NATIONALITY AND RELIGION: SPAIN
The Spanish rose as a people against Napoleon's invasion and backed King Ferdinand VII when he returned as an absolute ruler. But he was a bad king, and persecuted anyone with liberal ideas, and was linked--unjustly--to the loss of the American empire. In 1820 an army mutiny overthrew him and left a chaotic Spain under a liberal government until he was restored by a French army three years later.
Then the worst defect of absolute monarchy took its toll on the nation. There was no agreed heir, for there were two different traditions in the Spanish past, whether a woman could rule. Ferdinand died in 1833 leaving a brother Carlos and a daughter Isabella who was a baby. In his will he named the baby as sovereign.
Deep within the folk-memory of Spain lay the part which it had played in Catholic history: Spain the saviour of Europe from the Moors, Spain the saviour of Catholicism from Protestant power, Spain the converter of the New World to Catholic faith. In Poland Catholicism was part of nationalism because it represented Polish identity against Russian or Prussian. In Southern Ireland Catholicism was part of nationalism because it represented Irish identity against the English. Spain had not the same reason, but its memories made Spanish nationalism and Spanish Catholicism feel an entity. If Spanish Catholics met a Spanish Protestant they thought him not merely heretical but not quite Spanish.
During the nineteenth century this Spanish Catholicism met a new enemy, which at first was called the principles of the French Revolution, but later came to be called liberalism. Liberalism meant the struggle between rival parties, instead of the unity of the Spanish people. Liberalism meant freedom of the press, or of religious practice and propaganda, and therefore the encouragement of influences working against the unity of Spain. Many Spanish believed that the greatness of Spain rested on its religious past, and that its modern weakness sprang from the divisions which liberalism fostered.
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Publication information: Book title: A History of the Popes, 1830-1914. Contributors: Owen Chadwick - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 436.
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