Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Austria-Lorena, (1886-1941): Gesundheit

A name fit for a king, and so he was.  A king, that is. His father King Alfonso XII died before he was born, which gave him the rare distinction of being king right out the starting gate, though technically his mother Maria Christina of Austria was regent for his first sixteen years,  a time that saw the loss to Spain of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to Teddy Roosevelt and President McKinley.

Married one of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (1887–1969),  kept Spain out of the First World War, left Spain in 1931 and never quite made it back, dying in Rome in 1941.

Why am I on about this?  Because as of Friday, I’ve been enduring the ‘flu (yes, yes, I know. Vaccination.  I know.  I was busy, and  besides probably some geriatric or tot needed it more). With little else to do but sneeze, shiver, and cough, I began to wonder, why was the 1918-19 pandemic called the Spanish ‘Flu?  One of those bigoted we-didn’t-start-it monikers, like the French calling syphilis the Italian disease and the Italians calling it the French?  Was Spain being made to pay for avoiding the mass slaughter of the trenches?

Apparently, yes,  though not perhaps by design.  It’s another case of truth being the first casualty of war.

The first documented case came out of Fort Riley, Kansas, and as the boys went to Europe, the infection came with them.  Unintentional germ warfare, if you like.  War censors in Germany, England, France and America insisted that the extent of the thing be kept on the QT in case it hurt morale.

Spain, neutral, had no such restrictions.  Moreover, as Alfonso was hit by the bug, there was widespread coverage world wide, suggesting to the wider world that things were particularly bad in Spain.


3 thoughts on “Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Austria-Lorena, (1886-1941): Gesundheit

  1. So sorry you were taken ill. I congratulate you for being able to string even a few words together in spite of it. Can you recommend a good non-academic history of the so-called Spanish flu? I’ve always meant to read one. Thanks!

    • My own damn fault, but thank you. (For the record – 103.3 degrees. A new personal best!)

      As to books, Crosby’s America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 is a good start. For the obsessed, Hunting the 1918 Flu is an account of Scientists exhuming some dead victims in Norway, though frankly the whole idea sounds like a 1950’s grindhouse flick on the theme of Meddling Where Man Was Not Meant To Go.

      Given the size of the thing, I’m always surprised that it doesn’t register in my own family history at all. My wife’s grandfather, who had just gotten off the boat from England as a freshly minted Anglican cleric, was a victim. He had landed in Virginia and he was thrown on the kindness of strangers whose method of dealing with it involved a great deal of bourbon. He survived. Not sure if it had anything to do with his allegedly liverish personality.

  2. Thanks for tip, Bruce! 103.3, eh? I hope it burned off all the detritus and fertilized all your gray matter. Can you tell I’m thinking about gardens?

Leave a Reply to Angie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *