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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The Italian ambitions of Isabel Farnesio


enable Madame des Ursins to

maintain her power at the Spanish court. In December of the same year the wedding took place. Thus did the lady who has received the sobriquet, the "Termagant of Spain," become the wife of Philip V. On her first meeting with Madame des Ursins she dismissed her, and proceeded to become herself the dominant influence near the crown. Isabel Farnesio was in fact a woman of extraordinary energy and force of character, besides being so attractive as to be irresistible to the weak king, who was so violently and capriciously attached to her that he even chastised her with blows, at times, in a kind of jealous fury. Nevertheless, she submitted to anything, provided she could retain a hold on her husband, for she was ambitious for her children and for Italy, and meant to utilize Spanish power in furtherance of her aims. Early in 1715 she procured the elevation of Alberoni (soon to become a cardinal) to the direction of affairs in the Spanish state, as the instrument to procure her objects. The chief tenets in her policy were the breaking of the intimate relation with France and the recovery of the Italian possessions, based on the twofold desire of throwing the Austrians out of Italy (a patriotic Italian wish, possibly more attributable to Alberoni than to the queen) and of creating principalities for the children of her own marriage with Philip. These aims were furthered by playing upon the wishes of Philip to recover his rights to the French throne. Philip V had not willingly renounced
his claim at the time Louis XIV had persuaded him to do so, and many of the events for the next few years are explained by his aspirations to obtain that crown for himself or for one of his sons. The Italian ambitions of Isabel Farnesio, however, were the enduring keynote of Spanish policy for some thirty years.

[Sidenote: Diplomatic intrigue and war in the first period of the Italian pretensions of Isabel Farnesio.]

The break with France was not long in coming. In 1715 Louis XIV died, and, contrary to the expectations of Philip, not Philip V, but the Duke of Orleans, whom the Spanish king regarded as a personal opponent, was named as regent for the sickly Louis XV, who was not expected to live very long,--though in fact he was to reign for fifty-nine years. The breach was widened by a series of treaties between England, the Protestant Netherlands, and France in the next two years with a view to the execution of the treaty of Utrecht. To assure the peace of Europe it was necessary to procure the adhesion of Philip V and Charles VI, who alone of the parties to the War of the Spanish Succession had not made peace with each other, although no hostilities had taken place for some time. Such a peace did not fit in, however, with the plans of Isabel Farnesio, and when the emperor furnished a pretext in 1717 for the renewal of hostilities a Spanish army was suddenly dispatched to Sardinia which overran that island. England as guarantor of the neutrality of Italy protested, and endeavored to effect a peace between the two contestants by an offer to Philip of Charles' renunciation of his claims to the Spanish crown, together with a promise of the duchies


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