Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean in Spain, revolution was afoot. Ever since the accession of Queen Isabella II the country had been torn by civil war. Three factions emerged over the course of her reign; the Carlists who favored the royal line of the late King Fernando VII’s brother Don Carlos, the moderates who backed Isabella II and the revolutionaries who wanted to do away with the monarchy altogether. The Carlists were defeated in a series of civil wars and the revolutionaries were kept somewhat contented by movement to the left but Queen Isabella II eventually alienated her moderate supporters. She proved too Catholic and autocratic for their tastes (as well as having other problems) and in the end she was too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals. In September of 1868 the Queen was deposed and sent into exile by a group of liberal officers led by General Juan Prim (who had earlier led the Spanish contingent in the punitive expedition against Mexico alongside France and Britain which ultimately resulted in the short-lived monarchy of Maximilian). General Prim began looking for a candidate for the Spanish throne but had little luck.
The Cortes voted, by a considerable margin, that a monarchy was preferable to a republic but finding the right king proved difficult. Marshal Francisco Serrano was chosen as regent while General Prim cast about for someone to accept the crown of Spain. Dom Fernando, former King of Portugal, turned down the offer. Marshal Espartero, former Prime Minister, likewise turned down the throne and when the 15-year-old Duke of Genoa was approached with the offer his mother rejected it on his behalf on the grounds that Spain was too dangerous. It was not exactly an enticing prospect considering the many civil wars Spain had gone through, how bitterly divided against each other the Spanish people were and few royals would be eager to settle on a country that had just driven out their last monarch. The Prussian Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was next approached and not only were the Prussians not interested, the French objected to the very idea of a Prussian on the throne of Spain and the offer helped set off the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Finally, someone suggested Prince Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, second son of the King of Italy.
|The King pays his respects to General Prim|
Some disliked him simply because he was an Italian, a foreigner, while others had less nationalistic but more political reasons. The Carlists, naturally, would never support him as they would support no one but their own pretender to the throne and the revolutionaries, just as naturally, would never support him either as they would never support any monarch at all. His only base of support were the moderate progressives and even they were becoming more and more divided. King Amadeo did his best to come to an understanding of his new country, rising at six every morning to read the papers, including Carlist and republican periodicals, never spending more than an hour at meals, no matter how prominent the dinner guests and endeavoring to be as frugal as possible while still being generous to those in need. He paid the pensions of the household of the deposed Isabella II (which surprised many) and gave an average of $17,500 per month to charity. His tours around the country, in the past always a state expense, were always paid from his private funds.
In 1872 bitterness between the progressive factions reached a zenith and the foundation of the new Spanish Savoy monarchy began to crumble from beneath the feet of Amadeo I. In Basque and Catalan the Carlists rose up again in another rebellion and revolutionary republicans began to take to the streets in cities across Spain, starting out as protests but quickly turning into violent riots. The army proved to be as divided as the other segments of society and when the artillery corps went on strike, at such a critical time, the suddenly alarmed government demanded that King Amadeo do something about it. With two-thirds of the country against him, members of the remaining third were calling on him to start shooting down his adopted people. King Amadeo finally determined that he had had enough. He had not come to Spain for this. In the chance that it would do some good he ordered the artillery to return to duty and then, on February 11, 1873 turned in his formal abdication to the government. In his parting speech before the Cortes an exasperated ex-King Amadeo famously declared the Spanish people to be ungovernable and walked out. Later that night the First Spanish Republic was formally declared.
A thoroughly disgusted Amadeus was relieved to return to his native Italy and become Duke of Aosta again. If the Spanish were glad to see him go, they were probably still not so glad as he was to leave. He probably felt somewhat betrayed and he had reason to. His last Prime Minister later became one of the most ardent and troublesome republicans in Spain, which would suggest that he was less than fully committed to his sovereign. He was told he had been brought to Spain to lead a free and liberal constitutional monarchy, yet many of his supposed supporters turned against him when he refused to grant them dictatorial powers to deal with their enemies. The impossibility of the situation he faced comes into even clearer focus considering that the First Spanish Republic that replaced him lasted less than a year and was torn by three simultaneous civil wars and a revolution in Cuba. In the end, a ‘compromise monarchy’ was restored in the person of King Alfonso XII, son of the still disliked Isabella II. Prince Amadeus, Duke of Aosta, former King of Spain, contented himself with a much more peaceful life in Turin.
The Bonaparte family was happy enough with the marriage as it put their name on the front page of every newspaper in Europe and marked the first time since 1859 that a Bonaparte had married a member of a reigning Royal Family. Interest in the late French Empire resurged in France and some news sheets commented that a restoration of the Napoleonic government might have been possible. This was certainly not the first time such royal relatives married, and his second marriage is not something most remember about former King Amadeo I, but regardless of how many strange royal unions one may know about -it’s just rather creepy. However, for the Duke of Aosta, his life as a newly remarried man was not to last long. Less than two years after his wedding, at the age of only 44, he died in Turin on January 18, 1890 at the Royal Palace. His descendants would go on to great fame in several instances, and of course they are still around today but the first Duke of Aosta will probably always be most remembered for his brief stint as the one and only Savoy King of Spain.