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The Romance of Spanish History by  John S.C. Abbott
Table of Contents


 

 

THE EXILE AND RETURN OF THE SPANISH COURT

(From 1808 A.D. to 1814 A.D.)

Life at Valencay.—Letter from the Emperor to Talleyrand.—Proclamation to the Spanish People.—Interview between the Emperor and Joseph Bonaparte.—Restoration of Ferdinand.—Debasement of the Spanish People.—Despotic Measures of Ferdinand.—Birth of Isabella and Louisa.—Death of Ferdinand.—Civil War.—Reign of Isabella II.

[402] ON the 10th of May, 1808, Ferdinand, the Prince of the Asturias, and his two younger brothers, Carlos and Francisco, with their court, consisting of ten or twelve gentlemen and ladies, and about twenty-five servants, left Bayonne for the splendid retreat of Valenšay. To Talleyrand, Prince of Benevento, was assigned the task of receiving Ferdinand and his associates at the chateau, and of seeing that the provisions of the treaty, in the gratification of all their wishes, were faithfully observed. In a letter which Napoleon wrote to Talleyrand on the 19th of May, be said:

"I desire that the princes be received without external pomp, but heartily and with sympathy, and that you do every thing in your power to amuse them. If you have a theatre at Valenšay, and can engage some comedians to come, it will not be a bad plan. You had better bring Madame de Talleyrand thither, and some four or five other ladies. If the Prince of the Asturias should fall in love with some pretty woman it would not be amiss, especially if we were sure of her. It is a matter of great importance [403] to me that the Prince of the Asturias should not take any false step. I desire, therefore, that he be amused and occupied. Stern policy would demand that I should shut him up in Bilche or some other fortress; but as he has thrown himself into my arms, and has promised to do nothing without my orders, and that every thing shall go on in Spain as I desire, I have adopted the plan of sending him to a country-seat, surrounding him with pleasure and surveillance. This will probably last through the month of May and a part of June, when the affairs of Spain may have taken a turn, and I shall then know what part to act."

At the same time that the young princes left for Valenšay, Charles, Louisa, and Godoy, with a congenial train of followers, retired to Compeigne. The impotent old king spent the remnant of his days chasing rabbits and foxes. For a time he sought the more congenial climate of Rome for his residence. In December, 1818, Queen Louisa died. A few weeks after this Charles followed her to the judgment-seat of God. He died in the year 1819, while on a visit to his brother the King of the Two Sicilies.

In the castle of Valenšay, the three princes, Ferdinand, Carlos, and Francisco, revelled in every indulgence which wealth could confer. They were virtually prisoners, though bound by no chains which could be either seen or felt. Their obsequious attendants were also vigilant guards. As Napoleon could have no confidence in their plighted word, and as they could plausibly excuse themselves for breaking their treaty obligations on the ground that they had entered into those engagements under the influence of moral compulsion, any movement towards a return to Spain was carefully watched.

Still it does not appear that they had any disposition to [404] escape, or that they had any consciousness that they were not entirely free. They were more than contented with their inglorious but voluptuous lot. Their admiration of Napoleon, real or feigned, was such that they wrote him letters of congratulation upon his successive victories, and celebrated them by illuminations and bonfires at the expense of the forests of Valenšay. Thus they continued entirely absorbed in the pursuit of pleasure for five years.

Immediately after the crown of Spain had, by these measures, passed into the hands of Napoleon, he wrote to his brother Joseph, then King of Naples, under date of May 11th, 1808:

"MY BROTHER,—

You will find annexed the letter of King Charles to the Prince of the Asturias, and a copy of my treaty with the king. King Charles starts in two days for Compeigne. The Prince of the Asturias is going towards Paris. King Charles, by his treaty with me, surrenders to me all his rights to the crown of Spain. The prince had already renounced his pretended title of king, the abdication of King Charles in his favor having been involuntary. The nation, through the supreme council of Castile, asks me for a king. I destine this crown for you. Spain is a very different thing from Naples. It contains eleven millions of inhabitants, and has more than one hundred and fifty millions of revenue, without counting the Indies and the immense revenue to be derived from them. It is, besides, a throne which places you at Madrid, at three days' journey from France, which borders the whole of one of its frontiers. At Madrid you are in France. Naples is the end of the world. I wish you, therefore, immediately upon the receipt of this letter, to appoint whom you please [405] regent, and to come to Bayonne by the way of Turin, Mont Cenis, and Lyons."

Four days after writing the above letter the Emperor, on the 25th of May, addressed the following proclamation to the Spanish people:

"Spaniards! After a long agony, your nation was on the point of perishing. I saw your miseries, and hastened to apply a remedy. Your grandeur, your power, form an integral part of my own. Your princes have ceded to me their rights to the crown of Spain. I have no wish to reign over your provinces, but I am desirous of acquiring eternal titles to the love and gratitude of your posterity. Your monarchy is old. My mission is to pour into its veins the blood of youth. I will ameliorate all your institutions, and make you enjoy, if you second my efforts, the blessings of reform, without its collisions, its disorders, its convulsions.

"I have convoked a general assembly of deputations of your provinces and cities. I am desirous of ascertaining your wants by personal intercourse. I will then lay aside all the titles I have acquired, and place your glorious crown on the head of my second self, after having secured for you a constitution which may establish the sacred and salutary authority of the sovereign, with the liberties and privileges of the people. Spaniards! reflect on what your fathers were; on what you now are. The fault does not lie in you, but in the constitution by which you have been governed. Conceive the most ardent hopes and confidence in the results of your present situation, for I wish that your latest posterity should preserve the recollection of me, and say, 'He was the regenerator of our country.

[406] Joseph Bonaparte reached Bayonne on the 7th of June. It was with intense regret that he had received the summons of the Emperor, for he was exceedingly reluctant to exchange the crown of Naples for that of Spain. The Emperor rode out to meet his brother, having the previous day proclaimed him King of Spain and of the Indies. He exerted his utmost powers of persuasion to induce his brother to accept the heavy burden of the Spanish crown. He represented to Joseph that the deadly quarrel in the royal family had precipitated a crisis which he would have gladly postponed; that Charles IV. preferred to resign the throne and retire to France rather than to reign without Godoy; and that both Charles and Louisa had much rather see a stranger on the throne than their hated son, Ferdinand; that Charles IV. and Godoy were so unpopular that neither Ferdinand nor any other Spaniard wished them restored to the throne, and that it would be impossible to maintain them upon it; that Ferdinand was so imbecile and unreliable in character that he could not think of trying to force upon the Spanish people so unworthy a sovereign; that it would be derogatory to his own honor to attempt to maintain the claims of a son who had by violence dethroned his father, attempting his life; that no re-generation of Spain was possible under such a rule; that a large assembly of the most influential men, convened in a National Congress at Bayonne, were of this opinion; that this Congress was unanimous in the wish that Joseph should accept the crown, and that such, doubtless, would be the wish of the Spanish nation. He urged, moreover, that the Spanish princes had all ceded their rights to the crown to him, and had withdrawn to the palaces assigned to them in France, and that it was exceedingly important, [407] both for the interests of France and Spain, that Joseph should immediately accept the Spanish crown.

The Emperor and Joseph rode along on horseback side by side, thus conversing, until they reached the chateau of Marac, the residence of Napoleon and Josephine. Here the Spanish Junta, or Congress, was assembled, and the body received Joseph as the sovereign of Spain. The Duke del Infantado and Don Pedro Cevallos, Spaniards of the highest distinction, who had been regarded as the warmest partisans of Ferdinand, had a long interview with Joseph. They made him a full offer of their services, .assuring him that if he were destined to confer upon Spain the same blessings which he had conferred upon Naples, the whole nation would with enthusiasm rally around him. All the members of the Junta, nearly one hundred in number, in succession called upon Joseph and addressed him in the same language.

"In fact, the courtiers of the father and of the son were united upon one point, the absolute impossibility of their living together under either of them. Joseph alone, by sacrificing the throne of Naples to ascend that of Spain, appeared to unite all parties, and promised, as they fondly hoped, to restore, and even to surpass the reign of Charles III. The assurance given by all the members of this Junta, without a single exception, to Joseph, that his acceptance of the crown would quiet the troubles, insure the independence of the monarchy, the integrity of its territory, its liberty and happiness, finally induced him to accept the throne, and he prepared himself to set out for Spain. But he would not leave the throne of Naples without obtaining a pledge that the free institutions he had introduced there should be preserved, and that the Nea- [408] politans should enjoy the benefits of a constitution which was, in a great measure, a summary of his own most important laws. A constitution, founded nearly on the same principles, was adopted by the Junta of Bayonne for Spain, and also guaranteed by the Emperor. Joseph and the members of the Junta swore fidelity to it. Had events permitted them to maintain their oaths, it would have contributed much to the regeneration of that people. The recognition of national sovereignty represented in the Cortes, the independence of their powers, the demarcation of the patrimony of the crown and the public treasure would have extricated Spain from the abyss into which she had been sinking for centuries. The accession of Joseph to the throne of Spain was notified by the Secretary of State, Don Pedro Cevallos, to the foreign powers, by all of whom, with the exception of England, he was formally recognized."

We have not space here to enter into a detail of the Peninsular War which ensued. England, regarding Spain as the most favorable point upon which to attack Napoleon, and resolved, at whatever expense of treasure and of blood, to force back upon both France and Spain the crushing tyranny of the old regime of the Bourbons, encompassed the coasts of Spain with her fleets, inundated the .peninsula with her armies, and lavished her gold in profusion, to rouse priests and peasants against the liberal government of Joseph. Her attempts were too successful. All Spain was soon involved in a desolating civil war. The ignorant populace, roused to frenzy by the priests, fought in advocacy of civil and religious despotism. The armies of France, which Napoleon had led to Russia, were [409] buried beneath the snows of the North. All the dynasties of Northern Europe rose against the republican empire. It was necessary for Napoleon to withdraw his best troops from Spain to meet the hosts pouring down upon France from the allied courts of despotism. The feeble remnants left behind in Spain struggled heroically against the vastly outnumbering armies of England, under the Duke of Wellington, aided by the aroused and infuriated peasantry of the peninsula. After many bloody battles, Joseph was driven across the Pyrenees into France.

In December, 1814, Napoleon entered into a treaty with Ferdinand, called the treaty, of Valenšay, by which the Spanish crown was restored to Ferdinand. The terms of this treaty prove the friendly relations which still existed between Ferdinand and the Emperor. The Spanish prince agreed immediately to expel the British troops from the kingdom, to respect the dominions of France and the rights of its flag, and that Port Mahon and Ceuta should never be ceded to Great Britain. He also agreed that Joseph Bonaparte should receive an annuity of one million five hundred thousand dollars, and the queen-dowager one million in case of her survivance.

The British Cabinet was exceedingly chagrined by the terms of this treaty. Alison gives vent to his feelings in saying: "Thus had Napoleon and Talleyrand the address, at the conclusion of a long and bloody war, in which their arms had been utterly and irretrievably overthrown, to procure from the monarch, whom they had retained so long in captivity, terms as favorable as they could possibly have expected from a long series of victories. And thus did the sovereign who had regained his liberty and his crown by the profuse shedding of English blood, make the first [410] use of his promised freedom to banish from his dominion the Allies whose swords had liberated him from prison and placed him on the throne."

Indeed the Spaniards were far more ready to fraternize with the French than with the English. The outrages perpetrated by the British troops were dreadful. The testimony of even the British officers upon this point is very explicit. The Duke of Wellington professed to the Government his utter inability to maintain discipline. In one of his dispatches he writes:

"I have long been of opinion that a British army could bear neither success nor failure, and I have had manifest proof of the truth of this opinion in the first of its branches, in the recent conduct of the soldiers of the army. They have plundered the country most terribly."

Again he wrote to Lord Castlereagh on the 31st of May, 1809, "The army behave terribly ill. They are a rabble who can not bear success, any more than Sir John Moore's army could bear failure. I am endeavoring to tame them; but if I should not succeed I must make an official complaint of them and send one or two corps of them home in disgrace. They plunder in all directions."

Three weeks after this he wrote again to Lord Castlereagh, "I can not, with propriety, omit to draw your attention again to the state of discipline of the army. It is impossible to describe the irregularities and outrages committed by the troops. Notwithstanding the pains I take, not a post or a courier comes in, not an officer arrives from the rear of the army that does not bring me accounts of outrages committed by the soldiers who have been left behind on the march. There is not an outrage of any [411] description which has not been committed on a people who have uniformly received us as friends."

In Spain, as everywhere else, the British Government was consecrating all its energies to upholding the civil and religious despotisms of the old r6girnes. "The alliance," says the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "with the Spanish nation was proclaimed, and a struggle began which every one will admit to have led, as far as respected Spain, to nothing but evil."

To restore the miserable Ferdinand to Spain, and with him the debasement, fanaticism, and unrelenting despotism of the old regime of the Spanish Bourbons, England expended, on her own operations, five hundred million dollars. She also subsidized Spain and Portugal, supplying clothing, arms, and ammunition to both her armies, including even the guerrillas. From thirty to seventy thousand British troops were constantly employed, in addition to the numbers who manned the fleet, which was incessantly busy on the coasts. Forty thousand British troops perished in the conflict.

Unfortunately in Spain the masses of the peasantry, entirely under the control of the priests, and ignorant and fanatical almost beyond conception, had no desire for either civil or religious liberty. While they hated the haughty, merciless, plundering British soldiers, all their enthusiasm was roused, to fight against the introduction of free institutions, by the cry that the Church was in danger.

On the 20th of March, 1814, just ten days before the Allies entered Paris, Ferdinand returned to Spain. There was a small Liberal or Republican party, composed of very energetic men, and mainly confined to the great cities. The millions of the peasantry, who formed the great mass [412] of the people, and who were extremely ignorant, fanatical, and almost entirely in subjection to the priests, were monarchists, ready at any moment to die for the king and the Church.

The Liberals met, by their representatives, in a congress at Cadiz, and drew up a constitution, which was a great advance upon any degree of liberty which the Spaniards had enjoyed under their ancient kings. According to this liberal constitution, every man over twenty-five years of age, of whatever race or color, was entitled to vote. The Legislature was to consist of but one chamber—undoubtedly a mistake. Every seventy thousand inhabitants were entitled to a representative. The king—for even the Liberal party was in favor of a constitutional monarchy, a throne surrounded by republican institutions—could twice veto a bill. If it passed a third time it became a law, not-withstanding his veto. The Cortes was to be elected every two years. No man could be elected twice. This was certainly an unwise provision, depriving the Legislature of the benefits of that skill and wisdom which experience alone can give.

This Congress was in session when Ferdinand returned. A decree was immediately passed, refusing to recognize him as king unless he first accepted the Constitution. Wellington, the firm advocate of aristocratic usurpation, was unrelentingly hostile to this liberal constitution. "If the King should return," he wrote, "he will overturn the whole fabric, if he have any spirit."

Thus had England restored what the British Government termed liberty to Spain. Sir Walter Scott, speaking of the efforts of England in this struggle, writes: "The exertions of England were of a nature and upon a scale to [413] surprise the world. It seemed as if her flag literally over-shadowed the whole seas on the coasts of Italy, Spain, the Ionian Islands, and the Baltic Sea. Wherever there was the least show of resistance to the yoke of Bonaparte, the assistance of the English was appealed to, and was readily afforded. The general principle was indeed adopted that the expeditions of England should be directed where they could do the cause of Europe the most benefit, and the interests of Napoleon the greatest harm; but still there remained a lurking wish that they could be so directed as to secure what was called a British object."

"The assumption," says Richard Cobden, a member of the British Parliament, "put forth that we were engaged in a strictly defensive war, is, I regret to say, historically untrue. If you examine the proofs as they exist in the unchangeable public records, you will be satisfied of this. And let us not forget that our history will ultimately be submitted to the judgment of a tribunal over which Englishmen will exercise no influence beyond that which is derived from the truth and justice of their cause, and from whose decision there will be no appeal."

The nature of the liberty which England, at such an expenditure of blood and treasure, restored to Spain, may be inferred from the following incident: Some years after the Spanish Bourbons were firmly reseated upon the throne, the wife of an English clergyman, Rev. Dr. Thompson, agent of the British and Foreign Society at Madrid, suddenly died in Madrid while her husband was absent from the city. As she was a member of the Episcopal Church, she was deemed a heretic, and it was with difficulty that her remains were allowed to be kept in the room of her hotel until they could be prepared for burial. No assist- [414] ance could be obtained to dress the body for the grave. Mrs. Colonel Stepford, wife of an English officer who had long resided in Madrid, alone performed the sad duty. It was with the utmost difficulty that a grave could be obtained for the remains. All the consecrated burial-grounds were closed against them. At length permission was obtained to bury the body on the premises in the obscure yard of a glass factory, which was owned by an English gentleman. Afterwards the owner, in selling the property, incurred a heavy loss in consequence of a heretic having been buried on the grounds.

Ferdinand had spent several years, with his two younger brothers, Carlos and Francisco, in entire devotion to pleasure, in the luxurious chateau of Valenšay and in its spacious hunting-grounds. The armies of England, aided by the Spanish peasantry, having driven Joseph Bonaparte and the French troops from the peninsula, Napoleon was forced to restore the crown to Ferdinand.

The Spanish Cortes, as we have mentioned, composed almost exclusively of delegates from the cities, had formed a constitution highly democratic in its character. This Cortes, reassembled at Madrid, refused to ratify the treaty into which Ferdinand had entered with Napoleon. They consequently did not advance to meet their returning sovereign, and manifested their displeasure by very decisive words and deeds. They loudly demanded that the king should accept the Constitution; forbidding him, until he should do so, to adopt the title or exercise the functions of 'King of Spain.

Ferdinand, wedded to the doctrine of absolute power, under these circumstances hesitated to trust himself with the Cortes; and after having, by slow journeys, reached the [415] provincial town of Valencia, remained there for a whole month, fearing to proceed to Madrid. The Cortes, it is said, represented but about five hundred thousand persons, who, residing in the large cities, had adopted democratic principles. The peasantry, numbering twelve millions, who were dispersed in the villages, were very unintelligent. Being almost entirely under the dominion of the priests, they were bitterly opposed to the Constitution. Strange as it may seem, the proof is unequivocal that they rallied around the king, received him with great enthusiasm, and clamored loudly for the re-establishment of the old regime of civil and ecclesiastical despotism. From the moment he entered the frontiers of Catalonia he was greeted with cries, in every town or village through which he passed, of "Down with the Cortes!" "Long live our absolute king!" Petitions were crowded upon him to reverse all the liberal decrees which had been enacted during his absence, and to reign in the spirit of his ancestors. It will be so difficult for an American reader to credit this that we give the statement of Alison, corroborated by abundant Spanish and French testimony:

"The king was literally besieged with petitions, addresses, and memorials, in which he was supplicated, in the most earnest terms, to annul all that had been done during his captivity, and to reign as his ancestors had done before him. The Constitution was represented, and with truth, as the work of a mere revolutionary junta in Cadiz, in a great measure self elected, and never convoked either from the whole country or according to the ancient Constitution of the kingdom. There was not a municipality which did not hold this language as he passed through their walls; not a village which did not present to him a pe- [416] tition, signed by the most respectable inhabitants, to the same effect.

"The generals, the army, the garrisons besieged him with addresses of the same description. The minority of the Cortes, consisting of sixty-nine members, presented a supplication beseeching the king to annul the whole proceedings of their body, and to reign as his fathers had done; From one end of the kingdom to the other but one vo4e was heard—that of reprobation of the Cortes and of the Constitution, and prayers to the king to resume the unfettered functions of royalty."

These voices were in entire harmony with the secret inclinations of the king. Accordingly, on the 4th of May, 1814, he issued from Valencia a decree annulling every act of the Cortes, and restoring the government of absolute power to Spain. This decree was received with boundless enthusiasm. The advance from Valencia to Madrid was a continued triumph. The Cortes passed violent resolutions, and made a show of resistance. They sent out troops to oppose the approach of the king. These troops, instead of opposing Ferdinand, opened their ranks to receive him with shouts of "Long live our absolute king!" It is a saddening thought that a whole nation may become so debased as to co-operate eagerly in riveting the chains with which they are bound.

The Cortes, abandoned by all, fled in dismay across the country from Madrid to Cadiz. On the 13th of May the king entered Madrid in triumph. A cortege of over one hundred thousand persons crowded round him, filling the air with their acclamations. The few members of the Cortes who remained behind were arrested and thrown into prison. Ferdinand took his seat upon the throne of his Bourbon [417] ancestors untrammeled by any constitution, and swaying the sceptre of absolute power. He was a very weak man, thoroughly depraved in heart and corrupt in life, with scarcely a redeeming quality.

Ferdinand immediately fell under the influence of a coterie of priests and nobles. Guided by their advice, it was his constant endeavor to restore every thing to the state of despotism existing before the revolution. He re-established the Inquisition, and crushed every indication of popular liberty. These measures greatly alarmed and exasperated the Liberal party. The king met the risings of discontent by a decree threatening every person who should be found either speaking or acting against Ferdinand VII., with death within three days by sentence of court-martial. Under this decree ninety persons were arrested in the city of Madrid alone in one night. Every prison soon became crowded, and it was found necessary to convert the vast monastery of San Francisco into a prison to find room for the multitude who were arrested.

On the 15th of September a decree was issued restoring the old feudal and seigniorial privileges which had been abolished. Every thing like free discussion was extinguished. This led to the establishment of secret societies, and especially the order of Freemasons. The Inquisition issued a proclamation denouncing these societies. And now came judicial murders, insurrections, guerrilla warfare, and frightful reprisals. A large number of Liberals were arrested. After repeated trials the judges declared that there was no evidence against the accused sufficient to justify their being condemned as traitors, or as persons exciting tumult or disturbances. The king, exasperated, ordered the proceedings to be brought to him, and by the exercise [418] of his own despotic power pronounced upon thirty-two of them sentences of the most cruel kind. One was sentenced to ten years' service as a common soldier. Another, Senor Arguelles, one of the most eloquent members of the Cortes, was doomed to eight years' service as a common soldier, in chains.

The treasury was empty; the country impoverished by many years of civil war; robber bands were wandering everywhere; all industry was stagnant. The wretched realm was in a state of barbarism. The clergy, though they had boundless influence over their flocks, had no armed force with which to resist the universal brigandage which swept the country. Terror rendered the king merciless. The discovery of a conspiracy in Madrid caused the arrest, in every city and almost every town in the kingdom, of all persons found meeting after ten o'clock at night. Many of these, most of them members of the late Cortes, were imprisoned at Ceuta, loaded with irons. At dead of night they were put on board of a zebecque to be conveyed to distant exile, no one knew where. To rivet the chains of religious intolerance the order of Jesuits was re-established, and they were intrusted with the entire education of the young, both male and female.

Ferdinand, in previous years, when heir-apparent to the throne of Spain, had married, for his first wife, his cousin Maria, a princess of Naples. She seems to have been a very lovely woman, gentle and affectionate. But her unfaithful, brutal husband led her a life of misery. After five years of suffering, during which, it is said, she often experienced the most coarse and vulgar abuse, she died, as was currently reported, of poison administered by her husband's hands. Ferdinand then applied to Napoleon for a wife [419] from some member of the Bonaparte family. He was then striving to usurp the crown, and hoped thus to obtain the support of Napoleon. But as Charles IV., the nominal father of Ferdinand, wrote to Napoleon that his son had attempted the life of both his father and his mother, Napoleon decided that he could hardly recommend any of his nieces to marry the young man. Ferdinand, after having been eight years a widower, married his niece, Maria, daughter of the King of Portugal. At the same time his next younger brother, Don Carlos, married the elder sister of Isabel, who was heir-presumptive to the crown of Portugal. Ferdinand hated his brother Carlos, and was very anxious to secure an heir which would prevent his brother's accession to the throne.

In one year after her marriage Maria died childless, and Ferdinand hastily, a few months after her death, took another bride, marrying by proxy Maria Josephine Amelia, niece of the Elector of Saxony. In the mean time there were insurrections and executions innumerable. For ten years Maria Josephine endured her husband, and then she sank childless into the grave. Ferdinand was now forty-five years of age, a worn-out debauchee. He was annoyed extremely by the thought that, should he die without leaving an heir, the sceptre would pass into the hands of his hated brother Carlos. He therefore immediately sought another bride, Christina, a daughter of the King of Naples. She was a frivolous girl, apparently without conscience, but twenty years of age. Carlos and his party violently opposed this union.

It is said that it was suggested to Christina by the ministers of Ferdinand that a law higher than the claims of ordinary morality required that she should produce an heir [420] to the throne. It is revolting to allude to these scenes of corruption. There was a private in the king's guard at Madrid by the name of Munoz. He was a very handsome young soldier, the son of a tobacconist. The queen adopted Munoz as her favorite, lavished upon him wealth and titles of honor. The king's friends exulted greatly, and Carlos and his party were correspondingly dismayed when it was announced that Christina was about to become a mother. Should she give birth to a son, and should Ferdinand die, Christina would be invested with the regency until her son attained his majority. But should a daughter be born, the crown would legally descend to Carlos; for there was a law, instituted nearly one hundred and fifty years before, which strictly excluded females from the crown. There was thus still a chance for Carlos.

While all Spain was anxiously awaiting the issue, the Carlists were exasperated and dismayed by the promulgation of a royal decree transmitting the throne to females as well as males. It is said that Christina and her old father-confessor devised this scheme, to which they easily won over the imbecile and dying old king. Carlos and his friends were roused to the utmost intensity of rage. They declared that they would deluge Spain in the blood of civil war before they would submit to such an usurpation of power. At length, on the 10th of October, 1830, a daughter was born, Isabella, the present ex-Queen of Spain.

Some time before this Ferdinand had been compelled, by an insurrection in Madrid, to give an assent, though hypocritical, to the Constitution. Carlos was in closest association with the monks, and was regarded as the representative of ultra-religious fanaticism. It does not appear that there was at that time any republican party. All [421] were in favor of a monarchy, though a few wished for a constitutional monarchy, while the many seemed to desire the reign of an absolute king. Under these circumstances the Liberal party, who were to choose between Ferdinand and Carlos, rallied around the former, who had professed assent to the Constitution. This Liberal party, notwithstanding the serious doubts as to the legitimacy of the infant Isabella, promptly recognized her claims to the crown. The Liberals, though few in number, consisted of energetic men, who enjoyed the advantage of being concentrated in the great cities. The Carlists were composed of the mass of the rural population.

Both parties began to gather their strength for civil war the moment Ferdinand should die. He was very infirm, trembling on the borders of the grave. He had appointed Christina regent, and through all the provinces of Spain the forces were marshalling for the great conflict. But suddenly it was announced that Christina was about again to become a mother. Should a son be born, it would divest the Carlists of all claim whatever to the throne, unless they should dispute the parentage of the child. A few months of intense excitement passed away, with hope upon one side and fear upon the other, when the queen gave birth to another daughter, Louisa.

When Isabella was three years of age Ferdinand assembled the Cortes to take the oath of allegiance to her as their future sovereign. The Carlist members of the Cortes refused to heed the summons. It was the 30th of June, 1833. The festival was one of the most brilliant which Madrid had ever witnessed. The ancient forms and customs of barbaric splendor were scrupulously revived, and a bull-fight was arranged, in the great Plaza of the city, of [422] unprecedented magnificence. At night a blaze of light from every dwelling and every spire illumined the city with extraordinary brilliance.

The babe Isabella was the prominent object in this scene of enchantment. As she gazed in childish wonder upon the display, and was almost stunned with the oaths of allegiance which rent the air when she was presented as the Queen of Spain, little could she imagine the woes which in consequence were to lacerate her heart, and the rivulets of blood of which she was to be the occasion.

Not long after this the dying hour of Ferdinand came. It was one of the saddest and most humiliating scenes of earth. It has been described by an eye-witness. The pitiable old man, arriving at the close of a joyless life of infamy and oppression, trembled in view of death, which he well knew was to plunge his country into all the horrors of civil war, and was to introduce him to the presence of that Judge from whose verdict there could be no appeal. Angry disputants were in the death-chamber, and their clamor blended with the groans of the dying.

The crown was falling from the brow of Ferdinand, and enraged relatives were watching to grasp it. From words they proceeded to blows, knives glearned in the chamber of death; they seized each other by the hair, and in the fierce struggle reeled to and fro against the couch and almost upon the body of the dying king. The poor old man, his eye already dimmed by the film of death, was bewildered, by the clamor, and groaned in irrepressible agony. The noise of the brutal fight filled the palace, and others gathered to mingle in the fray. At length the combatants were separated, and most of them withdrew from the apartment. The king seemingly had fallen [423] asleep. Some one approaches the bed. Ferdinand was dead!

His life of sin and shame was ended. He had gone to the Judgment. But he had sown the seeds of crime and woe, which would desolate the nation many long years after his body should have mouldered to the dust. The death of Ferdinand was immediately followed by civil war, which burst forth with the utmost violence throughout the whole kingdom. By the decree of Ferdinand, Isabella was proclaimed queen, under the regency of Christina. We have not here space to describe the scenes of violence and misery which ensued. Year after year billows of flame and woe surged over the land. Cities were sacked, villages burned, harvests trampled beneath the conflict of armies, and the cry of the unprotected maiden, of the widow and the orphan, ascended unceasingly to the throne of God.

Sometimes the troops of Carlos were victorious, and wreaked barbaric vengeance upon all the advocates of Christina. Again the troops of the regent Christina triumphed, and retaliated with direful reprisals upon their opponents. Thus for months and years the cruel war raged, and the peninsula was shrouded in woe. Spain seemed lapsing into barbarism. Education was neglected, industry perished, and bloodhound ferocity seemed to take possession of all hearts.

Foreign nations did not interfere, for they were divided in their sympathies. England and France gave their moral support to the regent Christina, as being the representative of the more liberal party of the two, while Austria and the Pope were in sympathy with the ecclesiastical intolerance which Don Carlos represented. Christina, anxious to secure the military support of France, made formal [424] proposals to Louis Philippe for the double marriage of her two daughters, Isabella and Louisa, the first to the Duke d'Aumale, the third son of the King of the French, and the other to the Duke of Montpensier, his fourth son. Neither of the young princesses were then of marriageable age. But this proposition brought into prominence the question of the "Spanish Marriages," which soon agitated all the courts of Europe, and which for a time threatened to bring on a general war.

Louis Philippe, well aware that the other courts, and particularly the Cabinet of London, would not consent to so intimate an alliance between France and Spain as Christina had proposed, which would virtually make the two kingdoms one, courteously declined the hand of Isabella for the Duke d'Aumale, but accepted the hand of Louisa for the Duke of Montpensier. The English Cabinet was at this time understood to be intriguing for the marriage of Isabella with Prince Coburg, a cousin of Prince Albert. It ought, however, to be stated that this was denied by the British Government. Sir Robert Peel stated in Parliament on the 19th of January, 1847: "I shall content myself with making one observation: that the last Cabinet, as long as they were in power, never made any attempt to obtain for a prince of the House of Saxe-Coburg the band of the Queen of Spain." This denial was regarded by France as a diplomatic falsehood. During the vicissitudes of the war Christina was at one time driven out of Spain, and took refuge in Paris. Louis Philippe then embraced the opportunity to recommend to the queen-regent the marriage of Isabella with one of her cousins, a son of Ferdinand's younger brother, Francisco. "The object of this proposal," says Sir Archibald Alison, "was to exclude the pretensions of Prince [425] Coburg, and at the same time to avoid exciting the jealousy of the British Government by openly courting the alliance for a French prince."

Francisco had two sons, both of them very worthless young men. Enrique, the elder, was coarse, brutal, an avowed atheist, but endowed with much energy of character. Francisco is represented as imbecile, besotted, and very repulsive in person. It is not probable that Louis Philippe was acquainted with the character of either of the young men. He was regarding only the political aspects of the question.

Such was the state of affairs when, in the autumn of 1842, Queen Victoria paid a friendly visit to the King of the French at the Chateau d'Eau in Normandy, which visit Louis Philippe, a few months after, returned, being received by the queen with royal magnificence in the halls of Windsor. In these interviews between the two courts the question of the Spanish Marriages was earnestly canvassed. It was evident that the French monarch was anxious to secure as close an alliance as possible with Spain. It was also clear that the English Cabinet would not assent to any arrangement which would place the resources of the Spanish monarchy at the disposal of the King of France.

A compromise was finally effected through the agency of Lord Aberdeen and M. Guizot. It was agreed that Louis Philippe should renounce all pretensions on the part of any of his sons to the hand of Isabella; and that the Duke of Montpensier should not marry Louisa until after the queen, Isabella, was married and had borne children. This was to prevent the Spanish crown from passing to the heirs of Louis Philippe. England agreed not to advance or to support the claims of the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. [426] And both parties pledged themselves to urge that Isabella should choose her husband from among the descendants of Philip V., which under the then existing circumstances meant one of the two sons of Francisco.

Such an arrangement seems extraordinarily loose for national diplomacy. But the testimony of both parties is decisive upon this point. M. Guizot, the Minister of Louis Philippe, writes:

"As to the marriage of the Queen of Spain in particular, the king had acted, from the opening of that question, with frankness and disinterestedness. He declared that he would neither seek nor accept that union for any of the princes, his sons; and that as to Princess Louisa he would not seek her for his son, the Duke of Montpensier, until the queen should be married and should have children. (Que lorsque la reine serait marile et await des enf ns.)"

In accordance with these stipulations Christina endeavored to induce her daughter Isabella to accept one of her cousins, Enrique or Francisco. It appears, however, that Isabella, who had grown up to be any thing but a gentle and pliant maiden, had a will of her own. She disliked both of her cousins, and strenuously refused to take either of them for her husband. Christina was much annoyed by the stubbornness of Isabella. She hoped, by promoting this marriage, to secure for herself and her child the moral if not the material support of both France and England. Civil war was still desolating Spain. The parties were too equally divided to hope for any speedy termination of the conflict. The Cortes urged Christina to press forward the marriage of Isabella. Louisa was betrothed to the Duke of Montpensier. But, as we have stated, her marriage could not take place until very considerable time after the [427] marriage of Isabella. The Cortes placed the child-queen upon the throne in November, 1843. She was then thirteen years of age. Narvaez was military dictator, and in conjunction with Christina administered whatever there was of government in a realm ravaged by civil war.

Christina decided to attempt to secure the support of England by offering Isabella, and of course with her the crown, to the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. England was pledged to Louis Philippe not to favor this union. The French annalists say—and there is but little doubt that they say truly—that Christina made this proposal at the suggestion of Sir Henry Bulwer, the British ambassador then at Madrid. A very angry controversy arose between the Courts of France and England. The Cabinet of St. James denied that it had exerted any agency in the matter.

Louis Philippe, apprehensive that England might succeed in securing Isabella for the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, urged Christina to press forward immediately the marriage of the young queen with the youngest son of her uncle, Francisco. The young man was then called the Duke of Cadiz. Louis Philippe also resolved, without waiting, according to his agreement, for the marriage, etc., of Isabella, to have the nuptials of the Duke of Montpensier with Louisa celebrated at the same time with those of the young queen. This plan was carried into effect. The feeling which was aroused in England by this measure may be inferred from the following remarks of Sir Archibald Alison:

"Thus was the entente cordiale between the governments of France and England, so essential to the peace and independence of Europe, broken up—and broken up in such a way, and on such a question, that reconciliation [428] between the parties was rendered impossible. Not only were national interests of the most important kind brought into collision, and national rivalries of the keenest sort awakened, but with these were mingled the indignation at broken faith, the soreness at overreached diplomacy. One chorus of indignation burst from the whole English press at this alleged breach of faith on the part of Louis Philippe, and the violation of the royal word, pledged to Queen Victoria, amidst the festivities of the Chateau d'Eau and Windsor Castle."

We have alluded to the repugnance of Isabella to accept either of her cousins for a husband. Francisco was peculiarly obnoxious to her. His feeble mind, squeaking voice, and repulsive person excited her contempt. But it was decided that Francisco was the one she must have; probably because Christina, with her ministers, could more easily mould him to their will.

It is said that one night the unnatural mother, aided by one of her crafty ministers, took the child of sixteen into an inner chamber of the palace to constrain her consent. The task was a hard one. Isabella was masculine and rugged in her person, and very inflexible in her determinations. Tears, bribes, flattery, menaces, were all for a time tried in vain. Hour after hour passed away as the resolute maiden resisted the expostulations and solicitations of her mother and the minister until the day dawned. Then, overpowered, exhausted, despairing, she yielded, sullenly submitting to the outrage. Her mother, fearing lest she might change her mind, made arrangements to have the marriage consummated as soon as possible. The death of Isabella without issue would transfer the crown to Louisa. And it is even reported loudly that Francisco was known [429] to be physically imbecile, and that this consideration led the friends of the French alliance to urge the marriage.

The friends of Don Carlos were bitterly opposed to the marriage of Louisa with the Duke of Montpensier. The national pride of the Spaniards revolted at the thought of having a French prince come so near to the throne. There was great danger that the Duke of Montpensier would be waylaid and assassinated on his way to Madrid. It was, therefore, not deemed safe for him to cross the frontier unless accompanied by a strong armed retinue. Two thousand steel-clad dragoons composed his escort. Like the rush of the whirlwind they swept over the hills and vales. Both the princesses were married at the same time in October, 1846. After a hurried wedding, and a still more hurried marriage-feast, the maiden Louisa, fourteen years of age, was borne in triumph, as the Duchess of Montpensier, to Paris, where she was received with the warmest congratulations by the family of Louis Philippe.

A writer in Blackwood's Magazine alludes to these two marriages in terms which very clearly reveal the excitement they at that time created:

"With Louisa less trouble was requisite. It needed no great persuasive art to induce a child of fourteen to accept a husband as willingly as she would have done a doll. Availing himself of the moment when the legislative chambers of England, France, and Spain had suspended their sittings—although, as regards those of the latter country, this mattered little, composed as they are of venal hirelings—the French king achieved his grand stroke of policy, the project on which there can be little doubt his eyes had for years been fixed. His load of promises and pledges, whether contracted at Eau or elsewhere, encumbered him [430] little. They were a fragile commodity, a brittle merchandise, more for show than use, easily hurled down and broken.

"Striding over their shivered fragments, the Napoleon of Peace bore his last unmarried son to the goal long marked out by the paternal ambition. The consequences of the successful race troubled him little. What cared he for offending a powerful ally and personal friend? The arch-schemer made light of the fury of Spain, of the discontent of England, of the opinion of Europe. He paused not to reflect how far his Machiavellian policy would degrade him in the eyes of many with whom he had previously passed for wise and good, as well as shrewd and far-sighted. Paramount to these considerations was the gratification of dynastic ambition. For that he broke his plighted word, and sacrificed the good understanding between the Governments of the two great countries."

The same writer, speaking of Francisco, the husband of Isabella, says:

"We have already intimated that as a Spanish Bourbon he may pass muster. 'Tis saying very little. A more pitiful race than these same Bourbons of Spain surely the sun never shone upon. In vain does one seek among them a name worthy of respect. What a list to cull from! The feeble and imbecile Charles IV.; Ferdinand the cruel, treacherous, tyrannical, and profligate; Carlos the bigot and the hypocrite; Francisco the incapable. Certainly Don Francisco is no favorable specimen either morally or physically of the young Bourbon blood. For the sake of the country whose queen is his wife, we would gladly think well of him; gladly recognize in him qualities worthy of the descendant of a line of kings. It is impossible to do so. The evidence is too strong the other way. He accepted the hand reluctantly placed in his, became a king by title, but remained, what he ever must be in reality, a zero."

Of course such a wedding, with such characters, could lead to nothing but crime and misery. Isabella, the reputed child of ignominy, reared in the midst of the corruptions of the most corrupt court in Europe, has developed the character which would naturally be created by such influences. Louisa was far the more beautiful of the two daughters. Introduced at so early an age into the family and court of Louis Philippe, where the purest morals prevailed, she has developed into a very worthy and attractive woman.

Not a year elapsed after this ill-assorted match between Isabella and Francisco ere all Europe was filled with rumors of their quarrels. A divorce was openly talked of on the ground of Francisco's alleged physical incompetency, which, according to the civil but not the canon law, rendered the marriage null from the beginning. It is not strange that Isabella, reared under such influences, should have developed a character repulsive in the extreme. Despising her husband, having been forced to marry him, she seems to have paid no regard to her compulsory nuptial vows, and imitating the example of her mother and her grandmother, has rendered the court of Spain, according to general repute, the most corrupt in Europe.


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