Spain 1814-1833 Spain 1849-1898

Spain 1833-1839

A) Domestic Policy

The early death of King Fernando VII. in 1833 caused a dispute over his succession. In 1830, King Fernando VII. had named his offspring successor; Princess Isabel was merely 3 years old at the time of her father's death; her mother, Maria Cristina of the Two Sicilies, functioned as regent. Then there was Fernando's brother Don Carlos.
With the new regent came a drastic change in political direction; moderate liberal Francisco Martinez de la Rosa was appointed chief minister. A bicameral Cortes was formed, the upper chamber composed of dignitaries (bishops, nobles), the lower chamber of elected representatives; the electorate limited to property holders. The new administration had to address the problem of the state debt, the civil war (First War of the Carlists only adding to the financial problems. The solution of the Gordian knot was believed to be found in the confiscation and sale of further church lands.
Don Carlos found strong support in the areas along the French border - the Basque lands, Navarra, Aragon, Catalonia, and, on the east coast, in Valencia; these areas foe centuries had enjoyed a high degree of political autonomy, which they felt threatened by a liberal administration (which was critical of privileges of all kinds). The conflict thus saw conservative facing modernizing forces. The Catholic church, alienated by the economic policy of the Madrid administration, turned their sympathy to the Carlists.
The government not only faced the armed challenge posed by the Carlists, but a mutiny by a guard unit in Madrid (1836), criticism of her policy by both those who thought it was not radical enough and by those who thought it was too radical. In 1837 a new constitution was promulgated.
The Carlists, for years, had been the dominant force in the northern border provinces; however, they had been incapable of taking major fortified cities such as Bilbao and Pamplona. Only relatively late did government forces grasp the initiative; in 1839 the First War of the Carlists was over.
Troubles for the government were not over yet; Madrid saw a series of demonstrations and riots (1840). That year, General Baldomero Espartero was appointed prime minister. As Regent Maria Cristina (she had remarried) left the country, the office of pm enjoyed unprecedented power.
In 1841 the Spanish customs border was moved from the Ebro River to the Pyrenees (both a liberal policy to economically unify Spain, and a policy to punish the provinces which had, most strongly, supported the Carlists). A Basque rising was suppressed and the traditional Basque privileges cancelled (1841). A rising in Barcelona (1842) proved more of a challenge; Gen. Espartero had to conquer the city in a full military operation. Public sentiment turned against Espartero, and so did the majority in the Cortes; when Espartero dissolved the Cortes, this was opposed within many of Spain's garrisons; Gen. Narvaez marched a force on Madrid, Gen. Espartero went into exile. Queen Isabel was declared of age (1843, age 13).
The marriage of Queen Isabel in 1846 triggered the Second Carlist War 1846-1849, which, poorly organized and lacking coordination, was much less a challenge to Madrid than the first. Again the centers of action lay in the north, in Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country.
General Narvaez was appointed chief minister in 1847, in order to cope with the Carlists, which he did.

B) Foreign Policy

The domestic situation in Spain was so tense that the Madrid administration did not pursue an active foreign policy.
The massive confiscation of church property brought Spain in conflict with the Vaticano; as, according to the concordate of 1753, it was up to the King of Spain to appoint the Spanish bishops, but up to the Pope to confirm them, the Vaticano withheld that confirmation and more and more Spanish sees remained vacant.
In 1834, the United Kingdom, France and Portugal formed another Quadruple Alliance with the Spanish Government in Madrid, basically accepting its legitimacy and rejecting the claim of Don Carlos. Anglo-French troops were stationed on Spanish territory, mainly to contain the Carlists in their northern strongholds.
When the matter of Queen Isabel's marriage was discussed, the United Kingdom and France got involved.

In 1839-1841 the United Kingdom attempted to buy the African island of Fernando Poo, a Spanish possession since 1778, which had been leased by the British. The offer was declined, the lease terminated in 1843.
Although incapable to take action overseas, the Spanish government continued in her refusal to recognize the independence of the Latin American republics.

While much of Europe was facing revolution in 1848-1849, Spanish pm Gen. Narvaez sent an expedition force to Rome to help the Pope in regaining control over the Papal State.

C) The Economy

In 1847 Spain implemented a monetary reform, introduced the silver real. Spain's first railway was built in 1848, connecting Barcelona with Mataro.

Biography of Baldomero Espartero, from EB 1911
Los Borbones : Isabel II, from La Monarquia Espanola
Carlists and the Carlist Dynasty, from FOTW (with flag)
Spanish Civil War, 1840-1843, from ACED
Articles Juan Francesco Maria de la Saludad Donoso Cortes, Spain, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 edition
Presidentes del Consejo de Ministros, 1823-1835, 1835-1840, 1840-1846, 1846-1853
Banco de Espana, from Dizionario delle Banche e delle Organizzazioni Economiche Internazionali; entry in Italian
Spain, from Gloval History of Currencies
The Nineteenth Century: An Era of Retrenchment, from Madrid and the Spanish Economy by David Ringrose
DOCUMENTS List of Spanish Kings etc., from World Statesmen, by Ben Cahoon
Monedas Isabel II, from Portal Fuenterrebollo
REFERENCE Peter Pierson, Six turbulent Decades (1800s-1860s), in : P. Pierson, The History of Spain, London : Greenwood 1999

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 9th 2004

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