Biography of the Worst Stateman in Europe: Don Manuel de Godoy Part 2

About the worst statesman or politician in European history Don Manuel de Godoy of Spain, his failures dealing with Napoleon and fighting Portugal.

DON MANUEL DE GODOY (1767-1851).

Royal favorite.

At 25, Godoy was made Prime Minister. He quickly antagonized Louis XVI of France. Then when the Bastille fell, Godoy sought to appease the new French Republic and bargained for the return of Bourbon rule. The revolutionists were outraged when he suggested they restore the monarchy and go set up a republic, if they liked, on the island of San Domingo. By way of reply, they cut off Louis's head.

Aroused by such treatment of a King--and a Bourbon at that--Spain went to war to stomp out French radicalism once and for all. Within months, French troops had crossed the Pyrenees. Godoy quickly sued for peace and began currying favor with Napoleon, hoping to make a powerful ally out of his late enemy. His efforts won Spain 12 years of war with England and the annihilation of Spanish naval power at Trafalgar.

Meanwhile, Godoy had acquired a full-time mistress and a wife, in addition to keeping up his amour with the Queen. Now a dissolute 36, the Prime Minister was "a big, sturdy, coarse man, with a bright red complexion and a heavy, sleepy, sensual look," according to one observer.

In 1801, he collaborated with Napoleon in the invasion of Portugal. While Godoy was reveling in the subjugation of his neighbor, French troops marched into Spain and forced the abdication of Carlos IV. Godoy was nearly torn to shreds by an angry mob, then was summoned to Bayonne by Napoleon along with the deposed Carlos IV and Maria Luisa. Napoleon received the trio graciously and ordered them into exile. They retired to Rome, taking along Godoy's entourage of wife, mistresses, and children. While the Napoleonic Wars raged, and new crown heads came and went in Spain, the pitiful little group spun out their years in Italy.

In 1819, both Carlos and Maria Luisa died. The Little Corporal was gone now too. Godoy's entourage deserted him and he was left alone. Many years later, the new Spanish monarch, Queen Isabella--who was almost certainly Godoy's granddaughter--restored some of his titles. But he was still a man without a country.

Now, stooped and gray-whiskered, he moved to Paris, where he was often seen in later years playing with French children in the Tuileries. He died at 84, utterly forgotten in a strange land.

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