Manuel Godoy. Prime minister


Born in Badajoz and a professional soldier, Manuel Godoy is considered to be the key political figure during the reign of Charles IV. When he was young, and a royal bodyguard, he became acquainted with the future Charles IV – still Prince of Asturias – and his wife Maria Luisa de Parma. At twenty-five, after a meteoric rise through the political ranks, he became Secretary of State. It was Godoy who went to war against the French National Convention, breaking with Spain's neutrality – the position of his predecessor, the Count of Aranda – in the face of the French Revolution. The subsequent signing of the Peace of Basel (1795) with France earned him the title of Prince of Peace. The Treaty of San Ildefonso, signed in 1796, conditioned Spain's entire foreign policy; an ally of France, Spain entered into conflict with Britain in 1797 and with Portugal (in the War of the Oranges) in 1801. In September 1802, taking advantage of the window of peace with Great Britain following the Peace of Amiens, and in order to replenish the coffers of Spain's battered Treasury, Godoy ordered a squadron of frigates to be sent on a State mission to collect the funds, accumulated in the Viceroyalty of Peru, for H.M. the King. The attack on the Spanish squadron by the British in October 1804 not only re-ignited hostilities with Great Britain, but also between allies Spain and France, sparking a conflict that included one of the most disastrous episodes of Spain's history: the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). The political and economic instability of the country, worn down by these conflicts, increased Godoy's unpopularity. The Revolt of Aranjuez (March 1808) put an end to his political career.