THE BOURBON DYNASTY – From Philip V to Fernando VII


The Bourbon Dynasty reigned in Spain for more than three centuries, from 1700 until the present day, with the exception of the period of the two Republics, Amadeo of Spain and the Franco dictatorship.

Eight kings and a queen belong to this dynasty.

Philip V (1700- 1746)

The first Bourbon king was Philip V, known as the “lively”. Grandson of the French king Louis XIV, he renounced his rights to the throne of France to inherit the Spanish crown on the death of Carlos II, the last king of the Austrian dynasty, who had named him as his heir.
After the War of Succession between the supporters of Archduke Carlos of Austria and Philip of Anjou, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 which recognized Philip V as King of Spain.
In the first years of his reign the Royal Academies of Language, History and Medicine were created, copying the French academies. In home affairs, a centralized and unified administrative body was brought in with the New Regime Decree.

Fernando VI (1746- 1759)

Philip V was succeeded by his son Fernando VI, nicknamed “ the Just”. He married Barbara of Braganza, daughter of Juan V of Portugal. His reign was characterized by maintaining peace and neutrality with France and Britain.
He delegated the political decisions to his ministers, such as the Marquis of the Ensenada and Jose of Carvajal, both very efficient government reformers. Among other measures, they introduced the tax system with the so-called “Land Registry of Ensenada”.
He encouraged culture through measures such as the creation of the Academy of Fine Art of San Fernando, which allowed the introduction of the Enlightenment from France into Spain.

Carlos III (1759- 1788)

Fernando VI had no heir so on his death, Carlos III, who was the son of Philip V and his second wife Isabel of Farnesio, came to the throne.
Carlos III introduced into Spain what has become known as “enlightened despotism”: a modernizing of society using the absolute power of the monarch and whose motto was “Everything for the people, but without the people”.
Carlos III is known as the best mayor of Madrid because of his contribution to modernizing the capital of Spain, cobbling the streets and creating a sewage and rubbish collection system.
During his reign the Prado Museum, The Puerta de Alcalá and the fountains of Cibeles and Neptune were built.

Carlos IV (1788- 1808)

The successor of Carlos III was his son Carlos IV, known as “the Hunter”. He was not very involved in government matters as King, and he largely left such things in the hands of his wife Maria Luisa of Parma and his favourite Manuel Godoy, nicknamed the “Prince of Peace”.
His reign coincided with the French Revolution. Carlos IV was allied with the French in the war with

England. Off the coast of Cadiz, the Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated at the Battle of Trafalgar by the British fleet, led by Admiral Nelson who was killed during the battle.
After the mutiny of Aranjuez, Carlos IV had to abdicate in favour of his son Fernando VII. He asked for help from Napoleon, but taking advantage of the weakness of the Spanish Bourbons, Napoleon decided to occupy Spain as well, giving rise to the War of Independence with France, which lasted for six years from
1808 to 1814. The War started with the Uprising of the 2nd of May in Madrid, which was immortalized in the painting by Goya.
During the French occupation, the brother of Napoleon, Jose Bonaparte, known as Pepe Botella, occupied the Spanish throne until the expulsion of the French in 1814.

Fernando VII (1808- 1833)

Fernando VII, known as the “long-awaited”, got rid of the Constitution of Cadiz and reestablished the absolute monarchy. In 1820 there was a military coup which forced the King to accept the restoration of the Constitution of 1812.
In 1823 the invasion of the “One hundred thousand children of San Luis” took place, which was a French army that overthrew the Constitutional regime and made Fernando VII absolute monarch again. Over the following years, known as “the ominous decade”, Fernando VII restored absolutism, repressing any hint
of liberal movement.
During the reign of Fernando VII, the independence of the majority of the Spanish colonies in South America occurred, with the defeats of the Spanish army at the hands of Simón Bolívar and General San Martín, known as the Liberators. Thus started the loss of the Spanish Empire in South America.
In 1830 Fernando VII proclaimed the Pragmatic Sanction, which abolished the Salic Law and therefore allowed the throne to be inherited by women, meaning that on his death his daughter Isabel II would ascend to the throne. This encouraged Carlos Maria Isidro, brother of Fernando VII, to become the leader of the discontented ultra royalists, which led to the First Carlist War.

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