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 was the eldest surviving son of Carlos IV of Spain and Maria Luisa of Parma. In his youth Fernando occupied the position of an heir apparent who was excluded from all share in government by his parents and their favourite advisor and Prime Minister, Manuel Godoy.
Following a popular riot at Aranjuez Carlos IV abdicated in March 1808. Fernando ascended the throne as Fernando VII and turned to Napoleon for support. He abdicated on May 6, 1808 under pressure by Napoleon who wanted to install his brother, Joseph, as King of Spain. Thereafter Napoleon kept Fernando under guard in France for six years at the Château de Valençay.
While the upper echelons of the Spanish government accepted his abdication and Napoleon’s choice of his brother Joseph Bonaparte as king of Spain, the Spanish people did not. Uprisings broke out throughout the country, marking the beginning of the Peninsular War.
After the Battle of Bailén proved that the Spanish could resist the French, the Council of Castile reversed itself and declared null and void the abdications of Bayonne on August 11, 1808. On August 24, Fernando VII was proclaimed King of Spain again.
Despite being reinstated as King Fernando remained in French custody. During Fernando VII’s exile in France a new Constitution was rattified.
The Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy.
The Constitution was ratified on March 19, 1812 by the Cortes of Cádiz, the first Spanish legislature that included delegates from the entire nation, including Spanish America and the Philippines. “It defined Spanish and Spanish American liberalism for the early 19th century.”
With the notable exception of proclaiming Roman Catholicism as the official and sole legal religion in Spain, the constitution was one of the most liberal of its time.
The Constitution affirmed national sovereignty, separation of powers, freedom of the press, free enterprise, abolished corporate privileges (fueros), and established a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system.
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.
Fernando VII 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.
During the process of his return to SpaIn Fernando VII was encouraged by conservatives and the Church hierarchy to reject the Constitution. On May 4, he ordered its abolition and on May 10, had the liberal leaders responsible for the Constitution arrested.
Fernando VII 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.
Fernando VII ruled as an absolute monarch for the rest of his reign, although initially promised to convene a traditional Cortes, but never did so, thereby reasserting the Bourbon doctrine that sovereign authority resided in his person only.