The Spanish royal family has a long and turbulent history. For example, did you know that the King of Spain is French? You can read below how this came about and what we see in our city.
The Spanish succession war in a nutshell
Charles II was the last Habsburg Spanish king. Throughout his life, he suffered from long illnesses and poor health. Since Karel was born, it was expected that he would die at a young age. With the Treaty of Dover, England agreed to support Louis XIV of France as successor to the Spanish throne.
After the death of King Charles II, a new period began in Spain, in which the Habsburg family was no longer king. Things were not going so well for Spain at that time, as the country had suffered some setbacks, including against France. Spain even threatened to go bankrupt due to the many wars that Spain financed. Charles II wished to be succeeded as Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France, the Sun King. Feeling passed over, the Habsburg family refused to abide by this decision, leading to the War of the Spanish Succession. This war was fought between Austria, England, France, and even the Netherlands, among others, to balance power in Europe. France, of course, was not allowed to become too powerful. After more than ten years of war, the result was that Prince Philippe of Anjou would become King of Spain, but he had to deny his claim to the French crown for good. For example, the house of Bourbon was split in two and from then on the neighboring countries of France and Spain had a royal house of the same family. Thus, Philip V became the first French king of Spain.
The San Telmo Palace
After the lengthy construction was completed due to its many details, the building was used as a naval academy and orphanage for children of seafarers. It is therefore also named after “Saint Elmo”, the patron saint of seafarers. Below the statue of San Telmo, we find the head of Philip the Fifth immortalized on the facade of this work of art. In the 19th century, the school was converted into a royal palace by the Count of Montpensier and his beloved wife Maria Luisa van Bourbon, Princess of Spain.
The palace had beautiful gardens and in 1914 it was opened as a public park under the name 'Parque Urbano Infanta María Luisa Fernanda'. Following the Ibero-American Exhibition in 1929, the 'Parque de María Luisa' was transformed into a Moorish paradise. It is a paradise full of long boulevards, pavilions, soothing fountains, and beautiful gardens with Mediterranean trees and colorful flowers.
Maria Luisa was the daughter of the Duke of Parma and Piacenza, Philip of Bourbon, and Princess Louise Elisabeth of France. Thus, the French royal presence is visible in our beautiful city to this day.
Do you want to know more about this special subject? Ask one of our guides during the daily tours. On this tour, we will pass by the palace of San Telmo and you can see where the princess used to live. And who knows, you might find the head of Philip V on the facade!