Spain History - 1st Return of House of Bourbon - (1814 - 1868)

Before the occupying French Army retreated back to France it transported back to their country as many items of worth that it could discover and just for good measure destroyed many castles, palaces and historical buildings. The English forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington arrived in the Peninsular in 1809 and routed the French from the Peninsular. Winning most of their battles with the assistance of the Portuguese army and often with a section of rebel Spanish support, the English officers sadly conducted themselves in a likewise manner by stealing whatever had been left behind by the French much to the dislike of its commanding general, Duke of Wellington.

In 1812 a group of Spanish Liberals taking advantage of the political confusion within their country met in Cádiz and declared a new Constitution. This attempt at a republic was short lived as those involved represented a minority and they immediately alienated both the Monarchy and the Church. In 1814 the Bourbons were reinstated as the rulers of Spain and Fernando VII was placed on the throne. However, even his supporters were surprised when he unexpectedly reintroduced the dreaded "Inquisition". By so doing he weakened his power and gave back the power to the religious Order of the Jesuits who also had control of the education of students. He also immediately took steps to rid himself of the liberally inclined, banishing or jailing them even when they had fought gallantly on his behalf against the French. This move proved to be very detrimental as Spain had already become a country of people politically divided between them, with every type of political doctrine being expounded to feed the confused, hungry, and angry population. At the same time a Spaniard had now experienced some political freedom and could look back and judge the corruption and misuse of power. A period of six years without the oppressive control of a proper King had opened the gates to societies such as the Freemasons that their membership swelled with army officers.

During King Fernando's reign most of the colonies in the Americas revolted and gained their own independence as the mother country Spain seemed too weak to stop their rebellious movements. Argentina declared its independence in 1816, Chile and Venezuela in 1818, Columbia in 1819, and finally Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Panama, San Domingo all in 1821. In 1817 the Spanish throne renounced the slave trade in its possessions and two years later ceded Florida to the USA.

By 1820 the monarchy had lost most of its control and King Fernando was forced to abolish the hated Inquisition and to restore the Liberal Constitution of 1812. This was brought about in Cádiz by a Colonel Rafael de Reigo who decided to lead his troops in a revolt against the crown rather than be shipped off to possibly die fighting in the Americas for an already lost cause. The gesture came as a surprise but it was quickly taken up by other soldiers in other garrisons towns. However, King Fernando was soon to observe that the Liberals were so split in their own political stance they started to lose the support of other parties. He therefore appealed abroad for help in restoring his power as he could not count any longer on his own troops. A token army from France arrived in 1823 which easily achieved his wish and he pledged an amnesty to all concerned in the uprising. Not a man of his word he had all the Liberals he could find either hanged or imprisoned, and for Reigo he reserved a public event by taking him to the Madrid's main square where he was hanged, drawn and quartered. Spain then went into a downward slide with every sector of life reflecting confusion and inefficiency. A typical example of the times was the increase in rural banditry with one particular character by the name of Hinojosa Cobacho (also known as El Tempranillo), who ruled a great part of Andalucía for nearly ten years before being caught and shot.

Upon the death in 1833 of King Fernando VII his daughter was only three years old so her mother Maria Cristina was appointed Regent. A new claim to the throne came from Portugal in the name of King Fernando's younger exiled brother Dom Carlo. His supporters were known as Carlists and they took a decidedly ultra-conservative view on any liberal and were passionate monarchists. At first King Fernando had no immediate heir until his new wife Maria Cristina (also his niece), found herself with child so the Carlists hoped for a girl and she would then not be in the line of succession. However, the Salic Law on which this point was based had been secretly rescinded in 1789. This change only became public knowledge after the birth of Princess Isabel in 1830 and brought the question of the succession to a head and brought about the First Carlist War. This split the country into two factions between most of the army and Liberal fractions supporting Princess Isabel with her mother as the Regent, against the church, rural peasants, and particularly the Basques who preferred Dom Carlos. It is estimated that the three years of fighting between the two sides cost 140,000 lives. This period also saw the rise in active hatred for the church and in 1835 a law was passed to close all religious Orders with Madrid alone closing 44 religious institutions. This was brought about by the Regent's adviser Mendizabal who then went on to strip the Jesuits of their power, selling their monasteries, and successfully terminating the Inquisition

Maria Cristina secretly remarried an ex-corporal of the royal guard and a son of a shop-keeper. When it became know it was too much for many to accept and in 1840 a coup was successfully staged by General Espartero. The Regent was forced to pass her position over to Espartero who represented the radical Liberals. It was not surprising that in 1843 another coup was very successfully staged by the right-wing General Serrano and General Narvaez forcing Espartero to the side and placing Queen Isabel II back in power.

Queen Isabel's reign was a reflection of her character, easygoing, generous, goodhearted, changeable, and definitely demandingly passionate. Power was a battle between the influences of Narvaez, Espartero, and another Spanish general by the name of Leopoldo O'Donnell. The first named above is recorded as usually being the winner during a period of 40 different ministries and 18 coup attempts in the 25 year period. It was this general that introduced a much needed rural police force named the Guardia Civil. The phrase There are two kinds, the haves and the have-nots reflected the society that became the rule of the time. Previously, poverty was mainly to be found in rural areas but now there grew another new segment of poor in the urban and industrial areas. To add fuel to the fire the Queen was too generous in her bodily needs and lovers were many, taken generously from all walks of life. Inevitably matters came to ahead and a progressive Catalan by the name of General Prim who took control and Queen Isabel fled to France ending the rule of the House of Bourbon for the near future.

General Prim and one of the Queen's former lovers Serrano set up a provisional government with a liberal constitution. The Spanish people still felt they needed a liberally minded king so Amadeo the second son of King Victor Emmanuel of Italy was approached. Amadeo I of the House of Savoy became disliked from the moment he arrived and his position was made worse by the quick assassination of his principal supporter, General Pim.

This situation was quickly seized as an ideal opportunity by the Carlist supporters of Dom Carlos VII (the 24 year-old grandson of the first Dom Carlos). Hence, the beginning of the Second Carlist War (1872-1875). Amadeo decided that the best action was to make a hasty retreat and retired promptly to neighbouring Portugal and thus giving way in 1873 to the First Republic of Spain.

  
 

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