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Spanish War of Independence - The Motín de Aranjuez

A fiesta takes place in Aranjuez every September, which commemorates the events which took place in this town, 47 kilometres from Madrid, in March 1808, a re-enactment of what is known as the ‘Motín de Aranjuez,’ one of the key events in the run-up to the Spanish War of Independence.

As winter drew to a close in the Spain of 1808, French troops were continuing to cross into the country over the Pyrenees, and it was becoming ever more evident that this ‘friendly occupation’ was much more than it had at first seemed. Numbers were said to be up to 100,000 by now, and Napoleon put his brother-in-law, General Joachim Murat, in command. Many cities in the North were now occupied, and Murat was advancing towards Madrid.

The Motín de Aranjuez - www.ibericatourism.com

The royal family withdrew to Aranjuez. Godoy suggested a move to Andalucía, from where the royal family would embark towards safety in South America. Faced with growing unrest, fomented by supporters of the Prince of Asturias, the King announces that no such trip will take place. The rumours continue to abound, and the people of Aranjuez rose up on the night of 17th March 1808. Godoy’s residence was stormed by a mob, and all his possessions were burned. But he himself was not found until the morning of 19th March, hiding out in an attic. He was removed from power, imprisoned, and then exiled.

That same day, Carlos IV announces that he is abdicating in favour of his son, and Fernando VII is proclaimed King of Spain.
His reign was short-lived, however. When the new King entered Madrid, General Murat’s troops were already there, and the royal family was effectively held in the capital for several weeks. Murat refused to recognise him as King of Spain, and Fernando was convinced to travel to Bayonne to meet Napoleon. He left government of the country in the hands of a Junta de Gobierno.

The monarch reached Bayonne on 20th April 1808, and was followed by his father some days later. Both were to become prisoners of Napoleon for the next six years, as the Emperor first forced Fernando to return the Spanish crown to his father, and then Carlos IV to abdicate again, and hand the crown to Napoleon, who put his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, on the throne as José I of Spain.
These events are known as the Abdications of Bayonne.

In Spain, meanwhile, the people of Madrid had risen up against the French occupation of the city on 2nd May 1808, in what was to prove to be the start of the Spanish War of Independence.