Ramón Cabrera (The tiger of Maestrazgo) and his troops break the lines of Morrella (Castellón). Painting by Augusto Ferrer Dalmau
The Carlists rebelled many times against the Spanish throne for good reason. The Carlists fought to preserve traditional, Catholic Spain and to rescue it from social and economic liberalism that has largely ruined the West up to the present. In order to fully understand Carlism, we need to go back in time. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz stated in the book, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism: The Borderlands of Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries:
“No country in Europe resisted the influence of the French Revolution more steadfastly than Spain. In the 1790s the Spanish people went to war against the French Convention with great enthusiasm. In 1808 the nation rose up en masse against Napoleon and his revolutionary troops that confined King Ferdinand VII (1808-33) to house arrest and invaded the land. For six years Spaniards fought tenaciously in the Peninsular War for their freedom and for their traditional world view and way of life. The most common mottos embroidered on their banners and printed on their manifestos sum up their motives: 'Altar and Throne' and 'God, Fatherland, King.'"
Joseph "Pepe Botella" Bonaparte
The French Revolution occurred in 1789, and afterwards the ideals of liberalism spread all across Europe. Napoleon Bonaparte, whom takes over France in 1799, would invade Portugal and Spain in 1807, overthrow Ferdinand VII (Spain was ruled by the Bourbon dynasty), and installed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as a puppet ruler. Napoleon’s brother Joseph would rule Spain from 1808-1813 and was known as José I. Many Spaniards did not accept this and the Peninsular war occurred in which many Spaniards resisted Napoleonic rule and wanted Ferdinand VII to come back (Ferdinand VII was imprisoned in France under Napoleon). In 1812, the Cortes de Cádiz established a constitution that reflected the ideals of liberalism. It supported a constitutional monarchy, gave way for economic liberalism, reduced Church influence in society, and supported national sovereignty. It was Spain's first constitution and the most liberal during that time period. In 1813, when Ferdinand VII regained the Spanish throne, he rejected it and arrested many Liberal leaders who approved of the constitution. However, Spain would never be the same again after the Napoleonic occupation. Chodakiewicz stated in the book, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism:
“After Spain confronted the revolutionary French directly in two wars, an aggressive minority of homegrown liberals inspired by the French Revolution emerged. They caused Spain to split: proponents of the new revolutionary, or liberal, regime faced defenders of the old order.”
The Spaniards would thus be divided politically, as there were those who defended Spanish traditionalism against those who became liberals and revolutionaries. Many Spanish liberal politicians during this era were freemasons, such as Rafael del Riego (who sought to restore the 1812 constitution), Francisco Espoz y Mina, Cipriano de Palafox y Portocarrero (Spanish noble who fought for Joseph Bonaparte during the Peninsular War and was later honored by Napoleon himself in Paris), etc…
Ferdinand VII was slowly dying by the 1830s, and issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1830 to allow his daughter, Isabella II, to become queen of Spain upon his death. This Pragmatic Sanction removed the right for his brother, Don Carlos, to become king of Spain. Ferdinand died in 1833 and immediately Spaniards were divided on who should inherit the throne. Once again, Chodakiewicz states in Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism:
“In 1830 King a Fernando VII and his wife, María Cristina, became the parents of a baby girl, Isabel. According to principles of the Salic Law, which the Bourbon dynasty from their own French heritage had introduced into Spain during the eighteenth century, no female could inherit the throne. Such a posture was alien to Spanish history, nevertheless there had been no queen reigning in Spain since Isabel I more than three hundred years earlier. Thus, Fernando VII named his infant daughter heir to the throne, as Princess of Asturias. Upon the king’s death in the fall of 1833 Isabel became Queen Isabel II, with María Cristina serving as Queen Regent for her young daughter until 1845.” 
British historian Henry Kamen wrote in his book, The Disinherited, about the birth of the Carlist movement:
“At the king’s death in 1833 the country was effectively thrown into a period of dynastic civil war, between on the one hand the partisans of young queen Isabella and her mother the regent María Cristina, and on the other supporters of the late king’s brother, Don Carlos. The followers of Don Carlos, known as ‘Carlists,’ backed his right to succeed to the throne, and set in train a powerful armed movement that played a significant part in the politics of northern Spain for nearly a century.”
Those who supported Don Carlos to the throne were Carlists while those that supported Queen Isabella II were known as Isabelinos (or Cristinos due to her mother that acted as regent). Chodakiewicz mentions how Christina sought the support of liberals to save Queen Isabella’s claims to the throne, and as a result, the monarchy that would rule Spain for many decades to come was intertwined with liberalism, which Carlism strongly opposed:
“Queen María Cristina promised to the liberals a free hand in transforming the government if they would support Isabel’s shaky claims to the crown... For the following one hundred years, the throne in Spain would be identified with liberalism and contested by banished members of the royal family who refused to make their peace with the Revolution. Thus, in the early 1830s political traditionalism was enriched by a new element: legitimism. Spanish traditionalism became known as Carlism or Carlismo when it acquired a leader of royal blood named Carlos.”
Henry Kamen goes on to explain the political doctrine of Carlism and how it was supported by many Spaniards such as Basques and Catalans and thus had a broad base:
“Their central doctrine was male dynastic legitimacy: the Spanish throne should go to the male line heirs of Ferdinand VII, namely his brother the Infante Carlos, rather than to his female-line heirs (who included Queen Isabella II). Beyond the dynastic question, Carlism was in essence a traditionalist movement that developed both reactionary and revolutionary tendencies. It supported the Catholic Church against Liberalism, called for the restoration of the Inquisition, and defended regional rights (the ‘fueros’, mainly of the Basques and Catalans) against central government. The broad base gave it immense support throughout northern Spain, and triggered several small civil wars.”
The First Carlist War broke out in 1833 and lasted until 1839. The Carlists were supported by the Portuguese at first (Miguel I of Portugal, a traditionalist monarch, supported the Carlists until 1834 when he was overthrown and exiled) while the Isabelinos were supported by Great Britain and France. Chodakiewicz discusses many facts surrounding the First Carlist War:
"The First Carlist War was the most serious of the five major fratricidal conflicts of the nineteenth century. Traditionalists fought against an international coalition of four states bent on transforming the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal, Great Britain, and France of Louis-Philippe sent men, weapons, ammunition, and funds to Regent María Cristina's government (1833-40) in Madrid. Portugal and France patrolled their respective borders with Spain, and the British navy blockaded the coasts controlled by the legitimists. The Carlists received moral support from seven or eight governments and token financial aid. The two most generous European rulers were from small Italian states. No foreign troops were sent to help the Carlists. Nevertheless, several hundred Realist volunteers from different countries made their way to Spain individually to defend Europe's old Christian order on the Spanish front and to serve the pious Carlos V. Many were Frenchmen-sons of veterans of the Vendée and former officers in Charles X's Royal Guard who retired when their king was deposed in 1830. A good number of this small group were Portuguese who arrived after King Michael I lost his throne to his revolutionary brother Dom Pedro and little niece Maria II da Gloria in 1834. The efforts made by four governments were not able to defeat the Carlists. Well over half a million Spaniards alone fought the legitimists over a seven-year period. Some 100,000 of these men died in battle. The Carlists finally lost the war because they were sold out by one of their own key military commanders."
Portugal joined Great Britain and France against the Carlists once Miguel I was overthrown in Portugal. The Carlists did receive aid and assistance, but the liberals received even more. The Rothschilds, the richest banking family dynasty in world of Jewish origins started getting increasingly involve in Spain. Irish Catholic priest Denis Fahey wrote in his book, Rulers of Russia, the following:
"The Rothschilds were anti-Carlist in the war of succession, which was going on, because they feared that the success of Don Carlos would mean that they would lose the famous Almaden quicksilver mines. By a ‘bear’ operation on the stock-exchange the Rothschilds sent Spanish securities tumbling down. The Prime Minister, Count Toreno, was forced to resign, and the Rothschilds realised a profit far beyond the amount of the bribe they had given him previously. Count Toreno was succeeded by Mendizábal, a Jew by race and religion. He had been speculating in Spanish securities but had ‘got the tip’ from Nathan Rothschild when the Rothschilds decided to bring about the slump. Mendizábal increased the Spanish deficit. All that and more can be learned from Count Corti’s Reign of the House of Rothschild. It will serve as a commentary on the laconic information we get in the Catholic Encyclopedia (article on Spain) wherein we read: ‘…the Liberals ruled, except in the provinces occupied by the Carlists, and the moderate ministry of Martinez de la Rosa… was succeeded by those of Toreno and of Mendizábal, who put up the possessions of the Church for sale (1836).’ The Catholic Encyclopedia omits to say that all the convents, with some exceptions, had been confiscated in 1835. It makes no reference to the collusion between Rothschild and Mendizábal.”
Rothschild family coat of arms
The Rothschilds supported the Isabelinos against the Carlists from 1834 and 1840 due to economic interests and they were lenders who had economic influence in both Great Britain and France. The money that the Isabelinos received from these two nations helped them a lot in winning the First Carlist War. And Mendizábal, Jew and Rothschild agent, issued decrees known as the ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal that suppressed and dispersed Religious Orders along with disestablishing the Church in Spain and selling Church property. He served as prime minister of the liberal regime under Queen Isabella II in Spain. Chodakiewicz wrote in Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism:
"Massive confiscations of municipal and ecclesiastical property and a new form of taxation helped launch capitalism. Many bishops were forced into exile, most male religious orders were outlawed, social services provided by the Catholic Church disappeared, peasants were driven off their lands their families had farmed for generations, and the clergy and modest classes were disenfranchised for lack of property. Carlism emerged during this difficult time, essentially, as a defense of the legacy of the past."
These liberal reforms launched Capitalism, destroyed the influence of the Catholic Church in society, and hurt the poor and modest economically. Carlism was seen as a movement to fight against these changes. As such, Carlism was actually supported by many Spaniards compared to Liberalism:
"Unlike liberalism, Carlism had a strong popular base. Legitimist leaders and thinkers were responsive to the concerns of the modest sectors of society."
Chodakiewicz wrote in Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism of how Carlism appealed to many Spaniards:
“It is generally agreed that in the 1830s, Carlism was a multi-class movement with particular strength in rural northern and northeastern Spain, with pockets of support among artisans and journeymen in the smaller cities and towns of the region.”
Carlism was supported by many Catalans, Basques, the lower classes and other groups because Carlism actually appealed to many Spaniards. The Catalans and Basques appreciated Carlism's concept of Fueros, which is regional autonomy while the Liberals wanted a strong centralized state. The lower classes appreciated Carlism for Carlism sought to ensure that the poor were protected economically. During the First Carlist War, the liberal regime actually expelled many Carlist supporters to Cuba and Puerto Rico in order to break their morale. Henry Kamen states once again:
“The government tried to root out its popular support by deporting activists to the New World. In 1836 there were around 2,200 Carlists languishing in Cuba, most of them young peasants from the mountains of Navarre. Prisoners were also sent to Puerto Rico. In theory they were meant to serve a six-year exile to allow them to cool off, after which they could make their way back.”
The Isabelinos won the First Carlist War in 1839 and as a result, many Carlists were exiled. Kamen wrote:
“At the end of the First Carlist War in the summer of 1839 possibly over 30,000 left the country and crossed the Pyrenees into France, but most were ordinary soldiers with neither the resources nor the inclination to stay in another country, and they returned in 1840 after the queen issued an amnesty.”
Don Carlos, Isabella II’s uncle, fled Spain after losing the civil war. Kamen stated: “…Don Carlos himself, left Spain in 1839 and spent the rest of his life in exile, first in France and then in Italy.” The Carlists lost and their movement was stopped by the Liberal forces, who emerged victorious after the civil war. However, the Carlist movement did not die out and the second and third Carlist wars would break out throughout the 19th century and Carlism would still be influential in Spanish politics during the 20th century.
 Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg. 9
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg. 10
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg xi
 Henry Kamen. The Disinherited. Pg. 188
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg 11
 Kamen. The Disinherited, pg. 211
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg 12
 Fr. Denis Fahey, Rulers of Russia, pg. 89-90
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg 10
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg 12
 Chodakiewicz, Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism, pg 120
 Henry Kamen. The Disinherited, pg. 212
 Kamen. The Disinherited, pg. 212
 Kamen, The Disinherited, pg. 212
Chodakiewicz, Marek. Spanish Carlism and Polish Nationalism: The Borderlands of Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries. 1st ed. Charlottesville: Leopolis Press, 2003. Print.
Fahey, Rev. Denis. Rulers of Russia. 3rd. ed. 1940. Print.
Kamen, Henry. The Disinherited: The Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975. 1st. ed. Harper, 2007. Print.