Taking a look at the wedding of Princess Irene of the Netherlands & Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma

By Jack de Nijs for Anefo - CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

On 29 April 1964, Princess Irene of the Netherlands married Prince Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma, future titular Duke of Parma, without her family by her side.

Princess Irene, the second daughter of the then Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, had met Prince Carlos Hugo during her studies in Madrid. He was the eldest son of the Carlist claimant to the Spanish throne, Xavier. She secretly converted to Roman Catholicism in the summer of 1963. This news only became public after a photo was released showing her receiving communion.1 A plane was sent to bring Irene home, but it ended up returning to the Netherlands without her. While a conversion did not necessarily remove her from the line of succession, the family is known to be traditionally protestant.

Rumours soon circulated that she was to marry a Spanish nobleman2, which along with the conversion, caused quite an uproar in the Netherlands. Eventually, the news was released that Princess Irene was to be married to Prince Carlos Hugo and that she would not ask parliamentary permission for the marriage, which would exclude her from the line of succession. The New York Times wrote, “Princess Irene renounced her rights to the Netherlands throne and decided to live in exile rather than give up marriage to the man of her heart, a Roman Catholic Spanish prince.”3

Queen Juliana and her husband, Prince Bernhard, said, “We rejoice ourselves full-heartedly in her happiness and that of her future husband, and our best wishes will always accompany them.” 4

The wedding took place on 29 April 1964 in the Borghese Chapel at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, but none of her family felt it was appropriate to attend. Shortly before the wedding, Irene announced her intention to support her future husband’s claim to the Spanish throne. The family reportedly watched the ceremony on television. Pope Paul VI received the newlyweds in a private audience afterwards.

By Jack de Nijs for Anefo – CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Anefo – CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Princess Irene wore a white silk gown trimmed with Dutch lace made by Pierre Balmain. She wore a tulle veil, which was secured with a diamond tiara which belonged to her husband’s family. It had been made in 1884 for Carlos Hugo’s grandmother, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal.5

Princess Irene and Prince Carlos Hugo went on to have four children together: Carlos (born 1970), Margarita (born 1972), Jaime (born 1972) and Carolina (born 1974). The marriage ended in divorce in 1981.

  1. The Windsor Star
  2. The New York Times
  3. The New York Times
  4. The New York Times
  5. The Court Jeweller

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