Treaty of Valençay: Background, Causes and Consequences

He Treaty of Valençay was the result of negotiations between the representatives of Napoleon Bonaparte and Fernando VII, deposed King of Spain, in the French town that gives it its name. It was signed on December 11, 1813. Through this agreement, the French allowed Fernando VII to return to Spain and recover the throne.

The War of Independence executed by the Spaniards against the occupying Napoleonic army meant that France did not have enough troops to confront its European enemies. Some important defeats (like the one that happened in Russia) and the preparation of a coalition against him, convinced Bonaparte to end the conflict in Spain.

Treaty of Valençay Fernando VII

Ferdinand VII wanted to return to the throne. In Spain, apart from the fight against the invaders, liberals and absolutists faced each other, who were finally supported by the king after a few years of liberal government. Although the Spanish courts did not give carte blanche to the treaty, Napoleon let Fernando VII return to his country a year later.


  • 1 Background
    • 1.1 Napoleon and the war in Europe
    • 1.2 Fernando VII
    • 1.3 The treaty
  • 2 Causes
    • 2.1 Spanish resistance
    • 2.2 Defeat of Napoleon in Russia and threat in Europe
  • 3 Consequences
    • 3.1 End of the war
    • 3.2 Return of Fernando VII
  • 4 References


We must go back to another treaty signed between Napoleonic France and Spain to find the clearest antecedent of what happened in Valençay. This is the Treaty of Fontainebleau, by which the Spanish allowed the passage of the Gallic troops through their territory to reach Portugal.

However, the French ended up seizing the peninsula. Through various strategies, Napoleon won the abdication of Charles IV and his son, Ferdinand VII, and placed Joseph Bonaparte on the throne. This provoked the uprising of the Spanish people, beginning the War of Independence.

Napoleon and the war in Europe

After a few years of unstoppable advance, Napoleon's troops began to suffer defeats. By 1812 several of his enemies formed the Sixth Coalition, which defeated the French in Russia and Germany. Meanwhile, in Spain the conflict lengthened, which forced to maintain an important presence of troops.

Already in 1813 the war fronts were closer and closer to France itself. From Spain, the English who fought with the locals against the invasion were close to being able to attack Napoleon from the south.

All this forced the emperor to terminate his presence in Spain and to use the battalions assigned there to present the final battle. For this he planned how to return the throne to Fernando VII, who was imprisoned in the Castle of Valençay along with his father.

Fernando VII

According to historians, Fernando VII was quite isolated in his confinement. In addition, the French never considered him too capable to govern a country.

Napoleon sent his mediators to speak with the king in November 1813. The main message was that France wanted to restore good relations with Spain, blaming the British for everything that happened.

In addition, he informed Fernando that a very important liberal trend had become strong in the country. The Constitution of 1812 had been promulgated the previous year, one of the most advanced of the time and which the conservatives and the Church had not liked.

In this way, the French offered the king help to regain the throne; In principle, Fernando VII pointed out that there was a regency in Spain, which was the power to negotiate.

Before this answer, Napoleón sent to the castle to Jose Miguel de Carvajal, Duke of San Carlos. Carvajal, known to the king, was in charge of convincing him to accept the offer.

The treaty

After a few weeks of dialogue, the document was closed on December 8 of that same 1813 and was signed on the 11th. Through it, Napoleon declared the end of hostilities in Spain, as well as the return of Fernando VII to the throne.

On the part of the king there was a commitment to recover commercial relations between both countries, as well as some economic aspects. Other articles forced the French and British troops to leave, at the same time, the Spanish territory.

The French government ratified the agreement without problems. However, neither the regency nor the Spanish courts approved it. Napoleon, who knew the war lost in Spain, allowed to return to Fernando VII anyway, which became effective in March 1814.


Spanish resistance

Although the seizure of power in Spain had been easy for the Napoleonic troops, the popular resistance offered soon embarrassed the invading army. There were numerous urban uprisings and defeats as famous as the battle of Bailén.

Over time, the Spanish resistance was organized and the Central Supreme Junta was formed, a kind of parallel government that recognized the sovereignty of Ferdinand VII.

Napoleon's attempt to end the resistance had a first moment of success. Soon, the troops sent took Madrid and Zaragoza, looking like the war would end the French victory. Only Cádiz, with British help, resisted the French push.

In that city the Constitution of 1812 was promulgated, with a clearly liberal character. This did not please either the French or the supporters of the absolutist monarchy.

As for the military field, guerrilla warfare was surprisingly effective. Their actions eroded the French and forced them to maintain a high number of troops in Spain.

This ended up being one of the causes of the emperor's decision to sign the Treaty, since he needed men to face the battles that awaited him in the rest of Europe.

Defeat of Napoleon in Russia and threat in Europe

The French defeat in Leipzig and the one suffered in Russia forced Napoleon to withdraw part of the troops stationed in Spain.

News of the creation of a new coalition against him made it mandatory for the French ruler to reorganize his army. At that time, trying to stop their enemies in the center of the continent was more important than what happened in Spain.


End of the war

One of the direct consequences of the treaty was the official end of the War of Independence in Spain. With this ended a conflict that had meant a great loss of human lives, either by fighting or diseases.

It had also led to the exile of many Spaniards, curiously the so-called Francophile. These, belonging to the most intellectual and enlightened layers of the country, suffered accusations of treason.

Trade with the colonies had been interrupted during the conflict. Despite the end of the war, Spain never reached the same level as before, especially in relation to some areas of America.

Return of Fernando VII

The Treaty of Valençay failed to pacify Spain. The French left the territory, but the struggle between liberals and absolutists remained for several years.

Fernando VII regained the throne, although at first he was forced to swear to the Constitution promulgated by the liberal courts. However, part of the Spanish population (shouting"Long live the chains"), the Church and much of the nobility clearly advocated the return to the absolutist monarchy.

Thus, in May 1814 the king and his supporters ended the hopes of the liberals. Spain returned to the side of the absolutist powers and made himself available to whatever they decided at the Vienna Congress on European restructuring after the defeat of Napoleon.


  1. Méndez, Pablo. Treaty of Valençay, the peace that restored the Bourbons. Retrieved from
  2. Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports. Absolutist restoration of Fernando VII. Retrieved from
  3. Otero, Nacho. The return to Spain of King Fernando VII,"the Desired One". Retrieved from
  4. Sir Charles William Chadwick Oman. A History of the Peninsular War, Volume VII: August 1813 to April 14, 1814. Retrieved from
  5. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Peninsular War. Retrieved from
  6. Jackson, Andrew C. The Peninsular War. 1808 -1814. Retrieved from
  7. Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ferdinand VII. Retrieved from

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