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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

The Royal Favorite: Manuel Francisco Domingo de Godoy, Prince of the Peace

By Stephen Millar

“Three centuries later, the [Second] Treaty of Fontainebleau, concluded on October 27, 1807, by which the favorite of Carlos IV and the minion of his Queen, Don Manuel Godoy, the Prince of [the] Peace, contracted with Bonaparte for the partition of Portugal and the entrance of the French armies into Spain, caused a popular insurrection at Madrid against Godoy, the abdication of Carlos IV, the assumption of the throne by Ferdinand VII, his son, the entrance of the French army into Spain, and the following war of independence. Thus the Spanish war of independence commenced with a popular insurrection against the camarilla, then personified in Don Manuel Godoy…”

-- Karl Marx, “Revolutionary Spain,” New York Daily Tribune, 1854[1]

“If the Emperor had had the wisdom to prevent the [Madrid] rising of May 2, [1808] and had constituted himself judge of the misdeeds with which the Prince of the Peace was charged, and after condemning him had allowed him to escape, he would have met the wishes of the people of Spain; and, whilst leaving to them their own princes, he would have gained all he really wanted in their country.”

-- Memoirs of Baron Lejeune (1896 English edition).[2]

The third son of a minor Spanish noble family, Manuel Francisco Domingo de Godoy y Alvarez-Faria de los Ríos y Sanchez-Zarzosa (born Badajoz 12 May 1767; died Paris 9 October 1851) is known to history as one of its most notorious ‘social climbers’. Rising from a 17-year-old Madrid cadet in 1784 to Admiral-General of Spain and the Indies in 1807, Godoy owed his entire meteoric career to a single person: Maria Luisa di Borbone, Princess of Parma (born 9 December 1751), wife – and first-cousin – of His Catholic Majesty King Carlos IV of Spain (born 11 November 1748).

It is generally assumed by historians that Godoy and Maria Luisa had a physical relationship beginning around 1788 – the year Godoy (then a member of the Royal Bodyguard) was introduced to Carlos, principe (prince) de las Asturias , heir to the Spanish throne. Whether physical or platonic, Godoy’s relationship with Maria Luisa began to yield rich rewards, especially after her husband ascended the throne as Carlos IV (14 December 1788).

Few individuals in history rose so far and so rapidly as Godoy did. He was promoted to colonel in 1789 and made a commander of the medieval Order of Santiago a year later. In the summer of 1791, aged 24, Godoy reached the rank of Lieutenant-General and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Carlos III. These rapid promotions, however, also earned Godoy a number of highly-placed enemies – the most prominent being the prime minister, Jose Monino y Redondo, 1st conde (count) de Floridablanca (21 October 1728-30 December 1808), who accused Godoy of having ‘an adulterous relationship’ with Queen Maria Luisa.

This criticism did not halt Godoy’s rise to even greater heights – on 28 February 1792, Floridablanca lost office over his relations with revolutionary France . Three months later, King Carlos IV gave Godoy the title of 1st marques (marquis) de la Alcudia and on 10 June 1792, Godoy was created 1st duque (duke) of Alcudia – with the grade of 1st-class Grandee of Spain.

The Grandees of Spain were the highest level of nobility in the kingdom (a count-grandee, for example, outranked all ‘ordinary’ dukes). In their ranks were some of the oldest and greatest names in Spain: Francisco Manuel Joaquin Alvarez de Toledo y Gonzaga, 15th duque de Medina Sidonia (17 June 1756-9 July 1798), whose family lineage included Alonzo Perez de Guzman el Bueno (7th duque de Medina Sidonia and commander of the Spanish Armada); Luis Maria de Soledad Fernandez de Cordoba Figueroa y Gonzaga, 13th duque de Medinaceli (17 April 1749-12 November 1806), who was seven times a duke and 10 times a 1st-class Grandee; Pedro de Alcantara Fadrique Fernandez de Hijar y Abarca de Bolea, 9th duque de Hijar (28 November 1741-23 February 1808), who was six times a duke and seven times a 1st-class Grandee.

Later that year, the newly-created duque de Alcudia entered government service – ‘at the top of the tree’. Pedro Pablo Abarca de Bolea y Ximenez de Urrea, 10th conde de Aranda (1718-9 January 1798), Floridablanca’s successor, remained as prime minister until 15 November 1792, when, through the influence of Maria Luisa, Godoy (aged only 25) was appointed in his place. Fifteen days later, he was awarded one of the most prestigious orders of chivalry – the Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece (founded 1430).

Godoy’s tenure as prime minister gradually proved to be disastrous for Spain . Although initially joining the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France in 1793, two years later he signed the Second Treaty of Basel (which took Spain out of the conflict). This action distanced Spain from Great Britain diplomatically and brought the country closer to an alliance with France . For his efforts, Carlos IV created a new title for Godoy: 1st principe de la Paz (1st Prince of the Peace).[3]

By 1795, Godoy had collected an impressive number of titles and honours. In the text of the ‘Treaty of Friendship, Limits and Navigation between the United States and Spain ’ (signed 27 October), Godoy is referred to as:

“…the most Excellent Lord Don Manuel de Godoy y Alvarez de Faria, Rios, Sanchez Zarzosa, Prince of the Peace, Duke of Alcudia, Lord of Soto de Roma and of the State of Albala; Grandee of Spain of the first class; perpetual Regidor of the City of Santiago, Knight of the Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece, and Great Cross of the Royal and distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III; Commander of Valencia del Ventoso, Rivera, and Aceuchal in that of Santiago; Knight and Grand Cross of the religious Order of St. John; Counsellor of State; First Secretary of State and Despacho; Secretary to the Queen; Superintendent General of the Posts and Highways; Protector of the Royal Academy of the Noble Arts, and of the Royal Societies of Natural History, Botany, Chemistry, and Astronomy; Gentleman of the King's Chamber in employment; Captain-General of his Armies; Inspector and Major of the Royal Corps of Body Guards, etc, etc, etc…”[4]

In 1796, Godoy negotiated and signed the Second Treaty of San Idlefonso (19 August), which allied Spain with France against Great Britain . This new alliance led to a British naval blockade of Spain , causing widespread economic chaos. The loss of the island of Trinidad and the defeat of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of St. Vincent came a year later; the island of Minorca was lost to the British in 1798. In the wake of these disasters, Godoy was replaced as prime minister on 30 March 1798.

Shortly before being replaced, Godoy had taken yet another step up on the social ladder: marriage into the Spanish royal family. It may be that Queen Maria Luisa arranged the marriage because she wished to distance Godoy from Josefa Petra Francisca Tudo y Catalan Alemany y Luesia (born Cadiz 19 May 1779), his 18-year-old mistress; other historians believe the queen wished to bring Godoy closer to herself. Whatever the true reason, on 2 October 1797, Godoy married Theresa Carolina de Borbon y Vallabriga Farnesio y Rozas (26 May 1768 – 24 November 1828) oldest daughter of Luis Antonio Jaime de Borbon, conde de Chinchon (youngest son of King Felipe V of Spain ).[5] The same day, Joao, Prince-Regent of Portugal , gave Godoy the title of 1st conde de Evoramonte.[6]

Godoy’s relatives (and in-laws) had done extremely well from his royal connections. On 15 August 1790, his sister, Maria-Antonia de Godoy y Alvarez-Faria (died 25 July 1836), had married Miguel de la Grua Talamanca de Carini (born Sicily 1755), a former Captain-General of the Canary Islands and holder of the Order of the Golden Fleece. During Godoy’s premiership, Grua had been appointed the 53rd Viceroy of New Spain (26 March 1794); holding office from 11 July 1794 to 31 May 1798, Grua was removed in 1798 for excessive corruption. Despite his misrule in New Spain, Maria-Antonia’s husband was granted the title of 1st marques (marquis) de Talamanca y Branciforte on 10 January 1799, along with a 1st-class Grandeeship.[7]

Ramona de Godoy y Alvarez-Faria, Godoy’s other sister, received the Order of Queen Maria Luisa (as did Maria-Antonia). She married Manuel Candido Moreno y Cidoncha, who was created 1st conde de Fuenteblanca on 27 January 1799.

Godoy’s uncle, Juan Manuel de Alvarez-Faria y Sanchez-Zarzosa (1739-1802), received the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1799.

Teresa Carolina gave birth to Godoy’s first child, Carlotta de Godoy y Borbon on 7 October 1800. Josefa bore Godoy two illegitimate children, Manuel (born 1805) and Luis (who died in March 1818).

Reappointed prime minister in 1801, Godoy began his term with a minor military victory over neighboring Portugal in the ‘War of the Oranges’ (May-June). Spain ’s continued alliance with France , however, led to the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) and the destruction of the Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Villeneuve. Spain’s two strategic options – to be allied with France and lose its South American colonies or to be allied with Great Britain and risk a French invasion of Spain – left Godoy and Carlos IV with little choice but to bind Spain’s future with that of France.

During these years, Godoy never lost the favor of the royal family; both he and his relations continued to amass honors. In addition to the barony of Mascalbo (24 March 1803), Godoy also received a second ducal title, Sueca, along with another first-class grandeeship (8 March 1804); the titles of ‘Serene Highness’, President of the Admiralty and Admiral-General of Spain and the Indies came on 13 January 1807. Later the same year (14 July), Godoy’s mistress was created 1st condesa (countess) de Castillo-Fiel; his younger brother Diego de Godoy y Alvarez-Faria y Sanchez-Zarzosa (born 1758) was made 1st duque de Almodovar del Campo and First-class Grandee of Spain (10 August).[8]

Over the previous years, opposition against Godoy had centered on Ferdinando, principe de las Asturias (later King Ferdinando VII). As heir to the Spanish throne, Ferdinando would eventually be in a position to dismiss the corrupt and pro-French Godoy from both the court and government, an action many Spaniards desired:

“For years past, the hatred of the nation towards Godoy and the Queen had been constantly deepening, and the very reforms which Godoy effected in the hope of attaching to himself the more enlightened classes only served to complete his unpopularity with the fanatical mass of the nation.”[9]

When Godoy’s dismissal would actually occur was anyone’s guess – but in late 1807, Godoy and Napoleon provided Ferdinando and his supporters with an effective weapon to use against them: the Second Treaty of Fontainebleau.

Outlining the annexation of Portugal , the text of the Treaty of Fontainebleau promised Godoy a final, glittering prize: a sovereign kingdom or principality in Portugal ’s Algarve region. The whole exercise was a cynical use of political power by Napoleon:

“The King of Spain, who was to be Napoleon's next victim, was for the moment employed as his accomplice. A treaty was concluded at Fontainebleau between Napoleon and King Charles IV for the partition of Portugal (Oct. 27). In return for the cession of the kingdom of Etruria, which was still nominally governed by a member of the Spanish house, the King of Spain was promised half the Portuguese colonies, along with the title of Emperor of the Indies; the northern provinces of Portugal were reserved for the infant King of Etruria, its southern provinces for Godoy, Minister of Charles IV; the central districts were to remain in the hands of France, and to be employed as a means of regaining the Spanish colonies from England upon the conclusion of a general peace.”[10]

Five months later, after advancing French troops occupied several fortresses in northern and central Spain , Godoy and the royal family fled from Madrid to Aranjuez. It was there, on 17 March 1808, that Godoy’s career came to a sudden end:

“The friends of the Prince of [the] Asturias took advantage of the family dissensions to prepare an emeute against the Minister, Don Godoy, who, defended though he was by the royal carabineers, was to be assassinated and burnt in his palace. In the struggle, the King was compelled to abdicate in favour of his son, but the very same day he wrote to the Emperor [Napoleon] protesting against this forced resignation of his throne and asking him to become the arbiter of his fate.”[11]

The royal favorite was arrested and returned to Madrid; on 19 March 1808, Ferdinando was proclamed His Catholic Majesty, King Ferdinando VII (the situation became more confused when Carlos IV renounced his abdication three days later). Taking full advantage of the uncertain situation, Napoleon sent Marshal Joachim Murat, Grand-Duke of Berg, to occupy Madrid with French troops.

The city’s population rebelled against the French occupation on 2 May; it was suppressed with much bloodshed. Louis-Francois, Baron Lejeune (an officer on Marshal Berthier’s staff) says Godoy was almost killed during the uprising:

“After the events of May 2, the Grand-Duke of Berg established a junta at Madrid for the management of affairs, and he was recognized as its head with the title of Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom. On this eventful day, he had saved the life of Don Godoy, Prince of the Peace, when the people had tried to burn him in the palace in which he had been compelled to take refuge. A few days later the Grand Duke sent Don Godoy to Bayonne in safety.”[12]

The Spanish Royal family, summoned earlier to the French city of Bayonne to meet with Napoleon, was now confronted with the Emperor’s true plan for Spain . On 5 May 1808, Carlos IV was compelled to abdicate a second time – in favour of Joseph Bonaparte (then King of Naples), one of Napoleon’s three brothers.

On May 9, Godoy and the exiled Royal family left Bayonne. Their first destination, Marseilles, was reached on 24 October; their final destination, Rome’s Palazzo Barberini, was reached on 18 July 1812. The Eternal City became the residence of a number of famous exiles – all under the protection of the Pope. In a letter dated 10 February 1818, Major William Edward Frye (a British Army officer traveling in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars) wrote:

“The late political changes have brought together in Rome many persons of the most opposite parties and sentiments, who have fallen from the height of political power and influence into a private station, but who enjoy themselves here unmolested, and even protected by the government, and are much courted by foreigners. I have seen at the same masquerade, in the Teatro Aliberti, in boxes close to each other, the Queen of Spain (mother of Ferdinand VII), and the Princess Borghese, Napoleon's sister. In a box at a short distance from them were Lucian Buonaparte, his wife and daughters. Besides these, the following ex-Sovereigns and persons of distinction, fallen from their high estate, reside in Rome, viz., King Charles IV of Spain; the ex-King of Holland, Louis Buonaparte; the abdicated King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel; Don Manuel Godoy, the Prince of Peace; Cardinal Fesch, and Madame Letitia, the mother of Napoleon.”[13]

Godoy remained with the king and queen until their deaths (2 January and 20 January 1819).

Tersa Carolina divorced Godoy in 1808. Carlotta (who later held the titles of condessa de Chinchon and duquesa [duchess] de Sueca) married Camilo, Prince Ruspoli in Madrid on 8 November 1821. After Teresa Carolina died (23 November 1828), Godoy married Josefa Petra Francisca Tudo y Catalan Alemany y Luesia, his long-time mistress.

In early 1832, Godoy and Josefa took up residence in Paris. Short of money and unable to convince the Spanish government to restore his titles and estates, Godoy eventually survived on a modest pension granted by King Louis-Philippe I.  Although Spanish Prime Minister Joaquin Francisco Pacheco officially ‘rehabilitated’ Godoy in 1847, the remainer of his life was spent in obscurity.

Godoy died in Paris on 9 October 1851; Josefa died in Madrid on 20 September 1869.





[3] Godoy later held a second princely title (Basano), granted by the Pope.


[5] Created 1st Marquesa de Boadilla del Monte in 1799, Theresa Carolina was also the sister of Luis Maria de Borbon, Cardinal and Primate of Spain.

[6] Several sources mention that Godoy and Josefa were secretly married in Madrid on 22 June 1797.

[7] Branciforte later supported King Joseph Bonaparte’s rule; he died in Marseilles on 1 June 1812.

[8] Godoy’s oldest brother Jose had an ecclesiastical career in Badajoz; his other brother Luis (died 1801) had been appointed Captain-General of Extremadura.


[10] ibid.


[12] Ibid.



Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2007

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