The Troubled Trinity: Godoy and the Spanish Monarchs

By Douglas Hilt | Go to book overview

Preface

Despite the voluminous literature on the Napoleonic period, to this day Manuel Godoy, the Prince of the Peace, remains unjustifiably a neglected figure. The de facto ruler of Spain from 1792 to 1808 and the French emperor's main political adversary south of the Pyrenees, he is summarily dismissed in most standard accounts as the paramour of a meretricious queen. Otherwise reputable historians have trouble marshaling their facts when dealing with Godoy. Geoffroy de Grandmaison, for example, has him a mere ten years younger than Queen María Luisa (in fact the age difference was sixteen years), and consigns him to an early grave in Rome in 1823, oblivious to his subsequent move to Paris, where he died as late as 1851. 1 A nineteenth-century English visitor to Spain reported unequivocally that, "after an exile and obscurity of thirty-six years, he was recalled to Madrid in 1844 by Christina, the widow of Ferdinand VII," 2 a half-truth at best.

Today, Godoy is often simplistically vilified as a persona de mala fama, the venal royal favorite who single-handedly precipitated the French invasion of 1808 and thereby the horrors of the Peninsular War. When alluded to in non-Spanish histories, he is usually given a cursory paragraph to the same damning effect. Most historiographers are content to depict him as the stock villain, the parvenu par excellence, and to reiterate what others in turn have themselves dutifully repeated.

If Godoy has long been neglected abroad, that is certainly not the case in Spain. The bibliography dealing with his life and times is impressive by any standard. One obstacle is that the bulk of the material is written in Spanish or French. Often the original source has long been out of print and only rarely has it been translated into English. Even so, as Serrano Poncela points out, this is not the principal problem:

Among fourteen direct biographies and several historical testimonies dealing with the reign of Carlos IV, we can only find two that are decidedly favorable, and though it seems that the moment has come to examine his [ Godoy's] character objectively, the scholar has not appeared who is willing to carry out the task. Yet the fact is that Godoy finds himself on the

-ix-

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The Troubled Trinity: Godoy and the Spanish Monarchs
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Chronology xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Carlos and María Luisa 6
  • 2 - The Dazzling Ascent 22
  • 3 - Prince of the Peace 35
  • 4 - The French Alliance 47
  • 5 - A Royal Bride for Manuel 62
  • 6 - Entr'Acte 76
  • 7 - The Power of the Pen 97
  • 8 - The War of the Oranges 112
  • 9 - Family Squabbles 129
  • 10 - Napoleon 145
  • 11 - Parry and Thrust 163
  • 12 - The Escorial Affair 179
  • 13 - The Tightening Vise 197
  • 14 - Mutiny at Aranjuez 211
  • 15 - Jacta Est Alea 227
  • 16 - Exile 243
  • 17 - The Long Last Years 265
  • 18 - Coda 282
  • Notes 285
  • Glossary of Foreign Terms 308
  • Bibliography 311
  • Index 316
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