The Royalist war was the first civil war in Spain which lasted from 1820 to 1823. The war took place between the Liberals, who wanted to abolish the Fueros and continue with the newly unified Spanish state under the rule of Ferdinand VII, and the Conservatives, who wanted regionalism to return and for the Basques to have self-determination. There was armed resistance in Navarra and Catalonia, but the Liberals were able to keep control, and the Spanish state remained the way it was.


Before Ferdinand VII died in 1833, he named his daughter, Isabella, the heir to the throne. Because she was only three years old at the time, her mother, Maria Cristina, would rule for her. Some Basques supported this decision, but many Basques wanted his younger brother Carlos to become king instead. The supporters of Carlos became known as Carlists, and so began the Carlist Wars. Carlists wanted absolute monarchy, but with some local rule as well. Basque Carlists were mainly clergy, peasants, and aristocrats. They wanted the Catholic Church to rule the state. The red beret became the Carlist trademark and a symbol of the Basque cause.

The First Carlist War was fought from 1833 to 1839 with fronts in Basqueland, Aragon, and Catalonia. The Carlist army was led by Zumalacarregui. The Carlists won the major towns of Vergara, Guernica, and Tolosa, but failed to take the capitol of Bilbao, and so failed to win the war. After Aumalacarregui's death in 1835, the Basque army decided to attack outside the Basqeuland instead of holding defense within its borders. Once the Basques began fighting outside their territory, the fighting and pillaging of cities became brutal with no victory on either side. A truce was finally signed on August 29, 1839 in Vergara.

In 1837 Maria Cristina, Queen of Spain, reinstated the 1812 constitution in which the Fueros did not exist. In 1840 she resigned, leaving the throne to the then ten year old Isabella II. The Carlists continued to act up against the Spanish liberal measures, and so the Spanish government created the Guardia Civil, a national police force, in 1844. The Guardia Civil became the greatest irritant in Basque-Spanish relations.

Carlos VII and Isabella II


After the end of the First Carlist War, the rural Basques saw more and more of their traditions being violated. Basque's successful industry and banking were being taken over by Spanish laws. Only 10% of ore mined in the Basqueland was going to Basque steel mills. The Spanish government instituted secular marriage and freedom of religion in 1869. This went directly against the values of the extremely Catholic-minded Carlists, and so a rebellion began in 1872 which led to the Second Carlist War. This civil war lasted until 1876, in which time thousands of people died. Liberals burned churches and monasteries. Carlists burned town halls and civil records. On July 21, 1876, a law was passed that ended the remaining Foral rights that Basques had to manage their financial affairs.

By the end of the Carlist Wars, the Basques were no longer able to control their own political life. However, for the Basques, culture had always been more important than politics. In the following time of great political repression, Basque culture was reborn, forming a stronger national identity.


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