As Quesada belonged to an ancient family connected with the Dukes of Fernan Nuñez, he was made a cornet when only six years old, was educated at the seminary for nobles and in 1833 was promoted to Lieutenant in the 1st Foot Guards. He served from 1833 to 1836 against the Carlists.
When his father was assassinated in 1836 he resigned, went to France, got employment in a merchant's office and was only induced to return to the army in 1837 by his relatives, who got him a company in the guards.
He distinguished himself often in the Carlist war, but his promotion was slow, and he declined to have anything to do with politics. He confined himself to his duties as a soldier, always fighting on the side of governments against Carlist, Republican and Progressive uprisings. He only became a General of Division in 1853, and at the head of the Madrid garrison, he fought hard in 1854 to avert the triumph of Espartero, General O'Donnell, who publicly recognized his gallant conduct.
When the war in Morocco broke out, O'Donnell gave Quesada the command of a division, which played so conspicuous a part in that campaign and at the battle of Wad el Ras, that its commander was made Lieutenant General and Grand Cross of Charles III.
He was director-general of the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) when the military rebellion of June 22, 1866 broke out in Madrid and, after he had been wounded in the leg, he remained at the head of the loyal troops until the insurgents were crushed. He did lot accept any military post during the revolution until General Serrano in 1874 offered him the direction of the staff, and he only accepted it after clearly stating that he was a royalist and partisan of King Alfonso XII of Spain.
In his long and brilliant career le never swerved from his steadfast resolve never to be mixed up in any political or military intrigues or pronunciamientos. To use his own words, "not even to restore my king."
As soon as the king was restored, the government of Antonio Cánovas del Castillo made Quesada first General-in-chief of the army in central Spain, and in February 1875 general-in-chief of the army of the North. With the assistance of another officer who also had never dabbled in pronunciamientos, General O'Ryan, Quesada restored discipline in the armies confronting Infante Carlos, and for twelve months concerted and conducted the operations that forced the pretender to retire into France and his followers to lay down their arms. The government confided to the Marquis of Miravalles the difficult task of ruling the northern provinces for several years after the war, and he succeeded in conciliating the sympathies of the Basques and Navarrese, though the penalty of their last rising had been the loss of most of their ancient liberties or Jueros.
Quesada was made Marquis of Miravalles and Grandee after the war, minister of war in 1883 and senator. Though he was a strict, stern disciplinarian of the old school and an unflinching Conservative, Catholic and royalist, even his political and military opponents respected him, and were proud of him as an unblemished type of the Castilian soldier and gentleman.
He died at Madrid in January 1889, and was given full military honors.