Ferdinand VI (Spain) (1713–1759; Ruled 1746–1759)

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FERDINAND VI (SPAIN) (17131759; ruled 17461759)

FERDINAND VI (SPAIN) (17131759; ruled 17461759), king of Spain. Ferdinand VI, born in Madrid in 1713, continued the reformist policies of his predecessor. The son of Philip V (ruled 17001724, 17241746) and his first wife María Luisa of Savoy, Ferdinand married the Portuguese princess María Bárbara de Bragança in 1729 and remained devoted to her throughout their married life. Peace-loving and pious, he was fond of music, maintaining in his service the composer Domenico Scarlatti and the famous castrato singer Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli. The latter organized the brilliant festivals and boating excursions on the Tagus River that were typical of courtly life during Ferdinand's reign, often in conjunction with the court's seasonal movements from palace to palace.

Heir to the political aims of his father and his stepmother, Isabel Farnese (16921766), Ferdinand continued to participate in the War of the Austrian Succession (17401748). The peace treaty in 1748 granted the duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla to his half-brother Philip, putting an end to thirty years of Spanish intervention in Italy. Those grants were ratified by the Treaty of Aranjuez (1752), which guaranteed the neutrality of the Italian Bourbons. Ferdinand retained his father's chief domestic secretary, Cenón Somodevilla, marqués de la Ensenada, as the head of several government departments, although he named José de Carvajal as his own chief foreign secretary to temper Ensenada's power.

Ferdinand's domestic policies continued those of his father as much in cultural affairs (foundation of the Royal College of Surgeons in Cádiz; the definitive creation of the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) as in the economy (support for the royal tobacco factory in Seville and the royal textile factory in Brihuega; support for exclusive trading privileges with America for the Barcelona Company and others; Carvajal's initiative to found companies devoted to commerce and manufacture, such as the Extremadura Company in Zarza la Mayor and the San Fernando Company in Seville). In matters of finance, a series of beneficial measures were adopted during his reign (direct administration of provincial taxes and the 1749 creation of the Royal Currency Exchange to limit dependence on foreign bankers). But the most important project in his reignthe establishment of a single tax (unica contribución) along Aragonese lineswas a complete failure. Nonetheless the cadastral survey known as the Catastro de la Ensenada, ordered in preparation for the tax, remains a valuable portrait of the demographic and material reality of Castile. In religious matters, the regalian tendency of the Concordat of 1737 was reinforced with the signing of the Concordat of 1753. Although it did not extend the power the crown exercised over the church in Granada and the American empire to the rest of the realm, the concordat governed relations between the monarchy and the church for the rest of the century.

In foreign policy, several contentious matters were resolved. In 1750 Madrid bought back the concessions granted by the Peace of Utrecht (1713) for England to supply slaves (the asiento ) and send a limited amount of trade goods (the navío de permiso ) to Spanish America. That same year the Treaty of Limits settled most of the boundary disputes between Spain and Portugal in South America. The death of Carvajal in 1754 impelled the king to appoint as his first secretary Ricardo Wall, an Anglophile who worked with the English ambassador Benjamin Keene to bring about the fall of Ensenada. As a result, Ensenada's ambitious plans to strengthen the Spanish navy against England, embodied in ordinances related to timber supplies (Ordenanza de Montes; 1748), naval construction, and the mandatory registration of mariners (Matrícula de Mar; 1751), were paralyzed. Spain shifted to a foreign policy of pacifism and neutrality, even after the eruption of the Seven Years' War in 1756. In this context conflicts affecting Spain's delicate power relations with North African states were influenced by commercial pressures, as in the case of Spanish responses to alliances formed with Algeria by the Hanseatic city of Hamburg and later by Denmark.

The death of the queen (1758) plunged the king into a deep depression, which degenerated into madness until his death in Villaviciosa de Odón in 1759. His remains rest, with those of his wife, in the Convent of the Royal Salesians in Madrid.

See also Austrian Succession, War of the (17401748) ; Ensenada, Cenón Somodevilla, marqués de la ; Farnese, Isabel (Queen of Spain) ; Philip V (Spain) ; Seven Years' War (17561763) ; Spain ; Utrecht, Peace of (1713) .


Morales Borrero, Consolación. Fiestas reales en el reinado de Fernando VI. Madrid, 1972.

Pieper, Renate. La real hacienda bajo Fernando VI y Carlos III (17531788): Repercusiones economicas y sociales. Madrid, 1992.

Voltes Bou, Pedro. La vida y la época de Fernando VI. Barcelona, 1998.

Carlos MartÍnez-Shaw (Translated from the Spanish by Carla Rahn Phillips)

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Ferdinand VI

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