Spain : First Carlist War, 1833-1840

A.) The Cause of the War

King Fernando VII. died in 1833. He had two daughters, the elder of which (born only in 1830) was crowned Queen Isabel II. As King Fernando VII. had ruled absolute, he had alienated many; now, Fernando's brother, Carlos, contested Isabel's succession, stating that it was in violation with the Salic Law traditionally practiced by the Bourbon Dynasty. The new Madrid government was anti-clericalist, abolished the inquisition.
The Basque country, Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia supported Don Carlos, because Don Carlos stood for traditional-style government, which did not meddle with the privileges of the church and of autonomous regions such as the Basque country, Navarra etc.. A Carlist army formed, under the command of Tomas Zumalacarregui.

B.) The War

The Carlist forces established control over Navarra and the Basque Country, except the fortresses. Early successes of the Carlists showed, that the government forces were incapable of containing the rebellion; Britain, France and Portugal sent troops to support the government. Carlist commander Tomas Zumalacarregui fell during the (unsuccessful) siege of Bilbao (1835). The government forces, for much of the war, were on the defensive. In 1837 a Carlist force appeared off Madrid, but failed to raise the support hoped for. This being a civil war, both sides committed atrocities against prisoners and civilians. In 1839 a government force of 100,000, under the command of General Espartero, was dispatched against the Carlists. Rafael Maroto, commander of the 32,000 men strong Carlist force, negotiated a surrender agreement; Carlos left Spain for exile to France.

C.) Legacy

During the war the betrothal of the infant Queen to the son of her uncle Carlos was suggested in order to end the conflict. It failed to accomplish its goal; but when Queen Isabel married in 1846 (and not the son of Don Carlos), the Second Carlist War erupted, the Matiner War; a Third Carlist War followed in 1872-1876.

First Carlist War, from ACED
Carlist Wars, by Steven Thomas; has detailed chronology
Article Tomas Zumalacarregui, from EB 1911; from Wikipedia
Article Eyropean Diplomacy, from Encyclopedia of World History, scroll down for 1834-1839
Chronology 1830-1848, from France Diplomatie, scroll down for 1834 April 22
Article Talleyrand, from National Politics Web Guide
Basque People's History, by Philippe Mocotegui
History of Gipuzkoa, from Get to know Sebastian-Gipuzkoa, timeline
DOCUMENTS Flags of the Carlist Wars, from FOTW
REFERENCE Peter Pierson, The History of Spain, Greenwood, 1999, 248 pp
Mark Kurlansky, The Basque History of the World, London : Penguin 1999, pp.146-152 KMLA Lib.Sign. 946 P624t

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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