El Rey Carlos III, King Charles III , Madrid, Spain

Category: Madrid

El Rey Carlos III, or King Charles III, was one of the most influential leaders in Spanish history. He was the King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788, and is the oldest son of Philip V of Spain and his second wife, the Princess of Elisabeth Farnese.

Rey Carlos III photo creditThe birth of Charles on January 20, 1716 encouraged then Prime Minister Alberoni to commence laying out plans for Europe. In 1717 he ordered the Spanish invasion of Sardinia, and in 1718 similarly ordered the invasion of Sicily, which was ruled by the House of Savoy. In reaction to the Quadruple Alliance of 1718, the Duke of Savoy joined the Alliance and went to war with Spain—a war that led to the dismissal of Alberoni by King Philip in 1719. The Treaty of the Hague, signed in 1720, included the recognition of Charles as heir to the Italian Duchies of Parma and Piacenza, and at age 15, in 1731, he became known as Charles I, the Duke of Parma and Piacenza, upon the death of his childless great uncle Antonio Farnese, the Duke of Parma.

Upon arriving in Italy in 1731, a grand ceremony was held inaugurating Charles as the Duke of Parma and Piacenza. It was here that he gained an educated in printmaking, painting and a wide range of physical activities, including hunting, which would remain a passion of his throughout his lifetime. Sir Horatio Mann, a British diplomat in Florence once noted that “he was greatly impressed at the fondness Charles held for hunting at such a young age.” During his time as the Duke he became known for his large Bourbon nose, inherited from his father’s side of the family, and his happy and exuberant character.

Charles III may never have become King of Spain had it not been for the death of his slightly older half-brother, Infante Philip Peter, who died in December of 1719. This eventuality put Charles third in line to the Spanish throne after Louis and Ferdinand, a position he would retain until they both died and he succeeded to the Spanish throne.

After succeeding to the throne in the summer of 1759, Charles III began making moves in line with “enlightened absolutism,” an ideology he ascribed to, also known as “benevolent despotism.” As such, he abdicated, on October 6, 1759, the Neapolitan and Sicilian thrones in favor of his third surviving son, Ferdinand, who became known as Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, or Ferdinand IV of Naples and III of Sicily. His descendants would continue to rule the Kingdom of the Sicilies for another 100 years, until 1861.

While serving as the King of Spain Charles III attempted to save his empire from decay by implementing far-reaching reforms; reforms never before attempted in the country, such as weakening the power of the Catholic Church and its monasteries, promoting science and university research, facilitating trade and commerce, modernizing agriculture and avoiding wars. These types of reforms, although very powerful and indeed popular during his reign, proved to be short-lived, and Spain relapsed following his death. Nevertheless, the legacy of Charles III, King of Spain, lives on to this day.