Doña María, the late Countess of Barcelona, remains one of my favorite royal matrons, alongside her cousin the late Countess of Paris, with whom I shared a wonderful friendship.
HRH Princess doña María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies was born at Madrid on 23 December 1910. She was the daughter of the Infante don Carlos (1870-1949) and of his second wife, the former Princess Louise d'Orléans (1882-1958), herself the youngest daughter of the first Count of Paris (1838-1894) and his wife the Infanta Isabel (1848-1919), eldest daughter of the Duke of Montpensier and his wife, the Infanta doña Luisa Fernanda, only sister of Queen Isabel II of Spain.
On 12 October 1935 doña María married the Prince of Asturias, the Infante don Juan of Spain, third son and heir of King Alfonso XIII and his wife the former Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. The couple were the parents of four children: Pilar, Juan Carlos, Alfonso and Margarita. All, with the exception of Alfonso, who died tragically in 1956), have descendants.
Upon succeeding his father, and still while in exile, don Juan adopted the title of Count of Barcelona, a sovereign title of the Spanish monarchs. As such he was instrumental in working toward the restoration of the Spanish monarchy. Don Juan died from cancer in 1993.
Doña María, who had battled ill health for years and was confined to a wheelchair, survived her husband by nearly seven years. She died on 2 January 2000 while spending holidays at the royal family's vacation home in Lanzarote, Canary Islands.
On 23 December 2010 members of the Spanish Royal Family as well as extended relations will gather in the Royal Chapel at the Palacio de Oriente, Madrid, to commemorate the centennial of doña María's birth.