Doña Pilar de Borbón, Infanta of Spain by Royal Decree, died on January 8, 2020, at 83 years of age after a long battle against colon cancer, leaving the memory and example of her work and her contributions to society and culture. The daughter of Don Juan de Borbón and María de las Mercedes de Borbón-Dos Sicilias and Orleans, the aunt of the King of Spain Don Felipe de Borbón and sister of the current king of Spain, Juan Carlos I, Doña Pilar was a woman of character, perhaps because she had lived a childhood wandering and being the daughter of exiled parents (her father, Don Juan de Borbón, never reigned). Perhaps it was also a genetic issue, which gave her a strong and physically great nature since childhood (she had humor that as a child she was much bigger than her brother and used to “hit” Her Majesty).
She joked about being much larger than her brother and occasionally “picking on” His Majesty. But perhaps her biggest quality was standing up for the things she deeply believed in. She renounced her rights of succession to the Spanish throne to marry Luis Gómez Acebo, who did not have royal blood. A lover of culture and sports, the Infanta was the President of the International Equestrian Federation, a title that was later occupied by Princess Haya of Jordan. She was also an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, a member of the Council of Honor of the Spanish Olympic Committee, and chaired Europa Nostra, the Pan-European Federation for cultural heritage.
In her final days she resided in Madrid where she lead a very active life. Thankfully before she passed she graciously agreed to chat with azureazure.com to talk about one of her passions: the New Future Foundation, an organization that cares for children who, for various reasons, are deprived of a family environment. Doña Pilar worked with the organization since 1968 and was its Honorary President. She kept a busy schedule: She attended meetings where she would discuss the best ways to provide the most loving care for the children and talked about how to create effective households, homes for battered women, necessary improvements, etc.
Practical thinking and will to fight injustice, were the crucial factors that brought her to work for the organization: “I started to collaborate with New Future the same year it was founded, 1968. I liked its modern approach.” We should mention that in those days (in Spain), there were only large orphanages, serving hundreds of children, with very scarce resources. New Future presented a different model for providing homes to the children. “I think having small homes and a family environment is more appropriate for the children’s development,” said the Infanta. “We inculcate in them the values needed for success, respect for classmates and teachers, and care for the environment. They are happier and we get better results.”
Doña Pilar believed that the practice of solidarity is the gateway to happiness. She talked about the rewards of giving back, and reminded us of the many ways we can support New Future: “give a donation, help as a volunteer, come to our annual event to do your Christmas shopping… any form of collaboration is important.”
She regretted that in Spain charity donations are much more taxed than in countries likes the United States. But she remained tireless in her work. Her philanthropic labor is so important that she was willing to allocate whatever time necessary to the organization, constantly rescheduling her busy agenda of personal, family and social commitments.
The Infanta left behind five children Simoneta, Juan, Bruno, Beltran and Fernando born of her marriage to Luis Gómez Acebo, Duke of Estrada. Their wedding was much debated, and although her then future husband was the grandson of the Marquis of Cortina, it was considered that an Infanta of Spain should only marry a man of royal blood. Love triumphed and things went well. As she often said: “marriage is like the lottery.” In 1991, after 24 years of marriage, her beloved husband died of cancer. Maybe that loss, so early and so painful, made her see things more clearly, because when asked about the most important things in life, her answer was simple: “health, and good understanding between people.”
Despite life’s setbacks, Doña Pilar remained positive and considered herself lucky. “When you have received much affection, as it has happened to me, you must return it to society. So I try to help. Besides there is a lot to do.”
She lived her life with as much passion as ever, managing multiple obligations, caring for others, and wishing for “good health, a better future and my children’s happiness.” Here’s to the courageous and philanthropic life of Doña Pilar de Borbón. May her work continue to live on in her memory. ■