Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sudden death of Spanish infanta who married for love



June 15, 1910

The Marquise de Fontenoy reports today on the "sudden death in Paris" of Infanta Josefina of Spain, who was 83 years old. She was the granddaughter of King Carlos IV of Spain, and the sister of Don Francisco d'Assisi, who married Isabel II, and became the king consort of Spain.

Infanta Josefina was 21 years old when "she became infatuated" with a young Cuban-born journalist, José Güell y Rente, whom she met in Madrid. He had been a reporter on a Havana newspaper when he fell in love with a young woman who was a member of one of the leading families in the Antilles. His "affection was returned," but the girl's father "refused to encourage the suit and showed him the door," insinuating that he was of "far too lowly origin ever to dream of marrying his daughter."

The young journalist was enraged by this action, and "exclaimed passionately, that he would show the people who he was by marrying a princess."

He traveled to Madrid and was hired by one of the newspapers, and he soon "made a name for himself there as a writer and a poet." He dedicated several poems to the Infanta Josefina These poems "sufficed to turn her heart completely," and she "lost her heart to her Cuban admirer." She ran off with him Valladolid, where they married.

The Spanish royal family was understandably "thunderstruck, regarding the scandal," as Güell y Rente was not only a commoner but a "pronounced Radical." The government tried to have the marriage invalidated, but the pope would not agree.

The newlyweds were forced to live in exile, but "after a while, the good nature for which Queen Isabella was so celebrated prevailed," Josefa and her husband returned to Spain, "where they were received with honor and affection by the queen."

Don José "was a most charming man and a distinguished author." He sat in the Senate, but "declined any title, and died, universally mourned, at Madrid in 1884."

He was "favorably remembered in the United States as having been the principal partisan at Madrid in favor of the abolition of all duties on American corn."

The sons born of "this singularly happy union" did not follow their father's footsteps. The eldest son, Raimundo Güell y Borbon, received a commission in the army, and after his father's death, he was created the Marquis de Valcarlos. He later served as a military attache at Spain's embassy in Paris.

It was in Paris, where he met his wife, Antonieta Alberti, an heiress, whose father, Martin Alberti, was a partner of the banker Oppenheim.

He was "terrible extravagant, ended by exhausting the patience and generosity of his wife, of his father-in-law," as well as Queen Isabel and other members of the Spanish royal family. He was "driven ultimately by financial straits" as a military attached, and as a secret agent of the French war department. Through this latter position, the marquise was "implicated in an unsavoury manner with the Dreyfus scandal." It became public knowledge that he had been receiving a regular allowance from the secret service fund of the French war department from 1893 through 1895, "but for the use of a third person, whose name he declined to give."

The Spanish government was forced to dismiss him at once, and to "insist that he remain abroad." His royal relatives and friends "declined to have anything further to do with him.

The Marquis suffered a public disgrace and was "completely ostracized. He died in 1907 "in the utmost obscurity and in straitened circumstances" in France.
Infanta Josefa died in Paris on June 10. She is survived by her second son, Fernando, who was created Marquise de Güell, and by four granddaughters, Maria Francisca and Victoria Raimunda Güell y Alberti and Maria Amada and Maria Cristina Güell y Alfonso.

A third son, Francisco, died as an infant in 1858.

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