Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Some facts about the War of Spanish Succession

These are some of the most important events happened in the territories of the Hispanic Monarchy during the War of Spanish Succession and their consequences (some of them are still in force at present): 

- GIBRALTAR SEIZURE: In July 1704 an Anglo-Dutch army conquered Gibraltar. Attempts to recover the Rock failed and in 1705 Gibraltar was declared a free-port. In 1707 the British sent the first governor to Gibraltar. After the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht, the Spanish troops sieged the Rock several times. The last big siege took place between 1779 and 1781, during the War of American Independence. The Spanish and French troops attacked Gibraltar, but couldn´t seize the Rock, because the British started digging a complex system of underground fortifications, which were completed years later. During the Peninsular War, when Spanish and British were allies against France, the Spanish fortifications in the frontier were demolished and there was a period of free access between both territories. In 1830 Gibraltar was declared colony of the United Kingdom and in 1967 they voted for the continuation of their association with the United Kingdom. All the Spanish demands of return of the Rock to Spain have been rejected, although there is free circulation between Gibraltar and Spain since 1985, when the border fence was reopened. 

The Anglo-Dutch Navy attacking Gibraltar

- BATTLE OF ALMANSA AND CONQUEST OF THE KINGDOMS OF VALENCIA AND ARAGÓN: The Battle of Almansa took place on the 25th April 1707 and meant the invasion of the Kingdom of Valencia by Philip V´s troops. The Bourbons came from Castile and their victory meant the loss of the furs (fueros, the particular laws of the kingdom). This is why the defeat of Almansa is remembered as a very bad moment for the history of the Old Kingdom of Valencia in particular and the Crown of Aragon in general.

There are two Catalan proverbs that refer to the Battle of Almansa and the negative things that came from the West (Castile): 

- Quan el mal ve d´Almansa, a tots alcança ("When evil comes from Almansa, everybody is caught")

- De ponent, ni vent ni gent ("From the West, neither wind nor people")

After the Battle of Almansa Philip V´s troops occupied the city of Xàtiva on the 6th July 1707. But Philip V ordered to set fire to the city. The city burned for 8 days (this is why its inhabitants are called the socarrats (burned).The name of the city was changed to Colonia Nueva de San Felipe or simply San Felipe and the city was repopulated with people loyal to Philip V. In 1943 someone decided to hung Philip V´s portrait upside down to remember the punishment the city suffered and as a punishment to Philip V. 

Philip V´s portrait hanging upside down in Xàtiva´s Almudí Museum

- MINORCA: The British conquered the island of Minorca in 1708 and kept it after the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht. Minorca was British during most of the 18th century. This is why this period is called the "British century" in the island. Spain regained the island in 1756, during the Seven Years´War, but the British recovered it in the Treaty of Paris (1763). During the American War of Independence, Spain defeated the British again and Minorca became Spanish in the Treaty of Versailles (1783). In 1798 Minorca was invaded once again by the British during the French Revolutionary Wars, but it was finally recovered by Spain in the Treaty of Amiens (1802). 

The British Empire in the Mediterranean Sea during the 18th century

- 11th SEPTEMBER 1714: After the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht in April 1713, the War of Spanish Succession had officially finished, but in Catalonia fight continued for one more year. The city of Barcelona resisted a 14-month siege commanded by the Duke of Berwick, following Philip V´s orders. Philip V ordered the bombardment of the city, which finally surrendered on the 11th September 1714. The defenders of the city were buried in a cemetery called Fossar de les Moreres. In order to make sure that Barcelona´s inhabitants wouldn´t rebel again, Philip V ordered the construction of the Citadel of Barcelona, the largest fortress in Europe at that moment (now it´s a park). The 11th September was established as national day of Catalonia in 1980, with the approval of the Catalan Statute. Every 11th of September the civil authorities meet at the Fossar de les Moreres and offer flowers to the heroes of the war and make a political vindication of self-government or self-determination. 

11th September 1714 in Barcelona, painted by Antoni Estruch (1909)

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