Biography of Alfonso XIII. King of España (1886-1941)

Alfonso XIII, King of Spain. Iturriaga. Real Palacio. Madrid.

King of Spain, born in Madrid on May 17, 1886 and died in Rome in 1941. Son of Alfonso XII and María Cristina de Habsburgo, came into the world when her father had already died. He/She was proclaimed King the same day of his birth, leaving his mother to the care of the Regency.

Queen María Cristina gave him, as it was already traditional among the Spanish Bourbons, beata education and domestic, with a strong military orientation. Alfonso was from his early youth more prone to worldly amusements that the tasks of Government. He/She spoke German, French and Spanish and was very fond of sports. Corseted in the ceremonial of a court that in Europe was known for being the most rigid of the era, the King is impassioned by automobiles alarmingly and took certain taste to political intrigue, that showed remarkable talent.

During his minority, Spain lived the loss of the last vestiges of the Spanish colonial empire (1898). This led to the intellectual reaction of the so-called generation of the 98, to whose ideas regenerationists did not remain outside the monarch. The Queen María Cristina held the Regency until May 17, 1902, moment in which Alfonso, at the age of sixteen, was proclaimed age, swore to the Constitution and assumed power.

The reign alfonsino (1886-1931), can be divided into two periods: from 1898 to 1923. The first period may be deemed a long attempt to regenerate the parliamentary system inherited from the 19th century. These attempts were unsuccessful due to the internal system and foreign crises that faced Spain, i.e., the first world war of 1914-1918 and the war of Morocco since 1920. There was at that time the disintegration of the party system established in the time of Elizabeth II, with failed attempts to redeem the conservative parties (which was Maura) and radical Democrat (led by Canalejas).

The reign of Alfonso XIII.

The beginning of the personal reign (1902-1909)

Alfonso, despite his lack of political training, was aware that the throne had been reduced to a ceremonial role in the party system and wanted to reign as a Patriot King. I thought that only a monarchy with capacity for political action could prevent the advance of Republicanism that grew visibly, reinforced by the Socialist and anarchist movements tide.

The first act of Government of Alfonso XIII was to clarify to Cabinet his particular interpretation of the Constitution. Did not the concern of the King to know the Affairs of State, but hinder the management of Government, since the monarch was devoid of political initiative and your wanting to stay abreast was more a pose as a true man of State interest. The decrees they were detained in the Palace and are spread among the courtiers, while King rested, forgotten by his ministers, in their military partners.

Alfonso was at ease in environments grandparents and made know to the Cabinet attached great importance to the opinion of the military in Government. This military hobby could make him very directly involved in the appalling war in Morocco since 1923. The combination between their sympathy for the military dictatorship of 1923 and its capacity for intrigue salon led to consolidation in the power of a monarchist political caste without personal loyalty to the Crown and to the personal privacy of the King, which was demonstrated in 1931, the second Spanish Republic was proclaimed.

After the disaster of the 98 realm required a profound political renewal. This had its main protagonists in Maura and Canalejas, heads respectively of matches conservative or liberal. Generational renewal in the traditional parties made to think about the possibility of regeneration of the old game of political alternation. In practice, the inertia of the traditional alternation of parties was extended. The veto tax by left-wing formations to Maura for the murder of Ferrer i Guàrdia after the tragic week of Barcelona, and the murder of Canalejas foiled those hopes. The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera responded to the same idea of regeneration inside that Alfonso XIII, took part without leaving the old political mold.

His first Government was presided over by Sagasta. In 1902 a Metalworkers strike was declared in Barcelona, which became general and kept the city in a State of war until November. Catalan anarchist agitation played a major role in the destabilization of the Government of Sagasta, which had to cede his post to Silvela. Following the withdrawal of Sagasta, opened a conservative period, between 1902 and 1905, in which the King acted as arbitrator to give Government chance to the various warring factions. Silvela was soon replaced in 1903 by Villaverde, which in turn was replaced by Maura in December of that year.

Maura ascension marks an important milestone in the reign. The new President tried to solve social problems through a programme of "revolution from above". It did not find the support of Alfonso XIII and shortly after his appointment he/she was forced to leave power. Azcarraga, Villaverde, Montero Ríos, Moret, López Domínguez, Moret and Vega de Armijo Governments followed one another between December 1904 and January 1907. Governments were inoperative and in January 1907 Maura was again called to form a Government. Because of its rare duration he/she met the Cabinet as "long Government".

Between 1907 and 1909 Maura became the arbiter of Spanish politics. It legislated with the room for manoeuvre that allowed its large parliamentary majority and promoted the war of Spain in Morocco. So he/she tried to win the support of France and England, held an interview between Alfonso XIII and the King of England in 1907. The Maura Government was nevertheless destabilized by violent opposition practiced both Liberals and Socialists, anarchists and Republicans. Hostility towards the regime reached its zenith in Barcelona due to the repression of the tragic week and disasters in Africa, where the Spanish army made a sad role. The execution of Ferrer i Guàrdia provoked a harsh condemnation of the European democracies and international pressure made that Alfonso XIII finally dismay to Maura. This Government was the longest of the reign alfonsino. Maura was replaced by Moret and subsequently by Canalejas.

Alfonso XIII with the first directory.

During the first phase of his reign he/she made several travels in Spain and abroad in order to restore the public image of the monarchy. The King visited France (where was the subject of a thwarted attack along with President Loubet, which both came out unharmed, in May 1905) and England, where he/she met the Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg, niece of Eduardo VII. After his conversion to Catholicism, Alfonso XIII married her, on May 31, 1906, day in which was an attack on the bridal procession at the hands of the anarchist Mateo Morral, who threw them a bomb camouflaged in a bouquet of flowers. The Kings came out unharmed but there were numerous victims among the spectators of the event.

Political practice during the reign of Alfonso XIII.


The second phase of the reign (1909-1912)

Canalejas came into power in February 1910. Its condition of liberal not saved him from suffering a similar situation of social instability that had caused the fall of Maura. Canalejas followed the basic lines of policy maurista: attempt of inner renewal of the parliamentary regime and war in Morocco. Alfonso XIII traveled to that country to lay the groundwork for the protectorate established in 1912.

The murder of Canalejas was the breakdown of the traditional two-party system. On the conservative side, Maura had been abandoned by his party to declare a ruthless war liberals. Conservatives were divided into mauristas, ciervistas and datistas; the Liberals, in romanonistas, prietistas and albistas. Romanones governed from November 1912 to October 1913, following a Government chaired by Dato, new leader of the Conservatives, between October 1913 and December 1914.

Data declared Spanish neutrality in World War I, which had been supported by Alfonso XIII when the French President Poincaré visited Spain in 1913. World War I produced however a crisis at the heart of the Royal family. The Queen Mother, as Austrian, sympathized with the Central Empires, while Queen Victoria Eugenia opted by the allies. The King, in this context, surrendered to the "humanitarian" work taking care personally of the prisoners of war. In May 1913, in Paris, the King ratified the final agreement on the protectorate of Morocco.

In the interior of the Kingdom the situation did not improve. Data was replaced by Romanones, who remained in power until 1917. García Prietosucceeded him, but had to resign to meet with opposition from the boards of military defence, which led to a new Government of the Conservatives led by Dato. July 1917 revolutionary strike was suppressed by the intervention of the army, which increased the social tension. In November of that year data was finally replaced by García Prieto, who presided over a coalition of Liberals and conservatives. The situation of the Government was so precarious that Alfonso XIII had to threaten the abdication Maura consented to be responsible for the formation of a Government of national unity in 1918. After this cabinet other eleven of fleeting duration occurred. While the Government crisis is aggravated, the internal situation was rapidly deteriorating and was produced in Morocco the disaster of Annual, in which the ill-fated intervention of Alfonso XIII had good share of responsibility.

The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the proclamation of the second Republic.

The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera to the Republic

The sympathies that Alfonso XIII felt towards authoritarianism manifested again, within this context of general crisis, in the speeches of Cordoba and Las Planas in 1921 and 1922. The King included the failure of the fictitious survival of the regime of alternation, but the solution given to the political crisis was unfortunate: supported the State of the general Primo de Rivera coup in September 1923.

The dictatorship opened a new era in the reign alfonsino. Political parties disapproved the suspension of the Constitution, while Primo de Rivera received the unconditional support of the monarch, who saw the possibility of a major executive capacity to enjoy open. Primo de Rivera put an end to the war in Morocco after the disembarkation of Alhucemas (1925), one of the great feats of the bloodiest contemporary Spanish militarism. Inside, the general put all its efforts in the advancement of administrative centralism, in order through military repression and the exit from the economic crisis. On the other hand, the international situation was very favourable to the establishment of military authoritarianism. In November 1923 Primo de Rivera and Alfonso XIII showed the depth of their ideas of national regeneration on his official visit to Mussolini, with whom he/she maintained excellent relations. The Government pushed through a populist policy enthusiastically supported by the King. On the 25th anniversary of his reign, King founded the University City of Madrid (1927). As exponent of economic development, it wanted to show Spanish prosperity in the universal exhibition in Seville and Barcelona of 1929.

While in the first part of the cousin dictatorship he/she obtained a certain popular support, gradually the public turned on him, azuzada for the critical work of intellectuals such as Unamuno or Blasco Ibáñez. The repression of the opposition through jailings of prestigious public men, the sanjuanada, and student conflicts were discrediting the dictatorship, which fired its last round by presenting a draft Constitution.

Alfonso XIII finally withdrew its support to Primo de Rivera, who presented his resignation to the King on January 28, 1930. Government then formed the general Dámaso Berenguer(January, 1930 - February 1931). But the closing of the dictatorial period arrived too late. Public opinion, supported by newspapers, accused the King of complicity with the dictatorship. The monarchy as an institution had been committed. The almost uninterrupted strikes precluded governance to Berenguer, who lost any capacity for mediation after the harsh repression of the Republican movement of Jaca. He/She was replaced by Admiral Aznar between February and April of 1931.

On April 12, 1931 municipal elections took place, and the judgment of the polls in major cities sentenced to Alfonso XIII. On the morning of April 14, 1931, when Republican flags had risen in almost all Spain and has had proclaimed the Catalan Republic in Barcelona, Romanoneswrote a note to the King recommending to immediately abandon Spain. Romanones negotiated the departure of the King with Alcalá Zamora and this fled to the steering wheel of his Hispano-Suiza to Cartagena, where embarked bound for France. Alfonso XIII left Madrid in his racing car, and embarked in Cartagena to Marseille. Thus suspended the exercise of Royal power, unless the King should abdicate formally.

In Paris Alfonso XIII met with his family and from there launched a manifesto that criticised the motives of their expatriation. It was prosecuted by courts and sentenced to deportation, life imprisonment and loss of all their possessions. After spending a season in Fontainebleau, he/she went to live in Rome. He/She wrote his testament in Lausanne in 1939, where he/she declared heir to the throne to his son don Juan, future count of Barcelona. In January 1941 he/she abdicated in favour of this, and died on 28 February of that year. His remains remained in Rome until, in January 1980, they were transferred to Spain and solemnly buried in the Royal pantheon of the monastery of El Escorial.

Alfonso XIII, original voice.

[H.M. the King abdicates in favour of his son don Juan, Prince of Asturias and future count of Barcelona (1941).] With this act he/she legitimizes the continuity of the Spanish monarchy, in the historical context of the dictatorship of general Franco, at the time leading to effect their will expressed in the Testament written in Lausanne in 1939, where he/she declared heir to the throne to his son].


Alfonso de Borbón y Battenberg (1907-1938). Jaime de Borbón y Battenberg (1908-1975). Beatrice of Bourbon and Battenberg (1909-2002). Maria Cristina de Borbón y Battenberg (1911-1996). Juan de Bobrbon and Battenberg, count of Barcelona (1913-1993). Gonzalo de Borbón y Battenberg (1914-1934).


ABAD DE SANTILLÁN, Diego. Alfonso XIII, the second Republic and Francisco Franco. Madrid-Gijon, 1979.

CARR, Raymond. Spain, 1808-1975. Barcelona, 1992.

FERNÁNDEZ ALMAGRO, M. and MAURA, G. Why was Alfonso XIII. Madrid, 1948.