The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Charles IV. (Spain)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHARLES IV., king of Spain, born in Naples, Nov. 12, 1748, died in Rome, Jan. 19, 1819. The son of Charles III., he succeeded to the throne in 1788, having married at an early age his cousin, Maria Louisa of Parma, by whom he was entirely controlled. When Manuel Godoy, a handsome private in the body guards, became her lover, she contrived to make him the friend of her husband; and she succeeded so well that they lived together on the most intimate terms, the favorite of the queen becoming also the favorite of the king. He was always ready to confer new favors upon Godoy; raised him very rapidly to the rank of a lieutenant general, and bestowed upon him the title of duke of Alcudia and the office of minister of foreign affairs. Complications arose with the French republic, owing to the efforts of Charles to save the life of his cousin, Louis XVI., whose execution he resented by declaring war against France. His army, however, was soon worsted, and he was happy to conclude in 1795 a treaty of peace at Basel. This treaty was signed by Godoy, who then assumed the title of “Prince of the Peace.” In consequence of this alliance with France, Charles became involved in a war with Portugal and England. The hostilities against the former country did not last long, nor were they severe; but in the contest with the latter, the Spanish navy received a deadly blow at the battle of Trafalgar (Oct. 21, 1805). Napoleon, who found a pliant tool in Godoy, finally resolved on deposing Charles IV., who also had an enemy in his own son Ferdinand. The young prince, whose bad qualities were still unknown to the nation, gained universal favor by his opposition to Godoy and the French rule, and used his influence to annoy his father. Charles, disgusted with his son's conduct, and tired of the French domination, resolved to retire to Spanish America; but on the very day he intended leaving his royal residence at Aranjuez, March 18, 1808, he was stopped by a tumult of the populace instigated by Ferdinand. The rage of the people was now directed against the queen and Godoy. In order to save Godoy's life, Charles abdicated (March 19) in favor of Ferdinand, but a few days later sought to withdraw the abdication. Napoleon put an end to the feud between father and son by deposing them both. Charles and Ferdinand were taken to Bayonne, where Napoleon was to pronounce between them as an umpire. As soon as the emperor got them in his power, he obliged Ferdinand to restore the crown to his father, who in turn relinquished it to Napoleon. This episode was the turning point of the fortunes of Napoleon. Charles received in exchange for his crown the castle of Compiègne, surrounded by a forest abounding in game, with a yearly pension of 6,000,000 francs. Notwithstanding the allurements of Compiègne, Charles went to Marseilles; and in 1811 he was permitted to repair to Rome, in company with his wife and Godoy. After the fall of Napoleon, Ferdinand having given dissatisfaction to the Spaniards, a proposition was made to Charles to renew his claims to the crown; but he refused, his only desire being to spend his latter years in retirement in the company of his wife and her paramour. The former having died in December, 1818, grief preyed so much upon his mind that he died within a month afterward.