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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Buenavista Palace

Historical Review

Since the early beginning of the 16th century, Toledo's Archbishop, General Inquisitor of Spain, Gaspar de Quiroga, built a mansion-palace at the well-known lands "Altillo de Buenavista"; this propierty has been residence of royal and distinguished characters of our history.

After the Court's moved to Madrid in 1561, King Philip II of Spain and his fourth wife, Ana de Austria, used this property, donated by the Archbishop, as a country-vacation house while the Real Alcazar was being reformed.

In her return to Spain after becoming Maximiliano II's widow, Empress Maria de Austria lived in this Palace, together with her daughter Margarita.

After her death, the property passed to King Philip III who used it sporadically as a country house. Finally, as a consecuence of prefering other kind of palaces such as El Escorial or Aranjuez Palace, the country-house was completely forgotten, being sold in 1609 to Don Diego de Silva y Mendoza, Duke of Francavilla.

Plano de Texeira

Texeira´s map

The property belonged to that family almost 50 years. They finally lost it in 1744 because of economical issues. In that moment, the palace was acquired by the Congregation of San Ignacio de Loyola (Compañía de Jesús), that depicts the construction of a great university that never became real due to the lack of economic resources.

Zenón de Somodevilla y Bengoechea, Marquess of Ensenada and King Ferdinand VI's person of confidence, was his new owner. However, after being  exiled to Granada by the King, he was obliged to sell it in 1759 to the Queen Elisabeth de Farnesio, future king Charles III's mother.

After her death in 1766, 13th Duke of Alba, Fernando de Silva y Álvarez de Toledo acquired the property. He improved the palace buying bordering lands and portraying, together with the architect Ventura Rodríguez, big remodelings that were never finished.

In 1777, the Duchess of Alba, María Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva y Álvarez de Toledo, together with the architect Juan Pedro Arnal, built a new palace with its current neoclassical design.

After the Duchess' early death, without direct heirs and with a non-existent relationship with her family, she granted the property to her most intimate friends and closer servants. During this period the City Council of Madrid tried to buy the vacation house and finally he got it in 1807, five years after the Duchess' death.

However, the property found new and powerful tenants, due to the fact that the City Council granted it as Charles IV's valid, Manuel Godoy, "Prícipe de la Paz". Even though he remodeled the palace, he didn't live there because of his tragic fall the 18th of March in 1808, in the Mutiny of Aranjuez.

With the arrival of the Napoleonic troops to Madrid (April, 1808), Marshal Joachim Napoleón Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law, chose it as his troops' Headquarters, settled in Madrid. During his short kingdom, José I Bonaparte tried, without success, to turn the palace into a Painting Museum.

Proyecto de museo de pinturas en 1814

Painting Museum´s Project in 1814

With the end of the Spanish Independence War in 1814 there was an attempt of cession by the King Ferdinand VII to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, with the intention of turning it into a Ferdinand Museum, a "painting, statues, planes and other gallery of artistic beauties, as well as focussing on teaching and on the exploitation of the disciples and teachers too, satisfying the noble curiosity of natural and foreign people, giving to Spain the heaven that it deserves". Finally, this idea was not developed there; in fact, it was settled at the gallery placed in Paseo del Prado, giving rise to the museum that nowdays carries that same name.

In 1816, thanks to the managements carried out by Admiral Luis María de Salazar, it is published the Real Orden of the 8th of March that allowed the instalation of the Military Museum at Buenavista Palace, being occupied by the Earl Casa-Sarria, Chief of the Artillery Schools, who faced the building with a high-level of deterioration. Later, in 1827, it was divided into two different museums: The Real Artillery Museum and the Real Group of Engineers Museum.

Years later, in 1841, General Espartero, Kingdom Regent during the minor period of Elisabeth II's lifetime, he settled himself at the property, but as a consequence of leaving it because of exile reasons to England, two years later the palace was assigned with other uses, among them, the one of being residence of the embassor Fuad Effendi sublime's Ottoman Porte (Turkey), or later, as Cavalry, Artillery and Ingeneers Management, until in 1847, that it is turned into the War Ministry.

During the approaching years, being the War Ministry yet, the builing was occupied by distinguised characters, among it would be important to highligh General Juan Prim I Prats, War and Prime Minister of Spain, who died the 30th of December in 1870, as a consecuence of the painful injuries suffered in an attack at Turco Street (currently called "Marqués de Cubas") when he was coming back from the Courts.

El Palacio como Ministerio de la Guerra

The Palace as War Ministry

With the arrival of the First Republic, in 1873, the building was still being used as War Ministry, place from where many wars such as the Cuban War, The Cantonal War or the Third Carlist War, were directed.

In 1923 and with General Primo de Rivera, another tenent living in the property, it was decided to change its current name, calling the palace as the Army Ministry.

The same day of the Second Republic proclamation, 14th of April 1931, Manuel Azaña took charge of the palace as First Army Minister and, later as Ministers' Council President.

During the Civil War, from 1936-1939, it was established as Madrid Defense Council, leaded by General Miaja.

Once the war was finished, the building became General Varela's property, as Army Minister, carrying out the last important remodelings. Among them, there must be mentioned that a new floor was built over the original cornice, apart from the interior frontispiece decoration by the sculptor Aniceto Marinas.

In 1977, the palace turned into the Defense Ministry. During this period, General Gutierrez Mellado, Agustín Rodríguez Sahagún and Alberto Oliart Saussol, were its principals.

Finally, in 1982, with the Defense Ministry's moved back to its actual place, at Paseo de la Castellana, it became the Spanish Army Headquarters.