Gonzalo O'Farrill y Herrera

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Gonzalo O'Farrill y Herrera (La Habana, Cuba, 1754 – Paris, 1831) was the son of O'Farrill y Arriola, of Irish descent, and was a high Spanish Administrator in La Habana, Cuba. Gonzalo became (at the time of King Carlos IV of Spain), a lieutenant general of the Royal Spanish Army, Director of the Military College at Puerto de Santa María, Cadiz, Spain, and a Plenipotentiary Minister representing Spain in the Kingdom of Prussia under King Frederic. He was also a member and President of the Supreme Joint Council of Spain when King Carlos IV went to Bayonne, France to meet with Napoleon I Bonaparte around March 1808.

But, Minister of War under King Carlos IV of Spain, was for a few days later, between two spells in power of Pedro de Cevallos Guerra, (San Felices de Buelna, Cantabria, Prime Minister under King José I Bonaparte, former bonapartist King of Naples and eldest brother of Napoleon I Bonaparte.

Don Gonzalo O'Farrill, the uncle of "la Bella Condesa Cubana" Maria Theresa[edit]

He married a woman, possibly a widow, who already had a child, Pedro Miguel, whose first family name was Saenz de Santamaría. Since this step son was also one of the (exiled) courtiers of ephemerous King of Naples and later Spain, José I Bonaparte, it is possible to infer that perhaps O'Farrill's wife belonged to the Carassa family, as Pedro Miguel's second family name. His mother's single name was simply Carassa.

O'Farrill was the great uncle of Spanish-Cuban woman aristocrat Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo. Mercedes Santa Cruz married around October 1809, aged around 20, with a French invading General Antoine Christofe Merlin, a. k. a. Merlin de Thionville, (Thionville, then in his early forties, who was Captain General of the Spanish Royal Guards two months before their wedding.

"La Bella Condesa Cubana" Maria Theresa at Napoleonic Madrid, circa 1808 - 1812, Spain[edit]

Doña Mercedes' mother, described as a sensual Cuban lady, Maria Teresa Montalvo y O'Farrill, (1771–1812), was already a widow at the age of 37. She had been in La Habana, Cuba, in 1783, and was the wife, aged 12, to someone who was only 15 at the time, but was nevertheless a powerful and rich Spanish - Cuban businessman Joaquín de Santa Cruz y Cárdenas, (1769 - La Habana, Cuba. He died of hydropesy on one of his trips from Spain to Cuba, in 1807, aged 38), 3rd Conde de San Juan de Jaruco and 1st Conde de Mopox.

Maria Teresa Montalvo y O'Farrill therefore became a widow in 1807 with 2 very young rich daughters, described as the "Santa Cruz" girls. Her Literary Salon at Madrid became very popular with visitors such as the poet Manuel Jose Quintana and the famous painter Francisco de Goya.

It is said that at the time she was supposed to be the Spanish love of the new Bonaparte family King of Spain, José I Bonaparte, whose wife, Julie Clary, apparently preferred a less risky position and stayed in France with their two daughters.

Julie Clary, wife of José I Bonaparte, with her two daughters, Charlotte Napoléone Bonaparte and Zénaïde Laetitia Julie Bonaparte; painting by François Gérard (1808-09). 200 × 144 cm National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

On leaving the country hastily in 1813 when Napoleonic troops suffered successive defeats, Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo left for Paris together with his sister, María Josefa de Santa Cruz y Montalvo, who was married to another "afrancesado", Pedro Miguel Sáenz de Santa María y Carassa, the step son of General Gonzalo O'Farrill y Herrera, and a member of the State Council of the "new King" José I.

The Spanish-Cuban aristocrats exiled from Madrid to Paris[edit]

Both sisters, orphaned from "La Bella Condesa Cubana" Maria Theresa in 1812, had to leave Madrid with their great uncle Gonzalo O´Farrill, who died in Paris in 1831. In 1813. They left their respective "traitor" husbands, French General Merlin, and Don Gonzalo step son Pedro Maria Saenz de Santamaria y Carasse, in the company of the escaping group leader and ephemerous King of Spain Jose I Bonaparte.

King José I Bonaparte was perhaps the former lover of her already deceased mother, Maria Theresa, "La Bella Condesa Cubana".

Years later, Maria Mercedes, wife of the French General Merlin de Thionville, was to be used as a lover by Philarète Chasles, but earlier than that she had played hostess to more impressive, rather poor, French intellectuals.

Her translation into Spanish from the French of "Viaje a La Habana" had a prologue by the notorious Spanish-Cuban romantic school poet Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, then living in Spain. However her hopes of getting back land, money, houses and titles confiscated by the Spanish Bourbons while she lived in exile, in particular, her appeals around 1845 to Queen Isabella II of Spain for restoration of her titles and properties did not lead anywhere.


The dtcuba URL describes the former palace of the O´Farrill family in La Habana, Cuba, now a hotel. They were Irish Catholics settled in Cuba by the British Crown in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, as agents for the slave trade, importing Africans to work in Cuban sugar fields.