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King Carlos IV

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King Carlos IV

Charles IV
Portrait of Charles IV by Goya
King of Spain
Reign 14 December 1788 – 19 March 1808
Predecessor Charles III
Successor Ferdinand VII
Spouse Maria Luisa of Parma
Charlotte, Queen of Portugal
Maria Louisa, Queen of Etruria
Ferdinand VII of Spain
Infante Charles, Count of Molina
Maria Isabella, Queen of the Two Sicilies
Infante Francisco de Paula
Full name
Carlos Antonio Pascual Francisco Javier Juan Nepomuceno Jose Januario Serafin Diego
House House of Bourbon
Father Charles III of Spain
Mother Maria Amalia of Saxony
Born 11 November 1748
Palace of Portici, Portici, Italy
Died 20 January 1819(1819-01-20) (aged 70)
Rome, Italy
Burial El Escorial
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles IV (Spanish: Carlos Antonio Pascual Francisco Javier Juan Nepomuceno Jose Januario Serafin Diego; 11 November 1748 – 20 January 1819) was King of Spain from 14 December 1788 until his abdication on 19 March 1808.

Early life

Charles was the second son of Charles III and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. He was born at Naples (11 November 1748), while his father was king of the Two Sicilies. His elder brother Don Felipe was passed over for the two thrones as he was mentally retarded and epileptic. In Naples and Sicily Charles was styled as the Prince of Taranto.[1] He was called el Cazador (the Hunter) due to his preference for sport and hunting over affairs of state. Many considered Charles to be amiable but simple-minded.[2]


In 1788, Charles III died and Charles IV succeeded to the throne. He intended to maintain the policies of his father and maintained his prime minister the Count of Floridablanca in office.[2] Even though he had a profound belief in the sanctity of his office and kept up the appearance of an absolute, powerful monarch, he never took more than a passive part in the direction of his own government. The affairs of government were left to his wife, Maria Luisa, and his prime minister, while he occupied himself with hunting. In 1792, political and personal enemies ousted Floridablanca from office and had him replaced with Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, Count of Aranda . However, in the wake of the war against Republican France, the liberal-leaning Count of Aranda was replaced by Manuel de Godoy, a favourite of the Queen and widely believed to be her lover, who enjoyed the lasting favour of the King.

Godoy continued Aranda's policy of neutrality towards France but after Spain protested against the execution of the deposed king in 1793, France declared war on Spain. After the declaration Portugal and Spain signed a treaty of mutual protection against France.[3] In 1795 France forced Godoy to conclude an alliance and declare war on the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Spain remained an ally of France and supported the Continental Blockade until the British naval victory at Trafalgar. However, after Napoleon's victory over Prussia in 1807, Godoy again steered Spain back onto the French side. This switching back and forth devalued Charles' position as a trustworthy ally. The return to the French alliance increased Godoy's unpopularity and strengthened the "fernandistas", the supporters of Crown Prince Ferdinand, who favoured a close relationship with the United Kingdom.

Economic troubles caused by wars, the rumours about a sexual relationship between the Queen and the powerful prime minister Godoy, and the King's ineptitude caused the monarchy to decline in popular prestige. Anxious to take over from his father as soon as possible and jealous of the prime minister, Crown Prince Ferdinand attempted to overthrow the King in an aborted coup in 1807.[4]


Riots and a popular revolt at the winter palace Aranjuez in 1808 forced the king to abdicate on 19 March, in favour of his son.[4] Ferdinand took the throne as Ferdinand VII, but was mistrusted by Napoleon, who had stationed 100,000 soldiers in Spain by that time.

The ousted King having appealed to Napoleon for help in regaining his throne, Napoleon summoned both Charles IV and his son to Bayonne in April 1808. Napoleon forced both the former King and his son to abdicate, declared the Bourbon dynasty of Spain deposed, and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as King Joseph I of Spain[5]

Later life and death

The ex-King, his Queen and former Prime Minister Godoy were then held captive in France. After the collapse of the regime installed by Napoleon, Ferdinand VII was restored to the throne. The former Charles IV drifted aimlessly about Europe[6] until 1812, when he finally settled in Rome in the Palazzo Barberini.[7][8][9][10] His wife died on 2 January 1819, followed shortly by the former King who died on 20 January of the same year.


Well-meaning and pious, Charles IV found himself floundering in a series of international crises far beyond his limited capacity to handle.[6] He was painted by Francisco Goya in a number of official court portraits which numerous art critics have seen as sly satires on the King's stout vacuity.[11]

Marriage and children

Charles IV married his first cousin Maria Louisa, the daughter of Philip, Duke of Parma, in 1765. The couple had fourteen children, six of whom survived into adulthood:

Name Portrait Lifespan Notes
Carlos Clemente
Infante of Spain
19 September 1771 –
7 March 1774
Born and died at El Escorial; baptized on the same day he was born, with Charles III representing "the Holy Father" at the christening. Pope Clement XIV celebrated Carlos' birth and sent the infant consecrated swaddling clothes.[12]
Carlota Joaquina
Queen of Portugal and the Algarves
25 April 1775 –
7 January 1830
Born at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, she married John VI of Portugal in 1785 and became Queen consort of Portugal in 1816. Had issue, including the future Pedro I of Brazil. She died at Queluz National Palace.
Maria Luisa
Infanta of Spain
11 September 1777 -
2 July 1782
Born and died at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.[13]
María Amalia
Infanta of Spain
9 January 1779 -
22 July 1798
Born at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, she married her uncle Infante Antonio Pascual of Spain in 1795. She gave birth to a stillborn son in 1798 and died shortly thereafter.
Carlos Domingo
Infante of Spain
5 March 1780 -
11 June 1783
Born at the Royal Palace of El Pardo and died at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez.[13] After his birth, his father pardoned all of the convicts from Puerto San Julián as a sign of celebration.[14]
Maria Luisa
Queen of Etruria
Duchess of Lucca
6 July 1782 -
13 March 1824
Born at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, she married Louis, King of Etruria in 1795 and had issue, including Charles II, Duke of Parma. Became Duchess of Lucca in her own right in 1817 and died in Rome in 1824 of cancer.
Carlos Francisco de Paula
Infante of Spain
5 September 1783 -
11 November 1784
Twins, born and died at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.[15] Their birth was an important event for the people of Spain and provided security for the succession, a security which was truncated with the early deaths of Carlos and Felipe.[16]
Felipe Francisco de Paula
Infante of Spain
5 September 1783 -
18 October 1784
Fernando (VII)
King of Spain
14 October 1784 -
29 September 1833
Born and died at El Escorial, he succeeded his father as king in 1808, but was deposed by Joseph Bonaparte one month later. Married Princess Maria Antonia of Naples and Sicily in 1802, no issue. Re-instated as king in 1813. Married Maria Isabel of Portugal in 1816, had issue. Married Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony in 1819, no issue. Married Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies in 1829 and had issue, including the future Isabella II of Spain. Died in 1833.
Carlos María Isidro Benito
Count of Molina
29 March 1788 -
10 March 1855
Born at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. Married Infanta Maria Francisca of Portugal in 1816 and had issue. Married Maria Teresa, Princess of Beira in 1838, no issue. First Carlist pretender to the throne of Spain as "Carlos V". Use the title "Count of Molina" between 1845 and his death in 1855.
María Isabel
Queen of the Two Sicilies
6 July 1789 -
13 September 1848
Born at the Royal Palace of Madrid, she married Francis I of the Two Sicilies in 1802 and had issue, including the future Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies. Queen consort between 1825 and 1830, her husband's death. Died at the Palace of Portici in 1848.
Maria Teresa
Infanta of Spain
16 February 1792 -
2 November 1794
Born at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez and died at El Escorial[17] of smallpox.[18]
Felipe Maria
Infante of Spain
28 March 1792 -
1 March 1794
Born at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez and died at the Royal Palace of Madrid.[17]
Francisco de Paula
Duke of Cadiz
100px 10 March 1794 -
13 August 1865
Born at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, he married Princess Luisa Carlotta of Naples and Sicily in 1819 and had issue. Died in Madrid in 1865.

Titles and styles

  • 11 November 1748 – 10 August 1759 His Royal Highness the Prince of Taranto
  • 10 August 1759 – 14 December 1788 His Royal Highness the Prince of the Asturias
  • 14 December 1788 – 19 March 1808 His Majesty the King
  • 19 March 1808 – 20 January 1819 His Majesty King Carlos



  • Historia del Reinado de Carlos IV, by General Gomez de Arteche (5 vols.), in the Historia General de España de la Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, 1892, etc.).
  • Historiaantiqua. Isabel II; (Spanish) (2008)
Charles IV of Spain
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 11 November 1748 Died: 20 January 1819
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles III
King of Spain
Succeeded by
Ferdinand VII
Title last held by
Prince Ferdinand
his uncle
Prince of Asturias
Succeeded by
Prince Ferdinand
his son
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