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Isabella II (Spanish: Isabel II; 10 October 1830 – 10 April 1904) was Queen regnant of Spain ("Queen of the Spains" officially from 13 August 1836, Isabella II the "Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon,...") She was Spain's first and so far only queen regnant, although she is sometimes considered the third Queen Regnant of Spain, as previous monarchs of Leon and Castilemarker were counted as kings and queens of Spain. Counting the monarchs of Aragonmarker as well, she is the fourth Queen regnant of Spain.

Birth and regency

Isabella was born in Madridmarker in 1830, the eldest daughter of Ferdinand VII, King of Spain, and of his fourth wife and niece, Maria Cristina, who was a Neapolitan Bourbon and also a grandniece of Marie Antoinette. Maria Cristina became regent on 29 September 1833, when her daughter Isabella, at the age of three years, was proclaimed queen-regent on the death of the king.

Isabella succeeded to the throne because Ferdinand VII induced the Cortes Generales to help him set aside the Salic law introduced by the Borbons in the early 18th century, and to re-establish the older succession law of Spain. The first pretender, Ferdinand's brother Carlos, fought seven years, during the minority of Isabella, to dispute her title. His supporters and descendants were known as Carlists and the fight over the succession was the subject of a number of Carlist Wars in the 19th century.

Isabella's throne was only maintained through the support of the army. The Cortes and the Liberals and Progressives, who at the same time established constitutional and parliamentary government, dissolved the religious orders, confiscated their property (including that of Jesuits), and tried to restore order in finances. After the Carlist war the queen-regent, Maria Cristina, resigned to make way for Baldomero Espartero, Prince of Vergara, the most successful and most popular Isabelline general, who remained regent for only two years.


He was turned out in 1843 by a military and political pronunciamiento led by Generals O'Donnell and Narvaez, who formed a cabinet, presided over by Joaquin Maria Lopez, and this government induced the Cortes to declare Isabella of age at 13. Three years later the Moderado party or Castilian Conservatives made their sixteen-year-old queen marry her double-first cousin Francisco de Asís de Borbón (1822–1902), the same day (10 October 1846) that her younger sister, Infanta Luisa Fernanda, married Antoine d'Orléans, Duke of Montpensier.

These marriages suited France and Louis Philippe, King of the French, who nearly quarrelled in consequence with Britainmarker. But the marriages were not happy; persistent rumor had it that few if any of the Spanish Queen Regnant's children were conceived by her king-consort, remoured to be an homosexual. For instance, the heir to the throne, who later became Alfonso XII, the Carlist party asserted had been conceived by a captain of the guard, Enrique Puig y Moltó.

Isabella had twelve children, but only four reached adulthood:


Isabella reigned from 1843 to 1868, a period of palace intrigues, back-stairs and antechamber influences, barracks conspiracies, military pronunciamientos to further the ends of the political parties — Moderados who ruled from 1846 to 1854, Progressives from 1854 to 1856, Unión Liberal from 1856 to 1863. At this time, Queen Isabella was otherwise occupied achieving a monarchical revenge against Mexicomarker, supporting, jointly with Francemarker, the Habsburg-Orleansmarker Empire using the royal figures of Maximilian of Habsburg and Charlotte of Belgium, as Maximilian I and Carlota of Mexico. Moderados and Unión Liberals quickly succeeded each other and kept out the Progressives, thus sowing the seeds for the revolution of 1868.

Isabella often interfered in politics in a wayward, unscrupulous way that made her very unpopular. She showed most favor to her reactionary generals and statesmen and to the Church and religious orders, and was constantly the tool of corrupt and profligate courtiers and favourites who gave her court a bad name. She went into exile at the end of September 1868, after her Moderado generals had made a slight show of resistance that was crushed at the battle of Alcolea by Marshals Serrano and Prim. Other events of her reign were a war against Morocco , which ended in a treaty advantageous for Spain and cession of some Moroccan territory; the fruitless Chincha Islands War against Perumarker and Chilemarker; tensions with the United States; independence revolts in Cubamarker and Puerto Rico; and some progress in public works, especially railways, and a slight improvement in commerce and finance.

Exile and abdication

Her exile helped cause the Franco-Prussian War, as Napoleon III could not accept the possibility that a German, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringenmarker, might replace Isabella, a dynast of the Spanish Borbons and two generations removed from her French-born grandfather Philip V of Spain.

Isabella was induced to abdicate in Parismarker on 25 June 1870, in favour of her son, Alfonso XII, and the cause of the restoration was furthered. She had left her husband the previous March and continued to live in France after the restoration in 1874. On the occasion of one of her visits to Madrid during Alfonso XII's reign, she began to intrigue with the politicians of the capital, and was peremptorily requested to go abroad again. She resided in Paris for the rest of her life, seldom traveling abroad except for a few visits to Spain. During her exile she grew closer to her husband, with whom she maintained an ambiguous friendship until his death in 1902. Her last days were marked by the matrimonial problems of her youngest daughter. She died on 10 April 1904, and is entombed in El Escorialmarker.


In 1837, Spain developed legislatively into a constitutional monarchy. Before that date, the underage Isabella was still known by the centuries-old feudal, symbolic, long titulary that included both extant and extinct titles and claims: Doña Isabel II por la Gracia de Dios, Reina de Castilla, de León, de Aragón, de las Dos Sicilias, de Jerusalénmarker, de Navarramarker, de Granadamarker, de Toledo, de Valencia, de Galicia, de Mallorca, de Sevilla, de Cerdeña, de Córdoba, de Córcega, de Murcia, de Menorca, de Jaen, de los Algarbes, de Algeciras, de Gibraltar, de las Islas Canarias, de las Indias Orientales y Occidentales, Islas y Tierra firme del mar Océano; Archiduquesa de Austriamarker; Duquesa de Borgoña, de Brabante y de Milanmarker; Condesa de Aspurg, Flandesmarker, Tirolmarker y Barcelonamarker; Señora de Vizcaya y de Molinamarker &c. &c.

In English: Lady Isabella II, by the grace of God Queen of Castille, Leónmarker, Aragonmarker, the Two Sicilies, Jerusalemmarker, Navarremarker, Granadamarker, Toledomarker, Valenciamarker, Galiciamarker, Majorcamarker, Sevillemarker, Sardinia, Cordobamarker, Corsicamarker, Murciamarker, Minorcamarker, Jaenmarker, Algarve, Gibraltarmarker, the Canary Islandsmarker, the Eastern and Western Indies, the Islands and Lands of the Ocean; Archduchess of Austriamarker; Duchess of Burgundy, Brabant and Milanmarker; Countess of Habsburg, Flanders, Tirolmarker and Barcelonamarker; Lady of Biscay and Molinamarker, etc etc.

At the change, a new format of the titulary was taken into use for Isabella: Por la gracia de Dios y la Constitución de la Monarquía española, Reina de las Españas (By the grace of God and the Constitution of the Spanish monarchy, Queen of the Spains).

Queen Isabella II in popular culture

In the 1997 film Amistad, she was portrayed, as a child, by Anna Paquin.

See also

  • Carl Schurz, who was U.S. ambassador to Spain for a brief time at the beginning of Lincoln's presidency, in his Reminiscences (New York, McClure's Publ. Co., 1907, Volume II, Chapter VI) describes Isabella II and her court.



Isabella's ancestors in three generations
Isabella II of Spain Father:
Ferdinand VII of Spain
Paternal Grandfather:
Charles IV of Spain
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Charles III of Spain
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Maria Amalia of Saxony
Paternal Grandmother:
Maria Luisa of Parma
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Philip, Duke of Parma
Paternal Great-Grandmother:
Princess Louise-Élisabeth of France
Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies
Maternal Grandfather:
Francis I of the Two Sicilies
Maternal Great-Grandfather:
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Marie Caroline of Austria
Maternal Grandmother:
Maria Isabel of Spain
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Charles IV of Spain
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Maria Luisa of Parma

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