Morral affair

The bombing of May 31, 1906

The Morral affair was the attempted regicide of Spanish King Alfonso XIII and his bride, Victoria Eugenie, on their wedding day, May 31, 1906. The attacker, Mateu Morral, acting on a desire to spur revolution, threw a bomb concealed in a flower bouquet from his hotel window as the King's procession passed, killing 24 bystanders and soldiers, wounding over 100 others, and leaving the royals unscathed. Morral sought refuge from republican journalist José Nakens but fled in the night to Torrejón de Ardoz, whose villagers reported the interloper. Two days after the attack, militiamen accosted Morral, who killed one before killing himself. Morral was likely involved in a similar attack on the king a year prior.

The affair became a pretext to stop Francisco Ferrer, an anarchist pedagogue who ran Escuela Moderna, the influential, rationalist, antigovernment, anticlerical, antimilitary, Barcelonean school in whose library Morral worked. An unrequited love interest from the school might also have influenced Morral. Ferrer was charged with masterminding the attack, and though he was acquitted for lack of evidence, he remained a target of the government and church. The journalist Nakens and two friends, however, received prison sentences, held partially responsible for the murder Morral committed after fleeing the city. Following a prominent campaign for royal pardon, the three were released within a year of sentencing. Nakens' role in the affair spotlighted fissures in the Spanish republican movement between gradualism and near-term revolution that would later become an identity crisis.


After a falling-out over politics, Mateo Morral's father gave his son a monetary parting gift, which he took to Barcelona in 1905. Morral's father was a textiles industrialist in the town of Sabadell, and Morral had traveled widely for his father's company, in addition to his prior studies abroad. He broke with his father over his support of a radicalized group of freethinkers, republicans, and freemasons—the Librepensadores. In Barcelona, Morral grew close to the anarchist pedagogue Francisco Ferrer,[1] whom he had befriended two years earlier.[2] Morral was captivated with Ferrer's Escuela Moderna,[1] a school for rationalist workers' education, and offered the project 10,000 pesetas. Ferrer, in his telling of the story, declined and instead offered Morral a job in the school's library.[3]

A unrequited love interest and a desire for infamy spurred the attempted regicide. While working at Ferrer's school, Morral became infatuated with the director of elementary studies, Soledad Villafranca, but she did not return his private admission of love. Shortly afterwards, on May 20, 1906, he told Ferrer that he would be traveling to recuperate from illness. He went to Madrid, where he walked the streets, attended tertulia roundtables, and sent postcards to Villafranca professing his undying love and his feelings of alienation. Villafranca resided with Ferrer and they were likely lovers, though it is possible that this uncertainty was just as opaque to Morral.[3]

One week before the regicide attempt, a watchman at Parque del Buen Retiro found threats against the king carved into tree bark, which he later attributed to Morral.[4]

Morral used his real name to check into a pension on Calle Mayor, 88. He paid upfront and requested a room facing the street and a daily bouquet of flowers. On the day of the regicide attempt, he requested sodium bicarbonate from the pension's attendant to treat his stomach issues and requested privacy.[3]

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