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10. - Alfonso XII (1857 - 1885)

Alfonso XIIAlfonso XII was born in the Royal Palace in Madrid, son of Isabel II. In 1868 he went into exile to France with his family. It is said  General Prim, asked about the possibility of returning to the Borbonic monarchy, said: "Never, never, never".
He was the first king that was really prepared to reign. He studied in Paris, Vienna and in the Military Academy of Sandhurst in Britain.
His mother abdicated in his favour in 1870 and he returned to Spain in 1874. Before heCanovas del Castillo had signed the Sandhurst Manifesto stating that he was in favour of a parliamentary monarchy. Until his arrival Canovas del Castillo was in charge of the Government.
With the reinstatement of monarchy the political system was dominated by two political parties, the conservatives and the liberals. The Conservative Party was supported by the aristocracy and the middle class and the Liberal Party by merchants and industrialists.
The third Carlist War and the Cuba War ended and Alfonso XII also signed a new Constitution which allowed both parties to govern in turns. The most important thing was that everybody wanted to finish with the problems which had arisen during Isabel II´s reign. Until 1881 the Conservative Party governed, then in 1883 it was the turn of the Liberals and in 1884  Canovas del Castillo governed again. The king was more or less an arbitrator between both parties. The idea was to dedicate all possible Maria de las Mercedesresources to reinforce the new political state, the restauration and therefore foreign affairs were maintained in second place.
In 1878 Alfonso XII married his cousin Maria de las Mercedes de Orleans, but she diedAlfonso XII and Maria de las Mercedes at their wedding of tuberculosis six months after the wedding. This was the origin of a love story that is still popular in Spain. On one hand, Canovas del Castillo was against this mariage, as was Queen Isabel II, but Alfonso had met his cousin some years before and they had fallen in love. Without telling anybody they had been writing each other letter for years and become engaged. The Spanish people supported their king as they wanted him to marry for love and not for state interests.

Maria de las Mercedes was the daughter of Isabel II´s sister and a son of the King of France. She was also born in the Royal Palace, but spent most of her childhood in Seville. During the exile of the Royal Family she lived in Portugal and afterwards in France. After the restauration she returned to Madrid. Her father and  Queen Isabel II had a terrible relationship and therefore the whole family returned to Seville. This is why Isabel II was also against this Maria Cristina with her three childrenmarriage.
On her headstone is written "Alfonso XII´s sweetest wife". She is buried in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. When Maria de las Mercedes died, Alfonso was complety devastated and his behaviour changed. He started going out at nights, drinking and having many love affairs. But the country needed an heir and he was more or less obliged to marry again.
In 1879 he married Maria Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena. She had to fight against the image the Spanish people had of her, she seemed strict and serious, and there was also the fairytale story of her husband´s first marriage. As time went by, the Spaniards became very fond of her, realizing that she was very interested in the country´s development and lived in a quite simple and formal style. Alfonso XII and Maria Cristina had three children. The last one, the future Alfonso XIII, was born after his father´s death. Even though Maria Cristina knew that her husband did not love her, she agreed to the marriage. Maybe she thought she could change him, but in the end the only thing she got from the marriage was suffering. Alfonso XII died of tuberculosis in El Pardo in 1885.Maria Cristina and Alfonso XIII

Maria Cristina de Habsburgo-LorenaMaría Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena (1858 1929) reigned during her son´s childhood from 1885 until 1902. During this time the Spanish-American War took place, in which Spain lost its last colonies.
She did not favour either of the two parties and her role was strictly representative. During the last years of her regency there were many social conflicts and also the catalonian conflict started. Canovas and Sagasta, leaders of both parties, died and this worsened the situation of both  and therefore the restauration. Maria Cristina only wanted to hand the crown to her son, which she did as soon as he was of age. She took great care in his education and wanted to make him aware of his responsibilities very soon. Some anecdotes related to this time are related to the Little Mouse Perez and the confectioner´s El Riojano.

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