Infante Carlos María Isidro of Spain

gigatos | January 18, 2022


Carlos María Isidro de Borbón also known as Don Carlos (Aranjuez, March 29, 1788 – Trieste, March 10, 1855) was an infante of Spain and the first Carlist pretender to the throne under the name of Carlos V, for being the second son of King Carlos IV and Maria Luisa de Parma, and therefore brother of the successor king Ferdinand VII, whose daughter Isabel II he disputed the throne. Throughout his life he used the incognito titles of Duke of Elizondo and Count of Molina.

First years

Carlos was born in the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. Between 1808 and 1814 he lived as a prisoner of Napoleon in Valençay with his brothers. In 1814 he returned with the rest of the royal family to Madrid. In September 1816 he married his niece the Infanta of Portugal, Maria Francisca de Portugal (or Braganza), daughter of King John VI of Portugal and Carlota Joaquina de Borbon, his sister. In second marriage he married Maria Teresa de Braganza, Princess of Beira, sister of his first wife and with whom he had no children.

Pragmatic Sanction

In May 1830, Ferdinand VII published the Pragmatic Sanction repealing the Salic Law and allowing women to accede to the Spanish throne in the absence of male heirs. The decree had originally been passed in 1789, but was never officially promulgated. Until then, Charles had been his brother”s heir.

On October 10, 1830, María Cristina de Borbón, fourth wife of Fernando VII, gave him a daughter, who was named Isabel and displaced her uncle from the line of succession. Certain groups continued to support the rights of Carlos to the throne, considering the Pragmatica illegal and intrigued in favor of Carlos.

Although in 1830 Charles admitted the Pragmatic Sanction, he retracted it in 1833, so in March he received the order to leave Spain and take up residence in the Papal States. The port of embarkation had been fixed in Cadiz, but due to the cholera epidemic that devastated the city, he was allowed to embark in Lisbon. Once in Portugal, supported by his family ties with the reigning dynasty, he delayed his departure time and again, refused to return to Madrid to swear allegiance to Isabella as successor, nor did he agree to do so before the ambassador Luis Fernandez de Cordoba (April 1833). Ferdinand VII ended up confiscating his goods, sending him a frigate with the order that the captain should deliver 400,000 reales to Carlos once the ship had sailed. But not only did he again refuse to embark, but he also communicated to the main European governments his decision not to renounce the Spanish throne. He was always strongly supported in these actions by Joaquín Abarca, bishop of León, exiled in Portugal.

First Carlist War

Upon the death of Ferdinand VII on September 29, 1833, Carlos issued the Manifesto of Abrantes on October 1, in which he declared his ascension to the throne under the name of Carlos V. On October 6, General Santos Ladrón de Cegama proclaimed Charles as King of Spain in the town of Tricio (La Rioja), date on which the First Carlist War began.

“Charles V to his beloved vassals:Well known are my rights to the Crown of Spain in all Europe, and the feelings in this part of the Spaniards, which are too notorious for me to pause to justify them. Faithful, submissive and obedient as the last of the vassals to my dear brother who has just passed away, and whose loss, both by itself and by its circumstances, has penetrated my heart with pain, I have sacrificed everything: my tranquility, that of my family; I have braved all kinds of dangers to testify my respectful obedience to him, giving at the same time this public testimony of my religious and social principles. Perhaps some have believed that I have carried them to excess, but I have never believed that there can be any excess on a point on which the peace of monarchies depends. I am now your king; and in presenting myself to you for the first time under this title, I cannot doubt for a single moment that you will imitate my example of the obedience due to princes who rightfully occupy the throne, and will all fly to place yourselves under my banners, thus making yourselves creditable to my affection and sovereign munificence. But you know, equally, that the weight of justice will fall on those who, disobedient and disloyal, do not want to listen to the voice of a sovereign and a father who only wishes to make them happy.”

After the defeat of Miguelism in the Portuguese civil war and harassed by the troops of Isabel II that, under the command of the general commander of Extremadura José Ramón Rodil y Campillo had penetrated in Portugal, Carlos was evacuated by sea in the British warship HMS Donegal, before the Spanish protests, arriving to Great Britain on June 18, 1834. In July he fled the island, crossed France incognito -the alleged complicity of the British and French governments in the escape has not yet been clarified-, entering Spain through the border of Navarre on July 9. He remained in Navarre and the Basque Provinces during the First Carlist War until 1839, holding itinerant court in Oñate, Estella, Tolosa, Azpeitia and Durango, and accompanied his army, but without showing military prowess. In October 1834, a decree deprived him of his rights as Infante of Spain, a fact that was confirmed by the Cortes in 1847.

A religious man of simple customs, he was very well received by the rural population of those lands. Adolfo Loning says that he was of an unfriendly character, without a kind word or look for the soldiers. Lassala states that he was never seen on the battlefield. In 1835, while the Carlist retreat began in the countryside after the battle of Mendigorría, he was eating in the village and was on the verge of being imprisoned.

In the summer of 1837, he organized the so-called Royal Expedition, in which at the head of a large part of his Basque, Castilian and Navarrese battalions he marched through Catalonia and the Maestrazgo to the gates of Madrid, apparently following false news about a possible marriage between one of his sons and Isabella II. His expectations were not fulfilled and already in retreat, harassed by Baldomero Espartero, he returned with his troops to Vizcaya. Frustrated by his failed attempt to solve the succession problem, as well as by the disastrous retreat, he took drastic measures against the commanders of his army and his administration: officers and civilians who had served him since the time of Zumalacárregui were deprived of their command, imprisoned, tried, even assassinated. His court ended up being composed of not very competent advisors and without initiative, among whom Bishop Abarca was the most influential. They were called “ojalateros”, since it was said that they did nothing but complain about what happened during the Royal Expedition, with phrases that always began with “Ojalá…”.

The pessimistic attitude of the Court of Charles towards civil and military problems caused great discontent, both among the commanders and the troops, and mutual distrust between the battalions of the three Basque and Navarre provinces -which refused to fight outside the geographical area of their provinces-, as well as with the Castilian battalions, increased. In October 1837, after the death of his first wife, he married his niece María Teresa and, in June 1838, he named Rafael Maroto commander-in-chief, who dedicated himself to reorganizing the army, but faced few warlike actions. In February 1839, he had three generals shot, suspecting that they had been organizing a plot against him, and demanded that Carlos dismiss all his adversaries. Faced with this, Carlos dismissed him on February 21 and declared him a traitor, although on February 25 he reconsidered his position and agreed to his demands. Maroto began secret negotiations with the Elizabethans that concluded in 1839 with the signing of the Oñate Agreement, also known as the embrace of Vergara. His archive, confiscated by Espartero and deposited in 1839 in the library of the bishopric of Calahorra, has disappeared.

Exile, abdication and death

On September 14, 1839, he crossed the French border and the French government decided to settle him in Bourges with his wife and children. There, on May 18, 1845, he abdicated to his son Charles Louis (who adopted the title Charles VI), with the intention that he would marry his cousin Elizabeth II.

After his abdication he used the incognito title of Count of Molina and on March 10, 1855 he died in Trieste, then part of the Austrian Empire. He is buried with his descendants in the chapel of St. Charles Borromeo in the Cathedral of St. Justus of Trieste.

In first marriage he married his niece María Francisca de Braganza. With her he had three children:

In 1838, Don Carlos, a widower, married for the second time with his niece and sister-in-law Maria Teresa de Braganza, Princess of Beira, niece and widow of his cousin Pedro Carlos de Borbon. From this second marriage there were no descendants.

Don Carlos was a person of deep Catholic convictions and orderly life who, according to Alexandra Wilhelmsen, had a great sense of duty. He had never conspired against his father or his brother, nor had he excelled in Spanish public life before the publication of the Pragmatic Sanction. Some Englishmen who met him later during the war compared him to the typical English gentleman.

The vindication of the rights to the crown meant for Carlos María Isidro exile, the confiscation of his property, persecution abroad, separation from his family and the physical hardships of war in the mountains of northern Spain. It was in the course of this war that his clique expressed many of the basic principles of his followers, although the pretender limited himself to saying the minimum necessary. In his decrees, proclamations, manifestos and in part of his correspondence, the predominant ideas are the legitimacy of government, the validity of the fundamental laws and regional diversity, with religion being interwoven in each of them.


Kingdom of Spain


  1. Carlos María Isidro de Borbón
  2. Infante Carlos María Isidro of Spain
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