A blog and review on all things Sherry. It is about tasting, enjoyment and learning more about the World’s Finest Wine. "Sherry is a thoroughbred" as Javier Hidalgo rightly puts it. Included are the amazing local Brandies and the remarkably good table wines also produced in the province of Cádiz.
A French prince and father of a queen, Don Antonio
María Felipe de Orléans y Borbón Dos-Sicilias, Duke of Montpensier (1824-1890), was never
able to achieve what most historians refer to as his obsession: to be King of
Spain. The closest he got was his marriage to the infanta Doña Luisa Fernanda
de Borbón (1832-1897) at the royal palace of Madrid in 1846, a double political alliance
since Luisa’s sister, Queen Isabel II of Spain, married her cousin, Don Francisco
de Asis de Borbón at the same celebration. Isabel continued to rule Spain, but Antonio
would spend most of the rest of his life there, residing in Sevilla and their
great discovery, Sanlúcar, where they spent long summer seasons and became
symbols of prosperity for the town and its inhabitants.
Antonio, Luisa and Maria Isabel
Don Antonio was the tenth son of Louis Philippe
I of France and María Amalia de Borbón Dos-Sicilias. He arrived in Andalucía in
1848 after a revolution which ousted the Orléans in France, and it was the
Spanish government, rather than Don Antonio and Doña Luisa themselves, which decided
they should reside in Sevilla, away from Madrid, as it was aware of his
pretensions to the throne.
Doña Luisa took an interest not only in Sevilla
and its surroundings but in the other towns of Andalucía. So on the 11th
November that year they set off on a trip to Cádiz and its seaports, sailing
down the Guadalquivir from Sevilla to Sanlúcar, where they were greeted with a spectacular
civic reception. Since the local council could not afford this, funds were raised
by popular subscription. Everyone contributed to the substantial costs, but it would
prove to be an excellent investment as Don Antonio was much taken by the town,
which became his favourite place for holidays.
Palacio Orleans Borbon (foto:minube,com)
In the summer of 1849 the Montpensiers stayed
at finca El Picacho, and their influence and presence in the town were obvious
from the start, creating a perfect symbiosis between the townsfolk and the
royals. In times of unemployment they found ways to provide work like in the
very hard winter of 1855, and also supported the poor, but above all they made
the town into a summer residence for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie of Sevilla
and Cádiz, putting Sanlúcar firmly on the map. In return the town was faithful
to them and unshakeable in its affection. The Montpensiers’ greatest legacies
were the Palacio De Orleans, a magnificent house they built in a marvellous mix of architectural styles with beautiful
gardens, now the city council building, and the purchase of the botanic garden,
for which they provided a water supply.
Sanlúcar benefitted in many more ways however.
The transport service between Sevilla and Sanlúcar on the Guadalquivir
increased greatly during the summer months, and this required works to improve
navigability and the quayside at Bonanza which were carried out by the
Guadalquivir Navigation Company, of which Don Antonio was a major shareholder. He
was also involved in the improvement of the roads to Jerez and Chipiona and the
arrival of the railway. He persuaded the government to extend the mail service
to Sanlúcar, and this began in 1852.
Back in 1845 a group of distinguished Sanluqueños
had created the Society of Horse Racing of Sanlúcar de Barrameda to promote the
Andaluz breed of horse which was very useful in agriculture. Don Antonio, a
consummate horseman, lover of horses and owner of one of the best stables in
the south of Spain immediately joined up and helped to promote the society,
which still holds the races on the beach to this day. He also attracted
visitors from other royal houses such as Eugenia de Montijo in 1853, the King
of Portugal in 1856 and Queen Isabel II in 1862.
In 1943 descendants of the Montpensiers
established Bodegas Infantes de Orleans Borbón in Sanlúcar which are still in
business though now owned by Barbadillo. Over the years the family had a profound
and beneficial effect on the town, even though Don Antonio never realised his
dream. Translated from an article by JM Aguilar in La Voz Digital