Ramón María Narváez y Campos, I Duke of Valencia (Loja, Granada, August 5, 1799-Madrid, April 23, 1868) was a Spanish military and politician, seven times president of the Council of Ministers of Spain between 1844 and 1868. Known as El Espadón de Loja, he was one of the most influential politicians during the reign of Isabel II, along with Baldomero Espartero and Leopoldo O”Donnell. As leader of the Moderate Party, he is recognized for having been the main defender of the Elizabethan system in the face of the threat of revolution that loomed over Spain.
Son of José María Narváez y Porcel, 1st Count of Cañada Alta, and María Ramona Campos y Mateos, he had a brother named José Narváez y Campos, 2nd Count of Cañada Alta.
His military career began in the Walloon Guard regiment in 1815, and during the Constitutional Triennium (1820-23) he favored the supporters of liberalism. He played a prominent role in the fight against the absolutist uprising of the Royal Guard in Madrid (July 1822). Later, he served under the command of Francisco Espoz y Mina in Catalonia, in the campaign to overthrow the Regency of Urgel, in which he had a significant participation in the capture and destruction of Castellfollit de Riubregós and the definitive occupation of the Seo de Urgel, on February 3, 1823. Shortly after, he had to face the troops of the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis, who took him prisoner in June 1823. Transferred to France, he remained held in Gallic prisons until June 2, 1824, when Fernando VII published a decree that made possible the liberation of the prisoners for their support to the liberal regime. During this period, Narváez made a suicide attempt.
After rejecting any type of position during the reign of Fernando VII, Narváez went to his native Loja, where he remained for nine years, dedicated to farm work, with which he managed to raise a considerable sum of money. After the outbreak of the First Carlist War he rejoined the army in 1834, to serve on the side of the liberal forces that defended the throne of Isabel II. Assigned to the northern front, the main scene of the conflict, Narváez did not take long to demonstrate his military skills, which earned him his first promotion to 2nd infantry commander after the battle of El Carrascal, in December 1834. Later, in July 1835, he participated in the battle of Mendigorría, at the head of the Infante battalion. His performance earned him the promotion to lieutenant colonel. On August 17 of that same year he was in charge of the pursuit of the guerrilla party of Jerónimo Merino, “el Cura Merino”, to whom he would inflict a defeat in the Puerto de la Cebollera. Back to the northern front, Narváez would increase his prestige when in October 1835 he addressed an exposition to the queen in which he ceded his annual salary of 18,000 reales to pay for the fight. In January 1836, he would stand out in the battle of Arlabán, in which he was wounded and after which he would be rewarded with his promotion to brigadier.
In May 1836 he was assigned to the Army of the Center, where he was involved in some operations in Lower Aragon, and where he confronted and defeated Ramón Cabrera in Pobleta de Morella. After a brief return to the Northern front, where he participated in the battle of Montejurra, he was entrusted with the pursuit of the Gómez Expedition, an expedition made up of some 2,700 infantrymen and 180 horsemen, led by the Carlist general Miguel Gómez Damas, who had traveled through a large part of the Iberian Peninsula, trying to encourage new sources of support for the prince Carlos María Isidro de Borbón. The forces of Narváez and Gómez would confront each other in the Sierra de Aznar, with victory for the liberal army, which did not manage to completely destroy the Carlist troops, due to the insubordination of troops commanded by General Isidro Alaix Fábregas, which would propitiate the confrontation of Narváez with him and, consequently, with General Baldomero Espartero, his main supporter.
After a period of inactivity due to his confrontation with the government of José María Calatrava, in September 1837 he was put in charge of the organization and command of a reserve army in southern Spain, with which he dedicated himself for more than a year to the task of deactivating the different Carlist guerrilla groups in La Mancha, obtaining a long series of victories against some of the main Carlist leaders in the region, such as “Palillos”, “Revenga” or “el Feo de Buendía”.
In 1838 he was promoted to field marshal and elected deputy to the Cortes Generales. His great military ability and his liberal ideology made that both progressives and moderates wanted him to join their respective parties. Isidro Alaix Fábregas, man of confidence of Espartero, promoted the process that was opened against Narváez after his involvement in a popular uprising movement, which took place in Seville that same year, led by General Córdova against the government of the Duke of Frías. Narváez first took refuge in Gibraltar, and, exiled in Paris, presided together with Córdova over a junta of opposition to Espartero, the so-called “Spanish Military Order”, which saw in the uprising the means to liquidate the progressive hegemony in Spain. He remained in the French capital during the three years of Espartero”s regency. He was senator for the province of Cadiz between 1843 and 1845 and senator for life from that year until his death in 1868.
On June 27, 1843 he would disembark in Valencia, to lead a revolution in which prominent military men such as Francisco Serrano and Juan Prim were also involved and which had the backing of the dissident progressive Salustiano Olózaga. On July 23 of that year he defeated Seoane”s Espartero troops in Torrejón de Ardoz, near Madrid, in a battle that would precipitate the fall of Espartero”s regime. For this victory he would be promoted to lieutenant general. In November he was the victim of an attack on Desengaño Street in Madrid, which he managed to survive. However, his aide, José Basetti, died.
The reputation achieved by his leading role in the revolutionary movement of 1843, promoted Narváez as the new strong man of the Moderate Party. Thus, in 1844, when Isabel II, who had already been declared of age, decided to hand over the function of government to the moderates, Narváez was appointed president of the government for the first time. This first cabinet had as its main task the reform of the constitution, a task in which Narváez had to act as arbiter between the Marquis of Viluma, Minister of State, in favor of a granted charter, and the Ministers of the Interior and Finance, the Marquis of Pidal and Alejandro Mon, respectively, who were in favor of reforming the Constitution of 1837 through the Cortes. He finally sided with the latter, becoming one of the driving forces behind the Constitution of 1845. On November 18, 1845, Isabel II rewarded his loyalty by granting him the Duchy of Valencia with Greatness of Spain.
Apart from the constitutional reform, the first government of Narváez was immersed in an enormous legislative work, whose main measures include:
During his mandate, Narváez had to face several conspiracies and uprisings to bring him down, such as those led by Prim in 1844 or the uprising in November of the same year by General Martín Zurbano, who would be captured and shot at the beginning of 1845.
The fall of Narváez on February 11, 1846 was due, fundamentally, to the disagreements that arose within the government over the question of the Queen”s wedding. He was replaced by the Marquis of Miraflores. On March 16 the queen called Narváez back, who formed a government in which, in addition to the presidency, he reserved for himself the ministries of State and War. A series of authoritarian measures and the differences with the Crown in matters such as the wedding of Isabel II and the possible intervention of Spain in Mexico deprived the Executive of support and, only 19 days later, Narváez presented his resignation, being substituted by Istúriz on April 5. To avoid his presence near the Court, the new Government appointed him ambassador in Naples, a position he rejected, and later in Paris.
Narváez again occupied the presidency of the Council of Ministers from October 4, 1847 to January 1851, being interrupted only by the “lightning government” of the Count of Clonard (October 19, 1849).
During this mandate, Narváez played an active role in effectively and promptly quelling the street riots and military pronunciamientos, as a Spanish extremist reflection of the European events of the Revolution of 1848, which took place throughout that year, in some cases encouraged by the Infante Don Enrique, Marquis of Albaida. In March the revolutions broke out in Madrid on the 26th and in Barcelona and Valencia on the 28th and 29th. In Seville it took place on May 13 and again in Barcelona on September 30.
His success in keeping Spain away from the revolutionary movements that were shaking Europe earned him enormous prestige at an international level, where he would be recognized as “one of the strongest champions of public order and general tranquility”, according to the French Government. However, it was during this period, in which important authoritarian measures were taken to contain the revolution, when criticism of Narváez”s dictatorial attitudes began to spread in Spanish politics.
Throughout this Government, Narváez also had to deal with the problems derived from the situation of the Crown, where the infidelities of Isabel II, encouraged the destabilizing attempts of the consort king, Francisco de Asís. The main achievements of this second government were the neutralization of the revolutionary movements of 1848 mentioned above, the establishment of the bases for the subsequent signing of the Concordat with the Holy See and the promulgation of the new Penal Code (September 22, 1848).
It was also during this mandate when it was decided to take the Chafarinas Islands, in order to banish the pirates who were using them as a base to harass the Spanish posts in North Africa. And internally, he had to face a resurgence of the Carlist movement in Catalan lands, in what was known as the Second Carlist War or the War of the Matiners.
On January 14, 1851 he presented his resignation, being replaced in the presidency by Juan Bravo Murillo.
After the military pronunciamiento of Leopoldo O”Donnell, the formation of a government was once again entrusted to Narváez, a cabinet that he presided over between October 12, 1856 and October 15, 1857.
Between 1856 and 1868 he presided over three cabinets, from which he exercised a repressive policy of any subversive manifestation, at the same time that he tried to introduce reformist measures.
His death, on April 23, 1868, caused the rapid collapse of the Moderate Party. Only five months later, on September 19, 1868, the cuartelazo took place, putting an end to the constitutional monarchy of Isabel II.
The Narváez archive was disintegrated when the Chilean ambassador Sergio Fernández Larraín took part of it to his country, among other important documents. In 1996 the Spanish government bought back part of it (70 files).