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Isabella II of Spain

Isabella II (1830-1904), queen of Spain, was born in Madrid on October 10 1830. She was the eldest daughter of Ferdinand VII, king of Spain, and of his fourth wife, Maria Christina, a Neapolitan Bourbon, who became queen-regent on September 29, 1833, when her daughter, at the age of three years, was proclaimed on the death of the king.

Queen Isabella succeeded to the throne because Ferdinand VII induced the Cortes to assist him in setting aside the Salic law, which the Bourbons had introduced since the beginning of the 18th century, and to re-establish the older succession law of Spain. The brother of Ferdinand, Don Carlos, the first pretender, fought seven years, during the minority of Isabella, to dispute her title. Supporters of Don Carlos and his descendants were known as Carlists[?] and the dispute over the succession was the subject of a number of Carlist Wars[?] in the 19th century.

Isabella's rights were only maintained through the support of the army, the Cortes and the Liberals and Progressists, who at the same time established constitutional and parliamentary government, dissolved the religious orders, confiscated the property of the orders and of the Jesuits, disestablished the Church property, and attempted to restore order in finances. After the Carlist war the queen-regent, Christina, resigned to make way for Espartero, the most successful and most popular general of the Isabelline armies, who only remained regent two years.

He was turned out in 1843 by a military and political pronunciamiento, led by Generals O'Donnell and Narvaez, who formed a cabinet, presided over by Joaquin Maria Lopez[?], and this government induced the Cortes to declare Isabella of age at thirteen. Three years later the Moderado party or Castilian Conservatives made their queen marry, at sixteen, her cousin, Prince Maria Fernando Francisco de Asis de Bourbon (1822-1902), on the same day (October 10, 1846) her younger sister married the duke of Montpensier.

These marriages suited the views of France and Louis Philippe, who nearly quarrelled in consequence with Great Britain; but both matches were anything but happy. In fact, persistent rumor had it that few if any of the Spanish queen's children were conceived by her king-consort, a homosexual. The heir to the throne, who would eventually become Alfonso XII, for instance, was widely believed to be Isabella's child by a captain of the guard, Enrique Puig y Moltó.

Queen Isabella reigned from 1843 to 1868, and that period was one long succession of palace intrigues, back-stairs and antechamber influences, barrack conspiracies, military pronunciamientos to further the ends of the political parties--Moderados who ruled from 1846 to 1854, Progressists from 1854 to 1856 Únion Liberal from 1856 to 1863; Moderados and Únion Libera quickly succeeding each other and keeping out the Progressists so steadily that the seeds were sown which budded into the revolution of 1868.

Queen Isabella II often interfered in politics in a wayward, unscrupulous manner that made her very unpopular. She showed most favour to her reactionary generals and statesmen, to the Church and religious orders, and was constantly the tool of corrupt and profligate courtiers and favourites who gave her court a deservedly bad name. She went into exile at the end of September 1868, after her Moderado generals had made a slight show of resistance that was crushed a the battle of Alcolea[?] by Marshals Serrano and Prim. The only redeeming traits of Queen Isabella's reign were a war against Morocco, which ended in an advantageous treaty and some cession of territory; some progress in public works, especially railways and a slight improvement in commerce and finance.

Isabella was induced to abdicate in Paris on June 25, 1870 in favour of her son, Alfonso XII, and the cause of the restoration was thus much furthered. She had separated from her husband in the previous March. She continued to live in France after the restoration in 1874. On the occasion of one of her visits to Madrid during Alfonso XII's reign she began to intrigue with the politicians of the capital, and was peremptorily requested to go abroad again. She died on April 10 1904.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Preceded by:
Ferdinand VII of Spain
List of Spanish monarchs Succeeded by:
Amadeus I of Spain



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