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From the Emperor’s Desk: Due to technological difficulties I was unable to post this yesterday.

Carlos IV (November 11, 1748 – January 20, 1819) was King of Spain and the Spanish Empire from 14 December 14, 1788, until his abdication on March 19, 1808.

The Spain inherited by Carlos IV gave few indications of instability, but during his reign, Spain entered a series of disadvantageous alliances and his regime constantly sought cash to deal with the exigencies of war. He detested his son and heir Fernando, who led the unsuccessful El Escorial Conspiracy and later forced Carlos’s abdication after the Tumult of Aranjuez in March 1808, along with the ouster of his widely hated first minister Manuel de Godoy.


Summoned to Bayonne by Napoleon Bonaparte, who forced Fernando VII to abdicate, Carlos IV also abdicated, paving the way for Napoleon to place his older brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne of Spain. The reign of Carlos IV turned out to be a major turning point in Spanish history.

Early life

Carlos was the second son of Carlos III and his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony. He was born in Naples (November 11, 1748), while his father was King of Naples and Sicily. His elder brother, Don Felipe, was passed over for both thrones, due to his learning disabilities and epilepsy.

In Naples and Sicily, Carlos was referred to as the Prince of Taranto. He was called El Cazador (meaning “the Hunter”), due to his preference for sport and hunting, rather than dealing with affairs of the state. Carlos was considered by many to have been amiable, but simple-minded. In 1788, Carlos III died and Carlos IV succeeded to the throne, and ruled for the next two decades.

Even though he had a profound belief in the sanctity of the monarchy, and kept up the appearance of an absolute, powerful king Carlos IV never took more than a passive part in his own government. The affairs of government were left to his wife, Maria Luisa, and the man he appointed first minister, Manuel de Godoy.

Carlos occupied himself with hunting in the period that saw the outbreak of the French Revolution, the executions of his Bourbon relative Louis XVI of France and his queen, Marie Antoinette, and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Ideas of the Age of Enlightenment had come to Spain with the accession of the first Spanish Bourbon, Felipe V.

Carlos IV’s father Carlos III had pursued an active policy of reform that sought to reinvigorate Spain politically and economically and make the Spanish Empire more closely an appendage of the metropole. Carlos III was an active, working monarch with experienced first ministers to help reach decisions. Carlos IV by contrast was a do-nothing king, with a domineering wife and an inexperienced but ambitious first minister, Godoy.

Well-meaning and pious, Carlos IV floundered in a series of international crises beyond his capacity to handle. He was painted by Francisco Goya in a number of official court portraits, which numerous art critics have seen as satires on the King’s stout vacuity.

Riots, and a popular revolt at the winter palace Aranjuez, in 1808 forced the king to abdicate on March 19, in favor of his son. Fernando took the throne as Fernando VII, but was mistrusted by Napoleon, who had 100,000 soldiers stationed in Spain by that time due to the ongoing War of the Third Coalition.

Marriage and children

Carlos IV married his first cousin Infanta Maria Louisa of Parma, the daughter of Philip, Duke of Parma, in 1765. The couple had fourteen children, six of whom survived into adulthood:


Infanta Maria Luisa of Parma (1751 – 1819) was Queen consort of Spain from 1788 to 1808 leading up to the Peninsular War. She was the youngest daughter of Philip, Duke of Parma, the fourth son of Felipe V of Spain and Louise Élisabeth of France, the eldest daughter of King Louis XV. In 1765 she married Carlos, Prince of Asturias who ascended the throne in 1788 and thus became queen.

Maria Luisa’s father, Philip (1720 – 1765) was Infante of Spain by birth, and Duke of Parma from 1748 to 1765. Born at the Royal Alcazar in Madrid as Felipe de Borbón y Farnesio, he was the third child and second son of Felipe V of Spain and his wife, Elisabeth Farnese. He founded the House of Bourbon-Parma, a cadet line of the Spanish branch of the Bourbon dynasty. He was a son-in-law of Louis XV.

Maria Luisa’s relationship with Manuel Godoy and influence over the King made her unpopular among the people and aristocrats. In total, Maria Luisa had twenty-four pregnancies of which fourteen children were born and ten miscarried.

She was rivals with the Duchess of Alba and the Duchess of Osuna attracting popular attention. The death of her daughter-in-law Princess Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily, whom she disliked, was said to be the poisoning by the queen. When Carlos IV abdicated in 1808 he was accompanied by Maria Luisa.

Following Napoleon’s deposing of the Bourbon dynasty, the ex-King Carlos IV, his wife, Maria Luisa and former Prime Minister Godoy were held captive in France first at the château de Compiègne and three years in Marseille (where a neighborhood was named after him).

After the collapse of the regime installed by Napoleon, Fernando VII was restored to the Spanish throne. The former Carlos IV drifted about Europe until 1812, when he finally settled in Rome, in the Palazzo Barberini. His wife died on January 2, 1819, followed shortly by Carlos IV who died on January 20, of the same year.