Birthday: May 17, 1886
Died At Age: 54
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: El Africano or the African
Born Country: Spain
Born in: Madrid, Spain
Famous as: King of Spain
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (m. 1906)
father: Alfonso XII of Spain
mother: Maria Christina of Austria
siblings: Alfonso Sanz y Martínez de Arizala, Fernand Sanz, Infanta María Teresa of Spain, María de las Mercedes; Princess of Asturias
children: Alfonso; Prince of Asturias, Fernando de Borbón y Battenberg, Infanta Beatriz of Spain, Infanta María Cristina of Spain, Infante Gonzalo of Spain, Infante Jaime; Duke of Segovia, Infante Juan; Count of Barcelona, Leandro de Borbón
Died on: February 28, 1941
place of death: Rome
City: Madrid, Spain
awards: Royal Victorian Chain
Alfonso XIII of Spain, also known as El Africano, was the King of Spain from his birth in 1886 until the establishment of the Second Republic in 1931. The posthumous son of Alfonso XII, he grew up alongside two elder sisters under the regency of their mother, María Cristina. Although he felt quite disconnected from the court life from the very beginning, he took full authority as the king on his sixteenth birthday in 1902. During his reign, Alfonso continued the system of rotating the governments which led to political instability. His popularity also suffered due to the poor situation of the popular classes, Catalan nationalism, and consequences of the Rif War. However, his tremendous courage in dealing with a plot to assassinate him on his wedding day in 1906 won him considerable admiration all over Spain. Although Alfonso had seven children with his wife Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, he later left her to have relationships with several mistresses and fathered numerous illegitimate children. In April 1931, he was forced to leave the country though he refused to abdicate the throne. Ten years later, he died at a hotel in Rome, at the age of 54.
Childhood & Early Life
Alfonso XIII of Spain was born on 17 May 1886, in Madrid, Kingdom of Spain, as the posthumous son of Alfonso XII of Spain. His mother was the king’s second wife, Maria Christina of Austria. His father’s death in 1885 made him the King of Spain upon his birth.
His mother served as his regent until 1902 when he took oath as the future king on his 16th birthday.
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Reign during World War I
During his reign, Alfonso repeatedly intervened in politics in an attempt to alternate liberal and conservative governments. His actions led to political instability, especially between 1902 and 1923, when 33 governments were formed in Spain.
During World War I, Spain remained neutral owing to the family connections of the king on both sides. He established an office in the Royal Palace to assist prisoners of war on all sides.
Rif War & Subsequent Battles
Following World War I, Spain participated in the long but victorious Rif War. The war that occurred between 1920 and 1927 was fought between the Africanists who wished to conquer an empire in Africa and the abandonistas who wanted to abandon Morocco.
In 1921, Alfonso’s favorite general Manuel Fernández Silvestre moved to the Rif Mountains of Morocco and later led his men into the Battle of Annual where Spain was defeated badly.
The king, who was in France when informed about the ‘Disaster of the Annual,’ took no interest in the news and didn’t return to the country to comfort the families of the martyred soldiers. It was later discovered that he supported Silvestre’s advance into the Moroccan region.
Following the ‘Disaster of the Annual’, the support for the abandonistas grew which contributed to the military coup d'état in 1923. In September that year, General Miguel Primo de Rivera seized power in the coup. However, after realizing that the war was hopeless, he pulled back his troops with the aim of abandoning the Rif.
Formation of Second Republic
In 1930, Miguel Primo de Rivera resigned from his role of prime minister due to economic problems and general unpopularity.
In 1931, municipal elections were held which were won by the republican parties. Following the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, Alfonso left Spain and settled in Rome. However, he did not formally abdicate.
Following the death of the king’s son Gonalzo and renouncement of the throne by his other sons Jaime and Alfonso, his son Juan became the only male heir.
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In 1936, the nationalist leader General Francisco Franco announced that his group would not accept Alfonso as the king despite the fact that Alfonso supported the nationalists over the republicans.
Nevertheless, Alfonso encouraged his son Juan to participate in the uprising. This eventually led to his arrest and banishment.
On 29 September 1936, Alfonso became the senior heir of Hugh Capet following the death of the Carlist pretender, Infante Alfonso Carlos, Duke of San Jaime.
On 15 January 1941, he abdicated his rights to the Spanish throne in support of his son Juan.
Marriage to Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg & Issue
During a visit to UK in 1905, Alfonso XIII of Spain stayed at Buckingham Palace where he met the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and niece of King Edward VII, Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. Victoria Eugenie was a Protestant.
The two developed feelings for each other and decided to marry. After converting to Catholicism in March 1906, Victoria married Alfonso in May at the Royal Monastery of San Jerónimo, Madrid, in the presence of guests, including her cousins King George V and Queen Mary.
Their wedding was marked by an assassination plot on the king and his wife by Catalan anarchist Mateu Morral who threw a bomb at the gathering, eventually killing and injuring many. The king and his wife were able to escape.
On 10 May 1907, their first child, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, was born. He had inherited haemophilia from his mother.
Victoria later gave birth to more children, including Jaime, Beatriz, María, Juan, and Gonzalo. As their son Gonzalo also suffered from haemophilia, Alfonso distanced himself from Victoria later on.
Other Family Members
Alfonso XIII of Spain had two elder sisters, Infanta Mercedes, Princess of Asturias, who married Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, and Infanta Maria Teresa who married Prince Ferdinand of Bavaria, Infante of Spain.
Alfonso had six illegitimate children from various mistresses, including Pauline of Saint Glen, Mélanie de Gaufridy de Dortan, Béatrice Noon, María del Carmen Ruiz y Moragas, and Marie Sousa.
Death & Legacy
On 28 February 1941, Alfonso XIII of Spain died in Rome, at the age of 54. He was buried at the Spanish national church, Church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli.
The king was an avid promoter of tourism. He ordered the construction of Madrid’s luxurious Hotel Palace for his wedding guests.
His fondness for football led him to support several "Royal" football clubs, including Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña, Real Madrid, Real Unión, and Real Zaragoza.
Following his death, the avenue Avenida de Alfonso XIII in Madrid was named after him. Plaza Alfonso XIII in Iloilo City, Philippines (currently Plaza Libertad) was also named in his honor.