15 April 1931: King Alfonso XIII goes into voluntary exile after political unrest

The king left Spain as the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed, but did not abdicate until 1941

Tony Bryant
TONY BRYANT

In the early hours of the morning of 15 April 1931, a light cruiser carrying King Alfonso XIII set sail from Cartagena to take the exiled monarch to Marseille.

He left the country as the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in order to avoid a civil war, but he did not formally abdicate for another ten years.

Alfonso XIII, also known as El Africano, was King of Spain from his birth (17 May 1886) until 14 April 1931.

He had become a monarch from birth because his father, Alfonso XII, had died the previous year, although he did not assume the Crown until his sixteenth birthday in 1902.

The political and social unrest in the country had begun with the Spanish-American War (21 April - 13 August, 1898), which had prevented the establishment of a true liberal democracy.

During Alfonso's reign, Spain experienced four major problems that would lead to the eventual end of the liberal monarchy.

The country was in turmoil due to problems arising from the Rif War, a conflict fought from 1921 to 1926 between the occupying colonialists of Spain and the Berber tribes of the Rif mountainous region of Morocco.

There was also turbulence due to a lack of political representation of broad social groups, and the uprising of the popular classes, especially land workers and peasants.

On top of this, there was the rising situation of Catalan nationalism.

This would eventually lead to the inept dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera, a regime that the king had supported.

Miguel Primo de Rivera was forced to resign in January 1930, exiling to Paris, only to die a few weeks later.

By this time, Spain had fallen into economic and political chaos and, although attempts were made to restore the legitimacy of the monarchy, King Alfonso had discredited himself by supporting the regime.

He left Spain voluntarily after the municipal elections of April 1931, which were taken as a plebiscite on abolishing the monarchy.

Alfonso was accused by the Cortes of high treason later that year, but the law would be repealed by General Francisco Franco in 1938.

On 15 January 1941, Alfonso renounced his rights to the defunct Spanish throne.

He died of a heart attack in Rome later that year.