Biography of Alfonso XII. King of España (1857-1885)

Monument to King Alfonso XII. Parque del Retiro. Madrid.

King of Spain, born on 28 November 1857, at the Palacio Real in Madrid, and died before the age of twenty-eight years, victim of tuberculosis, on November 25, 1885. It acceded to the Spanish throne on December 29, 1874, due to the coup d'etat that general gave Martínez Campos.

Second son of Queen Isabel II, and first male, at the age of eleven was forced into exile along with the Royal family by the political upheavals of the revolutionary six years which caused the dethronement of his mother. Alfonso, from small, showed signs of being a Prince sickly and prone to colds, to your simple, loyal and docile character joined to their protectors. However, showed a great strength of spirit, openness and playfulness that made him be very loved by all the people. Alfonso XII, as monarch, has perhaps been the most popular and beloved King by his subjects, and in particular by the people of Madrid. Certainly there were circumstances which encouraged the popular facet of this King, many of them then enriched by the romantic sense given in the life of Alfonso: marriage for love with her cousin María de las Mercedes, the premature death of which fell to the King in a perpetual state of melancholy, various illicit love that the King hadamong which stands out which remained with the singer Elena Sanz, and finally, the fact that the King died from the most romantic and popular diseases: tuberculosis. All this accumulation of anecdotes, over which the Madrid village, was invented later gave rise to perpetuate the image of the King near the village, its evils and its joys.

The exile of Prince Alfonso lasted six years. Initially, the Royal family settled in Paris, where he/she continued the solid formation of the Prince. The Spanish Court in exile was forced to live with certain modesty and deprivation, aspect this then I would remind Alfonso already King, and which served to gain personal experience. In the year 1869 followed the formation of Alfonso in Rome, under the protection of his godfather, the Pope Pius IX. In that same year, Alfonso was sent to Austria to study at one of the most aristocratic schools of Europe, the Theresianum in Vienna. Remained in that College three years, where the future King received experiences and surprises that absorbed with genuine delight, resulting in that crucial period in its formation. It was in Vienna where he/she began to develop intellectually and gradually approaching the world of politics, which had been absent so far.

In Spain the failure of the monarchy demoliberal of Amadeus of Savoy (imposed by general Prim), the Third Carlist War, the cantonal revolt and the Cuban insurrection, made certain sectors of weight coming from the former ranks of moderates and unionists of the Elizabethan era, led by Cánovas de Castillo, began to work in firm in an increasingly more feasible monarchical restoration in the figure of Prince Alfonso. This restoration was not possible in the person of Elizabeth II, since his return would have had multiple oppositions. Canovas de Castillo could convince Isabel II to abdicate in favour of his son Alfonso. Thus, on June 25, 1870, Isabel resigned "for reasons of State" and abdicated his rights to the throne in his young son, who was appointed as Prince of Asturias. Canovas de Castillo got this measure two purposes: restore the Bourbon dynasty in the figure of Prince Alfonso, prepared and more disconnected from the ancient monarchical ways; and on the other hand, to prepare the ground for the establishment of the political system of the two-party system. Canovas de Castillo took over the education of the Prince, as well as his later political projection, waiting for the right time to return to Spain.

The first Republic

The reign of Alfonso XII.

Canovas de Castillo ordered the Prince to continue his studies in England, Sandhurt Military Academy. Such a measure intended to give Alfonso of an adequate military preparation, at the same time that learn English constitutional monarchical system, for which Cánovas was a fervent admirer. On the occasion of the seventeenth birthday of the Prince (with legal capacity to reign), Castillo Canovas prepared and encouraged the public reading of the famous manifesto of Sandhurst by the Prince. That document was a declaration of intentions exhibition of the eventual program that would carry out the future King when the Spaniards called to occupy the throne, as the same Alfonso stated in the text. In this document, Prince did mention to its legitimacy, but without referring to a possible continuation of the Elizabethan regime, but under a new regime, opened to all the trends. The conclusion is that Alfonso promised a restored monarchy. The manifesto fell on ground already quite favourable for the cause alfonsina. On January 3, 1874, the general Pavia staged a coup, bursting into the courts mounted on horseback, when they were voting for the election of a new Republican President, once that Emilio Castelarhad been forced to resign by riots that ravaged the country. This military action was not an attempt to overthrow the Republic, but rather to try to bring order to the political chaos. An interim Government led by the fire-proof general Francisco Serrano formed and based on a constant uncertainty and ambiguity that made the end of the first Spanish Republic speed. This fact occurred on December 29, 1874, with the last successful military pronouncement of old Elizabethan Court, in charge of general Martínez Campos, who had revolted in Sagunto, proclaiming on their own to Alfonso XII as King of Spain. On December 30 was formed a provisional Government under the leadership of Canovas de Castillo. Actually, the military coup of Martínez Campos deeply displeased Canovas de Castillo, which was preparing the triumph of restoration by exclusively political and legal means. Martínez Campos, in his coup proclamation directed to Canovas de Castillo, revealed you that it had no intention of profit or of access to power, as it really was. Therefore, the political triumph corresponded fully to Canovas de Castillo, appearing before the eyes of the world as the father of the restoration. Martínez Campos went immediately to a second plane.

On January 9, 1875 entered Barcelona, Alfonso XII as King of all Spaniards. Then, the 14th of the same month did the same in Madrid, under the frenzy of all the people who acclaimed him with real fervor and passion. The reception of the people was unspeakable, without no precedent since the arrival of Fernando VII, his grandfather, in 1814. It was immediately identified as Alfonso XII pacifier, since it was presented as the symbol of harmony and reconstruction. Alfonso XII brought in lathe to himself the sympathies of all political spectra in the country, with the exception of the last Carlist strongholds. Canovas de Castillo, in his position as head of the new Government, began designing the new political system of the restoration. Alfonso XII was able to respond to the confidence that in it he/she deposited. His reign was the most peaceful of 19th-century Spanish, achieved peace and prosperity. Alfonso XII left acting politicians, reigning always constitutionally and with an exquisite touch, since never it hinted sympathies or antipathies towards the different political sides. It was an absolutely neutral King, as he/she had proposed and presented in the famous English manifesto. Although its political role was passive, from the year 1883 he/she began to actively intervene in the Affairs of State, always a role of referee. His untimely death prevented to ascertain the scope and the results of such guidance.

As military won a great success to personally command the Royal troops in the third war against the Carlists. Thanks to his presence, real, disoriented troops without knowing what regime defended they could regroup around an ideal and prepare to fund a major offensive campaign. The campaign ended victoriously in 1876, with the problem of carlism solved definitively. He/She is also managed to settle with the peace of Zanjón dangerous Cuban insurrection in the year 1878.

Alfonso XII embarked on a populist policy in order to enhance the monarchical institution. To do this he/she traveled throughout the country, seeking support and sympathy of the people, inaugurating railway lines, attending hospital foundations and resorting to catastrophic and poor areas of the country. There was also a great tour of Austria, Germany and France. Precisely, passing through Germany, he/she made a comment favorable to the German Reich, suggesting the possibility of an alliance with Germany. This news was taken by France, Germany, as an affront and threat enemy, which provoked a crisis between France and Spain which was resolved by weapons. Alfonso XII arranged the matter not giving the utmost importance, so gradually the climate of tranquility was revived between two diplomatic delegations.

The Government of Castillo Cánovas.

Alfonso XII married twice. 23 of January 1878 with his cousin, Doña María de las Mercedes de Orléans, daughter of the Dukes of Montpellier. The wedding was very popular and dream in the whole Kingdom. Five months after dying Queen, at the age of seventeen: the last Queen Sung and praised by the romances of the village.

Folk song where vas Alfonso XII?.

[The Spanish people sang the death of María de las Mercedes and the sadness of Alfonso XII as well noting the great affection felt by their kings].

In October 1878, Alfonso XII suffered an attack which came out unscathed. On 29 November, under pressure from the Government, Alfonso XII married again to the Archduchess María Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena, with whom he/she had two daughters, the princesses María de las Mercedes and María Teresa. In 1883 his health began to give worrying symptoms; his eternal bad curing colds resulted in a deep tuberculosis which caused him to prostrate themselves in bed. Throughout the year of 1885 was a slow decline in the health of the King which worried the politicians of the time, since the King had failed to meet even the twenty-seven years and had no male offspring. His State worsened thereby in the autumn of that year who ended up dying on 25 November. Queen María Cristina was pregnant, so that any decision on the inheritance problem, was delayed, until the posthumous birth of the child, thereby opening the Regency period laid down in the Covenant of the Pardo. Finally, the fruit of the union was born, was a child, and would reign with the name of Alfonso XIII.

The system canovista: restoration

One of the fundamental characteristics of the so-called period of the restoration was the reformulation of the liberal State, channeling political activity within the discipline of political parties, and within the framework of citizen freedoms, although the latter did not move from a nominal level. Canovas de Castillo was the ideologist of this political framework, enshrining the idea of sovereignty shared between the courts and the monarch, where both powers sanctioned the Constitution and the legal corpus that the nation should govern. Therefore Canovas de Castillo promulgated the Constitution of 1878, which perfectly responded to his political ideology: find a true field of encounter and dialogue of the prevailing political forces, clumped in two unique games that are alternarían with perfect harmony in power. The objective was to achieve a sort of co-soberania between the King and the courts, with a priority of the latter on the first.

Political practice was carried out by the request of the King of forming a Government, which must be sanctioned by the courts on the proposal of the King. The new Prime Minister, elected in turn by proposal of the King, and upon acceptance of the Parliament, had the capacity to dissolve the Cortes and convene new elections in which, in all likelihood, would obtain an absolute majority, thanks to a network of political and socio-economic interests existing throughout the country (despotism). The mechanism of Government change was deposited, not in the will of voters, but in the beginning of the forced alternation of dynastic parties in power; thing that remained firmly attached to the so-called Pact del Pardo in 1885. This agreement, substantially, set on the basis of rotation on the power of both parties, liberal and conservative, based on the essential solidarity between the two. This circumstance meant that both parties made common cause against any claim of "assault on the State", or against a possible third party that could put at risk the two-party system. These two political formations were and were formed by: the conservative Liberal Party, led by Canovas de Castillo, which grouped together all moderate before the 1868 revolution right; and the addition Liberal Party, led by Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, who joined to spin all the revolutionary Sexennium from groups who accepted the new law. Actually, both formations were very similar in terms of political ideology and social bases, although the party of Sagasta slightly more expanded its spectrum of social, integrating not only aristocrats and notable, but also to sectors of the large land owners, traders in major urban and industrial centres. Where actually agreed both parties was in his economic ideas, since both defended to the protectionist policy and private property in the means of production. He/She attended the birth of the owner, both financial and industrial bourgeoisie and the restoration of large agricultural properties, groups that gradually would be conforming in a homogeneous nucleus of power, together with the military sector, with interests of clearly defined already at the beginning of the 20th century ideologies.

The restoration, ultimately allowed the emergence of an elite which have and exercise the power and which arose precisely from that block homogeneous and oligarchic. The model established and developed from 1875 by Canovas de Castillo worked perfectly during all the reign of Alfonso XII and during the first years of the Regency. System began to show their failings, in 1898, and came to be completely anachronistic and obsolete in 1909, the political earthquake which meant the tragic week of Barcelona. African colonial slumps of the year 1921 gave the signal for the start of a general offensive against the throne, and the army, respectively represented by King Alfonso XIII and the general Primo de Rivera. In 1923, imposed by Primo de Rivera dictatorship ended final canovista system.

Despite the ephemeral nature of the reign of Alfonso XII, it presents features of great significance, with innovative elements. It was in fact the first full constitutional monarch, similar to those in several European countries. Under his reign, Spain agreed to modernity with a refreshing boost in all areas, sponsored by the Crown. It was for a definitive shift that definitively sustrajese the country from the stagnation in which was sunk it for centuries. Those ends were achieved with Alfonso XII.


DARDE, C: the restoration: 1875-1902. Alfonso XII and the Regency of María Cristina. Madrid, 1996.

ESPADAS BURGOS, m: Alfonso XII and the origins of the restoration. Madrid, 1975.

VARELA ORTEGA, J: political friends. Parties, elections, and despotism in the restoration (1875-1900). Madrid, 1976.

VV.AA: Alfonso XII and his time. Madrid, 1985).