Although she remained cool and collected in times of peril, Princess Victoria Eugenie had demons nipping at her heels. From her tumultuous marriage to her heartbreaking trials with motherhood, she was no stranger to the slurs of condemnation. Still, even as Victoria Eugenie her best foot forward, she would never escape her utterly twisted fate.
1. She Had Powerful Connections
On October 24, 1887, Princess Victoria Eugenie blessed the royal family with her arrival. As the granddaughter of the illustrious Queen Victoria, she already had a world of expectation thrust upon her. Luckily for Victoria Eugenie, her aging grandmother developed a soft spot for her. Of course, being a favorite of the Queen was no small matter.
There were big things in store for this tiny baby.
2. She Had A Rebellious Streak
Victoria Eugenie’s imposing grandmother did not mess around when it came to making sure that Victoria Eugenie acted and thought like royalty. According to Victoria Eugenie, her grandmother was “very kind but very strict with old fashioned ideas of how children must be brought up.” The fact that Victoria Eugenie grew up to be quite the boisterous tomboy certainly didn’t win her any favors in the eyes of her exasperated grandmother.
3. She Was A Troublemaker
While Victoria Eugenie’s older royal cousins were quite deferential towards their grandmother, Victoria Eugenie—and her brother—held no such reservations. From morning to night, Victoria Eugenie spent her childhood causing a ruckus in Queen Victoria’s household and often demanded the undivided attention of her beloved grandmother.
Her grandmother affectionately indulged the young princess’s demands, until tragedy nearly ended Victoria Eugenie’s life.
4. She Nearly Lost Her Life
In 1894, six-year-old Victoria Eugenie was riding her pony when, out of the blue, the pony threw Victoria Eugenie off its back, sending the little girl tumbling to the ground. The injuries she suffered were severe; Queen Victoria’s own physicians noted “evident signs of brain pressure, probably a hemorrhage.” The entire family—Queen Victoria herself included—were beside themselves with fear.
5. She Had A Mostly Perfect Childhood
After days of anxious waiting, Victoria Eugenie’s family received good news: The young princess was doing well, and would soon rejoin the royal family in their day-to-day lives. They breathed a sigh of relief. Within a month, Victoria Eugenie was once more at her grandmother’s side, still as playful as ever. She spent the next few years living an idyllic life and learning a thing or two about being a royal from her grandmother.
However, this respite of happiness was shattered in an instant.
6. She Lost Her Father
In January of 1896, young Victoria Eugenie’s life suffered a devastating blow. Her father fell ill from typhoid fever while on duty in Africa. He fought for his life against the illness but ultimately lost his life in Sierra Leone. The loss crushed Victoria Eugenie, her grandmother, and the rest of the family, but it was the reaction of Victoria Eugenie’s mother—the newly-widowed Princess Beatrice—that caused unimaginable strife.
7. She Endured Multiple Tragedies
While Victoria Eugenie coped relatively well with the early loss of her father, the same did not apply to her mother. Victoria Eugenie’s mother suffered terrible mood swings after the funeral. She bounced between being in tears, to being in a blind rage, to suddenly obsessing over minor household details. Needless to say, Victoria Eugenie became more attached than ever to her grandmother, but that all changed when tragedy struck once again.
8. Her Childhood Came To An End
In 1901, the elderly and ailing Queen Victoria grew incredibly ill. It was obvious to all that the end was near, and select family members—including Victoria Eugenie—kept watch as her grandmother’s breaths began to slow. On the morning of January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria passed. For the country, it was the end of an era, but for Victoria Eugenie, it signaled the end of her childhood.
9. She Was A Great Beauty
Things moved quickly after the passing of Princess Victoria Eugenie’s grandmother. A short time after the funeral, Victoria Eugenie and the rest of her family moved to London and took up residence in the famed Kensington Palace. There, her status as a “favored granddaughter of Queen Victoria,” her education in the English court, and her blossoming beauty, began to catch the eye of quite a few admirers…And not all of them had good intentions.
10. She Had Unscrupulous Suitors
In 1905, Princess Victoria Eugenie became the object of affection for Grand Duke Boris of Russia—a known womanizer—during a trip to the South of France. Luckily, Victoria Eugenie knew better than to fall for the Grand Duke’s charms, and instead, spent her days cementing her place in royal society. That’s not to say that no one could seduce Victoria Eugenie, however, she just hadn’t met the right person…yet.
11. She Wasn’t Confident
Sometime later, Victoria Eugenie’s home was abuzz with exciting news: King Alfonso XIII of Spain would be making an official visit—and he was looking for a wife. The prospect of a potential match excited everyone, especially the granddaughters of Queen Victoria. Everyone, that is, except Victoria Eugenie. The teenaged princess thought there was absolutely no way that the King would take any notice of her…but she was wrong.
12. He Fell For Her
During a dinner party held in honor of Alfonso’s arrival, Victoria Eugenie, still under the belief that the Spanish King would have zero interest in her, acted naturally around him, with no pretense or flirtation. Alfonso, intrigued by Victoria Eugenie’s behavior, stared at her shamelessly during the dinner, and the effect on the princess was immediate.
The weight of his stare “was intoxicating,” and it led to a very swoon-worthy interlude.
13. She Couldn’t Believe It
On the second night of Alfonso’s visit, the Spanish king sought out Princess Victoria Eugenie. The young princess, extremely flattered by all the attention, gladly reciprocated Alfonso’s feelings, and the two hit it off. Although Victoria Eugenie was a bit awkward and timid, Alfonso approved of the beautiful young royal.
And once the wheels on their courtship began turning, there was just no stopping this runaway romance.
14. She Found Her True Love
Victoria Eugenie and her Spanish king began regularly exchanging letters and postcards. With each postcard she received, she grew bolder with her feelings, even attempting to learn Spanish, albeit poorly. As the months passed, Victoria Eugenie fell completely head-over-heels in love with Alfonso, and the two decided it was time to take their relationship to the next level.
15. She Took A Leap Of Faith
In January of 1906, Victoria Eugenie met with her beloved Alfonso once again in Biarritz, a seaside town in Southwest France. There, the two became unofficially engaged, and it was clear that it was time for the future Queen of Spain to visit her new homeland. Soon after their engagement, Victoria Eugenie stepped onto Spanish soil for the very first time.
This wasn’t a simple pleasure trip, though. Victoria Eugenie was on a mission to prove herself to the Spanish court.
16. She Was Enchanting
Victoria Eugenie, accompanied by Alfonso and his mother, made their way to the Miramar Palace in San Sebastian. Most of the court was immediately taken by Victoria Eugenie’s “enchanting face” and “angelic character.” Her grace and sweetness managed to win over many of those who were wary of welcoming an English princess to the court, but not all were happy with Victoria Eugenie’s arrival.
17. She Had Baggage
Victoria Eugenie, like many of Queen Victoria’s other descendants, was potentially a carrier for hemophilia, an issue that Alfonso’s mother pointed out herself. Alfonso dismissed these worries, since “such a beautiful and obviously healthy-looking creature could not possibly carry that dreaded disease.” There was, however, another issue with Victoria Eugenie that not even Alfonso could afford to ignore.
18. She Sacrificed Everything For Him
If Victoria Eugenie wanted to marry Alfonso and become the next Spanish queen, she needed to convert from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism—no excuses. That sent many in her homeland into a right tizzy; some prominent religious groups even appealed to her uncle, King Edward, to forbid the marriage outright. King Edward was apparently “hostile” to her decision to convert, but he understood her decision. Sadly, this didn’t make things any easier for her.
19. Everyone Hated Her Decision
Due to her conversion, Victoria Eugenie found herself in “an insupportable and cruel position.” On one hand, Protestants hated her decision to convert. On the other hand, Roman Catholics accused her of only converting to win Alfonso’s hand and to gain a powerful position within the Spanish court. The accusations sent her into a depressive spiral—but that wasn’t even the worst part.
20. He Ignored Her Wishes
Alfonso’s inability to empathize with her only made things worse. Princess Victoria Eugenie, after giving up her faith, asked Alfonso for only one thing—to make her re-baptism ceremony a private affair. This wish was soundly rejected. Not only was the ceremony an extremely public affair, but she didn’t even get a chance to announce the ceremony herself.
Instead, newspapers announced her change of faith, and they ripped her to shreds over it. However, the coming months were only going to get worse.
21. She Was Incredibly Sad
With her conversion complete, Victoria Eugenie set out for Spain, fully aware that it was time for her to leave England behind for good. Everyone around her—from her brothers, to her mother, to her aunts—saw how much it devastated Victoria Eugenie to leave. Her only solace came in the form of the warm welcome she received from the populace in Madrid, and the excitement of her upcoming wedding—and let’s just say that the Princess’s fiancé spared no expense.
Little did they know, the ceremony was doomed from the very beginning.
22. Her Wedding Started Out Perfectly…
On May 31, 1906, Princess Victoria Eugenie married Alfonso, and everything about it was magnificent. Nearly 300,000 people thronged the streets along the wedding route, eager to catch a glimpse of Victoria Eugenie in her $20,000 wedding dress. Floral bouquets flew through the air, thrown at the couple by the party-goers amongst shouts of “Viva la Reina!”
Suddenly, the yells of jubilation turned to blood-curdling screams. An explosion rocked the royal wedding carriage, and the world went dark.
23. … And Ended In Disaster
Hidden amongst one of the bouquets being thrown at Victoria Eugenie and her new husband was a powerful explosive, which detonated and ended the lives of 37 people, while injuring many others. Miraculously, both Victoria Eugenie and her husband escaped amid the smoke and chaos. The blood of a guard soaked Victoria Eugenie’s wedding dress, but she refused to let the gore shake her. Instead, the new queen took charge.
24. She Was Selfless
Surrounded by mangled bodies and severed limbs, Victoria Eugenie let her training as a royal take over. She pushed down her nausea and saw to it that the servants and guardsmen around her were safe and unharmed, before moving on to the royal palace. There, Victoria Eugenie kept her composure and even elected to carry out the wedding meal in an attempt to establish a sense of normality. Ironically, this move backfired—big time.
25. They Were Suspicious Of Her
You see, Victoria Eugenie’s lack of hysterics actually made a number of people in the court suspicious of their new queen—after all, who just carries on as normal after someone makes an attempt on their life? Of course, they had no idea that Victoria Eugenie was actually in hysterics on the inside, but the misunderstanding did her no favors. The negative backlash only made things worse for the new queen.
26. Her Experience Haunted Her
A day after the wedding, Victoria Eugenie and her new husband drove, unattended, through Madrid to greet their subjects. Victoria Eugenie, still emotionally scarred by the explosion, visibly shrank back from the fervent crowds as they closed in around her, but fought to keep a smile on her face. She was relieved when it was all over, and was more than ready to enjoy her new life with Alfonso. Poor Victoria Eugenie had no idea that this was not to be.
27. She Carried The Heir
After the less-than-stellar start of her marriage, things began to turn around when Victoria Eugenie became pregnant in the fall of 1906. Her pregnancy progressed smoothly, for the most part. The people of the Spanish court grumbled about the number of English servants she kept in her company, finding it a tad offensive that she didn’t have more Spaniards in her employ.
However, Victoria Eugenie had very good reasons for this.
28. Tradition Stifled Her
One big reason for Victoria Eugenie’s reluctance to surround herself with more Spanish servants was due to the Spanish customs surrounding childbirth. When Victoria Eugenie went into labor on May 10, 1907, tradition forced her to give birth almost in public. About 150 important diplomats, all men, stood waiting just outside her labor room, as was expected in the Spanish court.
As the baby came into view, the crowd waited with bated breath…
29. She Did Her Duty
Much to the crowd’s jubilation, Victoria Eugenie gave birth to a boy, who they named Alfonso. Within a year of their marriage, Victoria Eugenie did her duty and gave birth to an heir, which many considered an incredible feat. This won over many of the Spaniards that had initially doubted her, and for Victoria Eugenie, this alone was a cause for celebration. Unfortunately, Victoria Eugenie’s joy was short-lived.
30. She Passed On Something Horrible
When doctors went to carry out baby Alfonso’s circumcision, they uncovered something horrific: The baby would not stop bleeding. Unbeknownst to Victoria Eugenie, she was a carrier for hemophilia and had passed the condition on to her son. Although Victoria Eugenie’s husband continued to be outwardly affectionate towards his son and to Victoria Eugenie herself, cracks in their relationship began to show by the following year.
31. He Blamed It All On Her
By 1908, Victoria Eugenie’s husband began to distance himself from her, often disappearing without a word for varying lengths of time. You see, Alfonso blamed Victoria Eugenie for bringing hemophilia into his family, and for having the gall to pass it on to his heir (even though she had no control over it). Victoria Eugenie’s husband grew increasingly disdainful of her as the months passed, and her mother-in-law’s actions certainly didn’t help either.
32. She Had No Control Over Her Court
As if being a mother and the wife of an increasingly disinterested husband wasn’t enough, Victoria Eugenie’s mother-in-law refused to give up her dominance in court. Every time Victoria Eugenie tried to hold court, her mother-in-law was right beside her, often taking charge of conversations and talking right over the poor young girl.
No one bothered to teach her Spanish either, which only made things harder. This could only end in disaster for Victoria Eugenie.
33. Tragedy Befell Her Children
On June 23, 1908, Victoria Eugenie gave birth to another baby boy, who she named Jaime. Critically, Victoria Eugenie’s second son didn’t inherit hemophilia; if Alfonso Jr. fell ill to the disease, at least the spare would be healthy. But this hope was quickly dashed. Little Jaime developed an infection in his ears, and the surgery meant to heal him caused him to go deaf.
Sadly, this only enhanced Alfonso’s resentment, and before long, he turned down a path of brutal betrayal.
34. Her Husband Cheated On Her
Frustrated with Victoria Eugenie and with the ailments affecting his children, Alfonso XIII began having numerous affairs. Not even Victoria Eugenie’s successive births—which, tragically, included a stillborn in 1910—stopped her husband from dabbling with other women. Although it broke Victoria Eugenie’s heart, she could do little more than put up with his infidelity.
After all, something else quickly made that issue seem trivial: The arrival of WWI.
35. Her Family Took Sides
Immediately, Victoria Eugenie’s new family faced a serious division. Victoria Eugenie’s mother-in-law, born an Austrian archduchess, sympathized with the Germans. Victoria Eugenie herself, born and bred in the English court, naturally allied herself with Great Britain. Caught in the middle, her husband declared the Spanish court to be neutral, but it did little to improve Victoria Eugenie’s standing in court.
36. Her Mother-in-Law Frustrated Her
Unsurprisingly, many members of the court doubted whether Victoria Eugenie could truly remain “neutral,” especially considering her deep love for England. Of course, her mother-in-law’s visible glee whenever tragedy befell the Englishmen fighting in the field did little to help, and it took the young queen a superhuman level of effort to keep herself from exploding in anger at her mother-in-law. Only one thing truly kept Victoria Eugenie grounded.
37. She Loved Her People
While Victoria Eugenie had little love for the Spanish court and its customs, she was greatly moved by the suffering and poverty experienced by the ordinary people in and around Madrid. She pushed hard for medical reform and to develop more services aimed at families who lost their fathers to WWI, which gained her favor in the eyes of the populace.
Unfortunately, this didn’t keep her safe from the intrigues of the court.
38. They Tried To Tempt Her
The end of WWI did little to curb the cheating ways of Victoria Eugenie’s husband, and some members of the court tried to use her pain against the Spanish King. In 1924, several ex-ministers to the King attempted to use her to stage a coup. What they didn’t expect was for Victoria Eugenie to stay loyal to her husband, in spite of all the pain he had caused her.
That didn’t mean that she was just going to let his infidelity go, though—not by a long shot!
39. She Had An Arch Nemesis
Although Victoria Eugenie’s husband made the decision to cheat on her, one man in court spurred him on and encouraged him to carry out his clandestine deeds—the Marquis of Viana, who was close to the King. Viana hated Victoria Eugenie for one simple reason: She was an Englishwoman. And so, for roughly two decades, he got to work causing Victoria Eugenie as much emotional anguish as possible.
In 1927, Victoria Eugenie decided that she’d had enough.
40. She Soundly Defeated Him
By now, Victoria Eugenie was comfortable in her role as the Queen, so she was completely in her element when she summoned the court in 1927 to condemn Viana. When Viana tried to defend himself, she cut him off by saying, “It is not in my power to punish you as you deserve…Your punishment will have to wait for the next world.” What happened next was downright jaw-dropping.
41. She Shocked Him To The Core
Victoria Eugenie’s words shocked Viana to the core. That very evening, a disquieting coincidence rocked the court: Viana fell victim to a heart attack. It was a tremendous display of royal power on her part, but that power wasn’t to last. As the 1930s approached, so too did the one thing that Victoria Eugenie grew to fear—revolution.
42. Her World Was Never The Same
On April 12, 1931, Victoria Eugenie’s life changed forever. A vote was held regarding whether the country should keep or abolish the Spanish monarchy. After tallying the votes, it became clear that Spain was ready to leave the trappings of royalty behind. This forced Victoria Eugenie and her family to leave, but fleeing the country wouldn’t be easy.
43. She Left It All Behind
Victoria Eugenie’s husband left first for France, leaving Victoria Eugenie and their children behind to pack what they could. The crowds outside the castle grew menacing; shouts of “Muera al Rey! Muera a la Reina!” filled the air. In the middle of Victoria Eugenie’s packing, a truck began smashing into the gates. Spurred on by the urgency of the situation, Victoria Eugenie and her family finally left their home behind. They were now in exile.
44. She Found Sanctuary
Victoria Eugenie and her children arrived in Marseilles, where they were practically mobbed by a happy and jubilant crowd of people. They met up with her husband and continued on to Paris, where everything came crashing down. You see, when it came to her private life, an undercurrent of bitterness began to poison everything, and compounded with their dire situation, it was a recipe for disaster.
45. Her Husband Had Barbs
Alfonso was at the end of his tether. Frustrated with his exile from Spain and still angry with Victoria Eugenie for passing hemophilia on to his children, he accused Victoria Eugenie of an egregious act that finally caused her to snap. He accused her of an affair with the Duke of Lecera, one of her old friends. The Queen’s response was absolutely brutal.
46. He Hurt Her With His Accusations
Although the Duke of Lecera—and the Duchess of Lecera—had feelings for Victoria Eugenie, the Spanish Queen never reciprocated. The accusation pushed Victoria Eugenie over the edge; in response to the accusation, she flat-out told her husband, “I…never want to see your ugly face again.” It was time for her to carve out a new life for herself.
47. She Lived On Without Him
Now separated from her husband, Victoria Eugenie continued to live out her own life, but it was still marred by tragedy. Her eldest son fell in love with a Cuban commoner and married her against his father’s wishes. When Victoria Eugenie begged her husband to attend the wedding, he simply replied, “I have lost this son forever.”
Then, in the summer of 1934, Victoria Eugenie suffered another devastating blow.
48. Her Sons Suffered The Same Fate
In the summer of 1934, Gonzalo, her youngest son, fell victim to a car accident. Although his injuries were minor, he was a hemophiliac and succumbed to internal bleeding. Four years later, on September 6, 1938, Victoria Eugenie’s eldest son suffered an eerily similar fate when he too lost his life to minor injuries inflicted upon him during a car crash.
As if that wasn’t enough, life had yet another devastating loss in the cards for this grieving mother.
49. She Still Mourned For Him
In January 1941, Victoria Eugenie’s husband grew critically ill. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it, Victoria Eugenie and her children went to be by his bedside. On February 28, he was gone—and the grief of it nearly overwhelmed her. Despite their tumultuous love story, Victoria Eugenie still mourned the loss of her husband.
When her time came on April 15, 1969, Victoria Eugenie was eventually buried next to her husband in the Royal Vault, just outside of Madrid.