Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona

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Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona : biography

20 June 1913 – 1 April 1993

Juan Carlos de Borbón (Juan Carlos Teresa Silvestre Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg; English: John Charles Therese Sylvester Alphonse of Bourbon and Battenberg) (20 June 1913 – 1 April 1993), was the third surviving son and designated heir of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, the monarch replaced by the Second Spanish Republic, and father of Juan Carlos I, under whom a constitutional monarchy was restored. As king of Spain, he would have been Juan III.


Heraldry of Infante Juan of Spain, Count of Barcelona
Royal Coat of Arms of SpainVersion of 1931Used as Pretender and Head of the Royal House.(1941–1977)García-Mechano y Osset, Eduardo (2010). Introducción a la heráldica y manual de heráldica militar española. Madrid: Ministerio de Defensa. ISBN 978-84-9781-559-8. PP.105-107 Lesser Royal Coat of Arms of SpainAlso used by Don Juan as Pretender.(1941–1977) url=–01_buques_es?acc=1&_imageNodeID=796033&_imageNodeNumber=44&_imagePageNumber=3&_pageAction=changeImage&zoomImage=false#sel-foto|title= Coat of arms of Juan de Bourbon after his renounce at the emblem of the Frigate "Juan de Borbón"|last1= |first1= |last2= |first2= |date= |work= Navy official coats of arms|publisher=Spanish Navy|language=Spanish|accessdate=18 March 2013}}

Claim to the Spanish throne

Juan became heir-apparent to the defunct Spanish throne after the renunciations of his two older brothers, Alfonso and Jaime, both in 1933. To assert his claim to the throne, after his father’s death he used the title of Count of Barcelona, a sovereign title associated with the Spanish crown.

In 1936, his father sent him to enter Spain and participate in the uprising but, near the French border, General Mola arrested him and sent him back.

When General Francisco Franco declared Spain to be a kingdom in 1947, he characterised it as a reinstitution. However, Franco was afraid that Don Juan would turn out to be too liberal and roll back the Falangist state. As a result, in 1969, Franco passed over Juan, who would have been king if the monarchy had continued uninterrupted, in favour of his son Juan Carlos, who Franco believed would be more likely to continue the Francoist State after his death. Juan Carlos later surprised many by his support of democratising Spain. Franco and the Count of Barcelona did not have a good relationship, with the Count constantly pressing Franco to restore the monarchy. Relations soured further when Juan called Franco an "illegitimate usurper", while Franco claimed he had a stronger claim to rule Spain than did Juan.

The Count of Barcelona formally renounced his rights to the Crown eight years after being displaced as recognised heir to the throne by Franco, and two years after his son Juan Carlos had become king. In return, his son officially granted him the title of Count of Barcelona, which he had claimed for so long.

He was buried as Juan IIIEnumerated after Juan II, King of Castile. (John III of Spain), with honours due a king, in the Royal Crypt of the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial, near Madrid. His wife survived him by seven years.

He was fond of the sea, and joined the Naval School at San Fernando, Cádiz, and had tattoos of a marine theme from his time in the British Royal Navy.

He was the 1165th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Spain.


Early life and marriage

Juan was born at the Palace of San Ildefonso. His father was forced into exile when the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed on 14 April 1931. Owing to the renunciations of his brothers Alfonso of Spain, Prince of Asturias, and Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia, Infante Juan was thus next in line to the defunct Spanish throne. He thus received the title Prince of Asturias when he was serving with the Royal Navy in Bombay.

In March 1935, he passed his naval exams in gunnery and navigation, which would have entitled him to become a lieutenant in the Royal Navy if he gave up his Spanish nationality. This, however, he refused to do.

He met his future wife at a party hosted by Victor Emmanuel III of Italy on the day before his sister (Infanta Beatriz) was to be married. He married Princess María Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies (1910–2000), known in Spain as Doña María de las Mercedes de Borbón Dos-Sicilias y Orleans, in Rome on 12 October 1935. On her marriage, she gained the title of Countess of Barcelona.

Just before the birth of the Infante Juan Carlos, the Count of Barcelona decided to go hunting, with the doctor telling him and his wife that the future king would not be born for weeks. When he was told of the birth he drove to the hospital so quickly that he broke an axle spring.

They had four children:

  1. Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz (born 1936)
  2. Juan Carlos I, King of Spain (born 1938)
  3. Infanta Margarita, Duchess of Soria, 2nd Duchess of Hernani (born 1939)
  4. Infante Alfonso of Spain (Alfonso Cristino Teresa Angelo Francisco de Asis y Todos los Santos) (1941–1956)

They lived in Cannes and Rome, and, with the outbreak of World War II, they moved to Lausanne to live with his mother, Queen Victoria Eugenie. Afterwards, they resided at Estoril, in Portugal.