Abdication, Emperor of the French, King Charles III of Spain, King Charles IV of Spain, King Louis XV of France and Navarre, King Louis XVI of France and Navarre, Napoleon Bonaparte, Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy, Princess Maria Louisa of Bourbon-Parma, Queen of Spain
Carlos IV (November 11, 1748 – January 20, 1819) was King of Spain and ruler of the Spanish Empire from 1788 to 1808.
Infante Carlos was the second son of King Carlos III of Spain and his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony. She was born a Princess of Poland and Saxony, daughter of King Augustus III of Poland (Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony) and Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria, the eldest child of Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor and Princess Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
Infante Carlos was born in Naples (November 11, 1748), while his father was King Carlo VII of Naples and King Carlo V of Sicily. His elder brother, Infante 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.
Carlos married his first cousin Princess Maria Louisa of Bourbon-Parma, She was the youngest daughter of Filippo, Duke of Parma, the fourth son of King Felipe V of Spain, and Princess Louise Élisabeth of France, the eldest daughter of King Louis XV of France and Navarre and Marie Leszczyńska of Poland.
Born in Parma, she was christened Luisa María Teresa Ana after her maternal grandparents and her mother’s favourite sister Anne Henriette of France, but is known to history by the short Spanish form of this name: María Luisa, while Luisa was the name she used in private.
María Luisa’s mother tried to engage her with Louis, Duke of Burgundy, heir to the French throne. However, the young duke died in 1761. In 1762, Maria Luisa instead became engaged to her cousin Carlos, Prince of Asturias. When her elder sister Isabella died in 1763, there were suggestions that Maria Luisa marry her sister’s widower, Emperor Joseph II, but the proposal was refused and her engagement to Carlos, Prince of Asturias was confirmed.
María Luisa was notoriously reputed to have had many love affairs. The most infamous of them was with the Prime Minister Manuel de Godoy, whom contemporary gossip singled out in particular as a long-time lover; in 1784 a member of the guard, he was promoted through several ranks when Carlos and Maria Luisa succeeded to the throne, and was appointed prime minister in 1792. Godoy was also rumored to be the natural father of several of her children.
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 never took more than a passive part in his own government.
The affairs of the government were left to his wife, Maria Luisa, and the first minister, Manuel de Godoy who was appointed by King Carlos IV himself. King Carlos IV occupied himself with hunting in the period that saw the outbreak of the French Revolution, the executions of his Bourbon relative King 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.
Spain’s economic problems were of long standing, but deteriorated further when Spain was ensnared in wars that its ally France pursued. Financial needs drove his domestic and foreign policy. Godoy’s economic policies increased discontent with King Carlos IV’s regime.
The Economic troubles, the rumors about a sexual relationship between the Queen and Godoy, and the King’s ineptitude, caused the monarchy to decline in prestige among the population. Anxious to take over from his father, and jealous of the prime minister, Infante Fernando, Prince Asturias attempted to overthrow the King in an aborted coup in 1807. He was successful in 1808, forcing his father’s abdication following the Tumult of Aranjuez.
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. Infante Fernando took the throne as King 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.
The ousted King, having appealed to Napoleon for help in regaining his throne, was summoned before Napoleon in Bayonne, along with his son, in April 1808. Napoleon forced both Carlos IV and his son Fernando VII to abdicate, declared the Bourbon dynasty of Spain deposed, and installed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as King José I of Spain, which began the Peninsular War.
Following Napoleon’s deposing of the Bourbon dynasty, the ex-King, his wife, 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, King Fernando VII was restored to the throne. The former King 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, who died on January 20 of the same year.