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The reign in Spain… by George I’ve got it!

4 June 2014

Mexican monarchal history is easier to deal with.  There were only two, and both were shot.  Spanish monarchs, and getting rid of them was a bit more complicated, but I think I have it straight now.

Felipe V:  I quit... no, I take it back

Felipe V: I quit… no, I take it back

Carlos II the last Hapsburg died childless in 1700, and the throne could have either gone to two candidates.  Louis XIV of France’s grandson Philip of Anjou  (who was the grandson of Carlos’ half-sister), or Archduke Charles of Austria, who was the nearest male Hapsburg relation.

Aragon went with Charles and Castille with Philip.  The British jumped in, fearing a Franco-Spanish alliance, resulting in the War of Spanish Successon.  Austria was satisfied with grabbing a chunk of Spanish ruled Italy, and Charles became Emperor of Austria, so pulled himself out of the running.  Philip agreed to renounce any claims to rule France, and settled in as Felipe V… and, in the process doing away with the independent kingdom of Aragon, which had always treated their kings as more or less the first among equals (famously, the people swore their allegience to the King saying “We who are as good as you…”).  Felipe V also introduced, among other things, the Semi-Salic Law, meaning that like England, the crown could only pass to a female descendent if there was no male descendent.

Felipe abdicated — either for health reasons (he was a manic depressive) or doing a take-back, there being an opening for King of France at the time, and maybe not being King of Spain would mean he was in the running — in 1724 in favor of his eldest son, who was 17 years old at the time.  And who died of smallpox a couple of months into his reign.  So he un-abdicated, supposedly just until his younger son was old enough to take over, but stayed on the throne another 22 years… managing along the way to grab a few chunks of Italy along with a few ports in North Africa.  And invade Poland at one point (it was family business).


Carlos IV: “¡No Mas!”

Anyway… moving foreward a few decades … the Bourbons broke off their Italian domains into separate kingdoms, mostly so they’d have relatives to marry it appears.  When Napoleon invaded the Iberian peninsula, the ruler was Carlos IV… at least in theory.  The real ruler was Manuel Godoy, the toy-boy of the king’s cousin and wife, Maria-Luisa of Parma (who, was not from one of the Spanish owned hunks of Italy, but was from the French side of the family).  Godoy had switched sides in the Napoleonic Wars too many times to be trusted, so Napoleon decided to just turn the place over to his own family.  Carlos IV was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Ferdinand VII, who was locked up in a French Castle while Spain was ruled by Joseph Bonaparte, under the official name of José I, but better known as “Pepe el borracho” (the Spaniards never did take their kings too seriously).

With a choice between two not-so-well thought of kings (Pepe the Drunk and Ferdinand the Felonious), the Spanish ruled territories in the Americas took advantage of the situation to get rid of both of them.  It was a bit more difficult in Spain itself, but with Napoleon (and Pepe) going down, they would only let Ferdinand back IF he signed a “liberal” constitition.  Needing a job (and to get his hands on the national treasury), Felonious Ferdinand — then took it back — AND (a few wars and various peasant massacres later) died with only a daughter to succeed him.

This is where those pesky Argonese.. and that Semi-Salic Law comes in.  Aragon had always had full Salic Law (only kings, no queens), but Ferdinand had forced through a change, allowing that daughter to ascend the throne as Isabella II.  The Argonese — as much to restore their own independence, joined by liberals, “agitated” for Ferdinand’s brother (his nearest male relation) instead of Isabella, launching the Carlist Wars of the 19th century… whose slaughter puts the American Civil War and the Mexican War of the Reform of the mid 19th century to shame.

Isabella II:  Adios

Isabella II: Adios

Isabella tried absolute rule, but those days had passed, and there had already been one liberal constitution (for a short time) and there was the Carlist alternative out there.  Forced to make liberal reforms to hold on to power, she relied mostly on the Army, which had its share of reformers as well.  By 1868, throroughly sick of the Borbons, Isabella and her brood were sent packing.  However, with coups and counter -coups and counter-counter-coups going on, the Spanish Parliament didn’t get around to forcing her to abdicate until 1870, when she named her only surviving son, Alfonso, as her heir.  By the way, whether Alfono, or any of Isabella’s other eleven children were fathered by the royal consort  (yet another relative, Francisco de Asís de Bourbon y Bourbon) has been a matter of speculation for the last century and a half.  Francisco was gay, and there are rumors that Isabella was regularly … ahem… drilled… by an American dentist living in Madrid.  And any number of Spanish officers and courtiers. 

Anway, the Spanish parliament wasn’t about to trust the family again, so brought in a relative outsider (a distant relative anyway), Amadeus of Savoy, who as King

Amadeo:  You People are too much...

Amadeo: You People are too much…

Amadeo I, quickly tired of dealing not just with Carlists, but with Republicans and revolts in Cuba … and abdicated in 1873 appearing before Parliament to declare the country was ungovernable.

The First Spanish Republic pretty much proved him right, lasting less than two years, by which time the infighting within the Republican leadership, coupled with those pesky Carlists, the uppity Cubans (and a muslim uprising in North Africa) convinced rightist officers to stage a coup bringing back Isabella’s son, Alfonso XII.

The deal with Alfonso was “turnismo”… the”liberal”and “conservative” parties would alternate in power, which at least created some stability in the government, and let the army get back to putting down rebellions and nationalist uprisings.  Or so it would seen, though Alfonso died when he was only 28, leaving his widow, Maria-Cristiana of Austria, pregant with Alfonso XIII.  Even in Spain, you can’t make a fetus the king, so Maria-Cristina stayed on as regent (and oversaw Spain’s loss of the Phillipines and Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898) until Alfonso was 16.

Alfonso was one of those guys who just never did the right thing, even when he tried.   In selecting a queen who wasn’t a close relation, he looked to the Protestant ruling families of northern Europe, settling on one of Queen Victoria’s grand-daughters, Victoria Eugenia of Battenburg.  Queen Ena, as she was known, carried the hemophelia gene which was inheritied by the oldest son, Prince Alfonso.  A second son, Prince Jaime was deaf.  The third son, Prince Juan would be the most likely next king… if…

Alfonso XIII... So, I fucked up a little...

Alfonso XIII… So, I fucked up a little…

In 1923, right-wing general Primo Rivera seized the civilian government… which was fine with King Alfonso.  A dictatorship made for easier relations beween crown and government.  Nothing had to change.  The 20s, being an era of nothing but change, that hardly sat well with a lot of Spaniards.  And, with the start of the great depression, economic hardships and massive unemployment the people turned on Primo Rivera and the King.  Primo Rivera resigned and Alfonso did what so many other Spanish kings have done.. abdicate in favor of his sons.  Not that it mattered, the Second Spanish Republic got off to a shaky start and the fact that the  hemophiliac Alfonso and the deaf Jamie also abdicated their rights, and the now non-existent throne  was the least of the new republic’s problems.

Prince Juan, who would always claim he was Juan III, King of Spain, had the title of Count of Barcelona.  He attempted to take part in the Francoist war on the republic (which claimed, among other things, to be restoring the monarchy), but was considered too “liberal” by the Francoists to be trusted with actually being in Spain.  He’d spend the rest of his life in Fascist Portugal, raising his family with the understanding while he would never actually reign, his eldest son… Juan-Carlos … might.

Whether Juan expected Franco to last as long as he did, or whether he expected the Fascist regime to continue, is a matter of some speculation.  On the one hand, being considered “too liberal” by Franco, he may have groomed his son to steer Spain towards a more modern and open post-fascist government.  On the other, Portugal’s fascist government was only overthrown the year before Franco died (and yes, he’s still dead), so how much practical experience he had had, or witnessed, of a transition to a democratic state is questionable.  It’s assumed he continued to advise  Juan-Carlos, following the latter’s appointment (by Franco) as “Prince of Spain” in 1969, when Juan-Carlos took an oath to uphold the then existing political system.  It is known that the Prince met with exiles and dissidents during Franco’s “regency” and may have known of the plans to assassinate Franco’s Prime Minister, Luis Carrero Blanco.  Also in his favor, one of his first acts as King after the restoration was to fire Carrero Blanco’s successor, Carlos Arias Navarro.

Juan-Carlos:  Don't, don't you need me?

Juan-Carlos: Don’t, don’t you need me?

While his now-controversial role in an attempted military coup is still open to debate, Juan-Carlos generally got good marks for.. as did Alfonso XII, quietly accepting a transition in power between liberals and conservatives: in contempory Spain, the Socialists and the successor to the Francoists, the People’s Party.  Unlike Isabella, he has stayed on the sidelines (at least officially) in political affairs.  But, like Isabella, has the old Kingdom of Aragon (which includes the Basque Country) chafing under centralized Bourbon rule.   Like Alfonso XIII (besides marrying into the Battenburg, now Montbatten, clan) he has seemed more comfortable with a rightist government, and as Alfonso XIII found out, is reigning over a country going through massive economic hardships.

And, like Felipe V, Carlos IV, Isabella II, Amado, and Alfonso XIII, he is having to abdicate.  Whether there will be a Felipe VI … monarchs come and go… and in Spain, they mostly go.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Peter Melvoin permalink
    4 June 2014 8:56 am

    Finally, a bit of clarity… (smile)

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