Absolutism, Battle of Trocadero, Cortes, King Fernando VII of Spain, King Louis XVIII of France, Liberal Constitution 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte
Fernando VII (October 14, 1784 – September 29, 1833) was the King of Spain during the early- to mid-19th century. He reigned over the Spanish Kingdom in 1808 and again from 1813 to his death in 1833. He was known to his supporters as el Deseado (the Desired) and to his detractors as el Rey Felón (the Felon King).
Fernando VII was born in Madrid at El Escorial, the eldest surviving son of King Carlos IV of Spain and Maria Luisa of Parma, the youngest daughter of Filippo, Duke of Parma and Louise Élisabeth of France.
Louise Élisabeth of France the eldest daughter of King Louis XV of France and Maria Leszczyńska and the elder twin of Anne Henriette de France.
Filippo, Duke of Parma was the second son of King Felipe V of Spain and his wife, Elisabeth Farnese.
Fernando VII spent his youth as heir apparent to the Spanish throne. Carlos IV detested his son and heir Fernando, who led the unsuccessful El Escorial Conspiracy and later forced his father, Carlos IV to abdicate after the Tumult of Aranjuez on March 19, 1808.
Fernando VII’s first reign lasted from March 19, 1808 until May 6 of the same year when Napoleon Bonaparte, forced Fernando VII to abdicate, paving the way for Napoleon to place his older brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne of Spain.
Five years later after experiencing serious setbacks on many fronts, Napoleon agreed to acknowledge Fernando VII as king of Spain on December 11, 1813 and signed the Treaty of Valençay, so that the king could return to Spain.
On March 24, 1814 the French handed Fernando over to the Spanish Army in Girona, and thus began his procession towards Madrid. During this process and in the following months, he was encouraged by conservatives and the Church hierarchy to reject the Constitution.
Fernando soon found that in the intervening years a new world had been born of foreign invasion and domestic revolution. Spain was no longer the absolute monarchy he had relinquished six years earlier. Instead he was now asked to rule under the liberal Constitution of 1812. Before being allowed to enter Spanish soil, Ferdinand had to guarantee the liberals that he would govern on the basis of the Constitution, but only gave lukewarm indications he would do so.
On May 4, he ordered the Constitution abolished and on May 10 had the liberal leaders responsible for the Constitution arrested. Fernando justified his actions by claiming that the Constitution had been made by a Cortes illegally assembled in his absence, without his consent and without the traditional form. (It had met as a unicameral body, instead of in three chambers representing the three estates: the clergy, the nobility and the cities.)
Fernando initially promised to convene a traditional Cortes, but never did so, thereby reasserting the Bourbon doctrine that sovereign authority resided in his person only.
A revolt in 1820 led by Rafael del Riego in which the King was quickly taken prisoner. .
In the spring of 1823, the restored Bourbon French King Louis XVIII of France invaded Spain, “invoking the God of St. Louis, for the sake of preserving the throne of Spain to a fellow descendant of Henri IV of France, and of reconciling that fine kingdom with Europe.” In May of 1823, the revolutionary party moved Fernando to Cádiz, where he continued to make promises of constitutional amendment until he was free.
Fernando VII was eventually freed after the Battle of Trocadero. The liberated Fernando turned on the liberals and constitutionalists with fury. The last ten years of reign (sometimes referred to as the Ominous Decade) saw the restoration of absolutism, the re-establishment of traditional university programs and the suppression of any opposition.
Under his rule, Spain lost nearly all of its American possessions, and the country entered into a large-scale civil war upon his death. His political legacy has remained contested since his passing, with some historians regarding him as incompetent, despotic, and short-sighted.
After Ferdinand’s death in 1833, the 1812 Constitution was in force again briefly in 1836 and 1837, while the Constitution of 1837 was being drafted. Since 1812, Spain has had a total of seven constitutions; the current one has been in force since 1978.