L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i



Sunday, May 31, 2015

Queen Isabel II of Spain and her daughter, Infanta Isabel, by Winterhalter, 1852



Isabel II (10 October 1830, Madrid – 10 April 1904, Paris), queen regnant of Spain from 1833 until 1868. She came to the throne as an infant, bearing the impressive-by-any-standard name:

Doña Isabel II por la Gracia de Dios, Reina de Castilla, de León, de Aragón, de las Dos Sicilias, de Jerusalén, de Navarra, de Granada, de Toledo, de Valencia, de Galicia, de Mallorca, de Sevilla, de Cerdeña, de Córdoba, de Córcega, de Murcia, de Menorca, de Jaén, de los Algarbes, de Algeciras, de Gibraltar, de las Islas Canarias, de las Indias Orientales y Occidentales, Islas y Tierra firme del mar Océano; Archiduquesa de Austria; Duquesa de Borgoña, de Brabante y de Milan; Condesa de Aspurg, Flandes, Tirol y Barcelona; Señora de Vizcaya y de Molina

But her succession was disputed by the Carlists - led by and named for her paternal uncle, Carlos - who refused to recognize a female sovereign, which led to the Carlist Wars, a series of civil wars that would continue on and off over a period of more than forty years.


Following a regency under her mother, Isabel was declared of age at just thirteen. Three years later, she was made to marry her double-first cousin Francisco de Asís María Fernando de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, Duke of Cádiz (13 May 1822, Aranjuez – 17 April 1902, Épinay-sur-Seine). The marriage was unhappy; the couple had five children who survived to adulthood, but the Queen's delicate and effeminate husband is thought to have been the father of few or none of them, due to his assumed homosexuality and/or physical incapacity.


Later, in 1866, an English writer gave a most unflattering description of the royal couple:

"… The Queen is large in stature, but rather what might be called bulky than stately. There is no dignity either in her face or figure, and the graces of majesty are altogether wanting. The countenance is cold and expressionless, with traces of an unchastened, unrefined, and impulsive character, and the indifference it betrays is not redeemed by any regularity or beauty of feature. The King Consort is much smaller in figure than his royal two-thirds, and certainly is not a type that could be admired for its manly qualifications; but we have to remember that in Spain aristocratic birth is designated rather by a diminutive stature and sickly complexion than by those attributes of height, muscular power, open expression, and florid hue, which in England constitute the ideal of ‘race.’"


Rumours about the irregularities of her private life only added to the queen's unpopularity; as a ruler she was erratic and unethical, and her reign was characterized by court, political, and military intrigue. She was deposed in the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1868, and went into exile in France. She formally abdicated in 1870, paving the way for her son who became king as Alfonso XII in 1874 when the Spanish monarchy was restored. Except for an occasional visit to Spain during her son's reign, she maintained her exile in Paris until her death at the age of seventy three.


Isabel, Princess of Asturias (20 December 1851, Madrid – 22 April 1931, Paris), eldest surviving child of Queen Isabel II. Historians attribute Infanta Isabel's paternity to José Ruiz de Arana y Saavedra (1826–1891), a young Spanish aristocratic and military officer, whose liaison with her mother appears to have lasted from 1851 to 1855. Affectionately nicknamed "La Chata" because of her snub nose, she was six years older than her next surviving sibling. At the age of sixteen she was married to Prince Gaetan, Count of Girgenti, a rather obscure, poor, and sickly half sibling of the recently deposed King of the Two Sicilies. While they were on their honeymoon, revolution broke out in Spain, and the couple soon joined the Spanish Queen in her Parisian exile.


Her husband had concealed his epilepsy from his wife; he also suffered greatly from depression. Three years after their marriage, and after a previous suicide attempt a few months before, Gaetan shot himself in a Lucerne hotel room. His nineteen year old widow never remarried. There had been no issue from this union, and Isabel returned to her mother in Paris, where she helped to look after her younger sisters. When her brother became king of Spain, she joined him there. She was respected and influential at court and in politics, throughout her brother's reign and that of her nephew, Alfonso XIII, and was quite popular with the public. So much so that, at the fall of the monarchy in 1931 when the entire Royal family fled into exile, the seventy-nine year old Infanta Isabel was informed by the Republican authorities that she might remain in Spain. She nevertheless left for France, where she died just days later.


***

As a contrast to the flattering state portrait by Winterhalter, here are photographic images of the Queen, contemporary to the portrait and later. Never considered an attractive woman, in either personality or person, she was nonetheless very particular and fastidious in her dress; always decidedly à la mode, she had a tendency to overdo things, though, even by the over-ornamented standards of the day.

These first seven images are roughly contemporary with the Winterhalter portrait.
With her husband and consort, the Duke of Cádiz.
Same as above.
Same as above.
1860s. The Queen appears to be in fancy dress, perhaps as her ancestress, the first Queen Isabel.
1860s.
In exile; the carte de visite is inscribed "Ex-reine d'Espagne".
1871.
Circa early 1870s.
Circa early 1870s.
Circa 1870s.
Circa 1870s.
Circa 1870s.
Circa 1880s.
Circa 1890.
Circa 1890.
The Queen's daughter, the Infanta Isabel, late 1860s.
Infanta Isabel and Prince Gaetan, Count of Girgenti, probably at the time of their engagement, 1868.
Infanta Isabel, 1896.
Infanta Isabel - "La Chata" - in 1919.






5 comments:

  1. I don't know -she's definitely not a beauty but does that matter really? She's not really ugly, although quite fat (but I believe they had different standards for that back in the day) but I think you might even go so far as to call her handsome. A handsome face. And not just because she's rather masculine!

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    1. Stefan, your eye is apparently gentler, kinder than mine; I find her appearance - not so much her largesse but her visage - rather... appalling. ; )

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  2. In her photographs, the Queen looks rather like Tenniel's depiction of the White Queen in "Through the Looking Glass", especially that shot of her wearing a crown. The few mentions I come across of this Queen in my history reading are not at all flattering, sadly.

    There's nothing like a Winterhalter, though! I notice that he did manage to capture a likeness (particularly in his handling of the Queen's nose) while still lading on his trademark dash and glossiness. Just delicious.

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    1. No, she appears not to have been of an endearing character, shall we say, and was - to the public, at least - far from being bien aimée. But, yes, blessed Winterhalter heals all!

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  3. Too bad no one suggested she smile. Such a forbidding visage.

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