Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg, the grieving prince

Born to reign, his life was the wandering halfway around the world of a man who spent half his life ill in bed and seven years in exile.

Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg, the grieving prince
Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg

Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg, first-born son of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia, was Prince of Asturias from birth. His figure has emerged from the history of the forgotten by appearing as a secondary character in the successful novel "Las hijas del capitán" (The Captain's Daughters) by María Dueñas.

The history of Alfonso de Borbón is an incessant accumulation of misfortunes in his few years of life. He was born in the Royal Palace of Madrid in 1907 and his birth was announced by the raising of the flag and twenty-one cannon salutes. But Prince Alfonso suffered from hemophilia, transmitted by his mother.

A disease that prevents blood clotting and that affected several European royal houses. As a result, he had very fragile health throughout his life, as well as insufficient education and difficulties in carrying out public functions as heir to the Crown due to the crises generated by his illness.

With the advent of the Republic, in April 1931, Prince Alfonso, 23 years old, left with his mother and siblings for France, while the King left Cartagena by ship and disembarked in Marseilles. His eldest son, suffering from one of his crises, was taken out of the Palace on a stretcher and underwent a tortuous journey to Paris.

Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg at the age of five.
Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg at the age of five.

With the royal family scattered throughout Europe, Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia virtually separated, Alfonso, recovering from his ills in a cynical Switzerland, meets and falls in love with Edelmira Sampedro, daughter of a family of Cuban potentates of Spanish origin. The king fiercely opposes the marriage and forces the Prince of Asturias to renounce his inheritance rights. He is granted the title of Count of Covadonga.

Alfonso and Edelmira marry in Lausanne in 1933 and spend considerable time in Cuba and the United States. Edelmira was derogatorily called "La Puchunga" by her husband's family. The marriage was turbulent, he was impotent after a urological intervention and Edelmira's relationship with Alfonso's nurse and secretary, Gottfried Schweizer, hired by Alfonso XIII, is stormy. The marriage ended with a divorce in 1937, lasting only four years.

Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg with Edelmira Sampedro
Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg with Edelmira Sampedro.

The Count of Covadonga, handsome and sympathetic but seriously ill, still married again with Mª Esther Rocafort, a spectacular Cuban. The marriage barely lasted two months. Alfonso settled in Florida living on the allowance of his father the king.

A few years earlier, in 1934, Alfonso's younger brother Gonzalo, also a hemophiliac, suffered an accident in Austria when he was traveling by car with his sister Beatriz, both were unharmed but the collision caused Gonzalo an internal hemorrhage from which he died.

Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia in an official portrait.
Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia in an official portrait.

It was like a premonition since in September 1938 -eighty years ago now- Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg, Count of Covadonga, suffered a car accident while traveling with a friend. There were no initial injuries, but like his brother Gonzalo, an internal hemorrhage later caused his death.

He was buried in Miami and many years later, in 1985, King Juan Carlos, his nephew, ordered the transfer of his uncle's remains to the Escorial Monastery. Alfonso's first wife, Edelmira Sampedro, who died in Coral Gables (Florida) in 1994, attended the farewell ceremony.