Spanish Queen 1833–68
Date of Birth: 10.10.1830
Country: Spain

Biography of Isabella II of Spain

Isabella II of Spain was the Queen of Spain from 1833 to 1868. Before her official declaration as an adult in 1843, Spain was ruled by regents, including her mother Maria Christina and General Espartero. After 1843, there was a period of dominance by the court clique known as the camarilla. During the Spanish Revolution of 1868-1874, Isabella II fled to France on September 30, 1868.

Isabella's burden of the Spanish crown began in her childhood. Her ambitious mother, Maria Christina, played a significant role in her ascension to the throne. Maria Christina arrived in Madrid from her father's Neapolitan court in 1829 to marry her much older uncle, Ferdinand. Maria Christina ensured that her husband, who was seriously ill at the time of her pregnancy, secured the throne for their child, even if it was a girl. This decision angered Isabella's brother Carlos and his supporters, who considered it illegal. Carlos sought the crown for himself and sparked a brief civil war after his brother's death.

Maria Christina, named regent in Ferdinand's will, sought support from influential military figures and unpopular liberals who had emigrated after their defeat by French intervention forces in 1823. She initiated cautious reforms, declared amnesty for exiles, and appointed sympathetic politicians to important positions in the civil and military administration. However, the conservatives, including Austria, Prussia, Russia, and the Holy See, did not recognize Isabella as the legitimate monarch, while constitutional monarchies like France and England did. Only a Quadruple Alliance formed in 1834 between Spain, Portugal, France, and England openly opposed the restoration plans of the Holy Alliance.

The conflict for the Spanish throne became an international event, representing the struggle between absolute and constitutional monarchies. The Carlist Wars, fought between Isabella's troops and those of her uncle Carlos, gained significant attention. Historians often draw parallels between the Spanish civil wars of the 1830s and 1930s: ideological conflicts on a European scale, foreign volunteers and troops, military supplies from major foreign powers, and extreme cruelty towards fellow countrymen. The Carlist movement relied on support from Basque Country, Navarre, and internal areas of Catalonia, where they gathered various social groups who felt victimized by the destruction of the old social and economic order.

Maria Christina faced opposition not only from conservatives but also from progressive liberals, representing the left-wing of liberalism. They relied on lower and middle-class urban populations and formed armed citizen groups (Milicia Nacional) to fight against absolutism. They advocated for the sovereignty of the people and the right to express their will. Despite their limited political power due to high property qualifications for voting, the progressives managed to gain temporary control of the government through armed uprisings in 1835, 1836, 1840, and 1854.

Isabella's upbringing lacked a proper education. She showed interest only in singing and playing the piano. As she grew older, her enthusiasm for theater, opera, and her pronounced religious devotion increased. Her religious tendencies drew criticism from liberals and often led to political complications.

Isabella's unconventional behavior extended to her personal life. She addressed those around her informally and used a popular language in her letters, which were often full of spelling mistakes. Her temperament, spontaneous nature, and disregard for money set her apart from her ambitious and meddlesome mother.

When Isabella was declared of legal age in 1843 at the age of thirteen, she ascended to the Spanish throne. However, she lacked understanding and political experience. Isabella's reign marked the beginning of constitutional monarchy in Spain, which lasted until the proclamation of the republic in 1931. Despite the challenges she faced, Isabella II left a significant impact on Spanish history.