Charles IV of Spain

Charles IV of Spain
Charles IV
Portrait of Charles IV by Goya
King of Spain
Reign 14 December 1788–19 March 1808
(&1000000000000001900000019 years, &1000000000000009600000096 days)
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 (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 IV as Prince of Asturias, 1765, by Anton Raphael Mengs.

Charles was the second son of Charles III and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. He was born at Naples(11 of November, 1748), while his father was king of the Two Sicilies. His elder brother Don Felipe was passed over for the two thrones as mentally retarded and epileptic. In Naples and Sicily he was styled as the Prince of Taranto.[1]

Charles had inherited a great frame and immense physical strength from the Saxon line of his mother, granddaughter of August the Strong. When young he was fond of wrestling with the strongest countrymen he could find. While he was considered by many to be intellectually sluggish and quite credulous he was also known for his acts of kindness.


In 1788, Charles III died and Charles IV succeeded to the throne. 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, occupying himself with hunting. The affairs of government he left to his wife and his prime minister. In 1792, Maria Luisa finally succeeded in ousting the Count of Floridablanca from office and had him replaced with Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea, Count of Aranda, the chief of the Aragonese party. 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 allegedly her lover, who thenceforth enjoyed the lasting favour of the King.

Silver 8 real coin of Charles IV, struck in 1806.

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 of war against Spain, Portugal and Spain signed a treaty of mutual protection against France.[2] In 1795 France forced Godoy to conclude an alliance and declare war on the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In 1803, after smallpox had affected his daughter María Luísa, the king commissioned his doctor Francisco Javier de Balmis to bring the vaccine to the Spanish colonies on state expenses.

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 while the return to the French alliance increased Godoy's unpopularity and strengthened partido fernandista, the supporters of Crown Prince Ferdinand, who favoured a close relationship with the United Kingdom.


When King Charles was told that his son Ferdinand was appealing to Napoleon against Godoy, he took the side of the minister. When the populace rose at Aranjuez in 1808 he abdicated on 19 March, in favour of his son,[3] to save the minister who had been taken prisoner. Ferdinand took the throne as Ferdinand VII, but was mistrusted by Napoleon who had 100,000 soldiers in Spain by that time.

Charles IV found refuge in France, and became a prisoner of Napoleon: the latter, posing as arbiter, summoned both Charles IV and his son to Bayonne in April and coaxed Charles (who had a difficult time restraining himself from assaulting his son) to retract his earlier abdication and abdicate, on 5 May 1808, in favour of Napoleon.[4] Napoleon then made his brother Joseph Bonaparte king in Spain.

Later life

Charles was then interned in Talleyrand's castle in Valençay.[5][6] He accepted a pension from the French Emperor and spent the rest of his life between his wife and Godoy, staying briefly in Compiègne and longer in Marseille.

In 1812, he finally settled in Rome in the Palazzo Barberini.[7][8][9][10] His wife, the former Queen, died on 2 January 1819. He died, reportedly of overwhelming despair and heartbreak because of the death of his wife, on 20 January 1819.

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:

  • Charles Clement (Carlos Clemente) (19 September 1771 – 7 March 1774)
  • Charlotte Joaquina (Carlota Joaquina) (25 April 1775 – 7 January 1830), married Prince John of Portugal, later King John VI
  • Maria Louisa (Maria Luisa) (11 September 1777 – 2 July 1782)
  • Maria Amalia (9 January 1779 – 22 July 1798), married her uncle Infante Antonio Pascual of Spain in 1795, no issue.
  • Charles Dominic (Carlos Domingo) (5 March 1780 – 11 June 1783)
  • Maria Louisa (Maria Luisa) (6 July 1782 – 13 March 1824), married Louis, heir of Bourbon-Parma and became Queen consort of Etruria and Duchess of Lucca
  • Charles Francis (Carlos Francisco) (5 September 1783 – 11 November 1784)
  • Philip Francis (Felipe Francisco) (5 September 1783 – 18 October 1784)
  • Ferdinand (Fernando) (14 October 1784 – 29 September 1833), succeeded his father as King of Spain
  • Charles (Carlos), Count of Molina (29 March 1788 – 10 March 1855), later the first Carlist pretender
  • Maria Isabella (6 June 1789 – 13 September 1848), married Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies
  • Maria Teresa (16 February 1791 – 2 November 1794)
  • Felipe Maria (28 March 1792 – 1 March 1794)
  • Francisco Antonio de Paula, Duke of Cadiz (10 March 1794 – 13 August 1865)

Maria Luisa was widely considered a vicious and coarse woman who thoroughly dominated the king. During the lifetime of Charles IV, she led her husband into court intrigues against the prime minister, the Count of Floridablanca.


16. Louis XIV of France
8. Louis, Dauphin of France
17. Maria Theresa of Spain
4. Philip V of Spain
18. Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria
9. Maria Anna of Bavaria
19. Henriette Adelaide of Savoy
2. Charles III of Spain
20. Ranuccio II Farnese, Duke of Parma
10. Odoardo II Farnese
21. Isabella of Modena
5. Elisabeth of Parma
22. Philipp Wilhelm, Elector Palatine
11. Dorothea Sophie of Neuburg
23. Landgravine Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
1. Charles IV of Spain
24. John George III, Elector of Saxony
12. Augustus II the Strong
25. Anne Sophie of Denmark
6. Augustus III of Poland
26. Christian Ernst, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
13. Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth
27. Sophie Luise of Württemberg
3. Maria Amalia of Saxony
28. Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
14. Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor
29. Eleonore-Magdalena of Neuburg
7. Maria Josepha of Austria
30. John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
15. Wilhelmina Amalia of Brunswick
31. 'Benedicta-Henrietta of Simmern

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)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
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 the Asturias
Succeeded by
Prince Ferdinand
his son

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