1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ensenada, Cenon de Somodevilla, Marques de la

ENSENADA, CENON DE SOMODEVILLA, Marques de la (1702–1781), Spanish statesman, was born at Alesanco near Logroño on the 2nd of June 1702. When he had risen to high office it was said that his pedigree was distinguished, but nothing is known of his parents—Francisco de Somodevilla and his wife Francisca de Bengoechea,—nor is anything known of his own life before he entered the civil administration of the Spanish navy as a clerk in 1720. He served in administrative capacities at the relief of Ceuta in that year and in the reoccupation of Oran in 1731. His ability was recognized by Don Jose Patiños, the chief minister of King Philip V. Somodevilla was much employed during the various expeditions undertaken by the Spanish government to put the king’s sons by his second marriage with Elizabeth Farnese, Charles and Philip, on the thrones of Naples and Parma. In 1736 Charles, afterwards King Charles III. of Spain, conferred on him the Neapolitan title of Marques de la Ensenada. The name can be resolved into the three Spanish words “en se nada,” meaning “in himself nothing.” The courtly flattery of the time, and the envy of the nobles who disliked the rise of men of Ensenada’s class, seized upon this poor play on words; an Ensenada is, however, a roadstead or small bay. In 1742 he became secretary of state and war to Philip, duke of Parma. In the following year (11th of April 1743), on the death of Patiños’s successor Campillo, he was chosen by Philip V. as minister of finance, war, the navy and the Indies (i.e. the Colonies). Ensenada met the nomination with a becoming nolo episcopari, professing that he was incapable of filling the four posts at once. His reluctance was overborne by the king, and he became in fact prime minister at the age of forty-one. During the remainder of the king’s reign, which lasted till the 11th of July 1746, and under his successor Ferdinand VI. until 1754, Ensenada was the effective prime minister. His administration is notable in Spanish history for the vigour of his policy of internal reform. The reports on the finances and general condition of the country, which he drew up for the new king on his accession, and again after peace was made with England at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 18th of October 1748, are very able and clear-sighted. Under his direction the despotism of the Bourbon kings became paternal. Public works were undertaken, shipping was encouraged, trade was fostered, numbers of young Spaniards were sent abroad for education. Many of them abused their opportunity, but on the whole the prosperity of the country revived, and the way was cleared for the more sweeping innovations of the following reign. Ensenada was a strong partizan of a French alliance and of a policy hostile to England. Sir B. Keene, the English minister, supported the Spanish court party opposed to him, and succeeded in preventing him from adding the foreign office to others which he held. Ensenada would probably have fallen sooner but for the support he received from the Portuguese queen, Barbara. In 1754 he offended her by opposing an exchange of Spanish and Portuguese colonial possessions in America which she favoured. On the 20th of July of that year he was arrested by the king’s order, and sent into mild confinement at Granada, which he was afterwards allowed to exchange for Puerto de Santa Maria. On the accession of Charles III. in 1759, he was released from arrest and allowed to return to Madrid. The new king named him as member of a commission appointed to reform the system of taxation. Ensenada could not renounce the hope of again becoming minister, and entered into intrigues which offended the king. On the 18th of April 1766 he was again exiled from court, and ordered to go to Medina del Campo. He had no further share in public life, and died on the 2nd of December 1781. Ensenada acquired wealth in office, but he was never accused of corruption. Though, like most of his countrymen, he suffered from the mania for grandeur, and was too fond of imposing schemes out of all proportion with the resources of the state, he was undoubtedly an able and patriotic man, whose administration was beneficial to Spain.

For his administration see W. Coxe, Memoirs of the Kings of Spain of the House of Bourbon (London, 1815), but the only complete account of Ensenada is by Don Antonio Rodriguez Villa, Don Cenon de Somodevilla, Marques de la Ensenada (Madrid, 1878).  (D. H.)