Ena, Spain's English Queen
Queen Ena, formerly Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg (1887-1969) was the youngest granddaughter of Queen Victoria. A tomboy during her childhood at the English court, she married King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1906. The Spanish court was more old-fashioned than its English counterpart and she found it hard to adapt to life in a country which, in some senses, was still living in the middle ages.
The marriage proved unhappy. Ena was a carrier of the hereditary complaint haemophilia, ‘the bleeding disease'. Two of her sons were sufferers, and a third was left almost deaf and dumb after a childhood operation for a double mastoiditis. Only the third son (whose son is the present King Juan Carlos of Spain) was healthy. Alfonso was a headstrong, restless young man, impatient of his wife's ‘Englishness' and the children's poor health, and soon sought affairs with other women. When republicanism triumphed in the elections of 1931 he left Spain, though he did not formally abdicate the throne until later, and it proved the final blow to their marriage. They separated soon afterwards, and did not meet again until just before the ex-King's death in 1941.
Ena lived for another twenty-eight years in exile, mostly in Switzerland, though she was allowed to return to Spain for the christening of her great-grandson in 1968. This is a sympathetic yet not uncritical portrait of one of Europe's most interesting Queens.
This report prepared by John Van der Kiste