A Premonition – Titanic Honeymoons Part VII
Of all the newlyweds aboard the Titanic, Victor and Pepita Penasco of Spain took the longest and most lavish honeymoon, lasting nearly two years. Victor’s wealth came from his grandfather, who was the first minister to King Alfonso XIII. Pepita, whose uncle was Spain’s Premier, had enjoyed the good life as well. They spent their honeymoon visiting Vienna, Monte Carlo, London, Venice, and Paris, and Victor bought Pepita expensive jewelry in every city.
While staying at Maxim’s in Paris, the Penasco’s saw the advertisements for the Titanic’s upcoming maiden voyage to New York. But Victor’s mother had forbidden them from taking any ocean voyages, due to a premonition she’d had. But the couple sent Victor’s manservant, Eulogio, to purchase tickets for them and Pepita’s maid anyway. They wrote several postcards to their families about staying longer in Paris, with the plan for Eulogio to stay behind and mail one every week. They would sail to New York and back without anyone knowing they’d gone, including Victor’s mama.
Pepita loved the ship and enjoyed showing off her fabulous jewelry, plus new gowns designed by fellow passenger and fashion designer, Lady Duff Gordon. The Penasco’s hardly spoke English, so they spent most of their time alone together or with first class passengers from Argentina and Uruguay.
After Victor felt the collision on the night of April 14, he asked a steward in halting English if there was a problem. Told there was none, he investigated nevertheless. Passengers had begun to gather on the boat deck, some with lifebelts. Victor hurried to get Pepita and her maid and brought them to the boat deck, where lifeboats were now being loaded. He helped them to board Lifeboat 8. Pepita didn’t understand the order for women and children only to board. She expected her husband to follow her onto the lifeboat, but he’d vanished from her sight, perhaps to keep her from climbing out after him. As the boat was lowered, Pepita and her maid screamed in Spanish for them to wait for Victor, but no one understood. The Countess of Rothe, also in Lifeboat 8, tried to comfort Pepita as they watched the great ship sink.
On April 15, Victor’s mother had a feeling something had happened to her son. She phoned Maxim’s in Paris and was told the couple had checked out. She phoned several embassies until one confirmed Pepita’s name was on a list of Titanic survivors, although Victor’s was not.
Victor’s body was not recovered. Under Spanish law at the time, a person could not be declared dead for 20 years if a body wasn’t found. Because Pepita was still a young woman, her family and Victor’s decided on the next best thing. Money changed hands, an unidentified body was “identified” by Pepita’s maid, and Victor’s death certificate was issued.
Pepita remarried 6 years later and had 3 children. Her maid continued to work for her until she retired. Pepita died in Madrid at the age of 83.