by Susan Flantzer
Queen Isabella II was born on October 10, 1830 in Madrid, Spain, the elder daughter of King Ferdinand VII and his fourth wife (and niece), Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Isabella was baptized María Isabel Luisa and was Princess of Asturias, the title of the heir to the Spanish throne, from birth. In Spain, even if there is no heir apparent, the title can be (but is not necessarily) given to the heir presumptive – a daughter, sibling or matrilineal descendant of the monarch. Ferdinand VII died on September 29, 1833, and Isabella succeeded to the throne, not quite three years old.
Ferdinand had persuaded the Spanish legislature to set aside the Salic Law, which allowed for only male succession. This precipitated a series of was known as the Carlist Wars in which Ferdinand’s brother Carl, and later his descendants, fought over the succession. Even today, there are Carlist claimants to the Spanish throne. Isabella’s mother, and then Baldomero Espartero, Prince of Vergara served as regents during her minority. In 1843, the military led a coup against Baldomero Espartero and then had the legislature declare that Isabella had reached her majority at age 13.
In a series of diplomatic twists and turns, called the Affair of the Spanish Marriage, Isabella married her double first cousin Infante Francisco de Asís de Borbón, Duke of Cadiz instead of the groom the English proposed, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a first cousin of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. At the same time, Isabella’s younger sister married Antoine d’Orléans, Duke of Montpensier, the younger son of King Louis Philippe of France. These marriages pleased Louis Philippe and alienated the British.
Isabella’s marriage was not happy and there were persistent rumors that few, if any, of her children were fathered by her husband. Isabella had nine children, but only five reached adulthood. Her only surviving son was King Alfonso XII of Spain, who is the great great grandfather of the current Spanish monarch, King Felipe VI.
- Ferdinand (born and died 1850)
- Isabella, Princess of Asturias (1851 – 1931), married Prince Gaetan, Count of Girgenti, no issue
- Maria Cristina (born and died 1854)
- Alfonso XII, King of Spain (1857–1885) , married (1) Maria de las Mercedes of Orléans, no issue; (2) Maria Christina of Austria, had issue including King Alfonso XIII of Spain
- Maria de la Concepcion (1859–1861), died young
- Maria del Pilar (1861–1879)
- María de la Paz, Princess of Bavaria (1862–1946), married Prince Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria, had issue
- Francisco de Asis (born and died 1863)
- Eulalia, Duchess of Galliera (1864–1958), married Infante Antonio, Duke of Galliera, had issue
Isabella’s authoritarianism, her religious fanaticism, her alliance with the military and the chaos of her reign — sixty different governments — helped bring about the Revolution of 1868 that exiled her to Paris. The new government replaced Isabella with Amadeo I, second son of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. During Amadeo’s reign, there was many republican uprisings and he abdicated in 1873 and returned to Italy. The First Spanish Republic was declared, but it lasted a little less than two years. Isabella had officially abdicated in 1870 and after the First Spanish Republic collapsed, her son Alfonso XII became king.
Isabella and her husband Francisco had separated in 1870, but they both continued to live in France. Over time they had become friends and Isabella, along with two of her daughters, were present when Francisco died in 1902. Isabella died from influenza complications in Paris on April 10, 1904. Both Isabella and Francisco are buried in the Pantheon of Kings at the Monasterio de El Escorial near Madrid.