Godoy, Manuel (1767–1851)

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Godoy, Manuel (1767–1851)

Manuel Godoy (b. 12 May 1767; d. 4 October 1851), first minister and favorite of Charles IV of Spain. Godoy was born into a modest hidalgo family in Estremadura. He obtained an adequate education in the liberal arts and, at the age of nineteen, entered the royal bodyguards. From this position he rose to power rapidly amid rumors that he was Queen María Luisa's lover. The titles he acquired included duke of Alcudia, prime minister (1792), admiral general of Spain and the Indies, and Prince of the Peace (after negotiating the Peace of Basel with France in 1795). The unprecedented princely title set him above all other grandees in Spain.

Circumstances as well as favoritism played a role in Godoy's ascent. Previous ministers had failed to appease the revolutionaries in France, and Charles IV's change in policy toward France required someone not identified with the policies of the past.

In domestic policy, Godoy attempted to carry on the reforming spirit of the reign of Charles III, but his lack of experience led to a series of ad hoc policies and his most radical proposals were based on the royal need for revenue. His colonial policy, like those of his ministerial predecessors, also sought to increase revenue. Suspecting that he was treating with enemies of the Revolution, the Directory in France urged his dismissal and Godoy resigned his post on 28 March 1798.

Godoy returned to power in 1801 with the blessing of Charles IV and María Luisa. Although without formal office, Godoy enjoyed a powerful influence in policy making. Thereafter he became a pawn of Napoleon and, believing he had a future as the prince of the Algarve, was instrumental in allowing French troops to enter Spain.

Contemporaries despised Godoy as a young, inexperienced upstart, and although he tried to win the political support of moderate reformists, his foreign policy had disastrous results that fed his opponents' ire. Godoy was despised in the colonies as well as in Spain and the news of the riot at Aranjuez (1808) that led to his dismissal and Charles's abdication was joyously received in Spain and throughout the empire.

See alsoCharles III of Spain; Charles IV of Spain.


Jacques Chastenet, Godoy, Master of Spain, 1792–1808 (1953).

Richard Herr, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain (1958), esp. pp. 348-444.

Carlos Seco Serrano, Godoy, el hombre y el político (1978).

Douglas Hilt, The Troubled Trinity (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Belmonte Díaz, José, and Pilar Leseduarte. Godoy: Historia documentada de un expolio. Bilbao: Ediciones Beta III Milenio, 2004.

La Parra López, Emilio. Manuel Godoy: La aventura del poder. Barcelona: Tusquets, 2002.

                            Suzanne Hiles Burkholder