Spain History - House of Bourbon - 1700-1813)

Spain, finding it had no immediate successor and being weak with financial problems attracted the enthusiastic attention of the other European rulers. The English supported the claim of Austrian Archduke Charles whilst Cardinal Portocarrero and the French preferred their Bourbon rival in Prince Philip of Anjou. King Carlos II had the last word by naming as his heir to the Spanish throne the French Philip of Anjou who was duly crowned as Felipe V (1700-1724 & 1724-1746).

As the grandson of King Louis XIV of France, Felipe V took up his throne and it was soon noted that he was lazy and moody and preferred hunting to all other duties. Paris was quick to increase its influence in Spanish affairs by the king's marriage to Maria Luisa of Saxony . Also, a key to the future was the ambitious natural intriguer of the Princess of Ursins as lady-in-waiting to the new Queen. Meanwhile, the English had formed a pact with Holland and Austria to promote the claim of Archduke Charles, and thus commenced the Spanish War of Succession (1701-1713). Ignoring the Spanish the Archduke was named the future King of Spain in an official ceremony in Vienna in 1703 and sailed for Lisbon with forces to establish his claim. Regardless of the battlefield victories of the English led by the Duke of Marlborough the French won the day. An Anglo-Dutch fleet under Sir George Rooke failed to take Cádiz in 1702 and then sailed on to take Gibraltar and a a Spanish treasure fleet in Vigo Bay. A Spanish-French fleet engaged the enemy off Málaga but was defeated. With the aid of the sympathetic Catalans and Arogonese the Archduke Karl made Barcelona his base and marched on Madrid proclaiming himself as King Carlos III of Spain. This event caused their arch-enemy France to change sides and join Spain as an ally. In 1704 an English fleet recaptured Gibraltar whilst the Spanish were once again invading Portugal. In 1705 The English led by Lord Peterborough recapture Barcelona in the name of the Pretender Carlos. In 1706 the Portuguese combined with English forces to take Madrid for a period of four months before having to retreat back into Portugal. The next two years swung in favour of Spain until the Austrians in 1709 defeated the Spanish at Almenara and Saragossa and Pretender Carlos was expelled from Madrid. Felipe V stood his ground during this difficult period and the whole situation was resolved by the sudden death of the brother of the Archduke Charles leaving him as heir to the more important throne of the Emperor. In the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the English gained the possession of Gibraltar and the commitment hat the Spanish and French thrones would never be united as a one State and the Kingdom of Spain was granted unquestionably to the Bourbon Felipe V. The Catalans were marked for particular punishment for their choosing the wrong side in the war. The City of Barcelona fell to the King's forces in 1714 and he immediately ordered a part of the town destroyed to build the much hated La Ciudadela, a form of fortress with an aggressive architectural design from which the forces of the crown could keep an eye on the citizens. At the same time he forbade the further use of the Catalan language in Spain.

Queen Maria Luisa died in 1714 and the Princess of Ursins immediately sought a new bride for the somewhat rampant tastes of King Felipe. At the same time she enlisted an Italian priest by the name of Giulio Alberoni as an assistant in her plans. Princess Elizabeth Farnese from Italy was chosen as the new Queen an the wily Alberoni mainly outmanoeuvred Ursins by becoming the Queen's personal advisor. Together, the Queen and the priest spent the next 40 years plotting Italian thrones for her sons. Among the plots was a failed scheme to place James III on the throne in Scotland. An invasion fleet was prepared but storms at sea made it turn back. Somewhere in the intrigue was a desire to create a real unification of the different kingdoms of Spain. A flag was chosen, a national anthem was composed, and most importantly a national regular army was formed. At that time Spain became a leader in its unification efforts in comparison to either England or France. Aragón and Valencia became subject to the laws of Castile and had to adopt Castilian as an official language. Military governors replaced Viceroys and taxes were placed into a central control under the supervision of the crown. The power of the nobles was slowly removed and a new administrative body of bureaucrats also loyal to the crown took over the reins of Spain. The influx of French and Italian knowledge and culture was a breath of fresh air to the country and the Spanish were now encouraged to go abroad to acquire skills and experience. There were created a number of Academies to foster and inspire the intellectuals to expand their horizons. King Felipe was bent on bringing Spain into the cultural movements to be found north of the Pyrenees.

By 1727 Spain was once more at war with England and blockades Gibraltar but it only lasted a year until the signing of Convention of Prado which brings peace. A further Treaty of Seville in 1728 between Spain, England, France and Netherlands brings as agreement not to go to war and grants Don Carlos, third son of King Filipe V, to inherit the thrones of Parma and Tuscany. Overseas in Paraguay the popular rebel leader Antequera is killed. In 1734 the Spanish army defeats the Austrians and retakes Sicily and Naples and the Spanish King Carlos IV is recognized officially as their king. In an obvious political move King Felipe marries his son in 1739 to the daughter of King Louis XV of France. In 1743 war once again is engaged between Spain and England relative to previous bickering over the colonies in America and is nicknamed War of Jenkins Ear. This name is still officially used in history and is based on a an incident relating to an ear that was removed by a Spaniard from an Englishman by the name of Jenkins. It is a story were a tide of over-emotional public feeling was cleverly manipulated for international and political gain.

Felipe V was raised in the French court and found the very heavy atmosphere of the El Escorial Palace was not to his liking and so he created a smaller version of his beloved Versailles at La Granja near Segovia. In Madrid when the Alcazar was burned to the ground he took the opportunity to build an impressive Royal Palace. A further palace was built to the south of the capital at Aranjuez and the court was moved between the locations at his whim. In 1724, and possibly due to his constant desire to return to France he decided to pass his throne over to his son Luis I. The 16 year old new King enjoyed his new responsibilities for only 6 months when he caught smallpox and died. King Felipe accepted the crown once more and ruled to his death in 1746. His wife went to considerable lengths to control his moods. A great Neapolitan singer was engaged to sing at court and he pleased the king so much that he had to sing the same four arias each night for the following ten years!

Towards the middle of the century foreigners looking inward to Spain could see a country that had made great strides in righting itself, culturally, administratively and even military. Even so, the foreign intellectuals and writers still pointed their fingers at Spain and helped to continue its famed title as the Black Legend. They accused the Spanish church of holding its people in ignorance to the more enlightened northern European manner of thinking. However, this accusation did not ruffle the majority of Spanish as the remained in rapture with their religious devotion and the essentially Spanish traditions into which they were encouraged to direct their feelings. It is to be noted that almost a half a million people claimed a noble family tree which was considered an acceptable and comfortable barrier to hide behind. Minor gentry considered beggary to be more acceptable than honest work, whilst some 250,000 Spanish were priests or involved in religious orders. Only small steps were taken to the outside world.

Fernando (Ferdinand) VI as the eldest son inherited the crown in 1746 and with his Portuguese wife Barbara of Bragança ruled for 13 years. They were to prove strong and set about righting some of the wrongs that then existed. They halted the dreaded auto de fe and persuaded the Pope to place the Spanish Church mainly under royal control. They replaced with Spanish the previous French court advisors and introduced some years of tranquillity into social life. Unfortunately for the loving couple their world was shattered by the devastating earthquakes in 1755 which partially destroyed Lisbon, damaging buildings throughout Spain and killing thousands of people. Regardless, the economy of Spain started to improve with factories in Catalonia expanding and the shipyards of the Basques remaining constantly busy. By the end of the century the Catalan textile industry was the second busiest in Europe after England. The coastal boom commenced a distinct split between its developing society, either the countryside or the industrial coast which was to later cause friction.

With no heir to the throne when King Fernando died in 1759 the crown passed to his half-brother Carlos III. He arrived as one of the few Spanish Kings who was already knowledgeable how to be a king as until this moment he had been enjoying power as the King of Naples. Not visually attractive he made up this failing by being an enlightened despot. When King Carlos III came to the throne the Seven Years War (1757-1763) between England and France had previously enrolled the support of Spain and when the Portuguese refused to close their ports to England in 1761 the Spanish marched into Portugal. England retaliates by taking Cuba and sending in defending forces into Portugal and the Treaty of Paris in 1763 brings temporary peace. Following the examples set by both Portugal and France he found sufficient grounds to ban in 1767 the Order of Jesuits from Spanish soil. King Carlos III (1759-1788) opened the door of Spain to new forms of European thinking which feed the intellectuals with much needed liberalism of thought. He ordered the building of a web of new roads improving the much needed communications. In 1768 a census of the population showed that the residents of Spain had moved back up to 10,200,000 people. He instituted a law that required one in every five men were required to serve eight years in the military. His attempts to reform land laws were met with virulent resistance. Another area in which he was not fortunate was in his foreign policy. The Seven Years War between France and England had cost Spain several of its American possessions. Friction developed between Spain and England over the latter’s possessions of Gibraltar, Menorca and the Falkland Islands (1770). Both Spain and France sided with America in their revolution against the English. Their combined blockade of the English Channel caused a lack of supplies reaching Lord Cornwallis who was subsequently forced to surrender to the Americans. In 1779 the Spanish besieged Gibraltar who managed to hold out for three years until the Spanish retired accepting their failure. An important sea battle was engaged between Spain and England in 1780 off Cape St Vincent and the English fleet was victorious. In the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 they regained some of their pride by regaining Menorca in return for them recognizing the Independence of the United States. Spain was once again a power to be reckoned with but their extensive land Empire in the Americas was becoming subject to problems increased by the new Independence of the American States.

In Peru a descendant of the Inca rulers by the name of Tupac Amaru led a revolt against the Spanish with the resulting death of 60, 000 Indians. The Creole race (a mixture of Spanish and Indian coupling), made many inroads into positions of power and wealth which were initially tolerated by the indolent and rich viceroys. The Creoles took every advantage and eventually their greed made them subject to purges.

In 1788 King Carlos III died of a cold and his second son Carlos IV occupied the throne with his sensuous Italian wife Maria Luisa de Parma. King Carlos IV is recorded as being dissolute but he is out shadowed by the reports on his wife’s desires. The painter Francisco Goya (1746-1828), captures her outright sensuality in his painting of the royal family and in his many other he lucidly records a picture of society during his life. He does not hesitate to reveal the world in which he moved from court levels down to beggars and prostitutes in the street. King Carlos IV cousin of the beheaded King Luis XVI declared war on Revolutionary France and a popular wave of anti-French feeling swept through Spain. The people began to see danger in any liberal or progressive thinker, singling out especially the Freemasons movement - the result was once again a split in Spanish thinking by ardently backing with one side against the other.

Carlos IV appointed a 25 year old royal guard named Manuel Godoy as his Chief Minister. This young and handsome advisor soon to be a reputed bedfellow of the Queen, brought to the post enthusiastic ambition but unfortunately this was not matched with the same level of ability. He soon became resented by the courtiers who soon spread rumours against him. In 1790 he lost support when he handed over Vancouver Island to Britain and his handling of Florida and later Louisiana in the USA, both did not improve his position. It was also Godoy's policy to side with Napoleon Bonaparte in France and the latter's success in 1799 gave confidence to Spanish nobility of the possible Bourbon restoration in France itself. King Carlos temporary reinstituted the Inquisition to weed out liberal thinkers in positions of power and even Godoy was subject to investigation. In 1804 Napoleon declared himself as an Emperor and the Spanish once again found itself at war against England. Bonaparte then flattered the Spanish throne with gifts and soon Spain found itself involved in an in unwanted invasion of the neighbouring Portugal, the long term ally of England.

The disastrous defeat of the combined Spanish and French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by Admiral Nelson was mainly due to poor French leadership whilst the Spanish still to this day tend to regard this battle as their personal victory. This attitude is due to the courageous sacrifices made by their own sailors in the fighting. This event also marked the definite end to Spain as a naval power. In 1807 the fighting in Portugal came to an end and in a private agreement between France and Spain, Godoy was granted the land of the Algarve in the south of Portugal as his own personal new found Kingdom. With this pact in place the French armies invaded the Peninsular and by March of 1808 there was an army of over 100,000 French soldiers marching through Spain having first taken control of Madrid. Rumours correctly placed Godoy as an accomplice with Napoleon and the citizens of Madrid marched on the Palace at Aranjuez in a carbon style copy of what had occurred previously at Versailles. Godoy managed to escape by remaining hidden in a roll of carpet for two days. King Carlos then wisely abdicated in favour of his son Fernando VII who was soon to prove contemptible in the eyes of the whole of Spain.


Our Network: [ ] [ ] [ ]
[ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]