Just Who Was Isabella II of Spain?

Isabella II of Spain (10 October 1830 – 9 April 1904), the sole queen regnant in Spanish history, ruled Spain from 29 September 1833 until 30 September 1868.

Her reign, marked by palace intrigues, political manoeuvring, and military upheavals, saw Spain transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.

Early Life and Ascension to the Throne

Born in the Royal Palace of Madrid in 1830, Isabella II of Spain was the eldest daughter of King Ferdinand VII and Queen Maria Christina.

In anticipation of Isabella II of Spain’s birth, her father issued a Pragmatic Sanction to secure the succession for his firstborn daughter.

Ascending to the throne a month before her third birthday, Isabella II of Spain’s succession was disputed by her uncle, Infante Carlos, leading to the Carlist Wars.

Turbulent Times: Regencies, Constitutional Changes, and Carlist Wars

During Isabella II of Spain’s minority, Spain experienced significant political unrest.

The Cortes Generales repealed the Salic law, reinstating the older Spanish succession law and resulting in a series of Carlist Wars throughout the 19th century.

Supported by the army, Isabella’s reign saw the reestablishment of constitutional and parliamentary government, religious order dissolution, and financial reforms.

Marriage and Scandals

In 1846, sixteen-year-old Isabella II of Spain married her double-first cousin, Francisco de Asís, Duke of Cádiz.

The unhappy marriage, along with persistent rumours regarding the paternity of Isabella’s children, contributed to her deteriorating public image.

The Glorious Revolution and Exile

The Glorious Revolution of 1868, led by Marshal Prim and Admiral Topete, marked the end of Isabella II of Spain’s reign.

Faced with the prospect of civil war, she abdicated in 1870, paving the way for her son, Alfonso XII, to become king in 1874.

Just Who Was Isabella II of Spain?
Image: Jean Laurent, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Life After Abdication

Following her abdication, Isabella lived in exile in France, eventually renouncing her dynastic rights in favour of her son, Alfonso.

In 1876, she briefly returned to Spain before settling in France permanently.


Isabella II’s reign was a tumultuous period in Spanish history, marked by political intrigue, military uprisings, and personal scandals.

Though her rule ultimately came to an end with the Glorious Revolution, her legacy remains as Spain’s only queen regnant.

*Feature Image: Jean Laurent, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons