Until early 1916, although fierce fighting raged across the continent of Europe, Spain never considered departing from her initial strict neutrality. However, that position was seriously challenged during the Romanones administration. No other Prime Minister during the years of conflict became so much involved in the international dispute. Labour militancy, military reforms and economic plans were crucial issues during this period and yet they were almost overshadowed by the foreign question. In fact, the war seems to have dominated Romanones’s agenda. This attitude led to a phase of active agitation and polarization of the country around the neutrality issue. Furthermore, the two warring blocs, in particular the Central Powers, turned their attention to Spain. For them, it became a new theatre of operations.
No dynastic politician had welcomed the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. They were aware that a conflict of such magnitude could damage their dominant position in political society. Most of them, regardless of their respective sympathies for one or other European camp, longed for a quick end to the war so that they could return as soon as possible to their normal political routine. As the conflict dragged on, they realized that it could spread to the peninsula. Thus they tried to bury their heads in the sand, ignore what was taking place beyond the borders and hope they had been forgotten.
Count Romanones was an exception. He was one of the very few dynastic leaders who believed that Spain should abandon its formal neutrality. As early as August 1914 he had stated his views openly in the famous editorial ‘Fatal Neutralities’. According to him, the only way in which Spain could rebuild her empire in Northern Africa and strengthen her economy was through closer collaboration with France and Britain, the main naval and colonial powers, and not through diplomatic isolation. Because of economic realities Spain should ally with the West (See Table 4.1). Moreover, personal reasons also influenced his determination to cement links with the Entente. He was one of the largest shareholders in the mining industries of Morocco, and in coal and iron mines in Asturias and Southern Spain whose production went to France to prop up the Allied war effort.