To provide some perspective, we need to step back a generation and move from Italy to Spain where King Ferdinand VII was suffering from a bit of King Henry VIII Syndrome--he could not manage to father a male heir despite having many wives, though he at least did not kill and divorce his wife like his English predecessor. Ferdinand started by marrying his first cousin Maria Antonia of the Two Sicilies (aunt of our Princess), but she suffered miscarriages with no live births and died at the age of 21. Secondly, he married a niece (yes, Uncle Ferdy married his niece), Maria Isabel of Portugal, who gave him two daughters, both of whom died as infants. Maria Isabel died giving birth to the last one, who was stillborn, when she was only 21. So, Ferdinand married for a third time, this time to a much more distant cousin, Maria Josepha Amalia of Saxony, who managed to live to the ripe old age of 25 but gave no children to her husband.
|Maria Christina and her uncle/husband|
At home, Maria Christina, who was 22 years his junior, had some idea that he might not live long enough to sire a son--a real problem in a country where women were no longer permitted to ascend the throne unless there were absolutely no males left in the family, the fine example of Queen Isabella I notwithstanding. Maria Christina convinced him to set aside this dynastic rule, so that their four-year-old daughter became Queen Isabella II when he died in 1833, with Maria Christina as her Regent.
The man who should have been the heir under the old rules, Ferdinand's brother Carlos, did not step willingly aside, launching instead into the first of three Carlist wars. His rebellion did not go well for him and he renounced his rights to the throne in 1845, but only in favor of his son Infante Carlos, not in favor of his niece, the reigning Queen.
True to the spirit of family feud that started it, there are several,, including Carlos Duke of Parma, Sixto Enrique of Bourbon-Parma, Louis Alphonse Duke of Anjou (although he himself does not make the claim; he is also a pretender to the French throne), and Dominic of Austria. In the midst of all of this, is our Princess of the Month. At war with her own sister. Always in exile. No children of her own. Dead at the age of 40. Truly, Maria Carolina is no example of the happy princess generally portrayed by Hollywood.