We use cookies to improve the user experience of our website. Cookie Get More Information

Home » Culture » Spain » History » The Bourbons

The Bourbons

The Bourbons

The Bourbons in Spain. Philip V was the first Bourbon king to rule Spain, and his reign marked the beginning of a new era in Spanish history.

Philip V was the first Bourbon king to rule Spain, and his reign marked the beginning of a new era in Spanish history. Ties with France were of course strengthened, and the court acquired a distinctly European air, characterised by the ideas of the Enlightenment. French influence, however, would only last about a hundred years, for in 1789 Spain closed the border, fearing that the ideals of the French Revolution could spread and seal the fate of her own Bourbon monarchy. Ten years later Napoleon would overthrow the last republican government (the Directory) in France in order to establish his own rule, under which the map of Europe would again be significantly transformed.

In 1808 Napoleon invaded Spain, forcing both King Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII to abdicate in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte. Refusal to accept Bonaparte by the Spanish resistance led to the War of Independence (known in English as the Peninsular War because of Portugal's participation). As war was being waged, a national assembly was held in Cadiz to proclaim a constitution (1812) that would mark the end of absolute rule and the establishment of a parliamentary government for the very first time in Spanish history.

When the war came to an end and Napoleon was finally defeated in 1814, Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne, yet his first decision was to abolish the liberal constitution. As a result of his reactionary proposals, Spain would be immersed once again in a highly conflicting period rife with civil wars.

Ferdinand had set aside the Salic law that excluded females from dynastic succession, in favour of his daughter Isabella. Upon Ferdinand's death, his wife María Cristina became Queen regent on behalf of Isabella, who would be crowned Queen of Spain in 1833. Isabella II was welcomed by the liberals (known as cristinos or isabelinos), while Ferdinand's brother Don Carlos received the support of the conservatives (thus known as carlistas). The ensuing Carlist Wars, which involved other European forces such as British, French and Portuguese troops, would span almost fifty years, extending beyond Isabella's deposition in 1868.

Isabella's son Alfonso XII was proclaimed king in 1874 and two years later the wars would be declared officially over, despite brief periods of renewed insurgency in the early 20th century. After an interval of forty-three years, in 1975 the Bourbon monarchy was restored in Spain in the figure of King Juan Carlos I and his heir, Prince Philip who followed on the throne after his father's abdication in the year 2014.