Carlist Wars

Carlist Wars
(1833–1840, 1847–1849, 1872–1876)
   Three wars in Spain fought during the period from 1833 to 1876. The Carlists were members of a conservative political movement in Spain with the goal of establishing an alternate branch of the Bourbon dynasty to the throne. Felipe V, grandson of Louis XIV of France and founder of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty, limited the royal succession to male descendants and only to female descendants in the absence of any male heir on any line. In 1830, Fernando VII published the Pragmatic Sanction, which was approved by the government in 1832. The decree restored the rights of female descendants to inherit the throne. Fernando VII died in 1833 without a male heir. His wife, Maria Cristina, became regent for their daughter, Isabel II. Ferdinand’s brother, Carlos, claimed the Spanish throne under the premise that the Pragmatic Sanction was not valid. Carlists supported the ambitions of Carlos, while Cristinos, or Isabelinos, supported Isabel II and her mother.
   Carlos was leader of the staunch royalist and Catholic faction at the Spanish court seeking to counter growing liberal and anticlerical influences after the French Revolution and Napoleon. Carlism emerged as an umbrella ideology for political Catholics and conservatives, and served as the main group of right-wing opposition to ensuing Spanish governments. Carlists’ rallying cry of “God, Country, and King” united them against liberal and later republican forces taking root in Spain. Carlism became a true “mass movement,” drawing supporters from all classes, especially peasant and working classes. The areas in Spain where Carlism established a foothold included Navarre, Rioja, Basque Country, Catalonia, and Valencia. Carlos V (1788–1855) was the first Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne. He abdicated in favor of his son Carlos VI (1818–61), who continued the claim from 1845 to 1860. Carlos’s brother, Juan III (1822–1887), carried the Carlist banner from 1860 to 1868. Carlists forced him to abdicate because of his liberal leanings under the idea that the king must be legitimate both in blood and in deeds. Juan became head of the house of Bourbon after the extinction of the elder line of French Bourbons in 1883. Some French legitimists proclaimed him heir to the French throne. Juan’s son Carlos VII (1848–1909) represented the Carlists from 1868 to 1909. Carlos was succeeded by his son, Jaime III (1870–1931), and then his brother, Alfonso Carlos (1849–1936). In 1936, the Carlists’ male line died out.
   The First Carlist War lasted from 1833 to 1840. The cruelties inflicted by both sides forced the European powers to intervene to establish a set of rules for warfare. France, Britain, and Portugal supported Isabel. All three powers gave financial support; Britain and Portugal also lent military support. The Carlists, short on finances, were quickly defeated yet continued to harass the liberal government for several years. The Second Carlist War, also known as the Matiners’ War, lasted from 1847 to 1849. Catalonian rebels initiated a guerilla war in the name of the Carlist pretender. Carlist forces came to their aid, but the rebel forces were defeated. In 1868, a revolution forced Isabel II’s abdication in favor of her son, Alfonso XII; however, the government elected Amadeo I of the house of Savoy as king of Spain. Shortly thereafter, a republic governed Spain before a Bourbon restoration under Alfonso in 1874. The political upheaval after Isabel II’s deposition led to the Third Carlist War, lasting from 1872 to 1876.
    Aronson, Theo. Royal Vendetta: The Crown of Spain 1829-1965. London: Oldbourne, 1966;
    Gallardo, Alexander. Britain and the First Carlist War. Norwood, Yorkshire: Norwood, 1978;
    Holt, E. The Carlist Wars in Spain. London: Putnam, 1967.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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