El Escorial Conspiracy

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The El Escorial Conspiracy (Spanish:Conspiración-proceso de El Escorial) was an attempted coup d'état led by the Crown Prince Fernando of Asturias that took place in 1807, but was quickly discovered and led to an investigation known as the Process of El Escorial.

Historical context[edit]

In the early nineteenth century, Spain was trapped politically by the First French Empire and the ambitious expansion plans of Napoleon Bonaparte. In a heated atmosphere of diplomatic relations, in 1801 Charles IV of Spain named his favorite Manuel Godoy as first secretary, in place of Pedro Cevallos, who distrusted and opposed the French.

Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France constantly threatened Spain with war to enforce policies undertaken by Godoy, who was allegedly pro-English rather than (as in fact) pro-French. In 1805 Spain reversed its international alliance policies by signing a mutual assistance treaty with the newly crowned French Emperor.

War and defeat[edit]

This treaty was soon to lead to Spain's involvement in the War of the Third Coalition with Spanish and French forces against the Portuguese and English which culminated in the English naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. This defeat made many enemies at court for Godoy, among them the son of Carlos IV, Ferdinand Prince of Asturias and Crown Prince of Spain. (later Ferdinand VII).

Godoy was openly hostile and did not want the accession of Ferdinand who sought to unseat Godoy, Ferdinand knew he was acting indirectly against the authority of his father King Carlos IV, an offense known as Lese-majesty. Challenged, he sought forgiveness and pardon before he betrayed his accomplices, who were all tried and acquitted.

The Process[edit]

The pardon and acquittals of 1807 were granted because there was significant public support for the conspirators against Godoy, as demonstrated in the Mutiny of Aranjuez a few months later 17/18 March 1808, in which Godoy's palace was attacked, the king deposed and Ferdinand granted the throne by The Royal Council the next day, on 19 March, although legally Charles VI did formally abdicate until 5 May in favor of Napoleon's Brother, Joseph Bonaparte, the day before his son was also forced to abdicate in favor of Joseph Bonaparte, and for this reason Ferdinand was known as “the felon King” (There is a separate article relating to their dual Abdications of Bayonne which occurred on the May 5, 1808)

Ferdinand reinstated King of Spain[edit]

However, the Spanish people were to rally around the cause of “Ferdinand the Desired” who, imprisoned in France, became a national hero. On 11 December 1813 Napoleon reinstated him as Ferdinand VII. His parents Charles IV, and his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony, together with their mendacious minister Godoy retreated first to France, then finally went into to exile in Italy