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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The most important of all was Madame des Ursins


the most important of all was

Madame des Ursins, maid of honor to the queen, sent to Spain by Louis XIV because as the widow of the Duke of Braciano, a Spanish grandee, she was familiar with the customs of the country. This lady won the complete confidence of the queen, who in turn was able to dominate her husband. It may be said for Madame des Ursins that she was faithful to the interests of the Spanish monarchs, though promoting the entry of French influences, at that time much to be desired in Spain. Indeed, she not infrequently sided with Philip V against the wishes of Louis XIV, which on one occasion led to her recall by the French monarch. Finding, however, that he could not control Spanish affairs without her aid, Louis allowed her to return to Spain. Despite the enormous pressure exercised against him in favor of France, Philip V occasionally rebelled. One instance of his obstinacy has already been cited respecting the case of the Catalan _fueros_. A more important issue arose out of the presumptions of Louis XIV to dispose of Philip's crown, as an avenue of escape for himself. In every year from 1706 to 1712 Louis XIV endeavored to sacrifice the interests of Spain or of Philip V in order to propitiate the allies into a grant of peace. In particular he was desirous of procuring the resignation of Philip from the throne of Spain in favor of the House of Austria, saving to Philip the Spanish dominions in Italy. Philip was obdurate when suggestions were made of his abandoning Spain, and more than once,
even when the situation looked hopeless, declared his intention of dying at the head of his troops, rather than abdicate the throne to which he felt divinely entitled. Louis XIV was even disposed to compel him by force of arms to acquiesce, and several times withdrew his military support, but the Spanish king would not yield. Fortunately for Philip the allies played into his hands by demanding too much, with the result that Louis XIV on such occasions would renew his support of Philip. Nevertheless, it was the urgings of Louis XIV which prevailed upon Philip to surrender the Spanish dominions in Italy and the Low Countries as well as to renounce his claim to the throne of France. In all of these tribulations of the Spanish king credit should be given to Mar?a Luisa of Savoy, the spirited young queen of Spain. Not yet fourteen at the time of her marriage, in 1701, she at all times displayed a courage and ability which endeared her to the Spanish people. Though her father, the Duke of Savoy, joined the allies against France and Spain, she did not waver in her attachment to the land of her adoption. Inspired by her the Spanish people (except the Catalans) displayed an ardent spirit of nationalism for the first time in history, and were loyally devoted to the king and queen. Nevertheless, despite Spanish patriotism and Philip's obdurate resistance to Louis XIV's plans concerning the peninsula, there was the underlying truth of a profound French influence over Spain. This was best represented by men who, like Orry and Amelot, were responsible for far-reaching reforms, the effects of which will be discussed in the chapters on institutions.

[Sidenote: The popular young queen, Mar?a Luisa of Savoy.]

[Sidenote: Isabel Farnesio and the resumption of a policy of imperialism in Italy.]

Unfortunately for Philip and for Spain the queen died, early in the year 1714. A young Italian abbot named Alberoni happened to be at court in that year and he suggested to Madame des Ursins that a certain Isabel Farnesio (Elizabeth Farnese) of Parma would make a suitable wife for Philip V. According to him the sweet gentleness of her character would


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