A Time of Triumph and of Sorrow: Spanish Politics during the Reign of Alfonso XII, 1874-1885

A Time of Triumph and of Sorrow: Spanish Politics during the Reign of Alfonso XII, 1874-1885

A Time of Triumph and of Sorrow: Spanish Politics during the Reign of Alfonso XII, 1874-1885

A Time of Triumph and of Sorrow: Spanish Politics during the Reign of Alfonso XII, 1874-1885

Synopsis

This first study in English of the reign of Alfonso XII and the creation of a quasi-parliamentary monarchy revises the previously held estimate of the leadership of the frail young king, removing him from the shadow of his minister, the pragmatic Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, whom Spanish historians have credited with the accomplishments of the reign of Alfonso. Turning to the diplomatic reports of German, British, and American envoys, Beck, an established German historian, shows that Alfonso and Cánovas worked together as a team and that their "triumphs"- the reestablishment of Spain's royal family, the adoption of the constitution which was to survive until 1931,and the stabilizing of an alliance of military factions into a nation- were offset by their "sorrows"- the complex factors of the king's ill health, the weight of tradition, national decline, and floods, earthquakes, and cholera, which were too great for human leaders to overcome.

Excerpt

This book is being written at a most propitious time--a young and appealing monarch has just taken over the throne of Spain and, both at home and abroad, observers are waiting to see whether he can bring a thrust toward the modernization and liberalization of his country. a hundred years ago another young and appealing monarch ascended the throne of Spain and observers of that era raised the same question--could that king, Alfonso xii, aid in the modernization and liberalization of his country? That the answer was to be a little yes and a larger no was not due to the king's lack of intelligence, lack of good intentions, or lack of goodwill and courage. To some degree it was due to his youth, to some degree to his ill health, and to a much larger degree to the effect of entrenched customs, traditions, and political usages. the author sincerely hopes that the present monarch, older and more mature than Alfonso xii, may be able to accomplish more than did his predecessor. But he also hopes that he shares the intelligence, the goodwill, and the ability that Alfonso had begun to display before his untimely death.

The research for this book has bound together the author's twin interests in the histories of Germany and of Spain. Alfonso xii was a fervent Germanophile. He was an ardent admirer of Kaiser Wilhelm I and his Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. They, on their part, learned of the Spanish monarch's admiration from the careful and detailed reports of their ambassadors. Both Melchior Gustav Paul, Graf von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg, who was the German envoy until late in 1878, and Klaus Eberhard Theodor, Graf zu Solms-Sonnenwalde, who replaced him, followed Spanish politics closely and fully. the latter became a close friend of the king, who often poured out to him his frustrations with events at home. Through Solms's reports come an intimate view of a complex period of Spanish history.

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