This song, which is now a children's circle game song, refers to the death in 1878 of King Alfonso XII's first wife, Queen María de las Mercedes de Orleans.


*The infanta was the (often eldest) daughter of the monarch who was not heir to the throne.

King Alfonso XII fell in love with his cousin María de las Mercedes de Orleans and married her despite animosity from his mother, the government and the Cortes (Spanish Congress). When the King married in 1878, he was 20 and she was 18. The queen died of typhus or tuberculosis five months later.

In the hearts of the people, the image of the kingdom became aligned with this ballad which is based on an earlier song called "¿Dónde vas, buen caballero?", itself derived from "Romance del palmero", itself possibly based on the ballad "of Pedro and Inés" (Peter I of Portugal and Inés de Castro).

Many versions have been collected in the Spanish speaking world, in the Portuguese speaking world and among the Jewish communities of Morocco. Most versions are recited, not sung.

Some additional verses can be found such as:

Al entrar en el Palacio,
una sombra negra vi;
cuanto más me retiraba,
más se venía hacia a mí.

No temas Alfonso Doce,
ni te asustes; ¡ay de mí!
que soy tu esposa Mercedes,
que te viene a recibir.

Cásate, buen caballero;
cásate y no estés así;
la primera hija que tengas,
la llamarás como a mí.

English Translation

When I entered the palace
I saw a black shadow,
The more I withdrew
The more it came towards me.

Don't fear, Alfonso XII,
Don't be scared, woe is me!
As I'm your wife Mercedes
Who's come to greet you.

Get married, good gentleman,
Get married and don't be like this;
The first daughter you have
You'll name after me.


Sheet Music

Sheet Music - ¿Dónde vas, Alfonso XII?

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Translated by Monique Palomares with Lisa Yannucci.