Spain, 1914-1918: Between War and Revolution

By Francisco J. Romero Salvadó | Go to book overview

3

THE ROMANONES ADMINISTRATION

The domestic challenge

After the fall of Dato in December 1915 the Liberal leader, Count Romanones, rapidly formed a new government. The Count, a Spanish grandee, was known for his cynical approach to politics, a shrewd ability in party manoeuvring, a skilful gambler’s style with regard to important issues and for his good contacts at court. He was regarded by many as the perfect example of the Turno professional politician: a man without ideological principles or political ideas, but able to remain in power by his clever manipulation and control of the electoral machinery and its clientelista foundations. The novelist and leading figure of the cultural Generación del 98, Miguel Unamuno, wrote that the ultimate semantic paradox was that Romanones should be the leader of Spanish liberalism. 1

In fact, Romanones’s deviousness and opportunism was above that of his peers. In 1909 he was one of the Liberal notables who encouraged the then party leader, Segismundo Moret, to take advantage of the turbulent situation created by the crushing of the anticlerical and antimilitarist riots of that summer to join forces with the Republicans and oust Antonio Maura, the Conservative Prime Minister, from office. Once this was achieved, Romanones exploited the fact that Moret was too close to the Republicans to end both his premiership and his leadership of the party and replace him with the more malleable José Canalejas. After Canalejas’s murder in November 1912 Romanones took over the leadership of the Liberal party, defeating all other faction leaders. With the king’s complicity he outmanoeuvred them by claiming the right to take ‘temporary’ charge of the premiership as the Speaker of the Lower Chamber. 2

There were increasing rumours that the other Liberal notables, annoyed by the Count’s rise to power, were plotting his downfall. Romanones was not prepared to let his main rival, the Marquis of Alhucemas, form a new cabinet which might have represented the end of his supremacy in the Liberal party. Instead he preferred to relinquish office to the Conservatives. Maura’s refusal to rotate with those whom he had regarded since 1909 as unprincipled and treacherous Liberals was an obstacle to Romanones’s scheme. However, anxious

-27-

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Spain, 1914-1918: Between War and Revolution
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Outbreak of War 5
  • 3 - The Romanones Administration 27
  • 4 - The Romanones Administration 60
  • 5 - The Gathering Storm 85
  • 6 - Two Parliaments in One Country 100
  • 7 - The Hot August of 1917 120
  • 8 - The End of an Era 135
  • 9 - The Year 1918 150
  • 10 - Epilogue 179
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 230
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