Biography of Isabel II. Queen of España (1830-1904)

Queen of Spain, born in Madrid on October 10, 1830, and died in Paris on April 9, 1904, fruit of the late marriage to María Cristina de Borbón, Princess of the two Sicilies and Fernando VII, whose death was designated heir to the throne by the pragmatic sanction of 1830.

Sworn Princess of Asturias on June 20, 1833, Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen of Spain in October of that same year, when he/she was just three years old. Princess Isabel succession caused the outbreak of the first Carlist War, a conflict in which are settled the survival of absolutism - represented by the infante Carlos María Isidro, son of Carlos IV - or the triumph of constitutional monarchy. The Liberals supported the rights of Isabel, since they saw the possibility of a constitutional evolution of the Spanish monarchy in his person. The bloody strife, which lasted six years, ended with the consolidation of Elizabeth on the throne after the Vergara agreement.

Isabel II was a woman of rare intellectual qualities. Letters from the Queen preserved at the Academy of the history of Madrid show their little discernment and its simplicity of spirit. He/She had received a dismal education, largely due to the neglect of her mother, María Cristina, who gave their daughters, Isabel and María Fernanda, a training domestic and idiotizante, which included religion, piano and tasks and stripped of political and humanistic disciplines. On the other hand, Isabel was involved since childhood in petty courtly intrigues, which also influenced his education, since often clashes between conservative and liberal preceptors. These reasons influenced greatly the fact that the Queen will be shown as seasoned since his earliest youth in more coarse forms of conspiracy of salon.

The life of Isabel II can be divided into two periods of almost the same duration: until 1868, date of his ouster by the September Revolution, and the time of the exile until April 9, 1904, the day of his death. Politically, continued instability and successive government crises were the dominant note of the reign. Almost sixty Governments occurred rapidly in power. Different periods according to the political trend that the Government Chair can be distinguished: liberal period (1833-36), Regency of Espartero (1840-43), transition (1843-1844) to the moderate (1844-54), progressive biennium (1854-56), moderate reaction (1856-58), Government of the Liberal Union (1858-64) and the end of eclectic trend four years. The last Government of the reign, presided over by the ultra-conservative González Bravo, represented the authoritarian reaction that triggered the revolution of 1868, and the final crisis of the monarchy.

The Regency period

The Regency of María Cristina

Queen María Cristina held the Regency between 1833 and 1840. At the beginning, María Cristina called the liberal Espartero to preside over the Government, at the head of which was for three years. Gradually, María Cristina dissociated itself from the general political programme and in September 1840 abdicated the Regency, pressured by the political situation. During this period was published the Real status of 1834, was the confiscation of the goods of the clergy through the work of Mendizabal in 1836, was promulgated the progressive Constitution of 1837 and put an end to the Carlist War with the agreement or embrace of Vergara in 1839. María Cristina left Spain after his wedding with Fernando Muñoz, Duke of Riansares, in a kind of half voluntary exile, forced half. The guardianship of Isabel II was entrusted to Agustín Argüelles, while the Regency passed into the hands of Espartero, who while he/she was in power, until 1843, had to face the opposition of moderate and progressive.

This three-year period, which was distinguished by its liberal orientation, concluded with a rising antiespartista. Political instability forced the Government headed by Joaquín María López, with support from Narváez and Prim, to anticipate the coming of age of Isabel II. In November 1843 the courts declared age of the Queen, who soon after took possession of the throne and the Constitution, swearing at the age of thirteen. One of his tutors, his professor of religion, Rodrigo Valdés, said Isabel began his reign "with these lights and no experience".

The reign of Elizabeth II

The moderate Decade (1844-1854)

The first year of the personal reign of Isabel II was marked by political instability. Progressive Olózaga was responsible for the formation of the first Government, which was short-lived. The continuous intrigues of the Bravo González conservatively caused the fall of the Government Olózaga, forcing him to resign and dissolve the Cortes. The own Bravo González dealt with the formation of a new Government. However in may 1844 the Queen handed power over to the moderate Liberals. Thus began the Decade moderate. At this time they formed Government Narvaez, Bravo Murillo, Pacheco, Salamanca, Sartorius...

The moderate doctrinaire enacted the Constitution which would remain in force during most of the Elizabethan reign in 1845. This text reinforced the intervention of the Crown to make her partner, together with the courts of the constituent power. A Senate was established by Royal appointment and departed to the marriage of the Queen control courts, yet conclude. Attempts to finance reform, such as the provisions of Mon, which slowed down the process of the ecclesiastical confiscation were also made.

The Queen was the subject of two attacks during the Decade moderate. The first, in the calle Alcalá in 1847, at the hands of the journalist and lawyer Ángel de la Riva, who was pardoned after a dark process. The second, in February 1852, when the elderly priest Martín Merino Isabel II attacked with a knife, wounding her lightness, for as a result of which was executed by garrote.

During the Decade moderate Isabel prevented Government formed the progressives. The two factions of the moderate party, "Puritans" and "doctrinaire" alternated in power. In 1852, Bravo Murillo, head of the Government, tried to toughen the regime in an authoritarian direction, but not to receive the support of the courts, the Queen withdrew their confidence.

The moderate decade saw the beginning of the revolution of communications in Spain. The first railway, between Barcelona and Mataró line, was opened in 1848 and since 1850 has advanced rapidly in the construction of railways. Two years later it was launched the official telegraph service. These advances were not however accompanied in the modernization of the industrial sector. They were however prepared necessary laws for the development of modern capitalism, such as the law of 1846 bag, the law that regulated societies by shares of 1848 or the Act of Constitution of banks of issue, of the same year.

The marriage of Elizabeth II

In 1846 Isabell II married don Francisco de ASIS de Borbón, Duke of Cádiz and cousin of the Queen. The marriage was concluded during the Government of Isturiz and after long international conversations in which not took into account the personal preferences of the Queen.

Don Francisco de Asís of Bourbon was imposed as a neutral candidate because of pressures from France and England, who feared the ascent to the throne of a foreign consort could tilt the faithful of the scale of the Spanish international relations towards one or the other power. Personally the choice couldn't have been less fortunate. Don Francisco de Asís was gay, which contrasted with the scandalous fans of Elizabeth by the men and their eleven deliveries. Since the beginning of their marriage the spouses professed is mutually insurmountable antipathy that led to continuous separations. On various occasions had to mediate between the real political couple close to the Queen, as Narváez, and ecclesiastical authorities, including Pope Pius IX and the confessor of the Queen, the Archbishop Antonio María Claret.

The Queen was vulgar woman and scandalous temperament. Her bed passed through different Favorites, although the few studies that exist on the life of the Queen not ensure that they were all that was popularly said. Among them were the general Serrano (general bonito, it was called), the singers of opera Mirall and Obregón, Arrietamaster, the Marquis of Bedmar, Miguel Tenorio and Puig stout Commander, among others. The scandalous love life of the Queen and the influence of his "clique", formed by such sinister characters as Sister sponsorship - nun of sores, would work continuously in the Elizabethan monarchy discredited.

It cannot be exempt from responsibility to the King consort in the process of dishonour of the throne. His delight in the most domestic intrigues of the Court, his taste for the meetings parallel to the management of Government, their tendency to clericalizar the political game by supporting to shady characters of the Church... The combined talents of the confessor of the King, father Fulgencio, and sister sponsorship, exerted an influence harmful and difficult to evaluate on the development of events in the Court. Isabel and Francisco of Assisi lived almost continuously separated: the King preferred the segoviano Riofrio Palace to the vicinity of his wife at the Palacio Real in Madrid. The fiction of marital coexistence definitely vanished in exile. In France, don Francisco de Asís settled in Epinay, where he/she lived retired from public life and devoted to your hobby books and collections of works of art until his death in 1902.

The progressive biennium and the restoration of the moderates

Only after a revolutionary process called Isabel II the progressives to form a Government. The military dictatorship imposed by Narváez had raised the hatred of the population. Its bloody repression of liberal movements finally sparked the pronouncement of O'Donnell of 1854. Isabel II was forced to again call Espartero. The law of general confiscation of Madoz was published in 1855 and the following year was drafted a Constitution of progressive cutting that would never come to be enacted.

Progressive measures were aborted for lack of support both from the courts as of the monarchy, which had referred the Government of Espartero as a transient solution of emergency. In 1856, being subject to the dictates of O'Donnell, Espartero abandoned political life and Isabel II handed back power to the moderates. He/She then came to power Narvaez, who was soon replaced by Armero and Isturiz, but the instability of the Government urged Isabel renamed again to O'Donnell in 1858.

During this period the Queen only allowed the alternation in power of the moderates and the Liberal Union (1858-1864), thus excluding the progressives, who were increasingly taking anti-bourbon or Republican positions. O'Donnell was confronted with a difficult situation: war of Africa from 1859-60, the expedition to Cochinchina in 1859, the Carlist uprising of San Carlos de la Rápita (1860), and frustrated Prim Mexico's 1862 expedition. They happened to O'Donnell in the Government for a short time Miraflores and Arrazola and, finally, in 1864 returned to the Presidency Narvaez. One of the most important achievements of this period was the entry into force in 1857 of the law of public instruction, also called "law Moyano", which established public education in Spain and which remained effective until well into the 20th century.

From 1865 the political environment is thinned with the conservative offensive. Dismissals of professors and student demonstrations have occurred. An article of Castelar on private property in Isabel II indirectly motivated the bloody repression of Republican protesters in the notorious "night of San Daniel'. Continuously flashes Republican or antiroyalist uproar occurred. Again it took O'Donnell the reins of Government in 1865. The following year there was the attempt of Prim and shortly after the war of the Pacific and the revolt of the sergeants of San Gil were produced.

The fall of Isabel II: the glorious revolution of September

The revolution of 1868

When O'Donnell retired from political life, he/she was succeeded by Narváez, who died in 1868. These facts, together with the reactionary measures of Government of the new President, Bravo González, precipitated the social reaction. Coaligados unionists with progressive and radical Democrats by a part, and conjuring is Prim and Olózaga in Brussels on the other, there was the fall of the monarchy. The insurrection began in the squad of Cádiz in September 1868. The rebellion was prim and the troops of general Serrano, who stood at the head of the rebels.

In this context, Isabel II handed power over to José de la Concha, who determined to send against the insurgents to the Marquis of Novaliches. Defeated this by Serrano in Alcolea, the Queen fled to France on September 13, and the 26th of the same month was proclaimed the I Spanish Republic.

The Queen had been excluded from the political arena long before the events of September: for some time that their prestige and their stupidity had unauthorized it in the eyes of their politicians. Nor Isabel made attempts to understand the situation and achieve a compromise with the social forces. It was not even dethroned; He/She renounced the throne while he/she spent holidays in Lekeitio, endorsing as well with their indolence the triumph of the lifting of Serrano.

From September 1868, when he/she was thirty-eight years, until his death at the seventy-three at his residence in the Palace of Castile - or Palace of Basilewsky - in Paris, Isabell II lived in exile, except for his brief stays in Spain during the reign of his son Alfonso XII, who had abdicated his rights to the throne in 1870. The stage of his exile is essential to understanding the reign and the life of Isabel II. Their behavior in the exile and political decisions were a continuation of the cliques, intrigues and personality of his reign.

Since his arrival at Pau on September 30, 1868, where he/she stayed in the Palace of Enrique, until his arrival in Paris, where he/she enjoyed the miserly hospitality of Napoleón III, Isabel did not let you prepare his return to the throne. It attended to all the projects that are offered and even financed some despite its limited economic resources. These plans were the most often of glorified military, courtiers without credibility or political failures of the moderate party. At least two of these projects, the de Montpensier and the Carlist - which entailed a Pact within the Bourbon dynasty-, counted with the direct participation of the Queen.

However, it was to the restoration project, which was who had more chance of success - to which the Queen showed more reluctance. It was led by Antonio Cánovas and had its strength in Prince Alfonso. It was not easy for Isabel renounced the throne in favor of his son. Cánovas refused to allow the Prince to remain under the influence of his mother and prevented that Isabel returned to Spain in the early years of the Bourbon Restoration. After the death of Alfonso XII, the Queen Mother once again claimed his right to the Regency, which was denied in favour of her daughter-in-law, the Queen María Cristina.

Balance of the reign of Elizabeth II

The political conspiracy, the favoritism of the Queen, the continuous anti-clerical riots and workers, the cuarteladas and military pronouncements, his scandalous life... All this became the reign of Isabel II in a grotesque period in what refers to the monarchy.

The army exerted a great political influence during the Elizabethan reign. The liberalism of the army had helped Isabel to remain on the throne, already the beginning the Queen only was recognized by the democracies of France and England, while the European absolute monarchies supported the pretender Carlos María Isidro. It was determined that during all his reign Isabel tried to seek the support of the military, which often took in his hands the resolution of the political situation.

There were, however, progress in the modernization of Spain. Progressed administrative centralism, with a greater articulation of governmental structures. Educational reform concluded with the 1857 Act Madoz made possible timid advances in public education with the creation in 1847 of the institutes of secondary education and schools in 1855. Improved infrastructure with the construction of the network of railways and other measures, such as the creation of systems of water to cities through large canals (tauste, of Castile, Imperial, Isabel II...). The import of English since the mid century machinery allowed certain progress in the modernization of the textile industry, which continued to be the most powerful. In regards to the Hacienda, which had been depleted by the war of independence and the Carlist, measures of Mendizábal, Mon or Bravo Murillo did not serve to bring it to float, and the Spanish monarchy suffered a continued shortfall in resources.

On the other hand, the reign of Isabel II was an opening from Spain to the new intellectual air blowing in Europe, after the ominous reign of Fernando VII. The Socialist and anarchist ideas penetrated in Spain and reached a strong roots, especially the first.

Isabell II on numerous topics have been poured. From the contemporary satirical tales to contemporary historiography and the novel, the figure of Isabell II has never left his own cartoon. Aparisi / Pebble called it in a celebrated speech "of the sad destinies", giving the Queen a dramatic dimension that never had. Certainly, his responsibility for the scarce political and economic progress experienced by Spain during his Government was poor or null, but his political performance and life offer a rich vein for the study of the courtly degradation.


CARR, Raymond. Spain, 1808-1975. (Barcelona: 1969).

ESPADAS BURGOS, Manuel. Isabel II of Spain. (Madrid:1985).

OLIVIER BERTRAND, R. Thus fell Isabel II. (Madrid: 1986).