The most unknown Queen of Spain: the Italian cult who suffered infidelities and humiliations in silence

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Until February 11, 1873, the nightmare of Amadeo de Saboya and his family in Spain lasted. That day the Italian resigned from the throne with a speech with more fury than eight atomic bombs:

«Two long years has been worn by the crown of Spain, and Spain lives in constant struggle, seeing increasingly distant the era of peace and happiness that I so ardently long for. If the enemies of his happiness were foreigners, then, in front of these soldiers as brave as they were suffering, he would be the first to fight them; but all those who with the sword, with the pen, with the word aggravate and perpetuate the evils of the nation are Spanish, all invoke the sweet name of the country, all fight and agitate for their good; and amid the din of combat, between the confused, thunderous and contradictory clamor of the parties, among so many and so opposite manifestations of public opinion, it is impossible to determine which is the true one, and even more impossible to find the remedy for such evils.

The words of this ephemeral King of Spain could be translated into the Roman paladin, if it were necessary to translate them, with a single there they will darn you and keep your asylum. The experience of the son of the King of Italy, an impressive man with Habsburg remnants but with few lights, was terrible in the three years that he was the constitutional king of Spain. The traditional nobility opted en masse for the return of the Bourbons, while the Cuban independentistas and the carlistas ensured that Amadeo I did not have a second of truce in their Spanish adventure.

Only in one thing Amadeo de Saboya seems that he appreciated having accepted the crown of Spain: the women of the country. Already in his previous trips to Spain, still with the Bourbons, he had noticed the Italian in that his women are “as beautiful or more than those of my country”. Among his most famous extramarital relationships was the noble Victoria de Vinent and O’Neil or Adela de Larra, the daughter of the romantic writer, considered one of the most beautiful women in Madrid.

The wife who had to suffer these humiliations and infidelities in a country that was completely unknown to her was called María Victoria dal Pozzo y della Cisterna, which in itself led to jokes. The time it took her to travel to the Peninsula due to her advanced state of pregnancy was used by her husband to fully explore Madrid’s cafes.

A woman from an unusual culture
The new Queen of Spain, born in France but coming from the Sardinian aristocracy, had been carefully educated in Turin. He spoke six languages ​​and mastered very diverse areas of knowledge such as literature, algebra, economics, or international law. The death of her father and a sister plunged her mother, linked to the nobility of Monaco, into a state of madness that made the family environment unbreathable and forced her to take refuge in books. “I have returned to my studies with great pleasure,” he wrote about the only consolation in those dark years, “study is for me what bread for others, without studying I could not live.” The son of Victor Emmanuel II rescued him from this agitation, not knowing that his destiny would take “The Rose of Turin” (his most frequent nickname) to an even more tense place.

In Madrid, her conduct was exemplary in the face of a wayward nobility who, except for a minority nicknamed with contempt as “Haitian”, did everything possible to disregard it. Although the King aroused little praise beyond his portentous physique, María Victoria surprised everyone with his elegance and his command of Castilian, with hardly an accent. The Catalan journalist Víctor Balaguer described it in these positive terms:

«He has a face with pronounced features and beautifully correct, the brightness of his eyes is special and his gaze penetrating, his voice is sweet and affectionate, and the conversation is instructive and entertaining, and inspires his presence, as well as the deepest respect, the most affectionate sympathy. Although we have all heard about the great qualities that adorn it, reality exceeds our hopes and we all fell in love with what was to be the Queen of Spain ».

Away from politics, the public work of the Queen of Spain focused on helping the most disadvantaged and leading a life away from great luxuries. He allocated 100,000 pesetas a month in donations to hospitals, churches and other charities. Among its foundations it highlighted a school and asylum for the children of the washerwomen who work on the banks of the Manzanares and a hospice for homeless children. The decision to build this “nursery” was made by going down Campo del Moro and encountering misery face to face. Widowed women from Galicia had come walking from the north with their children by the hand, as was the case of Pablo Iglesias (founder of the PSOE) and his mother, to end up living in poverty.

One of her great friends and accomplices in these tasks was Concepción Arenal, a liberal-minded Catholic who, although she did not discuss the role of men in the society she lived in, struggled to claim a more equal and respectful role for women. Defying restrictions, this Galician attended as a listener, disguised as a man, classes in criminal and legal law at the University of Madrid between 1841 and 1846. Through her, even once her husband María Victoria abdicated, she continued to send alms and aid to the poor of Madrid.

The decision to build this “nursery” was made by going down Campo del Moro and encountering dramas of all kinds.

During his stay in Spain, he also dedicated himself to cultural patronage. In addition to financing artists such as Palmaroli, Gisbert and the sculptor Medina, he personally commissioned several rugs from the Royal Tapestry Factory and founded the Civil Order of María Victoria, which rewarded outstanding figures in the letters, arts and sciences that, without distinction of gender or social class, they would have exercised eminent services to public education, either creating, equipping or improving educational establishments, publishing scientific, literary or artistic works of recognized merit, or promoting in any other way the sciences, the arts , literature or industry. Among others, Campoamor, Madrazo, Casado del Alisal and Eslava were awarded.

Attack, abdication and death
María Victoria was no stranger to the country’s political turmoil. Ruiz Zorrilla’s radicals looked at her suspiciously, while the Alphonsinos called her “the daughter-in-law of the usurper” despite the generousness of her alms and her punctual attendance at religious services. In July 1872, Rey and Reina were returning to the palace after strolling through the gardens of the Retiro Park when a car crossed them at the height of Calle Arenal. Thanks to the fact that the Queen felt cold and raised her shawl, Amadeo made out a shooter in the street. Quickly, the Monarch rose to cover his wife and prevent them from being stitched together. There was only regret the death of one of the mounts. The Queen, yes, fell faint with fright.

Once her husband resigned from the Crown, the Queen went into exile for Portugal, but not before giving birth in Madrid to her third and last offspring. The trip to Lisbon was very hard due to cold and hunger in a train without heating and without food. Spain, despite everything, remained nailed to her heart. In a letter to a friend, María Victoria wrote:

«In Spain I wanted only one thing: to fulfill my duty, and I will always keep a good and a sad memory of it. Well, because there are very dear people there that I will never forget, and sad, because Spain did not find with us the tranquility and prosperity that we wanted to give it. ”

The Queen died at Villa Dufour, San Remo, at the age of twenty-nine, consumed by tuberculosis. His death was mourned by both Italians and many Spaniards. The newspaper “The Spanish and American Illustration” dedicated words of praise to him, such as: “Madrid cannot forget that angel of virtue and charity, to whom the people gave the simple title of Mother of the Poor.”

In the epitaph of her tomb in the Basilica of Superga in Turin, it is written: “In proof of respectful affection for the memory of Doña María Victoria, the laundresses of Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Alicante, Tarragona, such a virtuous Lady”. .


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