Tue. Mar 31st, 2020

“Don’t leave me alone, mom”

Date: 1890. When the people of Madrid were terrified by the death of the flu, the “Gaceta” and the other newspapers published terrible news: the king was seriously ill.

Place: MADRID. Alfonso XIII experienced sudden and high fever, vomiting, digestive disorders, meningism symptoms … The night of January 9-10, he came to fear for his life.

Anecdote: Queen María Cristina suffered a blackout, but her son claimed her: “Stay with me; don’t leave me alone, mom ”. And she remained at the foot of her crib.

When the future King Alfonso XIII was only three years old, a natural disaster in the form of a deadly virus appeared in Spain from 1889. The flu or influenza of that year had its origin in China, and it was transmitted slowly through the routes of Turkestan and Siberia, until reaching Russia, from where it spread throughout Europe.

In late November, numerous cases of influenza began to manifest in Madrid: Segismundo Moret, the Duke of Ahumada and the Deputy Secretary for Overseas were among the first to fall. On December 19 there were more than twenty thousand affected in Madrid. The infectious disease respected no one, and Cánovas de Castillo himself, General Cassola, and many other politicians and soldiers were also his victims. Death obituaries occupied entire pages in the newspapers. On January 2 of the following year, the famous tenor Julián Gayarre died as a result of the pandemic, which also bedridden the ministers of the Treasury, Navy, State and Overseas, and Canalejas’ mother.

When the people of Madrid were terrified by all this succession of misfortunes, the “Gaceta” and the other newspapers published terrible news: the king was seriously ill. The superstitious fears of Alfonso XII, while dying on the deathbed, seemed to be confirmed just five years later when Dr. Esteban Sánchez Ocaña, dean of chamber doctors, signed the following part: “S. M. the King, who did not offer any news in his health yesterday, has suffered from indigestion since the last morning, accompanied by some cerebral reflexes. Combating these disorders from the first moments, with the appropriate means, it has been possible for them to enter the process of remission, which continues at nine o’clock at night, which closes this part. January 4, 1890 ”.

Many years later, Dr. Manuel Izquierdo diagnosed the true disease that was about to end the little king: it was a flu pneumonia, of those that go unnoticed in children, and that are only discovered after a thorough clinical examination, by a white blood cell count or an x-ray taken on the third day.

The boy experienced sudden and high fever, vomiting, digestive disorders, symptoms of meningism.… On the night of January 9-10, the situation was very serious, and everyone was terrified of meningitis. The doctors administered to the king a purgative of castor oil, tolú syrup and heart tonics.

The queen mother was unable to control her strong emotions and suffered a blackout. The doctors offered her a cup of linden with a few drops of ether, and asked her to rest. But her son claimed her: “Be with me; don’t leave me alone, mom ”. And there, at the foot of her crib, María Cristina remained endless hours.

Meanwhile, in the so-called “yellow piece” a mass was celebrated to which Queen Elizabeth, the family and the palatines attended to urge Heaven to heal the child king. María Cristina, kneeling before the cradle of her son, looked pleadingly at the same Christ who consoled María Estuardo.

When almost everyone, including politicians, considered the king dead, his miraculous cure occurred. The disease gave way in the end: the little boy stopped having fever and vomiting, and began to tolerate food. The queen mother, who had had many hours in the field with her intuition since the birth of her son, thus counteracting her father’s unfortunate inheritance, now followed the same instructions from the doctors.

Little Alfonso XIII got used to spending most of the day in Casa de Campo or in El Pardo, for months and years, motivating many Madrileños to wonder if the royal boy was raised to be king or … rabbit!

Like his father, little Alfonso XIII was of weak and sickly constitution. More Austria than Bourbon in his features, he looked like Philip IV or Charles II the Bewitched. In October 1892, when he was six years old, the festivities scheduled in Seville had to be interrupted as a result of Dr. Candela’s official report: “S. M. the King, undoubtedly due to the change in life these days, suffers from fatigue and gastric discomfort; for this reason it is convenient to provide a reasonable period of rest, for its better and sooner recovery. ” The bad star looked like this on the crown of Alfonso XIII from his earliest childhood and until his death.

In January 1893, King Alfonso XIII again had fever, angina, and a rash that was diagnosed with scarlet fever. The alarms went off again in the palace. The bad omens that plagued the dynasty were revealed. As if that were not enough, in February 1895 measles passed. The queen mother, María Cristina de Austria, trying to preserve the delicate health of her son, relieved all employees with children from the palatine service to avoid contagion. This protocol standard was strictly adhered to in the Palace, even for the chamber doctors, who did not assist anyone of their private clientele with contagious diseases. To make matters worse, since childhood the future monarch Alfonso XIII dragged a tuberculous rhinitis, which made his breath unpleasant to those who approached him and as a consequence of which his lovers vouched for his mortifying halitosis.


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