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Alfonso von Hohenlohe in 2000. Josele-Lanza
100 years since the birth of the man who transformed Marbella into a high profile resort
History

100 years since the birth of the man who transformed Marbella into a high profile resort

Prince Alfonso Hohenlohe's brainchild, the Marbella Club Hotel, turns 70 this year. However, last week the man who created a glamorous Marbella would have been celebrating his own centenary

Alekk M. Saanders

Marbella

Monday, 3 June 2024

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Alfonso was born in Madrid on 28 May 1924. He was the eldest son of five siblings of Prince Maximilian Egon zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Marquesa de Belvís de las Navas, María de la Piedad de Yturbe y Scholtz von Hermensdorff.

On his father's side, Hohenlohe-Langenburg was descended from a family dating back to the sixth century. It is reported that in the twelfth century, his ancestors were ruling princes of the Holy Roman Empire in Württemberg until Napoleon I invaded. In the twentieth century, his mother lost her estates in the Mexican Revolution and the communist government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic expropriated their property in Bohemia including Rothenhaus Castle. The family had no choice but to move to Spain.

Hohenlohe, centre, with actor Sean Connery.
Hohenlohe, centre, with actor Sean Connery. SUR

Alfonso's uncle was a versatile and multi-faceted Spanish aristocrat Ricardo Soriano Scholtz von Hermensdorff, Marquis of Ivanrey. He is considered the first developer of Marbella after building in 1945 the first hotel - El Rodeo - where he invited his friends and relatives to visit the area. In 1946 his nephew, Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, accepted the invitation and together with his father came to Marbella in an old Rolls Royce.

Apparently, Alfonso immediately fell in love with the idyllic fishing town of Marbella, then home to around 10,000 people. The coastline, embraced by La Concha Mountain, impressed the prince so much that he decided to buy land there. In 1947 he managed to sell plots to various wealthy and influential friends, including the Rothschild and Thyssen families and Ferdinand von Bismarck.

Hohenlohe's marriage to Ira von Fürstenberg.
Hohenlohe's marriage to Ira von Fürstenberg. SUR

In 1954, Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg created the Marbella Club. The first luxury hotel on the Costa del Sol immediately attracted the attention of many celebrities. Over time, the hotel acquired an impressive botanical garden with hundreds of plant species, a beach club and Spain's first padel court. Thanks to Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Marbella went from fishing village to glittery jet set playground and the most prestigious resort in the Mediterranean.

Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg spoke Spanish, German, French and English. He loved racing cars, shark fishing and dancing, among other hobbies. They say the prince was popular with Hollywood actresses. He reportedly had highly publicised relationships with actresses Kim Novak and Ava Gardner. However, he married others.

Hohehlohe died in December 2003.
Hohehlohe died in December 2003. JOSELE-LANZA

His first marriage was to 15-year-old Austrian-Italian princess Ira von Fürstenberg. His second wife was actress and model Jocelyn Lane. In 1991, Alfonso married Marilys Healing. By then, the prince had sold his shares in the Marbella Club because of a building boom started by property speculator Jesus Gil y Gil, who became mayor of Marbella in the 1990s. Together with Marilys Healing, the prince moved to Ronda and took up winemaking.

On 21 December 2003, 79-year-old Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg died in Marbella, where he was buried in San Bernabé cemetery.

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