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King of Spain, 1788-1808
Charles was born at Portici on November 11, 1748, the second son of Charles III (then king of the Two Sicilies) and his wife Maria Amelia of Saxony. He married Maria Luisa of Parma (daughter of Philip, Duke of Parma), his first cousin, in 1765. They had 14 children, but only seven reached adulthood -- Maria Amalia (1774-1798), who married her uncle Antonio, Infante of Spain (son of Charles III); Carlota Joaquina (1775-1830), who married John VI of Portugal; Maria Luisa (1782-1824), who married Louis of Bourbon-Parma; Ferdinand VII of Spain; Carlos (1788-1855), who became a Carlist pretender to the throne of Spain; Maria Isabel (1789-1848), who married her first cousin Francis I of the Two Sicilies; and, Francisco de Paula, Duke of Cadiz (1794-1865), who married his niece Luisa Carlota, daughter of his sister Maria Isabel and Francis I of the Two Sicilies.
Charles succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father on December 14, 1788. His elder brother had been passed over because he was mentally retarded and an epileptic, even though Charles was himself seen as intellectually sluggish. Charles thought it very important to appear to be a powerful monarch, but in reality his kingdom was little more than a dependency of France and his throne was dominated by his wife and her lover, Manuel de Godoy.
Spain entered the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, but in 1795 made peace with France in the second Treaty of Basel. By the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1796), Spain allied itself with France and became involved in the war with England; the treaty also gave the vast Louisiana Territory in North America to France. It subsequently suffered major naval defeats at Cape St. Vincent (1797) and Trafalgar (1805).
In March 1808, a popular uprising led to a coup d'etat at Aranjuez and Charles was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Ferdinand VII on March 19. Napoleon Bonaparte did not trust Ferdinand, however, and he soon forced Ferdinand to abdicate in favor of Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte. The royal family was held captive in France until 1814.
Charles died in Rome on January 20, 1819.
This page was last updated on January 19, 2017.