Infanta Pilar of Spain was born on 30 July 1936 as the eldest daughter of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona and Princess María Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Through her father, she was a descendant of Queen Victoria.
At the time, the royal family had been exiled for five years, and so Pilar was born in Cannes, France. Her father was the third son and designated heir of King Alfonso XIII of Spain. His elder brother Alfonso suffered from haemophilia and renounced his rights in 1933 to marry Edelmira Sampedro y Robato. His second brother Jaime, who was deaf, also renounced his rights in 1933.
Two years after her birth, the family moved to Italy where her younger brother, the future King Juan Carlos I of Spain was born. Two more siblings Infanta Margarita and Infante Alfonso were born in 1939 and 1941. The family’s final home before being restored to the throne would be Portugal. Infanta Pilar attended high school ins Estoril, and she also studied nursing. Her younger brother Alfonso died at the age of 14 during an accidental shooting. In 1962, Pilar was a bridesmaid during the wedding of brother Juan Carlos and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark.
It is said that her father wanted Pilar to marry King Baudouin of Belgium but Pilar already had her eye on someone else – the aristocrat Don Luis Gómez-Acebo y Duque de Estrada, Viscount de la Torre, Grandee of Spain. They had met through King Simeon of Bulgaria, who had married Luis’ cousin, Doña Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela.
Upon her marriage to Luis, Pilar renounced her succession right to the Spanish throne, but she would later be made an Infanta with the style of Royal Highness. She was also made Duchess of Badajoz. She and Luis were married on 5 May 1967 at the Jerónimos Monastery in Portugal. They went on to have five children together.
After her brother became King of Spain 1975, Pilar nor her younger sister Margarita had an official role. She mainly made appearances at family events, but she did hold some official positions. For example, she was the president of the International Equestrian Federation and a member of the Spanish Olympic Committee.
Infanta Pilar was widowed in 1991 when her husband died at the age of just 56 of lymphoma. Infanta Pilar had been suffering from colon cancer for several years and ultimately died of the illness on 8 January 2020.
The title of Duchess of Badajoz was for Pilar’s life and reverted to the crown.