Carlist Wars


The Carlist Wars is the name used to refer to the three civil wars that occurred in Spain during the 19th century and which produced a series of major confrontations between supporters of the rights to the throne of the daughter of King Ferdinand VII and of the dynastic line headed by Carlos María Isidro de Borbón.

  • When was it: 1833 – 1876
  • Where was it:  Spain

What were the Carlist wars?

The Carlist Wars were a series of dynastic struggles that involved the confrontation of two different ideologies and the opposing political procedures of the time, absolutist traditionalism and liberalism.


What did the Carlist wars consist of?

The Carlist Wars were a series of civil strife that took place in Spain in the 19th century. The main reason was the fight for the throne but at the same time they included a series of problems due to the clash of political ideologies that existed at the time.


Historic context

King Fernando VII , having no direct male descendants, promulgated the Pragmatic Sanction, eliminating the Succession Regulations to eliminate the ” Salic Law “, which prevented women from acceding to the throne. After a while his fourth wife gave birth to a girl, Isabel , who was proclaimed Princess of Asturias . When Fernando VII fell seriously ill, the followers of his brother managed to get the king to sign the repeal of the Pragmatic, which would mean that he would inherit the throne.

Isabel was at that time three years old, her mother, María Cristina de Borbón , assumed the regency, agreeing with the liberals to preserve her daughter’s throne in the face of the uprising of the supporters of Carlos María Isidro de Borbón . These were called Carlist , and were supporters of absolutism and defenders of traditions . Among them were impoverished small owners and bankrupt artisans , who were suspicious of reforms , and members of the gentry and part of the clergy .

The liberals were allies of Isabel , daughter and legitimate heir of Fernando VII, and were called Elizabethan or Christian and followed by the urban population, the bourgeoisie and broad sectors of the nobility. The confrontations between Carlists and Liberals developed through the three Carlist wars .


First Carlist War

The day that Fernando VII died, his brother, Carlos María Isidro proclaimed himself King of Spain, causing a riot in the Basque Country, Navarra and Catalonia. The new liberal government wanted to end the charters and Catalonia wanted to recover the charters that had been stolen from them with the Nueva Planta Decrees introduced under the reign of Felipe V after the War of the Spanish Succession. It had the help of Russia , Austria and Prussia , while Elizabeth II had the help of England , France and Portugal . The Vergara Agreement ended theFirst Carlist War in Spain, which left Isabel II as monarch of Spain.

Second Carlist War

It happened in a region of Catalonia and occurred after the refusal of Isabel II to marry Carlos Luis de Borbón who was a Carlist leader . In this second confrontation a series of uprisings took place in which the Carlists would take up arms against the governments, but none of them managed to come to fruition because they were not prepared to fight and their ideas were not convincing.

Third Carlist War

The arrival to the throne of Amadeo I of Savoy created a strong suspicion causing the Carlist idea of ​​returning to the Bourbon dynasty to gain strength. There was a new uprising in the Basque Country, Navarra and Catalonia that spread through Aragon. After the arrival of Alfonso XII to power, because the son of Isabel II was very well received by the Spanish, who were leaving aside the Carlists.


The main characteristics were:

  • They were civil disputes.
  • They happened in Spain in the 19th century.
  • They fought under the motto: God, Country, King .
  • They focused on the ideas of liberalism .
  • They defended the traditional absolutist monarchy .
  • They supported conservative Catholicism and foralism .

Causes of the Carlist wars

The causes of the first war were related to the succession conflict , the followers of Carlos Isidro who defended absolutism and traditionalism and supporters of Isabel, who defended the liberals . In the second war, the cause was the failure of the wedding between Isabel II and the Carlist suitor , the economic crisis and opposition to the fifth system . The third war had its cause in the revitalization of Carlism and the occupationof the Spanish throne by Amadeo de Saboya .


Its main consequences were:

  • A huge demographic drop .
  • Large expenses that paid with economic cuts .
  • The economic change became slower.
  • The industry had no manpower as there were many deaths.


Some of the most representative characters were:

  • Espartero
  • Maroto
  • King Amadeo I
  • Carlos Maria Isidro de Borbón
  • Maria Cristina de Borbón
  • Ferdinand VII
  • Carlos Luis de Borbón


Its importance lies in the inclination of the Spanish monarchy towards liberalism , the grouping of the absolutists to the cause that made the liberals in support of the throne of Isabel II. The military leadership in Spanish politics was also reinforced and the liberal system was defended .

The Carlist Wars in popular culture

  • Documentary memory of Spain
  • Ten rifles await (film)
  • The waters go down black (film)
  • Where are you going, Alfonso XII?
  • The first barracks

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