Charles III of Spain

Not to be confused with Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who briefly ruled parts of Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession as Charles III.
Charles III

Portrait by Anton Raphael Mengs, c. 1761
King of Spain (more)
Reign 10 August 1759 – 14 December 1788
Predecessor Ferdinand VI
Successor Charles IV
King of Naples and Sicily
Reign 15 May 1734 – 6 October 1759
Coronation 3 July 1735, Palermo Cathedral
Predecessor Charles VI & IV
Successor Ferdinand IV & III
Duke of Parma and Piacenza
Reign 29 December 1731 – 3 October 1735
Predecessor Antonio Farnese
Successor Charles VI
Born 20 January 1716
Royal Alcazar of Madrid, Spain
Died 14 December 1788(1788-12-14) (aged 72)
Royal Palace of Madrid, Spain
Burial El Escorial
Spouse Maria Amalia of Saxony
Infanta Maria Josefa
Maria Luisa, Holy Roman Empress
Infante Philip, Duke of Calabria
Charles IV of Spain
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
Infante Gabriel
Infante Antonio Pascual
Infante Francisco Javier
House House of Bourbon
Father Philip V of Spain
Mother Elisabeth Farnese
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles III (Spanish: Carlos; Italian: Carlo; 20 January 1716 – 14 December 1788) was the King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788. He was the fifth son of Philip V of Spain, but eldest by his second wife, Elisabeth Farnese. In 1731, the 15-year-old Charles became the Duke of Parma and Piacenza, as Charles I, on the death of his childless granduncle Antonio Farnese.

In 1734, as Duke of Parma, he conquered the kingdoms of Naples and of Sicily, and was crowned king on 3 July 1735, reigning as Charles VII of Naples and Charles V of Sicily. In 1738 he married Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony, an educated, cultured woman who gave birth to 13 children, eight of whom reached adulthood. Charles and Maria Amalia resided in Naples for 19 years; she died in 1760.

Upon succeeding to the Spanish throne on 10 August 1759, Charles, a proponent of enlightened absolutism, on 6 October 1759 abdicated the Neapolitan and Sicilian thrones in favour of Ferdinand, his third surviving son, who became Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.

As king of Spain Charles III tried to rescue his empire from decay through far-reaching reforms such as weakening the Church and its monasteries, promoting science and university research, facilitating trade and commerce, modernizing agriculture and avoiding wars. He never achieved satisfactory control over finances, and was obliged to borrow to meet expenses. His reforms proved short-lived and Spain relapsed after his death, but his legacy lives on to this day.[1]

Historian Stanley Payne wrote that Charles III "was probably the most successful European ruler of his generation. He had provided firm, consistent, intelligent leadership. He had chosen capable ministers....[his] personal life had won the respect of the people."[2]

Spanish imperial legacy

Portrait of Elisabeth Farnese.

In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht concluded the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) and reduced the political and military power of Spain, which the House of Bourbon had ruled since 1700. Under the terms of the treaty, the Spanish Empire retained its Latin American territories, but ceded to Habsburg Austria the Southern Netherlands, the kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia, the Duchy of Milan, and the State of Presidi. Moreover, the House of Savoy gained the Kingdom of Sicily, and the Kingdom of Great Britain gained the island of Minorca and the fortress at Gibraltar.

In 1700, Charles' father, originally a French prince, became King of Spain as Philip V. For the remainder of his reign (1700–46), he continually attempted to regain the ceded territories. In 1714, after the death of the king's first wife, the Princess Maria Luisa Gabriella of Savoy, the Piacenzan Cardinal Giulio Alberoni successfully arranged the marriage between Philip and the ambitious Elisabeth Farnese, niece and stepdaughter of Francesco Farnese, Duke of Parma. Elisabeth and Philip married on 24 December 1714; she quickly proved a domineering consort, and influenced King Philip to make Cardinal Giulio Alberoni the Prime Minister of Spain in 1715.

In 1716, Elisabeth gave birth to the Infante Charles of Spain at the Real Alcázar of Madrid. He was fourth in line to the Spanish throne, after three elder half-brothers: the Infante Luis, Prince of Asturias (who ruled briefly as Louis I of Spain before dying in 1724), the Infante Felipe (who died in 1719), and Ferdinand (the future Ferdinand VI). Because the Duke Francesco of Parma and his heir were childless, Elisabeth sought the duchies of Parma and Piacenza for Charles. She also sought for him the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, because Gian Gastone de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1671–1737) was also childless. He was a distant cousin of hers, related via her great-grandmother Margherita de' Medici, giving Charles a claim to the title through that lineage.


Early years

Portrait of Charles, 9 years old.

The birth of Charles encouraged the Prime Minister Alberoni to start laying out grand plans for Europe. In 1717 he ordered the Spanish invasion of Sardinia. In 1718, Alberoni also ordered the invasion of Sicily, which was also ruled by the House of Savoy. In the same year Charles' first sister, Infanta Mariana Victoria was born on 31 March. In reaction to the Quadruple Alliance of 1718, the Duke of Savoy then joined the Alliance and went to war with Spain. This war led to the dismissal of Alberoni by Philip in 1719. The Treaty of The Hague of 1720 included the recognition of Charles as heir to the Italian Duchies of Parma and Piacenza.

Charles' half-brother, Infante Philip Peter, died on 29 December 1719, putting Charles third in line to the throne after Louis and Ferdinand. He would retain his position behind these two until they died and he succeeded to the Spanish throne. His second full brother, Infante Philip of Spain, was born on 15 March 1720.

Beginning in 1721, King Philip had been negotiating with the Duke of Orléans, the French regent, to arrange three Franco-Spanish marriages that would cement tense relations. The young Louis XV of France would marry the three-year-old Infanta Mariana Victoria and thus she would become Queen of France; Charles' half brother Louis would marry the fourth surviving daughter of the regent, Louise Elisabeth. Charles himself would be engaged to Philippine Elisabeth who was the fifth surviving daughter of the Duke of Orléans.

In 1726 Charles met Philippine Élisabeth for the first time; Elisabeth Farnese later wrote to the regent and his wife regarding their meeting:

Charles, 11 years old.
I believe, that you will not be displeased to learn of her first interview with her little husband. They embraced very affectionately and kissed one another, and it appears to me that he does not displease her. Thus, since this evening they do not like to leave one another. She says a hundred pretty things ; one would not credit the things that she says, unless one heard them. She has the mind of an angel, and my son is only too happy to possess her. . . . She has charged me to tell you that she loves you with all her heart, and that she is quite content with her husband." And to the duchesse d'Orléans she writes : "I find her the most beautiful and most lovable child in the world. It is the most pleasing thing imaginable to see her with her little husband : how they caress one another and how they love one another already. They have a thousand little secrets to tell one another, and they cannot part for an instant."[3]

Out of these marriages only Louis and Louise Élisabeth would wed. Elisabeth Farnese looked for other potential brides for her eldest son. For this she looked to Austria, its principal opponent for influence on the Italian peninsula. She proposed to Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, that the Infante Charles marry the 8-year old Archduchess Maria Theresa and that her second surviving son, the Infante Philip, marry the 7-year old Archduchess Maria Anna.

The alliance of Spain and Austria was signed on 30 April 1725, and included Spanish support for the Pragmatic Sanction, a document drafted by Emperor Charles in 1713 to assure support for Maria Theresa in the succession to the throne of the Habsburgs. The emperor also relinquished all claims to the Spanish throne, and promised to support Spain in its attempts to regain Gibraltar. The ensuing Anglo-Spanish War stopped the ambitions of Elisabeth Farnese, and the marriage plans were abandoned with the signing of the Treaty of Seville on 9 November 1729. Provisions of the treaty did allow the Infante Charles the right to occupy Parma, Piacenza and Tuscany by force if necessary.

After the Treaty of Seville, Philip V disregarded its provisions and formed an alliance with France and Great Britain. Antonio Farnese, the Duke of Parma, died on 26 February 1731 without naming an heir; this was because the widow of Antonio, Enrichetta d'Este was thought to have been pregnant at the time of his death. The Duchess was examined by many doctors without any confirmation of pregnancy. As a result, the Second Treaty of Vienna on 22 July 1731 officially recognised the young Infante Charles as Duke of Parma and Piacenza.

The duchy was occupied by the Count Carlo Stampa, who served as the lieutenant of Parma for the young Charles. Charles was from then on known as HRH Don Charles of Spain (or Borbón), Duke of Parma and Piacenza, Infante of Spain. Since he was still a minor, his maternal grandmother, Dorothea Sophie of Neuburg, was named regent.

Arrival in Italy

Dorothea Sophie of Neuburg, Charles' guardian and regent of Parma

Charles arrived in Italy on 20 October 1731. After a solemn ceremony in Madrid, Charles was given the épée d'or ("sword of gold") by his father; the sword had been given to Philip V of Spain by his grandfather Louis XIV of France before his departure to Spain in 1700. Charles left Spain and traveled overland from Seville to Antibes; he then went to Tuscany, arriving at Livorno on 27 December 1731. His cousin Gian Gastone de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was named his co-tutor and despite Charles being the second in line to inherited Tuscany, the Grand Duke still gave him a warm welcome. En route to Florence from Pisa, Charles was taken ill with smallpox.[4] Charles made a grand entrance to the Medici capital of Florence on 9 March 1732 with a retinue of 250 people. He stayed with his host at the ducal residence, the Palazzo Pitti.[4]

Gian Gastone staged a fête in honour of the Patron Saint of Florence, St. John the Baptist, on 24 June. At this fête Gian Gastone named Charles his heir, giving him the title of Hereditary Prince of Tuscany, and Charles paid homage to the Florentine senate, as was the tradition for heirs to the Tuscan throne. When Emperor Charles VI heard about the ceremony, he was greatly enraged due to Gian Gastone not informing him, as he was technical overlord of Tuscany and the nomination thus should have been his. Despite the celebrations, Elisabeth Farnese urged her son to go on to Parma. This he did in October 1732, where he was greeted with much joy. On the front of the ducal palace in Parma was written Parma Resurget (Parma shall rise again). At the same time the play La venuta di Ascanio in Italia was created by Carlo Innocenzo Frugoni. It was later performed at the Farnese Theatre in the city.[5][6]

Character and appearance

Charles III of Spain

Upon his arrival in the peninsula, Charles was not yet seventeen years old. He received the strict and structured education of a Spanish Infante; he was very pious and was often in awe of his domineering mother, who according to many contemporaries, he resembled greatly. The Alvise Giovanni Mocenigo, Doge of Venice and Ambassador of Venice to Naples declared that:[6]

...he received an education removed from all studies and all applications in order to be able to govern himself.

...tenne sempre un'educazione lontanissima da ogni studio e da ogni applicazione per diventare da sé stesso capace di governo.[7]

It was the same as the opinion of Count Monasterolo Solaro, ambassador of Savoy who described Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia in 1742.

On the other hand, he was educated in printmaking (remaining an enthusiastic etcher), painting and a wide range of physical activities which included a future favourite of his, hunting. Sir Horatio Mann, a British diplomat in Florence noted that he was greatly impressed at the fondness Charles had for the sport.

His physical appearance was dominated by the Bourbon nose that he had inherited from his father's side of the family. He was described as "a brown boy, who has a lean face with a bulging nose", and was known for his happy and exuberant character.[8]

Conquest of Naples and Sicily

Further information: War of the Polish Succession

In 1733, at the death of Augustus II, King of Poland, there was a succession crisis in Poland. France supported one pretender, and Austria and Russia another. France and Savoy formed an alliance to acquire territory from Austria. Spain, which had allied with France in late 1733 (the Bourbon Compact) also entered the conflict.

Charles' mother, as regent, saw the opportunity to regain the Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, which Spain had lost in the Treaty of Utrecht.

Charles of Bourbon near Naples (1734).

On 20 January 1734, Charles, now 18, reached his majority, and was "free to govern and to manage in a manner independent its states".[9] He was also named commander of all Spanish troops in Italy, a position he shared with the Duke of Montemar.

On 27 February, King Philip declarated his intention to capture the Kingdom of Naples, claiming he would free it of "excessive violence by the Austrian Viceroy of Naples, oppression and tyranny".[10] Charles, now "Charles I of Parma", was to be in charge. Charles inspected the Spanish troops at Perugia, and marched toward Naples on 5 March. The army passed through the Papal States then ruled by Clement XII.[9]

The Austrians, already fighting the French and Savoyard armies to retain Lombardy, had only limited resources for the defense of Naples, and were divided on how best to oppose the Spanish. The Emperor wanted to keep Naples, but most of the Neapolitan nobility were against him, and some conspired against his viceroy. They hoped that Philip would give the kingdom to Charles, who would be more likely to live and rule there, rather than having a viceroy and serve a foreign power. On 9 March the Spanish took Procida and Ischia, two islands in the Bay of Naples. A week later they defeated the Austrians at sea. On 31 March, his army closed in on the Austrians in Naples. The Spanish flanked defensive position of the Austrians under general Traun, and forced them to withdraw to Capua. This allowed Charles and his troops to advance onto the city of Naples itself.

The Austrian viceroy, Giulio Borromeo Visconti, and the commander of his army, Giovanni Carafa, left some garrisons holding the city's fortresses, and withdrew to Apulia. There they awaited reinforcements sufficient to defeat the Spanish. The Spanish entered Naples and laid siege to the Austrian-held fortresses. During that interval, Charles received the compliments of the local nobility, and the city keys and the privilege book from a delegation of the city's elected officials.[11]

Chronicles of the time reported that Naples was captured "with humanity" and that the combat was only due to a general climate of courtesy between the two armies, often under the eyes of the Neapolitans that approached with curiosity

The Spanish took the Carmine Castle on 10 April; Castel Sant'Elmo fell on 27 April, the Castel dell'Ovo on 4 May, and finally the New Castle on 6 May. This all occurred even though Charles had no military experience, seldom wore uniforms, and could only with difficulty be persuaded to witness a review.

Rule of Naples and Sicily

Charles de Bourbon (Italian: Carlo di Borbone) had his triumphant entrance to Naples on 10 May 1734. He entered on a horse that entered through the old city gate at Capuana surrounded by the councillors of the city along with a group of people who threw money at the locals. The procession went on through the streets and ended up at the Cathedral of Naples, where Charles received a blessing from the local archbishop, Cardinal Pignatelli. Charles took up residence at the Royal Palace, which had been built by his ancestor, Philip III of Spain.

Two chroniclers of the era, the Florentine Bartolomeo Intieri and the Venetian Cesare Vignola said different things on the view the Neapolitans had of the situation. Intieri writes that his arrival was an historic event, and that the crowd screamed that "His Royal Highness is beautiful, that his face is as the one of San Gennaro on the statue that the representative".[12] On the contrary, Vignola wrote that "there were only some acclamations", and that the crowd applauded with "a lot of languors" and only "to incite those that threw the money to throw it in more abundance".[13]

King Philip wrote the following letter to Charles:

Mi muy Claro y muy amado Hijo. Por relevantes razones, y poderosos indispensables motivos havia resuelto, que en el caso de que mis Reales Armas, que he embiado à Italia para hacer la guerra al Emperador, se apoderasen del Reyno de Nàpoles os hubiese de quedar en propriedad como si vos lo hubiesedes acquirido con vuestras proprias fuerzas, y haviendo sido servido Dios de mirar por la justa causa que me asiste, y facilidar con su poderoso auxilio el mas feliz logro: Declaro que es mi voluntad que dicha conquista os pertenezca como a su legitimo Soverano en la mas ampla forma que ser pueda: Y para que lo podais hacer constar donde y quando combenga he querido manifestaroslo por esta Carta firmada de mi mano, y refrendada de mi infrascrito Consegero y Secretario de Estado y del Despacho.

My very illustrious and much-loved son. For important reasons and powerful, necessary motives I had resolved that, in the case that my royal forces, whom I have dispatched to Italy to make war with the Emperor, should take control of the kingdom of Naples, it should rest in your possession as though you had acquired it with your own forces. As God has seen fit, in observing my just cause, to assist me, and facilitate with his powerful aid the most happy victory: I declare that it is my will that the aforementioned conquest pertain to you as its legitimate sovereign in the strongest sense possible: and in order that you may claim this right when and where convenient I have seen fit to make it manifest through this letter signed by my hand, and ratified by my undersigned Counseller and Secretary of State and Office.

The letter began with the words "To the King of Naples, My Son and My Brother".[14] Charles was unique in the fact that he was the first ruler of Naples to actually live there, after two centuries of viceroys. However, Austrian resistance had not yet been completely eliminated. The emperor had sent reinforcements to Naples directed by the Prince of Belmonte, which arrived at Bitonto.

Spanish troops led by the Count of Montemar attacked the Austrians on 25 May 1734 at Bitonto, and achieved a decisive victory. Belmonte was captured after he fled to Bari, while other Austrian troops were able to escape to the sea. To celebrate the victory, Naples was illuminated for three nights, and on 30 May, the Duke of Montemar, Charles' army commander, was named the Duke of Bitonto.[15] Today there is an obelisk in the city commemorating the battle.

After the fall of Reggio Calabria on 20 June, Charles also conquered the towns of L'Aquila (27 June) and Pescara (28 July). The last two Austrian fortresses were Gaeta and Capua. The Siege of Gaeta, which Charles observed, ended on 6 August. Three weeks later, the Duke of Montemar left the mainland for Sicily where they arrived in Palermo on 2 September 1734, beginning a conquest of the island's Austrian-held fortresses that ended in early 1735. Capua, the only remaining Austrian stronghold in Naples, was held by von Traun until 24 November 1734.

In the kingdom, the independence from the Austrians was popular. In July 1734, the British consul Edward Allen wrote to the Duke of Newcastle: "It is a matter certainly of a profit for this city and this kingdom that the king there lives which means that if the money between, it not some sets off again, which produced itself in an important way with the Germans that had drained all the gold of the population and almost all the money to do big gifts to the Emperor".[16]

In 1735, pursuant to the treaty ending the war, Charles formally ceded Parma to Emperor Charles VI in exchange for his recognition as King of Naples and Sicily.

Relations with the Holy See

During the early years of Charles' reign the Neapolitan court was engaged in a dispute with the Holy See. The Kingdom of Naples was an ancient fief of the Papal States. For this reason, Pope Clement XII considered himself the only one entitled to invest the king of Naples. He did not recognize Charles of Bourbon as a legitimate sovereign. Through the apostolic nuncio, the Pope let Charles know he did not consider valid the nomination received by him from Charles' father, the King of Spain. In response, a committee headed by the Tuscan lawyer Bernardo Tanucci in Naples concluded that papal investiture was not necessary because the crowning of a king could not be considered a sacrament. Tanucci also implemented a policy of substantially limiting the privileges of the clergy, whose vast possessions enjoyed tax exemption and their own jurisdiction. However, the Neapolitan government also made conciliatory gestures, such as forbidding the return home of the exiled historian Pietro Giannone, unwelcome to the ecclesiastical hierarchy.[17]

The situation worsened when, in 1735, just a few days before the coronation of Charles, the Pope chose to accept the traditional offering of Hackney from the Emperor rather than from Charles. The "Hackney" was a white mare and a sum of money which the King of Naples offered the Pope as feudal homage every 29 June, feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The reason for this choice was that Charles had not yet been recognized as ruler of the Kingdom of Naples by a treaty of peace, and so the Emperor was still de jure King of Naples. In addition, receiving the Hackney from the Empire was common, while receiving it from a Bourbon was a novelty. The Pope, therefore, considered the first option a less dramatic gesture, and in doing so provoked the wrath of the religious Spanish infante.

Meanwhile, Charles had landed in Sicily. Although the Bourbon conquest of the island was not complete, he was crowned King of the Two Sicilies ("utriusque Siciliae rex") on 3 July in the ancient Cathedral of Palermo, after having traveled overland to Palmi, and by sea from Palmi to Palermo. The coronation bypassed the authority of the Pope thanks to the apostolic legation of Sicily, a medieval privilege which ensured the island a special legal autonomy from the Church. Thus, the papal legate did not attend the ceremony as Charles would have wanted.[18]

March 1735 saw a new discord between Rome and Naples. In Rome, it was discovered that the Bourbons had confined Roman citizens in the basement of Palazzo Farnese which was the personal property of the King Charles; people were brought there to impress them into the newborn Neapolitan army. Thousands of inhabitants in the town of Trastevere stormed the palace to liberate them. The riot then degenerated into pillage. Next, the crowd directed itself toward the embassy of Spain in Piazza di Spagna. During the clashes that followed, several Bourbon soldiers were killed including an officer. The disturbances spread to the town of Velletri where the population attacked Spanish troops on the road to Naples.

The episode was perceived as a serious affront to the Bourbon court. Consequently, the Spanish and Neapolitan ambassadors left Rome, while apostolic nuncios were dismissed from Madrid and Naples. Regiments of Bourbon troops invaded the Papal States. The threat was such that some of the gates of Rome were barred and the civil guard was doubled. Velletri was occupied and forced to pay 8000 crowns for the occupation. Ostia was sacked, while Palestrina avoided the same fate by the payment of a ransom of 16000 crowns.

The commission of cardinals to whom the case was assigned decided to send a delegation of prisoners of Trastevere and Velletri to Naples as reparations. The papal subjects were punished with just a few days in jail and then, after seeking royal pardon, were granted it.[18] The Neapolitan king subsequently managed to iron out his differences with the Pope, after long negotiations, through the mediation of its ambassador in Rome, Cardinal Acquaviva, the archbishop Giuseppe Spinelli and the chaplain Celestino Galiani. Agreement was achieved on 12 May 1738.

After the death of Pope Clement in 1740, he was replaced by Pope Benedict XIV, who the following year allowed the creation of a concordat with the Kingdom of Naples. This allowed the taxation of certain property of the clergy, the reduction of the number of the ecclesiasticals and the limitation of their immunity and autonomy of justice via the creation of a mixed tribunal.[19]

Choice of name

Charles should have been remembered as Charles VII of Naples (some sources call him this) but the number was never officially used by him. He was known simply as Charles of Bourbon. The reason no number was officially used was to make the point that he was the first King of Naples to live there, and to mark the discontinuity between him and previous rulers named Charles, specifically his predecessor, Emperor Charles VI of Austria.

In Sicily, he was known as Charles III of Sicily and of Jerusalem, using the ordinal III rather than V. The Sicilian people had not recognized Charles I of Naples (Charles d'Anjou) as their sovereign (they rebelled against him), nor Emperor Charles, whom they also disliked.

Carolus Dei Gratia Rex utriusque Siciliae[20], & Hyerusalem, &c. Infans Hispaniarum, Dux Parmae, Placentiae, Castri, &c. Ac Magnus Princeps Haereditarius Hetruriae, &c.[21] Charles, by the Grace of God King of Naples, Sicily and of Jerusalem, etc. Infante of Spain, Duke of Parma, Piacenza and of Castro etc. Great Hereditary Prince of Tuscany.

Peace with Austria and marriage

Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, with whom Charles was in constant competition.

A preliminary peace was concluded on 3 October 1735 with Austria. However, the peace was not finalized until three years later with the Treaty of Vienna (1738), ending the War of the Polish Succession.

Naples and Sicily were ceded by Austria to Charles, who gave up Parma and Tuscany in return. (Charles had inherited Tuscany in 1737 on the death of Gian Gastone.) Tuscany went to Emperor Charles VI's son-in-law Francis Stephen, as compensation for ceding the Duchy of Lorraine to the deposed Polish King Stanislaus I.

The treaty included the transfer to Naples of all the inherited goods of the House of Farnese. He took with him the collection of artwork, the archives and the ducal library, the cannons of the fort, and even the marble stairway of the ducal palace.[22]

Charles' mother Elisabeth again began looking for potential brides for her son, now formally recognised as King of Naples and Sicily. It was impossible to get an Archduchess of Austria as a bride, so she looked to Poland, choosing Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony, a daughter of the newly elected Polish king Augustus III and his (ironically) Austrian wife Maria Josepha of Austria. Maria Josepha was a niece of Emperor Charles; the marriage was seen as the only alternative to an Austrian marriage.

Maria Amalia was only 13 when she was informed of her proposed marriage. The marriage date was confirmed on 31 October 1737. Maria Amalia was married by proxy at Dresden in May 1738, with her brother Frederick Christian of Saxony representing Charles. This marriage was looked upon favorably by the Holy See and effectively ended its diplomatic disagreement with Charles.

The couple met for the first time on 19 June 1738 at Portella, a village on the frontier of the kingdom near Fondi. At court, festivities lasted till 3 July. As part of the celebration, Charles created the Order of Saint Januarius — the most prestigious order of chivalry in the kingdom. He later had the Order of Charles III created in Spain on 19 September 1771.

War of the Austrian Succession

The peace between Charles and Austria was signed in Vienna in 1740. That year, Emperor Charles died leaving his Kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary (along with many other lands) to his daughter Maria Theresa; he had hoped the many signatories to the Pragmatic Sanction would not interfere with this succession. However, this was not the case, and the War of the Austrian Succession broke out. France was allied with Spain and Prussia, all of whom were against Maria Theresa. Maria Theresa was supported by Great Britain, ruled by George II, and the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was then ruled by Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia.

Maria Theresa of Austria, daughter of Emperor Charles VI and one time fiancée of Charles (1744).

Charles had wanted to stay neutral during the conflict but his father wanted him to join in and gather troops to aid the Spanish. Charles arranged to send to Spain 10,000 men under the control of Duke of Castropignano, but they were obliged to retreat when British forces under Commodore William Martin threatened to bombard the port of Naples if they did not stay out of the conflict.[23]

The decision to remain neutral was again revived and was poorly received by the French and his father in Spain. Charles' parents encouraged him to take arms as his brother Infante Felipe had done. After publishing a proclamation on 25 March 1744 reassuring its subjects, Charles took the command of an army against the Austrian armies of the prince of Lobkowitz, who were at that point marching for the Neapolitan border.

In order to oppose the small but powerful pro-Austrian party in Naples, a new council was formed under the direction of Tanucci that resulted in the arrest of more than 800 people. In April Maria Theresa addressed the Neapolitans with a proclamation in which she promised pardons and other benefits for those who rose against the "usurpers", meaning the Bourbons.[24]

The participation of Naples and Sicily in the conflict resulted, on 11 August in the decisive Battle of Velletri, where Neapolitan troops directed by Charles and the Duke of Castropignano, and Spanish troops under the Count of Pledges, defeated the Austrians of Lobkowitz, who retreated with heavy losses. The courage shown by Charles caused the King of Sardinia, his enemy, to write that "he revealed a worthy consistency of his blood and that he behaved gloriously".[25]

The victory at Velletri assured Charles the right of being able to give the title Duke of Parma' to his younger brother Infante Felipe. This was recognised in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle signed in 1748; it was not till next year that Infante Felipe would officially be the Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla.

Impact of rule in Naples and Sicily

In 1746, Philip V of Spain died in Madrid aged 62. The throne of Spain was inherited by Infante Ferdinand who reigned as Ferdinand VI of Spain. Ferdinand, who hated his stepmother, made her leave the Spanish court; this also meant that Elisabeth Farnese would not have as much influence over her son on the pretext that she was the queen of the realm.

The same year saw the introduction of the Inquisition to Charles' domains bought by the Cardinal Spinelli; this was not popular at all and it required the intervention of Charles.

Charles left a lasting legacy on his kingdom; he built much and introduced reforms in the country. In and around Naples can be found a collection of palaces that he constructed during his reign. In awe of the Palace of Versailles and the Royal Palace of Madrid in Spain (the latter being modeled on Versailles itself), Charles undertook and oversaw the construction of one of Europe's most lavish palaces, the Palace of Caserta (Reggia di Caserta). Construction ideas for the stunning palace started in 1751 when he was 25 years old. The site had previously been home to a small hunting lodge, as had Versailles, which he was fond of because it reminded him of San Ildefonso where the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso was located in Spain. Caserta was also much influenced by his wife, the very cultured Maria Amalia of Saxony. The site of the palace was also far away from the large volcano of Mount Vesuvius which was a constant threat on the capital as was the sea. Charles himself that laid its foundation stone amid much festivity on his 36th birthday, 20 January 1752.

Other buildings he had built in his kingdom were the Palace of Portici (Reggia di Portici), the Teatro di San Carlo—constructed in just 270 days—and the Palace of Capodimonte (Reggia di Capodimonte); he also had the Royal Palace of Naples renovated. He and his wife had the Capodimonte porcelain Factory constructed in the city. He also founded the Ercolanesi Academy and the Naples National Archaeological Museum, which still operates today.

In Naples Charles began making internal reforms which he afterwards continued in Spain. The chief minister in Naples, Bernardo Tanucci, had a considerable influence over him. It was during his rule that the Roman cities of Herculaneum (1738), Stabiae and Pompeii (1748) were re-discovered. The king encouraged their excavation and continued to be informed about findings even after moving to Spain. Charles also encouraged the development of skilled craftsmen in Naples and Sicily, after centuries of foreign domination. Charles is recognized for having recreated the "Neapolitan nation", building an independent and sovereign kingdom.[26] He was also the craftsman of the politics of reformation that were more administrative, more social and more religious than the kingdom had seen for a long time.

Charles was the most popular king the Neapolitans had had for many years. He was very supportive of the people's needs, regardless of class, and has been hailed[27] as an Enlightenment king. Among the initiatives aimed at bringing the kingdom out of difficult economic conditions, Charles created the "commerce council" that negotiated with the Ottomans, Swedes, French and Dutch. He also founded an insurance company and took measures to protect the forests, and tried to start the extraction and exploitation of the natural resources.

The Kingdom of Naples remained neutral during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). The British Prime Minister, William Pitt wanted to create an Italian league where Naples and Sardinia would fight together against Austria, but Charles refused to participate. This choice was sharply criticised by the Neapolitan Ambassador in Turin, Domenico Caraccioli, who wrote:

"The position of Italian matters is not more beautiful; but it is worsened by the fact that the King of Naples and the King of Sardinia, adding troops to larger forces of the others, could oppose itself to the plans of their neighbours; to defend itself against the dangers of the peace of the enemies themselves they were in a way united, but they are separated by their different systems of gouvernement."[28]

With the Republic of Genoa in relations are stretched: Pasquale Paoli, general of Corsican pro-independence rebels, was an officer of the Neapolitan army and the Genoese one suspected that he received assistance of the kingdom of Naples.

After Charles departed for Spain, Minister Tanucci presided over the Council of Regency that ruled until Ferdinand reached 16, the age of majority.

Accession to the Spanish throne

At the end of 1758, Charles' half brother Ferdinand VI was displaying the same symptoms of depression that their father used to suffer from. Ferdinand lost his devoted wife, Infanta Barbara of Portugal in August 1758 and fell into deep mourning for her. He named Charles his heir presumptive on 10 December 1758 before leaving Madrid to stay at Villaviciosa de Odón, where he died on 10 August 1759.

His third surviving son, future Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.

At that point, Charles was proclaimed King of Spain under the name of Charles III of Spain, respecting the third Treaty of Vienna, which stated he would not be able to join the Neapolitan and Sicilian territories to the Spanish throne. He was later given the title of Lord of the Two Sicilies. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, that Charles had not ratified, foresaw the eventuality of his accession to Spain; thus Naples and Sicily went to his brother Philip, Duke of Parma, while the possessions of the latter were divided between Maria Theresa (Parma and Guastalla) and the King of Sardinia (Plaisance).

Determined to maintain the hold of his descendants on the court of Naples, Charles undertook lengthy diplomatic negotiations with Maria Theresa, and in 1758 the two signed the Fourth Treaty of Versailles, by which Austria formally renounced the Italian Duchies. Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia, however continued to pressure on the possible gain of Plaisance and even threatened to occupy it.

In order to defend the Duchy of Parma from Charles Emmanuel's threats, Charles deployed troops on the borders of the Papal States. Thanks to the mediation of Louis XV, Charles Emmanuel renounced his claims to Plaisance in exchange for financial compensation. Charles thus assured the succession of one of his sons and, at the same time, reduced Charles Emmanuel's ambitions. According to Domenico Caracciolo, this was "a fatal blow to the hopes and designs of the king of Sardinia".[29]

Departure of Charles from Naples, 1759.

The eldest son of Charles, Infante Philip, Duke of Calabria, had learning difficulties and was thus taken out of the line of succession to any throne; he died in Portici where he had been born in 1747. The title of Prince of Asturias was given to Charles, the second-born. The right of succession to Naples and Sicily was reserved for his third son, Ferdinand; he would stay in Italy while his father was in Spain. Charles' formally abdicated the crowns of Naples and Sicily on 6 October 1759 in favor of Ferdinand. Charles left his son's education and care to a regency council which was composed of eight members. This council would govern the kingdom until the young king was 16 years old.

Charles and his wife arrived in Barcelona on 7 October 1759.

Ruler of Spain

Unlike his twenty years in the Italian Peninsula which had been very fruitful, the era on mainland Spain is often regarded with less joy. Internal politics, as well as diplomatic relationships with other countries underwent complete reform. Charles represented a new type of ruler: the ruler who followed Enlightened absolutism. This was a form of absolute monarchy or despotism in which rulers embraced the principles of the Enlightenment, especially its emphasis upon rationality, and applied them to their territories. They tended to allow religious toleration, freedom of speech and the press, and the right to hold private property. Most fostered the arts, sciences, and education. Charles shared these ideals with other monarchs, including Maria Theresa of Austria, her son Joseph, and Catherine II of Russia, (the Great).

The principles of the Enlightenment were applied to his rule in Naples and he intended to do the same in Spain though on a much larger scale. Charles went about his reform along with the help of the Marquis of Esquilache, Count of Aranda, Count of Campomanes, Count of Floridablanca, Ricardo Wall and the Genoan aristocrat Jerónimo Grimaldi. Thanks to these principles, Carlos III decided to forbid bullfighting, a practice regarded by Carlos III himself as brutal and uncivilized.

The first crisis that Charles had to deal with was the death of his beloved wife Maria Amalia. She died at the Palace of Buen Retiro on the eastern outskirsts of Madrid. She was aged 35 and died unexpectedly on 27 September 1760. She was buried at the El Escorial in the royal crypt.


Charles' son Ferdinand of Naples and Sicily with his wife Maria Carolina of Austria and their family in Naples.

The traditional friendship with France brought about the idea that the power of Great Britain would decrease and that of Spain and France would do the opposite; this alliance was marked by a Family Compact signed on 15 August 1761 (called the "Treaty of Paris"). Charles had become deeply concerned that Britain's success in the Seven Years War would destroy the balance of power, and they would soon seek to conquer the Spanish Empire as they had done the French.

In early 1762, Spain entered the war. The major Spanish objectives to invade Portugal and capture Jamaica were both failures. Britain and Portugal not only repulsed the Spanish attack on Portugal, but captured the cities of Havana and Manila. Charles III wanted to keep fighting on the following year, but he was persuaded by the French leadership to stop. The 1763 Treaty of Paris saw Spain cede Florida to Great Britain in exchange for the return of Havana and Manila. This was partly compensated by the acquisition of a portion of Louisiana given by France as a compensation for Spain's war losses.

Portrait of Charles III by Goya, 1786-1788.

In the Falklands Crisis of 1770 the Spanish came close to war with Great Britain after expelling the British garrison of the Falkland Islands. However Spain was forced to back down when the British Royal Navy was mobilised and France declined to support Spain.

Continuing territorial disputes with Portugal led to the First Treaty of San Ildefonso, on 1 October 1777, in which Spain got Colonia del Sacramento, in present-day Uruguay, and the Misiones Orientales, in present-day Brazil, but not the western regions of Brazil, and also the Treaty of El Pardo, on 11 March 1778, in which Spain again conceded that Portuguese Brazil had expanded far west of the longitude specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas, and in return Portugal ceded present-day Equatorial Guinea to Spain.

The rivalry with Britain also led him to support the American revolutionaries in their War of Independence despite his misgivings about the example it would set for the Spanish Colonies. During the war, Spain recovered Minorca and British West Florida in military campaigns, but failed to regain Gibraltar. Spanish military operations in West Florida and on the Mississippi River helped the Thirteen Colonies secure their southern and western frontiers from British attack. The capture of Nassau in the Bahamas enabled Spain to also recover East Florida during peace negotiations. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 confirmed the recovery of the Floridas and Minorca, and restricted the actions of British commercial interests in Central America.

Political policies

His internal government was, on the whole, beneficial to the country. He began by compelling the people of Madrid to give up emptying their slops out of the windows, and when they objected he said they were like children who cried when their faces were washed. At the time of his accession to Spain, Charles named secretary to the Finances and Treasurer, Marquis of Esquillache and both realised many reforms. The Spanish Army and Navy were reorganised despite the losses from the Seven Years War.

Charles also eliminated the tax on flour generally liberalised most commerce. Despite this action, it provoked the overlord to charge high prices because of the "monopolizers", speculating on the bad harvests of the previous years. On 23 March 1766, his attempt to force the madrileños to adopt French dress for public security reasons was the excuse for a riot (Motín de Esquilache) during which he did not display much personal courage. For a long time after, he remained at Aranjuez, leaving the government in the hands of his minister Count of Aranda. Not all his reforms were of this formal kind.

The Count of Campomanes tried to show Charles that the true leaders of the revolt against Esquilache were the Jesuits. The wealth and power of the Jesuits was very large; and by the royal decree of 27 February 1767, known as the Pragmatic Penalty of 1767, the Jesuits were expelled from Spain, and all their possessions were confiscated. His quarrel with the Jesuits, and the memory of his with the Pope while he was King of Naples turned him towards a general policy of restriction of what he saw as the overgrown power of the Church. The number of reputedly idle clergy, and more particularly of the monastic orders, was reduced, and the Spanish Inquisition, though not abolished, was rendered torpid. In spite of his hostility to the Jesuits, his dislike of friars in general, and his jealousy of the Spanish Inquisition, he was a very sincere Roman Catholic.

In the meantime, much antiquated legislation which tended to restrict trade and industry was abolished; roads, canals and drainage works were established. Many of his paternal ventures led to little more than waste of money, or the creation of hotbeds of jobbery; yet on the whole the country prospered. The result was largely due to the king, who even when he was ill-advised did at least work steadily at his task of government.

Charles also sought to reform Spanish colonial policy, in order to make Spain's colonies more competitive with the plantations of the French Antilles (particularly the French colony of Saint-Domingue) and Portuguese Brazil. This resulted in the creation of the "Códigos Negros Españoles", or Spanish Black Codes. The Black Codes, which were partly based on the French Code Noir and 13th-century Castilian Siete Partidas, aimed to establish greater legal control over slaves in the Spanish colonies, in order to expand agricultural production. The first code was written for the city of Santo Domingo in 1768, while the second code was written for the recently acquired Spanish territory of Louisiana in 1769. The third code, which was named the "Código Negro Carolino" after Charles himself, divided the freed black and slave populations of Santo Domingo into strictly stratified socioeconomic classes.[30]

Silver 8 real coin of Carlos III, dated 1776. The Latin inscription reads: (obverse) 1776 CAROLUS III DEI GRATIA, (reverse) HISPAN[IARUM] ET IND[IARUM] REX M[EXICO] 8 R[EALES] F M; in English, "1776 Charles III, by the Grace of God, King of the Spains and of the Indies, Mexico [City Mint], 8 Reales." The reverse depicts the arms of Castile and León, with Granada in base and an inescutcheon of Anjou, supported by the Pillars of Hercules adorned with PLVS VLTRA motto.

In Spain, he continued with his work trying to improve the services and facilities of his people. He created the Luxury Porcelain factory under the name of Real Fábrica del Buen Retiro in 1760; Crystal followed at the Real Fábrica de Cristales de La Granja and then there was the Real Fábrica de Platería Martínez in 1778. During his reign, the areas of Asturias and Catalonia industrialised quickly and produced much revenue for the Spanish economy. He then turned to the foreign economy looking towards his colonies in the Americas. In particular, he looked at the finances of the Philippines and encouraged commerce with the United States, starting in 1778. He also carried out a number of public works; he had the Imperial Canal of Aragon constructed, as well a number of routes which led to the capital of Madrid, which is located in the centre of Spain. Other cities were improved during his reign; Seville for example saw the introduction of many new structures such as hospitals and the Archivo General de Indias. In Madrid he was nicknamed the Best Mayor of Madrid, "el rey alcalde". Charles was responsible for granting the title "Royal University" to the University of Santo Tomás in Manila, which is the oldest in Asia.

The Royal Palace of Madrid where Charles died.
The El Escorial where Charles is buried.

In the capital, he also had the famous Puerta de Alcalá constructed along with the statue of Alcachofa fountain, and moved and redesigned the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid. He had the present National Art Museum of Queen Sofia (named in honour of the present Queen of Spain, born Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark) built, as well as the renowned Museo del Prado. At Aranjuez he added wings to the palace.

He created the Spanish Lottery and introduced Christmas cribs following Neapolitan models. During his reign, the movement to found "Economic Societies" (an early form of Chamber of Commerce) was born.

The example of his actions and works was not without effect on other Spanish nobles. In his domestic life, King Charles was regular, and was a considerate master, though he had a somewhat caustic tongue and took a rather cynical view of humanity. He was passionately fond of hunting. During his later years he had some trouble with his eldest son and daughter-in-law.

The Royal Palace of Madrid had undergone much alteration under his rule. It was in his reign that the huge Comedor de gala (Gala Dining room) was built during the years of 1765–1770; the room took the place of the old apartments of Queen Maria Amalia. He died in the palace on 14 December 1788.

He was buried at the Pantheon of the Kings located at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial.

Birth of a nation

The Flag of Spain from 1785–1873; then again from 1875–1931.

Under Charles' reign, Spain began to be recognised as a nation rather than a collection of kingdoms and territories with a common sovereign. His efforts resulted in creation of a National Anthem, a flag, and a capital city worthy of the name, and the construction of a network of coherent roads converging on Madrid. On 3 September 1770 Charles III declared that the Marcha Real was to be used in official ceremonies. It was Charles who chose the colours of the present flag of Spain; red and yellow. The flag of the military navy was introduced by the king on 28 May 1785. Until then, Spanish vessels sported the white flag of the Bourbons with the arms of the sovereign. This was replaced by Charles due to his concern that it looked too similar to the flags of other nations.

The arms used by Charles while King of Spain were used until 1931 when his great great great grandson Alphonso XIII lost the crown, and the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed (there was also a brief interruption from 1873–5). Felipe VI of Spain, Spain's current monarch, is a direct male line descendant of the "rey alcalde". Juan Carlos I is a descendant of Charles by four of his great grandparents, and is also a descendent of Maria Theresa of Austria.







  1. Nicholas Henderson, "Charles III of Spain: An Enlightened Despot," History Today, Nov 1968, Vol. 18 Issue 10, p673-682 and Issue 11, pp 760–768
  2. Stanley G. Payne, History of Spain and Portugal (1973) 2:371
  3. "Full text of "Unruly daughters; a romance of the house of Orléans"". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  4. 1 2 Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988, pp. 46–48.
  5. (Italian) Harold Acton, I Borboni di Napoli (1734–1825), Florence, Giunti, 1997, p. 18.
  6. 1 2 (Italian) Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Napoli, Edizioni Agea, 1988, p. 48.
  7. Il di lui talento è naturale, e non-stato coltivato da maestri, sendo stato allevato all'uso di Spagna, ove i ministri non-amano di vedere i loro sovrani intesi di molte cose, per poter indi più facilmente governare a loro talento. Poche sono le notizie delle corti straniere, delle leggi, de' Regni, delle storie de' secoli andati, e dell'arte militare, e posso con verità assicurare la MV non-averlo per il più sentito parlar d'altro in occasione del pranzo, che dell'età degli astanti, di caccia, delle qualità de' suoi cani, della bontà ed insipidezza de' cibi, e della mutazione de' venti indicanti pioggia o serenità. Michelangelo Schipa, Il regno di Napoli al tempo di Carlo di Borbone, Napoli, Stabilimento tipografico Luigi Pierro e figlio, 1904, p. 72.
  8. (Italian) Michelangelo Schipa, Il regno di Napoli al tempo di Carlo di Borbone, Naples, Stabilimento tipografico Luigi Pierro e figlio, 1904, p. 74.
  9. 1 2 Acton, Harold. I Borboni di Napoli (1734–1825) Florence, Giunti, 1997 p. 20
  10. Gleijeses, Vittorio. Don Carlos Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988. p. 49
  11. Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988. p. 50-53
  12. Harold Acton, I Borboni di Napoli (1734–1825), Florence, Giunti, 1997, p. 25
  13. Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988. p. 59
  14. Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988. p. 60
  15. Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988. p. 61-62
  16. Harold Acton, I Borboni di Napoli (1734–1825), Florence, Giunti, 1997, p. 36
  17. Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988, p. 63-64.
  18. 1 2 Vittorio Gleijeses, Don Carlos, Naples, Edizioni Agea, 1988, pp. 65–66
  19. Giovanni Drei, Giuseppina Allegri Tassoni (a cura di) I Farnese. Grandezza e decadenza di una dinastia italiana, Rome, La Libreria dello Stato, 1954.
  20. Rex Neapolis before his coronation on 3 July 1735 at Palermo.
  21. Liste des décrets sur le site du ministère de la Culture espagnole.
  22. Acton, Harold. I Borboni di Napoli (1734–1825)' , Florence, Giunti, 1997
  23. Luigi del Pozzo, Cronaca civile e militare delle Due Sicilie sotto la dinastia borbonica dall'anno 1734 in poi , Naples, Stamperia Reale, 1857.
  24. Giuseppe Coniglio, I Borboni di Napoli, Milan, Corbaccio, 1999.
  25. Gaetano Falzone, Il regno di Carlo di Borbone in Sicilia. 1734–1759, Bologne, Pàtron Editore, 1964.
  26. The Academy of Real Navy December 10, 1735 was the first institution to be established by Charles III for cadets, followed 18 November 1787 by the Royal Military Academy (later Military School of Naples): Buonomo, Giampiero (2013). "Goliardia a Pizzofalcone tra il 1841 ed il 1844". L’Ago e il filo edizione online.   via Questia (subscription required)
  27. (Italian) .
  28. Francesco Renda, Storia della Sicilia dalle origini ai giorni nostri vol. II, Palerme, Sellerio editore, 2003.
  29. Franco Valsecchi, Il riformismo borbonico in Italia, Rome, Bonacci, 1990
  30. Obregón, Liliana. "Black Codes in Latin America". Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  31. 1 2 Menéndez-Pidal De Navascués, Faustino; (1999)El escudo; Menéndez Pidal y Navascués, Faustino; O´Donnell, Hugo; Lolo, Begoña. Símbolos de España. Madrid: Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales. ISBN 84-259-1074-9, p. 208.209
  32. "Carlos III, Rey de España (1716-1788)". Ex-Libris Database (in Spanish). Royal Library of Spain. Retrieved 18 March 2013.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charles III of Spain.
Charles III of Spain
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 20 January 1716 Died: 14 December 1788
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duke of Parma and Piacenza
22 July 1731 – 3 October 1735
Succeeded by
Charles II
Preceded by
Charles VI & IV
King of Naples and Sicily
15 May 1734 – 10 August 1759
Succeeded by
Ferdinand IV & III
Preceded by
Ferdinand VI
King of Spain
10 August 1759 – 14 December 1788
Succeeded by
Charles IV
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