Isabella was born in Madrid on 10 October 1830 as the eldest daughter of King Ferdinand VII of Spain and his fourth wife, who was also his niece, Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Her father had been married three times before, but he had only had two short-lived children with his second wife. His first wife had suffered two miscarriages, and his third wife had been childless. Isabella’s mother gave birth to her sister two years later. Tragedy struck in 1833 when her father died. He set aside salic law allowing for Isabella’s succession. His heir had been his brother Carlos.
Her title was disputed by her uncle and her reign was maintained through the support of the army. Her mother acted as regent for a while.
On 10 October 1846 Isabella married her double-first-cousin Francis, Duke of Cádiz, while her youngest sister married Antoine d’Orléans, Duke of Montpensier on the very same day. Neither marriage turned out happy. Francis was rumoured to be homosexual, and the paternity of their children was often in question. Francis and Isabella had twelve children, though only five lived to adulthood.
- Louis (1849)
- Ferdinand (1850)
- Maria Isabel (1851–1931)
- Maria Cristina (1854)
- Margarita (1854)
- Alfonso XII (1857–1885)
- Maria de la Concepcion (1859–1861)
- Maria del Pilar (1861–1879)
- María de la Paz (1862–1946)
- Francisco de Asis (1863)
- Eulalia de Asis de la Piedad (1864–1958)
- Francis de Asis Leopolda (1866)
Her personal reign lasted from 1843 to her forced abdication in 1868. She often interfered in politics and was not loved for it. During the Glorious Revolution Isabella was deposed and the First Spanish Republic was ushered in. She was replaced with Amadeo I, who was the second son of Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. After the collapse of the Republic her son Alfonso XII was placed on the throne. Isabella remained in France, where she went into exile, and she seldom travelled abroad. She did grow closer to her husband again until his death in 1902. She followed him not much later, dying on 9 April 1904. She is buried in El Escorial.