Philip V and Isabel de Farnesio

Last weekend, when we went to Madrid to visit Daniela, we took a little day trip up to San Ildefonso, just outside Segovia. That's where La Granja is, the palace built by Philip V, the first Bourbon king in Spain. The history of the Palace fascinated me, and even though I had visited it last year with my students, I'm afraid I retained little the first time around. Philip married Maria Luisa of Savoy in 1701, when he was just 17 and his wife 13! He became a widower at a young age, when his Maria Luisa died at age 27. Poor Philip, who was French and sent to Spain without knowing a word of Spanish, suffered extended periods when he was completely incapacitated and unable, apparently, to even get himself out of bed. He likely suffered from bipolar disorder. The Malaga connection: it was thanks to Giulio Alberoni, a young priest in the service of the Duque of Parma, that Philip ended up in an arranged marriage to Isabel de Farnesio (Elizabeth of Farnese). Alberoni came to the Spanish court with the young bride and ended up being named  cardinal of Malaga. In spite of Alberoni's cruel remark that led to her being despectively nicknamed "la parmesana", Isabel was a very capable woman who spoke several languages, was an astute art collector, and ruled admirably and loyally during her husband's long periods of illness. (Alberoni described her as a rather ugly, insignificant girl who stuffed herself with butter and parmesan cheese, and knew nothing not related to sewing and knitting.) In 1724 Philip abdicated the throne in favor of his son, but Louis died shortly thereafter of smallpox and Philip had to retake the throne, even though he was rapidly becoming completely incapacitated. After Philip's death in 1746, Isabel was distanced from the court and went to live in La Granja, but things went better for her for a short time when her son Charles became king in 1759. Unfortunately, there were big problems with her daughter-in-law, Maria Amalia, wife of Charles III. In any case, we had a lot of fun visiting the Palace and trying to get information about the future ballet school to be started here by Angel Corella. After a big lunch we visited the palace at Río Frío, a strange place built by Isabel de Farnesio, who died before it was completed.

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