Greatest Nations: Spain - C. F. Horne

Isabella II

Wedding of Isabella II


It is well to bear in mind the distinctive principles of the different political parties in Spain. A "royalist" does not mean an adherent of the king or queen, but a member of the Carlist faction. The partisans of the infant Queen Isabella II. were members of the Liberal or Constitutional party, who split into the Moderados (Conservatives), Progresistas (Progressives), and the Exaltados (Radicals), who favored radical measures. There were subdivisions which it is not important to enumerate, and which increased the number of political parties to more than a score.

Don Carlos showed himself lacking in nerve, when the time came for him to strike a blow for his rights. The cunning Queen Christina had so conducted matters that at the time of Ferdinand's death not an office in the kingdom, military or civil, was held by a royalist. Don Carlos was an exile in Portugal. Ferdinand before his death sent him an order to find a refuge with his family in the papal states. He would have obeyed the order had not Lisbon been captured by his own forces.

As soon as the northern provinces learned of the King's death, they rose and proclaimed King Charles V. The uprisings spread all through Spain, but unfortunately for the rebels, they were without a competent leader. Had there been a strong man to mould and direct the insurgents, the rule of Christina would have toppled to the ground like a pack of cards. Then was the time of all others for Don Carlos to hasten to Spain, where thousands would have rallied to his standard with tempestuous enthusiasm. Why he failed to do so was one of those things which only he could explain, but one cannot help suspecting he was too timid to face the crisis that called for him. He sent plenty of letters promising his friends soon to be among them. He had been declared a rebel by the Queen Regent; and by the quadruple alliance of Spain, Portugal, England and France he was banished from Portugal. Yet instead of hastening to his friends in Spain, he embarked in June, 1834, for England.

There the calls for him became so urgent that he could no longer refuse to heed them. Accompanied by a single friend, Baron de Los Valles, one of his most devoted counsellors, he made his way in disguise through France into Spain, where he was received with wild enthusiasm and multitudes flocked to his support.

Battle of Salamanca


The fighting which followed lasted for years, and was often marked by dreadful atrocities on both sides. For a time, the Carlists made good headway, but the troops opposed to them were better handled, and after awhile gained ground. The prospect became so hopeless that Don Carlos lost heart. A convention closed the war, and he and several thousands of his followers passed over into France, where for a time he was kept under close surveillance. His wife having died, he was allowed to take up his residence in Trieste, Austria. He was afterward urged to return to Spain, where the outlook for a successful uprising was good, but nothing could persuade him to pass again through what he had already suffered in striving after the bauble crown. It was in 1844 that he renounced all his rights, and he died at Trieste in March, 1855.

The first Carlist war brought forward one of the most remarkable Spaniards of the last century. This was Joaquin Baldomero Espartero, who, while studying for the priesthood, joined the army in 1808, when only sixteen years old, to fight the French. When matters became more tranquil in 1814, he and a number of his friends went to South America and fought valiantly against the insurgents. When, however, the great victory of Bolivar at Ayacucho, in December, 1824, ended Spanish rule on the American continent, Espartero sailed for Spain, where he declared himself in favor of the succession of Isabella in 1832. In the civil war that followed, his great ability raised him to the rank of lieutenant-general. In the summer of 1836, he was successful in saving the city of Madrid from capture. Honors followed, and he became General-in-chief of the army in the north, Viceroy of Navarre, and Captain-general of the Basque provinces.

Once more, in September, 1837, Espartero saved the capital from the army of Don Carlos, and it was his campaign two years later that drove Don Carlos across the frontier into France. For these and other services, Espartero was made a Grandee of Spain and Duke de la Vittoria y de Morella. Such a man was the one to insist upon the Queen Regent carrying out the pledges of reform which she had made. When she refused, he gave her the choice of keeping her promises or accepting his resignation. In her indignation she abdicated the regency and sailed for France. She was a thoroughly evil woman, and spent years in plotting the overthrow of the Spanish government.

The flight of Queen Christina compelled the selection of another regent, and fortunately the choice fell upon the excellent Espartero, who soon found he had his hands full in the management of Isabella, the degenerate daughter of a degenerate mother. She was coarse, and lumpy of feature, dull of intellect, and early gave proof of immorality and utter disregard of the proprieties of life. In later years, she became coarser and excessively fat. The honorable conduct of Espartero made him the target of envy and treachery, and late in the summer of 1843 he left Spain for England, pursued by a decree which tore all his decorations, titles, and honors from him. In the following March, Christina came back to Spain, riding into Madrid by the side of her daughter Isabella.

As you know, the marriages of royalty are based upon national interests, without a thought of love, though now and then, as in the case of Queen Victoria and later in that of one of the Kings of Spain, genuine affection manifests itself. From the very birth of Isabella, the future Queen, one of the most interesting questions of Spain was as to who should be her husband. Many candidates were named, and the consideration of the problem went on for several years, but the choice finally fell upon Don Francisco d'Assis, one of the sons of Don Francisco di Paula, a brother of Ferdinand VII., and therefore the cousin of Isabella. He was an effeminate man, whom Isabella abhorred, and for that reason he was selected by Christina and her allies. The marriage took place amid splendid ceremonies in 1846, on the sixteenth birthday of Isabella.

The young Queen made no attempt to conceal her contempt for her husband, but exiled him to a country residence, and in her indignation toward her mother gave her to understand that she would permit no further interference from her. Then she threw off all restraint and wallowed in a mire of shameless immorality.

The general upheaval in 1848 convinced the Carlists that the opportunity was favorable for another uprising. Don Carlos, as you remember, had renounced his rights, doing so in favor of his eldest son of the same name, Count de Montemolon, and when approached he refused to have anything to do with the revolt. By this time, Isabella had proved herself an absolutist, and the downfall of Louis Philippe removed one of the strongest supports from Spain, so that it would seem the Carlists had grounds for their hope. Cabrera, who, despite his frightful cruelties, had won high honor in the preceding Carlist war, and proved his military ability, now dashed here and there through Spain, most of the time in disguise, and organized the insurgent forces with masterly skill. But the second Don Carlos was as timid and incompetent as his father. Cabrera did his utmost to bring him forward, until, disgusted with his unfitness, the general threw up the command of his fast dwindling forces, made his way to London, and swore he would never again help the Carlists. He kept his word.

Marriage of Isabella II.


Plotting, intrigue, and treachery followed the unfortunate marriage of Queen Isabella. In a brief period, six ministers rose and fell in succession. There was rioting in many of the provinces, as there has been at intervals to the present time. General Narvaez, who was in power in 1848, crushed the insurrections with such dreadful harshness that the British ambassador remonstrated, and was denounced so angrily that diplomatic relations between England and Spain were severed for several years.

The intrigue and treachery which festered everywhere culminated in a revolt in Madrid in the latter part of June, 1854. It was a surprise to those not in the secret, the Queen being absent at the Escurial, twenty miles distant, with most of the ministers away. The uprising was wholly military and no precautions had been taken against it. Isabella received the news by telegraph, and with a certain coarse animal courage set out for Madrid, where she arrived late at night. The next morning she reviewed the troops that were about to march out to meet the insurgents, but no enthusiasm was shown for her, and the insurgent generals, to whom overtures were sent, rejected them. They notified the Queen that they would not lay down their arms until the obnoxious ministry was dismissed, and the government "conformed to the principles of liberty, morality, and justice."

A murderous collision took place a few miles from Madrid, in which a number of lives were lost, but the victory was with the government. A brief spell of quiet was followed by news of turbulent outbreaks in the provinces, and many regiments of the government forces openly went over to the insurgents. The ministry at Madrid resigned, and there was rioting in the capital. In the midst of the turmoil and peril, there seemed but one person capable of extricating the country from threatened destruction: that was General Espartero, who was then living at his country home on the borders of the Basque provinces. The Queen telegraphed him, and he sent a messenger to name the conditions on which he would return. The acceptance of them was bitter medicine to Isabella, but she dared not refuse.

Espartero, now sixty-two years old, formed a new ministry, whose most troublesome immediate question was the disposal of Queen Christina. The resentment against her was so hot that it was almost worth one's life to speak in her favor. But Espartero felt that it would never do to bring her to trial, and he permitted her to escape, as the best way to rid the country of the ulcer. The anger against him was violent, but so universal was the respect and liking for the man that it soon calmed down. Thus vanished the baleful presence that was to plague Spain no more.

The new ministry made Espartero the Progresista, and General O'Donnell the Moderado, the heads of the government. They soon quarrelled, and were succeeded by General Narvaez, Duke of Valencia, who was devotedly loyal to the Queen. He was a blunt, honest soldier who governed Spain successfully for two years, during which there was a marked advancement in the prosperity of the kingdom. In November, 1857, the Prince of the Asturias, afterward Alfonso XII., was born, his entrance into the world being received with rejoicing by all supporters of the crown, while the mother regained to some extent her former popularity with the people. Carlos Luis de Bourbon, Count de Montemolin, however, was busy with schemes for another Carlist uprising. He had not forgotten the lesson of his former fiasco. He issued a declaration that he would govern the people constitutionally. This alienated many of the elder Carlists, but their places were filled by powerful recruits. The plotting went on for several years, and, in March, 1860, Don Carlos Luis, with his brother Don Fernando, his secretary and three officers and attendants left Paris for Marseilles. Pausing at Palma, the principal town of Majorca, they found nearly 4,000 soldiers and four pieces of artillery, though none of the troops and few of the officers knew the nature of the business on which they were to be employed.

Sailing into a small port near the mouth of the Ebro, the troops landed and advanced toward Valencia. By this time the soldiers and their officers began to suspect their real errand. An open revolt followed, and Don Carlos and his immediate friends made their escape as best they could. Later they were captured and threw themselves upon the mercy of the government. The insurrection was so widespread that it was impossible to punish all, and, as the best way out of an embarrassing situation, the whole lot were pardoned. Don Carlos and his brother impressively renounced all the rights they had claimed to the Spanish crown, and begged to be allowed to return to France, where they would plague the Queen no more. She willingly forgave them, and thus again the Carlist rising "flashed in the pan."

During those troublous years, Cuba caused a great deal of anxiety in Spain, whose misgovernment brought about more than one rebellion. Spain also took part in the attempt of France to establish Maximilian on the throne of Mexico, but, like the English, withdrew before that ill-starred episode reached its tragic ending.

Marshal Prim rallying the Spanish patriots.


All this time a sentiment was steadily growing that the only effectual cure for the manifold miseries of the country lay in a change of dynasties, but the trouble was in fixing upon the right one to place at the head of the government. Candidates were as plentiful as blackberries in summer, but they were a sorry lot, and among them all there was not one upon whom the people were willing to unite. The revolution came to a head in the spring of 1868. The leaders were General Dulce, formerly Captain-General of Cuba, Senor Olozaga, a man of high character, Marshal Serrano, and General Prim, who had commanded the Spanish forces in the Mexican expedition. Prim felt a bitter personal enmity toward the Queen because of an insult she once put upon him, and General Serrano, Field Marshal and Duke de la Torre, detested her as intensely, because of her shameless character. All entered heartily into the conspiracy, the secret of which was well kept.

So perfect indeed were all the arrangements that failure was impossible. The leaders gathered at Cadiz, where the inhabitants were roused on the morning of September 19, 1868, by the firing of salutes and the strains of Riego's Hymn, which had not been heard for years in the kingdom. When the people rubbed their eyes and looked about them, they saw the men-of-war in the harbor gay with streamers and bunting, while sailors and soldiers .were cheering over the fall of the abominated dynasty. Wherever Prim showed himself, he was greeted with the wildest enthusiasm, the women crowding forward to kiss the man whom they looked upon as the savior of Spain. On the same day, a pronunciamento was issued, setting forth the grievances of the country, which certainly were numerous enough. The signatures carried immense prestige, and a provisional government was speedily formed, at the head of which was Marshal Serrano.

All this was terrifying news to Queen Isabella, who with her immediate friends, including a new lover, named Marfori, was at San Sebastian taking the sea baths. The authorities telegraphed her to return to Madrid at once, but to leave her lover behind. The request threw her into a rage, and she stayed where she was.

Meanwhile, the few generals who still held out for the queen collected what troops they could muster and advanced against Serrano's troops. Near the city of Cordova, the forces met at the bridge of Alcolea, and those of the Queen were routed, "horse, foot, and dragoons." It was the death-knell of the hopes of Isabella II. It is said that, as a last, despairing hope, she implored Louis Napoleon III. to interfere in her behalf, but that wily rogue knew better than to commit suicide in that fashion. He replied by advising her to take up her residence at Pau, a town in France. A French newspaper gave the following account of how the Queen and her party crossed the frontier:

"It is one o'clock. The Queen is at the station of St. Jean de Luz. The Emperor and Empress arrive at the Biarritz station. The Emperor walks alone on the platform with head bent, and plunged in thought. . . . The departure from St. Jean de Ruz is signalled, and soon after the special train enters the Biarritz station. The Queen was alone on the balcony of the saloon carriage. The King (her long-neglected husband) stood at the door of the saloon. Marfori stood behind the Queen, pompous, and wearing over his black coat the broad ribbon of the order of Charles III.

"At the moment when the Emperor advanced to offer his hand to the Queen, the express train from Paris to Madrid thundered up, bearing exiles now returning to their country, and from it were heard to proceed cries most insulting to the Queen, the loudest being Fuera! (Out with her!)

"At those cries the Emperor made a step backward, and tears gushed from the eyes of the Queen, who got out as well as the King, her children, the high personages of her suite, Father Claret, and the inevitable Marfori. After having shaken hands with the Emperor, and kissed the Empress, all four, the Emperor, Empress, the Queen and the King, entered the first-class waiting-room. Nobody else entered. Nobody heard what was there said.

"The interview lasted twenty minutes. At last the Queen made a movement toward the door, and all four advanced. At that moment a Spanish general who stood beside me exclaimed in Spanish, ` We having nothing left but to depart, showing that up to the last moment hopes had been cherished of the intervention of the Emperor.

"The parting was brief, silent, and mournful. The Emperor was unmoved; the Empress hardly restrained her tears; the Prince Imperial looked astonished. The Queen endeavored but in vain to smile. The little King fidgeted about to hide his emotion. The suite stood aghast. The Queen got into the carriage again; then the King, the Prince of the Asturias, whom the Emperor had kissed, and the royal children. . . . I never was present at a funeral where the grief of the mourners was more profound. It was the funeral procession of a dynasty two hundred years old, which had breathed its last sigh in the Biarritz station. The signal is given. The train is put in motion. Everybody bows, and all is over."

At this writing, ex-Queen Isabella is living, gray-haired and almost forgotten. Her mother died in 1878.