Funeral of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, 1993

Royal Guests and Relatives gathered from around Europe to join the Spanish Royal Family for rhe Funeral of HRH Don Juan of Borbón and Battenberg, Count of Barcelona on this day, 30 years ago. For several years, the Count battled stoically against laryngeal cancer, which eventually defeated him. He died in a hospital in the city of Pamplona with his son, King Juan Carlos I, daughter-in-law, Queen Sofia, elder daughter, Infanta Pilar, and younger daughter, Infanta Margarita, at his bedside. 

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Following the Count’s death, his son, King Juan Carlos, per Royal Decree, announced seven days of National Mourning. He also declared that his father should receive the funeral honours that correspond to a King of Spain, and that his mortal remains should be buried in the Pantheon of Kings of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. According to his own words:

“Upon the death of my father Don Juan de Borbón y Battenberg, Count of Barcelona, considering the circumstances that occurred in his life, having embodied the continuity of the historic dynasty as Head of the Spanish Royal House and having occupied with exemplarity and dignity the position that corresponded to him, as well as his dedication to the cause of freedom, peace and harmony of the Spanish people, as an example of generosity and renunciation, with the desire to show the admiration and gratitude that his memory deserves, honouring him and recognising the treatment that corresponds to his person”. 

On the next day, the Count of Barcelona’s coffin arrived at the Royal Palace of Madrid where it was placed at the Royal Chapel, lying in state, for people to pay their homage and respects. Beside the coffin, escorted by the Royal Guard, three cushions showcased the late Count’s orders and decorations, namely the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Order of Charles III, and the Order of Naval Merit. 

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On April 3rd, the Royal Family, accompanied by around 70 of the late Count’s closest relatives, the government, the autonomic presidents, representatives of the nobility, members of the Count’s former Privy Council, and other official representatives assisted a corpore insupulto mass at the Royal Chapel. Next, 10 members of the King’s Guard transported on shoulders the coffin and placed it on a gun carriage. Presiding the procession were King Juan Carlos and the then Prince of Asturias. At the Plaza de la Armeria, the military honours, as well as the customary 21-gun salutes, were observed. The coffin then followed in an automobile funeral procession to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. 

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Inside the Monastery, the ceremony was sober and intimate. After a short moment of prayer, the widow, Doña Maria de las Mercedes, bid the last farewell to her husband. The family couldn’t hold back their tears. As stated by tradition, the coffin was then handed to the care of the Augustinian monks by the Duke of Alburquerque, the head of the Count’s Household. Later that day, it was transported by the monks to a special temporary chamber, popularly known as el pudridero, where the body will stay for more than 20 years until it decomposes. Only after, it will occupy its final place, in the Pantheon of Kings, as Ioannes III, comes Barcinonae. 

Four days later, the Royal Family and the King’s Family returned to the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo of El Escorial for an Official Religious Service. They were joined by more than 800 guests, including several members of Royal Families, namely King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte of Luxembourg, Prince Hans-Adam and Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Tsar Simeon and Tsaritsa Margarita of Bulgaria, King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania, King Constantine of Greece, the Prince of Wales, Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, Prince Rainier and Prince Albert of Monaco, Princess Christina of Sweden, Princess Astrid of Norway, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko of Japan, Princess Alexia and Princess Irene of Greece, Archduke Otto of Habsburg, the Prince of Naples, the Count and Dowager Countess of Paris, the Duke of Braganza, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, the Duke and Duchess of Wurttemberg, the Crown Prince and Princess of Yugoslavia, the Duke of Bavaria, the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Baden, as well as the President of Portugal, and members of Middle-Eastern, African, and Asian Royal Families. This was followed by a reception at the Royal Palace. 

This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!


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