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Carabineros Corps
Cuerpo de Carabineros
Common nameCarabineros
MottoMoralidad, lealtad, valor y disciplina
Morality, loyalty, courage and discipline
Agency overview
Superseding agencyGuardia Civil
Jurisdictional structure
National agencySpain
Operations jurisdictionSpain
Governing bodyMinistry of Finance
Constituting instrument
  • Real decreto organizando el Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras para impedir el contrabando, 31 de marzo de 1829
General nature
Specialist jurisdictions
Operational structure
Overseen byDirectorate-General of Security
Two Carabineros near Benasque in the Pyrenees, 1892.
Former Carabineros headquarters at Xeraco, Valencia restored in 2011
1929 monument to the Carabineros at El Escorial.

The Carabineros was an armed carabiniers force of Spain under both the monarchy and the Second Republic. The formal mission of this paramilitary gendarmerie was to patrol the coasts and borders of the country, operating against fraud and smuggling. As such the Carabineros performed the dual roles of frontier guards and customs officials.

The force was established in 1829 and lasted until 1940 when it was summarily disbanded and merged with the Guardia Civil.[1][2]

Motto and uniforms

The motto of the Carabineros was: Moralidad, lealtad, valor y disciplina (Morality, Loyalty, Courage, and Discipline). They were stationed along all the Spanish land borders, in the maritime provinces and in Madrid.

Their uniform was dark blue with red facings[3] until the 1920s and thereafter greyish green.


Among the notable commanders of the corps included José Olaguer Feliú (1923–1927), José María Galán and Gonzalo Queipo de Llano (1934–1936).


First hundred years

The Carabineros Corps was established as the 'Royal Carabinier Corps of the Coasts and Borders' (Real Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras) by a royal decree issued by King Fernando VII on 9 March 1829. It was led by Field Marshal José Ramón Rodil at the time that Luis López Ballesteros was Minister of Finance.[4] Shortly thereafter, in 1833, the corps was renamed as 'Carabiniers of the Royal Finance' (Carabineros de la Real Hacienda). Placed under the Finance Ministry they went through a period of gradual neglect and by 1842 the Carabineros were almost dysfunctional as a corps. Field Marshal Martín José de Iriarte was then entrusted with their reorganization. Thus the corps was reformed and re-organised as the 'Carabinier Corps of the Kingdom' (Cuerpo de Carabineros del Reino) in order to replace the former ineffective and discredited body.[4]

At the time of the Restoration the Carabineros and the Guardia Civil, the other paramilitary Spanish corps, were placed under the War Ministry, "for a better organization and discipline", being given a military character by means of a law[5] that developed and modified certain aspects of the 1878 Constitutive Army Law (Ley Constitutiva del Ejército). The latter set the functions of the Armed Forces following the Spanish Constitution of 1876.[6]

In August 1923 Lieutenant General José Olaguer Feliú was named General Director of the Carabineros.[7] Despite this being a time of economic hardship, he was able to improve conditions of service within the corps; reducing the daily working hours to twelve. He also achieved the expansion and improvement of the Carabinier Corps' Schools (Colegios del Cuerpo de Carabineros), where recruits were trained. General Olaguer Feliu was responsible for the construction of new quarters and repairing the existing ones; for the founding of schools for the sons and daughters of the Carabineros in certain locations. Finally José Olaguer Feliú provided better schooling and conditions for orphans of Carabineros at the San Lorenzo de El Escorial Carabinier' Orphans School (Colegio de Huérfanos de Carabineros de San Lorenzo del Escorial).

In 1929, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the corps, a monument was built in recognition of the Carabineros, at San Lorenzo del Escorial. In addition the Great Cross of the Civil Order of Beneficence (Gran Cruz de la Orden Civil de Beneficencia) was awarded collectively to the members of the corps by King Alfonso XIII for deeds and services rendered by the Carabineros in fighting fires, floods and the rescuing of shipwrecked persons.[8]

Royal Carabineros Seal; 1910.
Republican Carabineros Civil War standard.


The Cuerpo de Carabineros de Seguridad Pública was established by the Captaincy General of the Philippines in 1842 to serve as the police force in the Spanish East Indies.[9] Its role was eventually assumed by the Guardia Civil.

Spanish Civil War

The Carabineros Corps was one of the units of law enforcement where the 1936 Spanish coup of July 1936, which led to the Spanish Civil War, found the least support. With the regular army divided and the almost 50-50% split of the Civil Guard, the Republican government was heavily dependent on trained and properly equipped loyalist units such as the Carabineros and the Assault Guards to fight in the first crucial battles of the war. In mid-1936 there had been a total of about 16,096 men in the corps: 3 generals, 770 officers, 1,169 sub-officers and 14,154 Carabineros. Approximately a third were in the territories that fell to the rebel side (about 5–6,000 men) after the coup and the two-thirds that were in the areas controlled by the Republic (about 10,000) remained loyal to the established government.[10][11]

As a professional force of generally proven loyalty to the Republic, the carabineros formed an elite unit, which was integrated into the mixed brigades of the Republican Army.[12] The Carabinier corps was increased in strength to 40,000 men. The initiative for this restructuring was taken by the then Finance Minister Juan Negrín.[13]

Numbers of loyalist carabineros taken prisoner by the Army of Africa in August 1936 were executed in Badajoz.[14]

Mixed brigades

Certain units of the People's Republican Army were entirely made up of Carabineros, such as the 65th, 85th, 87th, 152nd, 179th, 211th, 222nd and 228th mixed brigades.[15] The 3rd[16] —the Tercera Brigada Mixta mentioned in the Si me quieres escribir song— and 5th[17] were among the most distinguished mixed brigades of the loyalist army and saw action in most of the main battles of the civil war, including the Jarama, Brunete and the Teruel battles.[18]

End of the war and disbandment

Following the Francoist victory in 1939 the Carabineros Corps was disbanded. This measure was taken by the new regime as a reprisal for the majority of the carabinier units having remained loyal to the Republic during the rising of 1936. A law was passed on 15 March 1940 by which the Spanish Dictatorship terminated the Cuerpo de Carabineros, transferring its remaining personnel and assets to the Guardia Civil.[19] Article number 4 of the aforementioned law stated:

The present Inspectorate-General of the Carabineros is herewith removed. Its activities and functions will be taken over by a single section of the Directorate-General of the Civil Guard and all powers will be transferred to its General Director. The personnel of this corps will be assigned to the various services that will be defined by this law as exclusive to the Guardia Civil corps in the way that will be determined by its General Director according to the abilities and conditions of its personnel.[20]

Nine years after the end of Franco's dictatorship the Spanish Law 37/1984 of 22 October 1984 recognized the rights and services of those who had been part of the Armed Forces, Police and Carabiniers of the Spanish Republic (Reconocimiento de derechos y servicios prestados a quienes durante la Guerra Civil formaron parte de las Fuerzas Armadas, Fuerzas de Orden Público y Cuerpo de Carabineros de la República). This law gave back to the surviving members of the corps some of the rights and recognition of which they had been deprived in 1940.[21]


  1. ^ Real decreto organizando el Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras para impedir el contrabando, 31 de marzo de 1829 - Gaceta de Madrid nº39, p. 153
  2. ^ Real decreto sobre la organización de Carabineros de Costas. Instituto, organización, personal e inspección general del Cuerpo de Carabineros de Costas y Fronteras. 2 de abril de 1829 - Gaceta de Madrid nº40, p. 157
  3. ^ Plate XVIII, "Spagna", Rivista Militare Europea 1986
  4. ^ a b Real decreto de organización del Cuerpo de Carabineros del Reino, 9 de diciembre 1842 - Gaceta de Madrid nº2985
  5. ^ Ley Adicional a la Constitutiva del Ejército de 19 de julio de 1889]
  6. ^ Ramón Gómez Martínez, El Estatuto Jurídico-Constitucional del militar de carrera en España. Antecedentes, fundamento y situación actual. Tesis doctoral. 2008 Universidad de Granada. Facultad de Derecho, P. 111-114
  7. ^ Real decreto nombrando Director General de Carabineros al Teniente General D. José Olaguer-Feliu y Ramírez. "Gaceta de Madrid". Núm 209. 28 de julio de 1923, pp. 328
  8. ^ Real decreto concediendo al Cuerpo de Carabineros la Gran Cruz de la Orden civil de Beneficencia, con distantivo negro y blanco, p. 1674, 10 de septiembre 1929 - Gaceta de Madrid nº253
  9. ^ ""Ministerio de Seguridad Pública": Las medidas para modernizar a Carabineros | Crónica".
  10. ^ Alejandro de Quesada, The Spanish Civil War 1936–39 (2): Republican Forces, p. 36
  11. ^ Henry Buckley & Paul Preston, The Life and Death of the Spanish Republic: A Witness to the Spanish Civil War, I.B.Tauris, 2013 ISBN 9781780769318
  12. ^ Carlos Engel (1999); Historia de las Brigadas Mixtas del Ejército Popular de la República, p. 194, 221 and 225
  13. ^ Hugh Thomas (1976); La Guerra civil española, Ed. Grijalbo, p. 594 (Spanish translation)
  14. ^ Thomas, Hugh (2003). The Spanish Civil War. p. 361. ISBN 0-141-01161-0.
  15. ^ Carlos Engel (1999); Historia de las Brigadas Mixtas del Ejército Popular de la República, pp. 194, 221 y 225
  16. ^ SBHAC - 3.ª Brigada Mixta
  17. ^ SBHAC - 5.ª Brigada Mixta
  18. ^ Santiago Álvarez (1994); Negrín personalidad Histórica, Volume 1, p. 84
  19. ^ Santiago Álvarez (1994); Negrín personalidad Histórica, Volume 1, pág. 79
  20. ^ Se suprime la actual Inspección General de Carabineros, cuyos cometidos y funciones se agruparán en una sola Sección de la Dirección General de la Guardia Civil a cuyo Director General pasarán las atribuciones conferidas actualmente a la Inspección General del Cuerpo de Carabineros. El personal de este cuerpo estará adscrito a los distintos servicios que por esta Ley se fijen como privativos del Cuerpo de la Guardia Civil, en la forma que, con arreglo a las aptitudes y condiciones de su personal, determine el Director General. Ley del 15 de marzo de 1940. "B.O.E. (Boletín Oficial del Estado del Gobierno de España)". Núm. 77. 17 de marzo de 1940, pp. 1862 a 1866
  21. ^ Ley 37/1984, de 22 de octubre, de reconocimiento de derechos y servicios prestados a quienes durante la guerra civil formaron parte de las Fuerzas Armadas, Fuerzas de Orden Público y Cuerpo de Carabineros de la República. "B.O.E. (Boletín Oficial del Estado del Gobierno de España)". Núm. 262. 1 de noviembre de 1984, pp. 31689 a 31690
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