Carlism is a traditionalist and legitimist political movement in Spain seeking the establishment of a separate line of the Bourbon family on the Spanish throne. This line descended from Carlos V (1788-1855) and was founded due to wide spread dissatisfaction with the Alfonsine line of the House of Bourbon. The movement was strengthened following Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War, when Spain lost many of its colonies such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. An exceptionally long-lived movement, it is a significant player in Spanish politics since 1833 as a social and political force, and one of the main actors in the Spanish Kulturkampf or cultural war of Catholicism and Monarchism against liberalism and modernism.
Traditionally, all the Spanish kingdoms allowed the succession of women, in absence of male direct issue, with the exception of Aragon which to some extent favored semi-salicism. Philip V on May 13 1713 promulgated an Auto Acordado which changed this traditional order of succession to a semi-Salic system, which excluded women from the crown, unless all the male issue from Philip, in any line, became extinct. This change was probably forced by external pressure to avoid any possible personal union of the Crown of Spain with a foreign monarchy.
Although several attempts to revert to the traditional order were made, the succession question only became pressing when, by 1830, Ferdinand VII found himself ailing, without any issue and a pregnant wife. He decided to promulgate a law in 1830 making the unborn child his heir regardless of its sex. The law placed the child, which would be born a girl, ahead of his brother Infante Carlos, who until then had been heir-presumptive. The act was seen by some (starting with his brother and the cadet Bourbon branches) as illegal on various counts, and formed the basis for the dynastic Carlist party, which only recognized the semi-Salic succession law that gave Infante Carlos precedence over Ferdinand's daughter, Infanta Isabel.
The principles of Carlism
Carlism confronted not only the question of who could legitimately sit on the Spanish throne, but was also about the principles on which Spanish society was built. Should it remain Roman Catholic, where governments derive their power from God, or should it embrace Enlightenment values, where governments derive their power from human beings?
Beside this political evolution, the years before the Carlist wars were marked by a deep economic crisis in Spain, partly spurred by the loss of the continental American provinces, and by the bankruptcy of the state. The last triggered enhanced tax pressure which further fueled social unrest. Another important factor was the religious question. The radical liberals after 1820 had grown more and more anticlerical, with special hatred for regular orders, and were suspected of being masonic shields. This policy alienated them from many sections of the (mostly deeply Catholic) Spanish people, especially in rural areas. One of the demands of the radical absolutist party was the reinstitution of the Inquisition. Liberals had been, while in power, quite doctrinarian, and therefore centralizing uniformists. In many sections of Spain, there were intense particularist feelings, who were thus hurt. The anti-uniformism or local particularism became in time one of the more important banners of Carlism.
During the period known as the Carlist Wars (from 1833 to 1876), the party tried to attain power mainly through military means. Carlism was at the center of Spanish politics and the cultural and sociological Carlist world, that would last for well over a hundred years, took shape in this period. After the deposition of Queen Isabella II in 1868, Carlism, under its new head Carlos VII, became the rallying point for many political Catholics and conservatives, becoming the main group of the right-wing opposition to the ensuing governments in Spain. However, after the defeat in the Third Carlist War, on 27 February 1876, the Carlist pretender went into exile in France. After this defeat, Carlism reverted to a peaceful political movement and its main weapon became a very aggressive press.
Alfonso Carlos de Borbón y de Borbón-Parma (born in 1849, now 86 years old) is the current Carlist claimant to the throne. He became claimant in 1931 under the name Alfonso Carlos I and he is also the legitimist claimant to the throne of France, using the name Alphonse-Charles I. As of now, he is the last male-line descendant of Carlos V and he doesn't have a son. Faced with this uncertainty Alfonso Carlos appointed Xavier de Borbón-Parma regent of the Carlist Communion in 1935. Alfonso Carlos considered that Xavier was the senior male Bourbon who believed in the Carlist ideals. At the death of Alfonso Xavier will become the new Carlist claimant to the throne of Spain under the name of Xavier I.