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The 19th Century

Charles IV (1788-1808)

In 1795 Spain signed a peace treaty with Napoleon's France, so that Spain's American colonies would be protected from Britain. Great Britain and France signed the peace Treaty of France in 1802, (part of which was to exchange Menorca for Trinidad), they were a war the following year.

mallorca in the 19th century

Spain joined with France only for their combined fleets to be defeated in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Two years later Napoleon and Godoy signed a treaty for the joint occupation and partition of Portugal, to stop the country trading with Great Britain. A large French army crossed Spain but after accomplishing its objective, the troops stayed. Before long, Spain was an occupied country.

Joseph Bonaparte (1808-1814)

In April 1808, Prince Ferdinand was imprisoned for plotting the downfall of Godoy and King Charles IV abdicated to calm the mobs. Ferdinand in turn abdicated a month later and Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's older brother, was crowned King of Spain. On 2 May 1808 the people rioted and French troops killed hundreds, heralding the start of a harsh regime. The Spanish people responded by declaring war on France and the brutal six year war known as the Peninsular War or the War of Independence.

In Mallorca little changed apart from the release of Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos from Bellver Castle . He had been imprisoned for supporting Godoy but was released when news of King Charles' abdication reached Palma. When Palma heard of the Madrid uprisings, the island allied itself with Britain and declared war on France.

An early Spanish victory over the French at Bailén in July 1808 resulted in 9,000 prisoners being shipped to Mallorca. While the officers were locked in Bellver Castle, the men were dumped on Cabrera Island, an uninhabited island off the south coast. Check out the Cabrera Prison Camp webpage to find out what happened to them.

mallorca in the 19th century

The war swept back and forth across Spain and Portugal for another six years as first Sir John Moore and then Sir Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, battled with Napoleon's troops. The Spanish army was short of money and lacked training but the patriots fought on, turning to guerrilla warfare to fight the French.

Meanwhile, over 30,000 exiles fled settled on Mallorca, bringing new money and new culture to the island. At the same time the first group of 800 Mallorcan soldiers were shipped to Catalonia where they helped end the siege of Gerona. The island garrison also went to the mainland only to be beaten Tarragona. While a new Mallorcan division was formed, the militias were called up to defend the island. Troops billeted in convents, a factory making artillery was set up in the Market Hall (La Llonta) on Palma's quayside while gunpowder was made in the poorhouse. The new Mallorcan division was equipped and paid by Great Britain and it fought well on the east coast under General Sir Samuel Whittingham.

Ferdinand VII (1813-1833)

mallorca in the 19th century

Spain announced a new Constitution in 1812 and the country was liberated when Wellington defeated Joseph Bonaparte at Vitoria in June 1813. The first elections were held (only male property owners could vote) but when Ferdinand returned to the throne he declared the Constitution illegal and restored the old regime. An army rebellion in January 1820 restored democracy and the Constitution was sworn for a second time.

The new administration in Palma had a difficult start. The Inquisition was abolished and mob stormed the Casa Negra (Black House) on Plaza Mayor. While the plague swept the east side of the island (see Artá and Son Servera ), Palma was struck by a yellow fever epidemic.

To make matters worse, Ferdinand refused to accept the Constitution until a French army invaded Spain and restored the absolute monarchy in 1823. In Palma confusion reigned until French ships anchored in the harbour and General Taberner appointed himself the Governor General, arresting the King's opponents.

Queen Isabella II (1833-1870)

Ferdinand's death in 1833 left his three-year old daughter in line for the Spanish throne with his Queen as Regent. The Constitution was also reinstated. While some were happy mallorca in the 19th centurywith the situation many were not, preferring Ferdinand's brother, Charles. It was the start of the First Carlist War.

With the country bankrupt and in a state of civil war, Prime Minister Juan Mendizábal suggested selling off church lands to raise money to support the Queen. Mallorca's government welcomed the decision and the Monastery of Valldemossa is a famous example.

The people of Mallorca sympathised with the Carlists and while many young men went to fight on the mainland, Carlist supporters arrived on the island. The island also sent arms to the mainland until ships blockaded Palma. The Carlists were defeated in 1839 and General Espartero became Regent and took over the government. Democracy eventually returned in 1843.

Mallorca wisely kept out of future mainland politics and concentrated on improving the economy, particularly the textile and shoe industries. By 1860 over half of the island was cultivated and it's economy profited from a European ecological disaster. A vine pest called phylloxera decimated the European vineyards in the 1870s and Mallorca's crops increased in price.

Across Mallorca the harbours of Palma, Soller and Porto Colom were enlarged while a railway connecting Palma, Inca, Sa Pobla, Manacor and Felanitx was built between 1875 and 1897. Mosquito infested swaps were also drained and turned into fertile lands. Albufera wetlands, between Pollença and Alcúdia, were drained between 1862 and 1871 by two Englishmen, J.F. Bateman and W. Hope. The Dutch engineer, Peter, or Pablo, Bouvij, drained the marshes east of Palma, where the airport is today and the fields around Campos and Sa Pobla were also drained. 3,000 wind pumps were in operation on the island by the beginning of the 20th Century but they were soon replaced by steam and then electricity. Windmills can still be seen in these areas.

In 1860, Queen Isabella visited Palma and laid the foundation stone for her monument in Placa de la Reina. Six years later an economic crash resulted in a riots across Palma and while the arsenal and customs house were looted, the Queen's statue was destroyed. Queen Isabella went into exile in 1868 and abdicated two years later.

King Amadeo I (1870-1873)

mallorca in the 19th century

A Provisional Junta was formed until Mallorca voted for the Democratic Monarchists in free elections in 1869. In 1872 there was a second Carlist War in Catalonia and the Basque country and many Carlist prisoners were held in Majorca.

The First Spanish Republic (1873-1874)

King Amadeus abdicated in 1873 and Mallorca claimed a degree of independence when the First Republic was announced. It did not last for long. General Martinez de Campos, who had been held prisoner in Bellver Castle, staged a coup in 1874

King Alfonso XII (1874-1885)

The crowning of Alfonso was welcomed by most Mallorcans, especially when the King visited the island in 1877. But the boom years ended when the vine pest reached the island, destroying the vineyards. Most were replaced by almond trees, leaving the rich poorer and the peasants in poverty. (Check out the Wine Route webpage to learn about Mallorca's wine industry). With Mallorca in deep recession again, many people emigrated to Chile and Argentina to start a new life.

Alfonso XIII (1886-1931)

Overseas markets were reduced in 1898 when Spain lost Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Phillipines in a war with American; it marked the end of the 400 year old Spanish Empire. From now on Socialists, Anarchists, Republicans, Catalan supporters, Basque Nationalists and the Army would all be jostling for political control.

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