An Unlucky Ring for a Beloved Royal Wife: 1878

Mercedes, Queen Consort of King Alfonso XII of Spain

Mercedes, Queen Consort of King Alfonso XII of Spain, who was charmed by the hoodoo ring.


Put Away Because It Proved Fatal To Each Royal Possessor

At last the unlucky ring which has been the cause of so much superstition in the court of Spain has been placed by Queen Maria Christina in what she considers safe keeping, where the “evil eye” will have no more power over it. Attached to a golden chain, this valuable ring…can be seen hanging to the neck of the image of the virgin of the Almudena in the crypt for the future Cathedral, where the remains of the first wife of her late husband, Alfonso XII, will shortly be transferred from the Escorial.

A well-known story is that of the Spanish opal; and many are the Spaniards who believe that the long series of misfortunes that has befallen Spain and the present dynasty comes of a cursed opal ring that a neglected beauty spitefully bestowed upon Alfonso XII. The opal is of a very large size and of brilliant colouring. It is set in filigree gold, and has no other jewels about it. The ring belonged to a famous beauty and adventuress, the Comtesse de Castiglione, who was in the glory of her beauty and power during the reign of Napoleon III. Among her most ardent admirers was Alfonso XII., then an outcast and a pretender. When he became King and married one of his own royal blood, the jealousy of the Comtesse was aroused, and her hatred was terrible. A few months after the King’s marriage he received a package from the Comtesse, containing a beautiful opal ring of rare colouring. It was called a wedding-gift and a memento of the friendship the King had held for the Comtesse. The King showed it to his wife Queen Mercedes, who was charmed with its beauty and begged to keep it. Alfonso gave it to her readily, and she slipped it on her finger. From that moment she commenced to ail, and in a few months she died. The ring fell from her dead hand, and the King gave it to his grandmother Queen Christina, who died a few months later. Next, the ring was given to Alfonso’s sister the Infanta Maria del Pilar, who wore it but a few days before she died of a mysterious sickness. The sister-in-law then came into possession of it, the youngest daughter of the Duc and Duchesse de Montpensier, and in three months the young Princess was dead. After this series of fatalities the King determined to keep the ring himself, and he slipped it on his little finger [other accounts say he put it into his jewelry box with his cuff-links and studs]; but he did not wear it long, as his unhappy life shortly came to an end.

The Power of Gems and Charms, George H. Bratley, 1907

Queen Maria Christina, widow of Alfonso XII had heard from the King himself how unlucky the ring was, and when she found it among his jewels she decided that no one should wear it; and when the Cathedral showed signs of being the future Cathedral of Madrid, she decided to put an end to the legend of the unlucky ring by hanging it to the Virgin’s neck.

Perhaps if the unlucky ring had been given to the present Queen of Spain [Victoria Eugenie, wife of Alfonso XIII] she would wear it. She does not believe in the “evil eye,” and she adores jewels. She is never seen, even in the most simple attire, without earrings, pearl chain, &c., quite a contrast to her grandmother Queen Victoria, who went most simply attired except on great occasions. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 8 July 1913: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A few more details on this ring which brought appallingly bad luck to all its owners. The article above says that it had been the property of the fascinating and beautiful Countess de Castiglione, mistress of Napoleon III and she of the infamous Queen of Hearts fancy dress costume, of semi-transparent fabric, worn with a large jewelled heart on the girdle. Empress Eugenie (who was notoriously superstitious about opals) remarked of this accessory: Quels beaux bijoux, metis le coeur est place bien bas. It was said of the Countess that while she had a heart, it was mostly kept at her banker’s.

The sister-in-law mentioned above was Infanta Maria Cristina de Orléans, sister to the late Queen Mercedes. She and the King became engaged shortly after the Queen’s death from typhoid fever (after only 5 months of marriage) in 1878. However, the Infanta contracted tuberculosis and died before they could be wed. King Alfonso XII next married Maria Christina of Austria in 1879. He died of dysentery in 1885, just before his 28th birthday. His posthumous son, later King Alfonso XIII (who lost his throne to the Second Spanish Republic), was born in May 1886. The most recent photogravures of the statue of the Virgin and Child in Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral do not appear to show the necklace.  Mrs Daffodil is struck both by the extraordinarily rapid succession of royal fiancées/wives and the apparent hygienic deficiencies of the royal residences.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



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