Spain : Carlist War, 1872-1876

A.) The Cause of the War

In the late 1860es and early 1870es, Spain was politically instable. In 1868, Queen Isabel II. had deposed; the question of her succession was contested and provided the excuse for the Franco-German War of 1870-1871. General Prim, the dominant figure in the Provisional Government, was assassinated in 1870. While Madrid went through a turbulent time, on the north, the Carlists rose again.

B.) The War

In April 1872, after a disappointing results in Spanish elections, Don Carlos called for an uprising; volunteers answered the call in Vizcaya and Navarra. In May, Don Carlos entered Spain, where he witnessed a Carlist defeat in the Battle of Oroquieta (Navarra). Don Carlos returned; the Vizcayan rebels laid down their arms.
Now the rebellion began in Catalonia; it continued in Navarra, Aragon, Guipuzcoa. A Carlist army was reorganized, which in Feb. 1873 reached the strength of 50,000. Meanwhile, King Amadeo abdicated and the Spanish Republic was proclaimed. In the course of 1873 the Carlists achieve a number of successes in engagements with republican forces, mainly in Navarra and Catalonia. Don Carlos returned to Spain in June 1873. However, the Carlists, for a second time, failed to take Bilbao by siege (Dec. 1873-May 1874). In 1874 the Republican forces seized the initiative; the Spanish Republic was terminated, Alfonso XIII. declared King (still a minor). The Carlists failed to take Pamplona by siege (1875) and suffered defeats at Trevino (July 7th 1875) and Mobtejurra (Feb. 17th 1876); the Carlist stronghold of Estella fell Feb. 19th, Don Carlos left Spain.

C.) Legacy

The Carlist party was capable of raising volunteers, even experienced military officers, but lacked in the equipment and the skills to conduct a modern siege. It lacked a sufficient base to take control of Spain and may have been more successful if it would have presses the case of the autonomy of the Basque countries, Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia (where it rallied most volunteers) rather than the dynastic claims of the Carlists.
In 1876, the Basques were punished by their historical privileges being cancelled.

Third Carlist War, from ACED
The Second Carlists War, 1872-1876, by Steven Thomas, scroll down
Carlist Wars, by Steven Thomas; has detailed chronology
Basque People's History, by Philippe Mocotegui
History of Gipuzkoa, from Get to know Sebastian-Gipuzkoa, timeline
The Basque Struggle against French, Spanish Assimilation, from EHJ Navarre
History of Bilbao, from Cafe Bar Bilbao
Carlist-Krigene, from Historiske Slag, in Danish
DOCUMENTS Flags of the Carlist Wars, from FOTW
REFERENCE Peter Pierson, The History of Spain, Greenwood, 1999, 248 pp.; 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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