Formal photo portrait by Jean Laurent, 1860
|Queen of Spain |
|Reign||29 September 1833 -|
|10 November 1843|
|Born||10 October 1830|
Royal Palace, Madrid, Spain
|Died||9 April 1904 (aged 73)|
Palacio Castilla, Paris, France
(m. 1846; died 1902)
|Father||Ferdinand VII of Spain|
|Mother||Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies|
Shortly before her birth, the King issued a Pragmatic Sanction to ensure the succession of his firstborn. She came to the throne a month before her third birthday, but her succession was disputed by her uncle the Infante Carlos (founder of the Carlist movement), whose refusal to recognize a female sovereign led to the Carlist Wars. Under the regency of her mother, Spain transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy adopting the Royal Statute of 1834 and Constitution of 1837.
Her effective reign was a period marked by palace intrigues, back-stairs and antechamber influences, barracks conspiracies, and military pronunciamientos.
She came to be known by the sobriquet of La de los Tristes Destinos ("She of the Sad Destinies").[n. 1]
Isabella was born in Royal Palace of Madrid in 1830, the eldest daughter of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, and of his fourth wife and niece, Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies. Queen Maria Christina became regent on 29 September 1833, when her three-year-old daughter Isabella was proclaimed sovereign on the death of the king.
Isabella succeeded to the throne because Ferdinand VII had induced the Cortes Generales to help him set aside the Salic law, introduced by the Bourbons in the early 18th century, and to reestablish the older succession law of Spain. The first pretender to the throne, Ferdinand's brother Infante Carlos, Count of Molina, fought seven years during the minority of Isabella to dispute her title. Carlos' and his descendants' supporters were known as Carlists, and the fight over the succession was the subject of a number of Carlist Wars in the 19th century.
Isabella's reign was maintained only through the support of the army. The Cortes and the Moderate Liberals and Progressives reestablished constitutional and parliamentary government, dissolved the religious orders and confiscated their property (including that of the Jesuits), and tried to restore order to Spain's finances. After the Carlist war, the regent, Maria Christina, resigned to make way for Baldomero Espartero, Prince of Vergara, the most successful and most popular Isabelline general. Espartero, a Progressive, remained regent for only two years.
Baldomero Espartero was turned out in 1843 by a military and political pronunciamiento led by Generals Leopoldo O'Donnell and Ramón María Narváez. They formed a cabinet, presided over by Joaquín María López y López. This government induced the Cortes to declare Isabella of age at 13.
Isabella was declared of age and swore the 1837 Constitution on 10 November 1843, age thirteen. Despite the alleged parliamentary supremacy, in practice, the "double trust" led to Isabella having a role in the making and toppling of governments, undermining the progressives. The uneasy alliance between moderates and progressives that had toppled Espartero in July 1843 was already cracking up by the time of the coming of age of the queen. Following a brief government led by progressive Salustiano de Olózaga, the moderates voted their candidate Pedro José Pidal to the presidency of the Cortes. After the subsequent decision to dissolve the hostile Cortes by Olózaga on 28 November, rumours about an alleged forcing of the queen to sign the royal decree spread, and Olózaga was prosecuted, liquidated as political figure and forced to exile, with the Progressive Party already being beheaded, in what it was the starting point of their growing disaffection from the Isabelline monarchy.
Dominated by the figure of Marshal Narváez, the Espadón ("Big Sword") of Loja, the so-called "Moderate decade" began in 1844. The constitutional reforms devised by Narváez moved away from the 1837 Constitution by rejecting national sovereignty and reinforcing the power of the monarch, to the point of a "co-sovereignty" between the Cortes and the Queen.
On 10 October 1846, the Moderate Party made their sixteen-year-old queen marry her double-first cousin Francisco de Asís, Duke of Cádiz (1822-1902), the same day that her younger sister, Infanta Luisa Fernanda, married Antoine d'Orléans, Duke of Montpensier.[n. 2] Disgusted by her marriage, Isabella reportedly commented later to one of her intimates: "what shall I tell you about a man whom I saw wearing more lace than I was wearing on our wedding night?".
The marriages suited France and Louis Philippe, King of the French, who as a result bitterly quarrelled with Britain. However, the marriages were not happy; persistent rumour had it that few if any of Isabella's children were fathered by her king-consort, rumoured to be a homosexual. The Carlist party asserted that the heir-apparent to the throne, who later became Alfonso XII, had been fathered by a captain of the guard, Enrique Puigmoltó y Mayans.
In 1847, a major scandal took place when Isabella, age seventeen, publicly showed her love for General Serrano and her willingness to divorce from her husband Francisco de Asís; though Narváez and Isabella's mother Maria Christina solved the problem posed to the monarchical institution--Serrano was shifted away from the capital to the post of Captain General of Granada in 1848--, the deterioration of the public image of the queen increased from then on. Following the near-revolution of 1848, Narváez was authorised to rule as dictator to repress insurrectionary attempts up until 1849.
In late 1851, Isabella II gave birth to her first daughter and heir presumptive, who was baptised on 21 December as María Isabel Francisca de Asís. Historians have attributed the Princess of Asturias' biological parenthood to José Ruiz de Arana,Gentilhombre de cámara.
On 2 February 1852, Isabella and the Royal Guard were caught by surprise while the Queen was leaving the Chapel of the Royal Palace intending to go with her parade to the church of Atocha: Martín Merino y Gómez, an ordained priest and liberal activist approached the queen giving the impression of wanting to deliver her a message, and stabbed her. The impact was reduced by the gold embroidery of her dress and by the baleen stays of her corset, and what was intended to be a stab wound to the chest only resulted in a minor incision at the right side of the belly. Merino, quickly seized by the halberdiers of the Royal Guard (with help from the dukes of Osuna and Tamames, the Marquis of Alcañices and the Count of Pinohermoso), was removed from sacerdocy and executed by garrote.
Under the government of the Count of San Luis (whose ascension to premiership had been solely founded on the support from the networks of the royal court), the system was in a critical state by June 1854. On 28 June 1854 a military pronunciamiento intending to force the queen to oust the government of the Count of San Luis, featuring Leopoldo O'Donnell (a "puritan" moderate), took place in Vicálvaro, the so-called Vicalvarada. The military coup (rather dominated by the moderates themselves) had a mixed result and O'Donnell (advised by Ángel Fernández de los Ríos and Antonio Cánovas del Castillo) proceeded then to seek for civilian support, promising new reforms not in the initial plans in order to appeal to progressives, by bringing a "liberal regeneration", as proclaimed in the Manifesto of Manzanares, drafted by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and issued on 7 July 1854.
Days later, the situation was followed by a full-scale people's revolution, with revolutionary juntas organised on 17 July in Madrid, and barricades erected in the streets. With the perspective of a civil war in the horizon, Isabella was advised to appoint General Espartero (who enjoyed charisma and popular support) as prime minister. This renewed ascension of Espartero marked the beginning of the bienio progresista.
Espartero entered the capital of Spain on 28 July, and proceeded to separate again Isabella from the influence of Maria Christina. In any case, though Isabella accepted advice from Maria Christina, she was not characterised for displaying a profound filial love towards her mother.
A Liberal Constitution ("the Unborn One") was drafted in 1856, yet it was never enacted as the counter-revolutionary coup by O'Donnell seized power.
On 28 November 1857, Isabella II gave birth to a male heir, who was baptised on 7 December 1857 as Alfonso Francisco de Asís Fernando Pío Juan María Gregorio y Pelagio. Assumed by historians to be the biological son of Enrique Puigmoltó y Mayans, the toddler, who replaced infanta Isabella as Prince of Asturias upon his birth, was known under the moniker "el Puigmoltejo", in reference to the rumours about his presumed biological parenthood. Isabella II showed a special affection for the child, greater than that shown to her daughters.
The later part of her reign saw a war against Morocco (1859-1860), which ended in a treaty advantageous for Spain and cession of some Moroccan territory, the Spanish retake of Santo Domingo (1861-1865), and the fruitless Chincha Islands War (1864-1866) against Peru and Chile.
On 7 July 1868 Isabella banished her brother-in-law and her sister, the Dukes of Montpensier, away from Spain, as they were linked to a conspiracy against the Crown in connivance with generals from the Liberal Union. Since late Summer, Isabella II was enjoying her traditional holidays in the coast in Lekeitio, Biscay. The royal entourage moved to San Sebastián to hold a concerted meeting with Napoleon III and Eugenia de Montijo, scheduled for 18 September but that never took place as the French royals did not arrive in time and the meeting was subsequently aborted.
On that very day, a pronunciamiento took place in Cádiz. Led by Marshal Prim and the Admiral Topete (himself an unconditional follower of the Duke of Montpensier), it marked the beginning of the Glorious Revolution. The democratic party provided the insurrection with popular support, making it transcend the nature of a simple military pronunciamento into an actual revolution.
The factors for the revolution include the weariness both moderates (alienated by the Crown) and the progressives (barely having even the chance to rule) developed vis-à-vis the Isabelline monarchy, as well as the personal behaviour of the queen, the corruption, the abortion of the possibility of political reform and the economic crisis alienating the bourgeoisie. The revolutionary subject has been however variously identified in historiographical accounts, and historians looking at social roots for the revolution highlight that peasantry, small bourgeoisie, and the proletariat formed an alternative subject alternative to burgueoisie, articulated through the progressive and federal republican forces.
By September 1868 Isabella was a repudiated monarch, and, during the early stages of the revolution, instances of political iconoclasm carried out by the masses took place, leading to the destruction of many symbols and emblems of the Bourbon dynasty, a Damnatio memoriae.
The defeat of the Isabelline forces commanded by Manuel Pavía y Lacy by the revolutionary forces led by Marshal Serrano at the 28 September 1868 Battle of Alcolea led to the definitive demise of the reign of Isabella. In the light of the news, Isabella and her entourage left San Sebastián and went to exile taking a train to Biarritz (France) on 30 September. Prim (leader of the liberal progressives) was received by the Madrilenian people at his arrival to the capital in early October in a festive mood. He pronounced his famous speech of the "three nevers" directed against the Bourbons, and delivered a highly symbolic hug to Serrano (leader of the revolutionary forces triumphant in the bridge of Alcolea) in the Puerta del Sol.
Following the crossing of the French-Spanish border by train on 30 September, Isabella and Francisco de Asís spent 5 weeks in the Château de Pau organising their Parisian future, arriving to the French capital on 8 November, settling in the Rue de Rivoli 172. Isabella was forced to renounce to her dynastic rights in Paris in favour of her son, Alfonso on 25 June 1870, officially "freely and spontaneously". Involving an economic settling, the formal separation between Isabella and Francisco de Asís had pended on the passing of the former queen's dynastic rights to her son.
Following the election to the Spanish throne of Amadeo of Savoy (second son of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy) in November 1870, Isabella reconciled in 1871 with her brother-in-law, the Duke of Montpensier, who assumed the political management of the family.
The First Spanish Republic that followed Amadeo's short reign was overthrown by a military coup started in Sagunto by General Arsenio Martínez Campos on 29 December 1874 that proclaimed the restoration of the monarchy and the Bourbon dynasty in the person of Isabella's son Alfonso XII, who landed in Barcelona on 9 January 1875.
Cánovas del Castillo, the dominant figure of the new regime, became convinced that the figure of Isabella had become an issue for the Crown and wrote her a letter bluntly stating "Your Majesty is not a person, it is a reign, it is a historical time, and what the country needs is another reign, a different time", hellbent on avoiding the former queen stepping onto the Spanish capital before the proclamation of the new constitution in June 1876.
She returned to Spain in July 1876, stayed in Santander and El Escorial and was only allowed to visit Madrid for barely hours on 13 October. She moved to Seville, where she stood longer and left for France in 1877. Isabella's son would marry Mercedes of Orléans (first cousin of Alfonso and daughter of the Dukes of Montpensier) in 1878, only for the latter to die five months after the wedding.
She wrote her testament in Paris in June 1901, making her will to be entombed in El Escorial. Less than a month after passing through a cold categorised as "flu" by the physicians, she died on 9 April 1904, at 8:45 AM. Her corpse was moved from the Palacio Castilla to the Gare d'Orsay, and arrived to El Escorial on 15 April. The funeral took place on the next day at San Francisco el Grande.
Isabella had twelve pregnancies, yet only five children reached adulthood:
There has been considerable speculation that some or all of Isabella's children were not fathered by Francisco de Asís; this has been bolstered by rumours that Francisco de Asís was either homosexual or impotent. Francisco de Asís recognised all of them: he played the offended, proceeding to blackmail the Queen to receive money in exchange for keeping his mouth shut. The extortion by her husband would continue and intensify during Isabella's exile.
The underage Queen Isabella II was known by the centuries-old feudal, symbolic, long title that included both extant and extinct titles and claims:
Isabella II by the Grace of God, Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarre, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Majorca, of Seville, of Sardinia, of Córdoba, of Corsica, of Murcia, of Menorca, of Jaén, the Algarves, Algeciras, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, of the East and West Indies, Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea; Archduchess of Austria; Duchess of Burgundy, Brabant, Milan; Countess of Habsburg, Flanders, Tirol and Barcelona; Lady of Biscay and Molina
In 1837, Spanish legislation produced a constitutional monarchy and a new format of the title was used for Isabella:
By the grace of God and the Constitution of the Spanish monarchy, Queen Isabella II of the Spains.
|Ancestors of Isabella II of Spain|
Isabella II of Spain
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynastyBorn: 10 October 1830 Died: 10 April 1904
| Queen of Spain
Title next held byAmadeo
Title last held byFerdinand (VII)
| Princess of Asturias