The Decade of Relations between France and England. Years 1830-1840
The main concern for France in 1830 was her need to break her isolation and find and ally; since Britain was the most receptive to the new Liberal regime in Paris in 1830 she was the only option. For this reason France backed down to Palmerston frequently during the Belgian crisis of 1830-31. However, the policy of Louis Phillippe, much the same as the Bourbons had done, was to seek to spread French influence beyond her own boundaries. In the 1820's Spain had been the main zone of influence for the French with 100,000 troops intervening in 1823 to quell the revolt troubling Ferdinand VII. Whilst needing to cultivate Britain as an ally France did not want to abandon her position of strength in the peninsula and as I shall continue, once Louis Phillippe had become established, he sought to contest with Britain for influence in Spain as events unfolded.
With the three Eastern Powers already against Britain and becoming increasingly so into the early 1830's, Palmerston and Grey also had to protect themselves against isolation, which in effect meant some form of co-operation with France. However, weak though the French were, Palmerston remained suspicious of them and did not want to be drawn to close (hence the British rejection of defensive alliance proposed by Talleyrand in 1834). Also Britain aimed to steal as much advantage from French weakness as possible and as France reasserted itself, Britain had no intention of surrendering that advantage. This lead to friction between the two countries which was sometimes caused and sometimes exacerbated by events in the Iberian peninsula where Britain had historical involvement in Spain since the Peninsular War and in Portugal, chiefly since the beginning of the Don Miguel crisis in 1827 which remained unresolved in 1830 . By the end Britain were not linked to France as much through desire as by way of the best means to keep France in check and restrain the Eastern powers. As Bartlett says "the Anglo-French entente limped on through much of the 1830's for want of a viable alternative." (1)
After relatively successful co-operation to settle the Belgian crisis in 1831-32 France and Britain combined again in 1834 faced with a duel problem in the Iberian Peninsula. In Portugal there was the ongoing problem of Dom Miguel who was contesting the throne with the constitutional ruler and British favourite, Donna Maria. In Spain an ironically similar position had occurred as a result of Ferdinand's death in 1833. His daughter Isabella had assumed the monarchy under the regency of Christina, but her uncle Don Carlos had claimed his legitimate right to rule under the Salic Law. For the reasons already mentioned, these events provided a stimulus for Anglo-French co-operation although Palmerston was keen to ensure that Britain was to play the leading role and so turned down an offer from Talleyrand of a defensive alliance. What transpired was the Quadruple Alliance between Spain, Portugal, France and Britain which was to provide a point of reference for all Anglo-French discussions and disputes relating to the Iberia for the next twelve years. Although this Alliance can also be seen as a reaction to the Treaty of Munchengratz and Convention of Berlin which had confirmed the Neo-Holy Alliance in the previous year, it was principally an agreement relating to Spain and Portugal with its initial objective to drive out Miguel and restore Portugal to Maria. Seen at the time as a diplomatic coup for Palmerston who ebulliently referred to it as "a capital hit and all of my own doing" (2) since France had been given an undoubtedly subordinate position in the partnership which would leave Britain in the most influential position in both Iberian capitals, the Quadruple Alliance through the way it allowed Spain and Portugal to depend upon her great neighbours, and through the lack of parity given to France which would not be representative of her actual strength for long beyond 1834, became "a source of bitter conflict" (3) between France and Britain once the initial success of defeating Don Miguel was achieved.
The question of intervention in Spain and Portugal caused considerable dispute between London and Paris. Between 1834 and 1847 Lisbon and Madrid made six requests for great power intervention to solve their problems with the Miguellists and Carlists respectively. In 1836 Thiers wanted to end France's subordinate position in the Alliance by sending 10,000 troops into Spain to fight the Carlists and fulfil the spirit of the alliance rather than the letter which precluded French military action in the peninsula. Since Palmerston was opposed to any intervention at that time, let alone intervention by the French, there was almost a severe dispute; this was only avoided because Louis Phillippe, not for the last time, thought that Thiers was taking too big a risk and dismissed him. By 1847 however, after the Moderos coup in Madrid and the Spanish Marriages Affair which had confirmed the predominance of French influence, Louis Phillippe was in a stronger position and was able to force Palmerston to intervene against his better judgement to quell an uprising in Portugal. Spain feared for a Legitimist revival and France saw an opportunity to squeeze British influence in Lisbon as she had done in Madrid and so Palmerston, as Bullen says, was forced to work "with France and Spain because he feared that if he did not they would work against him." (4) In this way we can see that the issue of whether to come to the aid of Spain and Portugal whenever they requested had a considerable effect upon the power struggle between France and Britain.
Ultimately the Carlists were defeated in Spain and the Miguellists, likewise in Portugal, but the battle for influence in the peninsula was not restricted to the military questions in the Quadruple Alliance. The struggle for diplomatic favour was mostly conducted in Spain since the French were prepared to concede English dominance in Lisbon but hoped to be the leading power in Madrid. The British were never prepared to accept this or even to allow the French government equal interest in Madrid.
There developed, therefore, an intense rivalry between the respective embassies in the Spanish capital for favour with the government. This was made more serious by the political situation in Madrid where there were two main parties: the Moderados who favoured the French; and the Progressistas who were pro-British; the dominance of the Progressistas until 1844 helped maintain British supremacy and exacerbated French frustration. However the victory of the Moderados in 1844 gave the French the initiative which was of immense help to Guizot in arranging the marriages of Isabella and her sister. In diplomatic as well as military terms the Quadruple Alliance became as Mosely argues "less a symbol of the union of England and France in the defense of European Liberalism than a confession of their still vigorous rivalry for influence in Spain." (5) In diplomatic terms then it can be seen that whilst the two great powers fought for influence it was ultimately internal events which swung the balance in favour of the French.
The Spanish Marriages affair is usually seen as the nadir of Anglo-French relations with regard to the Iberian Peninsula in the 1830's and 40's. Even though the two powers co-operated afterwards in Portugal in 1847, this was, as I have said, because Palmerston's hands were tied and it can be generally accepted that the entente cordiale counted for little more than confetti after the Marriages affair. It could be argued that the problem arose because of the return to the Foreign Office of Viscount Palmerston, and fear of his blustering style of diplomacy made Guizot rush into action. However developments solely within Spain did play a part. By marrying Isabella to the Duke of Cadiz (who incidentally was from the Moderado camp and hence favourable to the French) at the same time as her sister was betrothed to Duc de Montpensier (son of Louis Phillippe) Guizot was breaking an earlier agreement with Aberdeen and rumours of Cadiz's sterility brought premature fears of a joining of the French and Spanish crowns. It also needs to be remembered, however, that one of the reasons why Guizot worked so hurriedly to arrange the controversial weddings was due to poor relations between the French and Spanish governments. Having won predominance in Madrid the French had begun to realise that not all of their influence was welcomed by the Spanish who were growing discontented with the heavy French presence. The main objective for Guizot was to get Louis Phillippe's son married to Isabella's sister, and this was under threat by the tension in Madrid, tension which a returning Palmerston might exploit. The British objective was to prevent the joining of the two crowns, an aim which conflicted directly with Guizot's action. But it was too late; for all Palmerston's anger and vain attempts to drag the Eastern Powers into the dispute the matter was left for nature to decide. However, the effect on Anglo-French relations was to put a nail in the coffin of the Quadruple Alliance (which had ceased to function effectively by 1836) and the entente cordiale.
There were other smaller issues which affected Anglo-French relations in the Iberian Peninsula in this period, commercial interests being one of the more notable. Britain achieved much more commercial gain through her involvement in Spain and Portugal in the 1830's which was brought about mostly by keeping France in a subordinate diplomatic position. This heightened the frustration in Paris especially as the commercial lobby in France was very powerful at this time. Economic reasons were a powerful force for the French in trying to break out from her second rung position, find new allies, possibly in Austria, and win favour in Madrid. Strategic concerns also played part. French occupation of Algeria in 1836 made it paramount for Britain that she did not seize control of Spain since that would give France the entire mouth of the Mediterranean. Anglo-French relations were also severely affected by events outside the Iberian Peninsula such as economic and strategic control of Belgium; the Eastern Question and the second Mehmet Ali crisis in which Palmerston practically abandoned his French "ally" and played host to the Russian envoy. Events within Spain and Portugal, it should be remembered were not solely responsible for the breakdown of the entente cordiale.
However, there is no doubt that when Europe divided into two groupings in the early 1830's, the main arena of discussion and dispute for the Western group of France and Britain was the Iberian Peninsula, just as Poland had become in the East. The question of intervention, the short sightedness of Palmerston in tying Britain to a treaty which depended on long term French weakness for its success, the diplomatic battles for influence in Madrid, the political unpredictability of the peninsula, and the sharp deviousness of Guizot in arranging the Marriages all affected Anglo-French relations, mostly for the worse. Even during Aberdeen's attempts to conciliate in the 1840's the struggle for influence between the respective missions in Madrid went on. In 1834 France and Britain were able to come to agreement in the Quadruple Alliance but after that the relationship within the entente was dependant to a considerable extent on events South of the Pyrenees.
(1) BARTLETT, C; Britain and the European Balance; Europe's Balance of Power 1815-48 (Macmillan Press: 1979); A. SKED (ed.); p. 156
(2) CHAMBERLAIN, M.E.; "Pax Brittanica" ? British Foreign Policy 1789-1914 (Longman 1988); p.73: sourced to BULWER, H.L; The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston , Volume 2 (3 volumes: 1871-74) p188.
(3) BULLEN, R.; The Great Powers and the Iberian Peninsula 1815-48; Europe's Balance of Power 1815-48 (Macmillan Press: 1979); A. SKED (ed.); p.71
(4) ibid.; p.77
(5) MOSELY, Philip; Intervention and Non-Intervention in Spain; Journal of Modern History, xii; no. 2, 1941; p.1989
BARTLETT, C; Britain and the European Balance; Europe's Balance of Power 1815-48 (Macmillan Press: 1979); A. SKED (ed.)
BULLEN, R.; The Great Powers and the Iberian Peninsula 1815-48; Europe's Balance of Power 1815-48 (Macmillan Press: 1979); A. SKED (ed.)
MOSELY, Philip; Intervention and Non-Intervention in Spain; Journal of Modern History,xii; no. 2, 1941
CHAMBERLAIN, M.E.; "Pax Brittanica" ? British Foreign Policy 1789-1914 (Longman 1988)
BULLEN, R; France and Europe 1815-48; Europe's Balance of Power 1815-48 (Macmillan Press: 1979); A. SKED (ed.)
BRIDGE; F.R. & BULLEN, R.; The Great Powers and the European States System 1815-1914; (Longman 1980).
RICH, Norman; Great Power Diplomacy (McGraw and Hill 1992)
CRAIG, Gordon; The System of Alliances and the Balance of Power; New Cambridge Modern History, Volume X ; J.P.T. Bury (ed.); (Cambridge 2nd edition 1964: 1st ed.1960).