Spanish Carlism: An Introduction

Editor’s note: This paper originally appeared in the book, A Catholic Witness in our Time: A Festschrift in Honor of Dr. Robert Hickson. It is published here with the gracious permission of that book’s publishers. The subject of Carlism is treated elsewhere on this site in Eleonore Villarrubia’s piece Dios, Patria, Fueros, y Rey: The Story Of The Spanish Carlistas. We are privileged now to present Dr. Ayuso’s contribution, which is of particular value due to the author’s personal stature not only as a Carlist himself, but also as one of a handful of great living scholars and theoreticians of Carlism. Dr. Miguel Ayuso, a jurist and philosopher, is Professor of Political Science and Constitutional Law at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid.


1 – Some recollections.

2 – The Three Elements of Carlism.

a) The dynastic question

b) The historical continuity of the Spains

c) Hispanic traditionalism

3 – Two concluding observations

I only met Bob Hickson once. It was in Spain, in the early eighties.
 Mariano Castañeira, an Argentinian friend who was married to a lovely Spanish lady, Marta Sobrino, often came to Madrid. On one of those occasions he told me he wished to introduce me to Robert Hickson, of whom I had heard before. On a cold and snowy winter day, we went for lunch to Pedraza, a typical town in the province of Segovia, less than a hundred kilometers from Madrid, where one may dine upon delicious roast suckling pig (cochinillo). We also were
 accompanied by don Luciano Gómez Antón, “Chano,” and his friend, a priest of great personal vitality who had just left Opus Dei, obviously not his calling, but had continued sui iuris a huge ministry into the nineties when advanced Parkinson’s disease forced him to retire. Due to a series of unforeseen events, we did not begin lunch until about five in the afternoon. It did not matter, because the conversation was lucid and profound right from the start. 

Bob and I became involved in some joint projects for the Traditionalist movement on both shores of the Hispanic world (European and Spanish-American) as well as in the United States of America. At that time I had many contacts throughout the world and although very young, was already well placed in Traditionalist circles. Linked to the Traditionalist Communion, the organization of Carlism, the oldest political movement of the world, I was also heavily involved in the works of the Catholic City, an originally French movement that had acclimated to Spain. Mariano and Bob had met at Christendom College in Front Royal, VA, where Mariano had taught some years before (I think by then he had returned to Argentina), having earned a doctorate at the University of Virginia, and where Bob taught Latin (during a period of seven years when not involved in military training at different destinations). Don Chano was a friend of Mariano’s wife’s family and had a psychologist’s practice in Bilbao for families with problems.

 Our project to revive the Christian Commonwealth Institute, founded in the sixties by my dear friend Frederick D. Wilhelmsen and the esteemed Brent Bozell, was unsuccessful. The program was no longer wanted at Christendom College as another dear friend, Warren Carroll, had left its leadership which had then been taken over by a phenomenologist philosopher of Polish origin and no friend of Thomism, Damian Fedoryka, who had had no interest in the project at all. Mariano and Bob, with the help of Chano, pulled as many strings as they could in the United States, but to no avail. Without this leg the project, which was really a tripod, was destabilized. I continued, however, to work with the other two legs, and I must add, however, that many years later the work has not been without fruit. The Council of Hispanic Studies Philip II, a sort of Royal Academy of Hispanic Traditionalism under the patronage of hrh Prince Sixto Enrique de Borbón, has brought together two hundred professors who share a common task in relation to natural law, political tradition, and the demystification of contemporary history.

All the same, it was in those years with Bob that our collaboration began, which has lasted for over a decade. I received valuable texts on geopolitical analysis, which served in turn to enrich some of our analyses which I then circulated among our own experts.

On one occasion I asked for his collaboration in developing a
 special monograph on the bicentennial of the French Revolution, which I directed for the journal of contemporary history Aportes. It consisted of a text (which I then translated into Spanish) concerning the reflections of Chesterton and Belloc on the French Revolution.

After a break of some years, we resumed contact, first through the post and then via email. We went back to exchanging analyses and views on Catholic tradition and the world situation. And most recently, most cordially, I received the invitation to write this piece, which I have gladly accepted.

I cannot find a more appropriate theme for the Festschrift for Robert Hickson than a brief note on Spanish Carlism and its role in contemporary Spanish and universal history. I have built on the work of the leading Traditionalist professors of the second half of the twentieth century. They were my teachers and the colleagues of my respected friend Frederick Wilhelmsen.

The initial image of Carlism, which I would call superficial but close to the truth, identifies it with a historical fact, namely with the dynastic wars started in Spain after the death of Fernando VII in 1833. This is the starting point, but Carlism is not simply a single historical fact of dynastic struggle occurring in a single place and at a specific time, it has a deeper meaning, which explains its survival up to the present day and is therefore of interest to Catholics, Hispanics, traditionalists and lovers of historical curiosities alike.

Francisco Elías de Tejada, who directed the publication of an anthology 
entitled precisely, What is Carlism?, in the early 1970s, begins the book by saying that Carlism combines three fundamental aspects: There is a dynastic phenomenon, linked to legitimacy; a historical continuity of Spanish culture, and a doctrine based on traditionalism. Thus these are the three fundamental aspects of Carlism that require our attention: a brief reference to the Carlist dynastic phenomenon, a brief consideration of its role as the embodiment of the historical continuity of old Spain, and a third consideration of the doctrinal pruning throughout the history 
of Carlism that has transformed, over time, the political doctrine into what might be now called the Traditionalist doctrine.

A) The Dynastic Question

Actually, the dynastic question is not the most important factor in defining Carlism. Yet, it was the occasion in which Carlism was born. It has often been said that Carlism found in the dynastic dispute, caused by the death of King Ferdinand VII, the rallying cry for Spanish 
tradition, which lay asleep during the eighteenth century, before the assault of the Liberal revolution. It mobilized, and was embodied in, a people with its intellectuals, its leaders and its pastors at the head. Thus, beyond the historic moment, there existed a much deeper 
substratum and foundation.

This does not mean, however, that the dynastic question was purely instrumental and of no value in itself. If that were the case, one could easily say that if Don Carlos, brother of Ferdinand VII, who, according to the inheritance laws in force, before the sort of coup d’état of legislation that came in the last years of the reign of Ferdinand VII, held the right to succeed to the throne, had been a Liberal, then Ferdinand’s baby daughter 
Isabel would have been upheld by Traditionalists. That is to say, what we now call “Carlism” would probably be known as “Isabelism” while the Liberals would have been the Carlists. This view, however, is wrong, as Don Carlos was always respectful of his brother the King, rejecting any form of conspiracy (to which some of his supporters encouraged him). If he did rise up at his brother’s death, it was because he understood that the fundamental law of succession (from which his right and his claim derived, which he could not renounce, neither for himself, nor as a 
depositary link in the chain of the Spanish monarchy) had been violated. It is easily understood that such thinking was rooted in tradition, while for his opponents, a paradoxical combination of Absolutists and Liberals, the law had become the mere will of those in power. Thus, the instrumental dimension of the dynastic question does not imply its
 devaluation; it simply places it in its proper perspective. But one must not forget that to which Carlism owes not only its origin, but also its prolonged survival. One must keep in mind that the conflict resulted in a first war, which lasted seven years, from 1833 to 1840, which continued in 1846 in a second war, which resulted in a third war in 1872 and, again, but not exclusively, was evidenced in 1936.

Indeed, as we have limited the value of the dynastic question as to being the origin of Carlism, explaining that it was once a rallying cry and matrix for Hispanic traditionalism, it must also be said that if Traditionalism had not been linked to a personal identity, such as the monarchy (which is to say the legitimate monarchy), it is doubtful that its duration could have reached the present time and that we could be discussing this issue today. Ideas do not wander in Plato’s Empyrean or through the air; they are embodied in institutions and individuals.

Monarchy as a political form, is nothing else than the continuation of a society, which consists of families, through the continuity of one family, the royal family, symbolizing the continuity and vitalization of each and every one of the families of the realm. So that monarchy, essentially as traditional monarchy, embodies the virtue of continuity. Sainz Rodríguez, dynastically a Liberal but a Traditionalist in political thinking, at some point in his life said that monarchies planted forests and republics cut them down. This idea is well proven in the Spanish political experience of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and certainly today as we clearly perceive and grieve the absence of the long-term, generous decision-making, replaced by the short-term view and the “spoils system”: rulers today only rule in order to maintain power, and they fall into demagoguery, if not kleptocracy. So that with a vision of this nature — and it is not just the impoverishment of democracy, and that of party politics, but it is in the very nature of the elective principle as the only variable that determines the regime — political life is exhausted in the electoral process, becoming more and more discontinuous.

Thus the virtue of the monarchy, linked with the principle of legitimacy, that is to say, the maintenance of the principle of one who has the right, and is entitled not only by birth, but keeps it by his behavior, is the source of that continuity that is called holy tradition. It is this presence of the legitimate monarchy which has preserved the popular movement, in both the intellectual and social aspects known as Carlism. It would have been very difficult to think of it from a purely intellectual disembodied approach. This is 
precisely what happened to the “integrists,” a branch that split from the trunk of legitimate Carlism (however at the moment of truth — that of the Second Republic, returned to the family home), headed by Ramón Nocedal and that, deprived of the embodiment provided by Dynasty, became a respectable religious brotherhood or intellectual party and only regained the heartbeat of authenticity (which inevitably occurred when the true nature of the Second Republic was seen) with the return to its common root. Legitimacy, and I am now paraphrasing Alvaro d’Ors, becomes the seal of a bottle that prevents political essences from evaporating and guards the authenticity of the content. We only know that we are drinking vintage wine if the bottle is properly sealed. Otherwise it may just be common wine. 
I said I would not over-extend the dynastic aspect. One must simply remember, in closing, that legitimacy, in addition to its concrete
 historical dimension, continues to be of interest up to the present day. Thus, necessarily, a legitimate monarchy has to exist — as I have hinted at before, not only in its origin, but in its execution as well. This distinction, which is covered in St. Thomas Aquinas, was illustrated with these same requisite terms in the Carlist doctrine used, not in vain, in the Charter of the Princess of Beira to the Spanish People in the decade of the 60s in the nineteenth century, at the decisive moment when Don Juan, liberal Prince of the legitimate dynasty was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Carlos VII.

B) The Historical Continuity of Spain

The second central idea is the concept of the historical continuity of Spain, and how Carlism became the vehicle of this continuity.

I have often said, in a provocative tone, that in all probability without Carlism Spain would not exist. But in what way? Not in the sense that we would have ceased to be present as a territory, populated by a nation (although is not easy to say just what that means), and over which there is a so-called higher power, which may be called, since the beginning the modern age, a State.

Yet in another sense, this is the way that this territory, this population, and that power keep a relationship with the desires correspondent with the birth of Spain and those who brought about its flowering. This involves more of a sense of spiritual continuity than of physical conservation. Tradition is ultimately the source of the differentiation of political communities, thus, as also stated by Elías de Tejada, peoples are not nations but traditions. Well yes, probably the only element of continuity that binds us today with Queen Isabel la Católica, with Carlos I and Felipe II, who embody the tradition of the Spanish world, is the presence of Carlism.

Without the presence of Carlism there would be no live presence of greater Spain, and between that grand Spain and that other of today, shrunken by the Liberal revolution, there would be no connection or relationship. It would be as if there were two distinct realities that, even from the corporal point of view, would be incomparable (after the progressive shrinkage following the loss of Flanders, Portugal, the Franche-Comté, Naples and the new World kingdoms), but, above all, there would be a great alienation on the spiritual side. They would be two realities given the same name, but between them there would be no ideal link to convey life to each other. One would not be able to say, in reality, that there exists still a continuity between the large or great Spains of our common ancestors, and the poor Spain of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Rafael Gambra developed in one of his first books a very successful theory to explain what led to the Liberal revolution in Spain and, I believe in all Latin American countries. Gambra said, with the subtlety of psychological insight with which he was highly gifted, that in a textbook on Spanish history the first pages are incomprehensible, because the nucleus of the intelligibility of primitive peoples is totally beyond our comprehension.

The cave paintings of Altamira Caves or the passage from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic are things that are impenetrable to human reason as applied to the history of peoples. These are things that can be studied scientifically, that scholars can illustrate for us via an abundance of data, but which remain humanly incomprehensible.

Gambra continues that, leaving aside its primitive history, the
 subsequent history of Spain can be very clearly understood, from the fusion of Celtic-Iberian blood, Roman colonization, and the Germanic contribution common to all European peoples, influenced by the singularities of each of these factors and affected by the invasion of the
 Muslims and seven successive centuries of resistance against it.

The culmination of the Reconquista providentially coincided with the discovery of the American continent, and that introduced a whole new world, which merged with the old Iberian Christendom that determines who we are and what we have been. Soon after, the fact that the Empire fell back upon the King of Castile and Aragon, opened another world, that of the old European Christendom, which was on the verge of breaking up because of the influence of the heresies that tore apart the religious unity on which it was based.

There is, in any case, a historical narrative that is well understood and one can understand its errors as well as its successes. This is not the topic for the moment. It is that there is a thread in the history of Spain, the history of “Las Españas, the history of the Hispanic world, which is that of Christendom. And this history stops making sense after the Liberal revolution. Who remembers today …? I believe that such a question could be posed regarding the history of the whole Hispanic world. But, preaching by example, what sense do governments make that have existed since 1833? The four governments of the period of the Estatuto Real, the Sargentada of la Granja and the restoration of the Constitution of 1812 which then became that of 1837, the return of the moderates who remained in power for a decade, with their Constitution of 1845, amended several times, until the return of the progressives, briefly, to be sure, up to the biennial, that of 1854–56. Then again we had the return of the moderates, up to the “glorious revolution” (our historiography has, everywhere, been written by Liberal sectarians) which in turn starts a revolutionary period, that of “interims’” with provisional governments, regencies, the dynastic change with Amadeus of Savoy, “the son of the
 excommunicated” because his father was the one who ended the temporal 
power of the Popes, and the First Republic, with its four presidents in eleven months. Then came the restoration of the Liberal dynasty with Alfonso. If we were to review the history of nineteenth-century Spain, but, and why not? or the history of Argentina or Colombia or of Mexico, we find that the line of succession is beyond our comprehension. That is unless we perceive, and yes, this is another issue, the struggle between the old order and the Revolution extended over time. But that’s something else: it is no longer the official and superficial history that we study in our schools, including universities, a story permeated by a values approach that distinguishes the separation between revolution and counterrevolution, or better yet, because there is no precedence of disorder over order, tradition. But we need no further digression.

What I mean to say, and this is the essence of the second point I am trying to make, is that Carlism prevents the history of Spain, at any given 
moment, from losing its meaning. Carlism is this phenomenon that explains the ideal of continuity, marginalized if you like, reduced first to half of Spain, then to a fourth, then a tenth, less and less, perhaps pusillus grex, a little flock, not the remnant of Israel but the remnant of Christendom, but that which ensures the ideal of continuity.

Elias de Tejada as well, in developing this point — the perfect continuity of the tradition of Spain linked to Carlism — masterfully explains how christianitas maior, medieval Christendom, died in the West, the decline of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the modern age, product of five major fractures, which I can not explain but simply enumerate, four of which operate in the realm of ideas, while the latter only in its existential realization: 1. the religious breakdown of Lutheranism, which destroyed the unity of the Catholic faith; 2. the ethical breach of Machiavellianism, that unleashed politics from morality; 3. the political breakdown of Bodinism, which created the concept of state sovereignty, preaching the doctrine that the decrees of the State are superior to articulation of joint legal orders given its supreme or maximum power or summa potestas; 4. Hobbesianism, which produced the juridical rupture, eliminating the communal substance of the political bodies, turning them into mere products of human will through the social contract: that is to say, not as according to the natural sociability of man but that the coexistence, in fact a coexistence, based on fear of violent death, or on utility of property, or on the assurance of abstract concepts of freedom and equality, to name respectively the three most popular forms of conceptual social contracts, would be those of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau; 5. and, finally, the so -called sociological breakdown in the historical order of events, which occurred at the Peace of Westphalia, and which de jure sealed the death of Christendom and the emergence of the European Balance-of-Power phenomenon.

Faced with this process of debauched dissolution, there arose a 
defense of Christendom embodied in the Roman Church via the Counter 
Reformation, and one ought not forget that it was our ancestors, that is to say, the old Spaniards, who were those who fought Luther and not only with the theology of Trent, Laynez, and Cano, but with weapons as well, with the Tercios (Spanish military regiments). There were also books written against Machiavelli, from such authors as Quevedo to theologians like Father Rivadeneyra, or like Claudio Clemente, born in the Franche-Comté of Burgundy, the Hispanic Franche-Comté, who entitled his book maquiavelismus iugulatus, which is to say, to slay Machiavelli. We must also remember those who fought against the existence of “state sovereignty” as did Gaspar de Añastro Isunza, the jurist from Aragon who translated Bodin in a Catholic manner. Or those who, correcting the notion of social contract, concluded that Christendom is a body and not just a mysticum mechanicum corpus. And, finally let us say, that it was our ancestors who defended the maior christianitas ordo against the new European order (as one might call it) based on “state,” or “mechanized order” of the European equilibrium.

What happened is that we lost. This is now known, I am simply stating the obvious: we lost. And with this defeat came a reduction in the compass of Christendom. The christianitas maior died, and we had to take refuge in a christianitas minor. Somehow the Hispanic realm became the surrogate of the old Christendom. “Hispanidad” was what was left of Christendom. Greater Christendom was lost, but we took refuge in its offspring. A smaller Christendom that during the eighteenth century becomes exhausted, inaugurating what has become known as “the decay” and even that decayed state of affairs, was in the nineteenth century further undermined from within and blown up from without. This was the second loss that one day must be 
addressed by reviewing, sine ira et studio, all of the responsibilities that contributed to this process of the rupture of unity in our common realm, and that further led to the remaining fragments being broken up and taken over by the enemy with their requisitions and their levers of power. So, with the old Christendom having fallen, and the lesser that followed becoming exhausted and later destroyed, we are reduced to a christianitas minima. Thus we remained as leftovers inside each of the fragments of our ancient common nation.

Just as the above explanation may be applied to the history of mainland Spain, it may also be applied to the American Spain. The Traditionalist
 Communion has become a christianitas minima. This reality allows us to discern the true tradition of the various absolutisms, or conservatisms, and reactions that have filled the nineteenth and part of the twentieth centuries, and whose beat is still heard even today. That is the advantage, and it is not a small one, that the Spanish on the eastern shores have in regard to the West, which could not have a Traditionalist Communion, since their birth was formed, and given the inclemency of the times it could not have been otherwise, under the inspiration of some “heroes” and “founding fathers” who marched under the flags of the enemies of tradition. For precisely this reason there exists an inimical tension among them between traditionalism, Hispanism and nationalism.

Let us now leave this subject which is too serious to sketch out in a few sentences. I hope this may be understood as a call for reflection rather than as an odious pontification. Simply said, Carlism is thus what 
remains of the old Christendom and what remains of old Spain. What little is left, or how much remains, is to be realized historically in a corpus
 mysticum, which is the Traditionalist Communion. This term traditionalism,
which I have tried to illuminate, brings us to the third point.

C) Hispanic Traditionalism


We have stated above that Carlism as a form of legitimism was and is the occasion that established the tradition of “las Espanas.” This historical continuity, guarded by the legitimate dynasty, took shape in the body of doctrine we know as traditionalism.

Carlism was never, and even less than never in its beginnings, an ideology. Carlism is fully opposed to all mere ideologies. It can never be an ideology in the proper sense of that term, that is to say, a deforming vision of reality superimposed as a theory and philosophy, nor can it be an ideology even in the improper sense, which as it is sometimes claimed, is a pure doctrine. Carlism was and is primarily a people living out a 
tradition, that is, an inherited order. This living out, it is true, with the 
passage of time was becoming more theoretical. It could not be otherwise, though there always remained therein a breath of life. However you look at it, Carlism gave the opportunity to formalize the matrix of Hispanic traditionalist doctrine.

This is where I must stop, because, basically, starting from the historical processes that shaped the historical birth of the Carlism in 1833, there began the doctrinal development of Hispanic traditionalism. In this sense, Rafael Gambra once again, in the first pages of his 1953 book, La monarquía social y representativa en el pensamiento tradicional, says that the first Carlism was an essentially vital Carlism, a spontaneous reaction of the social body, still of the “Old Spain,” reacting to an attack, just as a body reacts to an infection, it is a healthy social body’s reaction to an infection that threatens to lead on to death.

Thus it was not so much a phenomenon of highly raised awareness, nor an intellectually assumed phenomenon with all of its consequences perfectly understood, it was in fact the healthy, natural reaction, of a still healthy body, even if perhaps a little weakened. Probably it would have been better had it taken vitamins during the previous centuries, but the vitamins were not taken, and what came to pass was that the infection came when the defenses were down. It would have been better if the defenses would have been higher, but …

This traditionalism, a traditionalism still very close to a truly familial transmission, is a spontaneous transmission passed on by social bodies, in a connatural manner, almost as a form of osmosis. It is the tradition that remains, that continues and is handed on that naturally reacts against a Liberalism that threatens to destroy the identity of what it is. This is the initial traditionalism. But, as time goes by there is no choice but to go on purifying categories, go on explaining why the Liberal revolution kills the Hispanic tradition. Then you have to start explaining that there exists a royalty of Our Lord Jesus Christ, based on a Catholic unity that must be respected, and one must explain the legal status of each one of the social bodies, which are called charters. There are a number of things that, not that they were not believed before, but rather, they required no explanation before because they were lived. However, from a certain point in time, since they had been functioning less and less as the living horizons of people’s lives and because the people themselves had moved away from them, and, above all, because both the intrinsic order of the principles and their practice had begun, not only to be ignored, but even to be attacked, they must be newly explained as a necessary step in their defense. In this struggle, it can not be denied, there is a constant weakening of our reserves, and as a result a progression of the revolution.

Gambra says, to distinguish periods, that the theorizing of Mella (we are late nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth century, before the war of 1936-1939) marks an intermediate point between a traditionalism very close to the land of its birth and one that has become almost exclusively the highly refined doctrinal traditionalism of our day. This can be seen in Gambra’s own writing and also in that of Elias de Tejada, Alvaro d’Ors, and Federico Wilhelmsen, the great traditionalist writers of the twentieth century, who are not inferior to the great nineteenth century thinkers. It is not, of course, something we should celebrate that this doctrinal cleansing has occurred in the presence of vital decay. I would have preferred less doctrinal purification simply because it was not necessary, that is, because it is the lived experience that should be maintained. This tension of the two streams of tradionalism, the lived experience and the theoretical history is presented as inexorable.

What are the fundamental principles of the traditionalism that Carlism, through dynastic wars, raised? What began as a consequence of trying to maintain the continuity of the Hispanic tradition has now been developed into a more formal set of principles. What are those principles? They are most elemental principles that are the very watchwords of the Carlist Wars, God, Country and King, and, if you will, also Fueros (regional law and customs), that are always linked to this Patrimony.

These are timeless and universal themes, to be sure. When we deal with what happened in the War of Independence that followed upon the invasion of Napoleon’s troops, we find the watchwords God, Country and King. And when you consider what happened in Portugal a few years before the First Carlist War, with the same question of dynastic succession that occurred later in Spain, the war between the traditional supporters of King Miguel, and the daughter of Don Pedro, surrounded by Liberal fervor, we meet again with the same cry, God, Country and King encouraged by the proclamations of the Miguelistas. And if, at mid-century, we study the Neapolitan anti-unitarian Brigantaggio (always the factious terminology of Liberal historiography) we always find the same theme. So that we discover that there exists a universal constellation in which God, Country and King come to be, somehow, the strands of a traditional Catholic people’s reaction against the Liberal revolution.

Allow me to explain in a few words each of these slogans.

First, God. Right from the start of the Cortes of Cadiz, there existed, within what is known as royalism (realismo) a pre-Carlist party. We see Cardinal Inguanzo refusing to swear to the Constitution of 1812, of Cadiz (which by the way begins with a misleading invocation to the Holy Trinity), as he can not accept popular sovereignty, a clearly heretical principle. I take this opportunity to remind the reader that the constitutions of the nineteenth century often mix in religious terminology, out of consideration for the sociological situation of the countries involved. This fact should not deceive us. As these constitutions are always a formalization of philosophical Liberalism (or better said, ideological Liberalism, as it is not true philosophy, but pure ideology, in the sense described earlier in this article), based on the denial of the natural order and the natural laws binding to human society. Faced with “moderates” and “conservatives,” Carlists clearly saw the problem from the outset, and therefore vigorously fought all forms of constitutionalism, and refused to be fooled by claims of a “religious basis” to the constitutional ideology, which was stained from the beginning with naturalism, rationalism and Liberalism.

The foremost Carlist theme is Catholic unity. Catholic unity is not simply the Confessional State. This is another good reason to separate moderate constitutions just mentioned. Because the doctrine of the Confessional State is a doctrine that is derived from Protestant categories: founded on the old idea of cujus regio, eius religio, that is, that the people follow the religion of the prince, a motto created at the end of the religious wars (Thirty Years’ War) in Europe, while the vision of Hispanic traditionalism was always based on Catholic unity. The expression used in the Carlist manifestos and texts was never “the Confessional State,” it was, rather, “Catholic unity.” That meant, first of all, that there was a theological presupposition, namely that the community of men should worship God, and that that is the first duty of a society. And second, there existed a sociological reality, and that is none other than the fact that in the Hispanic world we have trust in Providence, and in our Kings as their instruments, thus forming a unity preserved in the Catholic faith. Thus it was that the Crown, as the embodiment of the whole community, was Catholic, as the Catholic King, His Catholic Majesty, embodying the unity of faith, and his conduct as a Catholic was enthroned by the mission statement: salus animarum suprema lex (the salvation of souls is the supreme law). Elias de Tejada, and I am limited to a handful of authors, usually the present day authors, always spoke of “federative and missionary monarchy.”

By way of summary, the Carlist struggle, from the beginning, is based on God’s rights up against national sovereignty, for Catholic unity over religious freedom. In 1856, 1869, 1876, in 1931 (even in 1936 when Mola and Franco hesitated, Cardinal Goma had to rely on the steadfast position of the Traditionalist Communion), every time there was a constitution in which they tried to introduce the freedom of religion, and the most active agent against these developments was always Carlism. Even in the last third of the twentieth century. I will not argue, but when religious freedom was included on the agenda of Vatican II, the first thing the Traditionalist Communion, with great reflexes, did was to bring together the leaders of the Requetés in the Monastery of Nuestra Señora Real de la Oliva, who, after days of prayer, study and organization, on July 25, 1964 the Feast of Santiago, solemnly swore, amidst the Cistercian community, a vow to defend the Catholic unity of Spain and consequently, to fight religious liberty. My unforgettable friend, Frederick Wilhelmsen, would also, without delay, swear that oath. The Second Vatican Council only further increased the confusion. Many of the leaders of the Requetés, good Christians, ended up vacillating, perhaps breaching their oath. God knows. And perhaps it was destined to happen. Or not. But once again it is important to ponder how the Traditionalist Communion, again, as the main point, from which everything else depends, without second thought, entered the fray. It is precisely this Catholic unity, that is, religious communitarianism as the foundation of power, on which depends the whole Carlist doctrine.

Second: country, local jurisdiction. Carlism always defended a non-polemical conception, neither exclusivist, nor “pseudo-metaphysical” but rather a historical coexistence of the country and of the nation. Carlism had always insisted that there was one great nation made up of many nationalities, that there was no collision between them, that each of the parts making up the monarchy had its own rights as a political body, and that each should be integrated with the others, but always with respect for the uniqueness of each. Carlism thus opposed Liberalism which always proposed a unifying and centralizing vision. Carlism was always “foralista” (respectful of local rights and charters, “Fueros”). The Fuero or Charter was the realization of the historic rights of each community, not be excluded, or enslaved, or absorbed by the whole community. The overall community involves the exaltation of the smaller communities, that is, what we now call the principle of subsidiarity. The “Fuero” is therefore an application of this ideal, a kind of precocious Hispanic maturation of the principle of subsidiarity. It is true that from the theoretical point of view, what we now call the principle of subsidiarity, can be found in Aristotle, since at root it is simply the resolving of the problem of the singular and the multiple, which can be a solution between fierce unitarianism and radical pluralism via the respectful integration of identities. But its historical incarnation in Hispanic “foralism” is particularly original. Alvaro d’Ors, for example, wrote that if the Federal State always failed in Spain, it was not by being federal, but for being the State. To understand this phrase one would have to know something of his thought, but perhaps enough said—it is something I have been saying all along so far.

The State continues to be a typical historical incarnation of modernity (constructivist and artificial) in the political community. Modernity was largely ignored, however, by the Hispanic world because it retained the natural sense of the monarchy, which, in turn, even became empire. From a certain angle, the Spanish did not reject federalism but statism. This was the breaking point. It was not so much the concept of federal government (better said, federative, to clarify our terminology), understood as “foral” or local statutory privileges, that was opposed, but rather, the revolutionary modern state federalism, which comes with Proudhon, and that, departing from tradition, the recent Spanish “autonomies” have followed.

And finally the traditional monarchy, the third idea: King. 
The monarchy which is legitimate in its origin and lawful in its exercise, is a monarchy that involves a personal rule. That type of monarchy is a natural form of government. However, a limited monarchy, one that is not absolutist, is neither a constitutional monarchy nor in the end, a parliamentary monarchy.

One of the great efforts undertaken by traditionalists of the nineteenth century (I am thinking especially of the great Aparisi Guijarro) was to demonstrate that the absolutists were the Liberals. This means that absolutism was a phenomenon linked, theoretically and practically, and even historically, to Liberalism. Traditionalism supported the distinction between social hierarchies and supreme political power. Supreme political power could be exercised personally by the King, assisted by the Councils, but was limited by the sovereignty of God, which is the single true sovereignty, and also limited by the rights of the various bodies, nationalities, and regions making up the Spanish confederation.

Approaching as we are, the end, we ought to add two key observations upon the riddle of the sketch of Spanish history which I have presented somewhat hastily. I know that, in some ways, the phenomenon is universal, that it is also applicable to other cultures and places. First of all, there is the peculiar purity of traditional Hispanic political thought in comparison with others. The second, after a brief retrospective and precise sense of perspective, one comes to the prospective: the subject of Carlism itself. Is it merely a matter of archeology, or does it contain within itself possibilities pertaining to the current and future political order?

The first era of Spanish traditionalism was characterized by an extraordinary purity compared to others. In France for example — as pointed out by Carlist philosopher Francisco Canals — traditionalism came attached to a philosophical error called (with an unfortunate title) “philosophical traditionalism” of Viscount De Bonald, that in the work of the Count de Maistre appears more mitigated (or even more debatable whether it actually occurs) and was also professed by the later condemned (as father of the self-styled Catholic Liberalism) Lamennais. 
Philosophical traditionalism, straying away from the tradition of Christian philosophy, incurs ontologism and irrationalism. In France, what might be called counter-revolutionary thought (and we can not begin now to distinguish between ultra-royalism, ultramontanism or legitimism), as equivalent to the Carlist traditionalism of Spain, is plagued by numerous doctrinal errors. Be it in the school we might call “theological” (De Maistre, Blanc Saint-Bonnet), or be it in what we might call “positivist” (Taine, Maurras), which has no connection with the above, except for its defects, but not its virtues. I have never made war on Maurras (more unpleasant, as usual, because of what is called “maurrasianism”), due to his discoveries and his methodological approach which I find useful, and because he taught me to esteem a great traditionalist — unfortunately not a legitimist (Eugenio Vegas Latapie). Having set out to distinguish and to see the virtues and defects of the different currents within the counter-revolutionary thought, it does not seem unreasonable to notice the deficiencies, whether partial or relative, of one doctrine as opposed to others. The key is to be found in the second scholasticism, ours, Spanish, or better yet Hispanic. This Hispanic scholasticism has often been the subject of insult, i.e., a target for summary judgment. And there are so many reasons, indeed, to see some deficiencies in some of the theses of Vitoria, and, above all, of Suarez. Today, however, I want to speak on its behalf. With all of its faults it must be recognized in justice that its titanic effort — and please do not belittle its genius — ensured the continuity of the metaphysical tradition of Christian philosophy in the Hispanic world when its very memory had been lost almost everywhere else.

In France, for example, the tradition of Christian philosophy 
disappeared with the last remnants of medieval Christendom, and the subsequent philosophical tradition running through Cartesian channels is totally unrelated to the whole cultural history of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and even the eighteenth century. This means that, after the great revolution of the late eighteenth century, the reactions were to be 
constructed from certain branches of the same anti-metaphysical matrix that brought forth the Enlightenment and the Revolution against those who wanted to rise up. In Spain this was not the case. All throughout Spain the tradition of Christian philosophy was maintained, and I say this of mainland Spain as well as Spanish America.

This is what explains the singular purity of Spanish traditionalism: scholastic philosophy and, basically, the survival of Thomism. Whatever your point of view, along with some great discoveries and probably some not-so-small errors, there remained a tradition of sound thought. This distinguishes the traditionalism of the Hispanic stamp not only from that of France but of Europe in general. Thus, in the Anglo-Saxon world the metaphysical split observed in France is also sifted through political events which reconciled the revolution with its evolution. In Germany, meanwhile, romanticism (heir to the spirit of emancipation formed by the Enlightenment) added a Dionysian element to the revolt that tinges all counter-revolutionary thought. And in Poland, limiting ourselves to a few examples, the counter-revolution is linked almost exclusively to pure nationalism, i.e., the assertion of independence. Then, in all countries, in all cultural fields, except in the Spanish domain, we find that the counter-
reaction is played out in a series of side events that detract from its purity of doctrine. This does not happen among us.

The second observation concerns the future prospective. It is possible that the presentation of the history and doctrine of Carlist traditionalism may seem démodé, antediluvian, or even like a Stone Age ideology. I have not previously denied or diminished the power that historical context has on the formulation and evolution of Carlist thinking. But I have also left scattered about through this text enough evidence proving the genuinely philosophical dimensions (not just empty theory) of the movement. It is from these that I believe it pertinent in the highest degree, to devote some remarks as to their relevance to today’s situation to see if, somehow, there is not a possibility of the adoption of these themes to a permanent reality and further, to see if it happens — that precisely, out of the exile of having dispensed with these eternal themes, the present situation is explained, and to what extent that only by their return, having once again adapted to these themes, we may escape the destabilized situation in which our civilization finds itself.

Multiculturalism. Let us divide this into parts. First we entertain the theme of Catholic unity. Indeed, let us look at maintaining the unity of faith, the theme that we are most obliged to address. Anything else would be an impiety. To open the doors to religious pluralism where once there had been Catholic unity was suicidal. The Catholic Church itself, in some way, contributed to this suicide. I am not sure if it was through practice alone or also of doctrine. This is not the time to develop the 
argument. What can not be doubted in any case is that the destruction of the old confessional Catholic countries has played an important role in the self-destruction of the Church, at least in practice.

In the first place it is a certainty that the community of men is not a mere coexistence. Multiculturalism, in its many forms, says that in one way or another all cultures and religions are equally valuable, so you must simply create a neutral framework for coexistence. This is not the true community of men, but, rather games presided over by formal rules, or commercial companies governed by the will of the partners. The life of men in society exists in some form of community, not to say a perfect community (as the Greeks still believed), because if it were a total community in itself, it would be a church. The forms of human agency force men to live together, with things that differentiate them and with things that unite them, but what is not possible is to have a true society of men, some sort of community, without a community principle, without something that exceeds the legal ties and is inserted in flesh and blood reality.

Today we are seeing, on the contrary, how the open society, the Liberal society, the multi-religious, multicultural society, begins to generate intractable problems, from the standpoint of what international law has called the public order, which is not simply a police order, but an 
order that transcends it, since it affects the common good. The “dominant thinking” does not know how to deal with the consequences of mass immigration, terrorism, permissiveness, etc. Starting from “freedom of conscience” and its radiating effect as the foundation of the legal system, societal order, if not even the legal system, disappears. A great many of today’s events can not be properly assessed without considering whether the society of men has ties that go beyond the human will or not.

Catholic unity, the bond with God, sovereignty or the social kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, can be translated, reduced to a minimum as follows: without some sense of community, religious community, something that transcends the will of men, there can be no life in society. And as is evident in the present situation, it is precisely the dissolution of all that has remained of what can be truly called a community. And therefore, we experience the progressive breakdown of our societies which are progressively returning us to the jungle. Currently, there are still cultural, economic and educational structures that prevent societies from falling into chaos. If we were to consider the consequences involved in the principles of radical Liberalism, we would have some time ago 
become involved in a long civil war. But there are various realities that have 
delayed these processes. They delay but do not eliminate them. Moreover, they might end up inflaming them. This is the first problem.

A second aspect is territorial planning. Men need in their aggregate life to feel that they belong to a group. But at the same time, they need to feel independent of that group. There is a beautiful text of Aristotle in which he explains that, to form a real “City” (Polis), men must have some link of friendship among them, because without any bond of friendship there can be no community, no city, but the friendship should not be total, because in the case that the friendship of the community was overly intense, human freedom would be destroyed. Thus the life of a society is a dialectic between autonomy and unity. We need bonds of integration as well as links between institutions to foment variety.

It is true that today we speak of the existent crisis of modern states, and although one may experience this in different ways on the two shores of our Hispanic world, or even in the European world, it is true that a great opportunity opens before us. The state, or the states, have supplanted 
genuine government and rule of law. Today, and this is a great pity, the breakdown of the states does not point toward a return of sound government, but rather to nihilism. But that is another matter. Also as noted before we have seen in the signs of the times that coexistence is insufficient to establish an order that requires the community. Yet nevertheless it seems that things are not headed in that direction, but rather toward an onrush of the destabilizing consequences of extreme Liberalism. What interests me here are the possibilities of introducing (to be realized or not, only God knows) within the circumstances of our times, to show how the demands contained in the Carlist proposals are more topical than ever, and even contain within them the answer to our present problems. Well, the issue of nations is indeed a big issue, a big issue that could (should) be useful to those who believe — in both hemispheres — there remains a common nation we could begin to recover.

The royal theme might seem more complex. However, in the end, command is personal. And personal command requires some features that fall beyond argument, for example stability, and to provide continuity. 
Moreover, the monarchy, at root, can not be understood without some sense of participation in a sacred reality. This I know is increasingly difficult to explain, but the monarchy forms an essential part of the familial and sacred concepts. As I have said earlier, it is a family, which crowns a society composed of families, in which, somehow, as part of God’s providence, is maintained an order that gives stability and continuity. In addition, the monarchy offers great flexibility to rebuild large areas of society that lie outside the confines of state structures. This is one of the biggest reasons why the monarchy became hereditary and was institutionalized as a formula for structuring and maintaining a territory intact.

Yet a final word about our America. Carlism, by the nature of the great watchwords of its ideology and its historical character as vehicle of continuity, is not foreign to Spanish America, but I believe it to be the custodian of large reserves that can be useful to it. It might be thought, however, that the loyalist component would be impossible to achieve, having originated in 1833, a year in which the process of Spanish American independence had already begun, and in many cases been fully established. Very well, but the key, I propose naively perhaps via a question, is whether the monarchy could not be desirable, as I do believe, for America, and it even might be concluded that the common good of our nations is linked to the recovery of a common monarchy. We have a long way to go.

Translated by H. Reed Armstrong and Miguel Ayuso

  • Alyosha Karamazov

    This is a really fantastic article. Thank you, Professor Ayuso.

  • TheWhiteLilyBlog

    May I say that I have just written a science fiction novel which treats of the theme of monarchy, in space, on the High Frontier, where in fact conditions may be more favorable for a restoration than on our suffering Earth. I used pieces of medieval coronation masses for the event as a group of Catholics disembark on a well-placed asteroid, carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession. You won’t find anything like it anywhere. I am promoting it privately since it is deeply antagonistic to liberalism and, besides rejecting capitalism, identifies secularism rather than Islam as the principal enemy of the Faith in our time. Amazon won’t want it, and I don’t want them, and Angelus press liked it but doesn’t handle science fiction.

    I hope the moderators will allow me this opportunity to offer the book to the few readers sympathetic to the idea that unalloyed democracy is unstable and that the Faith belongs at the center of our nations. Free copy for review.