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Ferdinand VI, (23 September 1713 – 10 August 1759), King of Spain from 9 July 1746 until his death. He was the fourth son of the previous monarch Philip V and his first wife Maria Luisa of Savoy. Ferdinand, the second member of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty, was born in Madridmarker on 23 September 1713.

Early life

Born at the Real Alcázar de Madrid in Madrid, his youth was depressed. His father's second wife, Elisabeth of Parma, was a domineering woman, who had no affection except for her own children, and who looked upon her stepson as an obstacle to their fortunes. The hypochondria of his father left Elisabeth mistress of the palace.

Ferdinand was by temperament melancholy, shy and distrustful of his own abilities. When complimented on his shooting, he replied, "It would be hard if there were not something I could do."

As king he followed a steady policy of neutrality in the conflict between France and Britain, and refused to be tempted by the offers of either into declaring war on the other. In his life he was orderly and retiring, averse from taking decisions, though not incapable of acting firmly, as when he cut short the dangerous intrigues of his able minister Zenón de Somodevilla y Bengoechea, Marquis of Ensenada by dismissing and imprisoning him. He was called Ferdinand the Learned for his refined pursuits.

Shooting and music were his only pleasures, and he was the generous patron of the famous singer Farinelli, whose voice soothed his melancholy.

Marriage

File:Philippe V Ranc.jpg|His father, King of Spain (Jean Ranc)

Image:Maria Barbara de Braganza.jpg|His wife, Barbara, was a beauty in her youth, but became quite overweight in her later yearsFile:Isabel de Parma.jpg|Elisabeth of Parma, his famous step-mother (Jean Ranc)


Ferdinand was married in 1729 to Infanta Barbara of Portugal, daughter of John V of Portugal and Mary Anne of Austria. The very homely looks of his wife were thought by observers to cause the prince a visible shock when he was first presented to her. Yet he became deeply attached to his wife, and proved in fact nearly as uxorious as his father.

Beginning of the Reign

When he came to the throne, Spain found itself in the War of the Austrian Succession which ended without any benefit to Spain. He started his reign by eliminating the influence of the widow Queen Elisabeth of Parma and her group of Italian courtesans. As king he followed a steady policy of neutrality in the conflict between France and Britain, and refused to be tempted by the offers of either into declaring war on the other.

Prominent figures during his reign were the Marquis of Ensenada, a Francophile; and José de Carvajal y Lancaster, a supporter of the alliance with Great Britainmarker. The fight between both ended in 1754 with the death of Carvajal the fall of Ensenada, after which Ricardo Wall became the most powerful advisor to the monarch.

The Projects of Ensenada

The most important tasks during the reign of Ferdinand VI were carried out by the Marquis of Ensenada, the Secretary of the Treasury, Navy and Indies. He suggested that the state help modernize the country. To him, this was necessary to maintain a position of exterior strength so that France and Great Britain would consider Spain as an ally without supposing Spain's renunciation of its claim to Gibraltar.

Reforms

Among his reform projects were:

  • New model of the Treasury suggested by Ensenada in 1749. He proposed substitution of the traditional taxes with a special tax, the cadastre, that weighed the economic capacity of each contributor based on their property holdings. He also proposed a reduction of subsidies to by the state to the Cortes and the army. The opposition by the nobility caused the abandonment of the project.
  • The creation of the Giro Real in 1752, a bank favoring the transfer of public and private funds outside of Spain keeping all of the foreign exchanges in the hands of the Royal Treasury, enriching the State. It is considered the predecessor to the Bank of San Carlos, introduced during the reign of Charles III.
  • The stimulation of commerce in the Americas, which tried to end the monopoly in the Indies and eliminate the injustices of colonial commerce. Thus he leaned toward registered ships rather than fleets of ships. The new system consisted of the substitution of the fleets and galleons so that a Spanish ship, previously authorized, could conduct trade freely in the Americas. This increased the revenues and decreased the fraud. Even so, this system provoked many protests among merchants in the private sector.
  • The modernization of the Navy. According to Ensenada, a powerful navy was fundamental to a power with an overseas empire and aspirations of being respected by France and Great Britain. He increased the navy's budget and expanded the capacity of the shipyards of Cádizmarker, Ferrolmarker, Cartagenamarker and Havanamarker which marked the starting point of the Spanish naval power in the eighteenth century.
  • Church relations which were really tense from start of the reign of Philip V because of the recognition of Charles VI as the King of Spain by the Pope. A regalist policy was maintained that pursued as much political as fiscal objectives and whose decisive achievement was the Concord of 1753. From this the right of Universal Patronage was obtained from Pope Benedict XIV, giving important economic benefits to Crown and a great control over the clergy.
  • Cultural advancement. He helped create the Royal Academy of the Fine Arts of San Fernando in 1752. The noted composer Domenico Scarlatti, music teacher to Barbara, wrote many of his 555 harpsichord sonatas at Ferdinand's court.



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