From Academic Kids

Carlism was a conservative political movement in Spain, purporting to establish an alternative branch of the Bourbons in the Spanish throne.


The Origins

The dynastic issue

  • 1789, Carlos IV of Spain approves in Cortes a reversal to the Siete Partidas order of succession: women would inherit the Crown, in absence of male siblings. The pragmatic sanction is not published due to protests from the cadet branches (Naples, Parma) who saw their rights diminished with the new regulation.

The political landscape at the death of Fernando VII

Like many European countries, after the Napoleonic occupation, the Spanish political class was split between the "absolutists", supporters of the ancien régime, and the Liberals, influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. Both parties had fought Napoleon side-by-side in the Peninsular War. Unlike most other countries, the liberal Constitution of 1812 was written by the patriotic forces.

The long war also left a long supply of experienced guerrilla fighters, and an oversized army officialdom — for the most part, staunch Liberals. The perceived success of the uprising of 1808 against Napoleon left also a wide, if unconscious, belief in the validity of the right of rebellion, with a long lasting effect in the politics of Spain and Spanish America through the 19th century and beyond.

The reign of Fernando VII proved unable to overcome the political divide or to create stable institutions. The so-called "Liberal Triennium" (18201823), when, after a military "pronunciamiento", the Liberals reinstated the 1812 constitution, and the succeeding "Ominous Decade" (18231833), ten years of absolute rule by the King, left bitter memories of persecution in both parties.

While in power, both groups had divided themselves into moderate and radical branches. The radical branch of the absolutists (or royalists), known as the Apostólicos, looked upon the heir presumptive, Infante Carlos Maria Isidro (Don Carlos), as its natural head, as he was profoundly devout and, especially after 1820, staunchly anti-liberal.

In 1827, Catalonia was shaken by the rebellion of the Agreugats or Agraviados ("the Grievous"), an ultra-absolutist movement, which, for a time, controlled large parts of the region. The Infante was for the first time then hailed as King. He denied any involvement.

The last years of King Fernando saw a political realignment due to the troubles around his succession. In October 1832, the King formed a moderate royalist Government under Cea Bermudez, which tried, almost successfully, to curb the Apostolic party and, through an amnesty, to gain liberal support for Isabella's right to succeed and for Queen Maria Cristina de Borbón, her mother, and designated regent. If only to get rid of Don Carlos, the Liberals accepted the new Princess of Asturias.

Moreover, the first years of the 1830s were influenced by the failure of the French Restoration, which meant the end of Bourbonic absolutist rule in France; and the civil war in Portugal between both absolutist and liberal parties.

Social and economical factors

Beside this political evolution, the years before the Carlist wars were marked with a deep economic crisis in Spain, partly spurred by the loss of the American colonies and by the bankruptcy of the state. The last triggered enhanced tax pressure which further fueled social unrest.

Certain economic measures proposed by the Liberals (like the division and sale of the commons, initiated in 1821) were directly threatening to the viability of many small farms, which could rely on the commons to feed, at little or no cost, their mules and oxen.

One important factor was the religious question. The radical liberals (progresistas) after 1820 had grown more and more anticlerical, with special hatred for regular orders, and were suspected of being masonic shields. This policy alienated them from many sections of the (mostly deeply Catholic) Spanish people, especially in rural areas.

Incidentally, the only institution abolished in the "Liberal Triennium", which was not restored by Fernando VII, was the Inquisition. One of the demands of the radical absolutist party was its reinstitution.

Liberals had been, while in power, quite doctrinarian, and therefore uniformists. In many sections of Spain, there were intense particularist feelings, who where thus hurt. While only a secondary element at the outbreak of the first War, this anti-uniformism, exemplified in the defense of the "Fueros", would become in time one of the more important banners of Carlism.

History of Carlism

The history of Carlism can be usefully divided into three different stages. (The dates are only approximative, thus the overlap is intentional)

  • (1833-1876), where the conquest of power was tried mainly by military means
  • (1868-1936), where Carlism reverted into a peaceful political movement
  • (1931-) From the Spanish Civil War till now. Last bloom and decadence

Carlists at war (1833-1876)

This period in which the party tried to get to power mainly through military means, is both the classical in terms of political history as, because of the wars — or the threat of them — Carlism was at the center stage; and formative as it's the period where the cultural and sociological Carlist world, that would last for hundred years, took shape.

Historical highlights of this era are the

  • The Royal Marriage Affair 1845. As a mean to end the dynastic strife, Jaime Balmes started a campaign to marry Isabel II with Carlos (VI), Count of Montemolín. It came close to success, but the political issues grounded it.
  • The 1860 expedition and its aftermath. That year Carlos (VI), Count of Montemolín, tried to gain power through a pronunciamiento. He landed in San Carlos de La Rápita (Tarragona), but was quickly detained, and forced to abdicate his rights. This disaster, his behavior after his release, and the fact that the next in the line was his liberal brother, put the Carlism on the brink of extinction, only saved by the hand of his stepmother, the Princess of Beria, and
  • The "Glorious Revolution" 1868. Isabel II managed to alienate almost everybody in Spain, till she was expelled that year by a progressist revolution.

At that point, Carlism, under his new head Carlos VII, became the rallying point for many political catholics and conservatives, becoming the main group of the right-wing opposition to the ensuing governments in Spain. After four years of political activity, and some hesitations, the war option was again tried in

All three wars share a common development pattern:

  • A first stage of Guerrilla activity, across all of Spain.
  • A second stage, where a territorial basis is created, and regular army units are created. The 1847 war didn't get further than this.
  • A third stage, where the basis in consolidated thru conventional warfare, and State structures are created. No Carlist war when further than this.

It's remarkable that at the beginning of each war, no regular army unit was on the Carlist side, and that only the third was the result of a planned uprising.

The first war was noteworthy for being, in both sides, extremely brutal, up to the point that the international powers forced the warring parties some rules of war handling, namely the "Lord Elliot Agreement". Brutality didn't disappeared latter, but giving no quarter was not uncommon.

The areas over which Carlism could establish some sort on territorial authority during the first war (Navarre, Rioja, rural Basque Country, inner Catalonia and northern Valencia region) would remain the main holdings of Carlism for all its history.

Carlist military leaders

Isabelline, Alfonsine or Cristine military leaders

Carlists in peace (1868-1936)

The desprestige and subsequent fall of Isabel II in 1868 plus the staunch support of Carlism to Pope Pius IX, caused that a sizable number of former isabelline conservative catholics (Francisco Navarro Villoslada, Antonio Aparisi y Guijarro, Cándido Nocedal y Rodriguez de la Flor, Alejandro Pidal y Mon, ...) joined Carlism. For a time, even beyond the start of the third war (1872), it became the most important, and best organized, "right" opposition group to the revolutionary regime (some 90 parliamentarians in 1871).

After the defeat in the war, a group (led by Alejandro Pidal) left Carlism to form a moderate, non-dynastic catholic party in Spain, which latter merged with the conservatives of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo. In 1879 Candido Nocedal is charged with the reorganization of the party. His main weapon will be a very aggressive press (in 1883 Pope Leo XIII has to publish the encyclica "Cum Multa" trying to moderate it). His banner, a uncompromising hold to their political and, specially, religious principles (to the integrity of them, hence the term "integrist"). This tendency becomes so radical, that in 1888, Carlos (VII) has to expel from the party the group centered around Ramón Nocedal, Cándido's son, which create a small, but influential in clerical circles, Integrist Party.

Meanwhile, the Marquess of Cerralbo, builds up a modern mass party, centered around the local assembly houses (called "Círculos", of which several hundred existed all around Spain in 1936) and their social action, and in an active participation in opposition to the political system of the Restoration (participating even in wide coalitions like 1907's "Solidaritat Catalana", with regionalists and republicans).

From 1893 to 1918, Juan Vazquez de Mella y Fanjul was it's most important parliamentary leader and ideologue, seconded by Victor Pradera Larumbe, who had wide influence in Spanish conservative thinking beyond the party.

World War I was to have a special influence in Carlism. As the Carlist Pretender, then Don Jaime, was also Head of the House of Bourbon, he stood for France and the Allies, but was living under house-arrest in Austria, with almost no communication with the political direction in Spain. This was, though, (specially Vazquez de Mella) rabid pro-german. As the war ended, and Don Jaime could again freely communicate with Spain, the crisis erupted, and Vazquez de Mella, Cerralbo, Pradera and others had to left the party (the so-called "mellists")

In 1920, Carlism helped to found the "Sindicatos Libres" (Catholic Labor Unions).

The Miguel Primo de Rivera's dictatorship (1923-1930) was ambiguously viewed by Carlism; which, as most parties, entered a period of slumber, only to be awakened by the coming of the II Republic on 1931

Integrists and "mellists" soon reunited, and a new flow of catholics scared by the attitudes of the republican government started to come in. The two first year of the republic saw short lived attempts of coalitions with Basque nationalists (as catholic integrists) and/or alfonsine monarchists.

After the October 1934 Revolution, Carlism started to prepare for an armed clash with the revolutionaries

Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)

The Carlist requetés had been receiving military training during the Second Spanish Republic. However, the negotiations with the conspirating generals were tough. But by July 1936, Carlism unanimously supported the nationalist side on the Spanish Civil War. From the start there were serious troubles, between the Carlists, especially their then political head Manuel Fal Conde, and the military government. On 8 December 1936, Manuel Fal had to leave temporarilly for Portugal, after a major clash with Franco. On 19th April 1937 their political branch was "unified" with the Falange party. Both Fal, and the regent Javier de Borbón protested this move, and, after a meeting with Francisco Franco, Don Javier is expelled from Spain. Due to the necessities of the war, actions against the Unification didn't go much further, but meant the loss of all material wealth of the party (hundreds of buldings and several newspapers)

Carlism after the Spanish Civil War (1937- )

From this time on, the mainstream kept an uncomfortable minority position inside the regime, more often than not at odds with the official policy, but with the ministry of Justice always given to a loyal "Carlist". This time was also marred by the problem of succession (see below) and internal strife on how to deal with Francoism. Franco recognized both the titles of nobility conceded by the Carlist pretenders and those of the Isabeline branch.

At his death, the movement was badly split, and unable to get wide public attention again. At Montejurra/Jurramendi, the 9 May, 1976, two Carlos-Hugo supporters were killed by extreme right-wing gunmen, suspected to be Sixto's supporters, triggering a bitter feud inside Carlist ranks.

After the first democratic elections on 15 June, 1977, the Carlists remained extra-parliamentary, obtaining only town council seats.

As of 2002 Carlos-Hugo donated their House's archives to the Archivo Histórico Nacional.

Pretenders to the throne

Carlos (V) Maria Isidro

(Aranjuez, 29 March 1788 - Trieste, 10 March 1855). Also known as Count of Molina. Pretender from 1833 to 1845. Head of the party during the First Carlist War. Abdicated

Carlos (VI) Luis

Son of the former (Madrid, 31 January 1818 - Trieste, 13 January 1861). Also known as Count of Montemolín. Pretender from 1845 to 1860. Abdicated, following their capture by Isabeline forces, in Tortosa.

Juan (III)

Brother of the former (Aranjuez, 15 May 1822 - Brighton, 21 November 1887) Also known as Count of Montizon. Pretender from 1860 to 1868. Forced to abdicate due to his liberal leaning. By that time, the theory of "legitimacy of exercise" (not only by blood, but of deeds) was introduced.

In 1883, he became senior male by primogeniture of the Capet family, becoming "legitimist" claimant of the French throne.

Carlos (VII) Maria de los Dolores

Son of the former. (Laibach, 30 March 1848 - Varese, 18 July 1909) Also known as Duke of Madrid. Pretender from 1868 to 1909. Head during the Third Carlist War.

Jaime (III)

Son of the former (Vevey, 27 June 1870 - Paris, 9 October 1931) Also known as Duke of Madrid. Pretender from 1909 to 1931

Alfonso Carlos

Also known as Duke of San Jaime. Pretender from 1931 to 1936. Uncle of the former. Brother to Carlos (VII) (London 12 September 1849-Vienna 29 September 1936) Last of the male line.

Late Pretenders

After Alfonso Carlos' death, dynastic seniority — after the Salic law — fell upon Alfonso XIII, former constitutional King of Spain and then in exile at Rome, therefore, at least in theory, ending the family split. But according to the theory of legitimacy in exercise, many Carlists thought that Alfonso XIII and his heir Juan de Borbón were radically disqualified to head the "Cause". They cited the doubts over Alfonso XII's paternity to dismiss him as illegitimate and his descendants as thus ineligible for the throne.

Alfonso Carlos had named in 1936 Prince Francis Xavier of Borbón-Parma as regent, as he was the nearest Bourbon who shared the Carlist ideals. During the Second World War, Prince Xavier returned to the Belgian army, where he had served during World War I. He was demobilized and joined the French maquis. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis and sent to Natzweiler and Dachau, where the American troops liberated him in 1945.

In 1952 he laid openly his claims to the Throne, which he ceded in 1975 to his eldest son Carlos-Hugo, married to Princess Irene of the Netherlands. After the definitive break with Franco (1965–1967), under the latter's direction, his group switched to a leftist Titoist, autogestionary socialist movement. His brother, Sixto of Borbon-Parma, has headed a far right split.

In 1980, Carlos-Hugo left the political arena, but did not abdicate his rights.

In 1958, a sizable group of Carlists, recognized Juan de Borbón as his Head.

From 1943 to 1953, the Archduke Carlos-Pio of Habsburg-Lorraine-Tuscany, claimed also the Head of the House.

Beside them, there were other factions, which recognized neither of the above. Some were tightly integrated in the Movimiento Nacional, some were not.

Most of this events happened under Franco's regime, which skillfully played one group against the other, and all of them against Don Juan.

Carlist ideological landscape

Carlism or "Traditionalism" (as is also called) can be labeled as a "counter-revolutionary" movement. Basically, it's intellectual landscape was a reaction against the basic tenets of the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution of 1789 (Laicism, individualism, egalitarianism, rationalism). In this sense, is akin to the French Reactionaries and Edmund Burke's thinking.

It's difficult, though, to give an accurate description of carlist thinking for several reasons:

  • As conservatives, they mistrusted ideology as political driving force. Some pamphlets of the XIX expressed it in the form: against a "philosophical" constitution (the liberal, based on ideology)), an "historical" constitution is proposed (based on history, and the teachings of the Church).
  • It's long active history -it was an important force for 150 years- and the fact that it attracted a large and diverse following, makes a comprehensive categorization more difficult
  • It has almost never been a single school of thought inside Carlism
  • The ideas expressed inside Carlism were partly (and openly) shared with other forces on the political spectrum

Dios, Patria, Fueros, Rey

This four words (which can be translated as God, Fatherland, Local Rule and King), have been the motto and cornerstone of Carlism for all its life (although the "fueros" clause was a latter addition to the motto). What Carlism understood under this was

  • "Dios" (God): Carlism believes in the Catholic Faith as a cornerstone of Spain, and must be politically active its defense.
  • "Patria" (Fatherland): Carlism is heavily patriotic, but not nationalist. Traditionalism sees the Fatherland as the nesting of communities (municipal, regional, Spain) united under one
  • "Rey" (King): The concept of "national sovereignty" is rejected. Sovereignty is vested on the King, both legitimate in blood and in deeds, which effectively rules. But this power is limited by the doctrine of the Church and the Laws and Usages of the Kingdom, and thru a series of Councils, traditional Cortes and state-independent intermediate bodies. The King must also be the Defender of the Poor and Keeper of Justice.
  • Fueros: Part of the limitation of royal powers is the acknowledgment of local and regional self rule (and of other types of communities in the political body, specially the Church). Although the result of a peculiar historical development in Spain, it converged with the concept of subsidiarity in the Catholic Social Thought

Carlist Supporters

The areas over which Carlism could establish some sort on territorial authority during the first war (Navarre, Rioja, rural Basque Country, inner Catalonia and northern Valencia region) would remain the main holdings of Carlism for all its history. Specially, in Navarre and parts of the Basque Country, Carlism has been a major political force till the late 1960's.

Carlism was a true "mass movement" and draw his rank and file from all social classes, with a majority of peasant and working class elements. Thus, it's of no surprise that Carlism was involved in the creation of catholic trade unions

Offshots and influence

  • The founders of Basque nationalism came from a Carlist background, and for many years competed for the same audience (Basque deep Catholics). Compare the PNV slogan "God and Fueros".
  • Catholic integrism has permeated the whole Spanish right. Compare the slogan "Christ King".
  • Victor Pradera's thinking was very influential, thru his group "Acción Española", in Spanish authoritary thinking in the 1930's and 1940's
  • The socialist thinking of Carlos-Hugo's carlism, stems partly from prior carlist political praxis blended with Liberation Theology and May 1968's spirit

Carlist symbols

Carlism related words

  • Bergara/Vergara was the place of the Abrazo de Bergara, which ended the first Carlist war.
  • Brigadas de Navarra the requeté units formed in Navarre at the start of the Spanish Civil War. They saw intensive action during the War.
  • detente bala ("Stop bullet!") a small patch with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus worn on the uniform (over the heart) by most requetés
  • margaritas. Carlist women working as war nurses.
  • ojalateros were courtiers saying Ojalá nos ataquen y ganemos ("Wish they would attack us and we win"), but doing nothing to achieve victory.
  • Requeté The armed Carlist militias
  • trágala, expression marking the desire to forcibly impose the ideas most hated by the opponents. Also a fighting song (chorus: "Swallow it, you Carlist, you who don't want a Constitution.")

Carlism and Literature

The liberal Spanish journalist Mariano José de Larra opposed Carlism and published several lampoons against it. Nadie pase sin hablar al portero ( (1833) presents Carlists as a bunch of bandit priests.

Karl Marx mentioned the Carlists in his articles about the Spanish revolutions. A fake ( quotation can be found among Spanish historians, where Marx would express a view of the Carlists as a revolutionary popular movement in defence of regional liberties.

Francisco Navarro-Villoslada was a Carlist writer that published a historic novel, Amaya o los vascos en el siglo VIII, in the fashion of Walter Scott, presenting the legendary origins of Spanish monarchy as the start of Reconquista.

Ramón María del Valle-Inclán was a member of the Spanish Generation of 1898. He wrote novels about Carlism.

Pio Baroja wrote a novel, "Zalacaín el aventurero," set during one of the Carlist wars.

The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno suffered as a child the siege of Bilbao during the Third Carlist War. Later he wrote a novel Paz en la guerra about that time. In 1895 he wrote to Joaquín Costa about his plans for an essay on the "intrahistoric" element of rural socialism within the Carlist masses.

On line references

Basic Bibliography

ca:Carlisme de:Carlismus es:Carlismo fr:Carlisme nl:Carlisme pl:Karlizm


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools