Monarchs and other Spanish heads of state since 1516

House of Hapsburg

  • Carlos I (1516-1556) hit the genetic jackpot. Carlos inherited Spain and its empire from his grandfather Ferdinand, Austria by being the principal Hapsburg heir, and all of the Burgundian possessions (including The Netherlands) from his great-grandfather, the Duke of Burgundy. Spain's possessions in the New World expanded enormously during his reign. At the same time, Charles was forced to deal with the Refomation and an agressive Ottoman Empire. He delegated Austria, and the fight against the Turks, to his brother Ferdinand, while struggling with Francis I of France for territory, and the Imperial election.
  • Felipe II (1556-1598) inherited only Spain and the Netherlands; uncle Ferdinand inherited Austria. He married Mary I and brought the Inquisition to England. When Mary died, her sister Elizabeth I spurned Philip's offer of marriage. Philip then lost seven provinces of the Netherlands to the Reformation. Elizabeth's assistance to William of Orange led to Philip's 1588 assault on England via the Spanish Armada. The failure for the Armada resulted in an instant shift of military supremacy away from Spain.
  • Felipe III (1598-1621) was enriched by the yearly Plate Fleet from his overseas dominions, but the fleet caused a yearly bout of inflation that progressively weakened Spain's economy. At the same time, Spain's leadership of the Counter-Reformation ensured its involvement in the Thirty Years War.
  • Felipe IV (1621-1665) delegated his duties to the Conde de Olivares. Philip is best known for being painted frequently by Diego Velázquez.
  • Carlos II (1665-1700). The dangers of extreme royal inbreeding showed themselves spectacularly with the last of the Spanish Hapsburgs. Crippled and mentally retarded, Carlos was incapable of rule. Carlos's mother and brother struggled for power until the latter's death in 1679. A 1679 marriage failed to produce children. Spanish prestige ebbed.

House of Bourbon

  • Felipe V (1700-1746). Charles II is said to have named the teenaged grandson of Louis XIV his heir on his deathbead. How convenient for Louis. The Austrians had their own (teenaged) (Hapsburg) candidate, and were prepared to press the issue, resulting in the 1701-1715 War of the Spanish Succession. Almost every other power in Europe (most importantly, Great Britain) lined up against Louis and his grandson. The Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy made a formidable combination (witness the Battle of Blenheim), and for a while, it looked like Charles VI's supporters were winning the war. But intrigues between the Whigs and Tories resulted in a palace coup of sorts, wresting control of the military and Queen Anne from the Duke of Marlborough and his wife, and the new Tory government pulled out of the war immediately. As he had had so many times before, Louis had his way, and most powers accepted Felipe in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.
  • Fernando VI (1746-1759), the third son of Philip V and Marie-Louise of Savoy, became Infante in 1724 after his older brothers died. He was married at age 15 to Barbara de Bragança of Portugal. Fernando was a neurotic sort, who came to depend upon his wife entirely. Fernando's stepmother Elizabeth Farnese contiunally plotted to have her son succeed Felipe, and did her best to isolate Fernando and Barbara from the court. But the worm turned when Philip V died in 1746 and Fernando ascended the throne. Queen Barbara controlled things while Fernando kept to his room for the most part, although Elizabeth was contiually plotting. Fernando and Barbara were fairly benevolent rulers, as Spanish monarchs go, and partons of the arts. After Barabara died in 1748, Fernando secluded himself in the Villaviciosa and pined away until he died.
  • Carlos III (1759-1788), the son of Felipe V and Elizabeth Farnese, was the heir to Parma and Piacenza, but traded them for Naples and Sicily at the end of the War of the Polish Succession in 1734. After inheriting the throne of Spain, Bourbon fortunes were never higher, and Carlos seemed to be reassembling the Spanish empire that had been disassembled. Throughout his reign, Carlos allied himself militarily with his cousin, Louis XV, which led to Spain's involvement in the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution.
  • Carlos IV, (1788-1808) was a poor ruler, letting the government be dominated by his wife's lover Manuel de Godoy. Spain was the first country to be knocked out of the French Revolutionary Wars, before Napoleon Bonaparte even arrived on the scene. The 1796 Treaty of San Ildefonso allied Spain with France, and the advent of Bonaparte made this look like a good choice. But Carlos's poor rule meant more and more French troops to keep the peace. A March, 1808 palace revolt ousted Godoy and forced Carlos to abdicate in favor of his son.
  • Fernando VII and his parents were summoned to Bayonne by Bonaparte on May 6, 1808. Napoleon then forced him to abdicate in favor of his father.
  • Carlos IV was then forced to abdicate and let Napoleon name his successor.

House of Bonaparte

  • Joseph Bonaparte (1808-1814) was, of course, his brother's puppet; omit him if you like. He was placed upon the throne of Spain, but was never accepted by the Spanish or any country outside France. The same year, Sir Arthur Wellesley landed a Britsh force in Portugal, precipitating the Peninsular War, which ended in total defeat for Joseph and Napoleon in 1814.

House of Bourbon

  • Fernando VII (1814-1833) was an absolutist who was forced to accept a constitution in 1820. In 1822, he called in foreign powers to help him crush the Cortes. Fellow absolutists Metternich and Louis XVIII were happy to be of assistance, and the revolt was crushed by 1823. When his daughter Isabella was born in 1830, Fernando abrogated the Salic Law imposed by the Treaty of Utrecht, and made Isabella his heir.
  • Ysabel II (1833-1868) Isabella's uncle Don Carlos was not very keen on her succession; the reactionaries that gathered to support him, known as the Carlists, attempted to take power in an 1833-1839 uprising. In the meantime, Isabella's mother Maria Cristina was ousted as regent by progressive politican Baldomero Espartero. Espartero was ousted and reinstated several times over the turbulent years and frequent rebellions of Isabella's reign. An 1868 revolt led by General Juan Prim forced Isabella to flee to France. Isabella abdicated in 1870 in favor of her son Alfonso.

Provisional government (1868-1870), led by Prime Minister Juan Prim. Prim held off a Carlist uprising, but managed to touch off the Franco-Prussian War by having the Cortes offer the throne to Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern.

House of Savoy

  • Amadeo (1870-1873), son of Italian king Victor Emmanuel II, may have been Prim's second choice, but he was in a position to accept, and the Cortes confirmed him in 1870. However, soon afterwards, Prim was assassinated. Amadeo was a figurehead king over a Cortes that grew increasingly factionalized and chaotic. After another failed Carlist uprising, and a successful Republican uprising, Amadeo had had enough, and left for Italy on February 11, 1873.

The First Republic (1873-1874) was proclaimed the night Amadeo left. The Carlists did not want a republic, and civil war broke out. A military coup ended the first republic on January 2, 1874.

House of Bourbon

  • Alfonso XII (1874-1885) turned 17 on November 24, 1874; an important group of generals declared their suport for him in late December. Alfonso reigned until he perished in an 1885 cholera epidemic.
  • Maria Christina, Alfonso's widow, regent, 1885-1902
  • Alfonso XIII, born 1886, was another absolutist. His attempts to take power away from the Cortes resulted in unrest. As a consequence, he supported the 1923 military coup of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Rivera's heavy taxation of the wealthy to pay for public works projects cost him support of the military, and he was forced to resign in 1930. Alfonso agreed to elections in 1931, which resulted in the formation of a republic. Alfonso agreed to go into exile.

The Second Republic was a precarious, chaotic struggle between leftists and moderate Nationalists. Manuel Azaña was prime minister for a time, and survived a 1932 coup attempt, but his party lost 1933 elections to the rightist CEDA party led by José Maria Gil Robles. President Niceto Alcalá Zamora did not allow Robles to form a government, and Alejandro Lerroux became Prime Minister. Azaña then formed a coalition of leftist parties known today as the Popular Front.

The Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 after the Popular Front gained control of the Government. The radical reforms introduced by President Azaña and Prime Minister Santiago Casares Quiroga led to a flight of capital that destabilized the economy. A coalition of generals led by Emilio Mola, and including Francisco Franco, proclaimed a revolt on July 19. Three years of bloody civil war, with interventions by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, as well as thumb-twiddling by Britain and France, were to follow. The Nationalists were assured victory when Barcelona fell in 1939.

Francisco Franco (1939-1975)

House of Bourbon

  • Juan Carlos I (1975-), Alfonso XIII's grandson, married Franco's daughter and was handpicked by Franco as his successor. Juan Carlos appears to have successfully managed a democratic transformation of Spain.

Thanks to CatherineB for corrections and suggestions about the Second Republic period.