Iberian Peninsula

Napoleonic Wars in the Iberian Peninsula: Kings deposed; or, Spain loses its Government


Allied Spain

Spain, by 1807, was a country with an impoverished and unhappy populace. The government was trying changes, reforms, to improve the situation, and of course its own income. The treasury had for hundreds of years depended on the wealth gleaned from her colonies in the Americas. This had begun to fall from its peak, and could only get worse. Spain's fleet had been defeated 2 years before by Britain at Trafalgar. What ships remained were undermanned, and in poor repair, due to a lack of funds.

Spain's citizens were a conservative lot, in that they resisted any attempt at a change in the way its government conducted its business and ruled its people. They blamed the situation, and the attempts at remedy, on the minister Godoy. Godoy was introduced to his office through his acquaintance with the Queen. He became powerful, and as conflict with France became inevitable, he began to try to make changes in the government to make Spain stronger and more secure. Reform was not popular. They felt that their king, Carlos, was weak, allowing the situation to worsen, and for allowing a man introduced to his position through the Queen to have so much power.

Napoleon prepares to conquer Spain

Napoleon was not impressed with the performance of Spain as an ally to France. He was gaining nearly nothing from her Fleet. Her ports were not tightly closed to Britain. Spain was doing little to gain Gibraltar. He also made incorrect assumptions about the wealth of Spain, and the worth of her colonial trade. It was easy to see the current unrest in the country. This led him to a decision to take control of Spain himself.

He used intrigue, and some letters written by the Spanish Prince Ferdinand, to cause Spain's King Charles IV to arrest his son for treason. This provoked a minor revolution and the King was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, and Godoy lost his power.

Napoleon soon persuaded or induced all parties to meet him in Bayonne. Here he brought both Ferdinand VII and Charles IV to abdicate. A few Spanish Grandees were induced to offer the vacated throne to Joseph Buonaparte, brother to Napoleon. In the Spring of 1808, Bonaparte's French troops began to subdue and take over Spain.

Governmental Turmoil

Thus Spain lost a government twice, and became doomed to a reformation that they did not want. They ended up having a French controlled government in those parts of Spain under French dominion. The rest of Spain during the next 2-3 years was to have nearly as much trouble with conflicting personalities and power struggles among themselves as they had with the French.




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