Charles IV

Charles IV, 1748–1819, king of Spain (1788–1808), second son of Charles III, whom he succeeded in place of his imbecile older brother. Unlike his father, Charles IV was an ineffective ruler and in 1792 virtually surrendered the government to Godoy, his chief minister and the favorite of his wife, María Luisa. Spain entered the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, but in 1795 made peace with France in the second Treaty of Basel. By the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1796) Spain allied itself with France and became involved in the war with England. It suffered major naval defeats at Cape St. Vincent (1797) and Trafalgar (1805). The convention of Fontainebleau (1807) precipitated the events leading to the Peninsular War. As French troops marched on Madrid in Mar., 1808, a popular uprising led to a coup at Aranjuez; the king was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Ferdinand VII. Napoleon I tricked both father and son into a meeting with him at Bayonne, France, and forced them to abdicate in turn. The royal family was held captive in France until 1814, while Joseph Bonaparte was king of Spain. Charles IV and his family have been frankly portrayed by Goya, one of their court painters.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Spanish and Portuguese History: Biographies