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Things grind slowly.

Perhaps that is why it has taken almost a century to discover that

in the Villamejor palace in Madrid

different government ministries have coexisted with

a bunker from the Second Republic.

An air shelter that fortunately has not been needed, as Manuel Azaña believed its construction was necessary at the time.

In the building, current

headquarters of the Ministry of Territorial Policy and Democratic Memory ,

a historical jewel

has just been discovered

among the rubble of the renovation that is being carried out on the interior and façade.

Located on Paseo de la Castellana,

its history is the History of Spain.

The first brick was laid at the end of the 19th century.

"The person who ordered it to be built is

the IV Marquis of Villamejor


Ignacio Figueroa y Mendieta

, who is above all known for being the father of the Count of Romanones," historian Elena Rosado tells LOC.

Director of archaeological projects at INVERSA, her cultural heritage company manages

guided tours of different Madrid palaces.

Interior of the Villamejor palaceMinistry of Territorial Policy

"In 1887 is when

he bought the land and began the works

that would end around 1892," he explains.

"The Marquis Villamejor is a very interesting character. He is not noble, but from an

Extremaduran family

that settled in France and

began doing business

. He became ennobled when in the middle of the century

he married Ana Josefa de Torres

. She is the one who "He had the title, but his family was left with nothing and had lost it. Through Figueroa's money

they rehabilitated his noble title,"

he says.

"They were dedicated to

the metallurgical industry

, to mining. They had interests in Murcia, Almería... At that time they were competitors of the Rothschilds in the peninsula and

founded the Figueroa company

, which was the first company in Spain to

bring a tower of extraction to obtain oil".

The majestic size of the Villamejor palace explains the importance of the family.

"There are some mural paintings by Arroyo

that are signed in 1892. In 1896 the hall was officially inaugurated with the wedding of his eldest son, Gonzalo, V Marquis of Villamejor."

Princess Doña María de las Mercedes, mother of King Juan CarlosArchive


the patriarch died in 1897.

Ignacio de Figuero barely enjoyed the manor house that he had built in

a strategic location for his businesses.

"La Castellana and the Prado-Recoletos area was the main axis of Madrid. Many bankers ,

members of the upper bourgeoisie and nobles

settled there ."

A second stage begins, in which

its offspring take control of the site.

The one who had the most social impact was his fourth child, Álvaro Figueroa.

Known by the title of

I Count of Romanones

, he was a prominent politician and businessman of his time.

Provost of the Liberal Party,

he was president of the Senate, the Congress

of Deputies, the Council of Ministers and minister on different occasions during the reign of Alfonso XIII.

Caricatured as a corrupt figure with excessive ambition of the Bourbon Restoration, Romanones was

a shareholder in important

companies such as Peñarroya or Minas del Rif.

Meeting room inside the Villamejor palace. Ministry of Territorial Policy

Married to Casilda Alonso-Martínez y Martín and in other duties, the count, like his brothers, lived his family life in other homes,

ceasing to frequent the family palace


They then decided to sell it to Infante

Carlos María de Borbón y Borbón

, brother-in-law of Alfonso XIII.

"He was a widower and married

María Luisa de Orleans,

grandmother of King Juan Carlos," he continues.

"María de las Mercedes,

the mother of King Juan Carlos, was born in the palace.

She spent the first years of her childhood there until the family moved to Seville in 1914."

Born in 1910, María de las Mercedes de Borbón y de Orleans lived in the house for only four years.

Her brothers, Prince Charles and princesses María de los Dolores and María de la Esperanza, were

the last to find a home in Villamejor.

When they moved, the mansion was transferred for institutional use.

The president of the Second Republic, Manuel Azaña Archive

"It becomes the headquarters of the presidency of the Government

and that is when the Count of Romanones returns."

He will do it as a politician, seeing his house converted into offices.

In 1914, he settled there

as the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

The apogee came with the promotion of Manuel Azaña to president of the Council of Ministers

during the Second Republic in 1931.

The man who would later become President of the Government organized his meetings in the halls of Villamejor.

"He became quite involved with the palace

and renovations were carried out. He also redecorated it because of the mural paintings, but with Azaña

all the walls of the rooms were covered again .

Lamps and porcelain

were brought from the royal sites

," he reveals.

"It was common. The previous owners used to take the furniture and the next ones had to redecorate it."

When the Franco dictatorship arrived, the building continued to be used for institutional purposes.

Its most notable figure in those times was that of Carrero Blanco, who was first minister, then vice president and finally

president of the Government between June and December 1973.

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There is a curious anecdote.

"When Carrero Blanco went to the office he used, he had to pass by an anteroom where

portraits of previous presidents were hanging.

They were those of Prim, Cánovas del Castillo, Canalejas and Dato. They were all murdered."

Luis Carrero Blanco did not break this curse.

ETA killed him on December 20, 1973 by blowing up his car.

Once the Transition arrives, Villamejor gets worse and falls from institutional category.

"Adolfo Suárez is there at the beginning,

but he moves to Moncloa for security reasons. Because the Villamejor palace, being at the beginning of Castellana,

is very accessible.

If you go along the boulevard you can see the thickness of the windows of the ground floor,

that's why it's all armored."

"It is logical that a bunker was put in place to protect the headquarters... Although we didn't know anything about it until now."

Many ministries have kept

the building beating these decades.


only the murals remain from Villamejor:

one of spring with a beautiful naked woman and another with musical motifs where dances were organized and violin and piano were taught to noble ladies.