Isabella II of Spain

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Isabella II (Spanish: Isabel II; 10 October 1830 – 10 April 1904) was the first and so far only Queen regnant of Spain. She came to the throne as an infant, but her succession was disputed by the Carlists, who refused to recognise a female sovereign, leading to the Carlist Wars. After a troubled reign, she was deposed in the Spanish Revolution of 1868, and formally abdicated in 1870, but her son Alfonso XII became king in 1874.


Birth and regency

Isabella was born in Madrid in 1830, the eldest daughter of King Ferdinand VII 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 three-year old daughter Isabella was proclaimed queen regnant on the death of the king.

Isabella succeeded to the throne because Ferdinand VII induced the Cortes to help him set aside the Salic law introduced by the Bourbons 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. Carlos' and his descendants' supporters 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 maintained only through the support of the army. The Cortes and the Moderate Liberals and Progressives reestablished constitutional and parliamentary government, dissolved the religious orders and confiscated their property (including that of Jesuits), and tried to restore order to Spain's 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. Espartero, a Progressive, remained regent for only two years.

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