Charles IV of Spain

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Charles IV (Carlos Antonio Pascual Francisco Javier Juan Nepomuceno Jose Januario Serafin Diego; 11 November 1748 – 20 January 1819) was King of Spain from 14 December 1788 until his abdication on 19 March 1808.


Early life

Charles was the second son of Charles III and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. He was born at Portici, while his father was king of the Two Sicilies. His elder brother Don Felipe was passed over for the two thrones as mentally retarded and epileptic. In Naples and Sicily he was styled as the Prince of Taranto.[1]

Charles had inherited a great frame and immense physical strength from the Saxon line of his mother, granddaughter of August the Strong. When young he was fond of wrestling with the strongest countrymen he could find. While he was considered by many to be intellectually sluggish and quite credulous he was also known for his acts of kindness.


In 1788, Charles III died and Charles IV succeeded to the throne. Even though he had a profound belief in the sanctity of his office and kept up the appearance of an absolute, powerful monarch, he never took more than a passive part in the direction of his own government, occupying himself with hunting. The affairs of government he left to his wife and his prime minister. In 1792, Maria Luisa finally succeeded in ousting the Count of Floridablanca from office and had him replaced with Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, Count of Aranda, the chief of the Aragonese party. However, in the wake of the war against Republican France, the liberal-leaning Count of Aranda was replaced by Manuel de Godoy, a favourite of the Queen and allegedly her lover, who thenceforth enjoyed the lasting favour of the King.

Godoy continued Aranda's policy of neutrality towards France but after Spain protested against the execution of the deposed king in 1793, France declared war on Spain and in 1795 forced Godoy to conclude an alliance and declare war on the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 1803, after smallpox had affected his daughter María Luísa, the king commissioned his doctor Francisco Javier de Balmis to bring the vaccine to the Spanish colonies on state expenses.

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