Thursday, 13 July 2017

Queen Ena, star of #StateVisitSpain

One king, two queens. While Letizia has been getting plenty of attention as the Spanish State Visit gets under way, another consort from her country has been grabbing headlines too. The first day of #StateVisitSpain has given a starring role to Queen Ena -  tragic, lonely Ena. The exhibition of Spanish linked items from the Royal Collection held after lunch at Buckingham Palace featured a big section on the woman who was consort of Spain for a quarter of a century. Queen Ena was the great grandmother, and godmother, of King Felipe. And the tiara that she wore to turn from princess to queen has just become one of the most photographed pieces of jewellery in the world as Letizia donned the Fleur de Lys, otherwise known as La Buena, at the State Banquet. Ena, the forgotten consort, is suddenly world famous. Here are five things to know about Queen Ena of Spain....

1. Her first name wasn't Ena...

The name by which she is known to history was actually the last of the four names given to her at her christening and there is even a story that she wasn't meant to be called that at all. Born on October 24th 1887 at Balmoral Castle, she was the only daughter of Victoria's youngest child, Princess Beatrice, and Prince Henry of Battenberg. At her christening, at Balmoral, she followed in the footsteps of plenty of female cousins when she received the first name of Victoria. Then came Eugenie, after the exiled Empress of France, followed by Julia for her maternal grandmother. The name Ena was last on the list but it stuck ever afterwards. And one tale has it that it was actually meant to be 'Eva' but someone misread Princess Beatrice's handwriting and went for Ena instead. However, a letter from Victoria mentioned the name Ena had been chosen because it was an old Gaelic name. A portrait of Ena's christening, by Robert Taylor, was one of the items on display today.

2. She met her husband on a State Visit

The display viewed by The King and Queen of Spain today included items relating to links between the Spanish and British Royal Families. On 31 May 1906, Princess Victoria Eugénie of Battenberg married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in the church of San Jerónimo el Real in Madrid. Among the Royal guests were the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King George V and Queen Mary). Photograph: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 Princess Victoria Eugénie of Battenberg, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was born on 24 October 1887, the year of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. She was the first Royal baby to be born at Balmoral Castle, and her christening took place at this Royal Scottish Highland residence on 23 November. In the entry, Queen Victoria writes, 'The sweet Baby looked beautiful in the old Christening Robe, in which all our children & so many grandchildren, including little Drino, have been christened. She received the names of Victoria, Eugénie, Julia, Ena, & was very good.' The Princess was known in her family as 'Ena' which, the Queen noted in a letter to one of her daughters-in-law, was a Gaelic Highland name. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 Diary entry: Royal Archives © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II You can search all of Queen Victoria's journals at:
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It was rather appropriate that Ena became the star of this historic State Visit as she became a queen because of a similar trip made over 100 years ago. Ena met her future husband, King Alfonso XIII, when he made just the second ever State Visit by a Spanish monarch to Britain in 1905. They hit it off straight away - although they were chalk and cheese. Alfonso had been raised in the spotlight - he was born King of Spain after his father died while his mother was still pregnant. Ena had been hidden away, a constant companion of Queen Victoria who had demanded Beatrice remain at her side even after her marriage to Henry. By 1905, Ena's father was dead and the 18 year old princess was living at Kensington Palace with her mother. Alfonso began to write to Ena in a very Edwardian courtship and she was swept away by his interest in her even if pretty much everyone else was appalled by the idea of these two royals marrying. There were religious rows (Alfonso was Catholic and Ena was Protestant) while the King of Spain's mother was far from impressed with the choice. Nevertheless, the romance that began at a Buckingham Palace State Banquet would lead Ena to the altar. Portraits of her as a princess were included in the exhibition that formed part of this State Visit.

3. The tiara was a wedding present

Oh yes, the tiara. The most famous piece of jewellery in the Spanish royal collection right now was a gift from a love struck groom to his bride. And this bride needed diamonds after a gruelling run up to her engagement. After all the rows about whether or not they should wed, the marriage was agreed in January 1906 with Ena heading off to France then Spain soon afterwards. Meanwhile, in proper old fashioned royal wedding tradition, a treaty was drawn up and Ena's uncle, King Edward VII, issued a royal warrant. The bride had to give up her rights to the British throne and she also converted to Catholicism. Finally ready to wed, Ena was presented with this diamond diadem made by the jewellers, Ansonera. It features diamond fleur-de-lys - the emblem of the House of Bourbon - and it's huge. Ena wore it for her wedding on May 31st 1906 - yep, this was sparkling away as she said 'I do' and swapped the title of princess for that of Queen of Spain.

4. She was attacked at her own wedding

Sadly, Ena's wedding day was far from a happy occasion. Huge crowds turned out to see her marry King Alfonso XIII at the Monastery of San Jeronimo in Madrid while the church was packed with members of European royalty. There was massive interest in the bride and in her dress, made of Brussels lace with silver embroidery and mostly created in Spain. That move made her even more popular with some but the love wasn't universal. As the bride and groom rode through the streets of Madrid on their way to the reception, they were the subjects of an assassination attempt. Guards and wellwishers were left dead and injured. The couple escaped injury but when the new Queen of Spain arrived at her marriage reception, her gown was stained with blood. Some of the decorations on it were removed to be given to guests - among them was a sprig of orange blossom which was taken home by the then Princess of Wales, later Queen Mary. It, too, was on display today at Buckingham Palace.

5. There was no fairytale ending

Ena's royal romance had no fairytale ending. She and Alfonso had seven children but they grew apart. Their eldest and youngest sons, Alfonso and Gonzalo, inherited haemophilia from their mother, a fact their father came to resent. The marriage began to fray while the political situation in Spain began to boil over. There were rumours that Alfonso had affairs while Ena threw herself into charity work. In 1931, the Spanish Royal Family went into exile. Alfonso died in 1941 and Ena would spend the rest of her life in exile. She did return briefly to Spain, though. In 1968 she was godmother to a baby called Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso - also her great grandson. The Spanish monarchy was yet to be restored when she died, on April 15th 1969, in Lausanne where she had spent much of her time in exile. But restored it was and the baby she held at the font for his christening is now King of Spain and spent the afternoon learning more about the great grandmother who stood sponsor to him in a moment of history. Ena may not have got her fairytale ending but her legacy is secure.
Photo credit: Wiki Commons


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