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A Hohenzollern for Spain?

Queen Isabel II of Spain, unhappy daughter of Fernando VII

Queen Isabel II of Spain, unhappy daughter of Fernando VII

Isabel II was the daughter of Fernando VII, possibly the worst monarch Spain ever had; her reign contained two unpopular regencies and the Carlist Wars (q.v.). There were personal scandals, changes of government and a state of almost permanent conflict between factions. The crown was offered to no less than five possible candidates, among them Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a member of the Catholic ruling Prussian dynasty.

So far so indifferent, but William I, King of Prussia, was not keen on the idea. He knew well that France would dislike the idea intensely, as a Prussian on the throne of Spain would frighten them. Von Bismarck (q.v.) however approved, and persuaded Leopold to accept the proposition; he did so in June, 1870. Few statesmen and diplomats have enjoyed so much power as the ‘Iron Chancellor’.

Some historians believe that Bismarck persuaded Leopold precisely because he wanted war with France, while others deny this. It seems only too possible that the first group were right, and that Bismarck’s risky project would have led to war.

French foreign minister Gramont made it clear that the move would not be tolerated. At this point William of Prussia confirmed his dislike of the move to Leopold, and the family renounced the candidacy.

France enjoyed her brief diplomatic triumph, but both Bismarck and von Moltke, chief of staff of the Prussian army were utterly depressed, not a mental condition that could guarantee anyone’s peace of mind in Europe. Then Gramont made things much worse by asking William in a written message if he would please ensure that Leopold would not even think of renewing the candidacy! This was the perfect opportunity for Bismarck to make one of his lightning moves – he published the famous EMS telegram in which William had explained what was happening to Bismarck. The latter published a specially shortened version of the telegram,  which made it seem as if the French demands were peremptory. William rather crudely rebuffed the French Ambassador and ended diplomatic relations with France. The stage was thus set for the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71) which could very easily have been avoided.

The Spanish throne was finally accepted by the Duke of Aosta, second son of Victor Emanuel of Italy. His name was Amadeus I but he might well have been Amadeus the Brief, for he reigned from 1871 – 1873, when he abdicated. Then the First Spanish Republic was declared.

Looking on with a certain detachment, and a good deal of philosophy, it might have been better all round if the Hohenzollern candidate had become the King of Spain. I join a few others who wonder if a mutually friendly Spain and Prussia might possibly have influenced William II enough around 1910 -1914 to have avoided the First World War. But who knows?

Caustic Congresses III: the Peace of Utrecht (1713)


Great men conferring /

Great men conferring /

Of all the peace conferences that turned caustic almost at the moment of signing, the Peace of Utrecht which ‘ended’ the War of the Spanish Succession (q.v.) wins a prize. The year was 1713; the comparatively peaceful eighteenth century was just beginning. The seventeenth had been full of blood and thunder.

The Congress met at Utrecht in the Low Countries without the presence of Austria. Philip V (Felipe Quinto) stayed as King of Spain but had to renounce his claim to the French throne, and to accept the loss of Spain’s European empire. Later, Austrian emperor Charles VI found he could not carry out his plans for expansion without allies, and accepted the terms of Utrecht at Rastadt and Baden in 1714, one year later. (more…)

The first Empire upon which the sun never set

A Spanish fleet /

A Spanish fleet /

Four hundred years before the British Empire never enjoyed the setting sun, the Spanish Empire rose, flourished, dwindled and vanished. From the late fifteenth century, Spain, a fraction smaller than France, forged an empire including the Canary Islands, most of the West Indian Islands, all central America, all of South America except Brazil, parts of the Low Countries and parts of Italy, plus the Philippines. (more…)

The Cherokee



The Cherokee, a painting by Nick Freemon /

The Cherokee, a painting by Nick Freemon /

  In the story of the Cherokee nation can be found the finest and saddest elements of the early history of the United States of America. The ‘Plains People’ were North American Indian tribes who had inhabited a large region stretching right across modern western Virginia and the Carolinas, parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, and even northern Georgia and Alabama.

They had been there since pre-historical times, constructing the city Etowah in Georgia which became a religious centre for Mississippi cultures. Unfortunately, the Cherokee were visited by the conquistador Hernando de Soto around 1541 – an introduction to European culture which many natives did not survive. (more…)

The Virginius incident


Artist's impression of the sinking of the Virginius /

Artist’s impression of the sinking of the Virginius /

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century piracy and slavery/the slave trade were almost extinguished, partly because governments were not inclined, as they had before, to ‘turn a blind eye’. The slave trade had been abolished in the British West Indies in 1834, and in North America in 1863. Both US warships and the British Navy were kept busy maintaining the Law. While the sixteen and seventeenth centuries had seen ‘gentleman adventurers’ running their own buccaneering ships backed by European kings and governments in the ‘licenced piracy’ industry, the ‘Jolly Roger’ was now frowned upon, especially by Britain and the United States, while superb Dutch, French and Spanish navigators based on the Venezuelan and Brazilian coasts and in the Caribbean were still loath to give up a highly profitable (though risky) business. In the South China Sea there has always been piracy, though half-crazy individuals like Brooke the White Rajah of Sarawak (q.v.) did much to suppress it. (more…)

The (disastrous) Peace of Amiens


PM George Canning painted by R. Evans /

PM George Canning painted by R. Evans /

The months of February and March, 1802 encouraged a fairly peaceful interlude in the Napoleonic Wars between France and (principally) Britain. The British people were sick to death of war and its concomitant high taxation. In March the results of divisive talks produced the Treaty of Amiens, a nonsense by which nearly all Britain’s overseas conquests were to be handed back. These included the sugar-rich islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe; Tobago to Spain (France’s ally) and the entire Cape of Good Hope to the Dutch. Britain was also ordered to give up the strategically important island of Malta, Britain’s sole base in the Eastern Mediterranean. (more…)

The Radical Republican Party (PPR) of Spain



Alexandro Lerroux (

Alexandro Lerroux (

  Since they were given the chance to do so, the Spanish people have preferred to vote for left-inclined political parties. After the new Constitution of 1978, signed by all parties three years after the death of Franco, there have been thirteen years of PSOE rule under Felipe González, and nearly eight years of the same party in power with Zapatero as titular head. The Popular Party, founded by conservative Manuel Fraga and others, is not conservative or right-wing at all. It is a pure Social Democratic Party under another name. So is the Spanish Workers’ Socialist Party (PSOE): the two principal parties are social democrats but cannot learn to live or work together. (more…)

By | 2013-03-29T10:33:13+00:00 March 29th, 2013|Spanish History, World History|0 Comments

Popular Myths and the Conspiracy Theory: ‘the stab in the back’ 1918


Friedrich Ebert did not believe in the Allies' victory /

Friedrich Ebert did not believe in the Allies’ victory /

Learnéd, and sometime not so learnéd people have started myths right down through the centuries almost since the human race was ‘uncivilized’. King Alfred ‘burning the cakes’, ‘Robin Hood and Maid Marian’, Richard III ‘murdering his nephews’, changelings occupying thrones in Europe, what lay behind the sinking of the Titanic, foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, was the Russian royal family killed in a cellar in Siberia? Plus a long line of etceteras. (more…)

The Kaiser (Wilhelm II of Germany)


All in the family; Wilhelm II with, among other, George V and Alfonso XIII. All pictured here are cousins

All in the family; Wilhelm II with, among other, George V and Alfonso XIII. All pictured here are cousins and descendents of Queen Victoria

The future King of Prussia and German Emperor was born in 1859, the eldest son of the then Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia (he later became Emperor Frederick III) and his wife,  daughter and namesake of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Empress of India. This made George V, against whom Wilhelm went to war his first cousin – an embarrassment to say the least. He was born with a semi-paralysed left arm, several inches shorter than the right one. (more…)

The second Spanish Republic


Manuel Azaña /

Manuel Azaña /

  Political philosophies in the Latin country of Spain are so aggressive that journalists who have an opinion, or dare to have an opinion about politics that affect Spain run the risk of, at the least, being spat upon in the street. At the most, they might be killed, as happened to a number of writers and journalists during the 1930s. Victims were usually affiliated to the Left, but many who died were of the Right. We are going to attempt to write an unbiased account of the Spanish Second Republic which lasted from 1931 to 1936; we are not associated with, nor affiliated with any political party. Nor do we consider ourselves right-wing or left-wing. An American TV crime series used to have its chief character saying “Just give us the facts . . .” in every episode. That is what we intend to do in this post.

Spain’s first democratic administration for nearly sixty years was established in 1931 and was cheered by the population, following fairly disastrous policies of the monarchy. But the Republic had to face an almost indefatigable series of obstructions, such as the unmovable and institutional power of ‘the ruling classes’, the timidity and feebleness of the State, immeasurable debt and the international impact of the Depression and, above all, radical differences in the regime’s own ranks. (more…)

By | 2013-03-19T11:57:37+00:00 March 19th, 2013|Church history, Spanish History, World History|0 Comments
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