1808-1813: The Spanish people rise against French domination (May 2nd, 1808) and with English help defeat Napoleon. The Peninsular War (Guerra de la Independencia) was a key factor in the cristalization of Spanish Nationality.
1808: The crisis of the Old Order that had opened the doors to the Napoleonic invasion, also coincided with a dynastic crisis that seriously undermined the enormous prestige of a millenary crown. Fernando the prince of Asturias and heir to the throne, intrigued against Godoy, the Prime Minister, who had been accused by public opinion of being the Queen's lover, and was blamed for all the ills of those troubled times. In March 1808, Godoy fell and Carlos IV abdicated in favour of his son, but the monarchic institution had been irreparably damaged.
Napoleon, who had not recognized the rule of Fernando VII, decided to take advantage of the Spanish dynastic crisis to substitute Bonapartes for Bourbons. To do so, he summoned the Spanish royal family to Bayonne and compelled Fernando VII to abdicate in favour of his father, who abdicated in favour of Jospeh Bonaparte. This was an act that took place with all the legal formalities and was adhered to by all the principal institutions and personnages of the kingdom. The political regime that the Bonapartes attempted to unite was that planned by the Statute of Bayonne on 8 July 1808. Although this document is of great importance from a historical point of view, it has no juridical or practical significance because it never came into force. However, it was the first constitutional text to appear in Spain.
The reforms established by this Statute could not be applied by Joseph Bonaparte since a great part of the Spanish people rejected them as they considered the new monarchy to be illegitimate and the product of a treason.
The result was a generalized uprising which began on 2 May, immortalized by Goya in his paintings.
The Spanish War, as it was known in France, lasted six years. The Spaniards called it the War of Independence, and it was an all-encompassing national war.
1810: But if the Peninsular War was a landmark in the history of revolutions, it is also important to emphasize the juridical and administrative bodies that were created so that the country could defend itself from the invaders using other means. The opening session of the new Cortes was held on 24 September 1810. The following basic principles were ratifies: sovereignty resides in the Nation, the legitimacy of Fernando VII as King of Spain, and the iviolability of the deputies. The work of the Cortes of Cadiz was very intense and the first Spanish constitutional text was promulgated in the city of Cadiz on March 12th 1812.
1812: This is the beginning of the Spanish constitutionalism. Since that time, Spain had a total of seven fully-feldged constitutions, including the one currently in force (1978). This list does not include the Statute of Bayonne, approved by Joseph I in 1808, which many authors do not regard as a constitution in the proper sense, since it was imposed as a result of the Napoleonic invasion.