Sunday, June 6, 2010

Joseph Bonaparte Crowned King of Spain

On June 6, 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte made his older brother Joseph I, King of Spain.  Joseph's rule was challenged immediately by revolt against the French, which was the beginning of the Peninsular War.  England and Portugal joined Spanish guerrillas, ultimately throwing off the French yoke.  Joseph abdicated the throne after the Battle of Vitoria (1813), which was led by Arthur Wellington.

Walter Scott covers Joseph in his "Life of Napoleon Bonaparte", including these comments:

"...In accepting the crown of Spain at the hands of Napoleon, Joseph, who was a man of sense and penetration, must have been sufficiently aware that it was an emblem of borrowed and dependant sovereignly, gleaming but with such reflected light as his brother's imperial diadem might shed upon it. He could not but know, that in making him King of Spain, Napoleon retained over him ail his rights as a subject of France, to whose emperor, in his regal as well as personal capacity, he still, though a nominal monarch, was accounted to owe all vassalage. For this he must have been fully prepared. But Joseph, who had a share of the family pride, expected to possess with all others, save Bonaparte, the external appearance at least of sovereignty, ana was much dissatisfied with the proceedings of the marshals and generals sent by his brother to his assistance. Ench of these, accustomed to command his own separate corps d armee, wilh no subordination save that to the emperor only, proceeded to act <>n his own authority, and his own responsibility, levied contributions at pleasure, and regarded the authority of King Joseph as that of a useless and in•effective civilian, who followed the march along with the impedimenta and baggage of the camp, and to whom hide honour was reckoned due, and no obe•dience. In a word, so complicated became the slate of the war and of the government, so embarrassing the rival pretensions set up by the several French generals, against Joseph and against each other, that wlien Joseph came to Paris to assist at the marriage of Napoleon and Maria Louisa, he made an express demand, that all the French troops in Spain should be placed under his own command, or rather that of his major-general; and in case this was declined, he proposed to abdicate the crown, or, what was equivalent, that the French auxiliaries should be withdrawn from Spain. Bonaparie had, on a former occasion, named his brother generalissimo of the troops within his pretended dominions; he now agreed that the French generals serving in Spain should be subjected, without exception, to the control of Marshal Jourdan, as major-general of King Joseph. But as those commanders were removed from Bonaparte's immediate eye, and were obliged to render an account of their proceedings both to the intrusive king and to Napoleon, it was not difficult for them to contrive to play off the one against the other, and in fact to conduct themselves as if independent of both..."

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