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Spain: The Constitutional Monarchy
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > The Constitutional Monarchy


A brigadier's pronunciamiento that called Isabella's son, the able British-educated Alfonso XII (r. 1875-85), to the throne was sufficient to restore the Bourbon monarchy. Alfonso identified himself as "Spaniard, Catholic, and Liberal," and his succession was greeted with a degree of relief, even by supporters of the republic. He cultivated good relations with the army (Alfonso was a cadet at Sandhurst, the British military academy, when summoned to Spain), which had removed itself from politics because it was content with the stable, popular civilian government. Alfonso insisted that the official status of the church be confirmed constitutionally, thus assuring the restored monarchy of conservative support.

British practices served as the model for the new constitution's political provisions. The new government used electoral manipulation to construct and to maintain a two-party system in parliament, but the result was more a parody than an imitation. Conservatives and Liberals, who differed in very little except name, exchanged control of the government at regular intervals after general elections. Once again, caciques delivered the vote to one party or the other as directed -- in return for the assurance of patronage from whichever was scheduled to win, thus controlling the elections at the constituency level. The tendency toward party fracturing and personalism remained a threat to the system, but the restoration monarchy's artificial two-party system gave Spain a generation of relative quiet.

Alfonso XIII (r. 1886-1931) was the posthumous son of Alfonso XII. The mother of Alfonso XIII, another Maria Cristina, acted as regent until her son came of age officially in 1902. Alfonso XIII abdicated in 1931.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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