Charles III., king of Spain and of the Two Sicilies, second son of Philip V. and Elizabeth Farnese, born Jan. 20, 1710, died Dec. 13, 1788. Since his elder brother Ferdinand would by right succeed to the Spanish throne, Charles's ambitious mother began almost at his birth to make schemes for gaining for him a separate kingdom; and it was through her efforts that the emperor Charles VI. was forced to grant, among the first concessions he made to secure Spain's consent to the pragmatic sanction, the possession of the duchies of Parma and Piacenza in Italy. To these duchies was to be added Tuscany so soon as the extinction of the line of the Medici, the last of whose race now ruled over it, should leave its throne vacant. This happened before Charles was 14 years old; and in 1731 his father sent him to the Spanish army in Italy, to occupy his new possessions. In 1734, during the war excited by the question of the Polish election (see Charles VI., Germany), he led the Spanish troops into Naples and subdued that country; he conquered Sicily also, and the emperor Charles VI. was compelled to confirm him in his possession of both kingdoms, under the title of king of the Two Sicilies, before Spain would consent to give its full assent to the Austrian plan of succession, the recognition of which it was the aim of nearly all Charles VI.'s later treaties to secure.
The first years of his reign, during the continuance of war, were occupied only with the defence of his kingdom; but on the return of peace he turned his attention to its internal administration, and governed with much wisdom and skill. In 1759 his brother Ferdinand VI. died, and Charles succeeded to the Spanish throne. He now conferred the kingdom of the Two Sicilies on his third son, Ferdinand, decreeing at the same time that it should not henceforth be united with Spain. In Spain Charles gratified the hopes excited by his excellent rule in Naples and Sicily. He undertook extensive reforms in the administration of the finances; introduced, in spite of the opposition of the clergy, many liberal provisions into the laws relating to education and religious administration; restricted the power of the inquisition, and put an end to the interference of the Jesuits in political atfairs, finally banishing them from the kingdom (see Aranda); reestablished the coinage on the former basis; encouraged the institution of a bank at Madrid; and established societies for the promotion of the arts and sciences. In the war which ended with the recognition of American independence, Spain took part against England, but with small success.
An attempt against Algiers also attained but slight results; and Charles's reign is rather remembered for its internal improvements than for its foreign policy.