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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, April 14th 1931

Allegory of the Spanish Republic,
displaying republican paraphernalia
The Second Spanish Republic began on 14 April 1931 after the abdication of King Alfonso XIII, following local and municipal elections in which republican candidates won the majority of votes in urban areas. One of several contributing causes to the downfall of the Spanish monarchy was the same as that which had befallen Tsar Nicholas II, last ruler of the last imperial dynasty of Russia, in 1917.

Just as Alexandra Fyodorovna (Princess Alix of Hesse) brought to the Romanov family a mutated gene from her grandmother, Queen Victoria, which was responsible for her son's (the long-awaited heir to the throne, Alexei) hemophilia, so had Alfonso XIII's wife, Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, who was Queen Victoria's favorite granddaughter, brought this affliction to the Spanish Royal Family.

Alfonso XIII had been a posthumous child and therefore was proclaimed King upon his birth, though his mother had been Regent until he took over the reins of government himself at the tender age of 16. In March 1906, Alfonso XIII had visited Tenerife, the first Spanish monarch to do so, even though it was 400 years since the Spanish conquest of the island. Shortly after that, on May 31, 1906, he had married the British princess, who became Queen Ena.

Anarchist attack on the King of Spain Alfonso XIII (1906)
The King was then, just, 20 and his new Queen, not yet 19 and it was a contentious match from the beginning. The news raised concern among many Spaniards because the prospective bride was a Protestant and not sufficiently royal. The couple had narrowly escaped assassination, when returning from the wedding, an anarchist, Mateo Morral, had thrown a bomb, hidden in flowers, at their carriage, killing 23 and injuring more than a 100. Foro Real quote an article (in Spanish) about the attack, by Juan Antonio Pérez Mateos in La Razón, entitled, Cien años del atentado que ensangrentó una boda real (One hundred years after the attack that bloodied a Royal Wedding).

Two of the couple's seven children, the first and last sons, were hemophiliacs.

Age, inexperience and concerns over this affliction, must surely have played their part during Alfonso XIII's reign, in which Spain lost its last colonies in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and lost several wars in north Africa.

In 1923, Primo de Rivera had become dictator. In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but a strong anti-monarchist and republican movement led to his leaving Spain in 1931, abandoning the country with no formal abdication. The new constitution declared Spain a workers' republic, broke up the large estates, separated church and state, and secularized the schools.

But the Republican joy was relatively short-lived. It was also the last period of democratic government in Spain before 1977. The Republic suffered a terrible crisis when General Franco, then military commander of the Canary Islands, attempted a coup on 18 July 1936, which was the start of the Spanish Civil War.

"It was from there [Tenerife] that the political coup was secretly planned and the Canaries were consequently first to fall to Franco's forces and the first to suffer mass executions of writers, trade unionists, socialists, anyone whom Franco's militia considered a threat."