Monarchy of Spain

King of Spain
Spanish: Rey de España
Coat of Arms of Spanish Monarch.svg
(Felipe de Borbón) Inauguración de FITUR 2018 (39840659951) (cropped).jpg
Felipe VI
since 19 June 2014
StyleHis Majesty
Heir presumptiveLeonor, Princess of Asturias
First monarchFerdinand II (Jure Uxoris)
Charles I (Jure Matris)
Philip II (Suo jure)
ResidenceRoyal Palace of Madrid (official)
The Spanish Monarchy
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The monarchy of Spain (Spanish: Monarquía Española), constitutionally referred to as The Crown (Spanish: La Corona), is a constitutional institution and the highest office of Spain.[1] The monarchy comprises the reigning monarch, his or her family, and the royal household organization which supports and facilitates the monarch in the exercise of his duties and prerogatives.[2][3] The Spanish monarchy is currently represented by King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, and their daughters Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofía.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 re-established[1][4] a constitutional monarchy as the form of government for Spain. The 1978 constitution affirmed the role of the King of Spain as the living personification and embodiment of the Spanish State and a symbol of Spain's enduring unity and permanence and is also invested as the “ arbitrator and the moderator “ of Spanish state institutions[2][5] Constitutionally, the king is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armed Forces.[2][5] The constitution codifies the use of royal styles and titulary, Royal Prerogatives, hereditary succession to the crown, compensation, and a regency-guardianship contingency in cases of the monarch's minority or incapacitation.[2][5] According to the constitution, the monarch is also instrumental in promoting relations with the "nations of its historical community".[2][5] The King of Spain serves as the president of the Ibero-American States Organization, purportedly representing over 700,000,000 people in twenty-four member nations worldwide. In 2008, King Juan Carlos I was considered the most popular leader in all Ibero-America.[6][7]

The Spanish monarchy has its roots in the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo founded after the fall of the Roman Empire. Then the Kingdom of Asturias fought the Reconquista following the Umayyad invasion of Hispania in the 8th century. A dynastic marriage between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon united Spain in the 15th century. The last pretender of the Crown of the Roman Byzantine Empire, Andreas Palaiologos, in his last testament[8] dated April 7, 1502, bestowed his imperial title to Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile.[9]

The Spanish Empire became one of the first global powers as Isabella and Ferdinand funded Christopher Columbus's exploratory voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The sea route he established between paved the way for the Spanish conquest of much of the Americas.

In 2018, the budget for the Spanish monarchy was 7.9 million euros, one of the lowest public expenditures for the institution of monarchy in Europe.[10]


Dynastic line from the first Visigothic kings to Felipe VI.

The monarchy in Spain has its roots in the Visigothic Kingdom and its Christian successor states of Navarre, Asturias (later Leon and Castille) and Aragon, which fought the Reconquista or Reconquest of the Iberian peninsula following the Umayyad invasion of Hispania in the 8th century. One of the earliest influential dynasties was the House of Jiménez which united much of Christian Iberia under its leadership in the 11th century. From Sancho III of Navarre (r. 1000–1035) until Urraca of León and Castile (r.1106–1125), members of the Jiménez family claimed the historic Visigothic title Imperator totius Hispaniae or Emperor of All Spain. The Jiménez rulers sought to bring their kingdoms into the European mainstream and often engaged in cross-Pyrenees alliances and marriages, and became patrons to Cluniac Reforms (c. 950–c.1130). Urraca's son and heir Alfonso VII of León and Castile, the first of the Spanish branch of the Burgundy Family, was the last to claim the imperial title of Spain, but divided his empire among his sons. The Castilian Civil War (1366 to 1369) ended with the death of King Peter (r. 1334–1369) at the hands of his illegitimate half-brother Henry, 1st Count of Trastámara who ruled as Henry II (r. 1369–1379). Henry II became the first of the House of Trastámara to rule over a Spanish kingdom. King Peter's heiress, his granddaughter Catherine of Lancaster, married Henry III, reuniting the dynasties in the person of their son, King John II.

Marital union of the Catholic Monarchs

In the 15th century, the marriage between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, both members of the House of Trastámara, known as the Catholic Monarchs, united two important kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula. Each kingdom retained its basic structure. In 1492 the Catholic Monarchs conquered the Kingdom of Granada in southern Spain, the last Muslim territory in the Iberian peninsula. The unification of Spain is marked from this date, though the Spanish kingdoms continued past that date.

The territories of the Spanish empire overseas were dependencies of the crown of Castile, and Castile had an outsize influence there.[11] Following the Spanish explorations and settlement in the Caribbean, Spanish conquest of Mexico and the Spanish conquest of Peru, the crown established high courts (Audiencias) in important regions and viceroyalties (Mexico, 1535; Peru, 1542) with the viceroy (vice-king) and the Audiencias the effective administrators of royal policy.

Habsburg monarchy

In the early 16th century, the Spanish monarchy controlled several territories in Europe under the Habsburg King Charles I (also Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V), son of Queen Joanna of Castile. His reign ushered in the Spanish Golden Age (1492–1659) a period of great colonial expansion and trade. In 1700, Charles II was the last of the Spanish Habsburgs.

Bourbon Monarchy

With the death of the childless Charles II, the succession to the throne was disputed. Charles II had designated his sister Maria Theresa's grandson, Philip of France, Duke of Anjou, as his heir. The possible unification of Spain with France, the two big European powers at the time, sparked the Spanish War of Succession in the 18th century, culminating in the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) which preserved the European balance of power.

In the mid-eighteenth century, particularly under Charles III of Spain, the Spanish crown embarked on an ambitious and far reaching project to implement major reforms in the administration of Spain and the Spanish empire. These changes, collectively known as the Bourbon Reforms attempted to rationalize administration and produce more revenue from its overseas empire.[12]

Philip V was the first member of the House of Bourbon (Spanish: Borbón) to rule Spain, the dynasty that still rules today under Felipe VI.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte forced Ferdinand VII to abdicate in 1808 and the Bourbons became a focus of popular resistance against French rule. However, Ferdinand's rejection of the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812, his ministerial appointments, particularly the exclusion of liberals, gradually eroded popular support for the Spanish monarchy. With the Pragmatic Sanction of 1830, Ferdinand set aside the Salic Law, introduced by Philip V, that prohibited women from becoming sovereigns of Spain. Thereby, as had been customary before the arrival of the Bourbons, the Ferdinand VII's eldest daughter Isabella became his heiress presumptive. Opponents of the Pragmatic Sanction argued that it was never officially promulgated, claiming Ferdinand VII's younger brother, Prince Carlos, the rightful heir to the crown according to the Salic Law.

First Spanish Republic

In September 1873 the First Spanish Republic was founded. A coup d'état restored the Bourbon dynasty to the throne in 1874.

Second Spanish Republic and Regime of Francisco Franco

Spanish Royal Crown and Scepter

In 1931 local and municipal elections produced victories (particularly in urban areas) for candidates favoring an end to the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Faced with unrest in the cities, Alfonso XIII went into exile, but did not abdicate. The ensuing provisional government evolved into the relatively short-lived Second Spanish Republic. The Spanish Civil War began in 1936 and ended on 1 April 1939 with the victory of General Francisco Franco and his coalition of allied organizations commonly referred to as the Nationalists. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany aided Franco in the Spanish Civil War. A British MI6 Operative flew Franco from the Canary Islands to Spanish North Africa to take over the Spanish Legion. Stalinist Russia backed the Republican Government.

After sixteen years without monarchy or kingdom, in 1947, Spain was made a Kingdom again by General Franco, who claimed to rule Spain as Head of state of the Kingdom of Spain through the Law of Succession. However, without a king on the throne, he ruled through a coalition of allied organizations from the Spanish Civil War including, but not limited to, the Falange political party, the supporters of the Bourbon royal family, and the Carlists, until his death in 1975.

Re-establishment of the Monarchy

Despite Franco's alliance with the Carlists, Franco appointed Juan Carlos I de Borbón as his successor, who is credited with presiding over Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy by fully endorsing political reforms.

Impatient with the pace of democratic reforms, the new king, known for his formidable personality, dismissed Carlos Arias Navarro and appointed the reformer Adolfo Suárez as President of the Government in 1977.[13][14]

The next year the king signed into law the new liberal democratic Constitution of Spain, which was approved by 88% of voters. Juan Carlos' "quick wit and steady nerve" cut short the attempted military coup in 1981 when the king used a specially designed command communications center in the Zarzuela Palace to denounce the coup and command the military's eleven captains general to stand down.[15]

Following the events of 1981, Juan Carlos led a less eventful life, according to author John Hooper.[15] Juan Carlos did not preside over ceremonies such as the opening of hospitals and bridges as often as monarchs in other nations. Instead, he worked towards establishing reliable political customs when transitioning one government administration to another, emphasizing constitutional law and protocol, and representing the Spanish State domestically and internationally, all the while aiming to maintain a professionally non-partisan yet independent monarchy.[6][15]