In Gothic-Renaissance style and near Vitoria’s Cathedral is the Montehermoso Palace, which is much more than what it seems because in this place, a couple of centuries ago, significant decisions were made for the destiny of Europe.
Built on the initiative of the inquisitor Hortuño Ibañez de Aguirre to house the Dominican nuns, it turns out that it looked so good, that he ended up building another convent, the Santa Cruz, and he kept this one for himself.
And nobody dared to give out, we all know what happened in the inquisition times if someone contradicted them.
Long after, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Napoleon was around playing chess with the European continent, but the little Corsican made, among other mistakes, the one of sending his relatives to govern the territories. His brother-in-law Murat, for one, who wore the hussar uniform proudly, but the man had no idea about government matters, and he made it clear in the uprising of May 2, 1808. Napoleon had to come to clean the mess, and he believed that after a couple of battles here and there the situation would be sorted and he could go back to France. But today we know that he was quite naive…
So naive that he ordered his older brother to sit on the Spanish throne, without even thinking that Jose Bonaparte was more fond of the ladies than Royal business. So the first thing he did when arriving in Spain and staying in this palace was to fall in love, like a fool, with the wife of his host, the Marquise.
Her name was Maria del Pilar de Acedo, and she was wed in a marriage of convenience, as was the custom at the time, with the Marquis of Montehermoso. He was twice her age, and the woman, who knows, probably bored of walking up and down in her beautiful Renaissance palace, let herself be loved by the new monarch.
And funny how life works out, José Bonaparte didn’t last long in Madrid, and he ended up returning to Vitoria to be closer to the French border… and also to the beautiful Pilar. The young woman was his mistress for years, while the husband, Frenchified and loyal to Bonaparte, put up with his role of a cuckold courtier.
The thing is that between his age, the cheating and the pains, Pilar’s husband didn’t live much longer. He died in 1811, and his widow continued to share her bed with Napoleon’s brother until the summer of 1813 when an army of Spaniards, British and Portuguese surrounded the city and set out to win the battle of Vitoria.
The king, as fast as he could, packed the booty he had been keeping in his closet and leg it to French lands. His lover went with him, but once they were safe, they realised that they did not love each other that much anymore. There is no more passion between us, they must have said…
While the British soldiers entered the Palace of Montehermoso, the couple broke up and took their own ways. Jose would die many years later, in the United States and Pilar would end up married to a French officer, living in a castle near Orthez. After living all those years in this Palace of Montehermoso, she could not live in just any house, right?