The Spanish Bourbons are the ruling dynasty, or family of rulers, of Spain. The dynasty was established by Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV of France, in 1700 following the death of the childless Charles II of Spain. The Spanish Bourbon (Borbón) dynasty has been overthrown and restored several times, ruling from 1700 to 1808, 1813 to 1868, 1875 to 1931, and from 1975 to the present.
Philip, duc d’Anjou, was the second son of the dauphin, son of Louis XIV of France and heir to the French throne. Charles II, king of Spain and a member of the Habsburg dynasty, had no children. He adopted Philip, great-grandson of Philip IV of Spain, as his heir.
When Charles II died in 1700, the right of Philip to the Spanish throne was disputed by the major European powers out of fear that Bourbon rulers on the thrones of both France and Spain would upset the existing balance of power.
Known as the War of the Spanish Succession, Philip’s right was upheld following the war’s conclusion with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. As part of a compromise, the Spanish Bourbons could not inherit the throne of France.
After having two sons with his first wife, Philip V married Elizabeth Farnese of Parma, an Italian duchy, in 1714. Philip V and Elizabeth had two sons that became instrumental in the Spanish Bourbons’ attempts to expand their dynastic control into the Italian Peninsula.
Philip V occupied Sardinia in 1717, thereby incurring the wrath of a European coalition of Britain, France, Austria, and the Netherlands. In 1720 Philip V abandoned his claim to Sardinia and Sicily but secured the right of Charles, his eldest son with Elizabeth, to the throne of Parma following the current duke’s death.
In 1731 Charles became duke of Parma. Philip V abdicated in 1724 in favor of Louis I, his eldest son from his first marriage. The early death of Louis I that year prompted Philip V to re-assume the throne. During the War of the Polish Succession, Philip V formed the Family Compact, an agreement with his uncle and king of France, Louis XV.
Philip V’s son Charles, now duke of Parma, invaded Naples. During peace negotiations in 1738, Charles ceded Parma to Austria in exchange for Naples and Sicily. During the War of the Austrian Succession, Austria ceded Parma to the second son of Philip V and Elizabeth.
Ferdinand VI, second son of Philip V and his first wife, succeeded his father as king of Spain in 1746. He worked to keep Spain out of the Seven Years’ War. Following his death, his half brother Charles, king of Naples and Sicily, inherited the Spanish throne as Charles III.
He abdicated the thrones of Naples and Sicily to his third son, Ferdinand, who furthered an Italian branch of the Bourbon dynasty that ruled until the unification of Italy in 1861. Charles III revived the Family Compact with his French relations in 1761 and joined in the Seven Years’ War against Britain the following year. He also opposed Britain during the American Revolution in 1779.
Charles IV succeeded his father as king in 1788. Royal Spain declared war on the French Revolutionary government in 1793, but made peace in 1795. In 1808 Napoleon I, emperor of the French, invaded Spain, leading to an uprising that forced Charles IV’s abdication in favor of his son Ferdinand VII.
Shortly thereafter, Napoleon grew frustrated with Ferdinand VII’s treachery and forced him to return the Spanish throne to his father Charles IV. Napoleon I then forced Charles IV from the throne and replaced him with his own brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The move prompted massive resistance, known as the Peninsular War, one of the major conflicts of the Napoleonic Wars.
Following Napoleon I’s exile in 1814, Ferdinand VII returned to the Spanish throne. Following an uprising in 1820, he was forced to grant a constitution. France, now under control of the restored Bourbon dynasty, invaded Spain in 1823 and revoked the constitution.
Although Ferdinand VII married many times, he had difficulty conceiving an heir. In 1833 he, influenced by his wife, abolished the Salic law, which stipulated that the throne could only be inherited through the male line, in order for his daughter Isabella to inherit the throne rather than his brother Don Carlos.
Isabella II became queen in 1833 following her father’s death. Only three years old at the time, her mother, Maria Cristina, served as regent. Isabella II’s right to the throne was challenged by Don Carlos, whose conservative supporters became known as Carlists.
To rally the liberals to Isabella II’s favor, Maria Cristina granted a constitution in 1834. A failed attempt to seize the throne by force resulted in the departure of Don Carlos from Spain in 1839. Don Carlos and his descendants perpetuated their claims to the Spanish throne until 1936.
In 1846 Isabella II married her cousin, Francisco de Asís de Borbón. In 1868 a revolution forced Isabel II’s abdication in favor of her son, Alfonso XII, in 1870. However, the government elected Amadeo I of the House of Savoy as king of Spain.
Shortly thereafter, a republic governed Spain before a Bourbon restoration under Alfonso XII in 1875. He granted a more liberal constitution in 1876 and suppressed a Carlist uprising. When Alfonso XII died in 1885, his heir was still unborn. Alfonso XIII was born in 1886, technically already king for several months. His mother ruled as regent until 1902.
Alfonso XIII married Eugenia of Battenberg, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, in 1906. He kept Spain neutral during World War I but supported Miguel Primo de Rivera’s military coup in 1923. Republican turmoil prompted Alfonso XIII’s departure from Spain in 1931.
He never formally abdicated, but he lived in exile until his death in 1941. The Second Spanish Republic was overthrown in the Spanish civil war, which resulted in the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In 1969 Franco named Juan Carlos de Borbón, Alfonso XIII’s grandson, as his successor. When Franco died in 1975, the Bourbon dynasty was restored under Juan Carlos I, who oversaw Spain’s return to democracy and the constitution of 1978 recognizing the monarchy.