Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean in Spain, revolution was afoot. Ever since the accession of Queen Isabella II the country had been torn by civil war. Three factions emerged over the course of her reign; the Carlists who favored the royal line of the late King Fernando VII’s brother Don Carlos, the moderates who backed Isabella II and the revolutionaries who wanted to do away with the monarchy altogether. The Carlists were defeated in a series of civil wars and the revolutionaries were kept somewhat contented by movement to the left but Queen Isabella II eventually alienated her moderate supporters. She proved too Catholic and autocratic for their tastes (as well as having other problems) and in the end she was too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals. In September of 1868 the Queen was deposed and sent into exile by a group of liberal officers led by General Juan Prim (who had earlier led the Spanish contingent in the punitive expedition against Mexico alongside France and Britain which ultimately resulted in the short-lived monarchy of Maximilian). General Prim began looking for a candidate for the Spanish throne but had little luck.
Prince Amadeus was not attracted by the offer and was inclined to turn it down. Yet, his father, King Victor Emmanuel II, urged him to accept. He thought it would be great to have the House of Savoy reigning over Spain and Italy and envisioned his son restoring Spain to her former glory but this time as a more “modern” liberal constitutional monarchy, moderate and reasonable with no extremism from the left or the right. As he had done in Italy, surely his son could do in Spain, and wouldn’t it be glorious for Savoy kings to hold sway over the western and central Mediterranean areas? Amadeus was still less than impressed and preferred to remain in Italy pursuing his own pleasure than venturing off to a war-torn and notoriously temperamental country with which he had no connection and about which he knew practically nothing. However, his father was persuasive and the Spanish government was somewhat impatient as well, quickly running out of options and hoping to establish a new Royal Family before either the Carlists rebelled again or the revolutionaries started swaying people toward a republic. The Spanish Council of Ministers made their formal proposal and on October 19, 1870 Prince Amadeus agreed. On November 16, 1870 the Spanish Cortes formally voted on the election of the Italian prince to become King of Spain. 193 favored the Duke, 64 favored a republic and 22 favored another candidate. The issue was settled. It seemed.
|The King pays his respects to General Prim|
Some disliked him simply because he was an Italian, a foreigner, while others had less nationalistic but more political reasons. The Carlists, naturally, would never support him as they would support no one but their own pretender to the throne and the revolutionaries, just as naturally, would never support him either as they would never support any monarch at all. His only base of support were the moderate progressives and even they were becoming more and more divided. King Amadeo did his best to come to an understanding of his new country, rising at six every morning to read the papers, including Carlist and republican periodicals, never spending more than an hour at meals, no matter how prominent the dinner guests and endeavoring to be as frugal as possible while still being generous to those in need. He paid the pensions of the household of the deposed Isabella II (which surprised many) and gave an average of $17,500 per month to charity. His tours around the country, in the past always a state expense, were always paid from his private funds.
In 1872 bitterness between the progressive factions reached a zenith and the foundation of the new Spanish Savoy monarchy began to crumble from beneath the feet of Amadeo I. In Basque and Catalan the Carlists rose up again in another rebellion and revolutionary republicans began to take to the streets in cities across Spain, starting out as protests but quickly turning into violent riots. The army proved to be as divided as the other segments of society and when the artillery corps went on strike, at such a critical time, the suddenly alarmed government demanded that King Amadeo do something about it. With two-thirds of the country against him, members of the remaining third were calling on him to start shooting down his adopted people. King Amadeo finally determined that he had had enough. He had not come to Spain for this. In the chance that it would do some good he ordered the artillery to return to duty and then, on February 11, 1873 turned in his formal abdication to the government. In his parting speech before the Cortes an exasperated ex-King Amadeo famously declared the Spanish people to be ungovernable and walked out. Later that night the First Spanish Republic was formally declared.
The marriage of Amadeus and Princess Maria Vittoria had not been without its problems. The Duke was not always a faithful husband and when Maria Vittoria once complained to her father-in-law about it (himself not a man of pristine marital fidelity) she was told more or less that it was not her place to judge her husband and not to make a fuss. Hardly romantic, but the two seemed to settle down and get along well enough and become an effective partnership. They had three sons, the last born the same year they left Spain. The trauma of that event, the stress of the political situation and the arduous journey all conspired to take the life of the former Queen of Spain. Later, Prince Amadeo married his niece, Princess Maria Letizia Bonaparte, by whom he had one more son in 1889. When Amadeus had first returned to Italy he was given a rapturous welcome but his marriage to his niece, who was some 22 years younger than he, caused a scandal. Most agreed that Prince Amadeus loved the girl but that the Princess was marrying simply to get away from the rule of her mother. The appropriate papal dispensation was obtained but Pope Leo XIII later declared that such dispensations were, from that time on, strictly a thing of the past.