THE ROYAL HOUSE OF BOURBON

 

 

CARLISM & CARLOS-HUGO de BORBÓN-PARMA, now DUKE OF PARMA

Some facts concerning the Carlist claims of S.A.R. Don Hugo di Borbone, Duca di Parma (formerly styled S.A.R Don Carlos-Hugo de Borbón y Borbón-Busset, Príncipe de Asturias, Duque de Madrid y San Jaime, Infante de España, Caballero de la Toisón de Oro). 

On the 5 May 1957 Carlos-Hugo stated "Faithful to my ancestors, faithful to my father the king, you must know that with the held of God, I shall accomplish the hopes and sacrifices that are imposed by the title of prince of the Asturias, which legitimacy has caused to descend to me". 

At the time the Prince of the Asturias was H.R.H. Don Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón-Dos Sicilias, now King of Spain. 

Meanwhile, on 20 Dec 1957, 44 Carlist notables visited Estoril to pledge their allegiance to Don Juan, Count of Barcelona (father of the present King), as Carlist heir. 

Carlos-Hugo, in a letter to a friend at this time wrote: “I am convinced that Carlism must make a revolution and change form…… this revolution only I can do.” He and his father then approached Franco to try and gain his support for their cause.  

The Count of Barcelona, in letters to Europe’s royal houses, asked that no-one co-operate with Xavier and his son Carlos-Hugo, pointing out that they could not claim to be Spanish dynasts because of Xavier’s unequal marriage (the Bourbon-Busset are an illegitimate line of a junior branch of the Bourbon family). He also asked the assistance of Elio, Duke of Parma, who wrote (31 July 1958): 

“My quality as a Spaniard by naturalization does not permit me to intervene directly in the problems of the future of our dear Spain, and more particularly, the monarchical institution. The ties that unite me to this are such that in certain circumstances and conforming to the laws of primogeniture and legitimacy defended by our ancestors, the rights to the crown could return to me. And that, (I have) preference over every other Prince of Bourbon-Parma, because, I am the head of this House and I am a Spaniard as I have indicated. I do not intend to impose any successorial problem and I recall only the facts that give considerable authority to my recognition of the eventual rights of Don Juan de Borbón, in declaring that I consider a usurper anyone who opposes these rights”. 

He died the following year, and his son Robert II succeeded. The latter wrote soon after his succession, “If the Crown of Spain falls one day to the House of Parma, it will come to me as I am the Head and I am Spanish”. His father Élie had not recognized the marriage of Xavier, and had refused to give his wife the title of Royal Highness (because of inequality, not because of the Carlist claim). At a meeting with Xavier in 1960, at the time of the wedding of Princess Françoise to Prince Edouard de Lobkowicz, Duke Robert was asked to unite the family and recognize his marriage, and consequently the successorial rights of Xavier’s issue. Robert graciously consented and, in a letter dated 22 Aug 1961 written to (Constantinian Bailiff and former Spanish Ambassador) Albert de Mestas “I am not married and have no issue, my uncle Xavier is indubitably my eventual successor. His children have always born the titles of Prince (or Princesses) of Parma”. He reiterated, however, his belief that Xavier was a usurper and enunciated to his family his sincere regret that Xavier had ignored his pleas to unite behind the Count of Barcelona. 

Carlos-Hugo and his father, however, were not Spanish citizens. Franco tolerated their activities because it suited him politically to encourage disunity among the Monarchists, whom he did not want to unite behind Don Juan. Under Spanish law they could not succeed to the Crown unless they were citizens. There was a good argument to be made that they were in fact citizens since the Treaty of Aranjuez of 1801 conferred citizenship on all Princes of the House of Bourbon, but they instead petitioned Franco for citizenship, which he simply postponed deciding upon.  

Meanwhile Xavier’s daughters Princesses Cécile, Marie-Thérèse and Marie des Neiges became more and more active in promoting first Carlism, and then their increasingly left-wing ideas. They moved to Spain, and learnt the language. Princess Françoise, now married, stepped aside in deference to the wishes of Duke Robert and concentrated on her charitable work and raising her family. Carlos Hugo increasingly concerned himself with domestic Spanish politics, raising money to finance his cause and living in an apartment in Madrid, coincidentally in the same building as the leading Francoist Admiral Carrero Blanco (eventually assassinated in the early 1970s). The building always had police guards, giving a sense of importance to the apparent status of Prince Carlos-Hugo who with the help of some sympathetic journalists managed to get frequent publicity for his activities and anti-Don Juan statements. 

In 1962 Juan Carlos and his family traveled to Athens for his wedding, attended by most of Europe’s royal families. Franco, seeking to counter the massive publicity that reinforced the position of Don Juan, invited Carlos Hugo to their first meeting. Franco now let Don Juan know, in his words, that “I have another candidate”. Encouraged, Carlos-Hugo, his mother and sisters turned up at Montejurra in 1963, Princess Xavier being styled Queen and “Majesty” before a crowd of 24,000 Carlists. They even founded a new “Order”, the Cross of Forbidden Legitimacy, as a dynastic Order! Xavier took the title of “Count of Molina”, while “conferring” that of Duke of Madrid and San Jaime on Carlos-Hugo and Duke of Aranjuez on Sisto. The latter later enrolled in the Spanish foreign legion as Enrique Aranjuez, because, as a Frenchman, he could not join the regular army; under Spanish law, however, if he took the oath to the flag he could later legally apply for citizenship (whereupon he resigned from the Legion without actually applying).  

Carlos-Hugo now began to move away from collaborating with Franco, and began to attack Juan Carlos as a Francoist puppet. He presented his side as federalist in spirit, socially and traditionally close to the people, attacking Don Juan as liberal, centralist, favorable to capitalism and the establishment.  

Following a disastrous floods in Catalonia Marie-Therese and Cecile offered their services to Caritas relief, Juan Carlos and his wife attended the funeral service for the victims and visited the site of the disaster where they were pelted with tomatoes by young Carlist enthusiasts. Later attending another event in Catalonia, they were struck by rotten vegetables. In an event in a theater, Marie des Neiges appeared in the opposite box to Juan Carlos and Sophie, the theater erupted when more young supporters of Carlos Hugo shouted slogans, and the Prince of the Asturias and his wife were forced to leave. The Carlist newspaper published an article with photographs of the two princes, describing Carlos-Hugo as “Prince of the House of Borbón, Infant of Spain, but never able to obtain the justice of being legally considered Spanish”, and Juan Carlos as a “Prince who has obtained the quality of legally being Spaniard although born outside Spain”. The fact that Carlos-Hugo was born in Paris was ignored. Juan Carlos was criticized in the article for having been educated at Military academies, but having (purportedly) done badly in school, and for living in a Palace that belonged to the state without the consent of the public or the Cortes or government (while, it was pointed out, Carlos Hugo was living in a simple apartment).  

Carlos-Hugo next announced his marriage to Princess Irene of the Netherlands, whose mother was the wealthiest sovereign in Europe, and who, although a Protestant, announced her conversion to Catholicism. She had been a bridesmaid to Sophie of Greece at her wedding to Juan Carlos. As she had not asked permission from Parliament to marry, the Dutch parliament declared her automatically excluded from the succession. While Prince Bernhard promised Don Juan that unless Carlos Hugo renounced his claims she would not be allowed to marry, the couple ignored her father and were married in Rome on 29 April 1964 in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in front of 5000 Carlist supporters. The Dutch royal family boycotted the marriage as did most royal houses, although the groom’s parents and sisters attended, as did the Empress Zita (his aunt) and, to the surprise of many, Dom Duarte Nuño, Duke of Braganza, who had temporarily fallen out with Don Juan. The Duke of Parma refused to attend; Don Juan had conferred upon him the rank of a Knight of the Golden Fleece two months earlier and it was known that the groom would be wearing the Spanish Order, to which he was not entitled (the photographs of the wedding showing him with the badge of the Golden Fleece).  

On their honeymoon Irene shocked the Spanish public by being photographed in a bikini, then considered indecent and causing much comment in the press (to the amazement of the Princess herself who had worn one without comment in her own country). This did not go down well in conservative Spain, and on their return the announcement of their audience with General Franco described them as “Princess Irene of Holland and her husband”. This represented a final breach with Franco and Carlos-Hugo began to change the political orientation of Carlism towards the left. At the same time the activities of Irene and her husband led to an open breach with Princess Sophia, whom she had known all her life. Carlos-Hugo now also broke with his father, who was still tied to the “traditional” Carlism. Xavier had advised his followers to vote “Yes” in the referendum of 1966, which confirmed the establishment of the Francoist state and allowed the General to nominate the future King. Carlos-Hugo, through his political organization, now issued a proclamation that any Princes who supported this would be deprived of the “legitimacy of the exercise” of their rights, thereby deposing his own father. 

The Parmesan Carlists were now hopelessly divided and Xavier caused further problems by publicly supporting the separatist movement in Catalonia and the Basque provinces. This was a step too far for Franco, who had fought the Civil War in the name of Spanish unity; on 26 December 1967 the Parma princes were expelled from Spain, for “contravening the terms of their temporary residence”. 

In July 1969 Juan Carlos was proclaimed Prince of Spain and, from his exile in Paris, Carlos Hugo began a series of attacks upon the new Prince of Spain and the future Monarchy they felt he would embody. He was supported in this by his sisters, with the exception of Françoise, while his brother Sisto continued to support the “traditional” Carlism supposedly led by their father. The last occasion on which the whole family was present together was for the baptism of the “Infante” Carlos Javier, heir to the self-styled “Prince of the Asturias,” also attended by Queen Juliana, the child’s godmother, and the rest of the Dutch royal family.  

On 8 April 1975 Xavier “abdicated” in favor of Carlos-Hugo. The remaining leaders of the Tradition now demanded that Carlos Hugo announce his adhesion to their traditions, but he did not respond and they declared him deprived of his right to lead them. On 24 Jan 1977 he wrote: I have renounced nothing. These are matters which one cannot renounce because they do not belong to the patrimony of any individual.

Sisto meanwhile seems to have become more involved with the extreme right and was accused by his elder brother of having sequestrated their father in the monastery of Solêsmes (1977). This provoked an outraged protest from their mother, who published a statement on 7 March 1977 accusing Carlos-Hugo of trying to remove his father from hospital and force him to sign a statement recognizing him as his heir, and of falsely accusing Sisto of keeping him against his will. It is impossible to be sure who was right, but on 4 March Xavier had signed a manifesto condemning his elder son’s increasingly extreme politics, while just three days later (after Carlos-Hugo and his sister removed their father from hospital) he named Carlos-Hugo as his heir in all his “claims”. 

Xavier died on 7 May 1977; Carlos-Hugo in his announcement to the courts of Europe did not mention his Carlist claims, only the title of Duke of Parma – knowing that any other claims would not be acknowledged. The arms on the heading of the paper, however, were those of the Royal House of Spain surrounded by the Golden Fleece. Carlos-Hugo, Cécile, Marie-Thérèse and Marie des Neiges were never forgiven by their mother for what she considered disloyal actions that had hastened their father’s death. Before she died of cancer in 1984 she ordered that these four of her children should not be allowed to enter the château after her death, and bequeathed her estate to Sisto (who inherited Lignières) and Françoise. At her funeral they were forced to stand outside the gates while their mother’s coffin was carried by. 

In 1976 Carlos-Hugo tried to return to Spain but, at the airport, was informed that the decree of expulsion was still in force. The Carlists now divided; the “Traditionalist Communion” was headed by Sisto, the “Carlist Party” by Carlos-Hugo.  

In early 1978, nearly 3 years after Juan Carlos had become King, Carlos Hugo wrote: “I address all Carlists, without any distinction, as your King, and as representative of the legitimate dynasty, to call you to unity and invite you to work to recover our liberties. Carlism has the responsibility of continuing to serve the people; it is the moment for us to regroup around the federal idea that was always the ideal of Carlism”. Shortly afterwards, on 7 March 1978, he was received by the King at the Oriente Palace, in a private audience. He asked the King for Spanish citizenship but the King did not respond directly. On leaving, he stated: “Neither myself, nor my family, nor the political interests which we attribute to ourselves, have, at this time, any ambition to occupy the place occupied by Juan Carlos. The facts are the facts. He is today the head of State and we have not been asked, neither ourselves, nor the people”. On 5 Jan 1979 “Carlos de Borbón-Parma y Borbón” was conceded Spanish nationality in a generous gesture by the King which did not, however, acknowledge the title of Duke of Parma nor the style Royal Highness. 

Carlos and his family acquired a house outside Madrid and the party he headed became increasingly left-wing in its proposals. On 28 April 1980 he resigned as President and as a member of the Carlist party, stating, in his letter: “Sir, I inform you officially that by the present act I no longer belong to the Carlist party. This is final. Receive my best wishes. Carlos-Hugo de Borbón.” The following year he and Irene divorced. His sisters Marie-Thérèse and Marie des Neiges, both living in Spain, have pursued academic careers; the former is a professor of political science at Madrid University, specializing in the Islamic world of North Africa, the latter has a Doctorate in Biology specializing in Mediterranean island fauna and flora. Princess Cécile has recently interested herself in her family history and has volunteered for the Order of Malta. None of them have publicly expressed any regret for their actions in the 1950-70s. Such was the uncertainty concerning whether Carlos-Hugo still claims his assumed Spanish titles that, in 1987, a royal decree was issued stating: “No other person can be titles Prince or Princess of the Asturias, nor Infante of Spain, nor receive the treatment and honors that are attached to the preceding dignities” other than those authorized by the law.  

In the end it was King Juan Carlos, however, who restored democracy in Spain, who defended the liberties of the people, and who initiated the new Federal constitution which gave autonomy to the regions. It was he who stood up to the military and assured Spain’s future as a democratic constitutional Monarchy. No other expression of regret or withdrawal has ever been offered by the present Duke of Parma for his actions.