armies Great Military Disasters and the Generals Behind Them, Edison: Castle Books, 2005 page 286.
  16. ^ Paul Preston, History of the Spanish Civil War
  17. ^ "Mourning in Spain", The Times (3 March 1941): 3.
  18. ^ "Italians to Mourn Death of Alfonso," The New York Times. 2 March 1931.
  19. ^ "21 Guns for Dead King's Homecoming", The Times (21 January 1980): 4.
  20. ^ "Plaza Libertad: The face of Ilonggo History". Iloilo I LOVE!. Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Morris, Jan. The Matter of Wales (1986 ed.). Penguin Books. p. 339. ISBN 0-14-008263-8. 
  22. ^ "Deportivo history - Football Espana". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado
  24. ^ (French) XII. Roger de Vilmorin, sur Dynastie capétienne, consulté le 09/09/2013
  25. ^ (French) Jean-Fred Tourtchine (préf. Juan Balansó), Les manuscrits du C.E.D.R.E. – dictionnaire historique et généalogique, numéro 6 : Le royaume d'Espagne, vol. 3, Cercle d'Études des Dynasties Royales Européennes, Paris, 1996, 213 p. ISSN 0993-3964
  26. ^ Faustino Menéndez Pidal de Navascués; María del Carmen Iglesias (1999). Símbolos de España. ISBN 978-84-259-1074-6. 
  27. ^ a b Dotor, Santiag. "Discussion on the 1931 addition of Jerusalem arms". Royal Banner of Spain (1761–1931). Flags of the World. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  28. ^ Eduardo García-Menacho y Osset (2010). Introducción a la Heráldica y Manual de Heráldica Militar Española. Ministerio de Defensa. Subdir. Gral. Publicaciones. pp. 105–107. ISBN 978-84-9781-559-8. 
  29. ^ Ricardo Mateos Sáinz de Medrano (2007). La reina María Cristina: madre de Alfonso XIII y regente de España. ISBN 978-84-9734-638-2. 
  30. ^ Collier, William Miller. (1912). At the Court of His Catholic Majesty, pp. 35–36; Order of the Golden Fleece.
  31. ^ Miller, pp. 37–38; Orden de Carlos III (in Spanish).
  32. ^ Miller, pp. 39–39; Order of Santiago.
  33. ^ Miller, pp. 39–39; Order of Calatrava.
  34. ^ Miller, pp. 39–39; Order of Alcántara.
  35. ^ Miller, pp. 39–39; Order of Montesa.
  36. ^ a b c "The King of Spain´s enthronement". The Times (36770). London. 17 May 1902. p. 7. 
  37. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27441. p. 3749. 10 June 1902.
  38. ^ "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.
  39. ^ > "Real Biblioteca - Búsqueda por ex libris". Retrieved 25 June 2015. 


  • Barry, John M. (2004). The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History. Viking Penguin. ISBN 0-670-89473-7. 
  • 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.

External links[edit]

Alfonso XIII of Spain
Born: 17 May 1886 Died: 28 February 1941
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Alfonso XII
King of Spain
17 May 1886 – 14 April 1931
Title next held by
Juan Carlos I
Titles in pretence
Loss of title — TITULAR —
King of Spain
14 April 1931 – 15 January 1941
Succeeded by
Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona
Preceded by
Alfonso Carlos of Bourbon, Duke of San Jaime
King of France and Navarre
29 September 1936 – 28 February 1941
Reason for succession failure:
Bourbon monarchy deposed in 1830
Succeeded by
Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Dwight F. Davis
Cover of Time Magazine
22 December 1924
Succeeded by
Charles Evans Hughes