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List of Spanish Kings and Queens from Unification (~1474) to Present Day

Image of a statue of Queen Isabella of Spain and Christopher Columbus for a blog post providing a list of Spanish Kings and Queens.

Withing the list of Spanish kings and queens is a tapestry woven with threads of power, ambition, and national identity.

From the momentous union of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in the 15th century to the reign of the current monarch, King Felipe VI, the Spanish crown has played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s destiny.

This royal lineage has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, navigated tumultuous political waters, and adapted to the changing tides of modernity.

Explore the list of the Spanish kings and queens who have held the throne from the nation’s unification to the present day.

List of Spanish Kings and Queens (1474 to present)

Image of a drawing of Spain's Phillip II for a blog post providing the list of Spanish kings and queens.
King Phillip II of Spain, considered by many to be the most influential monarch in Spanish history

For similar lists of European monarchs check out the posts below!

Image of a meeting between Spains's Felipe VI and U.S. President Barack Obama for a blog post providing the list of Spanish kings and queens.
Spanish King Felipe VI and U.S. President Barack Obama in a meeting

FAQs: List of Spanish Monarchs from Unification

1. What is the significance of the title “King of Jerusalem” held by Spanish monarchs?

The title “King of Jerusalem” held by Spanish monarchs is a historical relic that reflects the complex web of dynastic claims and territorial ambitions in medieval and early modern Europe.

Its origins date back to the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, established in 1099 after the First Crusade.

When the kingdom fell to Saladin in 1187, the title became largely symbolic but continued to be claimed by European monarchs.

It entered the Spanish royal titulary in 1516 when Ferdinand II of Aragon inherited the Kingdom of Naples, which had previously incorporated the Jerusalem title.

This acquisition was part of Spain’s broader Mediterranean strategy and its rivalry with France for dominance in Italy.

While the title never conferred any actual authority over Jerusalem, it served several important functions: it bolstered Spain’s prestige on the international stage, reinforced its image as a defender of Christianity (particularly against Ottoman expansion), and legitimized Spanish interventions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Today, the title remains part of the full titulary of the Spanish monarch, alongside other historical claims like “King of Gibraltar” and “Lord of Biscay.”

Its retention symbolizes the continuity of the Spanish monarchy and its rich historical legacy, connecting modern Spain to its past as a global power with far-reaching dynastic connections and territorial claims.

2. What is the Order of the Golden Fleece, and what is its connection to Spanish monarchs?

The Order of the Golden Fleece, founded in 1430 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious orders of chivalry.

Its creation was inspired by the mythological quest of Jason and the Argonauts, symbolizing the noble virtues of chivalry and the wealth of the Burgundian territories.

The Order’s connection to Spanish monarchs began in 1516 when Charles I of Spain (also known as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) inherited it through his Burgundian ancestry.

As the Habsburg dynasty ruled both Spain and Austria, the Order split into two branches after the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714): the Spanish and the Austrian.

The Spanish branch, continuously associated with the crown, became a symbol of the monarchy’s prestige and international connections.

Spanish kings, as Grand Masters, used the Order to reward loyalty, diplomatic service, and exceptional merit, bestowing it upon Spanish grandees, foreign royalty, and distinguished individuals.

Notable recipients have included Napoleon Bonaparte, Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington), and numerous European monarchs.

Today, King Felipe VI continues this tradition as the Order’s Grand Master.

While membership is now largely ceremonial, it remains one of the most exclusive chivalric orders, with the iconic emblem of a golden ram’s fleece suspended from a collar of flints and steels symbolizing the spark of chivalry.

The Order’s continued existence and its association with the Spanish crown serve as a tangible link to Spain’s historical role in European affairs and the enduring legacy of medieval chivalric ideals in modern monarchy.

3. Do Spanish monarchs have any role in government today?

Spanish monarchs, while no longer wielding direct political power, retain significant constitutional and ceremonial roles in the modern Spanish government.

As stipulated in the 1978 Spanish Constitution, the monarch is the head of state and a symbol of national unity, embodying the continuity of the Spanish state.

The king’s governmental functions, though largely ceremonial, are constitutionally mandated and include sanctioning and promulgating laws passed by the Cortes Generales (Spanish Parliament), formally appointing the Prime Minister after general elections and other high-ranking officials, calling for elections or referendums when appropriate, and acting as the Supreme Commander of the Spanish Armed Forces.

The monarch also plays a crucial role in international relations, receiving foreign heads of state and representing Spain in international forums.

Additionally, the king has the right to be informed on all state affairs and can express opinions or warnings to the government, though these communications remain confidential.

In times of constitutional crisis, the monarch’s role can become more prominent, as demonstrated during the 1981 attempted coup d’état when King Juan Carlos I’s intervention was crucial in maintaining democracy.

However, it’s important to note that while the monarch performs these functions, they must remain politically neutral and cannot be held accountable for their acts, which must be countersigned by the Prime Minister or relevant ministers.

This system ensures that while the Spanish monarchy continues to play a significant symbolic and procedural role, the essence of political power resides with the democratically elected government, maintaining Spain’s status as a constitutional monarchy where sovereignty ultimately belongs to the Spanish people.

References: List of Spanish Monarchs from Unification

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“By the People Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents.” Crowd.loc.gov, crowd.loc.gov/campaigns/herencia-centuries-of-spanish-legal-documents/. Accessed 10 July 2024.

“HomeLa Monarquía En La Historia – the Monarchy through History.” Casareal.es, casareal.es/EN/MonarquiaHistoria/Paginas/historia-monarquia.aspx.

“King Felipe VI.” AP News, apnews.com/hub/king-felipe-vi.

“Kings and Queens Regnant of Spain | Britannica.” Www.britannica.com, www.britannica.com/topic/Kings-and-Queens-Regnant-of-Spain-1830606.

“Spanish Kings and Queens at the White House.” WHHA (En-US), www.whitehousehistory.org/press-room/press-backgrounders/spanish-kings-and-queens-at-the-white-house. Accessed 10 July 2024.

“The Bourbon Family: Three Kingdoms and a Duchy – Real Casa Di Borbone Delle Due Sicilie.” Realcasadiborbone.it, realcasadiborbone.it/en/history/the-bourbon-family-three-kingdoms-and-a-duchy/. Accessed 10 July 2024.

“The Habsburgs’ Spanish Dream.” Die Welt Der Habsburger, www.habsburger.net/en/chapter/habsburgs-spanish-dream. Accessed 10 July 2024.

“The Spanish Royal Family Tree, Explained.” Town & Country, 4 Feb. 2023, www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a42678955/spanish-royal-family-tree/.