An exceptionally long-lived movement, it was a significant player in Spanish politics from 1833 until the demise of the Franco regime in 1975 as a social and political force, and one of the main actors in the Spanish Kulturkampf or cultural war of Catholicism and Monarchism against liberalism and modernism.
Even today, many Carlists remain politically active, although Carlism is a movement of scarce political influence.
Although several attempts to revert to the traditional order were made (see below), the succession question only became pressing when, by 1830, Ferdinand VII found himself ailing, without any issue and a pregnant wife. He decided to promulgate a law in 1830 making the unborn child his heir regardless of its sex. The law placed the child, which would be born a girl, ahead of his brother Infante Carlos, who until then had been heir-presumptive.
The act was seen by some (starting with his brother and the cadet Bourbon branches) as illegal on various counts, and formed the basis for the dynastic Carlist party, which only recognized the semi-Salic succession law that gave Infante Carlos precedence over Ferdinand's daughter, Infanta Isabel.
The long war also left a large 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 long-lasting effects on the politics of Spain and Spanish America through the 19th century and beyond.
The reign of Ferdinand VII proved unable to overcome the political divide or to create stable institutions. The so-called "Liberal Triennium" (1820–1823), when, after a military "pronunciamiento", the Liberals reinstated the 1812 constitution, and the succeeding "Ominous Decade" (1823–1833), 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, 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 Agreujats or Agraviados ("the Aggrieved"), 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 Ferdinand saw a political realignment due to the troubles around his succession. In October 1832, the King formed a moderate royalist Government under Francisco Cea Bermúdez, 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 Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, 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 Bourbon rule in France; and the civil war in Portugal between both legitimist and liberal parties.
Beside this political evolution, the years before the Carlist wars were marked by a deep economic crisis in Spain, partly spurred by the loss of the continental American provinces, 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 Desamortización, i.e. the takeover, division and sale of the commons and Church property, initiated in 1821) were directly threatening to the viability of many small farms, whose inhabitants could rely on the common pasture lands to feed, at little or no cost, their mules and oxen, and caused widespread poverty and the closing down of most hospitals, schools and other charities.
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 centralizing uniformists. In many sections of Spain, there were intense particularist feelings, who were thus hurt. While only a secondary element at the outbreak of the first War, this anti-uniformism or local particularism, exemplified in the defense of the fueros, would become in time one of the more important banners of Carlism.
The period of the Carlist Wars, in which the party tried to attain 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 is the period where the cultural and sociological Carlist world, that would last for well over a hundred years, took shape.
Historical highlights of this era are the
At that point, Carlism, under its 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:
It is 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, on both sides, extremely brutal (the Liberal Army mistreated the population, most of whom it suspected of being Carlist sympathizers, to the point of, sometimes, attempted extermination; Carlists, very often, treated Liberals no better than they had treated Napoleonic soldiers and agents), to the point where the international powers forced the warring parties to recognize some rules of war, namely the "Lord Eliot Agreement". Brutality didn't disappear completely, and 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, although the movement was actively supported everywhere else in Spain. Especially in Navarre, Asturias, and parts of the Basque Provinces, Carlism was a major political force until the late 1960s.
After the defeat, 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 Cándido Nocedal was charged with the reorganization of the party. His main weapon was a very aggressive press; (in 1883 Pope Leo XIII published the encyclical Cum Multa trying to moderate it). His stance was an uncompromising hold to the Carlists' political and, especially, religious principles (to their integrity, hence the term "integrist"). This tendency became so radical that in 1888, Carlos VII had to expel the group centered around Ramón Nocedal, Cándido's son, which thus gave rise to another small, but in clerical circles influential, Integrist Party.
Meanwhile, the Marquis of Cerralbo, built 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 Vázquez de Mella was its most important parliamentary leader and ideologue, seconded by Víctor Pradera, who had wide influence in Spanish conservative thinking beyond the party.
World War I had a special influence on Carlism. As the Carlist claimant, then Don Jaime, had close links with the Russian Imperial Family, had been unfairly mistreated by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, and was also Head of the House of Bourbon, he favoured the Allies, but was living under house-arrest in Austria, with almost no communication with the political direction in Spain. As the war ended, and Don Jaime could again freely communicate with Spain, the crisis erupted, and Vázquez de Mella and others had to leave the party's direction (the so-called "mellists").
In 1920, Carlism helped to found the "Sindicatos Libres" (Catholic Labour Unions).
Miguel Primo de Rivera's dictatorship (1923–1930) was opposed, but ambiguously viewed by Carlism; which, like most parties, entered a period of slumber, only to be awakened by the coming of the Second Republic in 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 years 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.
The Carlist militia, the Requetés, had been receiving military training during the Second Spanish Republic. However, the negotiations with the conspiring 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 Conde had to leave temporarily for Portugal, after a major clash with Franco.
On 19 April 1937 their political branch was "unified" with the Falange party. Fal Conde, the regent Javier de Borbón, and even part of the Falangist leaders protested this move, and, after a meeting with Francisco Franco, Don Javier was 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 (buildings, newspapers, etc.).
Franco recognized both the titles of nobility conceded by the Carlist claimants and those of the Isabelline branch. At his death, the movement was badly split, and unable to get wide public attention again.
In 1971, Don Carlos Hugo founded the new Carlist Party based on the confederalist view of Las Españas for Spain and socialist autogestion (then promoted in Yugoslavia). At Montejurra, on 9 May, 1976, two Hugo supporters were killed by far-right militants, among whom was the Gladio operative Stefano Delle Chiaie. Carlist Party accused Hugo's brother, Sixto Enrique de Borbón of helping the far-right militants. Traditionalist Communion denies such collaboration .
In the first democratic elections on 15 June, 1977, only one Carlist senator was elected, journalist and writer Fidel Carazo from Soria, who ran as an independent candidate. In the parliamentary elections of 1979, rightist Carlists integrated in the far-right coalition Unión Nacional, that won a seat in Congress for Madrid; but the elected candidate was not a Carlist himself. Since then, Carlists have remained extra-parliamentary, obtaining only town council seats.
Carlos María Isidro de Borbón y Parma (29 March 1788 – 10 March 1855) was the first Carlist claimant from 1833 to 1845, including during the First Carlist War. He was known as the Count of Molina. He abdicated in favour of his son.
In 1860 he abdicated, following his capture by Isabelline forces, in Tortosa. When freed, he re-assumed his claim until he died the next year.
He was forced to abdicate by the Carlists due to his liberal leanings.
In 1883 he became the legitimist claimant to the throne of France.
Carlos María de los Dolores de Borbón y Austria-Este (30 March 1848 – 18 July 1909) was the son of Juan III. He was Carlist claimant from 1868 to 1909, including during the Third Carlist War. He was known as the Duke of Madrid.
He was also legitimist claimant to the throne of France, using the title Duke of Anjou.
He was also the legitimist claimant to the throne of France, using the title Duke of Anjou.
Alfonso Carlos de Borbón y de Borbón-Parma (12 September 1849 - 29 September 1936) was uncle of Jaime III and younger brother of Carlos VII. He was Carlist claimant from 1931 to 1936, and was known as the Duke of San Jaime. He was the last male-line descendant of Carlos V.
He was also the legitimist claimant to the throne of France, using the title Duke of Anjou.
A minority of Carlists supported Alfonso de Borbón y Austria, the exiled constitutional king of Spain, who was the senior male descendant of King Charles IV of Spain. The majority of Carlists, however, considered that Alfonso was disqualified because he did not share the Carlist ideals, and many regarded his descent as illegitimate, believing that Alfonso XII's biological father was Isabel II's lover Puig-Molto.
A small number of Carlists supported Carlo Pio de Habsburgo y Borbón, a grandson through the female line of Carlos VII.
Most of the following events happened under Franco's regime, which skillfully played each group against the others.
Javier de Borbón-Parma y Braganza (Xavier, Duke of Parma) (25 May, 1889 - 7 May, 1977) had been named regent of the Carlist Communion by Alfonso Carlos in 1936 as he was the nearest member of the House of Borbón 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 the Dachau concentration camp, where American troops liberated him in 1945. In 1952 Javier proclaimed himself Carlist claimant. He was known as the Count of Molina. He remained Carlist claimant until he abdicated in 1975.
Political division due to the changes in Carlism in the late '60 and early '70, brought a sharp division of Javier's supporters between his two sons Carlos Hugo and Sixto Enrique (and many more endorsing neither). Carlos Hugo turned organized Carlism into a socialist movement, while his brother Sixto Enrique (supported by his mother Madeleine de Bourbon-Busset) followed a far rightist course
In 1977 Sixto Enrique's supporters published a manifesto from Javier condemning Carlos Hugo. Several days later Carlos Hugo's supporters published a manifesto from Javier recognising Carlos Hugo as heir.
Carlos Hugo de Borbón-Parma y Borbón-Busset (Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma) (born April 8 1930) is the elder son of Javier. He has been Carlist claimant since 1977 and is known as the Duke of Madrid. After alienating many Carlists by his attempts of an approach to Franco (1965–1967), Carlos Hugo switched to a leftist Titoist, workers' self-management socialist movement. In 1979 he accepted Spanish citizenship from Juan Carlos of Spain. In 1980 he renounced his membership in the Partido Carlista which he had created. Carlos Hugo has the support of a minority of Carlists including the Partido Carlista.
Sixto Enrique de Borbón-Parma y Borbón-Busset (Prince Sixto Enrique of Bourbon-Parma) (born July 22 1940) claims to be the current regent of the Carlist Communion. He is known as the Duke of Aranjuez.
Sixto Enrique is supported by the minority Comunión Tradicionalista, and some others, who believe that his brother Carlos Hugo is rightful heir, but ineligible for the succession on account of his socialism. Sixto Enrique has never claimed to be Carlist king, in the hopes that the two sons of his brother Carlos Hugo will one day accept traditional Carlist values.
Alfonso de Borbón y Austria was the senior member of the House of Borbón at the death of Alfonso Carlos in 1936. He had reigned as the constitutional king of Spain as Alfonso XIII until his exile in 1931. He was the son of Alfonso XII of Spain, son of Francisco de Asis de Borbón, son of Infante Francisco de Paula, the younger brother of Carlos V. He was recognised as Carlist claimant by a minority of Carlists who considered the death of Alfonso Carlos an opportunity to reunite Spanish monarchists both Carlist and Isabelline. In 1941 Alfonso abdicated; he died two months later.
Alfonso's eldest son had died in 1938. His second son Jaime had been forced to renounce his rights to the constitutional succession in 1933. His third son Juan was his chosen successor.
Some carloctavistas consider that Domingo has contracted an unequal marriage and is thus ineligible to succeed to the throne Following the version of the succession law advocated by the carloctavistas, that if the direct male line dies out the nearest female relative of the last king inherits the crown with succession to her heirs male, then with only descent through equal marriages allowed the claim would have passed on the death of Francisco José in 1975 to Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona. This would make the present de facto king Juan Carlos of Spain the Carlist king, although, as all his children have contracted unequal marriages, the Carlist claim will pass on his death to Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria. However, many Carlists regard the current de facto Spanish royal family as disqualified (see above). If Alfonso XII and his heirs are discounted, the heir to the Spanish throne under the carloctavista succession rules with descent only through equal marriages is Duarte Pio, Duke of Braganza, the current pretender to the throne of Portugal.
Basically, its 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 (Legitimism) and Edmund Burke's thinking.
It's difficult, though, to give an accurate description of Carlist thinking for several reasons:
These four words (which can be translated as God, Fatherland, Local Rule [or possibly Rights?]and King), have been the motto and cornerstone of Carlism throughout its existence. What Carlism understood by these was:
Carlism was a true mass movement and drew its rank and file from all social classes, with a majority of peasant and working class elements. Thus, it is no surprise that Carlism was involved in the creation of Catholic trade unions. It was also a family tradition, later Carlists would be descendants of earlier Carlists.
Karl Marx mentioned the Carlists in his articles about the Spanish revolutions. An apocryphal 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.
Pío Baroja wrote a novel, Zalacaín el aventurero (Zalacain the Adventurer), set during the Third Carlist War, and referred to Carlism in a not very favourable light (as he generally referred to nearly everybody) in several other works.
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.