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Doña Maria Luisa de Borbón y Paradé, Duquesa de Sevilla

(1868-1949), Wife of Don Juan de Monclus y Cabanellas; daughter of Don Enrique de Borbon y Castellvi, Duque de Sevilla

Sitter in 3 portraits

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Yvonne Roberts

27 September 2017, 16:30

Her Highness Dona Maria Luisa de Borbon y Parade, 3rd Duchess of Seville.
She was the eldest of three daughters of the 2nd Duke of Seville (there were no sons) and was born on 4th April, 1868, in Madrid. She married Don Juan Lorenzo Francisco de Monclus y Cabanellas who was born in 1862 in Barcelona.
Juan and Maria Luisa married on the 25th July 1894 in London, just two weeks after she inherited the title of Duchess on the death of her father. Juan was 31 and Maria Luisa was 26 years old. Under Spanish law, if a Spanish duchess should marry a commoner, he acquired the title of Duke. Juan, although holding no titles in his own right, was a wealthy business man, based in Barcelona. Maria Luisa had been educated for some time at the Convent of the Assumption, Kensington Square and was living there at the time of her wedding.
The wedding took place in the catholic church of Our Lady of Victories, which at the time, was the pro-Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Westminster and the foremost Catholic Church in England. One of the two sponsors was the Queen Regent of Spain. The wedding breakfast and reception were to have been held in the Spanish Embassy but were cancelled due to the recent death of the 2nd Duke (i.e. Maria’s father), which occurred at sea on his way from the Philippines, where he was a Provincial Governor . Maria hastily adapted her white silk wedding dress by the addition of a black crepe sash and shoulder knots. Clearly, this was a wedding that had been planned for some time.
Such an unhappy beginning was something of an omen.
Maria Luisa, although she inherited the title of Duchess as the eldest daughter of the late 2nd Duke, was challenged by her mother, the Dowager Duchess, in the law courts of Madrid in 1900. The mother (according to newspaper stories of the time) had never liked her eldest daughter and after Maria Luisa’s marriage to a rich man, had made ever increasing demands for money which the young couple resisted. The mother initiated legal proceedings to declare that her daughter was illegitimate and not the natural daughter of the 2nd Duke. Maria Luisa eventually won the case, as her mother failed to prove her claims but the process, including appeals, dragged on for four years.
During this period, in 1902, at the age of 40, Juan had the first of his attacks of mania and paranoia. He spent time in a lunatic asylum in Barcelona. Things in Spain – and in Barcelona in particular – were not good for the Catholic aristocracy and bourgeoisie. It was a time of anarchy, revolution and counter-revolution and it seems that Juan lost a lot of his assets at this point. There is evidence of a spy network, with informers infiltrating all sections of the community. Perhaps Juan’s apparent paranoia wasn’t entirely ill-founded.
1908 saw the Duke and Duchess return to England, with a base in London and a country retreat in Sussex. She attended many high society events and, although the Duke occasionally goes as well, he is not often mentioned in society columns. By contrast, he is recorded in 1910 at Flower House in Southend: a private lunatic asylum.
In 1913 he was admitted to the Bethlem Lunatic Asylum. He had been admitted under an “urgency certificate” (equivalent to being “sectioned” today) signed by Theophilus Bulkeley (known as “T.B.”) Hyslop. Hyslop had recently retired as Resident Physician and Medical Superintendant there. The Duchess had requested the order because Juan had again become increasingly agitated and threatening; he squandered money and roamed the streets of London all day, convinced that everyone knew him and was plotting against him. During his stay he often complained about the food and demanded Spanish meals but in the later months he became calmer and would participate in the dances and play billiards. Juan was detained in Bethlem from 8th January till 8th October 1913 when he was discharged “relieved”, which we understand to mean ‘relieved of his symptoms’.
From his medical records at Bethlem we learn of his address in London: 26 Trebovir Road, Earl’s Court. Juan and Maria Luisa were already living here at the time of the 1911 census.
It was a boarding house run by a live-in house-keeper. There was a housemaid, cook and waiter to attend 12 boarders. It was a cosmopolitan household but populated mainly by older women of private means – some returning from colonial life abroad. The household can be seen as representative of London at the time. There was often a mixing of the social classes, with some on their way up and others on their way down, as anyone familiar with novels set in that period will recognise.
Charles Booth’s coloured maps of London from some twenty years earlier, showing social class and relative income, indicate that the Earl’s Court was a ‘middle-class/well to do’ or ‘upper and middle classes /wealthy’ area.
Unfortunately the next we hear of Juan is his death, in 1918, in Church Stretton. He had been a patient at Stretton House, the private lunatic asylum that stood on the area now occupied by the housing development of Stretton Farm Road.
T.B. Hyslop, who had signed the admission certificate for Bethlem, knew Stretton House well. When he was two years old, his father, William Hyslop, had bought it as a going concern and the family themselves lived there. Stretton House was a very nice establishment, with plenty of grounds and outdoor recreational facilities. Patients could enjoy cricket, gardening, billiards, and music, while the more robust ones could ride or take 'carriage exercise'. The asylum was supplied from its own garden and model farm.
The assumption is that TB Hyslop recommended Stretton House for the treatment of Juan’s mania.
Juan’s death was recorded as being as the result of the “effects of [an] operation necessarily and properly performed” on December 13th, 1918 at Stretton House, according to the Coroner’s report.
Maria Luisa repatriated back to Spain after Juan’s death in August 1920. She was 52 and had relinquished her title in favour of her youngest sister a year earlier. Her youngest sister had children who could carry on the title of “Duke of Seville”. In fact, the current Duke of Seville is the grandson of Maria Luisa’s sister.
Maria Luisa herself died on 10th June, 1949, not 1945 as stated on your website.

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