Friday, December 11, 2009

Elvira de Bourbon

December 11, 1929

Princess Elvira de Bourbon died today in a Paris clinic. She was 58 years old, the AP reports. She was the daughter of the late Don Carlos de Bourbon, Duke of Madrid, pretended to the Spanish throne, and Princess Margherita of Bourbon-Parma. Her brother, Jaime, is the present Duke of Madrid. Elvira is also survived by her three sons, Georges, Fulco and Filiberto, the issue of her relationship with Filippo Folchi, and her sisters, Blanca, the wife of Archduke Leopold Salvator of Austria, Princess Beatrice, Princess Massimo, and Princess Alicia, whose marriage to Prince Viktor of Schönburg-Waldenburg was annulled in 1906. Alicia is now married to a commoner, Lino del Prete.

In November 1896, Italian newspapers published "reports of a sensational elopement" which caused a great scandal in the highest society." Princess Elvira had come to Italy to visit her sister, Princess Massimo, and had met and fallen in love with Count Folchi, an artist, who happened to be a married man. They ran off together, with Elvira taking her jewels valued at $60,000 with her.

Princess Elvira's mother, Princess Margherita of Bourbon-Parma, whose mother was the sister of the Count of Chambord.

The Count and Countess of Chambord left most of their estate to their favorite niece,  Princess Margherita, who died in in 1893.  She  left most of the money in trust for her children, leaving only a small allowance for her husband, Don Carlos, from whom she had been separated for some years.

Several days after Elvira's elopement, her father issued a manifesto to his supporters:
"You are my family, my beloved children. I therefore think it is my duty to inform you that another of my children, she who was Infanta Doña Elvira, is dead to us all. May God in his infinite mercy have pity on that unhappy soul.
"Two supreme consolations sustain me in this terrible grief which breaks my heart: the state of grace which I implore with the same fervor as ever and the same faith which I place in your prayers and your affection, which compensate for everything."

First reports stated that Count Filippo Folchi was married to a "beautiful girl of good family," the daughter of Count Rappini, and they had two children. In 1895, the Count met Prince del Drago at Viareggio, who introduced him to the Duke of Parma, who lived nearby. The Dukence asked Folchi to copy some tapestries for him. Countess Folchi and their children were also in Viareggio.

Don Carlos also owned a villa in Viareggio, and he had sent Elvira there as she suffered from "extreme nervousness and hysteria."

Princess Elvira visited the Duke of Parma's villa frequently, where she met the count. She developed a "violent affection" for him, which soon became known to the servants as she was incapable of hiding her feelings for Folchi. The Duke of Parma soon learned about the affair, and he made his feelings known the Count, who was asked to leave.

The Duke's threats did not work, and Folchi continued to court and correspond with Princess Elvira. Eventually, the count's wife also learned of the affair, and objected, and the Folchis left for Florence.

Princess Massimo brought her sister to live in Rome, where Elvira's nervousness and hysteria increased." The palace servants were ordered to bring correspondence Elvira received or tried to post to her lover. "Choosing a moment" when her sister was not present, Elvira gathered her jewels and ran out of the house to join Folchi.

In December, 1896, Princess Elvira, believed to be living in Barcelona, sent a letter to her father, asking for his forgiveness, stating that since his marriage to Princess Bertha de Rohan, her life had become intolerable.  The Illustrated London news reported on Elvira's flight from her family.   Folchi was described as a "highly successful artist and kinsman of a Roman Catholic cardinal.  He is no adventurer, but a man of high social position."

Don Carlos 's manifesto   "solemnly excommunicating his rebellious child.  It is a dignified and pathetic document; but it appears to have excited considerable uneasiness among the Carlists, who think their cause would have suffered less if their chief had taken the blow in silence."

Infanta Elvira was said to be "high-strung and emotional."  When she fled her home, she took with her a "considerable sum of money, the disposal of which was entirely within her own right."

In January 1898, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported by special cable to the St. Louis Globe and Democrat that Folchi's wife was instituting proceedings for a legal separation, as "divorce being as yet unknown in Italian jurisprudence." The Count's lawyers planned a counter suit, stating that the marriage was not legal. Count Folchi claimed that his wife, Marie Bailly, a Frenchwoman, married him "in defiance of the wishes of her parents." The marriage, according to French law, was not valid because Marie had not received her family's approval.

The marriage did take place in France, but Marie became an Italian citizen when she married Folchi. Thus, the count and countess were subject to Italian law, and not French law, concerning the validity of their marriage.

The countess also sued Princess Elvira as a correspondent, and accused her of "having abducted and carried off" her husband. She also sought sufficient damages and alimony from the Princess, as she knew her husband to be penniless.

The princess and her lover were represented by the same Milan lawyer who handled the princess' suit against her father, Don Carlos. The Duke of Madrid had unsuccessfully tried to block Elvira from receiving her portion of her inheritance from her mother on the "ridiculous pretext" that she was dead because her had disowned her.

The Princess and Folchi stayed at Biskera, Algeria, during the early winter of 1898. They stayed at the same hotel as the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who knew Elvira well, but, due to the scandal, was unlikely to "consent to recognize her."
After fleeing Italy, the couple divided their time between St.Moritz, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid and Marseilles before crossing over to Algeria. Princess Elvira did not have to worry about money, as she had an account at the Rothschilds' bank in Paris.

The Princess' lawsuit against her father came to trial in March 1899. Elvira planned to make public "the disgraceful features" of her father's private life. Her lawyers intended to show that Don Carlos tried to squander his wife's fortune "upon women more notorious than reputable." Don Carlos' intent was to show the courts that he denied Elvira's inheritance because of her "immoral behavior" with Folchi.

She charged her father with "gross dishonesty" in denying her portion of her mother's fortune, and that he "defrauded his children in the most shameful manner." She also sued her brother, Don Jaime, for failing to turn over to her paintings and jewels that belonged to her.

The Marquise de Fontenoy wrote in April 1900 that Don Carlos was prepared to go any extreme "for the sake of money." In an attempt to thwart Elvira's lawsuit, Don Carlos tried to claim that he and his children were Austrian, and not Spanish citizens. Don Carlos was the Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne. Under Austrian law, Don Carlos, as a parent, had certain rights regarding the property of his children. In order to claim Elvira's portion, Don Carlos was willing to stand up in court and claim that he and his family had Austrian nationality, which had come as a surprise to his Spanish supporters. There were no reports on the final outcome of the case, but by November 1901, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported that Elvira was ill and in "financial stress." The reported noted that the princess and Folchi were now living in Barcelona, and the princess had squandered a fortune of $400,000, and was now "penniless."

The couple were still together in 1903, and Folchi stated to the press that if he could divorce his wife, he would marry Princess Elvira. There were also reports that Folchi would be able to obtain an annulment of his first marriage, and marry Elvira in a Roman Catholic church. The reports of the princess' financial difficulties were said to be false. Elvira and her lover maintained a salon in Rome, which is frequented by the "bohemian set." Folchi continued to paint, but sold very few paintings. Elvira, it was noted, had the "command" of her fortune, about $9000 a year. In October 1904, the Marquise of Fontenoy wrote about Elvira's sister, Alice, who had bolted from her husband, had given birth to a son, whose father she planned to marry in a few months time. The Marquise also mentioned that Folchi had acquired French nationality and had divorced his wife, "which enabled him to marry Princess Elvira a few months ago."

The report of a marriage turned out to be false, as Folchi did not become a French national, and divorce was not permitted in Italy.

In June 1905, the New York Times reported that Folchi, who was now living with Elvira in Florence, had tried to kill himself with a revolver, but he claimed that the shooting was an accident.

Don Carlos died in 1909. His son, Don Jaime, was the principal heir, but he also provided for three of daughters, Blanca, Beatrice and Alice. Elvira was excluded.
"My daughter Elvira by her conduct and the shame she has brought upon her name, has shown herself unworthy; I therefore disinherit her as far as the law allows me."

In her book, In My Tower, Walpurga Paget writes about a incident in Rome, where her dogs were attacked by vagrant dogs. She tells about a man, calling him della Rocca, who helped her in rescuing her dogs. She later gives more information about della Rocca who came to her aid. "This gentleman's real name is Folchi; he belongs to the petite noblesse, is very good looking, and a painter by profession. Some years ago, Donna Elvira de Bourbon, one of Don Carlos' daughters, exasperated by her father's and especially her stepmother's (Marie Berthe de Rohan)hard, nay cruel treatment of her, ran away from home and sought refuge in Folchi's arms, having fallen in love with him whilst he painted in her uncle the Duke of Parma's house.

"Folchi could not marry her, as he had in early youth become entangled with a more than doubtful lady, who a year or two earlier, being at last her gasp, implored him to marry her (civilly)as there were two sons. This ceremony so revived her (though the doctors had promised that she should die in twenty minutes) that she is alive to-day. Then came some monsignore who told Folchi what a deadly sin it was to be married civilly only, and that if he would come to his church the next morning at ten all would be satisfactorily arranged. Folchi, who, although beautiful, was not very wise, and only twenty-three, obeyed and found himself married religiously before he knew where he was. All this did not conduce to a happy ménage, so in ten years later he found himself in the wake of Donna Elvira's large black eyes.

"I have only heard these details lately from the Princess Marie de Rohan, but at the time of the dog incident, I believed the della Roccas to be married in some hazy American way and to have taken the title della Rocca. In consequence I had, out of gratitude, deposited a card, and they returned it and wished to come and see me, which they did. I found Donna Elvira very intelligent, well-mannered, and modest, quiet deaf, and very delicate. He, very quiet and rather reticent. It appears now that they are almost starving, as he has nothing, or very little, and Don Carlos has declared her to be dead to him and pockets the dowry her mother, who was the daughter of Madame de France, left her."

Countess Walpurga von Hohenthal (1839-1929), a confidante of Empress Friedrich, was the wife of British diplomat, Sir Augustus Paget.

On November 6, 1929, the AP reported that Princess Elvira was "seriously ill" and had received extreme unction.

It is not known what happened to Folchi. It is unlikely that he was a count. There are no details on their eldest son, Georges de Bourbon, apart from being killed in action in 1940. Fulco and Filiberto emigrated to the United States, where they settled and raised their families.

 If you liked this article, you could buy me a latte


Kevin From Australia said...

So interesting to read this Marlene - all I knew of Princess Elvira was that the Comte and Comtesse Chambord were her godparents

Bea said...

Marlene, what a story. So was there nothing known what became of Elivra in her final years? Bea

Eurohistory said...

Kevin...check one of the ERHJ issues of late...there is an article in which Elvira is discussed. I know you have the issue I have in mind.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...


Nothing in the papers about Elvira ...- she seemed to fall off the radar.

Ronald Elward said...

A descendant of Filippo Folchi married recently a Boncompagni-Ludovisi: