Charles was the fifth son of King Phillip V of Spain. In 1734, as Duke of Parma, he conquered the kingdoms of Naples and of Sicily, and was crowned king. In 1738 he married Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony, an educated, cultured woman who gave birth to 13 children, eight of whom reached adulthood. When his brother died he succeeded to the Spanish throne in 1759, abdicating the Neapolitan and Sicilian thrones in favour of Ferdinand, his third surviving son, who was to become a strong advocate for the Restoration of the Society.
Perhaps the most impressive ruler of his generation in Europe, the example of his actions and works was not without effect on other Spanish nobles. In his domestic life, King Charles was regular, and was a considerate master, though he had a somewhat caustic tongue and took a rather cynical view of humanity. He was passionately fond of hunting. He was a very sincere Roman Catholic but had a difficult relationship with Popes. He reduced the number of reputedly idle clergy particularly of the monastic orders and emasculated the Spanish Inquisition. Many of his reforms proved short-lived and Spain relapsed after his death.
It was during Charles' reign that Spain began to be recognised, and recognise itself, as one nation rather than a collection of kingdoms and territories with a common sovereign. He oversaw iconic works such as the creation of a National Anthem, a flag, and a capital city worthy of the name, and the construction of a network of coherent roads converging on Madrid. He chose the colours of the present flag of Spain; red and yellow. Juan Carlos I, Spain's current monarch, is a direct male line descendant of Charles by four of his great grandparents.