Contemporary representation of the siege of Gibraltar in 1727.
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Principally Britain and France vs. Spain and Austria
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Gibraltar, West Indies, Isthmus of Panama, Spanish Main
DECLARATION: Spain declared war on England in February 1727.
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Spain wanted to force Britain to cede Gibraltar and Minorca.
OUTCOME: Spain recognized British control of Gibraltar and made trade concessions to Britain and France; in exchange Britain and France agreed to the succession of Charles (son of the Spanish king Philip V) to the duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Tuscany in Italy.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: At Gibraltar, 3,000 British defended against 18,000 Spanish.
CASUALTIES: At Gibraltar, Britain lost 107 killed, 208 wounded; Spain lost 700 killed, 825 wounded; 4,000 British seamen succumbed to disease in the West Indies.
TREATIES: Treaty of Vienna, April 30, 1725: basis of Spanish-Austrian (Holy Roman Empire) alliance; Treaty of Hanover, September 3, 1725: basis of British, French, Dutch alliance (to which was later added Sweden, Denmark, and certain German states); armistice, May 1727; Treaty of Seville, November 9, 1729: formally ended the war; Treaty of Vienna, July 22, 1731: Holy Roman Empire agreed to peace terms
By the 1725 Treaty of Vienna, Spain’s diplomatic representative Jan Willem, duke of Ripperda (1680-1737), concluded an alliance between King Philip V (1683- 1746) of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI (1685-1737), who agreed to use Austrian “persuasion” to secure Britain’s cession of Gibraltar and Minorca to Spain. To counter this new alliance, Britain’s State Secretary Charles Townshend (1674-1738) arranged the Treaty of Hanover (September 3, 1725), which formed an alliance among Britain, France, and Holland (and, later, Sweden, Denmark, and small German states) for mutual protection and the destruction of the commercially threatening Ostend Company, a trading company operating from the Austrian Netherlands and rivaling the British and Dutch East India companies. Britain and France refused to allow Philip’s son, Charles (1716-88), to go to Italy to rule the duchies to which he has succession rights. In February 1727, Spain declared war on Britain and besieged Gibraltar, but Austria, fearful of the power of the Hanover alliance, remained neutral. The British attempted to seize Spanish treasure fleets in the West Indies to prevent riches from being used to induce Austria’s entry into the war; Porto Bello in Panama was blockaded by British warships, which also patrolled the Spanish Main coast and engaged in minor naval battles.
Hosier’s fleet appeared off Bastimentos Island, to the west of Porto Bello on 16 June 1726. Following orders ultimately from Walpole to blockade Porto Bello but not to take it, Hosier remained before it, allowing no ships to go in or come out without strict examination. On first arrival of the squadron several Spanish ships were captured. The Spanish convoy unloaded its valuables and waited.
After remaining for six months, yellow fever made such havoc among his seamen that he was compelled to return to Jamaica, where he recruited fresh crews. Two months later, he was again at sea and continued to cruise in the Caribbean Sea in front of Cartagena, still losing men to the disease. Furthermore, this absence from Porto Bello made the blockade ineffective, and in January 1727, Antonio de Gaztañeta slipped a Spanish treasure fleet with 31 million pesos on board through the British blockade reaching Spain on 8 March 1727.
The incidence of fever was accelerated by a disregard for basic sanitation and hygiene in the British fleet. Between three and four thousand British sailors died of disease out of a complement of 4,600. Hosier himself died of yellow fever on 23 August 1727. His body was wrapped in a sheet and left in the hold of his flagship for four months, until a ship was found to return it to England for burial.
Hosier was temporarily replaced by Edward St. Lo, who maintained the blockade and returned to Jamaica to resupply and refit the fleet when it was clear the Spanish fleet would not leave port. In Jamaica he was replaced by Edward Hopson in January 1728, but regained command when Hopson succumbed to disease the following May. St. Lo continued to command the blockading fleet until April 1729, when he too died of a tropical malady. By this time, preliminary peace terms had been agreed between the two powers, and the fleet returned home. The war came to a formal end with the signing in November 1729 of the Treaty of Seville.
Gibraltar 13th Siege 22 February 1727 – 23 June 1727
In the words of the anonymous author of the Impartial Account of the Siege, the thirteenth siege “made rather more noise in the world in preparation than when undertaken”. The War of the Spanish Succession ended with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Article X of which formally ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain (as it became with the passing of the Act of Union in 1707).
King Philip V of Spain felt that he had been forced by Louis XIV to sign the treaty, and the Spanish were determined to regain Gibraltar. In January 1727, Philip claimed that Article X was null and void, citing several alleged violations of its terms by the British. The Marquis de las Torre began assembling an army, supported by contingents from across Catholic Europe, to attack Gibraltar; in response, the British began reinforcing the garrison.
The thirteenth siege began on 22 February when the British fired on a party of Spanish workers in the neutral territory north of the Rock; from then on, the Spanish attempted to build batteries on the isthmus with which to bombard British batteries and the city walls, while the British attempted to halt Spanish progress. By 24 March, the Spanish had established batteries within range of the British defences and began a ten-day bombardment, inflicting considerable damage which the British struggled to repair. The Spanish pace was reduced by bad weather, which began in early April; it was not until 7 May that the bombardment began again in earnest. By 20 May, the Spanish supply chain could not keep up with the demands of the bombardment while the British were almost constantly able to resupply by sea. The Spanish offered a truce on 23 June, which was signed the next day.
Britain retained control of Gibraltar.
Through the efforts of France’s Cardinal André Hercule de Fleury (1653-1743), an armistice was arranged that ended the overt warring in May 1727, but peace negotiations dragged on until Spain’s Queen Elizabeth Farnese (1692-1766), hearing of Austrian breach of its Spanish martial provisions, furiously rejected the Spanish-Austrian alliance. By the Treaty of Seville on November 9, 1729, Spain accepted the terms of the 1713 Peace of Utrecht, recognized British control of Gibraltar, and granted trade privileges to Britain and France, both of which agreed to Charles’s succession to the Farnese Italian duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Tuscany. These terms were agreed to by Emperor Charles in the second Treaty of Vienna (July 22, 1731), and Charles then inherited the Farnese duchies.