1902 Encyclopedia > Spain > Spanish History - Isabella II. 19th Century to 1886.

Spain
(Part 33)




HISTORY OF SPAIN (cont.)

Isabella II. 19th Century to 1886.


Isabella II. In the next year, however, the queen gave birth Isabella to a daughter, Isabella, who was proclaimed as queen on oi-lier father's death in 1833, while her mother undertook the office of regent. Don Carlos at once asserted his intention of maintaining the Salic law, and rallied round him all the supporters of absolutism, especially the inhabitants of the Basque Provinces. Christina was compelled to rely upon the liberals, and to conciliate them by the grant of a constitution, the estatuto real, which established two chambers chosen by indirect election. But this constitution, drawn up under the influence of Louis Philippe of France, failed to satisfy the advanced liberals, and the Christinos split into two parties, the moderados and progresistas. In 1836 the latter party extorted from the regent the revival of the constitution of 1812. All this time the Government was involved in a desperate struggle with the Carlists, who at first gained considerable successes under Zumalacarregui and Cabrera. But the death of Zumalacarregui in 1835 and the support of France and England ultimately gave the regent the upper hand, and in 1839 her general, Espartero, forced the Basque Provinces to submit to Isabella. Don Carlos renounced his claims in favour of his eldest son, another Carlos, and retired to Trieste, where he died in 1855. Christina now tried to sever herself from the progresistas, and to govern with the help of the moderate party who enjoyed the patronage of Louis Philippe. But England, jealous of French influence at Madrid, threw the weight of her influence on to the side of the radicals, who found a powerful leader in Espartero. In 1840 Christina had to retire to France, and Espartero was recognized as regent by the cortes. But his elevation was resented by the other officers, while his subservience to England made him unpopular, and in 1843 he also had to go into exile. Isabella was now declared of age. Christina returned to Madrid, and the moderados under Narvaez obtained complete control over the government. This was a great victory for France, and Louis Philippe abused his success by negotiating the infamous " Spanish marriages." A husband was found for Isabella in her cousin, Francis of Assis, whose recommendation in French eyes was the improbability of his begetting children. On the same day the queen's sister, Maria Louisa, was married to Louis Philippe's son, the duke of Montpensier. By this means it was hoped to secure the reversion of the Spanish throne for the house of Orleans. The scheme recoiled on the heads of those who framed it. The alienation of England gave a fatal impulse to the fall of Louis Philippe, while the subsequent birth of children to Isabella deprived the Montpensier marriage of all importance.





Spanish history during the reign of Isabella II. presents a dismal picture of faction and intrigue. The queen herself sought compensation for her unhappy marriage in sensual indulgence, and tried to cover the dissoluteness of her private life by a superstitious devotion to religion and by throwing her influence on to the side of the clerical and reactionary party. Every now and then the progresistas and moderados forced themselves into office, but their mutual jealousy prevented them from acquiring any permanent hold upon the government. In 1866 Isabella was induced to take vigorous measures against the liberal opposition. Narvaez was appointed chief minister; and the most prominent liberals, Serrano, Prim, and O'Donnell, had to seek safety in exile. The cortes were dissolved, and many of the deputies were transported to the Canary Islands. The ascendency of the court party was maintained by a rigorous persecution, which was continued after Narvaez's death (April 1868) by Gonzales Bravo. Common dangers succeeded at last in combining the various sections of the liberals for mutual defence, and the people, disgusted by the scandals of the court and the contemptible camarilla which surrounded the queen, rallied to their side. In September 1868 Serrano and Prim returned to Spain, where they raised the standard of revolt and offered the people the bribe of universal suffrage. The revolution was speedily accomplished, and Isabella fled to France, but the successful rebels were at once confronted with the difficulty of finding a successor for her. During the interregnum Serrano undertook the regency, and the cortes drew up a new constitution, by which an hereditary king was to rule in conjunction with a senate and a popular chamber. As no one of the Bourbon candidates for the throne was acceptable, it became necessary to look round for some foreign prince. The offer of the crown to Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen excited the jealousy of France, and gave Napoleon III. the opportunity of picking a quarrel, which proved fatal to himself, with the rising state of Prussia.

Amadeus. At last a king was found (1870) in Amadeus of Aosta, the second son of Victor Emmanuel, who made an honest effort to discharge the difficult office of a constitutional king in a country which was hardly fitted for constitutional government. But he found the task too hard and too distasteful, and resigned in 1873. A provisional republic was now formed, of which Castelar was the guiding spirit. But the Spaniards, trained to regard monarchy with superstitious reverence, had no sympathy with republican institutions. Don Carlos seized the opportunity to revive the claim of inalienable male succession, and raised the standard of revolt in the Basque Provinces, where his name was still a power. The disorders of the democrats and the approach of civil war threw the responsibility of government upon the army. The cortes were dissolved by a military coup d'état ; Castelar threw up his office in disgust; and the administration was undertaken by a committee of officers. Anarchy was suppressed with a strong hand, but it was obvious that order could only be restored by reviving the monarchy.

Alfonso XII. Foreign princes were no longer thought of, and the crown was offered to and accepted by Alfonso XII., the young Alfonsa son of the exiled Isabella (1874). His first task was to terminate the Carlist War, which still continued in the north, and this was successfully accomplished in 1876. Time was required to restore the prosperity of Spain under a peaceful and orderly government and to consolidate by prescription the authority of the restored dynasty. Unfortunately a premature death carried off Alfonso XII. in 1885, before he could complete the work which circumstances laid upon him. The regency was entrusted to his widow, Christina of Austria, and the birth of a posthumous son (May 17, 1886), who is now the titular king of Spain, has excited a feeling of pitying loyalty which may help to secure the Bourbon dynasty in the last kingdom which is left to it.





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