Baldomero Espartero was born in 1793 in Ciudad Real, Spain, he was the ninth child of a carter.
His parents wanted him to go into the church but at fifteen he joined the army with a group of other students to fight against Napoléon. He was rapidly promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He later served as a captain under General Murillo, fighting against the colonial independence movement in South America.
Espartero took a number of injuries along the way yet he still climbed the ranks steadily to become a colonel. In this role he had surrendered to Sucre in South America and returned to Spain. He moved to La Rioja and at the outbreak of the First Carlist War commanded the army sent north to the Biscay area where he defeated the Carlists. Carlists supported Don Carlos, Count of Molina, to succeed to the Spanish throne.
In the south the Carlists recorded some early successes, occupying Córdoba and Extremadura. However subsequent defeats at Majaceite and Villarrobledo halted their progress.
Espartero settled the war in 1839 by agreeing the ‘Compromise of Vergara’. It confirmed that there would be no reprisals and that Carlist officers would be appointed back into the army. It also formally recognised some Basque independent rights. This was therefore a very fair and inclusive approach but it could not silence the anti-Salic feelings or the regional independence movements.
Espartero’s exploits in the Carlist War led to his appointment as Spain’s prime minister, firstly in 1837, and then he served as regent for two years when Maria Christina stepped down; from a carter’s ninth son to regent of Spain!
Espartero had a second period as prime minister from 1840-3 when he presided over a period of expansion of political suffrage; in 1839 just 343,000 had the vote, by 1843 it was more than 500,000. Spain expanded suffrage more broadly than other European states at that time.
Yet Espartero was unseated by two generals. The new government they installed promptly concluded that Isabella had come of age at thirteen and she formally became queen.