What’s in a Spanish name?

ALFONSO XIII: Great-grandfather of Spain’s present king, Felipe VI, credit: Museo del Prado

IN May 1918, Spain’s King Alfonso XIII, just turned 32, caught the flu.

A statement from the Court insisted that his illness was “entirely benign” but that fact that it was necessary to comment on his health drew attention to it instead.

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It also gave a name to the influenza pandemic which is stilled called Spanish Flu today.

No nation in 1918 wished to lay claim to Patient Zero and with Europe still at war, it was easier to blame neutral Spain for the outbreak of a pandemic that affected around 500 million people and killed at least 50 million.

Where did Spanish Flu really originate?

As usual, with most plagues, some historians looked East where, as with Covid-19 in 2020, had in the past been the origin of the so many epidemics and pandemics.

Others point to the US, which had joined its allies – UK, France and Russia – in April 2017 to fight in the First World War.

They had brought the flu with them, infected by Asian employees at their military bases although other theorists claim that the American troops were infected in Europe and took it home after the war ended.

And that, the US claimed, was the fault of recently-defeated Germany.





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