Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Los Capetos Muchos y Variadas de España y Italia (Capet: Part IV)

Sadly, our look at the legitimate descendants of Hugh Capet and the earlier Robertians comes to an end with this post. Fear not! The Portuguese are still Capetians in fact, even if often disregarded as such by historians. However, today's topic is perhaps the most important one in all of these five postings because the Capetians of Spain and Italy still rule Spain and Luxembourg today as constitutional monarchs, and their family members are still considered some of the most eligible for royal marriages in the European royal marriage market.

Two weeks ago I brought up the most illustrious House of Bourbon as one of the sub-houses of the Capetian dynasty. The House of Bourbon (in any form) ruled France from 1589 until 1792, and 1814 until 1848. Its fall marked the end of France as a kingdom (although Napoleon III would raise it up one last time as an empire). But the House of Bourbon's fall in France had little effect on its other domains abroad.
Philip V of Spain and his family

Philip, duke of Parma
The Spanish House of Bourbon, generally called the House of Borbón, began its meager beginnings in the hotly contested War of the Spanish Succession, fought from 1701 until 1714. A younger grandson of the still-reigning King Louis XIV, Philip, was selected by the last Habsburg king of Spain, Charles II, as his heir. The Austrian Habsburgs disagreed and a war ensued. In the end, Spain lost much of its European landholdings, especially in Italy, but Philip was allowed to keep the Spanish throne and reigned as King Philip V. Philip married Elizabeth Farnese, the niece of the Duke of Parma. Parma was a small duchy in central Italy which had played a somewhat important role in Italian politics for the past four centuries. With Parma in hand, Philip conquered the islands of Sardinia and Sicily for Spain. The other European monarchs reacted with the Quadruple Alliance and halted Spain's power-grab. Philip was forced to give up his new islands but got his son signed on as the heir to the Duchy of Parma. Thus began the Italian branch of the Spanish Bourbons.

We will return to Spain later as Italy proved far more interesting a story. Charles, son of Philip and now Duke of Parma, took his chances in the War of the Polish Succession and invaded Naples (southern Italy) in 1738. He was forced to give up control of Parma to Austria but in exchange was elevated to king of Naples & Sicily (I told you the family would get it back!). Philip V also used this war and the War of the Austrian Succession a decade later to further his land claims in Italy. The Austrian Succession War ended with Spain reconquering Parma and Philip V granting that duchy to his third son, Philip. Now the Spanish Bourbons had three branches: the Senior Borbóns in Spain, Borbón-Naples (later Two-Sicilies) in southern Italy, and Borbón-Parma in central Italy.
Italy in 1796

Everything in the Capetian empire fell to a screeching halt when Napoleon started his rampage across Europe in the first decade of 1800. One by one, Napoleon conquered France, Spain and Italy, placing siblings and puppets on the thrones and forcing the rightful rulers to flee to Britain, Austria and other unconquered states. The Capetian empire was in ruin and when the rulers returned to their thrones in 1814-1815, the people were enchanted by the concepts of constitutions and personal freedoms.

 In Naples & Sicily, Ferdinand I was restored and almost immediately broke the statues of his restoration by merging the two kingdoms into the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and instigating a four-year spree of total dictatorship. The people forced him to sign two separate constitutions restricting his powers, which he signed under duress. His death in 1825 was the only thing that saved the Two Sicilies from a violent revolution. The Two Sicilies continued to see waves of revolutions and new constitutions, with Austria and the United Kingdom both getting involved. Francis II succeeded to the throne in 1859 and desperately tried to stop the revolutionary trends by adopting a previous constitution and promising the people his cooperation, but the revolutionary fervor was too strong and the Neapolitan Bourbons were overthrown by Garibaldi and Two Sicilies was incorporated into the new Kingdom of Italy.

Meanwhile, Parma had undergone some serious beating during the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon's second wife, Maria Louisa, was given Parma in 1815 and Charles II, the former duke, was granted the duchy of Lucca, in eastern Italy. When Maria Louisa died in 1847, Charles regained Parma (returning Lucca to Tuscany) and passed the duchy on to his son, then grandson. During the Italian Unification in 1860, the people of Parma voted to unify with the quickly growing kingdom of Sardinia and the Parma Borbóns no longer had a country to call home.
Isabella II, Queen of Spain
Only the Spanish Borbóns survived the turbulent 1800s with their monarchy intact. Ferdinand VII was restored after the long and deadly Peninsula War which ended in 1814. Like in Italy, revolutionary fervor was not dead and Ferdinand was forced to sign a constitution in 1820, although his cousins in France helped him revoke the constitution a few years later. Ferdinand made a choice, under the influence of his wife, to end Salic Law in Spain (which was never absolute to begin with) in order to place his daughter, Isabella, on the Spanish throne rather than his tyrannical brother, Don Carlos. When Ferdinand died in 1833, Isabella II was only three and Don Carlos was angry. Isabella's regent issued a new constitution to win the support of the liberals. Don Carlos rallied Catalonia (north-eastern Spain) to his cause since the new constitution stripped the region of much of its autonomy. Don Carlos lost but his movement, known as the Carlists, continues in a much reduced form even today (despite the fact that the catalyst for the movement, the renunciation of Salic Law, has since been corrected).

Isabella II found her own problems once she became of age to rule. Isabella married her first cousin, Francisco de Asis, and her reign slowly became more autocratic. Finally, in 1868, she was forced to abdicate and a short-lived republic was formed. In 1875, the monarchy was restored under Isabella's son, Alfonso XII. Don Carlos took the opportunity to invade, but was defeated and resumed his exile. Alfonso was a much praised liberal king but died young in 1885. His son, Alfonso XIII, was born posthumously and caused a 19-year regency which took Spain into the 20th century. While Alfonso XIII managed to stay out of World War I, he supported the military coup of Maria Primo de Rivera and Spain was ruled by a dictator for seven years. A new wave of revolutions ended in Alfonso's deposition in 1930 and the establishment of a second Spanish republic. The Spanish Borbón line ended with the last king fleeing the country, although never formally abdicating his throne...
Juan Carlos, King of Spain
Just kidding, things actually did improve for the Spanish Borbóns but it took forty-five years to do it. The Spanish Civil War overthrew the Second Republic and threw Spain into the eager hands of Francisco Franco who would rule Spain until 1975. A son of Alfonso III's second son (his eldest being mentally disabled) was chosen by Franco to continue the Franco dictatorship when Franco died. Juan Carlos, however, was no dictator. Almost as soon as Franco died, Juan Carlos had begun the necessary work to transition the dictatorship into a democracy and the country released its new constitution in 1978 which recognized the restoration of the Spanish Borbóns to the Spanish throne. Today, Juan Carlos remains one of the few European monarchs to retain some political power, and the dynasty is expected to continue for many more generations since the number of Alfonso III's descendants alone is quite a few.
Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Up until this point, I've skipped mentioning the Capetian Luxembourg monarchs. There is a good reason for that: there have been only two! In 1919, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg married Felix, the third son of Robert, the last Duke of Parma. When she voluntarily abdicated her throne in 1964, her son Jean became the first Capetian grand duke of Luxembourg (and the first Capetian duke of Luxembourg since the 1400s). Jean himself abdicated in 2000 to his son Henri who is now the second Capetian grand duke. The grand dukes of Luxembourg are rather powerless, much like the constitutional monarchs of other European states, but the title goes back nearly a millenia and the position is respected by all current and former royal circles. The Luxembourg Capetians are closely related to the Portuguese royal family.

The Spanish Borbóns, including those of Parma and Naples, are still very much in existence and, while only two of them may rule anything in Europe, the family is considered some of the best marriage stock. Ironically, many of the members of the family choose to marry each other rather than other royal families. Regardless, the family holds a highly prestigious place in European royal circles and is respected the world over for what its ancestors did and did not accomplish while kings.

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