Spain's Glorious Revolution: The Battle of Alcolea (1868) Introduction

Spain's Glorious Revolution: The Battle of Alcolea (1868) Introduction
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The Battle of Alcolea occurred on September 28, 1868, on a bridge above the Guadalquivir River in the town of Alcolea, Córdoba, Spain. It was a crucial moment in the history of Spain. It served as a major shift in the nation's political landscape, setting the stage for the Glorious Revolution (known as "La Gloriosa"), which ultimately resulted in the removal of Queen Isabella II from power and the formation of a provisional government. This battle occurred in a context of political unrest, dissatisfaction, and a strong desire for change within Spain.

During this battle, forces led by General Francisco Serrano y Domínguez, representing the revolutionaries, defeated the government forces loyal to Queen Isabella II. of Spain, under the command of General Manuel Pavía. This decisive victory compelled Queen Isabella II to flee Spain and seek exile in France.

Internal Turmoil and Political Reformation:

In the 19th century, Spain faced a period of political instability, economic challenges, and widespread social dissatisfaction. Queen Isabella II's rule was marred by corruption, authoritarianism, and a heavy-handed approach to civil liberties. The nation's institutions were outdated and ill-equipped to tackle the pressing issues confronting the country.

Spain's Glorious Revolution: The Battle of Alcolea (1868) Introduction
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Amidst this climate of discontent, a coalition of forward-thinking military officers and civilians, known as the "Progresistas," emerged with a vision of political reform and modernization. They found common cause with revolutionaries and liberals who shared their aspiration for a more democratic and accountable government. Together, these groups played a pivotal role in reshaping Spain's future.

The Battle of Alcolea: A Turning Point in Spain's Path to Democracy

The Battle of Alcolea unfolded due to escalating tensions between the Progresistas and Queen Isabella II's loyalists. General Juan Prim, a prominent Progresista leader, assumed command of the revolutionary forces, while General Francisco Serrano led the loyalist troops.

On September 28, 1868, the two factions clashed in the vicinity of Alcolea, a small town in the province of Córdoba. Although the battle was relatively brief, it raged with intensity, resulting in a decisive victory for General Prim's revolutionary forces. This triumph owed much to Prim's strategic acumen and the defection of some loyalist troops who joined the cause for change.

Formation of Provisional Government (1868–1871):

The Battle of Alcolea brought about profound consequences for Spain. It compelled Queen Isabella II into exile, effectively terminating her reign. With the revolutionary forces now in control, a provisional government was established in Spain. This laid the foundation for the development of a new constitution and the initiation of comprehensive political reforms.

The Glorious Revolution (La Gloriosa) that ensued after the Battle of Alcolea marked a pivotal shift from absolutism to constitutional monarchy. A fresh era of political and social transformation took root in Spain, marked by the establishment of a constituent Cortes (parliament) and the emergence of a more democratic and liberal political order.

When they overthrew the Spanish government in September 1868, they didn't have a clear plan. It was a mix of three political groups: the Unión Liberal led by Francisco Serrano, the Progressive Party led by Juan Prim, and the Democratic Party.

Spain's Glorious Revolution: The Battle of Alcolea (1868) Introduction
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The leaders decided that instead of having a republic, they would have a constitutional monarchy. This time can be split into two parts: In the first part, they wrote and approved a new constitution on June 1, 1869. In the second part, from June 1869 to January 1871, they searched for a new King who would agree to follow the new constitution.

The Chief of the Provisional Government during the transitional period in Spain from 1868 to 1871 was Marshal Francisco Serrano, 1st Duke of la Torre. He served as the Advisor of Spain during this time, overseeing the transition from the rule of Queen Isabella II to the establishment of a new constitutional monarchy. Serrano played a prominent role in guiding the country through this period of political change and modernization.

The Spanish Constitution of 1869:

The Spanish Constitution of 1869 was made by the Spanish Provisional Government of 1868-1871 which ended the autocratic rule of Isabel II of Spain. It established a constitutional monarchy with Marshal Francisco Serrano, 1st Duke of la Torre, serving as a regent. Importantly, this constitution recognized freedom of religion for the first time.

The constitution brought back a significant idea: universal manhood suffrage, a right for all men to vote, which had been introduced in the Constitution of 1812. It also declared freedom for the press, the ability for people to gather together, and the right to form groups and associations. This constitution started being used when Amadeo I of Spain was the king.

Amadeo I was an Italian prince who served as the King of Spain from 1870 to 1873. He was chosen by the Cortes Generals as Spain's monarch in 1870 after the removal of Isabel II and took his oath the next year. Amadeo's reign faced challenges, including the rise of republicanism, rebellions by Carlists in the north, and the Cuban independence movement. After a turbulent three years on the throne, he stepped down and went back to Italy in 1873, leading to the establishment of the First Spanish Republic.

Spain's Glorious Revolution: The Battle of Alcolea (1868) Introduction
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First Spanish Republic:

The First Spanish Republic, historically referred to as the Spanish Republic, was a political regime that governed Spain from February 11, 1873, to December 29, 1874, marking a significant chapter in the nation's history. It arose following King Amadeo I's abdication, driven by the aspiration for a more democratic and republican form of government.

However, this republic faced a multitude of challenges during its brief existence, including internal political divisions, regional conflicts, and economic instability. These difficulties, coupled with pressure from the military and conservative factions, ultimately resulted in the collapse of the First Spanish Republic in 1874.

This pivotal event paved the way for the monarchy's return and ushered in a period of political stability under the reign of King Alfonso XII.

Spain under Alfonso XII:

Alfonso XII, also known as “El Pacificador" or the Peacemaker, ruled as King of Spain from December 29, 1874, until his death November 25, 1885. His mother, Queen Isabella II, was removed from the throne during the Glorious Revolution of 1868. After that, Alfonso went to study in Austria and France. In 1870, his mother gave up her position as queen in his favor, and in 1874, he returned to Spain as the king following a military takeover that ended the First Spanish Republic.

Tragically, Alfonso passed away at the young age of 27 in 1885. He was succeeded by his son, Alfonso XIII, who was born the following year and would later become king.

Alfonso XII's reign saw efforts to restore stability and order to Spain. His reign marked a period of relative political calm, and Spain experienced economic growth and modernization during this time.

One of the key achievements of Alfonso XII's reign was the restoration of the monarchy as a constitutional institution. The 1876 Constitution established a constitutional monarchy that combined elements of parliamentary government with a strong monarchy.

Spain continued to make progress in industrialization and infrastructure development during this period. The country's economy began to improve, and foreign investments played a significant role in its growth.

Spain's Glorious Revolution: The Battle of Alcolea (1868) Introduction
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King Alfonso XII and the present King of Spain, King Felipe VI, both belong to the same dynasty, known as the House of Bourbon. They are part of the Bourbon dynasty, which has a long history of reigning in Spain. Besides, the Bourbons held a prominent position among the ruling dynasties of Europe, governing France, Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma at different points in history.


The Battle of Alcolea and the Glorious Revolution of 1868 were turning points in Spanish history, sparking reforms and modernization efforts. Despite challenges, Spain moved towards a constitutional monarchy and a more accountable political system. Alcolea's battle symbolized the people's basic for modification, embodies Spain's enduring commitment to democracy and reform, shaping its future for generations.