Don Carlos of Spain

The survival of Spanish moderates and liberals in government posts, because of their competence, bothered extreme royalists, who increasingly gathered around the childless king’s brother, Don Carlos. Royalist irregulars called Volunteers, who rallied to Fernando in 1823, wanted places in the army that had been denied them by the professionals, whether conservative or liberal. In 1827 “aggrieved” royalists rebelled in Catalonia and were crushed.

The revolution of 1830 that brought Louis Philippe of Orleans to the French throne as the “bourgeois king” triggered several abortive liberal risings in Spain that served chiefly to provide the liberal cause with martyrs. Spanish clericals and conservatives grew more attached to Don Carlos, whereas their opponents put their hope in the new queen, Maria Cristina of Naples. Aged twenty-three, she had won the heart of the older king. After some wavering, Fernando issued a Pragmatic which declared that her child, whether daughter or son, would succeed to the throne. The tradition of the House of Bourbon was the Salic law-that only a son could succeed to the throne. Maria Cristina had two daughters, Isabel and Luisa. When Fernando VII died in 1833, Isabel, aged three, became Queen Isabel II, and her mother, Maria Cristina, regent. In opposition, Isabel’s uncle. Don Carlos declared himself to be King Carlos V.

The regent soon replaced Fernando’s last chief minister, conservative Francisco Cea Bermudez, with moderate Francisco Martinez de la Rosa, a onetime “jailbird.” He presided over the drafting of the Royal Statute of 1834, a sort of constitution bestowed by the crown. It provided for a twochamber Cortes, with an upper house that resembled the English House of Lords with archbishops, bishops, grandees, and titled nobles, plus designated appointees; and a lower chamber of deputies, to be elected indirectly by a restricted electorate. Its functions were consultative, and the ministers remained responsible to the crown. No bill of rights was included. The liberal direction of Spain was paralleled in Portugal and encouraged by Britain and France. They joined with Spain and Portugal in a new Quadruple Alli ance to preclude foreign interference. Whereas many moderate liberals were satisfied, other liberals were not, and in the provincial capitals the Progressives, the heirs of the exaltados, began to dominate the political debate. The differences of Moderates and Progressives would be played out against the background of the Carlist Wars.

Don Carlos, a vain, closed-minded man, soon had followers in arms, chiefly in the Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon, and rural Catalonia. These were regions where the Church was strong and with significant populations of poor but proud smallholders, regions that enjoyed historic privileges which seemed threatened by the centralizing policies of impatient liberals. Their battle cry proclaimed God, king, fatherland, and regional privileges (fueros). Conservative soldiers, former guerrilleros, and sometime bandits formed the core of the Carlist forces. While Don Carlos announced that their commander in chief was the Virgin of Sorrows, their best general was a professional soldier and hero of the War of Independence, “Uncle” Tomas Zumalacarregui. He drove government forces from the countryside of Navarre and the Basque Country but lacked the heavy equipment necessary to conquer the well-garrisoned and liberal capitals of Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Pamplona. When Don Carlos arrived in Spain in 1835, he pressured Zumalacarregui to assault Bilbao. The assault failed, and Zumalacarregui died of wounds. The First Carlist War sputtered on until 1840. Both sides massacred prisoners and terrorized civilians. Attempts at compromise based on the betrothal of Queen Isabel II to Don Carlos’s son, Carlos Luis, count of Montemolfn, foundered on Don Carlos’s intransigence. In 1837 the Carlists paraded to the outskirts of Madrid, but found no popular support and withdrew. By 1839, on the northern front the government arrayed 100,000 men and 700 guns, under General Baldomero Espartero, against the Carlists’ 32,000 men and 50 guns, under Rafael Maroto. A professional officer, Maroto knew his side had no chance; so with Espartero he signed the compromise of Vergara, which allowed the Carlists to lay down their arms, and the regular officers who had served Don Carlos to return to the army without loss of rank. This gave the Spanish army a notoriously high ratio of officers to men. By 1840 the war was over. Don Carlos fled to France, where he settled at Bourges, under the gaze of an unfriendly French government.

‘While their future depended on the defeat of the Carlists, the politicians in Madrid wrangled over revenues and constitutional questions. The task of finding money to meet war costs went to an energetic banker of Cadiz and London, Juan Alvarez Mendizabal. His enemies noted that he was both a Jew and a Freemason. Early in 1836 he rammed through a measure that had profound consequences: the disamortization (release from mortmain, a kind of entail), appropriation, and sale of all Church lands that did not di rectly support parishes, hospitals, or schools. For an idea long around, the moment had come. Mendizabal and his allies hoped that the chief beneficiaries of disamortization would be members of the middle class, who would purchase Church lands and become wedded to the liberal cause in order to keep them. For the Church hierarchy it was the last straw. The bishops broke irrevocably with liberalism and privately put their hopes on the Carlist side. Rome refused to confirm many of the Spanish crown’s episcopal nominees, and half of Spain’s dioceses were soon without bishops. As Church wealth dwindled, perhaps one-third of Spain’s clergy renounced their vows and quit.

The disamortization of Church lands formed part of the liberal economic program to encourage increased agricultural productivity through greater private entrepreneurial activity. The common lands of the former Church domains were also privatized, which led to more peasant unrest and several violent insurrections over the following thirty years. The same environmental and technological constraints that had always affected Spanish agriculture persisted, and the new patterns of ownership led to no marked increase in productivity.

In elections under the Royal Statute of 1834, the Progressives got the edge in the municipalities, and the unruly urban militias they dominated demanded the restoration of the Constitution of 1812. Demonstrations in Madrid in August 1836 caused the sergeants of the Royal Guards at the summer palace at La Granja to confront the regent over the matter. Faced with the “Sergeants’ Revolt,” she agreed to accept it and made it the business of the Cortes to undertake the necessary revisions. In 1837 she promulgated a new Constitution that provided a Cortes with a senate, appointed by the crown from lists submitted by designated provincial electors, and a Congress of Deputies, for which 4 percent of the male population could vote.

Dominated by Moderates, the Cortes gave the central government tighter control over Spain’s municipalities in 1840. Progressives took to the streets and rioted. Much of the tinder for riot and unrest was provided by office seekers. In Spain, as in the United States at the time, the spoils system reigned. The party that won power dismissed officeholders of the losing party and rewarded its own followers with their jobs. Government jobs had long been the chief aspiration of ambitious university graduates in a Spain that produced more lawyers than engineers, physicians, or scientists. Called pretendientes, those out of office became a fixture on the Spanish scene. Depending on family support to eat, they conspired and agitated to restore their party to power. With the transfer in 1836 of the University of Alcala to Madrid, as the Universidad Central, university students joined the politically restless elements of the capital.

To restore order, the regent in desperation appointed General Espartero as prime minister. The first of the political generals who dominated Spanish politics for the next two dozen years, he was the son of a carter of La Mancha and identified with the Progressives. Given his humble origins, he also made clear that the army provided a career open to talent. When Espartero and the regent differed, he used the need to end disorder to coerce her into yielding the regency to him. Maria Cristina’s position was already compromised by her marriage, soon after Fernando’s death, to Augustin Munoz, a sergeant of the Guards, whom she had her daughter make a duke and grandee. Maria Cristina and Munoz departed for France.

With Espartero regent and Progressives once more in control of the Cortes, the number of men enjoying the franchise was doubled. A pronunciamento by Moderates in the Basque Country was quickly squelched, and Basque privileges were curtailed. Concern over a swing to the right in Barcelona led to a more radical Progressive rising and the establishment of a popular junta, with budding labor unions involved. Unruly mobs dismantled part of the royal citadel erected by Philip V, and the Barcelona junta challenged the liberal doctrine of free trade and called for protectionism. Then tax riots broke out, and by the end of 1842, order had collapsed. Angry, Espartero refused to compromise with Barcelona, turned his artillery on the city, then stormed it.

Many Progressives abandoned Espartero in disgust and joined the Moderates. When their coalition won control of the Cortes, Espartero dissolved it. All over Spain disgruntled garrisons and municipalities pronounced against him. Moderate General Ramon Narvaez returned from exile in France and engineered Espartero’s fall. Rather than make Narvaez regent, his rivals had the Cortes declare Queen Isabel II to be of age, a year early since she was only thirteen. But Narvaez would dominate the government for most of the next ten years.

Spain’s economy began a slow expansion with the restoration of order in most of the country, which was maintained by the newly established paramilitary Civil Guard. Growth was more pronounced on the periphery: Catalonia and Valencia on the Mediterranean, western Andalusia, and the Basque Country. Old and New Castile remained poor, and Madrid seemed bloated by contrast. Also poor were Aragon and Galicia; Extremadura and rural Andalusia were the poorest of all. By midcentury, Spain’s population neared 15 million, an increase of more than 3 million since 1800.

Spain’s political elite, centered on Madrid and including the court, the politicians, the army, the bureaucracy, and the press, now fussed about the queen’s marriage. The Church hierarchy was not out of the picture, though it was still offended by its loss of landed wealth and the restrictions placed on religious orders. Great Britain and France also had ideas. Isabel II, with her mother remarried and exiled to France, grew up spoiled, indulged, overweight, and sensual. To every candidate for her hand objections sprouted. What seemed most logical, her marriage to the Carlist heir, Mon- temolfn, foundered on his claim that he was already King Carlos VI. In the end she married the least objectionable candidate, her first cousin Don Francisco de Asfs, son of her uncle, the duke of Cadiz. Aged twenty-four, Don Francisco de Asis was a fastidious army officer whose sexual relations with the queen derived from his sense of duty. Many attributed her unhappy situation to duplicitous French diplomacy. When Britain objected to a French proposal that she marry a son of King Louis Philippe, his son, the manly duke of Montpensier, married her sister, the Infanta Luisa. Suspicion grew that the French hoped Isabel and her ascetic consort would be childless and that Montpensier’s offspring would succeed to the Spanish throne. Isabel II and Don Francisco de Asis soon lived in separate quarters, but she bore four daughters and a son who survived early childhood and, despite questions regarding their paternity, were accepted as legitimate. Notoriously she took many lovers, mostly macho army officers. Although most regarded her behavior as scandalous, they admitted her marriage was unhappy.

Following Isabel’s marriage in 1846, a Carlist rising surfaced in Catalonia on behalf of Montemolin. Called the Second Carlist War and fueled by peasant unrest, it peaked in 1848 but was quelled by 1849. Coping with it brought Narvaez back to power in late 1847. In 1848, a year of revolution in much of Europe (which cost King Louis Philippe his throne in France), he kept a firm grip on the political life of Spain and sent an expeditionary force to Rome in 1849 to support the pope against revolutionaries there. In 1851 a coalition of disgruntled Moderates and ultraconservatives forced him from office once more. They were aided by court cabals that included Francisco de Asis, who found his niche in government through intrigue. The new government of Antonio Bravo Murillo dismissed the Cortes, which had a splendid new palace, and attempted to rule by decree, influenced by developments in France where Napoleon III seized power.

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