This stately 16th-century house once belonged to Juan Rodríguez, a Seville councillor. Barely anything remains of the original building after the renovation works undertaken.
The conquistador Hernán Cortés spent the last years of his life here, occupying a suite of rooms that have recently been restored. A plaque on the door to this apartment commemorates this historical event: “Here died the great conqueror of Mexico in 1547”.
In the mid-19th century, the palace was passed on to the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, who undertook extensive renovation, expansion and beautification work within the house and in the gardens.
At first glance, this Neo-Mudéjar building looks like a fortress, judging from its sturdy brick walls crowned with battlements.
Abandoned and left in ruins, this mansion was purchased, renovated and expanded by the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, Antonio de Orleáns y Luisa Fernanda de Borbón. While they usually resided at the San Telmo Palace in Seville, they used the refurbished property as their spring and summer house.
By a twist of fate, their daughter, Maria de las Mercedes de Orleans, married her cousin, Spain’s King Alfonso XII, and received the palace in Castilleja de la Cuesta from her parents as her dowry. Hence, the house became a property of the Royal Family.
However, the queen died only five months after her marriage, and the king never returned to the house. He left the palace to his eldest daughter María de las Mercedes, the Princess of Asturias.
The two visits made by Queen Isabel II to the royal palace have been documented, as have been those made by her son King Alfonso XII, and the late María de las Mercedes, the mother of King Juan Carlos I.
In September 1899, nuns from the congregation of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Loreto Sisters) arrived in Seville from Ireland –hence, their moniker ‘Las Irlandesas’– and rented this house from Queen Maria Cristina before taking possession in 1903. The Loreto sisters continue to run it as a school today.