Monday, April 25, 2016

Infanta Isabel's funeral in Paris

Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

April 25, 1931

A funeral with the "utmost simplicity," was held today in Paris in the chapel of the nursing home where Infanta Isabel of Spain died on April 22, reports the New York Times.

The body will be placed temporarily in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in the family vault of the Marquis Quinones de Leon, former Spanish Ambassador to France.  A final decision on the Infanta's burial will be made after the newly exiled King Alfonso XIII returns to Paris from London.

A priest from the Spanish mission in Paris officiated at the mass for Infanta Isabel.  Neither Queen Victoria Eugenia or other members of the Spanish royal family attended the service.  They are living in exile in Fontainebleau.

Infante Don Alfonso and his wife, Infanta Beatriz, represented the King and Queen.

Isabel was 79 years old when she died.    She was born December 20, 1851, as the eldest surviving daughter of Queen Isabel II and King Consort Francisco de Asis, and was given the names Maria Isabel Francisca de Asis.   She was styled as Princess of Asturias until she was six-years-old when her mother gave birth to a son, the future Alfonso XII.   She regained the position of heiress presumptive when her brother was called to the throne in 1874, a position she held until the birth of King Alfonso's first child, Infanta Mercedes.

In 1868, she was married to Prince Gaetan of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Count of Girgenti, son of the late King Ferdinando II of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.   It was an arranged marriage, and, ultimately, an unsuccessful arrangement.   Gaetan suffered from depression and poor health and was ill-suited to marriage with the headstrong Infanta.  He also suffered from epilepsy,  which Isabel did not learn about until after their marriage.  

In September 1871, Isabel suffered a miscarriage, which was followed by revolution and exile.  Queen Isabel had lost her throne in 1868 and finally abdicated two years later in favor of her son, Alfonso XII, who was proclaimed king in 1874.

The loss of their child and the political problems in Spain led to a further mental breakdown for Gaetan, who was kept under constant supervision.   But when the couple were staying in a hotel in Lucerne, Gaetan was able to lock himself in a room and committed suicide by placing a gun to his head.

Infanta Isabel was only 20 years old when she became a widow.  She had become close to her husband and was devastated by his death.  She remained with her family, helping to raise her younger sisters, and she worked tirelessly for the restoration of the monarchy.  

The royal family returned to Spain in January 1875.  Her brother and others put pressure on her marry, offering candidates including Archduke Leopold Salvator of Austria and Prince Arnulf of Bavaria.   She was close to her brother and told him that she had no desire to marry again.

Infanta Isabel was perhaps the most popular member of the Royal Family.  Following the establishment of the Spanish Republic earlier this month in Spain, the new government informed the elderly woman that she could remain in Spain.  The very ill, but proud Isabel chose to leave Spain with the rest of the royal family.

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