THE BOURBON DYNASTY – From Isabel II to Juan Carlos I


Isabel II (1833- 1868)

On the death of Fernando VII, his wife Maria Cristina of Bourbon became the Regent until their daughter reached adulthood and ascended to the throne as Isabel II. During her reign, which lasted for more than thirty years, Spain went through a convulsive period.
During this time there were two very relevant military figures: General Espartero, who after his victory in the first Carlist War assumed the regency in 1841, and General Narváez who was the president of the Council of Ministers on seven occasions.
In September of 1868 the general unhappiness with the economic situation led to the progressive party deciding to instigate a military revolt known as “The Glorious” or September Revolution. Isabel II had to go into exile in France and abdicated in favour of her son Alfonso. From that moment the first attempt to establish a democracy in Spain took place, first in the form of a parliamentary democracy during the reign of Amadeo I of Savoy, son of the King of Italy Victor Manuel II, and later in the form of a republic, The First Republic, presided over by Estanislao Figueras. However both attempts failed.

Alfonso XII (1874-1885)

In 1874, taking advantage of the crisis in the First Republic, General Martinez Campos led a military takeover which claimed Alfonso, nicknamed “the Peacemaker”, as the King of Spain. He immediately travelled to Spain and began his reign as Alfonso XII.
During his reign a political regime known as Restoration was installed, reflected in the Constitution of 1878. Alfonso XII was reduced to the role of referee between the two big political parties, the
Conservatives and Liberals, led by Antonio Cánovas del Castillo and Práxedes Mateo Sagasta respectively, who peacefully took turns in power, avoiding military revolts.
However, in order to bed in this regime, Alfonso XII had to deal with the third Carlist War, raging in the North and in the East since 1873; after the surrender of the Carlist General Ramon Cabrera, Carlos Maria Isidro de Bourbon, the pretender to the throne, abandoned Spain, bringing an end to the war in 1876.

Alfonso XIII (1902- 1931)

On the death of Alfonso XII at the young age of 27, his wife Queen María Cristina of Habsburg became the Regent, until her son Alfonso was old enough to ascend to the throne with the name Alfonso XIII.
During the first years of his reign the Conservative and Liberal governments, led by Antonio Maura and José Canalejas respectively, took turns in power. With the assassination of Canalejas began a period of great political and social instability. Added to this in 1921 was the military defeat in Morocco, the Disaster of Annual.
The reign of Alfonso XIII was marked by the coverage given to the coup d’état of General Primo de Rivera in 1923 and the dictatorship that followed. In the municipal elections of 1931 there was a
Republican majority and Alfonso XIII abandoned Spain at the same time as the Second Republic was proclaimed, presided over by Niceto Alcalá Zamora.

Juan Carlos I (1975- 2014)

After a long period of over 40 years, the Bourbon Dynasty was restored in 1975 with King Juan Carlos I, grandson of Alfonso XIII.

King Juan Carlos renounced the powers he had received as successor to General Francisco Franco, to promote the process that peacefully led from the Franco dictatorship (1939- 1975) to democracy and which culminated in the endorsement of the Constitution in 1978. Juan Carlos I played an important part in support of democratic legality, intervening during the failed
coup d’état of 23rd February 1981, led by Lieutenant Coronel Tejero and the Generals Milans del Bosch and Armada.
In 2014, he took the decision to abdicate in favour of his son, Prince Philip of Bourbon, who is the reigning monarch in Spain today with the name of Philip VI.

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