THE PHRASE "the Church Militant" has a special flavour in Spain. After one of the battles described in Edgar Holt's The Carlist Wars in Spain (Putnam, 35s.), the dead included "a priest, dressed in full canonicals, who had headed many charges, holding a crucifix in his hands".
The Carlists have been claiming the throne of Spain since 1833: recently they emerged into the limelight of the European press when Carlos Hugo, the son of the current pretender, married Princess Irene of the Netherlands.
Mr. Holt has written a vivid general account of Carlism from its beginning till the present day, with particular emphasis on the civil wars of the nineteenth century. His story of the Carlist struggles is lucid and readable and describes a whole gallery of fascinating personalities, some lurid, all colourful.
Mr. Holt does not expound the Carlist doctrine of the double legitimacy of origin and exercise of the royal power: nor does he examine at length the relationship between the Church and the Monarchy in the Carlist tradition. His book is essentially a narrative.
On reading it one is struck by uncanny echoes of more recent Spanish history: the 1834 massacre of the Madrid clergy as the result of lying propaganda, the shooting of prisoners, the quarrels among allies, the stoic Spanish indifference to death; and this comment from Lord Palmerston's ambassador in Madrid, George Villiers; "The great mass of the people is honest, but it is Carlist. It hates what is called liberal government— liberal institutions — liberal men, because by experience it knows that worse usage comes from that state of things than from a single despot."
J. P. Donnelly