The Infanta María Eulalia was born on 12 February 1864 to the ruling Queen of Spain, Isabella II and her husband, Francisco, Duke of Cádiz. Known as Eulalia, the Infanta was the youngest surviving child to be born to the couple and spent the first years of her life living in the Royal Palace of Madrid with her brother and three sisters. The marriage between Eulalia’s parents has been a dynastic match and was often tumultuous. Her father was rumoured to have been homosexual, while her mother, the Queen, was involved in numerous affairs which have led many to doubt the paternity of the royal children.
Though as an Infanta of Spain, Eulalia was afforded a luxurious upbringing in the palace for the early years of her life, her mother’s reign was filled with difficulties. As the only female ruler of modern Spain, Isabella II was constantly doubted by those who did not wish to have a woman on the throne. For decades, wars raged across the country between those who supported Isabella and those who supported her rival, her cousin Infante Carlos. Furthermore, as Spain’s first constitutional monarch, Queen Isabella’s power was greatly limited compared to those that ruled before her. Regents ruled the country during Isabella’s youth, and this was followed by a series of unstable governments and military coups, which meant that Isabella’s reign hung by a thread and was only maintained with the support of the army.
In 1854 and 1861, there had been failed attempts to depose the Queen. On 28 September 1868, the Queen’s forces were finally overthrown, and two days later, she left her country after a 35-year reign. Infanta Eulalia then found herself an exiled royal living in Paris at just two years old. She was later enrolled in a French convent school and was not raised as a Princess for many years.
While living in exile, Queen Isabella abdicated in favour of her son Alfonso. Then, in December 1874, the First Republic of Spain ended when Alfonso, Eulalia’s brother, was declared King Alfonso XII of Spain. Suddenly the ten-year-old Eulalia was whisked back to the Spanish court and into the public eye as the sister of the King. This must have been very confusing for the young girl who would not have remembered her life in Spain. Following this, Eulalia moved around for a few years, living in a number of palaces with her mother, the former Queen.
When she reached her early twenties, it was time for Eulalia to marry, and she was soon betrothed to Infante Antonio of Orléans and Borbón, Duke of Galliera, who was the son of the French Duke of Montpensier and his wife, Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain. The pair were first cousins, and the families were also bonded due to the marriage between Eulalia’s brother King Alfonso XII and Antonio’s sister Mercedes. However, by the time of Eulalia’s wedding, both Alfonso and his wife were dead. Unfortunately, Mercedes died shortly after their honeymoon in 1878, and the King died in November 1885, aged just 27. The untimely death of the king sent shock waves throughout Spain and led again to regency rule as the new King Alfonso XIII was a newborn child.
Due to the passing of her brother, Eulalia’s wedding was delayed, and when it was finally celebrated on 6 March 1886, it was perhaps a more sombre affair than it would have been if her brother had lived. Following the wedding, the couple had a brief honeymoon in Madrid and soon came to the realisation that they had little in common. Though her husband was the grandson of two Kings, creating a fine match, Eulalia simply did not like him and had initially said no to the marriage. As she had seen her mother do, she put on a show in public, but behind closed doors, the couple bickered, and Eulalia treated Antonio with vicious disdain. As was her duty, Eulalia bore two children in quick succession; the first was Alfonso, born in 1886 and named after her brother, followed in 1888 by Luis Fernando.
As soon as the two boys had been born, Eulalia moved out of her husband’s home and set up households of her own in Paris and Spain, and she also spent lots of time visiting England.
In 1893, Infanta Eulalia made the long voyage to visit America. Eulalia visited Puerto Rico and Havana before visiting the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This huge event was held to celebrate 400 years since Christopher Columbus reached America, and as a member of the Spanish Royal family with links to Columbus, Eulalia was a guest of honour. Following this, Eulalia set off for Washington, where she was greeted by the President before continuing on to New York.
While travelling, Eulalia was flooded with invitations to all sorts of events and parties from politicians and high society in Chicago and New York. While Eulalia did attend some of these events, she refused many invitations and unsurprisingly did her own thing. She caused a scandal by dressing in paupers clothing to attend a fun fair where she ate fairground foods and tried to blend in with the public. She also smoked in the street and worshipped at a small, impoverished chapel. Still, the Americans fawned over her, and she filled countless pages of newspapers it was said by the New York Times that she “spent more time in the headlines of newspapers than in the Spanish court” and turned her family “crimson with rage.”1
After returning from her trip, Eulalia sought a divorce from her husband, but she was denied Papal permission. However, Eulalia did not return to her husband and spent more and more time at her Parisian home, where she would host her rich American friends. She became known for introducing these wealthy Americans to European royals, many of whom were rich in titles but severely lacking in funds. For her efforts, Eulalia received cash and extravagant gifts.
Though Eulalia acted less and less like a royal all the time, she still maintained ties to her family. This was until the Infanta decided to pick up a pen and become a writer in 1912. Her first book was written in French- Au fil de la vie or The Thread of Life was published under a pseudonym, but it was clear that the author was Eulalia. The work was filled with Eulalia’s thoughts on politics, women’s rights and education and the inequality between classes. It is here that Eulalia began to reflect on how she was so quickly moved between classes in her early years depending on the fortunes of her mother and brother, and it seemed that Eulalia was angered by this and by the rules of society. Eulalia’s nephew King Alfonso XIII was furious when she published the book without him approving it first.
The Infanta carried on writing until 1935; publishing works on court life and the German Emperor Wilhelm II. She even dared to write about post-war relations between France and Germany and to comment on the regime of Mussolini in Italy. Her final publication was her own memoirs filled with tales of teen romances, complaints about the strict etiquette at the Spanish court and predictions on how General Franco would modernise Spain. The public, of course, lapped up her works to the dismay of her family.
Infanta Eulalia lived until the age of 94 and witnessed great changes to the world and to the role of royalty. She died following a heart attack in March 1958 and was buried in El Escorial.2
- The New York Times
Court Life From Within- HRH The Infanta Eulalia of Spain
The Thread of Life- HRH The Infanta Eulalia of Spain
The Republican Princess- Jose M. Zavala
The Infanta at the Fair- R.E Wilson