Alfonso XII[a] (Alfonso Francisco de Asís Fernando Pío Juan María de la Concepción Gregorio Pelayo de Borbón y Borbón; 28 November 1857 – 25 November 1885), also known as El Pacificador (Spanish: the Peacemaker), was King of Spain from 29 December 1874 to his death in 1885.

Alfonso XII
Formal portrait, 1875
King of Spain
Reign29 December 1874 – 25 November 1885
Enthronement14 January 1875
PredecessorAmadeo I (1873)
SuccessorAlfonso XIII
Born(1857-11-28)28 November 1857
Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Died25 November 1885(1885-11-25) (aged 27)
Royal Palace of El Pardo, Madrid, Spain
(m. 1878; died 1878)
(m. 1879)
Alfonso Francisco de Asís Fernando Pío Juan María de la Concepción Gregorio Pelayo de Borbón y Borbón
FatherFrancisco de Asís, Duke of Cádiz
MotherIsabella II
SignatureAlfonso XII's signature

After the Glorious Revolution of 1868 deposed his mother Isabella II from the throne, Alfonso studied in Austria and France. His mother abdicated in his favour in 1870, and he returned to Spain as king in 1874 following a military coup against the First Spanish Republic. Alfonso died aged 27 in 1885, leaving his pregnant widow, Maria Christina of Austria, as regent of Spain. Their son, Alfonso XIII, became king upon his birth the following year. Maria Christina continued as regent until Alfonso XIII came of age in 1902.

Paternity, early life, and exile


Alfonso was born in Madrid as the eldest son of the reigning Queen Isabella II on 28 November 1857. His official father, Isabella's husband Francisco de Asís, has been generally viewed as effeminate, impotent or homosexual, leading writers to question his biological paternity. There is speculation that Alfonso's biological father may have been Enrique Puigmoltó y Mayans, a captain of the guard.[1] Others have assigned the fatherhood to Federico Puig Romero, a colonel who was murdered under unclear circumstances in 1866.[2] The relationship of the queen with Puigmoltó was so much of a public hearsay at the time that Francisco de Asís initially refused to attend the baptism ceremony of Alfonso (the heir apparent), though he was eventually forced to do so.[3]

These rumours were used as political propaganda against Alfonso by the Carlists, and he came to be widely nicknamed "Puigmoltejo" in reference to his supposed father.[4][5] His mother's accession had created a second cause of instability, the Carlist Wars, where the supporters of Don Carlos, Count of Molina as King of Spain rose to have him enthroned.

In addition, within the context of the post-Napoleonic restorations and revolutions which engulfed Europe and the Americas, both the Carlistas and the Isabelino conservatives were opposed to the new Napoleonic constitutional system. Much like in Britain, which subtracted itself from the liberal constitutional process, Spanish conservatives wanted to continue with the traditional Organic Laws, such as the Fuero Juzgo, the Novísima Recopilación and the Partidas of Alfonso X. This led to a third cause of instability, the independence of most of the American possessions, recognized between 1823 and 1850.

When Queen Isabella II and her husband were forced to leave Spain by the Revolution of 1868, Alfonso accompanied them to Paris. From there, he was sent to the Theresianum in Vienna to continue his studies. On 25 June 1870, he was recalled to Paris, where his mother abdicated in his favour, in the presence of a number of Spanish nobles who had tied their fortunes to those of the exiled queen. He assumed the name Alfonso XII, for although no king of united Spain had borne the name "Alfonso", the Spanish monarchy was regarded as continuous with the more ancient monarchy represented by the 11 kings of Asturias, León and Castile also named Alfonso.[6]

The Republic

A young Alfonso with his mentor, the Duke of Sesto

After the revolution, the Cortes decided to set up a new dynasty on the throne. Prince Amadeo of Savoy, the younger son of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and a distant cousin of Alfonso by common descent from Charles III, was recognized as King of Spain in November 1870. During a tumultuous reign, Amadeo was targeted by assassination attempts and struggled with opposition from both Carlists and republicans while his own faction split. After the Carlists revolted and the Third Carlist War broke out, he abdicated and returned to Italy in early 1873.[7]

Following Amadeo's abandonment, the First Spanish Republic was established, including the territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Pacific Archipelagos. The first act of President Estanislao Figueras was to extend the abolition of slavery to Puerto Rico; Cuban slaves would have to wait until 1889. The republicans were not in agreement either, and they had to contend with a war in Cuba and Muslim uprisings in Spanish Morocco. In the midst of these crises, the Carlist War continued and the Carlist party made itself strong in areas with claims over their national and institutional specificity such as Catalonia and the Basque Country. This unrest led to the creation of a group in favour of the Bourbon Restoration, led by the moderate conservative Antonio Cánovas del Castillo.

Alfonso was well-educated and cultured, especially compared to his mother. His tutors took great care to have him educated in good schools and to familiarize him with different cultures, languages and government models throughout Europe. During the Franco-Prussian War, Alfonso relocated from Paris to Geneva with his family, and then continued his studies at the Theresianum in Vienna in 1872. Cánovas began to take responsibility for Alfonso's education with the goal of shaping him into the ideal king for the planned Bourbon Restoration, and next sent him to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in England.[8] The training he received there was severe but more cosmopolitan than it would have been in Spain, given its atmosphere at the time.

On 1 December 1874, Alfonso issued the Sandhurst Manifesto, where he set the ideological basis of the Bourbon Restoration. It was drafted in reply to a birthday greeting from his followers, a manifesto proclaiming himself the sole representative of the Spanish monarchy. At the end of 1874, Brigadier Martínez Campos, who had long been working more or less openly for the king, led some battalions of the central army to Sagunto, rallied the troops sent against him to his own flag, and entered Valencia in the king's name. Thereupon the President resigned, and his power was transferred to the king's plenipotentiary and adviser, Cánovas.[6] With Cánovas disapproval (he detested the intervention of the military in politics),[9] the 29 December 1875 pronunciamento of Gen. Martínez Campos in Sagunto ended the failed republic and meant the rise of the young Prince Alfonso.


5 Peseta of Alfonso XII

Within a few days after Cánovas del Castillo took power as Premier, the new king, proclaimed on 29 December 1874, arrived at Madrid, passing through Barcelona and Valencia and was acclaimed everywhere (1875). In 1876, a vigorous campaign against the Carlists, in which the young king took part, resulted in the defeat of Don Carlos and the Duke's abandonment of the struggle.[6]

Initially led by Cánovas del Castillo as moderate prime minister, what was thought at one time as a coup aimed at placing the military in the political-administrative positions of power, in reality ushered in a civilian regime that lasted until Primo de Rivera's 1923 coup d'état. Cánovas was the real architect of the new regime of the Restoration.

In 1881 Alfonso refused to sanction a law by which the ministers were to remain in office for a fixed term of 18 months. Upon the consequent resignation of Cánovas del Castillo, he summoned Práxedes Mateo Sagasta, the Liberal leader, to form a new cabinet.[6]

Alfonso surrounded by his relative European monarchs and their spouses at Homburg Castle in 1883. Edward VII, Wilhelm I and Carlos I can be seen amongst others

In order to eliminate one of the problems of the reign of Isabel II, the single party and its destabilizing consequences, the Liberal Party was allowed to incorporate and participate in national politics, and the 'turnismo' or alternation was to become the new system. Turnismo would be endorsed in the Constitution of 1876 and the Pact of El Pardo (1885). It meant that liberal and conservative prime ministers would succeed each other ending thus the troubles.

This led to the end of the Carlist revolts and the victory over the New York-backed Cuban revolutionaries, and led to a huge backing both by insular and peninsular Spaniards of Alfonso. [10]

Photograph of Alfonso XII, c. 1884

Alfonso's short reign established the foundations for the final socioeconomic recuperation of Spain, bringing an end to the political instability that had dominated Spain for the past two-thirds of a century (see History of Spain (1808–1874)). Both Europe (the coastal regions, such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Asturias) and the colonies in the Antilles and Pacific were able to grow steadily. Cuba and Puerto Rico prospered to the point that Spain's first train was not in Spain proper but between Havana and Güines in Cuba, and the first telegraph in Latin America was in Puerto Rico, established by Samuel Morse, whose daughter and son-in-law lived there. Upon the American invasion of Puerto Rico, ten US dollars were needed to buy one Puerto Rican peso.



On 23 January 1878 at the Basilica of Atocha in Madrid, Alfonso married his first cousin, Princess María de las Mercedes, but she died within six months of the marriage.[6]

King Alfonso XII and Queen Maria Christina with their daughter Mercedes in 1880

On 29 November 1879 at the Basilica of Atocha in Madrid, Alfonso married his double third cousin, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria. During the honeymoon, a pastry cook named Otero fired at the young sovereign and his wife as they were driving in Madrid.[6]

The children of this marriage were:

Alfonso had two sons by Elena Armanda Nicolasa Sanz y Martínez de Arizala (15 December 1849, in Castellón de la Plana – 24 December 1898, in Paris):

  • Alfonso Sanz y Martínez de Arizala (28 January 1880, in Madrid – 19 March 1970, in Paris), married in 1922 to María de Guadalupe de Limantour y Mariscal
  • Fernando Sanz y Martínez de Arizala (28 February 1881, in Madrid – 8 January 1925, in Pau, France), unmarried and without issue

Death and impact

Death of Alfonso XII or The last kiss, by Juan Antonio Benlliure [es]

In November 1885, Alfonso died aged 27 at the Royal Palace of El Pardo near Madrid. He had been suffering from tuberculosis, but the immediate cause of his death was a recurrence of dysentery.[11]

In 1902, his widow Maria Cristina initiated a national contest to build a monument in memory of Alfonso. The winning design, by José Grases Riera, was constructed in an artificial lake in Madrid's Parque del Buen Retiro in 1922.

Coming to the throne at such an early age Alfonso had served no apprenticeship in the art of ruling. Benevolent and sympathetic in disposition, he won the affection of his people by fearlessly visiting districts ravaged by cholera or devastated by the 1884 Andalusian earthquake. His capacity for dealing with men was considerable, and he never allowed himself to become the instrument of any particular party. During his short reign, peace was established both at home and abroad, finances were well regulated, and the various administrative services were placed on a basis that afterwards enabled Spain to pass through the disastrous war with the United States without the threat of a revolution.[6]





See also


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ In the languages of Spain, his name was:


  1. ^ Juan Sisinio Pérez Garzón, Isabel II: Los Espejos de la Reina (2004)
  2. ^ "Maria Nieves Michavila presenta un libro sobre la paternidad del hijo de la reina Isabel II". 11 February 2016.
  3. ^ Bermúdez Ruíz-Cabello, María Inmaculada (2013). "Influencias en la imagen pública y privada de una reina: Isabel II (1833–1868)". Aportes. 28 (83): 129. ISSN 0213-5868.
  4. ^ Burgo Tajadura, Jaime Ignacio del (2008). Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, p. 242: "A few months later, on the night of November 28 at 10:15, the queen gave birth to a child, who in time would be Alfonso XII, to whom the tongues, more or less deridingly, gave the name of Puigmoltejo". ISSN 0034-0626.
  5. ^ "El puñal del godo en la familia Borbón". 30 June 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alphonso s.v. Alphonso XII.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 736.
  7. ^ "AMEDEO Ferdinando Maria di Savoia, duca di Aosta, re di Spagna".
  8. ^ "Alfonso XII". Real Academia de la Historia.
  9. ^ Carr, Raymond (1980). Modern Spain, 1875-1980. Oxford University Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780192158284. OCLC 6555498.
  10. ^ Ancede, M. (2020). The Spanish explorer who desecrated graves in the name of science. El Pais.
  11. ^ "Death of the King of Spain", The Times (26 November 1885): 7.
  12. ^ Boettger, T. F. "Chevaliers de la Toisón d'Or – Knights of the Golden Fleece". La Confrérie Amicale. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  13. ^ "Grand Crosses of the Order of the Tower and Sword". Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  14. ^ M. Wattel, B. Wattel. (2009). Les Grand'Croix de la Légion d'honneur de 1805 à nos jours. Titulaires français et étrangers. Paris: Archives & Culture. p. 448. ISBN 978-2-35077-135-9.
  15. ^ Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Königreichs Bayern: 1877. Landesamt. 1877. p. 8.
  16. ^ Journal de Monaco
  17. ^ Almanach royal officiel de Belgique. Librairie polytechnique De Decq. 1867. p. 53.
  18. ^ "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach Archived 7 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine (1885), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 14
  20. ^ "Schwarzer Adler-orden", Königlich Preussische Ordensliste (in German), vol. 1, Berlin, 1877, p. 14{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  21. ^ Sveriges statskalender (in Swedish), 1881, p. 378, archived from the original on 11 June 2011, retrieved 6 January 2018 – via
  22. ^ Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 470. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  23. ^ Italia : Ministero dell'interno (1884). Calendario generale del Regno d'Italia. Unione tipografico-editrice. p. 48.
  24. ^ 刑部芳則 (2017). 明治時代の勲章外交儀礼 (PDF) (in Japanese). 明治聖徳記念学会紀要. p. 143. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022.
  25. ^ Shaw, Wm. A. (1906) The Knights of England, I, London, p. 62
  26. ^ Sachsen (1886–1887). "Königlich Orden". Staatshandbuch für den Königreich Sachsen: 1886/87. Dresden: Heinrich. p. 5 – via
Alfonso XII
Cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty
Born: 28 November 1857 Died: 25 November 1885
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Amadeo I
King of Spain
Title next held by
Alfonso XIII
Spanish royalty
Preceded by Prince of Asturias
Title next held by
Emanuele Filiberto