Thursday, June 19, 2014

the last book I ever read (Marie Arana's Bolívar: American Liberator, excerpt four)

from Bolívar: American Liberator by Marie Arana:

The invasion of the Iberian Peninsula began simply enough, and, some might say, in response to a bald invitation. It started in October, when King Carlos IV chanced upon some papers written in his son’s hand that made it clear that the crown prince was planning to dethrone his father and, very possibly, poison his mother. Horrified, the king wrote to Napoleon, reporting the whole affair, denouncing his son, and suggesting that a brother of Napoleon should succeed him. Not twenty-four hours later, Prince Ferdinand, too, dashed off a letter to Napoleon, inviting the emperor to choose a bride for him from among his family and so unite the empires. It was a naked lunge for power, fresh evidence of the prince’s treason. For years, Ferdinand had brooded about Godoy’s sexual hold on his mother and the craven way his father had handed the cuckolder all the power. But Carlos IV proved more of a match than his son had anticipated. Goaded by the queen and prime minister, the king now began serious negotiations with France.

Napoleon took rank advantage of the family squabble by flattering the king and offering him an opportunity to expand his empire. The Treaty of Fontainebleau, put forth by Napoleon and signed by Godoy on October 27, 1807, promised Spain half of Portugal in a joint invasion—a truly perfidious arrangement, given that the king’s eldest daughter, Charlotte, was Portugal’s queen. Napoleon was given permission to march 25,000 troops through Spanish territory to Lisbon. When time for the invasion came, however, Napoleon sent quadruple that number, overwhelming Lisbon in a bloodless coup and securing a firm foothold in Spain. By the end of 1807, Queen Charlotte and the royal Braganza family had fled Portugal and, with ten thousand of their most loyal subjects, filled a convoy of fifty ships headed for Brazil. Four months later, in the spring of 1808, the French army slipped into Spain’s most strategic fortresses and took control. King Carlos IV finally understood his predicament. Spain was under occupation. He began to consider a secret plan to escape to Mexico.

The Spanish people were outraged. They blamed Godoy for all their misfortunes and sacked his palace in a riot. In the course of that uprising, Carlos IV was forced to relinquish the crown to his son, who was now King Ferdinand VII. Napoleon managed to lure the whole royal family—mother, father, and son—to Bayonne for a conference. After a sumptuous dinner, the newly crowned King Ferdinand VII was told that Spain’s Bourbon era was over. He was king no more. In response, Carlos IV tried to nullify his own abdication, but eventually agreed to cede Spain and its colonies to Napoleon for an annual salary of 1.5 million pesos. By the end of April, the Bourbons were virtual prisoners on French soil. Joseph Bonaparte—the emperor’s brother—was crowned the new king of Spain, making America, from Texas to Tierra del Fuego, a cog in Napoleon’s empire.

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