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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following the events of 1981, Juan Carlos led a less eventful life, according to author John Hooper. 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.