On this date in 1808 Joseph-Napoleon Bonaparte (7 January 1768 – 28 July 1844), the elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, was crowned King of Spain (1808–1813, as José I). Joseph somewhat reluctantly left Naples where he had been king of Naples and Sicily and where he was popular, and arrived in Spain where he was very unpopular indeed. Joseph came under heavy fire from his opponents in Spain, who tried to smear his reputation by calling him Pepe Botella for his alleged heavy drinking, an accusation echoed by later Spanish historiography, despite the fact that Joseph was abstemious. His arrival sparked the Spanish revolt against French rule, and the beginning of the Peninsular War. The revolt was about both nationalism and ideology, “a reaction against new institutions and ideas, a movement for loyalty to the old order: to the hereditary crown of the Most Catholic kings, which Napoleon, an excommunicated enemy of the Pope, had put on the head of a Frenchman; to the Catholic Church persecuted by republicans who had desecrated churches, murdered priests, and enforced a “loi des cultes” (separation of church and state); and to local and provincial rights and privileges threatened by an efficiently centralized government.
King Joseph’s Spanish supporters were called josefinos or afrancesados (the frenchified). During his reign, he ended the Spanish Inquisition, partly because Napoleon was at odds with Pope Pius VII at the time. Despite such efforts to win popularity, Joseph’s foreign birth and support, plus his membership in a Masonic lodge, virtually guaranteed he would never be accepted as legitimate by the bulk of the Spanish people. During Joseph’s rule of Spain, Venezuela declared independence (1810) from Spain, the first nation to do so. The king had virtually no influence over the course of the ongoing Peninsular War: Joseph’s nominal command of French forces in Spain was mostly illusory, as the French commanders theoretically subordinate to King Joseph insisted on checking with Napoleon before carrying out Joseph’s instructions. Joseph was a classic puppet ruler, a token of Bonaparte’s desire to rule Spain by proxy. King Joseph abdicated and returned to France after defeat of the main French forces to the British at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. He was seen by Bonapartists as the rightful Emperor of the French after the death of Napoleon’s own son Napoleon II in 1832, although he did little to advance his claim.
Spain had been allied with France against the United Kingdom since the Second Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796. However, after the defeat of the combined Spanish and French fleets by the British at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, cracks began to appear in the alliance, with Spain preparing to invade France from the south after the outbreak of the War of the Fourth Coalition. In 1806 Napoleon was fighting in Prussia, so the Spanish readied the army for an invasion should the Prussians defeat him. Napoleon, however, routed the Prussian army at the Battle of Jena-Auerstaedt and Spain backed down. Yet Spain continued to resent the loss of their fleet at Trafalgar and the fact that they were forced to join Napoleon’s Continental System. Nevertheless, the two allies agreed to partition Portugal, a long-standing British trading partner and ally, and which refused to join the Continental System. Napoleon was fully aware of the disastrous state of Spain’s economy and administration, and its political fragility, and came to believe that it had little value as an ally. He insisted on positioning French troops in Spain to prepare for a French invasion of Portugal, but once this was done, he continued to move additional French troops into Spain without any sign of an advance into Portugal. The presence of French troops on Spanish soil was extremely unpopular in Spain, resulting in the Mutiny of Aranjuez and the abdication of Charles IV of Spain in March, 1808.
Charles IV hoped that Napoleon, who by this time had 100,000 troops stationed in Spain, would help him regain the throne. However, Napoleon refused to help Charles, and also refused to recognize his son, Ferdinand VII, as the new king. Instead, he succeeded in pressuring both Charles and Ferdinand to cede the crown to his brother, Joseph. The head of the French forces in Spain, Marshal Joachim Murat, meanwhile pressed for the former Prime Minister of Spain, Manuel de Godoy, whose role in inviting the French forces into Spain had led to the mutiny of Aranjuez, to be set free. The failure of the remaining Spanish government to stand up to Murat caused popular anger. On 2 May 1808, Murat ordered the younger son of Charles IV, the Infante Francisco de Paula, into exile in France, leading to a widespread rebellion in the streets of Madrid.
The Council of Castile, the main organ of central government in Spain under Charles IV, was now in Napoleon’s control. However, due to the popular anger at French rule, it quickly lost authority outside the population centers which were directly French-occupied. To oppose this occupation, former regional governing institutions, such as the Parliament of Aragon and the Board of the Principality of Asturias, resurfaced in parts of Spain; elsewhere, juntas (councils) were created to fill the power vacuum and lead the struggle against French imperial forces. Provincial juntas began to coordinate their actions; regional juntas were formed to oversee the provincial ones. Finally, on 25 September 1808, a single Supreme Junta was established in Aranjuez to serve as the acting resistance government for all of Spain.
Murat established a plan of conquest, sending two large armies to attack pockets of pro-Ferdinand resistance. One army secured the route between Madrid and Vitoria and besieged Zaragoza, Girona, and Valencia. The other, sent south to Andalusia, sacked Córdoba. Instead of proceeding to Cádiz as planned, General Dupont was ordered to march back to Madrid, but was defeated by General Castaños at Bailén on 22 July 1808. This victory encouraged the resistance against the French in several countries elsewhere in Europe. After the battle, King Joseph left Madrid to take refuge in Vitoria. In the autumn of 1808, Napoleon himself entered Spain, entering Madrid on 2 December and returning Joseph to the capital. Meanwhile, a British army entered Spain from Portugal but was forced to retreat to Galicia. In early 1810, the Napoleonic offensive reached the vicinity of Lisbon, but were unable to penetrate the fortified Lines of Torres Vedras.
When Fernando VII left Bayonne, in May 1808, he asked that all institutions co-operate with the French authorities. Accordingly, the Council of Castile assembled in Bayonne, though only 65 of the total 150 members attended. The Assembly ratified the transfer of the Crown to Joseph Bonaparte and adopted with little change a constitutional text drafted by Napoleon. Most of those assembled did not perceive any contradiction between patriotism and collaboration with the new king. Moreover, it was not the first time a foreign dynasty had assumed the Spanish Crown: at the start of the eighteenth century, the House of Bourbon came to Spain from France after the last member of the House of Habsburg, Charles II, died without offspring.
Joseph Bonaparte promulgated the Statute of Bayonne on July 7, 1808. As a constitutional text, it is a royal charter, because it was not the result of a sovereign act of the nation assembled in Parliament, but a royal edict. The text was imbued with a spirit of reform, in line with the Bonaparte ideals, but adapted to the Spanish culture so as to win the support of the elites of the old regime. It recognized the Catholic religion as the official religion and forbade the exercise of other religions. It did not contain an explicit statement about the separation of powers, but asserted the independence of the judiciary. Executive power lay with the king and his ministers. The courts, in the manner of the old regime, were constituted of the estates of the clergy, the nobility and the people. Except with regard to the budget, its ability to make laws was limiteded by the power of the monarch. In fact, the king was only forced to call Parliament every three years. It contained no explicit references to legal equality of citizens, although it was implicit in the equality in taxation, the abolition of privileges, and equal rights between Spanish and American citizens. The Constitution also recognized the freedom of industry and trade, the abolition of trade privileges and the elimination of internal customs.
The Constitution established the Cortes Generales, an advisory body composed of the Senate which was formed by the male members of the royal family and 24 members appointed by the king from the nobles and the clergy, and a legislative assembly, with representatives from the estates of the nobility and the clergy. The Constitution established an authoritarian regime that included some enlightened projects, such as the abolition of torture, but preserving the Inquisition.
During his stay in Vitoria, Joseph Bonaparte had taken important steps to organize the state institutions, including creating an advisory Council of State. The king appointed a government, whose leaders formed an enlightened group which adopted a reform program. The Inquisition was abolished, as was the Council of Castile which was accused of anti-French policy. He decreed the end of feudal rights, the reduction of religious communities and the abolition of internal customs charges. This period saw measures to liberalize trade and agriculture and the creation of a stock exchange in Madrid. The State Council undertook the division of land into 38 provinces.
As the popular revolt against Joseph Bonaparte spread, many who had initially co-operated with Bonaparte dynasty left their ranks. But there remained numerous Spanish, known as afrancesados, who nurtured his administration and whose very existence gives the Spanish war of independence a civil war character. The afrancesados saw themselves as heirs of enlightened absolutism and saw the arrival of Bonaparte as an opportunity to modernize the country. Many had been a part of government in the reign of Charles IV, for example, François Cabarrus, former head of finance and Mariano Luis de Urquijo, Secretary of State. But there were also writers like playwright Leandro Fernández de Moratín, scholars like Juan Antonio Llorente, the mathematician Alberto Lista, and musicians such as Fernando Sor.
Throughout the war, Joseph Bonaparte tried to exercise full authority as the King of Spain, preserving some autonomy against the designs of his brother Napoleon. In this regard, many afrancesados believed that the only way to maintain national independence was to collaborate with the new dynasty, as the greater the resistance to the French, the greater would be the subordination of Spain to the French imperial army and its war requirements. In fact, the opposite was the case: although in the territory controlled by King Joseph I modern rational administration and institutions replaced the Old Regime, the permanent state of war reinforced the power of the French marshals, barely allowing the civil authorities to act.
The military defeats suffered by the French army forced Joseph I to leave Madrid on two occasions. The king finally left Spain in June 1813, ending the failed stage of enlightened absolutism. Most of Joseph’s supporters (about 10,000 and 12,000) fled to France into exile, along with the retreating French troops after the war. Their property was confiscated. The Allied offensive intensified and culminated in the Battle of Vitoria, which marked the beginning of the end of French occupation and, in December 1813, in the Treaty of Valençay, which provided for the restoration of Ferdinand VII.
The burden of war destroyed the social and economic fabric of Portugal and Spain, and ushered in an era of social turbulence, political instability and economic stagnation. Devastating civil wars between liberal and absolutist factions led by officers trained in the Peninsular War persisted in Iberia until 1850. The cumulative crises and disruptions of invasion, revolution, and restoration led to the independence of most of Spain’s American colonies and the independence of Brazil from Portugal. During Joseph’s rule in Spain, Venezuela declared independence (1810) from Spain, the first nation to do so. Many others followed suit soon after. There is also an ironic twist in that Argentine General José de San Martín fought for Spain in the Peninsular War but then in 1812 sailed to Buenos Aires and began long campaigns to liberate colonies in South America from Spain.
Since Joseph and Napoleon Bonaparte were from Corsica I though a Corsican recipe would be appropriate. The cuisine of the island is essentially Mediterranean with its own twists. One of these is the heavy use of chestnuts for both savory and sweet dishes. For example chestnut flour is used to make the local version of polenta, and the local flan incorporates chestnuts and brandy (locally produced). The signature cheese of the island is brocciu, a young whey cheese made from ewe’s milk. It too is found in savory and sweet dishes. It can be rolled in breadcrumbs and deep fried or used to make the local cheesecake, fiadone. Beignets, combine the two tastes: chestnut flour doughnuts stuffed with cheese.
The signature dish of the island is civet de sanglier, braised wild boar. It uses local red wine as the base of the sauce. It is really hard to get wild boar so you’d probably best not try it at home. Substituting beef is all right, but you lose the gamey taste. It does need long slow cooking because the boar meat is very tough. When simmered slowly for hours and hours it eventually yields.
Civet de Sanglier
2 kg of wild boar meat
1.5 liters of full-bodied red wine
2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 onions, peeled and diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
6 chestnuts, blanched and peeled
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf)
salt , pepper
Cut the boar meat into chunks. Mix with the vegetables and add the bouquet garni. Cover with red wine and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
Drain and dry the meat and vegetables, preserving the marinade. Sauté them all together in a large cast iron skillet. Add the marinade and whatever wine is left over. Add the tomato paste.
Bring to a boil, then slow simmer over low heat covered for 3 to 4 hours, or until the meat is tender. If need be, uncover for the last 30 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.
Serve with pasta and crusty bread.