Thursday, January 9, 2020

In Memoriam: Infanta Pilar of Spain (1936 - 2020)

In Memoriam
† Infanta doña Pilar de España (1936 - 2020)
Duquesa de Badajoz
Vizcondesa viuda de la Torre

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HRH Infanta doña Pilar of Spain, Duchess of Badajoz, Dowager Viscountess of La Torre, died on Wednesday, 8 January 2020, at the Ruber Internacional Hospital in Madrid. She was eighty-three years-old. The infanta had suffered from cancer for a number of years.

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Juan, Count of Barcelona. 
Maria, Countess of Barcelona.
Doña María del Pilar Alfonsa Juana Victoria Luisa Ignacia y Todos los Santos de Borbón y Borbón, Infanta of Spain, was born on 30 July 1936 at Villa Saint Blaise, the home of her parents, in Cannes, France, as the eldest child of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona (1913-1993), and his wife Maria de las Mercedes (1910-2000; née Princess of Bourbon-Two Sicilies), who married in 1935. Pilar's paternal grandparents were King Alfonso XIII of Spain (1886-1941) and Queen Victoria Eugenia (1887-1969; née Princess of Battenberg). Pilar's maternal grandparents were Infante Carlos of Spain, Prince of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1870-1949) and his second wife Princess Louise (1882-1958; née Princess d'Orléans). Pilar's maternal grandfather Carlos' first wife, Infanta Maria de las Mercedes of Spain (1880-1904), was the sister of Pilar's paternal grandfather, King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

King Alfonso XIII of Spain, Pilar's paternal grandfather and her godfather.
Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, paternal grandmother of Infanta Pilar.
Princess Maria Antonietta of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Countess of Caserta, maternal great-grandmother of Infanta Pilar.
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In early August 1936, Infanta Pilar was christened at the Église Notre-Dame des Pins in Cannes. Her paternal grandmother, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, and her maternal great-grandmother, the Countess of Caserta (1851-1938; née Princess Maria Antonietta of Bourbon-Two Sicilies), were present. The Countess of Caserta was Pilar's godmother; Pilar's grandfather King Alfonso XIII, who was not present (owing to his wife's attendance), was her godfather. The infanta was named to honour Nuestra Señora del Pilar of Zaragoza.

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Pilar was followed by two brothers and one sister. Juan Carlos, future King of Spain, arrived in 1938. Infanta Margarita was born in 1939. Infante Alfonso, born in 1941, was the benjamin of the family. Although Pilar was born in France, the youngest three children of the Count and Countess of Barcelona were all born in Rome. The family moved to Portugal in 1943, where they resided at the Villa Giralda in Estoril. Pilar's youngest brother Alfonso died in a tragic accident in 1956: he was only fourteen years-old. At Estoral, Pilar was a student at the Colegio Esclavas do Sagrado Coração de Jesus, where she concentrated on learning history, geography, literature, and religion. Afterwards, Pilar studied nursing at the Escuela de enfermería Arturo Ravara in Lisbon. Besides Spanish, the infanta was fluent in English, French, Portuguese, and Italian.

Infanta Pilar, Queen Victoria Eugenia, and don Luis.
Isabelle, Countess of Paris; Claude, Duchess of Aosta; and Carl, Duke of Württemberg
The Princesses of Orléans with their Brazilian cousin Princess Maria da Gloria, future wife of Alexander of Serbia. 
Don Luis, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, and Infanta Pilar.
Juan Carlos and Sofía, the future King and Queen of Spain.
King Umberto arriving with his son Prince Vittorio Emmanuele and his daughter Princess Maria Gabriella. 
The Prince and Princess Napoléon (née Alix de Foresta).
The Count and Countess of Barcelona arrive at the wedding of their eldest child along with their son-in-law's parents.
They are followed by doña Sofía and Duke Philipp of Württemberg. 
Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, with his daughter, the bride-to-be, the Infanta Pilar. 
Luis and Pilar at the altar.
Luis and Pilar.
Infanta Pilar with her husband Luis, her grandmother Victoria Eugenia, and her mother Maria.

On 5 May 1967, Infanta Pilar married don Luis Gómez-Acebo y Duque de Estrada, Viscount de la Torre, Grandee of Spain. Luis was born in 1934 as the son of don Jaime Gómez-Acebo y Modet (1897-1977) and doña Isabel Duque de Estrada y Vereterra, Marquesa de Deleitosa (1907-1979). The wedding of Pilar and Luis was held at Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon, Portugal. Pilar's husband was a first cousin of doña Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela (b.1935), who had married in 1962 to Pilar's cousin King Simeon II of the Bulgarians (b.1937). Indeed, Pilar and Luis had become acquainted with one another at the home of Simeon and Margarita of Bulgaria. The Count and Countess of Barcelona had hoped for a royal husband for their eldest child (such as King Baudouin of Belgium), but they eventually came around to Pilar's choice. Among others, the marriage of Infanta Pilar of Spain was attended by the following royal relations and friends: Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, the Count and Countess of Barcelona, Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sophia of Spain, Infanta Margarita of Spain, Infanta Beatriz of Spain, Queen Mother Giovanna of Bulgaria, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, Princess Antoinette of Monaco, King Umberto II of Italy with his children Victor Emmanuel and Maria Gabriella, the Duke of Bragança, Duke Franz of Bavaria, the Count and Countess of Paris, Princess Anne d'Orléans (Duchess of Calabria), Princess Diane d'Orléans and husband Duke Carl of Württemberg, Princess Claude d'Orléans (Duchess of Aosta), Princess Chantal d'Orléans, Princess Esperanza of Orléans-Bragança and her daughter Princess Maria da Gloria, Infanta Filippa of Portugal, and the Prince and Princess Napoléon. Thousands of Spanish citizens came to Lisbon to witness the wedding of the eldest child of the Count and Countess of Barcelona.


Infanta Pilar was given the title Duchess of Badajoz by her father before her wedding. At the same time, General Francisco Franco authorised Pilar to use her title of Infanta de España in her family's country. The Count of Barcelona rehabilitated the title of Viscount (Vizconde) of la Torre for his soon-to-be son-in-law shortly before Pilar and Luis were married. Pilar renounced her rights of succession to the Spanish throne on the occasion of her marriage.

Infanta Pilar and don Luis Gómez-Acebo with their five children.
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Infanta Pilar and don Luis quickly set about establishing a family. The couple had five children, one daughter and four sons: doña Simoneta Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón (b.1968); don Juan Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón (b.1969), Vizconde de La Torre; don Bruno Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón (b.1971); don Beltrán Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón (b.1973); and don Fernando Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón (b.1974). Sadly, doña Pilar was left a widow when don Luis Gómez-Acebo died from cancer at the rather young age of fifty-six in 1991. All of the children of Infanta Pilar married and had children: they gave her eleven grandchildren.

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Pilar was a great supporter of equestrian sports. The infanta was the President of the International Equestrian Federation from 1994 to 2006. Doña Pilar was also a strong advocate for the Nuevo Futuro charity, whose fundraising events she attended faithfully over the decades. It goes without saying that Pilar was a steadfast anchor of her brother Juan Carlos and her sister Margarita. Infanta Pilar was a "grande dame" with a quick wit and a sharp tongue.

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Following her death, Infanta Pilar of Spain was cremated, and her ashes will be buried at the San Isidro cemetery in Madrid, where her husband Luis was buried. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, King Felipe and Queen Letizia, the infanta's children and grandchildren, King Simeon and Queen Margarita of Bulgaria, the Dowager Duchess of Calabria, the Duke of Calabria, and Princess Béatrice d'Orléans, have all been present at the funeral home as the preparations for the infanta's burial are finalised.



May S.A.R. Pilar de Borbón y Borbón, Infanta de España, Rest In Peace.

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