The desolated vision of Madrid as a frustrated capital does not mean that nothing moved in one hundred years or that the 19th century passed without change worth mentioning. It is better to say that the starting point was so ruinous that all the progress of the century, abundant with them, was not sufficient to bring Madrid out of its humiliation.
The origin of the bad is well known. The war disasters, the financial bankruptcy of the monarchy and those twenty years of despotism which Varela defined as "a horrible period of our history". Things were so bad in 1833, that they could not get any worse.
Disaster, first and foremost, demographic, with illnesses and hungers that swept through the city. In 1804, the lack of sustenance caused by the bad harvests and the war between France and England brought difficulties to the oceanic commerce causing the first hunger of the century, the population was reduced from 180.300 inhabitants through the census in 1798 to the 176.374 that appeared on the 1804 census.
But it that was not a grave crisis, the one from 1812 left its mark in the memories of the witnesses as an "spectacle of desperation and anguish".
Men, women and children of all conditions, remembers Mesonero Romanos, "abandoned their miserable houses, dragging themselves through the streets to implore for public charity, to steal if only a stem of lettuce, that under normal times was thrown in the garbage".
Human beings expiring in the middle of the streets at the height of day; cries of women and children next to the cadavers of their parents and siblings, lying on the sidewalks.
Added to the disasters of the war, almost immediately, was the return of an absolute power ready to exterminate the beginnings of the liberalism that started in Cádiz a few years before. The 13th of May of 1814 king Fernando VII celebrated "his public entrance in Madrid through the middle of the triumphant arches". But the city does not receive its king unanimously in the desire or the enthusiasm.
Frenetic acclaim from the fanatic part of the Village, while the agonies and the cries of the families of the illustrious men in the dungeons go on.
The physical destruction produced by the war and the demolition of the churches, convents and private homes ordered by the "King Intruder", with the purpose of opening the saturate urban zones, was like a symbolic representation of the moral and political destruction that signify the return to the absolutism for the majority of the madrilenians, and that buried the city in the abandon and paralysis.
If the hunger and the death that impregnated Madrid's life at the beginning of the century were not enough to stop the migratory flows, the new political climate that felt through the city will caused a clear stagnation, from the one that scarcely started to come out after the third part of the century.
That the crisis of 1812 caused the death of some 30.000 people of more than seven years, it did not prevent that, in the next census of 1825, the city overcomes for the first time the 200.000 inhabitants. But that immigration that started shortly after the war ended, was far from showing the dynamic demographic, because the city stood still around that magnitude, until a few years before the middle of the century.
The general census of 1845, gives a population of 48.935 neighbors and 206.714 inhabitants, four or five thousand more than in 1825. Only after the middle of the century will begin the quick demographic growth of the city that will bend, from that moment and for twice its population, in a period of no more than eighty years.
For the moment, the relative demographic holt is the inevitable result of the events that followed the falling of Madrid as an "Only Court" and the difficulties to build over the ruins of the capital worth of the monarchs, for the one that the most illustrious habitants longer for.
In fact, the end of the Old Régime and the beginnings of the Liberal State were not in Madrid, nor in Spain, the work of a prosperous mercantile and industrial bourgeoisie, but rather result of an economic ruin that dragged on its path the political failure.
To the old causes of our poverty - wrote Manuel Alonso de Viado in Madrid's Magazine, in 1838 - we must add the disasters of the civil war that aggravate the debt of the state and hurt the imbalance between the revenue and the expending, seen since 1792. The consequence was inevitable.
Since there was not reduction on the state's budget " sooner or later there have to be a pit, which through it, fell the Gothic architecture of the absolute monarchy that had just started to reestablish with the help of one hundred thousand mercenary bayonets".
The breakage of the absolute state was the beginning of the nobility's decline, resident in Madrid and that followed, as the state, to spend more than their revenue. The spending was not reduced, but the revenue from the land suffered, since a few years before, without any new flow of rents.
Without a doubt, it was not in Madrid, with the occasion of the war against France or later, in 1820, during the revolution and the liberal triennium, or at the end with the popular riots and insurrections that transpired from 1834 and that obligated the regent queen to seek the alliance of the crown with the liberalism.
There was no social revolution that physically liquidated the dominant class of the Old Régimen, following a division of their properties.
That social phenomenon - that the nobility endured although with some economic difficulties - it is one of the keys, if not the key, of the future city revolution: Madrid, after the death of Fernando VII, the war and the revolution, still presumed to be "the happiest and most vivacious court in the world".
Court equal society and at the head of the Madrid's society sparkled, when the country was at war, personalities as the Duke of Osuna, of arrogant presence, extreme amiability and uncommon talent, or the Duke of San Carlos, that even lacking the prestige that brought Osuna his eight million of reals from rentals yearly, was able to indulge in certain turkish liquor brought to him specifically from Constantinople.
They were, even if the details of social life did not show it, times of revolution. But the revolution that the nobility observed from their palaces is only a hint of revolution, and after a period of doubt and lament for times passed, they return to open their palaces and started to meet at their exclusives handouts and do what they called "Society Life".
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