Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (1828-1897). Portrait by Ricardo de Madrazo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo (1828-1897). Portrait by Ricardo de Madrazo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was one of the most important Spanish politicians in the nineteenth century, serving a total of six terms as prime minister. He was the chief architect behind the implementation of the so-called Restoration Monarchy system after 1876, a transformation that included the abolishing of the fueros or charters that had guaranteed the Basque provinces major devolved decision-making powers to that date. On August 8, 1897, however, Cánovas was assasinated infamously in the Basque Country. In Basque Nationalism and Political Violence, Cameron J. Watson  describes the event thus (pp. 84-85):

That August Sunday, Cánovas, who had been spending the traditional vacation month in the Basque spa town of Santa Agueda (Gipuzkoa), was shot twice by an Italian anarchist, Michele Angiolillo. Cánovas died instantly. At the time, it was widely suspected that members of “colonial secret societies” had been involved in the assassination, but it subsequently came to light that Angiolillo had acted solely on behalf of the anarchists. “We’ve just heard the auspicious news of the death of the Spanish pig,” wrote [Sabino] Arana that same day in a private letter, “National Joy!”

While there was a genuine reaction of shock throughout Spain, in the Basque Country (at least in rural areas), this was not the case. The residents of Bergara (Gipuzkoa), where Angiolillo was being held pending trial, were reported as being “indifferent” to the commotion. And Joxe Manuel Lujanbio (popularly known as Txirrita), a bertsolari, or traditional Basque versifier, even composed a verse attacking Cánovas to record the event. That same month, after a military trial, Angiolillo was garroted in the Bergara prison.

Representation of the assassination by V. Ginés. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Representation of the assassination by V. Ginés. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.