Charles IV of Spain

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Charles IV
Carlos IV de rojo.jpg
Portrait of Charles IV by Goya
King of Spain
Reign 14 December 1788 – 19 March 1808
Predecessor Charles III
Successor Ferdinand VII
Spouse Maria Luisa of Parma
Charlotte, Queen of Portugal
Infanta Maria Amalia
Maria Louisa, Queen of Etruria
Ferdinand VII of Spain
Infante Charles, Count of Molina
Maria Isabella, Queen of the Two Sicilies
Infante Francisco de Paula
Full name
Carlos Antonio Pascual Francisco Javier Juan Nepomuceno Jose Januario Serafin Diego
House House of Bourbon
Father Charles III of Spain
Mother Maria Amalia of Saxony
Born 11 November 1748
Palace of Portici, Portici, Italy
Died 20 January 1819(1819-01-20) (aged 70)
Rome, Italy
Burial El Escorial
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles IV (Spanish: Carlos Antonio Pascual Francisco Javier Juan Nepomuceno Jose Januario Serafin Diego; 11 November 1748 – 20 January 1819) was King of Spain from 14 December 1788, until his abdication on 19 March 1808.

Early life

Charles was the second son of Charles III and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. He was born in Naples (11 November 1748), while his father was King of the Two Sicilies. His elder brother Don Felipe was passed over for both thrones, because he had learning disabilities and was epileptic. In Naples and Sicily, Charles was referred to as the Prince of Taranto.1 He was called "El Cazador" (translation: the Hunter), due to his preference for sport and hunting rather than dealing with affairs of the state. Charles was considered by many to have been amiable, but simple-minded.2


Charles IV of Spain

In 1788, Charles III died and Charles IV succeeded to the throne. He intended to maintain the policies of his father and retained his prime minister the Count of Floridablanca in office.2 Even though he had a profound belief in the sanctity of his office and kept up the appearance of an absolute, powerful monarch, Charles never took more than a passive part in the direction of his own government. The affairs of government were left to his wife, Maria Luisa, and his prime minister, while he occupied himself with hunting. In 1792, political and personal enemies ousted Floridablanca from office and had the prime minister replaced with Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, Count of Aranda. However, in the wake of the war against Republican France, the liberal-leaning Count of Aranda was replaced by Manuel de Godoy, a favourite of the Queen and widely believed to be her lover, who enjoyed the lasting favour of the King.

Godoy continued Aranda's policy of neutrality towards France, but after Spain protested against the execution of the deposed king in 1793, France declared war on Spain. After the declaration, Portugal and Spain signed a treaty of mutual protection against France.3 In 1795 France forced Godoy to conclude an alliance and declare war on the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Spain remained an ally of France and supported the Continental Blockade until the British naval victory at Trafalgar. However, after Napoleon's victory over Prussia in 1807, Godoy again steered Spain back onto the French side. This switching of alliances devalued Charles' position as a trustworthy ally, and increased Godoy's unpopularity, strengthening the "fernandistas", the supporters of Crown Prince Ferdinand, who favoured a close relationship with the United Kingdom.

Economic troubles caused by conflict, the rumours about a sexual relationship between the Queen and the powerful prime minister Godoy, and the King's ineptitude caused the monarchy to decline in popular prestige. Anxious to take over from his father as soon as possible and jealous of the prime minister, Crown Prince Ferdinand attempted to overthrow the King in an aborted coup in 1807.4


Riots and a popular revolt at the winter palace Aranjuez in 1808 forced the king to abdicate on 19 March, in favour of his son.4 Ferdinand took the throne as Ferdinand VII, but was mistrusted by Napoleon, who had stationed 100,000 soldiers in Spain by that time.

The ousted King having appealed to Napoleon for help in regaining his throne, Napoleon summoned both Charles IV and his son to Bayonne in April 1808. Napoleon forced both the former King and his son to abdicate, declared the Bourbon dynasty of Spain deposed, and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as King Joseph I of Spain5

Later life and death

The ex-King, his wife and former Prime Minister Godoy were then held captive in France. After the collapse of the regime installed by Napoleon, Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne. The former Charles IV drifted aimlessly about Europe6 until 1812, when he finally settled in Rome, in the Palazzo Barberini.78910 His wife died on 2 January 1819, followed shortly by Charles, who died on 20 January of the same year.


Well-meaning and pious, Charles IV found himself floundering in a series of international crises far beyond his limited capacity to handle.6 He was painted by Francisco Goya in a number of official court portraits which numerous art critics have seen as sly satires on the King's stout vacuity.11

Marriage and children

Charles IV married his first cousin Maria Louisa, the daughter of Philip, Duke of Parma, in 1765. The couple had fourteen children, six of whom survived into adulthood:


Titles and styles

  • 11 November 1748 – 10 August 1759 His Royal Highness the Prince of Taranto
  • 10 August 1759 – 14 December 1788 His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias
  • 14 December 1788 – 19 March 1808 His Majesty the King
  • 19 March 1808 – 20 January 1819 His Majesty King Carlos


  1. ^ Almanach royal, p 34
  2. ^ a b Stanley G. Payne, History of Spain of Portugal, Vol 2,University of Wisconsin Press., 1973, ISBN 978-0-299-06284-2, page 415
  3. ^ Supplemeto á Collecção dos tratados, convenções, contratos e actos. V4. pg 10–17
  4. ^ a b Payne, page 420
  5. ^ Griffin, Julia Ortiz; Griffin, William D. (2007). Spain and Portugal:A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Facts on File. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-8160-4592-1. 
  6. ^ a b Griffin, page 152
  7. ^ fr:Charles IV d'Espagne
  8. ^ Manuel de Godoy#Exile
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Royal Favorite: Manuel Francisco Domingo de Godoy, Prince of the Peace
  11. ^ Edward J. Olszewski - Exorcising Goya's "The Family of Charles IV"
  12. ^ von Pastor, Ludwig Freiherr (1952). The History of the Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages. Michigan: Kegan Paul. p. 201. 
  13. ^ a b (Spanish) Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía (2007). Anales de la Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía. Vol. X. Madrid: RAMHG. p. 330. 
  14. ^ (Spanish) Senatore, Mar'a Ximena (2007). Arqueolog'a e historia en la colonia espa–ola de Floridablanca, Patagonia, siglo XVIII. Madrid: Teseo. p. 149. ISBN 978-987-1354-08-5. 
  15. ^ (Spanish) Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía (2007). Anales de la Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía. Vol. X. Madrid: RAMHG. p. 332. 
  16. ^ (Spanish) Palazón, Juan Manuel Abascal (2010). José Vargas Ponce (1760–1821) en la Real Academia de la Historia. Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia. p. 54. ISBN 978-84-15069-00-3. 
  17. ^ a b Hilt, Douglas (1987). The Troubled Trinity: Godoy and the Spanish Monarchs. Alabama: University of Alabama Press. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-8173-0320-4. 
  18. ^ (Spanish) Zavala, José María (2013). La maldición de los Borbones. Mexico: Random House Mondadori. p. 16. ISBN 978-84-01-34667-5. 


  • Historia del Reinado de Carlos IV, by General Gomez de Arteche (5 vols.), in the Historia General de España de la Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, 1892, etc.).
  • Historiaantiqua. Isabel II; (Spanish) (2008)
Charles IV of Spain
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 11 November 1748 Died: 20 January 1819
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles III
King of Spain
Succeeded by
Ferdinand VII
Spanish royalty
Title last held by
Ferdinand (VI)
Prince of Asturias
Succeeded by
Ferdinand (VII)

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