Spain expedition

Spain expedition

  • Passage of the Guadarana [sic] by the French army in Spain.

    TAUNAY Nicolas Antoine (1755 - 1830)

  • Louis XVIII receiving the Duke of Angoulême on his return from the Spanish campaign.

    THOMAS Antoine Jean-Baptiste (1791 - 1834)

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Title: Passage of the Guadarana [sic] by the French army in Spain.

Author : TAUNAY Nicolas Antoine (1755 - 1830)

Date shown: 1823

Dimensions: Height 49.5 - Width 35.5

Technique and other indications: Lithography.

Storage place: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambiers website

Picture reference: 07-537144 / 2007.1.56

Passage of the Guadarana [sic] by the French army in Spain.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier

To close

Title: Louis XVIII receiving the Duke of Angoulême on his return from the Spanish campaign.

Author : THOMAS Antoine Jean-Baptiste (1791 - 1834)

Creation date : 1823

Date shown: 02 December 1823

Dimensions: Height 67 - Width 102

Technique and other indications: Full title: Louis XVIII surrounded by members of the royal family receiving in his cabinet at the Tuileries, the Duke of Angoulême on his return from the Spanish campaign, December 2, 1823.

Storage place: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Arnaudet / G. Blot website

Picture reference: 85-000133 / MV8552

Louis XVIII receiving the Duke of Angoulême on his return from the Spanish campaign.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - D. Blot

Publication date: August 2009

Historical context

In 1808, the intervention of French troops in Spain sparked a general uprising of the Spanish population. The sovereign’s absolutism, the numerous persecutions against the liberals, the reestablishment of the Inquisition, led to a popular uprising in 1820.

In a Europe troubled by clandestine but underlying liberal unrest, the liberals led by Rafael del Riego won the parliamentary elections in the Cortes in 1822. On January 28, Louis XVIII was thus able to announce that "a hundred thousand French were ready to march, invoking the name of Saint Louis to keep the throne of Spain from a grandson of Henry IV. Chateaubriand, Minister of Foreign Affairs since May 17, 1822, and the ultra royalists were exulting: the royal army was going to be able to prove its worth and its devotion against the Spanish liberals for the glory of the Bourbon monarchy.

Image Analysis

Coming from a family of artists, goldsmiths, painters, sculptors, Nicolas Antoine Taunay (1755-1830) stayed at the Académie de France in Rome from 1784 to 1787. Painter of genre and landscapes, his taste for painting of history earned him the choice to illustrate the German campaigns of Napoleon Ier in 1805. From 1816 to 1820, he left for Brazil with the French Artistic Mission and helped to establish the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts there. He produced a number of landscapes with an exotic flavor. Returning to France in 1821, he returned to historical painting and here represents the French army barely crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama, an imposing mountain barrier that protects Madrid. On May 23, 1823, French troops invaded the Spanish capital where the Duke of Angoulême, nephew of Louis XVIII, installed a temporary regency under the protectorate of France.

Winner of the Prix de Rome in 1816, Antoine Jean-Baptiste Thomas (1791-1834) represented, for his part, the happy epilogue of the Spanish campaign: in his study at the Tuileries, Louis XVIII received the Duke of Angoulême , victorious commander-in-chief of the army of the Pyrenees. Sitting in an armchair, King Podagra shakes hands with his nephew with somewhat grandiloquent gratitude. Behind the Duke, Madame Royale - Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, daughter of Louis XVI, his first cousin whom he married in exile in 1799 - clings to her husband and looks up at him in admiration. Standing behind the king, Monsieur, Comte d'Artois, his brother, holds in his arms the little Duke of Bordeaux, the son of the Duke of Berry who was assassinated in 1820, while the mother of the child stands to the left of the sovereign. Imbued with a wholly filial atmosphere, the scene highlights the continuity of the Bourbon dynasty.


From April 7, 1823, French troops entered Spain. At the end of February, the Houses had voted an extraordinary credit of 200 million to finance the expedition. Despite his lack of military experience, the Duke of Angoulême had been appointed commander-in-chief of the expedition, but he left it to his Major-General Guilleminot, General of the Empire, to effectively lead the expeditionary force. Out of five army corps, four were placed under the orders of former servants of the Empire, the secondary commands being vested in royalists loyal to the Bourbons.

From May 23, the French entered Madrid. The Cortes, of which Ferdinand VII was the prisoner, took refuge in Cadiz, which temporarily became the capital of Spain. On September 30, the Liberals were forced to capitulate. On November 23, 1823, the Duke of Angoulême returned to France, leaving behind an occupying army of 45,000 men. The humiliation of the Napoleonic defeats in Spain was erased, and Chateaubriand, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Villèle government from December 28, 1822 to June 6, 1824, could write triumphantly in his Memories beyond the grave : "To step over the Spains, to succeed where Bonaparte had failed, to triumph on this same ground where the weapons of the fantastic man had had setbacks, to do in seven months what he had not been able to do in seven. years, it was a real prodigy! The victory of the French army in Spain was above all a personal success for Louis XVIII, whose legitimacy it reinforced.

  • Bourbons
  • spain expedition
  • Louis XVIII
  • Holy alliance
  • Chateaubriand (François-René de)
  • expedition


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Francis DEMIER, 19th century France, Paris, Le Seuil, coll. “Points Histoire”, 2000.

Evelyne LEVER, Louis XVIII, Paris, Fayard, 1988.

Jean VIDALENC, The Restoration 1814-1830, Paris, P.U.F., coll. "What do I know? », 1983.

Emmanuel de WARESQUIEL and Benoît YVERT, History of the Restoration.

Birth of modern France, Paris, Perrin, 1996.

To cite this article

Alain GALOIN, "The Spanish expedition"

Video: Expedition Of Spain