Charles III of Spain: an Enlightened Despot, Part II

Nicholas Henderson describes the work of the Bourbon monarch and his reforming Ministers.

After the mutiny of 1766, Charles III stayed away from Madrid for eight months and appointed the Conde d’Aranda as chief Minister. Mercifully, Aranda had the common-touch. The people worshipped him; they loved his panache, his showy attendance at bull-fights, and his habit, apparently unprecedented in someone of his rank, of travelling in his coach with the curtains raised. They enjoyed the masked balls he introduced in Carnival time, with the majas and majos dressed in the Spanish costumes that Goya has fixed for posterity.

When he took office as President of the Council of Castile, immediately after the mutiny, he summoned the ring-leader to attend on him. The man was so overawed by Aranda’s presence that he called on his fellow-conspirators to desist, with the declaration, ‘The King wishes, Aranda desires, and I command it.’ He succeeded marvellously in his first task of restoring order, even securing compliance with the unpopular dress law by making it compulsory for the public executioner to wear the old costume, which naturally disenchanted the people with it.

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