Reign of King Amadeo

1871 - 1873


Nigel Gooding Collection







King Amadeo I
Reign Between November 16, 1870 to February 11, 1873


With the void created by the forced exile of Queen Isabella II on September 30, 1868 and her abdication on June 25, 1870, the Spanish Generals were determined to keep the leadership of the revolution in their own hands by channelling it into a constitutional monarchy. They were, however, faced with a problem of finding an appropriate constitutional monarch. Because of the political interests of other European Nations, which seemed to them to authorise their active interference, the selection of an occupant for the vacant throne was no easy matter.

During the interregnum, Francisco Serrano undertook the Regency, and the Cortes drew up a brand new Constitution by which an hereditary King was to rule in conjunction with a Senate and a Popular Chamber.

There were four prominent candidates for the throne: a Bourbon, a German, a Portuguese, and an Italian. As no Bourbon candidate was found acceptable, the offer of the crown was made to Leopold of Hohenzollern. This offer was opposed by France and set off the Franco-German war in 1870. Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, and second son of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, with the support of General Juan Prim and Francisco Serrano, Amadeus was elected king by the Cortes on November 16, 1870. On December 30 of that same year, the same day on which Prim died from an assassin's attack, Amadeus arrived in Spain. Amadeus swore to uphold the constitution in Madrid on January 2, 1871, thus proclaiming him King Amadeo I of Spain.

King Amadeo, as he was called in Spanish, attempted to rule as a Constitutional Monarch. Compounded by the loss of Prim, Amadeo’s chief supporter, he was opposed both by Republicans and by the Carlists. As a result he was unable to form a stable government. Amadeo faced continuous turmoil, dealing with difficult situations, with unstable Spanish politics, republican conspiracies, Carlist uprisings, separatism in Cuba, same-party disputes, fugitive governments and assassination attempts.

Amadeo could count on the support of only the progressive party, whose leaders were trading off in the government thanks to parliamentary majority and electoral fraud. The progressives divided into monarchists and constitutionalists, which made the instability worse, and in 1872 a violent outburst of interparty conflicts hit a peak. There was a Carlist uprising in the Basque and Catalan regions, and after that, republican uprisings happened in cities across the country. The artillery corps of the army went on strike, and the government instructed the King to discipline them.

Though warned of a plot against his life on August 18, 1872, Amadeo refused to take precautions. While returning from Buen Retiro Park to Madrid in company with the queen, they were repeatedly shot at in Via Avenal. The royal carriage was struck by several revolver and rifle bullets, the horses wounded, but its occupants escaped unhurt. A period of relative calm followed the event. However, the elite Madrid society feared ongoing social unrest and wished a return to Bourbon rule.

With the possibility of reigning without popular support and following the Hidalgo Affair, Amadeo was required by the radical government to sign a decree of dissolution of the artillery corps; after which he then immediately abdicated from the Spanish throne on February 11, 1873. At ten o’clock that same night, Spain was proclaimed a Republic, at which time Amadeo made an appearance before the Cortes, proclaiming the Spanish people ungovernable. The First Spanish Republic lasted less than two years, and on December 29, 1874 Alfonso XII, the son of Isabella II, was proclaimed king.

Completely disgusted, the ex-monarch left Spain and returned to Italy, where he resumed the title of Duke of Aosta. Amadeo remained in Turin, Italy, until his death on January 18, 1890.



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