Fascinating Women: Infanta Eulalia of Spain

Infanta Eulalia
Infanta Eulalia of Spain (1864 – 1958)

The Infanta (a title given to daughters of the Spanish monarch) incited controversy from a very young age, and consistently caused a furor until the day of her death. The youngest daughter of Queen Isabella II of Spain, Eulalia spent much of her childhood exiled with her family in France. When her brother was restored to the throne as King Alfonso XII, the young infanta said good-bye to her convent school and resumed her rank as Spanish royalty. However, according to one volume of Eulalia’s memoirs, this abrupt change in position was the root of her cynicism towards social status, and she grew determined to undermine the snobbery and strictures of exalted rank. She dutifully married a cousin, Infante Antonio de Orleans y Borbón, at 22, but after bearing two sons, Eulalia set up her own household in Paris and Madrid, and often visited England.

The year 1893 was the first inkling that the Infanta Eulalia of Spain was her own woman and cared naught for what others might think. She made plans to visit the United States for the World’s Fair in Chicago, and the Windy City’s high society brimmed with pride and delight, crowing at this coup over New York’s “400”. American newspapers were all agog over Eulalia, and city officials in New York and Chicago drew up a list of official itineraries for the Infanta, and society hostesses rubbed their hands with glee over the lavish dinners and entertainments planned for this alleged direct descendant of Christopher Columbus. Eulalia shocked everyone by smoking, she attended a Roman Catholic church in a poor parish rather than have mass in a luxurious cathedral, and even snubbed a social event to eat sausages at the fair like a regular attendee. She later courted more controversy when she tried to divorce her husband, and when she became the official go-between for wealthy, social-climbing Americans and European noble families (the grateful Americans of course showered Eulalia with automobiles or the loaning of yachts).

Eulalia’s most scandalous move yet was becoming an author. She first published The Thread of Life in 1912, where she expressed her thoughts “about education, the independence of women, the equality of classes, socialism, religion, marriage, prejudices, and traditions.” This book raised the ire of her nephew, King Alfonso XIII, who demanded to read the book before its publication–Eulalia ignored this. She added fire to the flame in 1915, when she wrote an article about the German Emperor Wilhelm II for the Strand Magazine, and published Court Life from Within, a deeper look at her life. She published two more books, the last being her official memoirs in 1935. The Infanta lived until she was 94, and though she was born to the purple, and occasionally demonstrated her royal upbringing, Eulalia held quite progressive views for her sex and rank, and during the Spanish Civil War, she wrote “We who have seen so many of our traditions crumble in the dust find our one solace in the knowledge that a new world is about to evolve.”

Read her obituary
The Thread of Life (1912)
Court Life from Within (1915)


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