Prince Carlos Hugo
Duke of Parma was famous for pressing his claim to throne of Spain and a sensational royal marriage
PRINCE Carlos Hugo, duke of Parma and Piacenza, who has died aged 80, was the titular head of the House of Bourbon-Parma, a branch of the House of Bourbon, and well-known for pressing his Carlist claim to the throne of Spain; he was even better known for his sensational marriage to Princess Irene of the Netherlands, the beautiful daughter of the doughty Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard.
The controversy surrounding the marriage caused a constitutional crisis in the Netherlands. Princess Irene, Queen Juliana's second daughter, secretly converted to Catholicism in 1963 -- something discovered only when she was photographed kneeling at Mass in Madrid. Immediately there were suspicions that she was engaged to a Catholic, and Prince Carlos Hugo was identified as that man.
It was considered the worst possible union on account of the historic antipathy between the two nations and Franco's support of the Nazis. Queen Juliana immediately sent a private secretary to Madrid to dissuade Irene from marrying "a Fascist". The princess agreed to fly home -- at which point the queen, believing that the wedding was off, broadcast this fact to the nation on the radio.
She was wrong. When the plane landed, Princess Irene was not on board. The queen and Prince Bernhard took a military aircraft to Spain, but had got only as far as Paris when the Dutch government announced that it would resign en masse if a queen of the Netherlands alighted on Spanish soil.
Irene, meanwhile, went into hiding in a convent. She then took a suite of rooms near Carlos Hugo, and the two communicated by standing at their respective windows and exchanging hand signals; she feared that her telephone was tapped
Finally, in February 1964, Prince Bernhard flew to Spain and brought the young couple back to the Soestdijk Palace in the Netherlands, where they had a heated discussion with the prime minister, Victor Marijnen.
Though Princess Irene declared her marriage to be a way of ending religious strife, Mr Marijnen refused government approval.
While the queen continued to try to sabotage the wedding, the young couple flew to Rome for an audience with Pope Paul VI.
The couple were married in Rome on April 29, 1964, by Cardinal Paolo Giobbe, former Apostolic Nuncio to the Netherlands, with no members of the Dutch royal family present. They then settled in Madrid. The princess instantly forfeited her claim to the Dutch throne.
Matters eventually calmed down, and Queen Juliana and Carlos Hugo's father were pictured holding the couple's first-born son, Carlos, at his baptism in 1970.
Another son and two daughters followed, but the couple divorced in 1981.
The Duchy of Parma had been established by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 after a complicated war of succession. King Ferdinand VII of Spain died without a male heir in 1833, and appointed his daughter Isabella to follow him. The king's younger brother, Don Carlos, refused to recognise Isabella II's rights, and instigated the first Carlist war, which lasted until 1839.
From him descended the Carlist claimants, who were supported only by the most reactionary of the Spanish nobility. As Time magazine pointed out at the time of the marriage crisis in 1964: "Descended from him [Don Carlos] is a list of chronically unsuccessful Carlist pretenders, including Irene's fiance."
Carlos Hugo was born in Paris on April 8, 1930, the elder son of Xavier, duke of Parma, and Madeleine de Bourbon-Busset, and educated at the Sorbonne and Oxford. His uncle Felix was the husband of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. Carlos Hugo's father was the seventh son of Duke Roberto I (who had 24 children). Duke Xavier publicly claimed the throne in 1952 and, in 1957, declared his son and heir prince of the Asturias and duke of San Jaime. In February 1964, Carlos Hugo assumed the title of Duke of Madrid. He succeeded his father in 1977, claiming the thrones of Parma, Etruria and Spain.
Following Duke Xavier's death, Carlos Hugo styled himself Carlos VIII. To be a pretender when General Franco was in power was something of a lost cause (he consistently dismissed the claim), but the family took it seriously. In 1967, both Carlos Hugo and his father were banned from Spain as potential threats to the unity of the state.
Franco appointed Prince Juan Carlos (grandson of the last King, Alfonso XIII) as his successor and he duly became king when Franco died in 1975.
In 1979, Carlos Hugo abandoned his claims and became a naturalised Spanish citizen. The following year he left the political arena.
In 2002, he donated the archives of the House of Parma to Spain's national archives. But on September 28, 2003, he suddenly reasserted his claim, with declarations of new titles for his children.
In February 2008, it was announced that he was suffering from cancer, and he died in Barcelona on August 18. Princess Irene survives him, along with their four children.