Today’s Spanish VIP became Spanish by marriage, but was in fact British by birth. Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and was born and brought up in Balmoral. In 1905 she meet met King Alfonso XIII of Spain at a dance in Buckingham Palace. Despite being a favourite granddaughter of Queen Victoria she was not considered good enough by Alfonso’s mother as she lacked the rank of princess, was an Anglican and had a family history of hemophilia.
Despite these drawbacks the couple had a three day courtship in Biarritz after which she was taken to meet Alfonso’s mother and then went to Versailles to be instructed as a convert to the catholic faith. To confirm her conversion to Catholicism she was subjected to a humiliating public ceremony based on the rites of the Inquisition which included wearing a barbed metal belt or cilice. The marriage took place in 1906 in Madrid. After the wedding ceremony, as they were returning to the royal palace a bomb was thrown at the royal cortege killing a number of onlookers. Victoria Eugenia’s life was saved because she turned her head to look back just as the bomb landed, but she arrived at the wedding reception with her wedding dressed stained with the blood of those who were killed.
The couple had seven children, five boys and two girls, but after the birth of their children their relationship deteriorated. Alfonso had many lovers one of who remained his mistress for 15 years and he is known to have had at least five illegitimate children. He was also an admirer and producer of pornographic films.
Victoria Eugenia was isolated within the Spanish court. She was an educated woman with liberal views as well as a follower of fashion and was often mocked for her taste by her husband in public. She was also accused of being responsible for the illnesses and disabilities of their children.
Along with the rest of the royal family and much of the Spanish nobility, Victoria Eugenia went into exile from Spain at the declaration of the republic in 1931. Shortly afterwards she separated from her husband and returned to Great Britain. At the outbreak of the 2nd World War she ceased to be part of the British royal family. She initially went to Italy but was suspected of being a British spy, so finally went to live in Lausanne, Switzerland where she spent the rest of her life.
Victoria Eugenia returned to Spain briefly in 1968 after 37 years in exile to be the godmother of her great-grandson Felipe de Borbón, the present heir to the throne. She died in Lausanne on 15th April 1969 and her body is now buried along with her husband Alfonso XIII and three of her sons in the mausoleum of El Escorial.