Nellie Boustead: Jose Rizal's Almost Wife

Copyright 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog
Perceiving Jose Rizal’s imminent courtship to her, his compatriot Marcelo H. del Pilar teased the lover boy by suggesting that his first novel should be renamed ‘Nelly Me Tangere’.
Nellie Boustead, also called Nelly, was the younger of the two pretty daughters of the wealthy businessman Eduardo Boustead, son of a rich British trader, who went to the Orient in 1826. The Bousteads hosted Rizal’s stay in Biarritz in February 1891 at their winter residence, Villa Eliada on the superb French Riviera. Rizal had befriended the family back in 1889-90 and used to fence with the Anglo-Filipino Boustead sisters (Adelina and Nellie) at the studio of Juan Luna.
Having learned Leonor Rivera’s marriage to Henry Kipping, Rizal entertained the idea of having romantic relation with the highly educated, cheerful, athletic, beautiful, and morally upright Nellie. He wrote some of his friends (though remarkably except Ferdinand Blumentritt) about his affection for Nelly and his idea of proposing marriage to her.
His friends seemed to be supportive of his intentions. Tomas Arejola, for instance, wrote him: “… if Mademoiselle Boustead suits you, court her, and marry her, and we are here to applaud such a good act.” (Zaide, p. 184).

Even Antonio Luna, who had been Nelly’s fiancé, explicitly permitted Rizal to court and marry her. It could be remembered that Jose and Antonio nearly had a deadly duel before when he (Antonio), being drunk one time, made negative remarks on their ‘common denominator’. As regards Jose’s courtship to Nelly later, Antonio gentlemanly conceded to Rizal through a letter:

“With respect to Nelly, frankly, I think there is nothing between us more than one of those friendships enlivened by being fellow countrymen. It seems to me that there is nothing more. My word of honor. I had been her fiancé, we wrote to each other. I like her because I knew how worthy she was, but circumstances beyond our control made all that happiness one cherished evaporate. She is good; she is naturally endowed with qualities admirable in a young woman and I believe that she will bring happiness not only to you but to any other man who is worthy of her…I congratulate you as one congratulates a friend. Congratulatons!”(as quoted by Zaide, pp. 184-185)
As Nelly had long been infatuated to Rizal, she reciprocated his affection and they officially became an item. With Nelly, Rizal enjoyed his stay in Biarritz as he had many lovely moonlight nights with her. Inspired by her company, Rizal was also able to work on the last part of his second novel at the Bousted’s residence.
Though very much ideal, Nelly-and-Jose’s lovely relationship unfortunately did not end up in marriage. Nelly’s mother—a Filipina who came from the rich Genato family in Manila—was not in favor of taking as a son-in-law a man who could not provide a sure stable future for her daughter. On top of this, Rizal refused to be converted in Protestantism which Nellie demanded. Later in his life, Rizal would state in his letter, “… had I held religion as a matter of convenience or an art getting along in this life … I would now be a rich man, free, and covered with honors.” (Zaide, p. 185)
The breakup between the very civil and educated couple was far from bitter as the two parted as friends. When Rizal was about to leave Europe in April 1891, Nelly sent him a goodbye letter, saying: “Now that you are leaving I wish you a happy trip and may you triumph in your undertakings, and above all, may the Lord look down on you with favor and guide your way giving you much blessings, and may your learn to enjoy! My remembrance will accompany you as also my prayers.” (Zaide, p. 185) (© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog)

The author's e-book on Jose Rizal's love life

Jensen DG. Mañebog, the contributor, is a book author and professorial lecturer in the graduate school of a state university in Metro Manila. One of his available online e-books (The Colorful Love Affairs of Dr. Jose Rizal) comprehensively tackles the respective life of Rizal’s girlfriends and wife. (e-mail:

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