Infanta Beatriz Torlonia
The Infanta Beatriz Torlonia, who died in Rome on Saturday aged 93, was the last surviving aunt of King Juan Carlos of Spain, and one of three remaining great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria.
The elder daughter of King Alfonso and Queen Ena of Spain, the Infanta was born at San Ildefenso in Spain on June 22 1909. Her father had been born posthumously to King Alfonso XII, who had died six months before his son's birth, so Alfonso XIII was born a king, and grew up under the Regency of his mother, Queen Maria Cristina, until 1902.
In 1906 he married Princess Victoria Eugenia (Ena), a morganatic Battenberg princess, whose mother was Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, and whose father, Prince Henry of Battenberg, had been obliged to live with his mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, in order that she consent to the union. (In 1895 he set off on the Ashanti expedition in West Africa, but succumbed to malaria before a shot was fired.) Thus Ena and her brothers spent their early years at Osborne, Windsor and Balmoral.
Ena had irritated her Battenberg cousins by waving all too regally from the carriage at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. They were not surprised when she then married the King of Spain, King Edward VII elevating her to the rank of Royal Highness before the ceremony. At the wedding, an assassin attempted to blow up the bridal carriage in which the royal pair were returning to the Palace.
A bomb was lobbed from a third floor window, engulfing the carriage in smoke, and the new Queen's bridal gown was spattered with the blood of a decapitated guardsman. Twenty-four men were killed, more than 100 wounded, and the future King George V noted ruefully in his diary that lunch was delayed until well after 3 pm.
Of this union, two elder sons were born, Alfonso, a haemophiliac, who died in a motoring accident in Florida in 1938; Jaime, who was congenitally deaf and dumb; then the Infanta Beatriz, all too soon followed by a stillborn boy; then her sister, Maria Cristina; and next, the Count of Barcelona, whose son Juan Carlos became King of Spain on the death of General Franco in 1975; and finally Gonzalo, also a haemophiliac.
Young Beatriz, or more fully Infanta Beatriz Isabel Federica Alfonsa Eugenia Cristina Maria Teresa Bienvenida Ladislà Borbón y Battenberg, was raised with her siblings in Spain, but on April 14 1931, when she was 11, the King left Spain in the face of Republican demonstrations.
He went alone, leaving his wife and family behind. Though Alfonso did not abdicate until January 1941, he lived in exile, watching from afar as Spain was rent in bloodshed, violence and anarchy under the new Republic, soon followed by the Spanish Civil War.
Beatriz remained in the Royal Palace with her mother and siblings. They spent their last hours in Spain with the Palace surrounded by a vociferous Republican crowd. Queen Ena certainly wondered if her family was about to suffer the fate of her Russian cousins, but as it happened, they were able to leave by a secret garden door, be driven to the Escorial station and cross the border to France by train.
Beatriz and her family settled first at the Hotel Meurice in Paris, before moving to the Hotel Savoy at Fontainebleau. Unfortunately, Queen Ena had passed haemophilia to her eldest son, a cause of distress to King Alfonso which drove the couple apart. In exile, he took further solace in extra-marital adventures, which Queen Ena decided no longer to tolerate. In some bitterness, the pair parted.
By 1933 King Alfonso and his two daughters had moved to Rome. Beatriz and Maria Cristina were nicknamed "the nice girls of Europe", but the shadow of haemophilia hovered over their marital futures. Both were potential carriers and their father cautiously warned would-be suitors of the inherent dangers. For this reason, Beatriz's engagement to Prince Alvaro of Borbón-Orleáns in 1931 was broken off the following year.
Haemophilia claimed Don Gonzalo at the age of 19, when Beatriz was driving him in her car near Lake Worther, Carinthia, in 1934. She was forced to swerve to avoid a cyclist and crashed into the wall of Krumpendorf Castle. Neither brother nor sister was badly hurt, but the collision brought on a bad attack of bleeding in Gonzalo and he died two days later.
The following year, on January 14 1935, Beatriz married Don Alessandro Torlonia, fifth Prince of Civitella-Cesi, a man two years her junior, with her father's full blessing. Torlonia was the son of Don Marino Torlonia, who had introduced the first motor car to Rome in 1892 (causing havoc to fashionable carriages) and his American wife, Elsie Moore, daughter of a rich shipping broker and hardware manufacturer in Connecticut, whose wife, Kate Moore, was the subject of many stories in European society. (When she died, one said, "she left the world as she might have left the Ritz, with little tips for everyone".)
The Torlonias were famed for having drained Lake Fucino, which frequently flooded neighbouring towns (something attempted by Julius Caesar); by an unusual genealogical twist, Don Alessandro was to be the great-uncle of the actress Brooke Shields.
The wedding took place in Rome, Beatriz wearing a 20 ft train, a coronet of orange blossom (flown in that day from Valencia) holding her veil in place, in the presence of King Alfonso, the King and Queen of Italy, some 52 princes of the royal blood, and more than 4,000 visitors from Spain. After the ceremony, the young couple were received by Pope Pius XI.
Beatriz made her home at the Palazzo Torlonia in Rome and had two sons and two daughters. Her father died in Rome in February 1941. She lived in Rome for the rest of her life, and when her daughter Olimpia married the late Paul-Annik Weiller, his father secured the Palazzo Torlonia for the family.
But while the Infanta had great charm, a good sense of humour, and little of the austerity of her mother, she never lost her regal bearing, and took royal protocol seriously.
This caused her daughters some agony when they met the Duchess of Windsor. The Infanta forbade them to curtsey, and they were forced to make a subtle gesture somewhere between a curtsey and a nervous wriggle, in order to pass the gimlet scrutiny of both their mother and the Duke of Windsor.
The remaining great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria are Lady Katherine Brandram and Count Carl Johan Bernadotte.
The Infanta is survived by one son and two daughters. Her husband died in 1986.