C. N.,A. M. WILLIAMSON IN McCLURE'S MAGAZINEOctober11906
The Love Story of the Spanish King
BY C. N. AND A. M. WILLIAMSON IN McCLURE'S MAGAZINE.
It is refreshing to read about such a royal romance as that! in which King Alfonso of Spain and Princess Ena of Battenburg were the principals. That it,was a love match is plainly evidenced by the obstacles which had to be overcome ere it could be consummated. The writers of this article had special opportunities to acquaint themselves with the story, and so their narrative can be considered as strictly accurate.
MOST royal romances are made to order, and exist merely in the mind of the journalist whose duty it is to impress upon a sentimental public the fact that a certain prince has fallen in love with a certain princess whom he is about to marry.
As said witty Princess Victoria (sole unmarried daughter of King Edward and Queen Alexandra), “Most of us marry because it’s convenient. Alfonso and Ena are marrying because it’s inconvenient.” This way of putting it is a merry exaggeration. But, as a matter of fact, none of the powers wished Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg to make a match; and there is where the romance begins.
Naturally, Queen Christina (an Austrian of the Austrians) would have preferred that her son marry a very Catholic Austrian princess. Indeed, she had one carefully picked out, and an understudy or two ready to fill the part, in case the first choice should fail to please. Her own marriage had been one of convenience; but the boy, brought up so carefully by his mother, had a surprising individuality of his own which nobody had counted upon — despite signs of firmness of character, not to say obstinacy, in childhood.
Sensational journalists have announced that the King of Spain was extremely eccentric, if not deficient in intellect; but exactly the opposite
is true. He is exceedingly clever, though too impatient of restraint to be much of a student. He bids fair, as his character develops with experience, to show his mother’s diplomatic tact, mingled with an engaging impulsiveness all his own, which wins hearts as she never could. He is quick to make decisions, is really interested in the welfare of his people, and his selfishness is merely the selfishness of high-spirited youth, eager to do everything that is really worth doing. He is easily moved through his affections, though it is all but impossible to influence him in any other way except through his sense of justice. The King has a boyish fashion of imposing his own will on every one around him. He does this so gaily, so smilingly, (if not in one of his “sombre moods of pride”) that even people who have decided to oppose him find themselves pleased that he should do as he likes.
“What, marry her nose to my Hapsburg mouth ! It would be a crime,” was his remark to an intimate friend, concerning an Austrian princess. No other on the list pleased him better; and the two or three possible German candidates were crossed off in the same way. “I want to be happy, and then I shall know how to make others happy,” he said to the same friend of his youth.
It was at this period that he took a fancy to things English, which for some years had not been quite the
fashion in Spain. He went in for motoring, hunting, cricket, and tennis; and was so far interested in America that he engaged a young American of his own age to teach him American slang, at which he became so adept that he used greatly to astonish his friends. This put it in the minds of those nearest him, that, since it would be well for the dynasty that the King should soon marry, an English princess might be to his taste.
The matter was informally discussed, as such matters are when a royal match is to be made, and in the end it was arranged that, when King Alfonso paid a proposed visit to England, he and Princess Victoria of Connaught should meet and see what they thought of each other.
Of course they had seen each other’s photographs, though nothing had been said to the princess of the plan. As she had never seen the King himself, with his illuminating smile, his humorous eyes, intellectual forehead, and the chin which as a child he kept "pinching into shape” to make it resemble that of Philip IV, she judged him very ugly. She is well dressed and smart, with the air of being pretty, and the King was prepared to admire her. All bade fair to go smoothly. When the King went to England, a party was arranged in honor of the royal visitor. All the princesses from far and near had to be invited, Princess Ena among others—nobody thought of her as a possible danger.
To be sure, she is an extremely pretty girl, with hair of "guinea gold,” which she wears charmingly in waves and soft coils. She has beautiful dark brows and lashes, and violet eyes which seem dark in contrast with her yellow hair. Besides
all this, her complexion is as perfect as roses and cream; and she has the high spirits of her father, Prince Henry of Battenberg, whom Queen Victoria used to call "Our Sunshine.” But then she was not, until after her engagement, a Royal Highness, as the Princes of Battenberg were the children of a morganatic marriage; and Prince Henry would not have been allowed to marry Queen Victoria’s daughter had he not bribed his royal mother-inlaw by promising to live always with her.
Princess Ena had been greatly admired on her presentation at Court only a few months before the King of Spain’s arrival, when she was not yet eighteen; but she was not to be thought of as a match for a king. It was supposed, when the time came for her to marry, that some German princeling would be found, who would be glad enough to marry such a pretty girl, made an heiress by her rich and devoted godmother, the exEmpress Eugenie. She had traveled nowhere, had seen nothing, and was still the tomboy who had been the chum and willing slave of her brothers.
So she was asked to the party, to be a figure in the background, while another more fortunate princess played leading lady. She is a shy girl, rather self-conscious with strangers, like her mother, who has a most undeserved reputation for haughtiness. She was eager to meet the King, because of the great interest she had taken since childhood in Spanish history. To please her godmother she had studied Spanish, and she admitted to a friend that she looked forward to seeing the King. But since it was as the King of Spain, not as a young man
and a possible husband, that she thought of him, she was perfectly natural and unembarrassed on meeting him.
"Who is that ?” asked the King, at first sight of Princess Ena, looking at her very intently. When he was told, he did not rest until he had been introduced, and was able to talk to her.
Before an hour had passed, every one foresaw what was going to happen—every one but Princess Ena herself. "How nice he is to talk to,” she said to her most intimate friend, a charming English princess. "And what a nice smile he has. I did like to make him laugh.”
After that, King Alfonso did not lose a day in letting King Edward and King Edward’s sister, Princess Henry of Battenberg, know what was in his mind. His mother, Queen Christina, was also communicated with. He soon found that on all sides there was opposition to his wishes.
Queen Christina had her heart set on a ready-made Catholic daughterin-law, and besides it was clear that to marry Princess Ena would be a misalliance for the young King. King Edward did not wish his niece to enter a family which was not pleased to receive her; and Princess Henry disliked her only daughter being forced to adopt the Catholic religion.
One friend at Court the royal lover had, however—Empress Eugenie, wTho was delighted with the idea of the marriage, for which she had already longed, without believing that it could take place. As she had ardently desired Princess Beatrice to marry the Prince Imperial, she had always felt an especial interest in the children of her widowed favorite.
In a few weeks, by sheer force of will, the young man of twenty had
got his way, and had permission to propose to Princess Ena. By this time, the girl well knew what was in the air, though nothing definite had been said to her; and she was chaffed by her brothers, because she had always insisted that she would marry a "dark man or no one,” and she "wished it might be a king.”
A visit was arranged for her and her mother to Princess Frederica of Hanover (who herself made one of the most romantic marriages on record) at the Villa Mouriscot, close to Biarritz; and it was there that King Alfonso was formally accepted.
The young King has been called "the demon motorist,” because when he drives an automobile he forgets everything but the wild joy of speed, and it is necessary to clear the way for him before he starts. "Remember, your Majesty, if you have no wife and family, we have,” said one of his friends who traveled with him from Madrid to meet Princess Ena at Biarritz. Each morning at eight o’clock he left the Villa Miramai at San Sebastian where he lived during his financee’s stay across the border), to motor to the Villa Mouriscot. At his rate of speed, the journey took exactly an hour. Having arrived, the King would make a round of the jewelry shops, flower shops, and sweet shops, choosing something himself at each place. He would wash off the dust of travel at the Hotel du Palais (where he kept a suite of rooms) and then, armed with his offerings, would hurry to the Villa Mouriscot. The Royal lovers usually spent the whole day together, and though they were invariably well chaperoned, Spanish people of the old-fashioned sort lifted their eyebrows at such a modern courtship. It was infra dig, said they, and a shocking thing that the
fiancees should be photographed with their hands clasped together. King Alfonso only laughed at such frumpish criticisms. He stopped all day and every day at the Villa Mouriscot; dressed for dinner at the Hotel du Palais, flew back to dine with the three princesses; stayed till eleven o’clock, and then gaily motored off to the royal villa at San Sebastian —where, by they way, as bride and groom the royal pair will spend much of this Summer and early Autumn.
It was during this happy visit at Biarritz that an amusing little incident took place. Princess Beatrice was reminding the King of his first visit to England, as a very small boy, and how he turned somersaults one evening before being sent to bed. Queen Victoria had laughed heartily, and had exclaimed, "We ought to try and arrange it that he shall be my grandson some day.”
Afterwards, when she had gone with her mother to Paris, he appeared quite unexpectedly at Versailles, and surprised the princesses. "I don’t know how it is, but I cannot keep away,” he explained. He had traveled strictly incognito, and remained only twelve hours.
Later, in Madrid, he received a letter from his betrothed, in answer to one from him telling of renovations he had been making in a castle and glorious garden of Southern Spain, where he hoped that they might spend part of their honeymoon. "How I long to see a big orange tree actually growing and blossoming out of doors,” said Princess Ena, in her reply. And that same day the King had a large orange tree in full blossom dug up, placed in a great tub, well covered, and sent to Versailles on a railway
truck by "grande vitesse.” This tree the princess duly planted in the garden at Versailles; but wrote to the King, "It was nicer planting out pine trees when we were together at the Villa Mouriscot.”
During his trip to the Canary Islands, King Alfonso sent a long telegram to his bride-elect every day ; and in one he said : "I am keeping that promise to be more careful of myself.” (The promise in question, by the way, was given at Biarritz, apropos of his demoniacal motoring.)
Two large boxes full of presents from tne Canaries accompanied the King on his flying visit to England, which he made directly after landing in Spain and attending the grand ceremonies of Holy Week in Seville. Also he took the princess a number of heirlooms, gifts from himself as well as from his mother, who is more than resigned now to welcoming her daughter-in-law.
"I am never so happy as when I am giving her a present,” the King told a friend. And when one day in the Isle of Wight, an old peasant (mistaking him for an ordinary individual) remarked that the Princess Ena was a very pretty girl, he answered : "Yes, I’ve seen her. She is the prettiest girl there is and will make a glorious queen.”
He was not content until his fiancee had shown him the corner of the garden which had been her favorite playing place as a child; the spot where she once had a dangerous fall from her pony; her pet window of the nursery; her battered toys. And he asked to be taken to call upon her old nurse, to whom he carried a gift and said so many kind things that the poor woman broke into tears, in the midst of her smiles.
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