Order of Avis

The Order of Avis rose to ultimate authority in Portugal, setting its head on the throne in 1385 as Juan I, and ruling Portugal until 1580 as the Aviz dynasty.

By the time the Third Crusade had begun in 1188, however, several military orders had already been founded to support the Iberian Reconquista (the irredentist war against the Moors of southern Iberia that had been in progress since shortly after the original conquest in 711-718 and had been declared to be a crusade by Pope Eugenius III in 1147). The Order of Calatrava was founded by the Cistercian Abbot of Fitero in 1158, just to the south of the Castilian frontier, and quickly acquired lands and houses in southern Castile and Aragon. A second order was founded ca. 1166 at Evora in Portugal under the name the Order of St. Benedict of Evora, but it was soon affiliated with Calatrava, became its Portuguese branch, and after moving its seat to Avis called itself the Order of Avis. The Order of St. Julian of Pereiro was similarly founded as an independent order in Leon by 1176, but it affiliated with Calatrava, became its Leonese branch, and took new names from its successive seats at Trujillo (in 1188) and Alcantara (in 1218). All three of these orders remained affiliated with the Cistercian Order and were treated as direct or indirect dependencies of the Cistercian Abbey of Morimond.

Territories of the Orders of Knighthood in the Iberian kingdoms at the end of the 15th century.

The two principal international military orders were the Templars and the Hospitallers, and they arrived in Portugal in 1128 and 1130 respectively. Their members were recruited mainly from younger or bastard sons of the European nobility. They were disciplined, well-organised and committed for the long term. Particularly from the time of the Almohads they played a major role in the Portuguese Reconquest and ultimately in the resettlement process. They took responsibility for many frontier castles. In the 1150s the Templars were charged with defending Lisbon and Santarém and in 1160 commenced building their great castle at Tomar. The Hospitallers established their principal castle at Belver on the Tagus near Abrantes. During the second half of the twelfth century Portuguese chapters of the Spanish Orders of Santiago and Alcántara were also formed. The rule of Calatrava, which had strong Cistercian associations, was adopted by a brotherhood originally assigned by Afonso Henriques to defend Évora, which later became the exclusively Portuguese Order of Avis. All these military orders played major roles in resisting the Almohads and then renewing the Christian advance. By the reign of Afonso II (1211-23), whose physical disabilities prevented him from personally participating in military activity, their leaders had effectively taken over direction of the Reconquest. The campaigns in the Algarve during the time of Sancho II (1223-45) and the final triumph under Afonso III were particularly the work of the knights of Santiago and Avis.

The Order of Avis, originally known as the Order of Évora. The first definite information about the order dates from 1176; it did not adopt the name of Avis until 1215.

The claims of medieval chroniclers that date the foundation of the order to the mid-twelfth century are unfounded. The conclusions of Rui Pinto de Azevedo are now held to be the most authoritative: he demonstrated that the origins of the order should be situated in Évora, and should be placed between March 1175 and April 1176 [Azevedo, “As origens da ordem de Évora ou de Avis”]. At this time King Afonso I Henriques of Portugal, thanks to a truce with the Almohads, was attempting to elaborate a defensive strategy that would ensure the advanced positions of his kingdom against alAndalus in the Alto Alentejo region (mod. central Portugal). In 1211 the brethren of Évora were given the fortress of Avis, from which they took their new name a few years later. It is unclear why the brethren left their original Benedictine obedience in 1187 and sought association with the Castilian Order of Calatrava, which followed the Cistercian rule. This new dependence was evident in the prerogatives given to the master of Calatrava: he had rights of visitation over the Order of Avis and was also allowed to govern the institution whenever a vacancy in its mastership occurred, which he did until the mid-fourteenth century.

The Order of Avis was composed of knight brethren and clerics. They wore a scapular, which from 1404 bore a green cross on the left side. Under the aegis of its master, the institution gradually gained strength during the first part of the thirteenth century. Supported by the Portuguese monarchy, the brethren were active in the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors, acquiring lands in the process. By the late thirteenth century these properties were organized in a network of no fewer than twenty-five commanderies: the richest of these were concentrated on the left bank of the river Tagus (Port. Tejo) near Avis, and also further south in the newly conquered areas, where the brethren had settled in Évora, Alandroal, Juromenha, Noudar, and Albufeira.

Such extensive land-ownership alarmed the Portuguese monarchy, which felt threatened by the potential power of the order. In the reign of King Dinis (1279-1325), royal policy toward Avis changed radically: the king put an end to donations and began supporting urban oligarchies and Muslim minorities in jurisdictional disputes, even in the town of Avis itself, thus deliberately harming the order’s interests. The masters of Avis were increasingly selected from among the king’s followers, or even his relatives. This can be seen in the case of the Infante Joao (Port. Joao), a natural son of King Peter I who was made the master of the order in 1364 at the age of seven, twenty years before ascending the throne of Portugal.

Joao became king after a two-year civil war, an event that could only reinforce royal interference in the order. After defeating his Castilian rival in 1385 in the battle of Aljubarrota, Joao I tried to maintain control by appointing a faithful follower, Fernao Rodrigues de Sequeira, as master of Avis. When the latter died in 1433, John decided that a master of royal blood would be best able to control the order, and appointed his own son, the Infante Fernao (Ferdinand). This master had to relinquish his position just before his death (1443) after being captured in Tangier. His successor was Pedro, his own nephew and son of Infante Pedro, the regent of the kingdom. Despite a period of exile, Pedro succeeded in keeping his office until his death in 1466. The mastership was then given to the Infante Joao, the elder son of King Afonso V; he remained master after ascending the throne in 1481. Nine years later Joao II gave the mastership to his heir, the Infante Afonso, and then to the Infante Jorge, his own natural son. The latter paved the way for the eventual absorption of the order by the Portuguese Crown, which occurred in 1550.


When the focus of action shifted south in the final century of the Reconquest both traditional seigneurs and concelhos were overtaken as instruments of settlement by large religious corporations. This process gained momentum with the arrival in Portugal from France of the white monks or Cistercians, the era’s most dynamic monastic order. Afonso Henriques granted the Cistercians a swathe of undeveloped territory in Estremadura, where in 1157 they founded Portugal’s greatest abbey at Alcobaça. In Alentejo the crown reserved for itself the towns and their immediate environs, but granted out most other lands to the nobility, monasteries, churches and, above all, the military orders. In 1169 the Templars, who had earlier been given extensive lands in the Zêzere valley, were promised a third of all the territory they could conquer in Alentejo. By the mid-thirteenth century the Templars and Hospitallers between them controlled large parts of Beira Baixa, Ribatejo and northern Alto Alentejo. Much of southern Alto Alentejo belonged to the Order of Avis. Further southwest, especially in Baixo Alentejo, were huge holdings granted to the Order of Santiago, balanced to the southeast by smaller territories possessed by the Templars and Hospitallers. All this meant that collectively the military orders were easily the greatest territorial beneficiaries of the Portuguese Reconquest.

Bibliography Ayala Martinez, Carlos de, Las ordenes militares hispanicas en la Edad Media (siglos XII-XV) (Madrid: Pons, 2003). Azevedo, Rui Pinto de, “As origens da ordem de Évora ou de Avis,” Historia 1 (1932), 233-241. Cunha, Maria Cristina Almeida, A ordem militar de Avis (das origens a 1329) (Oporto: Universidade do Porto, 1989). Fonseca, Luis Adao da, “Ordens militares,” in Dicionario de Historia Religiosa de Portugal, ed. Carlos Moreira Azevedo (Lisboa: Circulo de Leitores, 2001), vol. J-P, pp. 334-345. Pimenta, Maria Cristina Gomes, “A ordem militar de Avis durante o mestrado de D. Fernao Rodrigues de Sequeira,” Militarium Ordinum Analecta 1 (1997), 127-242. —, As ordens de Avis e de Santiago na Baixa Idade Média: O governo de D. Jorge (Palmela: Gabinete de Estudos sobre Ordem de Santiago, 2002).


Portugal and the Changing Art of War


Portuguese kings needed more revenue by the late fourteenth century especially because of their escalating military costs. These cost increases were mainly a consequence of developments in the technology of warfare. Chain mail, long worn by knights, was being steadily replaced by more expensive plate armour. Fortifications were being re-designed and strengthened to better withstand sieges. Perhaps most important of all, the introduction and escalating use of the crossbow amounted to a revolution in weaponry. Systematic recruitment and training of crossbowmen (besteiros) probably began in Portugal during the first half of the fourteenth century, but progressed slowly. The process required complex organisation on a national scale, but was an essential step towards the creation of a permanent royal army. Units of crossbowmen were raised on a quota basis by the Portuguese municipalities. The archers were recruited primarily from the sons of tradesmen, not members of the nobility or their retainers, and they were equipped with their weapons directly by the crown.

Though in the struggle against Juan of Castile a substantial proportion of Joāo I’s army still consisted of feudal levies, the presence of the crossbowmen enabled Nuno Álvares Pereira to apply one of the most important lessons of the Hundred Years War – namely, that well-trained, disciplined bowmen drawn up in sound defensive positions could devastate slow-moving knights on horseback. So it had been at Crécy and Poitiers – and so it was at Aljubarrota. On that memorable field the Portuguese army, though smaller than that of Castile, was more coherent, better led and perhaps more advanced on the road to modernisation. While Portugal did not retain these advantages for long, they were nevertheless crucial in 1385, when the kingdom’s need was greatest.

Early in the fourteenth century the still more revolutionary powder weapons were introduced; but they were then too unreliable and therefore slow to gain acceptance. However, by the start of the fifteenth century cannon were proving their worth, especially in siege warfare. Under the early Avis kings they were gradually incorporated into the nation’s arsenal. Firearms and gunpowder were kept strictly under crown control, with a central arsenal maintained in Lisbon. Cannon were used to great effect by both Afonso V and later monarchs in Morocco. They were also mounted on warships.

The English also remained active in Spain, fighting against Castile as allies of Navarre, Aragon or, in the 1380s, Portugal. In 1381-82, for example, Edmund Langley, Earl of Cambridge, led 1,500 men-at-arms and 1,500 archers (mostly English but including Gascons and Castilian exiles) in an invasion of Castile alongside the King of Portugal, while some 4-800 English archers under 3 esquires were in the Portuguese army at Aljubarrota. The largest English expedition was that of1386-87, when the Duke of Lancaster, pressing his own claim to the throne of Castile, invaded Galicia and León in alliance with Portugal, his forces totalling as many as 2,000 men-at-arms, 3,000 archers and perhaps 2,000 further foot-soldiers.

With so many French and English troops around it is hardly surprising to find the Spanish states very soon beginning to emulate their military organisation and techniques. As early as 1372, for instance, we find King Fernando of Portugal stipulating that his vassals were in future expected to field troops equipped either in the French or the English manner. Full reorganisation was in hand by 1382, when both Portugal and Castile laid down new rules for the raising and administration of their armies. Fernando entirely abolished the Moorish military nomenclature that had been used for hundreds of years and replaced it with the current Anglo-French terminology of his allies. The ancient office ofalferez mor (Chief-standard-bearer), the military commander-in-chief in the king’s absence, was abandoned and replaced instead by a Constable (Condestabre) and a Marshal (Marichal).

Portugal, normally fielded only some 2-3,000 men-at-arms in the 14th century, plus at the most 10-12,000 infantry. Even in the Toro campaign as late as 1475 she put only 5,600 horse and 14,000 foot in the field, as compared to Castile’s 4,000 men-at-arms, 8,000 jinetes (spelt with a ‘g’ in Portugal) and 30,000 infantry in 1476.

The Military Orders

After 1275 the Orders had been gradually taken over by the aristocracy, and then by the crown, and were subsequently stripped of much of their wealth. In addition they were sapped of their strength by their use in the civil wars that so racked the Iberian kingdoms; in 1354, for example, the anti-Master of Calatrava, Pedro Estevaiiez Carpenteiro, mustered 600 lances against Pedro the Cruel’s own appointed Master, Diego Garcia de Padilla, brethren of Santiago, Calatrava and Alcantara fighting on both sides in the Trastamaran conflict of the 1350s and 1360s. It is hardly surprising, then, that one modern authority should state that ‘by 1330 all the Orders were smaller, weaker, more dominated by the kings and nobles and less effective against the Moslems’. By the end of this era their very independence had been stripped from them too; in Castile the crown effectively took the Masterships of Calatrava, Santiago and Alcantara for itself in 1487, 1493 and 1494 respectively.

Nevertheless, the Orders could still muster substantial forces throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. Calatrava alone housed 150 freyles caballeros (brother knights) in 1302, in addition to which the Order had 40 commanderies by the end of the 14th century and 51-56 by the beginning of the 16th. The Order’s Grand Commander and Castellan respectively raised forces of 500 cavalry and 1,200 infantry, and 1,200 cavalry and 800 infantry, against one another in 1442, while the Master raised 400 cavalry and an unknown quantity of infantry from the Order’s Andalusian estates alone 40 years later. Excluding its Portuguese commanderies the Order of Santiago could field some 250 freyles in the 14thcentury, and 400 freyles and 1,000 lances from its whole 84 commanderies by the 16th, while the Master of Alcantara was able to raise as many as 1,500 horse and 2,500 foot in 1472. Froissart tells us that even the Portuguese Order of Avis, of which the Mastership had been at the disposal of the crown since 1385, had 200 brethren. In fact the numbers of each Order’s brethren seem always to have been proportionately small, and most of the troops they raised were actually vassals or mercenaries. Thus brethren are frequently to be found in the role of officers commanding units of infantry or crossbowmen, or even artillery (of which the Orders had their own). The actual command structure of each individual Order was headed by its Master (Maestre or Mestre). His deputy was the Grand Prior (Prior Mayor; in the Order of Calatrava the Gran Prior came below the Clavero), after whom came the Grand Commander (Comendador Mayor); the Castellan or Key-bearer (Clavero), assisted by a Sub-Ciavero and a Quartermaster (Obrero); and finally the Alferez or Standard-bearer of the Order. Organisation of individual commanderies remained as before, except that most now only contained 4 brethren, not 12.

All this meant that well before the end of the fifteenth century waging independent war was inexorably moving beyond the means of even the greatest of magnates – unless they could act in unison with powerful outside forces. Great nobles might still retain a capacity to put into the field significant forces, but were at a growing comparative disadvantage to the crown. This was graphically demonstrated by the downfall of the duke of Braganc, a in 1483. From the time Joāo I became firmly established on his throne, no Portuguese noble dared to offer a direct challenge to the king militarily. The only exception was Pedro, the beleaguered ex-regent, who was easily overwhelmed at Alfarrobeira in 1449. Nobles who sought to get rid of a king were thereafter more inclined to try assassination. This helps to explain why from the time of Afonso V monarchs and their families were usually protected by a royal guard approximately 200 strong. In short, there is no doubt that by the Avis era advances in the art of war strengthened the king vis-à-vis the nobility and contributed significantly to Portugal’s advance towards modern statehood.


Prior to the arrival of the English and French in the mid-14th century, Spanish warfare depended for success on fast-moving raids and the systematic use of siege warfare, and though pitched battles were not exactly unknown they were certainly extremely uncommon. The Spanish therefore lacked the training and experience to meet du Guesclin’s and the Black Prince’s companies of veterans on anything like equal terms, and the latter consequently had a low opinion of them. Froissart says of the Spanish: ‘It is true that they cut a handsome figure on horseback, spur off to advantage, and fight well at the first onset; but as soon as they have thrown 2 or 3 darts, and given a stroke with their lances, without disconcerting the enemy, they take alarm, turn their horses’ heads and save themselves by flight as well as they can. This game they played at Aljubarrota.’

The reference to their throwing of darts is significant, because this was characteristic of the skirmishing style of warfare that the Spaniards had been involved in with their Moslem neighbours for centuries. It had even led to the evolution of a special troop-type-the jinete-whose light armour, low saddle, short stirrups and nimble horse put him on an equal footing with the light, javelin-armed horsemen of Granada. The role of the jinete in battle was identical to that of his Moslem counterpart-to charge towards the enemy, discharge his javelins, and wheel away again before he could reply. In addition jinetes patrolled the flanks and rear of the army and cut down fugitives. At Trancoso and Aljubarrota in 1385 and at Salamanca in 1387 the Castilians employed their jinetes to outflank the Portuguese and fall on their rear. At Najera too they were positioned on the flanks of the Franco-Castilian army, probably with a similar plan in mind, but on this occasion they proved utterly ineffective in the face of the Black Prince’s longbowmen. Their one success against the English was at Ariñez in 1367, where a large body of jinetes under Don Tello surprised Sir William Felton’s company of some 100 or 400 men-at-arms and archers on a hillside. Chandos Herald tells us how Felton himself charged them on horseback, ‘and the Castilians followed him on all sides, throwing lances and javelins at him. They killed his horse under him, but Sir William defended himself fiercely on foot, though it was of little use for he was killed in the end.’ Don Tello then turned on the rest of Felton’s company: ‘the Spaniards launched many attacks on them, pressing them hard and hurling javelins and lances and spears. And that brave band of men … charged down more than a hundred times with drawn swords and made them retreat, nor could the Castilians harm them by throwing lances and darts.’ In the end it took the French marshal d’Audrehem’s men to finish the action, these dismounting and attacking on foot once they arrived on the scene. The moral here is that although the jinetes had succeeded in pinning the English company down, it nevertheless took dismounted men-at-arms to successfully conclude the engagement, and prior to the coming of the French and English, Spanish men-at-arms were not prepared to dismount in battle. Even afterwards they dismounted only reluctantly, though it is noteworthy that the elite Order of the Sash accompanied du Guesclin’s vanguard on foot at Najera. That the Spanish nevertheless recognised the tactical potential of dismounted men-at-arms is clear from the fact that Pere IV, King of Aragon, categorically forbade his troops ever to attack Castile’s French mercenaries once they had dismounted, recommending (rather negatively) that they should keep their distance and wait until the French had remounted before attempting to attack them.

In the field Spanish troops, like those elsewhere in Europe, drew up in 3 battles (batallas), which were divided into so many quadrillas or squadrons, each commanded by a knight called a quadrillero. The best troops were stationed in the centre and at the extremities of the line, and the infantry (crossbowmen, javelinmen and slingers) were drawn up in front. Compared to the English or French they delivered disordered charges, both on horseback and on the rare occasions that they dismounted. The Granadines made the most of this weakness when they actually took the Castilians on in the field in open combat, resorting to sudden feigned or real charges by bands of yelling horsemen whose intent was to disorder, panic or draw the enemy in disorganised pursuit, at which the Moslems would wheel and hurl their javelins at them at close range.


More unusually, the Portuguese crown also developed one of the most effective fighting navies possessed by any contemporary European monarch in this period, its only serious rival being that of Castile. The origins of this Portuguese navy are obscure, though there are fleeting mentions of crown warships as early as the mid-twelfth century. In 1317 King Dinis, concerned to defend the coast and shipping from Muslim corsairs and to mount his own offensive operations, contracted with the Genoese Manuel Pessagno to establish a permanent galley fleet based in Lisbon. This was a far-sighted, long-term investment, for navies even more than armies could not be created overnight. During the next few decades, the Portuguese crown accumulated the necessary resources and experience to sustain a permanent fleet and to begin to build up a great naval tradition. In the fourteenth century, the navy consisted mainly of galleys for which rowers were recruited from Portugal’s coastal communities; but it must at times have also included various kinds of sailing ships.

The high cost and technical proficiency needed to maintain galley squadrons meant they were a military arm which only the state could sustain. Already in 1369 King Fernando possessed thirty-two galleys. Later, galleys played a key role in the successful defence of Lisbon by Joāo of Avis in 1384. Portugal also developed a capacity to move substantial military forces by sea using sailing ships. This capacity made serious campaigning in North Africa possible – and without it the famous Ceuta expedition of 1415 could not have been mounted. Moreover, it was Portuguese success in building and manning ocean-going sailing vessels that made possible the country’s role in early Atlantic exploration.

Spanish Defense Commitments – Navy


S-80 class submarines

Displacement: 1,565 tons submerged

Dimensions: 61.7 x 6.2 x ?? meters

Propulsion: Diesel-electric, AIP, 1 shaft, 3,800 shp, 20 knots

Crew: 32-35

The S-80 submarine’s sonar suite will comprise of a cylindrical array sonar, a flank array sonar, a passive ranging sonar, and a mine and obstacle detection sonar. These facilities are being provided by Lockheed Martin. The support structures and fairings for the sonars are being provided by Goodrich.

The S-80 will also be integrated with a towed array sonar system, supplied by QinetiQ, an interception positioning system and an own noise analyser.

It will be fitted with satellite communication systems developed by Indra and a guidance automation unit distributed intelligence (GAUDI) autopilot system developed by Avio.

The submarine will be equipped with Aries radars, Friend or Foe identification systems (IFF) and modular Pegaso defence electronic systems supplied by Indra.

The submarine will also be enhanced by integrating non-penetrating all-weather optronic imaging systems, hoistable masts and periscopes, which will be supplied by Kollmorgen Electro-Optical and Calzoni.

Armament: 6 21 inch torpedo tubes (18 torpedoes and Harpoon missiles)

New design to replace the Daphne class submarines.

Number Name                   Year       Homeport           Notes

[S81                                     2005    Cartagena            planned December 2022 ]

[S82                                                 Cartagena           planned]

[S83                                                 Cartagena            planned]

[S84                                                  Cartagena           planned]

Galerna (Agosta) class coastal submarines

Displacement: 1,767 ton submerged

Dimensions: 67.57 x 6.8 meters (222.5 x 22 feet)

Propulsion: Diesel electric, 2 diesels, 1 shaft, 4,600 shp, 20 knots

Crew: 50

Sonar: DUUA-2A, DUUA-2B, DSUV 22A, DUUX-2A (S73 & S74: DUUX-5)

Fire Control: DLA-2A

Armament: 4 21 inch torpedo tubes (20 torpedoes)

Spanish-built French Agosta class with slightly different electronics.

Number Name                   Year       Homeport           Notes

S71     Galerna                1981    Cartagena

S72     Siroco                      1982    Cartagena decommissioned 2012

S73     Mistral                     1983    Cartagena

S74     Tramontana            1984    Cartagena

Delfin (Daphne) class coastal submarines

Displacement: 1,043 ton submerged

Dimensions: 57.57 x 6.74 meters (189 x 22 feet)

Propulsion: Diesel electric, 2 diesels, 2 shafts, 2,000 shp, 15 knots

Crew: 56

Sonar: DUUA-2B, DSUV 22A, DUUX-2A.

Fire Control: DLT-D-3

Armament: 12 21 inch torpedo tubes (12 torpedoes)

Spanish-built French Daphne class with improved electronics.

Number Name                   Year       Homeport           Notes

S61     Delfin                       1973    Cartagena

S62     Tonina                    1973    Cartagena

S63     Marsopa                  1975    Cartagena

S64     Narval                       1975    Cartagena

The first major change in the long dormant WEU (West European Union), the defense arm of the European Community (later European Union). The showcase for this change, calculated to energize European capabilities without recourse to NATO and, in particular, the United States, became the Eurocorps in which the Spanish contribution of the “Brunete” (1994) demonstrated a new Spanish presence in European affairs. Building on the Eurocorps formula, the WEU continued the next year with inceptions of EuroFor and EuroMarFor standing forces earmarked by Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal. A Spanish admiral led the standing naval force in the Mediterranean in the first year of its existence.

The first chance for Spanish military action in this 1990s came in supporting the United States in Spain as part of the UN prosecution against Iraq during 1990-91. So soon after breaking away from further dependence upon U. S. aid in 1988, the Socialist government of President Felipe González proved surprisingly helpful to U. S. forces in Spain. Permission was given to base twenty-two B-52 bombers at Morón and fly their bombing missions against Iraqi forces. Another forty aerial refuelers operated out of Morón and supported these aircraft, and the hundreds of U. S. tactical aircraft ferried through Spain to the Gulf region. When the bombers at Morón began to run out of ordnance, Spanish air force and army aircraft and heavy lift helicopters carried the bombs from storage sites at Torrejón and Zaragoza to maintain the operational tempo. Over 60% of U. S. airlift to the Gulf transited Spanish bases and local commanders stepped up security at the U. S. facilities; Spanish forces deployed ships to the Gulf in 1990 and took over other allied responsibilities in the Mediterranean to free them for deployments. Finally, Spanish air force and army troops deployed to Turkey in mid-1991 as part of Combined Task Force Provide Comfort, a U. S.-led UN mission into Northern Iraq to furnish local security to Iraqi Kurds in wake of the Iraqi defeat in Operation Desert Storm. A reinforced battalion of the Parachute Brigade (586 troops) operated with the U. S. and British forces on the ground, including the U. S. 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which had exercised that spring with the Spanish Legion at Almería.

Spanish defense doctrine created a so-called strategic “Axis” drawn along the line Balearic Islands-Straits-Canary Islands in the 1980s, both to orient its planning and to convince allies of the importance of the southern flank. In particular, Spain sought to advise allies of its archipelago responsibilities in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and to stress the vital role of the Straits zone, including the Ceuta and Melilla enclaves.

Spanish defense forces undertook developing a joint warfighting doctrine. Cooperation among the three services traditionally had proven nonexistent. However, the replacement of the former service ministries by a modern MOD structure and the demands for modernization of forces and warfighting techniques for national and European defense needs brought joint operations to the forefront. Approved in 1995, the new policy formally charged the chief of the defense staff (JEMAD) with the operational command of the units assigned by the separate services for a mission. The staff exercised this control for years in exercises and simulations, and first put the doctrine into action in the Perejil Island recovery operation of 2002.

The services were ordered each to form “operational commands” suitable for expeditionary service in 1991. The commanders of the Mandos Operativos take the character of service component chiefs, each responsible for deploying and tactically directing their units under the command of the JEMAD or a joint deployment headquarters. The Army initially designated its FAR headquarters, the Air Force created its Aerial Operational Command (MOA), and the Navy entrusted its fleet commander (ALFLOT) with these responsibilities. The defense structure changes and force modernization programs fleshed out these and other organizational aims during 1996-2000.

In terms of the military balance, Maghreb nations pose so little offensive threat to Spain and other nearby countries that Spanish Defense Minister Gustavo Suarez Pertierra could assert (1995) “we have no enemies” as the slogan of Spanish defense policy. Reduced tensions in Central Europe, however, contrasted with increased instability in the Mediterranean littoral. Spanish defense policy continued to evolve from the old Francoist policy of peninsular defense and colonial policing to embrace a modern version of territorial defense (mainly air defense and a ground reserve) coupled with modern forces necessary to maintain Spain’s status in NATO, the EC, and the UN.

Even in the event of ruptured relations, the Maghreb nations pose very little military threat to Spanish territory. The Spanish Air Force will replace its older U.S.-supplied radars and command and control systems with a modern SIMCA system (Sistema Integrado de Mando y Control Aereo), featuring three-dimensional radars, NATO and AWACS interoperability, and hardened command bunkers at Morón, Torrejón, and Canary Island sites. The NATO AWACS also serves to fill in radar gaps in the south, especially against low-fliers. Fighter squadrons are well exercised in the defense of Spanish airspace, and, with a few deployments from garrison bases-e. g., to the Balearic and Canary Islands-should be capable of handling a level of intrusion in excess of the threat.

Seaward defenses against raiding patrol craft, mines, and submarines remained the primary effort of the Spanish Navy, assisted by P-3C aircraft of the Air Force and Harpoon-armed EF-18 fighters. The light carrier Task Group Alpha, centered on the carrier Principe de Asturias, is fully oriented to classic sea control missions. The Mine Warfare Flotilla was transferred from its idyllic base at Palma de Mallorca to the naval base at Cartagena in 1992 mainly so that it could concentrate better on the vital shipping lanes into Cádiz, where 70% of Spanish sea imports arrive. The eight (recently reduced to five) Spanish submarines are kept in technically upgraded condition and exercise frequently in ASW roles. Amphibious potential continued to grow in Task Group Delta with the replacement of older transport ships with two Spanish-built amphibious assault ships and the naval infantry of the Tercio de la Armada, composed of a regimental landing team. The amphibious arm would prove essential in the event of a forced evacuation from Maghreb ports or a reinforcement of the Spanish enclave cities. The excellent Spanish Navy combat divers and the special operations companies of the naval infantry can perform hostage rescue actions.

The Navy

The Spanish Navy of the twenty-first century also aims at achieving a technological edge over its possible opponents, and musters over 11,000 enlisted personnel and draws 1,056 million of the 2006 budget. The navy takes advantage of an excellent relationship with the United States to purchase advanced systems such as the Aegis combat system, the Tomahawk land attack missile, and the SH-60 helicopter, but also has led the other services in establishing a solid national industrial base now producing and exporting advanced ships such as the F-100 air defense frigate and the S-80 submarine (Nansen and Scorpene class ships being built for Norway and Chile, respectively).

In 2005, the navy could line up one light aircraft carrier, five submarines (though one is scheduled to be retired in 2006), eleven frigates, six minesweepers, four amphibious ships, twelve patrol ships or corvettes, forty aircraft of all classes, and around fifty auxiliary ships, including an underway replenishment ship. In the same vein as the other services, the operational fleet, based at Rota, includes

Fleet Projection Group with the carrier Principe de Asturias and the amphibious ships carrying units of the naval infantry Tercio de Armada (TEAR). This Tercio forms as a brigade-sized formation that combines light infantry (two battalions), mechanized units (a tank company and a mechanized battalion supported by a self-propelled battery), and a special operations company, making it the most versatile unit in the Spanish armed forces.

• 41st Escort Squadron: six F-80 FFG frigates

• 31st Escort Squadron: three F-100 class frigates and two F-70 frigates

• Submarine Squadron: four Agosta class and one Daphne´ class submarines

• Aircraft flotilla: with helicopter and AV-8B Harrier squadrons

• Minesweeper flotilla: with six Segura class minesweepers

• Fleet replenishment ship Patiño

New programs include the Strategic Projection Ship (a large through-deck amphibious assault ship), an additional replenishment unit, two more F-100 frigates, four S-80 advanced diesel submarines, and four Maritime Action Ships (with a possible ten more to follow), as well as lesser units, like the twelve landing craft. The helicopter force is expected to receive twenty NH-90 helicopters, and it is hoped that JSF will be bought to replace the Harriers.


Charles V meets with the Bey of Tunis, 1535. Both Habsburg and Ottoman power in North Africa depended in part on agreements with local clients. Here the size of the Imperial expedition of 1535 is apparent. Note the lines of galleys in the bay to the upper right – projecting power across the Mediterranean took enormous resources.

Town and fortress of Herceg Novi (Ital.: Castelnuovo).

The Ottoman sultan, especially after the conquest of Mameluke Egypt in 1517 (during the first year of King Charles’s reign), enjoyed his own growing influence along the central North African coast. The sultan’s most successful client was Khayr ad-Din, the Barbary pirate better known as Barbarossa for his red beard. Fearful of the growing Spanish influence which threatened his corsairing, in 1518 Barbarossa pledged himself to the sultan Selim and in return received a title and military aid. With a large galley fleet and a mixed army of Maghrebis, Christian renegades, Moorish refugees from Spain and Turkish adventurers, Khayr ad-Din seized Algiers (1529) and Tunis (1534) from local Muslim rulers. In 1533 Süleyman made the pirate his high admiral with all the substantial resources of the Galata dockyards at Constantinople. Barbarossa continued to plague the shores and shipping of Christian Europe until his death in 1546. These were not insubstantial raids, threatening only unlucky fishermen and villagers, but major acts of war. In 1543, his most spectacular year, Barbarossa first sacked Reggio Calabria (for the second time) and then, cooperating with the sultan’s French allies, the city of Nice (a possession of the Spanish-allied Duke of Savoy). The war in North Africa and on the waters of the western Mediterranean thus became a confrontation between the emperor Charles and the sultan Süleyman.

In Charles’s first Mediterranean offensive he personally led the great invasion fleet and 25,000-man army that sailed from Barcelona to take Tunis in 1535, a direct response to Barbarossa’s seizure of the city the previous year. The fortified island of Goletta off Tunis became one of the principal Spanish forts of the Maghreb, and the southernmost position of a Habsburg cordon stretching down from Naples, Sicily and Malta to block further Ottoman expansion. Süleyman replied to the loss of Tunis with a planned invasion of Italy in 1537, landing a preliminary force of horse under the command of an Italian renegade to scour the countryside of Apulia. To secure his crossing to Italy Süleyman first laid siege to the Venetian fortress of Corfu, extensively protected by massive new-style fortifications. The Turkish besiegers proved incapable of reducing the Venetian citadel, and the entire operation had to be abandoned. The next year Charles continued the Spanish offensive, his Genoese admiral Andrea Doria taking Castelnuovo (now Herceg Novi) in Montenegro. In the late summer of 1539 Barbarossa retook Castelnuovo at a tremendous cost of life. Neither power could successfully bridge the straits of Otranto. In 1541 Charles directed an enormous fleet against Algiers, a twin to his successful operation against Tunis in 1535. Again the emperor was personally in command, and success looked certain: Barbarossa was in the eastern Mediterranean; the janissary garrison tiny. But soon after disembarking a tremendous three-day gale utterly wrecked the supporting Spanish fleet, and the invading force (reduced to eating their horses) had to be evacuated. For almost ten years following this Spanish disaster there were no major land operations in the Mediterranean.

Barbarossa (Hayreddin or Kheir-ed-Din Pasha) (c. 1476- 1546)

Ottoman admiral. Born around 1476, at Mitylene on Lesbos, Hayreddin and his older brother Oruj led a fleet of pirate galliots, or open rowing boats, in the Goletta near Tunis.

Ottoman Sultan Bayezit gave Oruj the title of bey (military commander) for his 1505 capture of a Sicilian vessel carrying Spanish soldiers. After Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria drove the brothers from the Goletta in 1512, Oruj moved his base to Djidjelli, Algeria, and Hayreddin moved to Djerba.

In 1516 Oruj and Hayreddin helped the Moriscos (Muslims expelled from Spain) push the Spanish from Algiers. In 1518, however, Spain forced the brothers and their Arab and Morisco allies from Algiers, killing Oruj. Hayreddin rallied the remaining forces, who chose him as their leader and called him “Barbarossa” for his red beard.

Ottoman Sultan Selim I sent 2,000 janissaries and 4,000 soldiers to retake Algiers in 1519, whereupon Barbarossa became beylerbeyi, or governor. King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V tried to retake Algiers in August, but a storm destroyed most of his fleet. Barbarossa then consolidated Ottoman power in Algiers, uniting the Arabs and Berbers with the coastal Moriscos and sending his galliots to raid Spanish and Italian shipping. In May 1529 he forced the Spanish to surrender their base of Penon in Algiers’s harbor. He then had Christian captives build a breakwater to connect Penon with the mainland.

Summoned to Istanbul by Sultan Suleyman I the Magnificent in December 1533, Barbarossa was appointed capudan pasha (admiral in chief). Barbarossa built a galley fleet, which he manned with Anatolian warriors rather than captives or slaves.

In July 1534 Barbarossa used this fleet to raid the Italian coast, and in August he occupied Tunis. King Muley Hassan of Tunis sought aid from Charles V, who sent Andrea Doria there in July 1535. To save his own fleet, Barbarossa withdrew from Tunis. As the Spanish and Genoese celebrated their victory, Barbarossa invaded Spanish waters, taking 6,000 slaves in a raid on Minorca. He then attacked Venetian bases in the Ionian Sea in 1536, and from September to November 1537 he added the remaining Aegean islands to the Ottoman Empire.

Meanwhile, in 1538 Andrea Doria assembled an armada of row galleys and sailing galleons from Genoa, Venice, Spain, and the Papal States to challenge Barbarossa. On 28 September 1538, Barbarossa’s smaller, more maneuverable galleys and galliots defeated the combined armada in a day of fierce fighting off Preveze in the western Ionian Sea, sinking five Spanish sailing ships and two Italian galleys. Venice made peace with the Ottomans in October 1540.

Barbarossa’s fleet supported France’s siege of Nice and forced its surrender in September 1543, then raided Catalonia and Italy, before returning to Istanbul. In establishing Ottoman naval power in the Mediterranean, Barbarossa forced Emperor Charles V to make peace in November 1545.

Barbarossa died at his palace on the Bosphorus in July 1546. For generations, no Turkish ship would pass his tomb at Besiktas in Istanbul without firing a salute to the Ottoman Empire’s “King of the Sea.”

Bradford, Ernle D. S. The Sultan’s Admiral: The Life of Barbarossa. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.
Fisher, Godfrey. Barbary Legend: War, Trade and Piracy in North Africa, 1415–1830. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1957.
Shaw, Stanford. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Vol. 1, Empire of the Gazis: The Rise and Decline of the Ottoman Empire, 1280–1808. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.
Wolf, John B. The Barbary Coast: Algiers under the Turks. New York: W. W. Norton, 1979.

Battle of Tornavento June 22, 1636

As a French-Savoyard army under Duke Victor Amadeus and Marshal Charles de Crequi campaigned in northern Italy, they were attacked on the Ticino, west of Milan at Tornavento, by Spanish Governor Diego Felipe de Guzma’n Marquis de Legane’s. The Spaniards were forced to retreat after fierce fighting and suffered another loss the following year at Monte Baldo (23 June 1636).

1636. Operations in Italy. A combined French-Savoyard army under Victor Amadeus and Marshal Charles de Crequi defeated the Spanish in the hard-fought Battle of Tornavento (June 22). But the duke refused to advance beyond the Ticino against Milan.

Thirty Years War (Franco-Habsburg War)

Franco-Savoyard victory (Tactical)

Franco- Savoyard Army

Commanders: Vittorio-Amedeo I and Marshal de Créqui

Infantry: 8 000  men

Cavalry  ~ 2 500 men

Artilley: ?

Losses ~ 2 000 – 2 500 men

Spanish Army of the State of Milano

Commander: Marques of Leganés

Infantry: 9 000 – 10 000 men

Cavalry ~ 4 000  men

Artillery: 3-5 guns

Losses: 2 000 – 2 500 men

Strategic situation: En 1636, Richelieu and the Duke of Savoy (Vittorio Amedeo I) agreed to launch an offensive on the Spanish Duchy of Lombardia. The 20 of May 1636 the main confederate army started the campaign crossing the river Tarano near the city of Asti. After 2 weeks of march and counter march the allied finally crossed the river Pô at Valenza and marched to the North passing near Novarra and taking the city of Oleggio the 14 of June, with the objective to meet the army of the Duke of Rohan coming from the north. The 16 of June the French Marshal de Créqui, with select corps of 7 000 – 8 000 French troops crossed by surprise the river Ticino at Boffalora [1] at just 40 km of Milano, but without artillery and with a strong Spanish army marching on him, Créqui decided to join the rest of the army. The 20 of June we find Créqui at Somma Lombardo on the east bank of the Ticino, Vittorio Amedeo on the west bank of the Ticino at Varalla Pombia and the Spanish at Boffalora. Next day Créqui turn back to the south to face the Spanish at Tornavento waiting the rest of the army and protecting the ford of Oleggio. The Spanish stopped at Castano Primo and decided to attack first the French before the arrival of the Savoyard army. During the night of the 21 of June we find the French digging a defensive position at Tornavento, the Savoyard building a wood bridge and the Spanish organising their army for the next day.

The French army of Marshal of Créqui took position behind their fortification. The right wing (de Florinville) covers the space between the naviglio grande (a canal), a ditch (fosso di Pamperduto) and Tornavento and had 2 infantry regiments (Pierregourde and de Florinville), a cavalry squadron (Lestang) and a company of Gendarmes (Allencourt). The centre (Marshal of Créqui) was composed of 3 infantry regiments (Sault, Henrichemont and Roquefeuille) and 6 small cavalry squadrons (Cauvisson, Lorraine, Marolles, Bois David, de la Tour and la Ferté) and it was deployed around Tornavento.At last, the left wing (Plessis-Preslin) was composed of the infantry regiment of the Lyonnais, probably 3 cavalry squadrons (Chamblay, Moissac and Palluau-Cléranbaut), 150 carabins (3 companies) and 300 dragoons (Bouillac) and it was deployed behind a ditch (fosso della Cerca near the actual SP 52 Road).

The sabaudian army of Vittorio Amedeo I it is not well know (probably some 1200 horses, 6 000 foots and 10 guns) but the vanguard, who participate to the battle, numbered some 500 horses and 2 000 – 2 500 foots (Regiment of Count Marolles [2] and Regiment Du Cheynex [2]). The rest (including French troops) was near Oleggio guarding the artillery and the luggage or looting the countryside.  In total we have some 10 500 men, for the battle, subdivided in 8 000 foots, 2 000 horses and some 450 carabins/dragoons.

The Spanish army (Marques of Léganez) was organised with an infantry of 4 Spanish battalions (Tercios of Lombardia, Caracena, Mortara and Fijo del mar de Napoles), 2 Italians battalion (Carlo della Gatta and Giulio Cesare Borromeo) and 3 German regiments (Gaspare Visconti, Prince Borso di Modena and Gilles de Haes). The cavalry was composed of companies, of the State of Milano (some 30 companies?), from the Kingdom of Napoles (11 companies), a German regiment with 7 cornets and the 2 guards companies of the Governor of Milano. We must add some companies of dragoons and an artillery battery of 5 guns. The army was deployed with a vanguard (Gerardo Gambacorta) of 5 battalions with some cavalry, an assault brigade of 4 battalions with some cavalry and a strong rearguard (Filippo Spinola-Doria) with most of the cavalry and the dragoons. In total some 9 000 – 10 000 foots and 4 000 cavalry and dragoons.

A): The first action started on the left French flanks when well supported by the artillery the right Spanish wing, under Gambacorta, repulsed the French regiment of Lyonnais and takes their outposts.

B): On the right Spanish wing, with some delays, a powerful brigade of 4 battalions supported by some cavalry companies marched toward the French position, following the Fosso di Pamperduto.

C): On the right Spanish flanks, a counter attack by the French cavalry manages to stop the Spanish killing their commander. Meanwhile the French win time to reorganised their infantry.

D): On the left wing, the Spanish infantry slip to the left to attack the French right wing.

E): Disorganised by the death of Gambacorta and the ditch of Cerca, the Spanish cannot resist the attack of the reorganised French infantry and retire to their previous position.

F): Mean time the Spanish of the left wing dislodged the French from their position. The intervention of first Savoyard troops crossing the Ticino, and some French cavalry save the situation of that wing.

G): The battles expand to the entire front, degenerating in a series of partial and confused attacks and counter attacks. But the good resistance of the French at Tornavento and the intervention of the Savoyard vanguard blocked all Spanish progress. Cavalry of both side acted to help their infantry but the lack of space did not permit conclusive charges.

H): After several hours of heavy fighting, men of both armies suffered the effect of the losses, of the tiredness and of the lack of water (“sin àrbol, y con falta de agua” (“treeless, and lacking water”)). With the night coming, the Spanish commander decided that he could not ask more to his men and started to retire, with the protection of the rearguard, behind Castano Primo to reorganise his army. The exhausted confederate army did not follow them and stay on their positions.

Balance: In one day probably more than 3 000 men died, the Spanish abandoned the battlefield and retired to Boffalora, meantime the confederate army remained some days near Tornavento but decided to turn back to theirs bases, Torino for Vittorio Amedeo and Casale for Créqui. For the confederate army, little have been achieved with this battle and the invasion of Lombardia turn to be a complete failure. In 1637, the Spanish will retake the imitative of the operation taking the fortress of Nizza Monferrato. Worst for the confederate, Vittorio Amedeo will die in 1637, starting a civil war for the control of the duchy of Savoy.

[1] Note: Following Visconti the crossing was more to the north between in the ford of Oleggio and Boffalora was attack by a strong reconnaissance squadron.

[2] Note: Some authors called them Savoie and Montferrat, even if officially they had these names not until 1664.


Spanish Tercio

By the beginning of the sixteenth century, disciplined pike-armed infantry had become the backbone of Europe’s increasingly professional armies. At the same time, firearms had become lighter and convenient enough to be used by infantry in battle. Such handheld firearms could inflict heavy casualties upon pike-armed forces arrayed for battle but suffered from the very serious shortcoming that the harquebusiers were vulnerable while performing the slow and complicated steps involved in reloading their weapons. Under El Gran Capitan, the Spanish commander Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba (1453-1515), Spanish forces began to combine blocks of pike men with blocks of harquebusiers. Such formations, called tercios, were successful combined-arms units. The harquebusiers deployed outside the pike square and fired into the enemy lines. If the enemy charged, the harquebusiers could retreat into the pike formation for protection. Thus a tercio combined continuous fire with the shock power of the pike. The devastating potential of these tactics was demonstrated at the Battle of Cerignola (1503). A French force of cavalry and Swiss mercenaries attacked Fernandez de Cordoba’s Spanish forces deployed behind a ditch. The fire of the harquebusiers was so severe that the French formations broke apart, whereupon Fernandez de Cordoba’s pikemen charged. The disordered French were overwhelmed and suffered heavy casualties. These tactics put a premium on the pikes and handguns but reduced the need for cutting weapons such as halberds and glaives.

Tercio. “Third.” The name derived from the tripartite division common to early modern infantry squares, especially the main infantry unit in the 5th-16th-century Spanish system. Tercios started at 3,000 men, but heavy tercios could have up to 6,000 men each, formed into 50 to 60 ranks with 80 men to a file. They were super-heavy units of armored and tactically disciplined pikemen, supported by arquebusiers and lesser numbers of heavy musketeers on the corners. To contemporary observers they appeared as “iron cornfields” which won through shock and sheer mass rather than clever maneuver. Others saw in the tercio a “walking citadel” whose corner guards of clustered arquebusiers gave it the appearance of a mobile castle with four turrets, especially after the reforms introduced by Gonzalo di Cordoba from 1500. He wanted the tercios to better contend with the Swiss so he added more pikes at the front but also many more gunmen to replace the older reliance on polearms. These formations might have only 1,200 men. The new tercio was still heavy and ponderous on the move, but it was a more flexible unit with much greater firepower that could dig in for defense or advance to destroy the enemy’s main force as circumstances suggested. This reform first paid off at Cerignola (1503). At Pavia (1525), tercios destroyed the French under Francis I. For two generations after that most opponents declined battle against the tercios whenever possible, and they became the most feared infantry in Europe. They remained dominant for nearly a hundred years. Their demise came during the Thirty Years’ War when more flexible Dutch and Swedish armies broke into more flexible, smaller regiments. These units smashed the tercios with combined arms tactics that also employed field artillery and a return to cavalry shock.

Battle of Cerignola, (April 21, 1503)

Spain’s “Gran Capitan” Gonzalo di Co’rdoba had been beaten by a Franco-Swiss army at Seminara in 1495. To counter Swiss tactics, at Cerignola he dug a ditch in front of his line. This broke up the cadence of the Swiss pikers, exposing them to murderous Spanish arquebus fire. Once the enemy lines grew ragged Co’rdoba sent his tercios forward. These were newly reformed units with added pikes and more arquebusiers, which gave the Swiss a taste of their own famous “push of pike.” The Spanish infantry drove the Franco-Swiss troops backward and downslope, while Spanish cavalry pursued and cut down individual soldiers as they ran. The French artillery train was captured. Naples fell to Co’rdoba on May 13. While the pike remained an integral part of the Spanish tercio, it was the arquebus and musket that gave the formation its power at Cerignola. The battle was the beginning of the end for Swiss infantry dominance.

Battle of La Bicocca, (April 27, 1522).

During the Italian Wars (1494-1559) Francis I assembled an army of 25,000, including thousands of Swiss mercenaries, and marched to take back Milan which he had earlier lost to Charles V. Waiting to meet him with 20,000 Spanish and Italian troops, supported by German mercenaries, was Marchese di Pescara. The Habsburgs were positioned behind a sunken road and were well dug in. Their musketeers stood in four ranks partially concealed by heavy hedges and unusually, with pikemen to the rear. The Swiss in French employ charged with their usual ferocious abandon only to see a third of their number fall to the massed Habsburg gunmen. Each rank fired in turn, then retired, a countermarch tactic developed to maximize the fire effect of the new “Spanish musket.” That heavier weapon had been used in a siege at Parma in 1521 but this was its first test in a field battle. It was devastating: 3,000 Swiss fell dead or wounded inside 30 minutes. No more would the Swiss used outdated pike and halberd tactics in the face of opposing firearms. Henceforth, the Spanish tercio was admired as the best infantry formation in Europe, ahead of the suddenly outdated Swiss square. Francis withdrew toward Venice, his ally.

Los Tercios y el Ejército Español 1525 – 1704

Don Carlos of Spain

The survival of Spanish moderates and liberals in government posts, because of their competence, bothered extreme royalists, who increasingly gathered around the childless king’s brother, Don Carlos. Royalist irregulars called Volunteers, who rallied to Fernando in 1823, wanted places in the army that had been denied them by the professionals, whether conservative or liberal. In 1827 “aggrieved” royalists rebelled in Catalonia and were crushed.

The revolution of 1830 that brought Louis Philippe of Orleans to the French throne as the “bourgeois king” triggered several abortive liberal risings in Spain that served chiefly to provide the liberal cause with martyrs. Spanish clericals and conservatives grew more attached to Don Carlos, whereas their opponents put their hope in the new queen, Maria Cristina of Naples. Aged twenty-three, she had won the heart of the older king. After some wavering, Fernando issued a Pragmatic which declared that her child, whether daughter or son, would succeed to the throne. The tradition of the House of Bourbon was the Salic law-that only a son could succeed to the throne. Maria Cristina had two daughters, Isabel and Luisa. When Fernando VII died in 1833, Isabel, aged three, became Queen Isabel II, and her mother, Maria Cristina, regent. In opposition, Isabel’s uncle. Don Carlos declared himself to be King Carlos V.

The regent soon replaced Fernando’s last chief minister, conservative Francisco Cea Bermudez, with moderate Francisco Martinez de la Rosa, a onetime “jailbird.” He presided over the drafting of the Royal Statute of 1834, a sort of constitution bestowed by the crown. It provided for a twochamber Cortes, with an upper house that resembled the English House of Lords with archbishops, bishops, grandees, and titled nobles, plus designated appointees; and a lower chamber of deputies, to be elected indirectly by a restricted electorate. Its functions were consultative, and the ministers remained responsible to the crown. No bill of rights was included. The liberal direction of Spain was paralleled in Portugal and encouraged by Britain and France. They joined with Spain and Portugal in a new Quadruple Alli ance to preclude foreign interference. Whereas many moderate liberals were satisfied, other liberals were not, and in the provincial capitals the Progressives, the heirs of the exaltados, began to dominate the political debate. The differences of Moderates and Progressives would be played out against the background of the Carlist Wars.

Don Carlos, a vain, closed-minded man, soon had followers in arms, chiefly in the Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon, and rural Catalonia. These were regions where the Church was strong and with significant populations of poor but proud smallholders, regions that enjoyed historic privileges which seemed threatened by the centralizing policies of impatient liberals. Their battle cry proclaimed God, king, fatherland, and regional privileges (fueros). Conservative soldiers, former guerrilleros, and sometime bandits formed the core of the Carlist forces. While Don Carlos announced that their commander in chief was the Virgin of Sorrows, their best general was a professional soldier and hero of the War of Independence, “Uncle” Tomas Zumalacarregui. He drove government forces from the countryside of Navarre and the Basque Country but lacked the heavy equipment necessary to conquer the well-garrisoned and liberal capitals of Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Pamplona. When Don Carlos arrived in Spain in 1835, he pressured Zumalacarregui to assault Bilbao. The assault failed, and Zumalacarregui died of wounds. The First Carlist War sputtered on until 1840. Both sides massacred prisoners and terrorized civilians. Attempts at compromise based on the betrothal of Queen Isabel II to Don Carlos’s son, Carlos Luis, count of Montemolfn, foundered on Don Carlos’s intransigence. In 1837 the Carlists paraded to the outskirts of Madrid, but found no popular support and withdrew. By 1839, on the northern front the government arrayed 100,000 men and 700 guns, under General Baldomero Espartero, against the Carlists’ 32,000 men and 50 guns, under Rafael Maroto. A professional officer, Maroto knew his side had no chance; so with Espartero he signed the compromise of Vergara, which allowed the Carlists to lay down their arms, and the regular officers who had served Don Carlos to return to the army without loss of rank. This gave the Spanish army a notoriously high ratio of officers to men. By 1840 the war was over. Don Carlos fled to France, where he settled at Bourges, under the gaze of an unfriendly French government.

‘While their future depended on the defeat of the Carlists, the politicians in Madrid wrangled over revenues and constitutional questions. The task of finding money to meet war costs went to an energetic banker of Cadiz and London, Juan Alvarez Mendizabal. His enemies noted that he was both a Jew and a Freemason. Early in 1836 he rammed through a measure that had profound consequences: the disamortization (release from mortmain, a kind of entail), appropriation, and sale of all Church lands that did not di rectly support parishes, hospitals, or schools. For an idea long around, the moment had come. Mendizabal and his allies hoped that the chief beneficiaries of disamortization would be members of the middle class, who would purchase Church lands and become wedded to the liberal cause in order to keep them. For the Church hierarchy it was the last straw. The bishops broke irrevocably with liberalism and privately put their hopes on the Carlist side. Rome refused to confirm many of the Spanish crown’s episcopal nominees, and half of Spain’s dioceses were soon without bishops. As Church wealth dwindled, perhaps one-third of Spain’s clergy renounced their vows and quit.

The disamortization of Church lands formed part of the liberal economic program to encourage increased agricultural productivity through greater private entrepreneurial activity. The common lands of the former Church domains were also privatized, which led to more peasant unrest and several violent insurrections over the following thirty years. The same environmental and technological constraints that had always affected Spanish agriculture persisted, and the new patterns of ownership led to no marked increase in productivity.

In elections under the Royal Statute of 1834, the Progressives got the edge in the municipalities, and the unruly urban militias they dominated demanded the restoration of the Constitution of 1812. Demonstrations in Madrid in August 1836 caused the sergeants of the Royal Guards at the summer palace at La Granja to confront the regent over the matter. Faced with the “Sergeants’ Revolt,” she agreed to accept it and made it the business of the Cortes to undertake the necessary revisions. In 1837 she promulgated a new Constitution that provided a Cortes with a senate, appointed by the crown from lists submitted by designated provincial electors, and a Congress of Deputies, for which 4 percent of the male population could vote.

Dominated by Moderates, the Cortes gave the central government tighter control over Spain’s municipalities in 1840. Progressives took to the streets and rioted. Much of the tinder for riot and unrest was provided by office seekers. In Spain, as in the United States at the time, the spoils system reigned. The party that won power dismissed officeholders of the losing party and rewarded its own followers with their jobs. Government jobs had long been the chief aspiration of ambitious university graduates in a Spain that produced more lawyers than engineers, physicians, or scientists. Called pretendientes, those out of office became a fixture on the Spanish scene. Depending on family support to eat, they conspired and agitated to restore their party to power. With the transfer in 1836 of the University of Alcala to Madrid, as the Universidad Central, university students joined the politically restless elements of the capital.

To restore order, the regent in desperation appointed General Espartero as prime minister. The first of the political generals who dominated Spanish politics for the next two dozen years, he was the son of a carter of La Mancha and identified with the Progressives. Given his humble origins, he also made clear that the army provided a career open to talent. When Espartero and the regent differed, he used the need to end disorder to coerce her into yielding the regency to him. Maria Cristina’s position was already compromised by her marriage, soon after Fernando’s death, to Augustin Munoz, a sergeant of the Guards, whom she had her daughter make a duke and grandee. Maria Cristina and Munoz departed for France.

With Espartero regent and Progressives once more in control of the Cortes, the number of men enjoying the franchise was doubled. A pronunciamento by Moderates in the Basque Country was quickly squelched, and Basque privileges were curtailed. Concern over a swing to the right in Barcelona led to a more radical Progressive rising and the establishment of a popular junta, with budding labor unions involved. Unruly mobs dismantled part of the royal citadel erected by Philip V, and the Barcelona junta challenged the liberal doctrine of free trade and called for protectionism. Then tax riots broke out, and by the end of 1842, order had collapsed. Angry, Espartero refused to compromise with Barcelona, turned his artillery on the city, then stormed it.

Many Progressives abandoned Espartero in disgust and joined the Moderates. When their coalition won control of the Cortes, Espartero dissolved it. All over Spain disgruntled garrisons and municipalities pronounced against him. Moderate General Ramon Narvaez returned from exile in France and engineered Espartero’s fall. Rather than make Narvaez regent, his rivals had the Cortes declare Queen Isabel II to be of age, a year early since she was only thirteen. But Narvaez would dominate the government for most of the next ten years.

Spain’s economy began a slow expansion with the restoration of order in most of the country, which was maintained by the newly established paramilitary Civil Guard. Growth was more pronounced on the periphery: Catalonia and Valencia on the Mediterranean, western Andalusia, and the Basque Country. Old and New Castile remained poor, and Madrid seemed bloated by contrast. Also poor were Aragon and Galicia; Extremadura and rural Andalusia were the poorest of all. By midcentury, Spain’s population neared 15 million, an increase of more than 3 million since 1800.

Spain’s political elite, centered on Madrid and including the court, the politicians, the army, the bureaucracy, and the press, now fussed about the queen’s marriage. The Church hierarchy was not out of the picture, though it was still offended by its loss of landed wealth and the restrictions placed on religious orders. Great Britain and France also had ideas. Isabel II, with her mother remarried and exiled to France, grew up spoiled, indulged, overweight, and sensual. To every candidate for her hand objections sprouted. What seemed most logical, her marriage to the Carlist heir, Mon- temolfn, foundered on his claim that he was already King Carlos VI. In the end she married the least objectionable candidate, her first cousin Don Francisco de Asfs, son of her uncle, the duke of Cadiz. Aged twenty-four, Don Francisco de Asis was a fastidious army officer whose sexual relations with the queen derived from his sense of duty. Many attributed her unhappy situation to duplicitous French diplomacy. When Britain objected to a French proposal that she marry a son of King Louis Philippe, his son, the manly duke of Montpensier, married her sister, the Infanta Luisa. Suspicion grew that the French hoped Isabel and her ascetic consort would be childless and that Montpensier’s offspring would succeed to the Spanish throne. Isabel II and Don Francisco de Asis soon lived in separate quarters, but she bore four daughters and a son who survived early childhood and, despite questions regarding their paternity, were accepted as legitimate. Notoriously she took many lovers, mostly macho army officers. Although most regarded her behavior as scandalous, they admitted her marriage was unhappy.

Following Isabel’s marriage in 1846, a Carlist rising surfaced in Catalonia on behalf of Montemolin. Called the Second Carlist War and fueled by peasant unrest, it peaked in 1848 but was quelled by 1849. Coping with it brought Narvaez back to power in late 1847. In 1848, a year of revolution in much of Europe (which cost King Louis Philippe his throne in France), he kept a firm grip on the political life of Spain and sent an expeditionary force to Rome in 1849 to support the pope against revolutionaries there. In 1851 a coalition of disgruntled Moderates and ultraconservatives forced him from office once more. They were aided by court cabals that included Francisco de Asis, who found his niche in government through intrigue. The new government of Antonio Bravo Murillo dismissed the Cortes, which had a splendid new palace, and attempted to rule by decree, influenced by developments in France where Napoleon III seized power.

Santísima Trinidad (1769)

Epitome of the first-rate ‘ship of the line’, Santísima Trinidad was designed to lead a fleet into battle and to withstand a heavy cannonade. The concept of staying-power in the face of gunfire was becoming increasingly important.

These eighteenth-century scale drawings are guides to the installation of the supports for a canvas roofing to cover the entire upper deck. They were made before the vessel’s conversion to a four-decker.

The largest warship of the eighteenth century, with four decks of guns, the Spanish flagship was engaged in two of history’s great naval battles, at Cape St Vincent and Trafalgar. It was known as the ‘Escorial (royal palace) of the Seas’.

The Royal Shipyards at Havana, Cuba (then a Spanish possession) were a major building site for warships. Costs were less than in Spain and there were large timber resources, especially of hardwoods not available in Spain, like the American cedarwood used in Santísima Trinidad. It was the seventh Spanish warship of the name, confirmed by a royal order on 12 March 1768. Its designer was the King’s naval architect Matthew or Mateo Mullan, an Irishman, and building was supervised by his son Ignacio.

It was launched as a three-decker of unusually large dimensions. Spanish shipbuilding was of high quality, perhaps the best of any nation. The ships were strongly built and generally of larger size for their gun-rating than British vessels, which made them both more stable as gun-platforms and better able to withstand attack.

A Spanish 70-gun ship was about 1540 tonnes (1700 tons) compared to the 1134 tonnes (1250 tons) of a comparable British ship. This tradition of size and strength gave the builders of 1769 confidence to construct the largest warship of the time. Ships of this size were rarities: between 1750 and 1790 the British Navy had only six ships of 100 guns. The French also built a few very large ships. In 1788 the French Commerce de Marseille exceeded Santísima Trinidad in size, being 63.5m (208ft 4in) long, with a beam of 16.6m (54ft 9in), but carried fewer guns, 118 on three decks (captured by the British in 1793, it was broken up in 1802), and Océan and Orient, of 1790 and 1791, carried 120 guns.

Years of action

In its first years the ship was probably not in commission but held in readiness. With the declaration of war by Spain on Great Britain in July 1779, it entered service as flagship of the Spanish fleet, under Admiral Luis de Cordoba y Cordoba, operating with allied French ships in the English Channel and the western approaches. In August 1780 it led an action which resulted in the capture of 55 British merchant vessels from a convoy. In 1782 it participated in the second siege of Gibraltar, as flagship of a combined fleet 48-strong of Spanish and French ships, but failed to intercept a British relief convoy.

Increased firepower

In 1795, in a bold enhancement of its gun-power, a fourth deck was installed, joining the forecastle to the quarter-deck and raising the number of cannon carried from 112 to 136. This made Santísima Trinidad by some way the most heavily-armed ship of its time. Back in service in 1797, it was the Spanish flagship at the Battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February, and suffered major damage, partially dismasted and with over half the crew killed or wounded. Santísima Trinidad struck her colours to HMS Orion, but before the British could take possession, they were signalled away, and the ship was rescued by Pelayo and Principe de Asturias, and limped back to Cadiz for repair.

Particularly after the construction of the fourth deck, giving the ship a very high freeboard exposed to sidewinds, Santísima Trinidad did not have good sailing qualities and gained the nickname ‘El Ponderoso’. Unlike contemporary French and British naval ships, its hull was not copper-sheathed. A further disadvantage, according to French observers, was a poorly-trained crew and the poor quality of many of the guns. With the greater part of the Spanish fleet, the ship’s home base was Cadiz.

In the course of its 38-year plus career, the Santísima Trinidad was careened or refitted three times, and spent almost 20 of those years out of service. This last was typical of ships in other navies: if there was no war on, crews were discharged and the ship held ‘in ordinary’. Ships in reserve had their guns removed, to reduce strain on the innumerable joints and brackets of the hull and gun-decks.

Surrender at Trafalgar

At Trafalgar, captained by Francisco Javier Uriarte and carrying the pendant of Rear Admiral Baltasar de Cisneros, it was flagship of the Spanish squadron, painted dark red with white stripes. In line just ahead of Admiral Villeneuve’s Bucentaure, it was in the thick of the central battle, heavily raked by broadsides from HMS Neptune.

After four hours, by 2:12pm, all three masts were gone; an eyewitness wrote: ‘This tremendous fabric gave a deep roll, with a swell to leeward, then back to windward, and on her return every mast went by the board, leaving it an unmanageable hulk on the water.’ The ship was compelled to surrender (as painted below in the Surrender of the Santísima Trinidad to Neptune, The Battle of Trafalgar, 3 PM, 21st October 1805 by Lieutenant Robert Strickland Thomas).

After the battle it was taken in tow by HMS Prince, but in the storm which followed, the tow could not be held, and Santísima Trinidad was scuttled on 22 October.

Specification (1768)

Dimensions Length 60.1m (200ft), Beam 19.2m (62ft 9in), Draught 8.02m (26ft 4in)

Displacement c4309 tonnes (c4750 tons)

Rig 3 masts, square-rigged

Armament (1768) 30 36-pounder, 32 24-pounder, 32 12-pounder, 18 8-pounder guns

Complement 950