|San Fernando III|
Ferdinand and Isabella were determined that Spain would be Catholic and VERY Catholic. Toward that end the (now unnecessarily) notorious Spanish Inquisition was set up, mostly to seek out false converts. The reputation of the Spanish Inquisition has been grossly exaggerated and that is now a matter of documented fact. It should also be kept in mind that Spain had just gone through the longest war in history, which naturally hardened feelings on both sides of the religious divide, and which started off with people of another religion giving aid to an invasion by their co-religionists and the King and Queen were quite naturally determined that such a thing would never happen again. It should also be remembered that, while the Spanish Inquisition was certainly the most “zealous” in Christendom, when you look at all the bloodshed caused by the Wars of Religion in France and the Thirty Years War and Peasants Revolt in Germany and so on and so forth, the Inquisition spared Spain from such horrors and in the end probably saved a great many lives in the long run. Today, modern sensibilities would consider it terribly oppressive, but Spain had tried the tolerance game and got burned because of it. Keep that in mind.
|King Felipe II|
The Hapsburgs were also hampered by a bad quality bloodline and when King Carlos II died without an heir the War of the Spanish Succession was the result. This ushered in phase four: Bourbon Spain. Just like the Bourbon King Louis XIV of France (who was anxious to extend dynastic power into Spain) the Bourbon King Philip V of Spain began centralizing power in a clear break from the de-centralized Spain that had existed before. Some improvements were made but corruption in the lower ranks of civil officials continued to cause economic problems. The “Enlightenment” also brought some benefits but on the whole more problems to Spain. Under King Carlos III Spain was able to regain some previous losses (though Gibraltar remained in British hands) but under Carlos IV the situation grew worse, particularly because of the influence of Manuel de Godoy who was as corrupt as he was incompetent. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars saw Spain conquered by France and cut off from her colonies where movements for independence began to sprout. Eventually things were restored under King Fernando VII but the Spanish empire began to crumble (cheered on by Britain and the United States it must be said).
|Queen Isabella II|
Queen Isabella II was too conservative for many of the liberals and the Carlist conservatives would not have had anything to do with her had she been perfect in every way, which she was not. Unrest, infighting and still the occasionally war with the Carlists became standard procedure for Spain and all industry and economic activity practically ground to a halt. The most genuine monarchists were largely in the Carlist camp and they had not only a large portion of Spain but increasingly most of the European community against them, as most modern-minded people considered that a Carlist victory, a return to royal absolutism and the Inquisition, would be a bad thing. On the liberal side the constant wars over the throne made more and more turn against monarchy itself and embrace republicanism.
|King Amadeo I|
Only a year later things were so bad that even many republicans willing declared for the son of Queen Isabella II when he returned to Spain from exile as King Alfonso XII. The Carlists were defeated, a system of constitutional monarchy with liberal and conservative cooperation was established that worked fairly well, at least compared to the anarchy that preceded it and Spain under King Alfonso XII seemed to be on the road to recovery. But, then the King died, the United States declared war on Spain to liberate Cuba and grab what was left of the Spanish empire (Puerto Rico, The Philippines, etc) and the stress of World War I, the Great Depression and so on caused on already bare-bones Spanish economy to practically collapse. In 1931 the second Spanish Republic was declared with King Alfonso XIII forced into exile but never abdicating. What followed was a horrific bloodbath as radical leftist, anti-clerical forces preyed upon everything and everyone associated with traditional Spain. Churches were desecrated, the religious were massacred and, though few realize it, more people were killed in the first months under the republic than during three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition -just to provide a comparison.
Generalissimo Franco restored the monarchy, at least on paper, and named Prince Juan Carlos as his heir to take up the throne after his death. That came in 1975 when King Juan Carlos I was formally sworn in, marking the full and official restoration of the Spanish monarchy. In the aftermath, King Juan Carlos led the transition of Spain from dictatorship to constitutional monarchy, restoring full civil rights, multi-party democracy and even removing the ban on parties known to be hostile to the monarchy. When nationalist elements in the military attempted a coup, the King used his authority as Captain-General to suppress it. In the years that followed, this policy paid huge dividends for King Juan Carlos and the monarchy with the Spanish people from most every background grateful to their monarch for giving them their freedom. Everyone seemed to respect and admire the King and the monarchy seemed to be a safely permanent fixture with the prestige of the King allowing him to exercise considerable influence in spite of the constitutional limitations to his actual power.
|King Juan Carlos I & Queen Sofia|