Spanish Colonies in South America

The final century and a half of Spanish colonial rule brought additional changes to the Andean political, social, and economic systems that had emerged during the age of Viceroy Toledo. From 1650 to 1750, the South American empire experienced declining mining production and tax revenues, which, from the perspective of the government in Spain, resulted in a century of depression and decline. At the same time, because the weaker imperial government intruded less on the lives of Andeans, the same century brought prosperity to local elites, who retained more resources to maintain a gracious lifestyle. Less exploitation also brought relief to indigenous populations, whose numbers finally began to recover in the 1700s. Only during the last decades of the eighteenth century did a new royal dynasty, the Bourbons, attempt to redress the empire’s loss of authority and revenue. By creating a more modern, activist state, the Bourbon monarchs, especially Charles III, hoped to reform Spain’s administrative, economic, and social policies toward the colonies and restore Spain’s grandeur.

The arrival of these ideas about a more authoritarian and secular state created serious stress fractures as the Bourbon revival challenged Andean customs. While the reforms did accomplish some of the Bourbon objectives, they also enraged various groups throughout the region, leading to a series of rebellions that challenged the establishment. The violent course of these rebellions, at least in Peru and Bolivia, in some ways was a recapitulation of Pizarro’s march through the Andes in the sixteenth century, when large numbers of poorly armed indigenous people were outmatched by Spanish military might. The late-eighteenth-century Andean rebellions have been interpreted in many ways: as a precursor movement to the criollo (Spaniards born in the New World) independence movement of the 1820s; as an instance of Inka revivalism to create a new pachacuti; or as an attempt to negotiate and soften the excesses of the Bourbon reforms. Although early historians focused on the Tupac Amaru II rebellion that threatened Cuzco and its surrounding areas, more recent work has provided balance by analyzing the revolts that occurred throughout the Andean region in the 1780s. A consideration of these and other events will provide readers with a sense of the state of the colonial Andean world in the years just prior to the wars of independence. In addition, these Bourbon ideas and values laid the groundwork for the fractious political debates that would occur during the nineteenth century.

Changes in the Empire: 1650–1750

Colonial life during the years between 1650 and 1750 looked remarkably different from the earlier golden age of consolidation begun under Viceroy Toledo’s administrative leadership. From the Spanish imperial perspective, as the flow of treasure from Potosí diminished, so did the value of the Andean region as a whole. A number of factors signaled the decline of the imperial state. Observers at the Spanish court saw the descendants of Philip II, the latter Hapsburg kings, for what they were, Emperors of the Emerald City, all glitter and no substance, making change nearly impossible to implement. The final Hapsburg, Charles II, was a pathetic individual: illiterate, ill tempered, allegedly bewitched, and, fortunately, impotent. The limited abilities of the latter Hapsburgs had important ramifications for the empire as it drifted through the seventeenth century, unable to cope with crises. Charles II’s death led to a lengthy European war that resulted in a member of the French Bourbon family taking the Spanish throne in 1713, although until the arrival of Charles III (1759–1788), the third Bourbon king, the monarchs were too preoccupied with domestic matters and European conflicts to concern themselves much with their Andean possessions.

Even the dullest of the Hapsburg Spanish monarchs had noticed the diminution of Andean tax revenues in the decades after 1660. Although the silver of Potosí still aroused the cupidity of European rivals, the rich veins of the Cerro Rico had played out, leaving miners to work the tailings, the leftover ore once considered too low-grade to bother to refine. Labor supplies diminished as well, as the Indian population continued to decline numerically until 1720. Many mita draftees took advantage of the law that allowed them to make cash payments rather than fulfill their labor obligations, a system that proved profitable for the mine owners as well. Whereas in 1600 over 50 percent of the taxes collected in the Andes flowed back to Spain, a century later that figure was a mere 5 percent. As a consequence of the mining recession, more of the economy diversified into agriculture and local industries; both were more difficult to tax than silver produced at a mine. Although the government occasionally attempted to introduce new taxes, the colonial elite and their allies in the local bureaucracy successfully lobbied against them. Hence, the Andean elite probably lived as well or better in 1700 than they had a century earlier, even though Spain’s treasury experienced a decline in income during that time. The new dynasty could not immediately reverse the economic slide. In fact, some of their policies loosening trade restrictions made matters worse for areas like Quito, whose textiles could not compete in Lima either in price or in quality with imported European manufactured fabrics.

In addition, gross receipts from the Peruvian viceroyalty fell because of the corruption of the imperial system, particularly of local officials. One way to compensate for declining mining revenues—the Crown had decided after 1650—was to sell public offices, a practice that escalated until the ascension to the throne of King Charles III in 1759. At first, such sales seemed innocuous, confined to relatively honorific positions such as membership in the cabildo. But by the 1680s, the government sold treasury offices, judicial posts, and even seats on audiencias. Even worse, the Crown sold these offices to local criollos in their home districts, which angered rival members of the elite, who correctly recognized that their family and friends would be disadvantaged. Those who purchased offices naturally viewed them as investments and cashed in on them.

Equally detrimental to the system, seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century bureaucrats routinely flouted the rules designed to keep government honest. For example, Antonio de Morga, president of the audiencia in Quito from 1615 to 1636, ignored regulations that required officials to refrain from engaging in commerce or establishing personal relationships with community members. Not only did he sell smuggled Asian silks and operate a casino in the government palace, he also married both of his daughters to local aristocrats, slept with several local women, and became the compadre (godfather) to innumerable children from Quito—hardly setting the proper moral tone for the royal bureaucracy. Such violations should have been caught during the routine inspections (residencias and visitas) that Crown officials made, but in Morga’s case, and presumably many others, punishments were mild. Low salaries encouraged corruption, particularly among those at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy, as even the best-intentioned bureaucrat found it impossible to support a family or maintain a respectable social position on the paltry wages offered. Corregidores who had borrowed money to purchase these offices simply could not live on five hundred pesos a year, and so engaged in practices like the repartimiento de mercancías (also called the reparto) to supplement their incomes. Designed originally to introduce native Andeans to the miracles of capitalism, the repartimiento de mercancías evolved into an exploitative practice that most despised. Corregidores bought goods like textiles and mules at modest prices and then sold them to the Indians at a profit, using their authority to compel reluctant consumers to buy. Sometimes Indians ended up with completely useless products such as razors, quill pens, and writing paper. In addition, indigenous peoples fell victim to greedy friars, who charged steep fees for religious services like marriages, baptisms, and funerals.

Finally, foreign interlopers of two varieties challenged Spanish hegemony during the colonial period. Even during Viceroy Toledo’s time, pirates and privateers like Sir Francis Drake raided coastal Peru and captured vessels laden with silver and other wealth, exposing the weakness of the Pacific coastal defenses. Dutch pirates, who hated the Spanish for both political (the Netherlands had once been a Spanish possession) and religious reasons (the Dutch were mainly Protestants), blockaded Callao, Peru, and burned Guayaquil, Ecuador, early in the seventeenth century. During the 1680s, English buccaneers on several occasions plundered Guayaquil, an unfortified city, holding leading citizens for ransom and beheading them if relatives or the government failed to pay. Likewise, Cartagena, Colombia, the so-called Pearl of the Indies, proved an inviting target as late as the eighteenth century because the Spanish silver fleet gathered there to convoy back to Spain. Although the pirates’ random attacks netted them only modest amounts of wealth compared to the riches flowing back to Spain, their exploits terrorized coastal dwellers, diminished coastal trade, and diverted resources from the Spanish treasury to fortify important cities like Callao and Cartagena and staff them with militia and coast guard.

Far more detrimental to Spain’s interests, however, were the smugglers who profited from illegal trade with the Andeans. Miners bribed treasury officials to avoid minting silver and paying the quinto, instead trading it with French merchants poised off the coast of Peru who offered in exchange cheap, high-quality textiles. More seepage occurred at Buenos Aires, where silver from Potosí illicitly flowed to British and Portuguese merchants. Consumers living in the fringe areas of the viceroyalty naturally turned to smugglers, given the costs and irregular supply of goods associated with legitimate commerce. Theoretically, the cumbersome legal route required all goods destined for South America to be shipped through Cartagena, sold at the Portobello trade fair in Panama where sales taxes could be levied, and then transported by merchants to distant markets. Even in Colombia, close to the center of legitimate trade, the legal commercial system broke down in the seventeenth century. Both merchants and consumers found the temptation of lower-priced contraband (smuggled goods) too tempting to resist. As a result, smugglers carried away a huge percentage, perhaps as much as 75 percent, of Colombia’s emeralds and gold without paying taxes. Spain’s concession of an asiento, or trading privilege, to the British to bring slaves into Cartagena in 1713 only exacerbated the problem. With the connivance of local officials, British merchants sold vast quantities of manufactured goods as well as slaves. The new Bourbon kings correctly suspected that great cracks had emerged in the Andean economic system. As a result, King Philip V (1700–1746) sent two young engineers, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, to accompany a group of French scientists on a decade-long expedition to the Andes in 1735. In addition to their famed travel narrative, which opened European eyes to the secretive Spanish colonial world, they also compiled a report for His Majesty cataloguing corruption and contraband. This report and other eyewitness accounts encouraged a more active monarch to reform the system.

The Bourbon Reforms of Charles III (1759–1788)

The first two Bourbon kings, despite their European preoccupations, did not entirely ignore their Andean possessions. Seeking to strengthen Spain’s control over its portion of South America, these monarchs recognized that the enormity of the viceroyalty of Peru made it ungovernable by a single individual. Hence, in 1739 Philip V divided it in half in the belief that administration would now become more efficient, creating the new viceroyalty of New Granada, which included Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. The first Bourbon kings also introduced economic reforms designed to increase the tax revenues coming back to Spain. As a result, they reduced the tax on mining production (the quinto) from 20 percent to 10 percent and abolished some elements of the Hapsburgs’ highly regulated commercial system as partial solutions for the ills that had emerged in the seventeenth century.

Charles III viewed the Americas as subservient colonies (they had previously been designated as “kingdoms” like the regions of Spain) that would provide the resources to restore Spain to its former glory. Embarrassed by the temporary loss of Havana during the Seven Years’ War and the fact that at midcentury little Haiti generated more revenue for the French Crown than the vast expanse of the Americas did for Spain, Charles determined to reform the moribund Hapsburg system in three ways. First, he intended to extract greater revenues from the Americas by stimulating commerce and by collecting taxes more efficiently and in greater quantities. Second, he determined to eliminate corruption and waste through administrative reforms, which would also enable him to protect the Andean region from foreign interlopers by improving its military defenses. Finally, as one of the new “enlightened” monarchs, Charles intended to strengthen the state by intervening in social matters that were previously the exclusive purview of the Catholic Church. Although in many respects it is difficult to separate these three programs, this section will attempt to do so by first examining the economic reforms, because revenue enhancement lay at the heart of Spain’s interest in the colonies.

Charles III and his reformist ministers identified the excessively regulatory nature of the Hapsburg economic system as one of its major drawbacks. Cumbersome rules required goods to leave Spain from a particular port, arrive in Cartagena, thence transfer to a fair in Panama, and travel by coastal schooner or mule for destinations throughout the Andes. With middlemen taking profits at each step along the way, Spanish imports were not competitively priced, which explained the success of the smugglers. As a result, Charles III’s advisers attempted to more sensibly regulate the economy in order to competitively price Spanish goods to consumers. Thus, King Charles in 1778 declared comercio libre (free trade) within the empire, thereby eliminating some of the cumbersome regulations that had hindered the free flow of commerce yet essentially retaining the mercantilist philosophy. Ships could now leave at any time from any place in Spain and discharge their goods at any South American port.

Spain lowered the rate of both the import duties (tariffs) consumers paid and export taxes merchants paid, while foreign competitors were taxed at a higher rate. Because lower taxes on Spanish products would increase the volume of sales by whetting consumers’ appetite for cheaper goods, total tax revenues would actually increase and the subjects would be happier because of their increased material wealth, or so the theory went. As a result of these lower taxes, the Andean region did experience some modest economic growth during the late colonial period. While the Crown lowered tariffs, it increased the rate of the alcabala, or sales tax, that retail customers paid, first from 2 percent to 4 percent in 1774, and then to 6 percent in 1779, and made basic necessities like corn, coca, potato seeds, soap, and clothing subject to this tax. The government also opened new aduanas, or customhouses, in interior cities like Cuzco and at smaller ports to collect taxes. In addition, new sin taxes burdened consumers. Beginning with Charles III, the state created monopolies for the sale of tobacco and aguardiente, the cheap sugarcane liquor so popular among the poor because its alcoholic content is significantly greater than that of chicha, and increased taxes on brandy. In Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, both producers and consumers of these products grumbled mightily about these new burdens.

As in the seventeenth century, Andean economies tended to be regional and agricultural rather than the more integrated silver exporting economy of the post-Toledo years. For example, southern Ecuador developed a regional trade in cascarilla, a tree bark from which quinine is derived, while coastal Ecuador exported cacao, the source of chocolate. In Colombia, cattle ranching and sugar production prevailed in different regions, as did brandy production in southern Peru. As the economy shifted from mineral to agricultural commodity production, Charles and his administrators astutely deemphasized the quinto in favor of export duties and sales taxes that captured revenue from agricultural products. Colonial revenues further increased because as the indigenous people gained immunities to European diseases, their numbers began to rise steadily throughout the eighteenth century, thereby providing more tribute payers. Tribute collection improved, as indigenous people who had slipped from the tax rolls under lax and corrupt bureaucrats were caught by more diligent peninsular (Spaniards born in Spain and preferred by Charles III because of their supposed greater loyalty) administrators taking new censuses in the 1770s. Not only were more laborers available, but because of the reduction of the quinto tax rate, mining entrepreneurs invested in Potosí, where production nearly doubled over the course of the century, and in the newer mining center of Oruro, Peru, where production grew more slowly. Hence, Spain significantly increased colonial revenues as a result of the economic reforms.

Charles III’s philosophy of government envisioned an enlightened, wise king presiding over a rational, efficient, and authoritarian government spreading happiness among his subjects, who would benefit from increased material wealth. To realize this ideal, Charles opined, the colonies needed a less corrupt administration that would also better defend the coast against pirates and smugglers. Thus, the Bourbon administrative reforms favored a near monopoly of trustworthy peninsular officeholders. In the name of efficiency, Charles further dismantled the viceroyalty of Peru; in 1776 he severed Upper Peru (Bolivia) and hence Potosí from Peru and attached the former to the new viceroyalty of La Plata at Buenos Aires. The diversion of Upper Peru’s silver treasure to Buenos Aires and the opening of comercio libre greatly lessened the importance of Lima’s officials and merchants. In addition, Charles and his chief adviser, José de Gálvez, designed a comprehensive plan of governance and assigned special agents called visitadores to all regions of the Andes to implement these changes. The government hoped that their administrative reforms would bring greater efficiency and eliminate government corruption. No longer would untrustworthy and corrupt criollos be able to purchase offices, even in local government. Naturally, criollos resented their loss of political influence.

Reform-minded visitadores like Juan Francisco Gutiérrez de Piñeres (New Granada) and Antonio de Areche (Peru) were charged to introduce a new rank of official called an intendant, a midlevel bureaucrat, to serve a territorial subdivision of the audiencias called intendancies, resulting in the elimination of the often venal corregidores. With no ties to the local community and a decent salary, the intendants, so Gálvez hoped, would not be tempted to violate regulations, abuse Indians, or skim taxes into their own pockets, as many corregidores had done. The visitadores immediately took a new census in each colony, uncovering the names of Indians who had previously avoided the tribute rolls. As a result, when the intendants began collecting tribute in the 1780s, Crown revenues nearly quadrupled from this source, especially after the intendants hired additional tax collectors. With more indigenous people identified, the number of mita Indians available for public service increased as well. No wonder the indigenous people in Otavalo, Ecuador, rioted in 1777, beating the official in charge of the census and then disemboweling him. By the late 1780s, however, the Crown understood that an intendancy also included too much territory for a single person to administer efficiently; hence they divided each intendancy into partidos governed by subdelegates who earned small salaries. Essentially, the subdelegates were the old corregidores with a new title. Given the low salaries paid to subdelegates, the Crown had to permit corruption, specifically a restoration of the repartimiento de mercancías, to fill these positions. All in all, the Bourbon administrative reforms only added a new, expensive layer of bureaucracy without resolving the long-standing problems of corruption and abuse of the indigenous people.

The Bourbon administrative reforms also sought to tighten the leaks in the empire, which meant improving the defenses of vulnerable ports like Cartagena and Callao. The Seven Years’ War (1755–1763), in which Great Britain decisively defeated France and Spain, underscored the need for Spain to protect its colonies. Viceroys spent some of the new tax revenues rebuilding coastal forts and paying for professional soldiers called “regulars” from Spain to stand watch. In addition, in the 1770s, colonial administrators created a volunteer militia, most prominently along the coast, to supplement the numbers of the “regular” troops. Militia regiments in larger cities like Cartagena were segregated by race, but usually even pardo (black or mulatto) regiments had white officers. In smaller cities in Colombia, however, pardos became officers and, because of this prestigious role, improved their status in the colonial world. Historians have questioned whether the development of local militias in the eighteenth century contributed to Latin America’s militaristic tradition after independence. But because of the small size of the militia in South America (in contrast to Mexico, where the case is stronger), no relationship between the militia and postindependence militarism seems to exist. The militia did manage to contain the various crises that emerged in the late 1770s and early 1780s when the entire Andean region responded negatively to the Bourbon reforms. By the 1790s, however, the viceroys had reduced the size of the militia to save money.

Like the Bourbons’ economic and administrative reforms, royal intrusions into social policy, once the purview of the Church and the family, seemed at times contradictory. Most prominently, Charles III diminished the temporal power of the Church as he attempted to make the clergy subject to the state instead of the Vatican. To accomplish this objective, in 1767 Charles expelled the Jesuits, who answered directly to the pope, from his colonies despite the negative effect on education and the abandonment of the frontier missions along the Amazon River in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. When the state took over the Jesuit schools, it professed an ideal not yet realized in the colonial period: to broaden access to education so that citizens from all classes could participate. Next, the government tried to replace friars acting as parish priests with secular clergy—the latter easier to subject to administrative control—but with less success.

The state also took over the Church’s traditional work with the socially downtrodden. For example, state poorhouses replaced Church-run charitable organizations in many cities. Initially, the Bourbons provided assistance to the “socially poor,” downwardly mobile whites who lacked the financial resources to maintain social respectability. By the end of the colonial period, however, the “economically poor” from all social classes filled the rooms in the poorhouses, blurring distinctions of race and class. These circumstances made it impossible for the socially poor to reside in poorhouses because of the challenge to their honor. Charles’s Royal Pragmatic of 1776 intruded into the domestic sphere by granting fathers the legal right to veto their daughters’ “unsuitable” marital choices, often a racial determination, a privilege once limited to Church courts. The king also enjoyed the power of curing the “defect” of race, granting certificates of gracias al sacar (permission to change status) to worthy mestizos and mulattos who applied. Race mattered to the well-to-do in late Bourbon society because only whites could be lawyers, serve as military officers, staff the church, or enter the university. By the end of the colonial period, however, the Crown had become extremely wary of petitions for gracias al sacar, granting fewer and fewer of them in order to avoid upsetting the colonial system of castas. Race mattered, too, for mestizos, who also applied for recognition of their racial status so that they could avoid classification as Indians subject to tribute and mita. The Bourbon social reforms exemplified another attempt of the Crown to strengthen itself at the expense of the Church and local traditions.

British Attack French and Spanish Territory in Asia 1740-62 Part I

Joseph François Dupleix who initiated French intervention in Burma

Negrais Massacre

Coinciding precisely with Clive’s triumphal progress in Bengal, and yet utterly devoid of either glory or consequence, the Burmese or ‘Negrais Affair’ is readily consigned to oblivion. As with other things Burmese, the facts are obscure and the locations unfamiliar. Quite reasonably one could dismiss the whole business as just another example of that disastrous British obsession with off-shore properties – Pulo Run, Pulo Condore, and now the island of Negrais. Alternatively – and this was the view taken by Alexander Dalrymple, a man of whom more will be heard – Negrais was the first uncertain step towards the re-establishment of the Company’s trade in south-east Asia. It should be bracketed not with Pulo Run but with Singapore, not with Pulo Condore but with Hong Kong.

From the Company’s settlements at Masulipatnam, Madras and Calcutta, English private traders had been calling at the ports of southern Burma ever since the mid-seventeenth century. Syriam, their usual destination, was the main outlet for the Mon kingdom of Pegu which also controlled the wide Irrawaddy delta. Here rubies and lac (a resinous red dye) were sometimes available although the main attraction was Burmese teak, the finest shipbuilding material in the East. For repairing Indiamen the timber was freighted to Bombay and Calcutta while the smaller vessels operated by country traders were usually repaired and indeed built in Syriam itself. By the 1730s the volume of this business had justified the appointment of an English ‘Resident’ who although not a Company servant handled both Company and private business. His few European companions included a representative of the French Compagnie des Indes whose ships’ timbers were also repaired with Burmese teak. But there seems to have been no great hostility between the two and when in 1743 Syriam was twice sacked as a result of renewed fighting between the Mons and the up-country Burmans, both men withdrew to their parent establishments at Madras and Pondicherry.

With southern Burma in turmoil and with the European trading companies locked into their own war over Jenkins’s ear and the Austrian Succession, no further attempts were made to reopen a Burmese establishment until 1750. In that year Mon representatives appeared in Pondicherry with a proposal which Dupleix, having just handed Chanda Sahib on to the throne of the Carnatic, was happy to consider. The Mons wanted military assistance against their Burman rivals. There was the possibility of opening another grand field for French ambition. More to the point, Dupleix welcomed the proposal as a means of securing a safe haven on the opposite side of the Bay of Bengal.

The absence of harbours on the Coromandel Coast has already been stressed. With the arrival of those squadrons under Barnett (then Peyton), La Bourdonnais, and Boscawen and with the consequent inauguration of the Bay of Bengal as a theatre for naval warfare, this deficiency became critical. Every monsoon the fleets must desert their station or risk the sort of losses suffered by La Bourdonnais after the capture of Madras. Similarly every time ships needed refitting they must leave the coastal settlements to the tender mercies of the enemy and make for Dutch Trinconomalee (Sri Lanka), Mauritius or Bombay.

Under the impression that they might have found a solution, Boscawen and Lawrence had just wrenched the port of Devikottai from the Raja of Tanjore. But Devikottai proved as useless for ships of deep draught as every other inlet on The Coast. Word, therefore, that Dupleix had sent a French envoy to Pegu to negotiate for a Burmese harbour threw Madras into consternation. President Saunders wrote immediately to London and, without waiting for an answer, prepared to forestall the competition by occupying the island of Negrais.

At the south-western extremity of Burmese territory and therefore the nearest point to Madras, Negrais had been recommended by one of the numerous Englishmen engaged in private trade between The Coast and Burma. Curiously neither he nor Saunders seems to have been aware that the Company actually had a claim on the place. Sixty years previously it was to Negrais that Captain Weltden had repaired after he and Samuel White had been attacked at Mergui. Weltden had allegedly hoisted the English flag on the island and had left an inscription, beaten in tin, recording his claim. It was a pity that this memorial was not rediscovered. The memory of the Mergui massacre might have alerted the Negrais settlers to the possibility of a repeat performance.

Negrais had been chosen by Saunders on the grounds that it had potential for ‘a capacious harbour for shipping being well secured against all sorts of winds’. What he did not realize, but what the thirty-odd pioneers quickly discovered, was that it was not secured against all sorts of tides. After a few weeks of being flooded out every time a high sea and a spring tide coincided, the disgruntled and fever-ridden settlers sailed away to the mainland and the comparative comfort of Syriam.

In the meantime the Court of Directors in London had received Saunders’s letter and approved his anxiety about a French naval base in the Bay. In 1752 they wrote endorsing the Negrais settlement and in 1753, on learning that Dupleix’s envoy was in high favour at Pegu, Saunders made a second attempt to establish a settlement. This time it was on a much larger scale. Four ships were to convey the new pioneers across the Bay and two covenanted servants, one from the St Helena Council, the other from Benkulen, were to take command. The appointments were made by the directors in London who no doubt recalled the disastrous jealousies aroused when such matters were left to Madras. But it is indicative of the unpopularity of the enterprise that the Benkulen man opted out, preferring even Sumatra’s pestilential climate to waterlogged Negrais. Shipwrights and labourers had to be impressed into service; the guard of thirty-odd Europeans and seventy peons mutinied soon after arrival.

To the problems of fever and flood was added that of famine. It was hoped that the settlers would soon be either self-sufficient or able to obtain rice from the mainland. But the Burmese refused any trade and, though the island abounded in game, it was also a paradise for tigers. The settlers lived off turtles; the tigers lived off settlers. Hunt, the man from St Helena, died of dysentery, the work of fortification ground to a standstill, and the Mon authorities steadfastly refused to countenance the new settlement.

Nevertheless the disconsolate settlers, now commanded by Henry Brooke, a writer from Madras, stayed put. By 1754 the Mon-Burman war was going badly for the Mons. Disappointed in their French allies, there seemed to be a real prospect of the Mons granting, in return for military aid, not only Negrais but also the adjacent mainland port of Bassein plus extensive privileges in Syriam. The British contingent in Syriam played along with their Mon hosts; but to Saunders in Madras and to Brooke at Negrais it was now evident that they were backing a loser. When Burman troops occupied Bassein and much of the intervening Delta, Brooke therefore switched allegiance. Missions were exchanged between Negrais and Alungpaya, the Burman sovereign, who was then encamped beside the mighty Shwe Dagôn pagoda at a place which he renamed Yangon (Rangoon). The Company moved its Syriam establishment to the new capital and by 1756 both Company and private ships were calling there for repairs.

While the storm clouds gathered in Bengal, Burma seemingly basked in sunshine. At last the British had backed a winner and, within a month of Siraj-ud-Daula’s capture off Fort William, Alungpaya had taken Syriam, the French had been expelled, their agent roasted alive, and the British were constructing a fort at Bassein which, with a fine sense of Highland symmetry, they called Fort Augustus. Amazingly for a sovereign who considered himself more than a match for the Moghul, Alungpaya had even committed his favourable sentiments to writing by opening a correspondence with George II, or rather ‘The King of England, Madras, Bengal, Fort St David and Devikottai’. In a letter which took the form of a tray of gold covered with Burmese characters there was barely room to do more than recite the titles of the writer. But the ‘King of Burma, Thailand and Cambodia’, ‘the Lord of the Mines of Rubies, Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron and Amber’, the Lord, too, of ‘the White Elephant, the Spotted Elephant and the Red Elephant’ not to mention ‘the Vital Golden Lance’, many golden palaces, sundry other kingdoms, etc, in short ‘the Descendant of the Nation of the Sun’ did positively transfer the desired site at Bassein and looked forward to ‘a constant union and amity with His Majesty of England, Madras, Bengal [etc] and his Royal Family and subjects’.

Perhaps if this letter had received the gracious response it undoubtedly deserved, lives could have been saved. It did indeed reach George II but no answer whatsoever did either he or the Company send; the last that is heard of the priceless missive is an unseemly wrangle about whether the tray had originally been encrusted with rubies and, if so, what had happened to them. By opening a correspondence with a mere earth-ling the lord of all those elephants had chanced his solar dignity. It was not something he did lightly. In the following year he put his seal to a treaty of friendship with the Company but thereafter, as the months slipped by without so much as an acknowledgement from the Hanoverian, he began to take an exceedingly dim view of British protestations of amity.

There were, though, other sources of friction. British ships putting into Rangoon for repairs and cargoes had fallen foul of Alungpaya’s officials and had even joined the Mons in several abortive attempts to storm the place. The Bassein/Negrais settlers were not held responsible for these outrages but, under the terms of the new treaty, Alungpaya did expect them to supply him with the guns and powder which had so often been promised. Yet, excepting the odd presentation cannon and a few barrels of powder, of arms – as of answer – came there none. Worse still, it appeared that the Company was now keen to wash its hands of both Alungpaya and his country. In Madras Saunders had been replaced by the more sceptical Pigot, in Negrais Brooke had been relieved by a man who succumbed to the climate almost immediately, and in London, with rumours rife of Siraj’s advance on Calcutta, the directors had espoused a retrenchment which included withdrawal from Negrais. News of Plassey failed to change the corporate mind. ‘Schemes of this kind,’ they wrote in 1758, ‘must be deferred till more tranquil times.’ It was, after all, year two of the Seven Years War.

But it was also year six of the Negrais establishment which, against all the odds, now boasted some substantial buildings, plentiful stocks of teak and a modest population. A partial evacuation was effected in April 1759 but there remained a small guard under Ensign Hope and a considerable civilian population. In view of frequent French visits to the Bay of Bengal it seemed prudent to maintain a presence. Later in the same year Captain Southby came ashore from the Victoria as Hope’s replacement. His arrival coincided with that of an East Indiaman in search of provisions plus three small Burmese vessels accompanying the local Governor. October was one of Negrais’s better months. While the Victoria unloaded and the Indiaman took on water, Hope and Southby entertained the Governor ashore with two days of feasting and compliments. Of Portuguese extraction, he seemed to appreciate the hospitality and to enjoy the company.

His hosts were thus totally off guard when at the farewell reception the Governor’s Burmese escort suddenly bolted all the doors and drew their daggers. Hope and Southby were cut to pieces immediately. Of the other European officers and guards only one escaped and only two were taken prisoner. The rest were butchered along with countless Indians. If the figure of sixty men and four women is correct for those taken off by the boats, the carnage must have been at least three times that of Plassey. The settlement was then looted and burnt to the ground. A week later Captain Alves of the Victoria, while remaining on station to warn off other British shipping, went ashore for a last look. The corpses were now rotting, the tigers gorged, the fires out. Alves, then on the threshold of a long and intriguing career as a private trader, was profoundly disturbed. It was ‘one of the most shocking sights I ever beheld’.

What, if anything, lay behind the Negrais Massacre is unknown. Alungpaya would deny all responsibility and, nine months later, Alves would travel unmolested right up to Mandalay to secure the release of the prisoners. One can only bracket the mindless carnage with all those other tropical affrays in which the degree of premeditation is as unfathomable as the degree of provocation.

Happily no such uncertainty surrounded British thinking. The object of Company policy over Negrais had been to prevent the French from gaining a naval base in Burma and so supremacy in the Bay of Bengal. In the event Alungpaya had done the job for them. His sack of Syriam in 1757, which had resulted in the extinction of the French interest, coincided almost exactly with Watson’s bombardment of Chandernagar. Taken together, these two reverses meant that henceforth the French could operate in Indian waters only at a severe disadvantage.

It also meant that for the British Negrais became superfluous. Significantly the first, partial evacuation of the settlement had been carried out from Calcutta and it was from there that Hope, Southby and Alves all hailed. The Burmese adventure had been Madras’s initiative and Madras could no longer support it. Alungpaya had been disappointed in his expectation of military assistance, and the Negrais settlers had been left to fend for themselves, because Madras had neither the men nor the matchlocks to spare. Indeed when in 1758 the orders for withdrawal arrived from London, Fort St George was itself under siege. The Seven Years War had at last been joined in India.

In this war, as in that of the Austrian Succession, military manoeuvres in India would be restricted to the Carnatic, although with a related campaign in Hyderabad. And as in the old war so in the new, the French opened proceedings by attacking Forts St David (Cuddalore) and St George (Madras) while the British closed them, three years later, with a grand assault on Pondicherry. This helpful resemblance, though, is superficial; for the important point is that in every instance the outcome was different. This time Fort St David was attacked first and taken, Fort St George held out, Pondicherry did not. The result was therefore decisive. French ambitions in India collapsed. It was the end of a chapter, not the beginning.

The outcome owed much to the availability of supplies, troops and above all funds from Calcutta. If Madras’s troops had saved Bengal in 1756-7, Bengal’s rupees saved Madras in 1758-60. It was not just a question of repaying a favour. Had the French made good their second bid for hegemony in the Carnatic, Bengal itself would have been threatened. Clive was well aware of this and in not returning to Madras after the recapture of Calcutta – as he had promised and as Madras desperately urged – he took a terrible risk. It paid off thanks to the heroics of the squadron under Admiral Pocock, Watson’s successor. Not for the first time, Clive’s reputation was saved by the Royal Navy.

More even than in the earlier war, seapower proved crucial. Three naval battles, each more decisive than the last, offset the French superiority in land forces and dictated the course of the struggle ashore. As in the Americas so in India; it was courtesy of the King’s navy that Britain emerged from the Seven Years War with a global empire. Any narrative, therefore, that presumes to disentangle the Company’s history from that of the British Navy, or indeed of British India, may be excused from treating the final phase of the Anglo-French struggle in any detail.

British Attack French and Spanish Territory in Asia 1740-62 Part II

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England 1754

Briefly then, the French took the field first. In September 1757 the first reinforcements to reach India since the outbreak of war had been landed at Pondicherry. Because of the imminent monsoon, the fleet which brought them immediately scurried back to Mauritius. Without a fleet, the French held their offensive. In February Pocock’s fleet arrived on The Coast from Bengal and in April a second French fleet under the Comte d’Ache made its way up to Pondicherry. Pocock managed to intercept and just about came off best in a very untidy encounter. He failed, though, to disable the French vessels which duly landed a second regiment, a train of artillery, and the Comte de Lally as Commander-in-Chief and President of all the French settlements.

With d’Ache remaining on The Coast to distract Pocock, de Lally immediately took the offensive. His now formidable army crossed the dunes to Fort St David, quickly drove the garrison from straggling Cuddalore, and began the laborious ritual of constructing breaching batteries to pound the Fort. The British held out for less than a month. It was a great disappointment considering the supposed strength of the place and, true to form, the directors blamed their servants; ‘the whole siege was one scene of disorder, confusion, mismanagement, and total inattention to every branch’.

Such bluster carries little conviction. Hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, and quickly deserted by most of their native troops, the Fort St David councillors had little chance. They had counted on Pocock coming to their rescue but adverse winds prevented his approach. With four batteries trained on their walls and with insufficient troops to mount a foray, they wisely capitulated. De Lally razed the place, then took Devikottai, and finally staged a triumphal march through Pondicherry. Apart from some insignificant garrisons at places like Trichy and Arcot, all that now hindered a continuation of his triumphal progress north to Hyderabad, de Bussy and Bengal was Fort St George.

De Lally favoured an immediate advance and had this been possible, Madras might well have fallen. But no siege could be effective with Pocock’s squadron still in the offing. De Lally therefore ordered d’Ache to engage it. D’Ache refused, probably because he preferred to cruise in search of the year’s fleet of Indiamen. This meant a four-month delay until the October monsoon would oblige Pocock to desert his station. De Lally passed the time with an attack on the still independent ‘Tanjoreens’, a traditional expedient for raising funds; Madras readied itself for action.

Thus far the British had not been wholly passive observers of French progress. Trichy had seen yet more manoeuvres as a French force invested the fort and was then drawn off by a largely sepoy army under Captain John Caillaud of the Company. Meanwhile Fort St George itself was being ringed with the whole Vaubanesque vocabulary of ravelins and lunettes, glacis and bastions. The vulnerable west front was said now to be ‘pretty well secured’ (Ives) with more angles and faces than the much-cut Pitt diamond. Partly overgrown and partly over-built, they are yet visible in today’s Fort St George, the most impressive relic of the Company (as opposed to the Raj) in India. But as well as an acute shortage of troops thanks to Clive’s absence in Bengal, Madras was hamstrung by an incompetent commander in the bumbling person of Colonel John Aldercron of the 39th. This was the regiment brought to Madras by Watson in 1756, the first Royal regiment to serve in India. Its artillery had been siphoned off to Bengal by Clive and for the next three years the efforts of the Madras Council ‘were directed to getting the use of Aldercron’s troops without Aldercron’ (Biddulph). They succeeded when in 1758, as the entire regiment was recalled to England, half its members signed up in the Company’s forces. At about the same time the first detachments of a new regiment, His Majesty’s 64th under the able Colonel Draper, landed at Madras. With Stringer Lawrence still at the head of the Company’s troops and Draper leading the royal troops, Madras awaited de Lally’s army of 6000 with a garrison of 4000, ten times that of 1746.

Meanwhile Pocock had at last cornered the reluctant d’Ache. Off Negapatnam – where else? – the British won a victory which, if not exactly resounding, confirmed d’Ache’s anxieties. Taking this engagement with the previous one, he had suffered 900 dead and wounded to Pocock’s 300 while his ships, though still afloat, stood badly in need of repairs. Nothing would now stop him, not even a Council of War, from withdrawing to Mauritius. He limped away in September. In so far as Pocock was also obliged to withdraw ahead of the monsoon, it did not materially affect the balance of power.

But it did mean that de Lally, unlike La Bourdonnais, had to reach Madras overland. It was not Lawrence’s intention to contest this advance but with seventy miles between the French capital and the English, it was obvious that their supply line would be vulnerable. Accordingly a small British force was left to hold Chingleput, a strategic fort twenty miles south of Madras. De Lally debated whether to take it but decided that he could afford neither the men nor the time. The monsoon was slowing his progress and, even without fighting, it was 12 December 1758 before he finally entered Madras’s Black Town.

The siege now began in earnest – but with a British offensive. Learning that the French troops had discovered Black Town’s main distillery, Draper deemed the moment ripe for action. Six hundred men with a couple of guns charged out of one of the fort’s gates and, having terrorized the township with a militarily pointless but psychologically useful manoeuvre, charged back through another. They lost both their guns and sustained heavy losses; but so did the French.

In the event this puzzling action proved to be the only serious engagement of the entire siege. De Lally’s batteries opened fire in January but the new defences stood up well to the heavy bombardment. Even when a breach was made, so properly contrived and so hotly defended were those ravelins and lunettes that no escalade was deemed possible. Siege warfare, like the art of fortification, depended heavily on convention. Each side knew what to expect of the other and, as the shot and shell whistled overhead, each was busy underground digging mines and counter-mines. Certain actions were, however, taboo. In the midst of hostilities de Lally had occasion to complain to Pigot, the Fort St George President, that someone had presumed to fire on his headquarters. It was, of course, a terrible mistake. Pigot had been under the impression that de Lally had based himself in the Capuchin church. Obviously he was wrong. ‘If you will do the honour to inform me at which pagoda [place of worship] you fix your headquarters, all due respect will be paid them.’ After all, ‘in war mutual civilities and mutual severities may be expected’.

De Lally, a stickler for the civilities if not the severities, had convinced himself that under the rules of engagement the British ought to have handed over Chingleput. In fact they had reinforced it. By February Caillaud (a Company officer in spite of his name) and the sepoys from Trichy had joined the Chingleput garrison and had advanced almost to San Thomé on the outskirts of Madras. A determined French assault failed to dislodge them; equally Caillaud was incapable of breaking through the French cordon. But once again the besiegers were beginning to feel like the besieged.

This impression was reinforced by news from further afield. Although Clive still declined to desert Bengal’s rich political and commercial pickings, he had at last dispatched a considerable force by sea to the Northern Circars. These were the coastal districts of Hyderabad north of Masulipatnam which had been ceded to de Bussy by the Nizam. The expedition, under Colonel Francis Forde, was intended as a diversionary tactic to prevent French troops being moved down to the Carnatic.

In the event Forde quickly exceeded these modest expectations. De Lally had obligingly recalled de Bussy to assist in operations against Madras. The ablest of French generals thus became a disenchanted and obstructive subordinate while his conquests were squandered by the less experienced Marquis de Conflans. In early December, as de Lally came in sight of Madras, a pitched battle was being fought near Rajahmundry in which the British and their local ally won a decisive victory. Three months later Forde would take Masulipatnam and sign a treaty with the Nizam for the expulsion of all French troops and the cession of the Northern Circars to the Company.

For the hard-pressed garrison of Fort St George still more cheering news arrived from Anjengo in late January. Pocock, who had been in Bombay, had met up with the fleet of Indiamen conveying the rest of Draper’s regiment from England and was now rounding Sri Lanka. Within a week the first vessel arrived off Madras with ammunition and treasure; and on the evening of 6 February six more ships were ‘descried in the north-east standing towards the road’. They anchored off the fort that night. Next day the garrison woke to the sight of de Lally’s entire army decamping towards the west.

‘Joy and curiosity carried out everyone to view and contemplate the works from which they had received so much molestation for…42 days,’ writes Orme. With that remorseless concern for detail that distinguishes his work, Orme claims that the fort had fired 26,554 rounds from its cannon and 7,502 shells from its mortars. 1,990 hand grenades had been heaved from the battlements, 200,000 cartridges fired from the muskets. His casualty count gives 934 as the dead and wounded amongst the British but ‘the loss of men sustained by the French army is no where acquired’. ‘Thus ended this siege, without doubt the most strenuous and regular that had ever been carried on in India.’ Orme, who had devoted seventy strenuous and regular pages to it, heaved a sigh of satisfaction. ‘We have detailed it, in the hopes that it may remain an example and incitement.’

Although the tide had turned, the British were slow to take advantage. Before moving against Pondicherry they needed more troops – the new arrivals barely offset those lost during the siege – and undisputed command of the sea. In September d’Ache and his fleet reappeared on The Coast. Pocock, for the third and last time, moved to attack. The result was much as before only more so. D’Ache limped into Pondicherry and two weeks later sailed back to Mauritius never to visit The Coast again. In the following month Eyre Coote, Clive’s second in command at Plassey, arrived with a new battalion from home.

With de Lally’s unpopularity and Pondicherry’s insolvency provoking open mutiny amongst the French troops, Coote moved rapidly to the kill. In January 1760 he routed the enemy at the battle of Wandiwash, half way to Pondicherry, and by May had reduced all the outlying French garrisons and had begun the blockade of Pondicherry. In desperation de Lally looked for allies among the native powers. His best hope, a formidable army under the adventurer Hyder Ali from Mysore, abandoned him in August. In the same month Coote also received reinforcements but of a more reliable nature. Among the new batch of recruits sent from home was ‘part of a Highland regiment supplied by the government’. Evidently excited by these first Highlanders ever to serve in India, Orme was moved to record the event in a sentence of such puzzling obscurity that only unedited quotation can do it justice.

These mighty aids [the Highlanders] witnessed in this quarter of the globe, as equal efforts, wheresoever necessary, in every other, the superior energy of that mind, who possessing equally the confidence of his sovereign and the nation, conducted the arduous and extensive war in which they were engaged against their great and only rival.

The Highlanders had little opportunity to exercise ‘the superior energy of mind’ because Pondicherry, unlike Madras, was to succumb more to starvation than bombardment. The blockade depended heavily on the British fleet which made only the briefest of monsoon excursions to Trinconomalee and was back off the city by December. There, like La Bourdonnais before Madras, it was overtaken by a cyclone; several ships were sunk, many more dismasted. De Lally hailed the event as his deliverance and, had d’Ache reappeared, the blockade must have collapsed. But d’Ache was still in Mauritius and, as Pocock’s scattered men-of-war returned to their station, French hopes evaporated. On 16 January 1761 the emaciated garrison finally surrendered. Not a cat, not a rat, not a crow had survived the ravenous attentions of the besieged. They marched out from a ghost town and the British engineers moved in to destroy its fortifications once and for all. Although peace in Europe would eventually restore both Pondicherry and Chandernagar to their rightful owners, they would never again constitute a threat to British supremacy.

Begun with a pre-emptive snip in Burma, the process of clearing France’s exuberant growth in Indian waters had continued with a lop in Bengal and a veritable felling programme in the Circars and the Carnatic. It ended with a cosmetic flourish when Mahé, the only French establishment on the Malabar Coast, was overwhelmed by an expedition from neighbouring Tellicherry.

But the British were not to have it all their own way. Britannia, in the words of the song written by Thomas Arne a few years earlier and now lustily sung by every Tilbury tar, ‘ruled the waves’ but only around India; elsewhere Britons were all too easily ‘made slaves’. In 1760 Benkulen and its satellite trading posts on Sumatra’s west coast were ‘shamelessly’ surrendered to a French flotilla; and in the same year the Company’s men were driven from their unhappy home at Gombroon in the Persian Gulf.

Even the trade with China was at risk to French warships lurking in the Straits of Malacca. Taken along with the withdrawal from Burma, the temporary loss of Benkulen highlighted the Company’s weakness east of India. Henceforth the protection of the immensely valuable China trade would become something of an obsession occasioning a significant reawakening of interest in almost every shoreline in south-east Asia. Many and often bizarre would be the solutions propounded. But few were quite as improbable and sensational as the first, a major offensive against the Philippines in 1762. It was launched, like so many of the later eastern initiatives, from Madras.

British naval squadron in the 1760s: Capture of Manila 6th October 1762 in the Seven Years War: picture by Dominic Serres

The Philippines Expedition

The Philippines still belonged to Spain, her consolation prize for losing out to Portugal in the spice race, and Spain had thus far stood neutral in the Seven Years War. But when, in 1761, after the breakdown of Anglo-French peace talks, the Bourbons renewed their Family Compact, Whitehall detected a hostile alliance and formally declared war on Madrid. Indeed, plans for an offensive had been hatched well ahead of the actual declaration and predictably they were directed at Madrid’s colonial empire. In a two-pronged attack Pocock, lately returned to England from his tussles with d’Ache, was to storm Havana while on the other side of the world Draper, who had left Madras immediately after the siege, was to lead an assault on Manila.

The Philippines expedition seems to have been the brainchild of Lord Anson, now First Lord of the Admiralty. Twenty years previously, in the War of Jenkins’s Ear, Anson had rounded Cape Horn, attacked Spanish possessions in Peru, and then crossing the Pacific had taken a Spanish galleon laden with Mexican silver off the coast of Luzon (the Philippines). One or two such galleons reached Manila every year giving the mother country an access to the trade of China, India, and the archipelago which, though small by comparison with the turnover of the English Company, was nevertheless immensely profitable. Anson’s idea was to close this Spanish trapdoor into ‘the eastern treasure house’ by occupying Manila.

To that extent the whole scheme was a product of Whitehall’s global strategy and not of the Company’s ambitions – a distinction that becomes increasingly relevant in the late eighteenth century. The first that the directors heard of it was when Anson divulged the plan to Sulivan, the Company’s chairman, in December 1761. The declaration of war came a week later and just seven weeks after that Draper and the British contingent sailed from Plymouth. If the idea was to take Manila by surprise, the effect was also to take the Company by surprise. The Philippines undoubtedly lay within the area covered by the Company’s trading monopoly and since the Company had come to rely on the British government for military assistance in India, the government argued that it had a right to reciprocal assistance for any national schemes within that monopoly area. Thus Draper was not only to find ships and troops from among the Royal forces in India but also to enlist Company troops, artillery and transports.

Time did not permit of an exploration of this novel argument but, by way of sugaring the pill, it was emphasized that Manila, once taken, would be handed over to the Company. The capture of Pondicherry, like the recapture of Calcutta, had occasioned an unseemly row between Royal and Company officers. It was important to reassure the Company on this score and, lest Manila should be handed back to Spain at the end of the war, there was also mention of a second base, ideally on the southern island of Mindanao, as an alternative settlement.

The directors, though, remained distinctly cool. As will appear, they had reason to believe that they already had an option on a settlement in the vicinity of the Philippines. But informed that their co-operation would be an ‘acceptable testimony of their due sense of the King’s most gracious attention to their interests’ during the struggle with de Lally, they could hardly refuse. They did voice serious doubts, particularly about depleting either their forces or their shipping in India; and they also made it clear that, whatever the commercial compensations Manila might or might not afford, they expected their assistance to be paid for.

General William Draper, British army commander at the Capture of Manila 6th October 1762 in the Seven Years War

These reservations were shared by President Pigot and Colonel Lawrence when Draper reached Madras in July 1762. Although such worries were genuine enough, a further concern that weighed heavily with the Madras Council was the likely effect of the expedition on Madras’s private trade with Manila. As with Burma so with the Philippines; English trade in a variety of guises had been reaching Manila ever since the middle of the seventeenth century. By Governor Pitt’s time one or two private vessels had been sailing for the Philippines every year with Indian piece goods and returning to Madras with Mexican silver. This invaluable source of silver must dry up if the Spanish were ousted from Manila. It was not obvious that the indigenous produce of the Philippines would ever sustain a like trade, nor that whatever security a British Manila might afford to the China trade would offset this loss.

Even now, as Draper frantically assembled his armada in Madras, most of the local councillors, his erstwhile comrades-in-arms from the days of the siege, were more concerned for a vessel that had just left for Manila. On board her was £70,000 worth of their private trade and, according to Draper, ‘they were afraid that the venture would suffer by the loss of Manila and took any method in their power to discourage the attempt’.

Faced with what he chose to construe as wilful sabotage, Draper was able to obtain from the Company only three small transports, 600 sepoys, and 300 European troops most of whom were deserters from the ranks of de Lally’s army. ‘Such banditti had never been seen since the time of Spartacus’, he observed. The Company did, however, provide him with a sufficient complement of civilians to form a Manila council and take over the administration and commerce of the place. They included Henry Brooke, lately of Negrais, presumably because of his experience of pioneering. Draper preferred to rely on the officers of his own (Royal) regiment, which seems now to have included some of those recently tamed Highlanders. They would be the backbone of the expedition and when he sailed from Madras at the end of July, he was still quietly optimistic. ‘Tho’ we cannot do all we wish,’ he wrote by way of valedictory, ‘we are determined to do all we can and try we will.’

Six months later he was back, en route to England, with news of a wholly satisfactory outcome. Word of the war having been slow to reach the extremities of the Hispanic world, the fleet had sailed into Manila Bay unopposed. Unopposed the British troops had been landed at Ermita, just a mile from the fort (and today the heart of Manila’s nightlife), and against only token resistance the first battery had been set up. A week later the first breach was successfully stormed. British and Indian losses had been ‘trifling’ – barely thirty fatalities – and under the terms of surrender the Spanish were to pay an indemnity of £1 million. In addition, one of the Acapulco galleons, a gigantic vessel of some 2000 tons, had been taken. And finally Manila had reluctantly been handed over to the Company. ‘In short’, announced the jubilant Draper, ‘it is a lucky business.’

Unfortunately the luck ran out with Draper’s early departure. The Company would hold Manila and claim sovereignty over the Philippines for only eighteen months. But that was long enough for some of the troops to mutiny, long enough for the Governor to fall out with his own council, with the military and the navy, and long enough for a Spanish-Filipino resistance so to harry the British that they scarcely dared venture outside the fort. It was with a sense of relief that in April 1764 the place was finally handed back to Spain in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Paris. All along the Company had been developing its own ideas about how best to support the China trade and re-establish its interests in the south-east Asian archipelago. They did not include the occupation of Manila and it was entirely appropriate that the man who eventually stepped in, when the Company’s governor had resigned in disgust, to hand back Manila was also the moving spirit behind these other initiatives. His name was Alexander Dalrymple.

Second Siege of Saragossa

This is an account of the epic siege of Saragossa in early 1809:

The 27th January 1809 dawned drab and dismal. There was a light mist but the cold of the Spanish winter was intense. French troops gathered in the trenches before Saragossa, chatting nervously and shaking themselves ‘like dogs’ to keep warm. Napoleon’s soldiers had been encamped before the Spanish city for two months, enduring the wearisome monotony of siege warfare, fervently hoping for a breakthrough this winter day which might finish the ordeal. But the Spanish defenders were in no mood to capitulate. The silence of the early morn was occasionally broken by the sharp crack of a sniper’s musket. Some of the bullets whistled harmlessly overhead, others thudded into the breastworks of the French trenches. Soon that noise was itself drowned when the French siege guns opened up, directing their massive roundshot against the city’s ancient defences. By ten the bulk of the French assault force had gathered. The brusque General Pierre Habert inspected his veterans, moving through the ranks, encouraging cajoling. In the centre Major Stahl and 300 voltigeurs prepared to attack a breach laboriously pounded by the heavy French siege guns. On the right a second column under Captain Guttemann formed up to assault the battery of guns on the Spanish parapet, the Palafox Battery named after their illustrious leader. A third column, commanded by Colonel Josef Chlopiski and composed of Poles from the 1st Vistula Regiment, was selected to attack the Santa Engracia convent which formed part of the city’s southern wall.

At 11.00 the gigantic French guns switched to firing into the city, sowing chaos or dismay. The defenders had virtually ceased firing, perhaps waiting for the French, perhaps too busy plugging ruined walls with sacks of earth. Then the signal the entire French army had waited for came. At noon three field guns opened fire, one after the other. The French clambered noisily out of the trenches and began to run forwards across the frosty ground. The defenders opened fire from the walls, here and there Frenchmen and Poles were hit and fell whilst the rest pushed forwards sensing victory. But before they could reach the breach Stahl’s men were hit by canister and counterattacked by a strong force of 700 Spaniards. The voltigeurs reeled back from the shock and scattered. Some ran back to the trenches others fought hand-to-hand with their assailants.

Gutteman’s column was more fortunate, bursting through the breach into Pabostre Avenue and the greatcoated-Frenchmen barricaded themselves into some of the street’s battered houses. Throwing beams across doorways and furniture against windows they then fiercely resisted as Spanish reserves counterattacked and vainly swarmed around them.

Chlopiski’s four companies also attacked with vigour but were astonished to find a second wall had been built behind the breach in the wall of the convent. Undeterred the Poles forced their way through a tiny gap in this unexpected obstacle, broke into the holy building and took on the 1,200 defenders. Baron Lejeune, a colourful engineer officer accompanying the assault, was dazed by a hit in the face by  one such defender’s musket butt. Nevertheless he still managed to witness the infernal scene before being wounded again ‘by a ricocheting bullet in the shoulder, causing me tremendous pain’.  Like ‘furious lions’ the Poles clawed their way through the church before breaking out into the little square behind. As the Poles began to occupy the neighbouring houses the Spanish defenders along the wall found themselves cut off and switched round to face the new threat. The 5th Light seized the critical moment, ran forward from the trenches, scaled the walls and arrived triumphant on the rampart. Supported by the 115th they pushed on to capture 15 guns and penetrate as far as the Trinitarian convent. But the cost of such progress was high: 43 dead and 136 wounded. Even so the French were within the walls. Their assault had been a success and the city, by rights, should now have capitulated. But Saragossa was no ordinary city and this was no ordinary war.

On the afternoon of Friday 4 November 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte had crossed the Pyrenees and entered the kingdom of Spain. He and a veteran army had come to restore his fortunes in that unfortunate country for his brother, king Joseph, who had found himself almost ousted from his newly-acquired kingdom by a popular revolt.

Earlier that year Napoleon, used to deciding the fate of nations and monarchs, had deposed the old Bourbon dynasty and installed Joseph on the throne. Such an act the Spanish people could not accept and, in the summer of 1808, they fought back. The French, victorious in battle against Spain’s regular forces, could never overcome popular resistance and the first year of the Peninsular War settled down into a costly, squalid conflict. Then, in July 1808, the French cause suffered a serious setback. General Dupont, commanding French conscripts, found himself surrounded at Bailen in Andalucia by Spanish regulars. To the astonishment of the Spaniards, and to the rest of Europe, he surrendered after scarcely a shot had been fired. This act of cowardice, as Napoleon saw it, sparked panic in the French administration; troops were withdrawn, the Spanish advanced, Joseph quit Madrid and the French fled northwards over the Ebro.

Napoleon was forced to act to restore French rule but such a campaign would not be easy. Spain was vast and the Spanish, already brutalised through popular resistance, were also now elated by their recent victories. Nobody quite knew whether the genius of the emperor would be enough to triumph but all were sure that more was at stake than the crown of Spain.

That November Napoleon’s moves were decisive; French veterans poured across the Ebro, stabbing at the motley Spanish field armies, routing them and pushing them back. Many of the Spaniards took to their heals or joined bands of guerrillas proclaiming liberty or death. Significantly, resistance was collecting at the Aragonese city of Saragossa, straddling the Ebro, which had earned a reputation by withstanding the French in the summer of 1808 and was now a focal point for the fugitive remnants of armies. After all if Saragossa succeeded now then Spain might just defeat the master of Europe.

On 23 November Marshal Jean Lannes smashed another poorly-led Spanish force, commanded by Francisco Castanos, victor of Bailen, at Tudela. Saragossa’s garrison was soon joined by survivors from the battle and they were feverishly impressed into strengthening the city’s defences, overseen by the energetic General José Palafox. Supplies were brought in from the surrounding countryside, troops were reviewed and armed, engineers – overseen by the talented Colonel San Genis, a native of the city – had walls and ditches repaired and houses fortified and loopholed. Barricades were thrown across streets, earthworks were dug and thousands of sacks filled with earth. The scene was set for one of history’s greatest sieges and Saragossa was readied for war to the death.

Meanwhile the French, composed of III Corps and elements of Marshal Michel Ney’s VI Corps, remained around Tudela to catch their breath and await imperial command. Such orders were not long in coming and the two marshals set off towards the city with their 25,000 men. Arriving beneath the walls and setting up camp they were disconcerted to receive further orders from Napoleon directing Ney to head for Castile, leaving Moncey’s III Corps alone to defeat an electrified city. That marshal, with just three of his four divisions, flinched from the task of fighting his way into a fortified city whilst beset by a hostile population. So, to the joy of that incredulous population, the French withdrew, retreating to Alagon to await reinforcements. Confusion shattered French morale and a devastated Alagon offered little by way of compensation. A Polish officer in III Corps, Heinrich von Brandt, recalled that ‘We camped in conditions of absolute squalor. The inhabitants had fled, the weather was atrocious – freezing northerly gales alternated with torrential downpours without respite.’

Reinforcements arrived two weeks later in the form of Marshal Adolphe Mortier’s V Corps and the siege train from Bayonne. The French, content not to be inactive, set off again hoping, perhaps, that Saragossa would cave in like so many collapsed field armies.

Palafox was convinced it wouldn’t. He had used the fortnight’s respite well and his garrison boasted 34,000 regular troops  and militia as well as swiftly-organising bodies of determined civilians boosted by refugees – who had nothing to lose – from the surrounding area. His defence depended upon a series of well-defended strongpoints, many of them based on the city’s churches and monasteries, now fortified. The Saint Joseph monastery, just outside the southern wall, acted as a bastion in its own right as did the Santa Monica convent in the south east of the city and the Jesus monastery on the northern bank of the Ebro just beyond the suburbs. If the French did penetrate into the city then other substantial buildings – the University, Orphanage, Archbishop’s Palace and a score of churches and religious houses – would grind down their advance through the narrow streets and gain time for relief to arrive. There certainly seemed to be sufficient food – at least for the garrison – to enable the city to endure a three-month siege and, Palafox was sure, the necessary endurance to put up a courageous resistance.

The French began by storming Monte Torrero, an elevated position which dominated the southern side of the city. Just  two hours of resistance were followed by the flight of the defenders into the city. That afternoon the understandably optimistic French attacked from the north with General Honoré Gazan’s men bursting into the suburbs. Canister, from some of the city’s 160 guns, and street-fighting cost them 700 men before they fell back.

Moncey chose this moment to inform Palafox that he should capitulate but Palafox was scathing, suggesting that the French should rather surrender to him. So General André Lacoste, the remarkable engineer officer, began work in earnest. He determined that in order to effect a breach the French should first seize the Saint Joseph monastery, just beyond the shallow Huerba stream. From there the French could reach towards the banks of the Ebro, thus communicating with Gazan, whilst also launching attacks against the Santa Engracia gate, thereby gaining access into the south of the city. Digging began on the 23rd December 1808, shivering conscripts breaking the icy ground and bemoaning their fate and the conditions they were being forced to endure. They were entirely justified for, when on the 29th, General Jean Andoche Junot arrived to replace Moncey he was shocked by what he found. He wrote to Napoleon that his III Corps was composed of too few troops to succeed and that these troops were ‘young men, exhausted by the campaign; they are virtually naked, they have no greatcoats and no boots. They fill the hospitals in their hundreds which, due to the poor conditions and the absence of staff, quickly become their tomb’. He outspokenly informed his imperial master that all reports previously sent from Saragossa were tantamount to lies. It was going to be a tough battle with no guarantee of success.

The early days of 1809 saw the French depleted still further when Moncey was ordered to march on Catalayud with General Louis Suchet’s division, depriving the besiegers of essential manpower. Still, the French were cheered by news of their army’s entry into Madrid; Palafox was swift to counter in the propaganda war with his own proclamation which boasted that he’ll ‘sweep this scum away from our walls’. Letters were even thrown into the French trenches where impressionable conscripts were sat shivering. Written in six languages it tempted the French to desert and join the defence.

But Palafox was being cautious and his apparent reluctance to risk his troops outside the walls meant that by the second week of January the first of the French siege batteries was completed and in position. On the 10th at 06.00 eight French batteries opened up on Saragossa with 32 guns, many of them giant 24-pounders which could hurl a projectile two kilometres. The Spanish suffered heavily from the shot and shell and their batteries in Saint Joseph were quickly reduced to silence. The onslaught prompted the first Spanish sortie of note, however, and at midnight a Spanish column raced for the French position. Taken in flank the Spanish were scattered and fell back, decimated. The French guns continued to fire barely uninterrupted whilst preparations are made to launch an assault against Saint Joseph. In the afternoon of the 11th French officers in the trenches agreed that the breaches seemed practicable and the Spanish suitably cowed by the bombardment. Mariano Renovales, inside the fort, described the fire as being ‘so intense that hardly a soldier could escape being hit by one projectile or another’.  Troops from General Claude Grandjean’s division were now moved into position and two light guns rushed forward to open close-quarter fire against the Spanish whilst three columns of voltigeurs, led by Major Stahl and sappers, raced forward ‘only to find the ditch too deep’. Fortunately Captain Daguenet of the engineers discovered a wooden bridge the Spaniards had neglected to destroy and he and 100 hand-picked voltigeurs, managed to batter their way into the fort with axes. More French troops are rushed in and the Spanish 2nd Regiment of Valencia, suffering 30 dead and demoralised by the loss of their colonel, fled in disorder. Renovales reported to Palafox that they had abandoned ‘a position soaked in blood, covered in arms, legs and torsos’. 

A few more days of bombardment followed, along with more blood-spilling, until the French felt confident that an attack on their next target – a  tete de pont on the south side of the Huerba –  was viable. On the evening of the 15th 40 Polish voltigeurs launched an assault. Despite the gloom Jose Garcia, a sentry, spotted the Poles running forward and the Spanish opened fire and detonated a mine for good measure. Moving at speed the Poles emerged through the smoke unharmed and stormed up their ladders and over the wall. Grim bayonet fighting followed before they flushed the defenders out and the Spanish fled into the city burning the bridge behind them.

It was progress for the French but resistance was still determined. Even so the city’s civilians were suffering enormously. Epidemics were rampant and rations much reduced. Shot and shell daily rained down on Saragossa, death and disease stalked the streets. For the besiegers life that January was almost as grim. III Corps was reduced to just 13,000 effectives and General Honoré Gazan had just 7,000. A report of the 15th January noted that the 14th Line had 1,812 men under arms and 1,128 in hospital; the 115th 1,591 and 1,618 and the Poles of the 1st Vistula Regiment 1,218 fit and 952 sick.  Bands of insurgents roamed the countryside, attacking French foragers, and supplies dwindled. The dour Colonel Joseph Rogniat of the engineers noted that:

‘Our most terrible enemy, at this time was famine. We lacked meat and our soldiers were reduced to half-rations of bread many times. No village sent in requisitions and the lack of troops since Suchet’s division left means that we were not capable of sending sufficiently large detachments out to bring back food.’

Joseph Rogniat: Engineering officer who served at many major battles of the Empire. Born: November 9, 1776. Place of Birth: Saint-Priest, Isère, France. Died: May 8, 1840.

And all the time come rumours that Spanish regular forces are on their way to attempt to lift the siege. As indeed they were. General Pedro Elola had gathered 2,000 militia and was now advancing in an attempt to break through to Saragossa. News of his army ‘bringing with it 5,000 muskets’ had lifted the citizens of Saragossa. The French response was quick: General Pierre Wathier dispersed the insurgents and Gazan sent 500 men, supported by the 10th Hussars, to prevent them from rallying.

Meanwhile Lacoste pushed ahead energetically with the placing of new batteries, working closely with General Francis Dedon of the artillery. To frustrate this work 24 Spanish volunteers under Mariano Galindo sallied forth to attack battery Number 6 at 16.00 on the 21st. They crossed the Huerba and rushed at the guns before being overwhelmed or killed. It was an act of defiance typical of the besieged Aragonese.

It was at this critical juncture in the siege that the obstinate and effective Marshal Lannes arrived before Saragossa to assume command of III and V Corps. His presence, coupled with news of a successful action by Suchet’s division of V Corps, which had scattered armed peasants and taken up a position to safeguard French communications, raised French morale and they celebrated his arrival with a discharge of artillery. Palafox, on the other hand, prepared his own reception for the marshal.

At 04.00 on the 23rd a single cannon fired from the Spanish ramparts. Three Spanish battalions ‘marching in order and silence’ according to Lejeune emerged through the gloomy mist to attack the bleary-eyed defenders of Saint Joseph. Sweeping past a company of Poles and trapping them in the Aguilar house just outside the monastery’s walls. The Spanish set fire to the building but a French battalion rushed forward and managed to force the Spanish back. Whilst this sortie was being contained a second was launched against batteries 5 and 6. Fifty valiant Spaniards broke into the trenches, killed three gunners and attempted to spike two 12-pounders. A French counterattack swept down onto them, pushing the Spaniards back, recapturing the battery and taking 30 prisoners. The defeat of the sortie prompted Lannes to write to Palafox and declare that further casualties would be the victims of his imprudent obstinacy. There was no reply and so Lannes prepared his men for an all-out assault of the kind the marshal preferred.

The morning of the 26th was dominated by the monotonous rumble of 50 French guns. Four batteries concentrated on opening a breach in the wall opposite the Saint Joseph monastery whilst two strong batteries targeted Santa Engracia. Despite a thick fog, the city’s defences were battered and pounded for 18 hours. The Saragossans, as ever, took the punishment but tragedy occurred when San Genis was hit by a roundshot and killed.

The grand assault the following day was a success in as much as the French had fought their way into the city. But, far from capitulating, the Spanish had lured the French into the city’s streets. There, a new style of urban warfare could begin. As the French attempted to expand their control along the Pabostre into Del Gato Avenue they not only met resistance but also heavy counter-attacks. A fierce one on the 28th was beaten off but the struggle cost 17 men are killed and 30 wounded.  Rogniat witnessed the attack and noted that ‘The enemy used a considerable number of grenades and these frightened many of our troops and wounded scores’.  That same day, at 14.00, waves more Spaniards assaulted the Trinitarian convent. General Claude Rostolland was shot and wounded and the 117th Line panicked. Only through the exertions of Captain Robert could a group of grenadiers be rallied and the position saved.

The French continued methodically and on the 29th 90 Poles from the 2nd Vistula regiment were readied to assault the Santa Monica convent. Led forwards by 10 sappers, the Poles were showered by missiles thrown from neighbouring houses and were forced to scurry for cover. Alternate tactics to the all out charge are employed instead. A small charge blasted an entrance into a house next to convent and French troops quickly filled the building. From there they broke down the wall and swept into the convent’s garden, fighting their way among the cloisters. Captain Hardi at the head of 100 grenadiers finally managed to get into the church, wounding General Pedro Villacampa on the way.

Progress was also slow up Santa Engracia Avenue as each house had to be taken by assault. Sappers under Major Breuille placed five barrels of powder in the cellar of one house which was holding out against the odds, blocking the doors and windows and lighting the fuse. The blast brought down six houses but as the rubble and dust prevented progress; the sappers determined to use less powder in future. Charges are now to be sufficient to blow in walls to allow assault troops to quickly push through a breach.

Elsewhere 150 Frenchmen in the Trinitarian convent faced a particularly brutal attack when the monk Iago Sas led hundreds of Spanish forwards through the streets whilst snipers fanned out over the roofs overlooking the convent. The Spanish predictably attempted to smash down the convent’s door with an axe but sacks of earth placed behind the door prevented them from breaking in. Instead they brought up a gun but the gunners are shot down by the voltigeurs of the 50th Line. At 19.00 a second, smaller attack followed but it too failed, leaving a dozen Spaniards sprawling in the street.

But the French weren’t always successful in their own assaults. It was tough going as Brandt recalled:

‘We knew that in order not to be killed, or to diminish that risk, we would have to take each and every one of these houses converted into redoubts and where death lurked in the cellars, behind doors and shutters – in fact, everywhere. When we broke into a house we had to make an immediate and thorough inspection from the cellar to the rooftop. Experience taught us that sudden and determined resistance could well be a trick. Often as we were securing one floor we would be shot at from point blank range from the floor above through loopholes in the floorboards. All the nooks and crannies of these old-fashioned houses aided such deadly ambushes. We also had to maintain a good watch on the rooftops. With their light sandals, the Aragonese could move with the ease of and as silently as a cat and were thus able to make surprise incursions well behind the front line. We would be sitting peacefully around a fire, in a house occupied for some days, when suddenly shots would come through some window just as though they had come from the sky itself.’

Rogniat confessed in his journal that

‘The energy with which the enemy defends himself is incredible; the taking of each house necessitates an assault and these fanatics don’t only fight from house to house but from floor to floor or from room to room.’

Lejeune, too, stressed the difficulties encountered by the ordinary soldiers now finding themselves pitted against a determined enemy contesting every pile of rubble. The strain of life in the trenches was literally exhausting the French:

‘Engineer officers directed the men to spread out along a line and get digging, throwing the earth forwards whilst maintaining as much silence as possible otherwise the enemy would show us with canister. The troops hurry, despite the fatigue brought on by so many nights of such work, hoping to get some rest. And when they sleep even cannon fire can’t wake them. But they are not free from danger. There are enemy sorties, bombs, grenades and bullets to fear; the enemy send up shells to illuminate the area and allow marksmen to pick us off. There are stones fired into the air by mortars which come hurtling down, crushing all. Even so the soldiers sleep on perhaps not believing that this sleep might, for them, prove eternal.’  

Far from being beaten, the Spanish acting en masse or individually seemed in their element, keeping the French on their toes, turning the besiegers into the besieged. French troops in houses could find themselves shot at through floors or ceilings. Those in a supposedly secure area might find themselves ambushed and watch as their assailants made off over the roofs of the houses. Mines, artillery, snipers all took a terrible toll on both sides and many questioned how much longer both sides could persist in this awful battle of attrition?

February began rudely when at 05.00 on the morning of the 1st a mine was detonated under the Augustinian church; grenadiers of the 44th Line surprised the dazed garrison and flushed them out. The Spanish recovered quickly and counter-attacked, a deadly battle flared up around the altar. French reserves were rushed in and tipped the battle in France’s favour. A few defenders found themselves trapped in the bell-tower and they made the most of the opportunity by throwing grenades down on the French below. A second counter-attack by 8,000 Spaniards frees the trapped men and allows them to escape.

The 1st of February also saw the death of General Lacoste. Lejeune saw it happen.

‘Lacoste had told me to detonate my mines two minutes after I head his mines go off. When the moment came we lit the fuse and ten or a dozen houses were blown into the air followed by a deep boom. It took some time for the dust to settle but no sooner than it had then Prost ran forward followed by the Polish assault party. Lacoste and Valaze arrived just as they went into the attack and we all clambered up onto the ruins of a house in order to get a better view. We cheered on the Poles but our shouts attracted attention from the Spanish hiding behind walls and peeking through gaps and hole. They opened fire hitting Lalobe and General Lacoste; the former died instantly but Lacoste followed him a few hours later.’

Colonel Rogniat assumed command of the engineers but he himself was wounded in the hand the following day.

 The French continued to grind through the city. Some progress had been around Pabostre, and even some houses on the Quemada Avenue had been occupied, but the attackers failed to properly secure them. Ever watchful for an opportunity the Spaniards launched an attack and swept the French right back into the Pabostre. Palafox was quick to proclaim a victory but, the next day, the French were back in the rubble-strewn Quemada Avenue and pushing towards the Hospital of the Orphans. It was there that they met more determined resistance. Lieutenant Brenne, leading one attack, was wounded three times before his troops were finally repelled. An attack against the Jerusalem convent was also attempted; breaking into the church French voltigeurs were floored by Spanish fire coming from behind a loopholed wall. Working their way round, they outflanked the position, took revenge and secured the convent.

Another tactic called for the use of mines. With such infernal machines, charged with 500 pounds of powder, the French sappers successfully blasted their way along the Oleta Avenue and, for the first time, the besieging army reached the city’s main thoroughfare – the Coso, which runs along the length of the city. But virtually all the troops they had available were employed in securing their enclaves within the city wall and in battling to advance through the rubble and dust; too few could be spared for more offensive operations. Lannes hastily instructed Gazan to apply pressure on Saragossa’s northern bank but that general’s first attempted ended badly. The French, climbing out of trenches ankle-deep in freezing water, rushed forward but were picked off by Spanish marksmen on the roof of the Jesus convent.

Lannes did what he could to maintain the momentum, switching assaults from one quarter to another, keeping the Aragonese stretched and under fire. Nevertheless, it was proving difficult to become properly established on the Coso, let alone move beyond it. Brandt recalled that

‘our entire division took place in the assault on the Coso. Above the continual bickering of musketry the groans of much larger explosions could be heard – sometimes the booming of cannon and sometimes a mine going off. I was busy in the Coso with a detachment of some fifty men, setting up a barricade. Grenadiers, posted above us in the windows of neighbouring houses, covered this work, which was designed to protect a communications trench which ran from one side of the street to the other. Suddenly our ears were almost shattered by the familiar whistling and roaring noise of an exploding mine. A neighbouring house collapsed and unmasked a Spanish battery which blasted us with grape at point blank range. Miraculously, only three men were hit but the rest ran for it as quick as they could.’

Fortuitously, Gazan was not put off by his initial repulse and the general continued to launch attack after attack. Lejeune witnessed the decisive one: ‘200 grenadiers and 300 voltigeurs throw themselves forward in a number of columns and break into the Jesus convent. 400 Spaniards, demoralised by the bombardment, don’t wait to defend themselves. They turn tail and we seize control’.  It’s an all too unusual success. Mostly, French officers such as Rogniat are convinced that ‘the only way to defeat such obstinate defenders is to kill them’.  Want and disease are doing part of the job for them. Some 500 inhabitants are dying per day and lie unburied in the streets. Survivors cower in cellars or arcades or lurk in Saragossa’s shadowy streets. Shells rain down, fires spark into life among the city’s ruined buildings; smoke shrouds the infernal scene. And slowly, ever so slowly, the French increase their control over the city.

An unprecedented 3,000-pound mine was carefully placed under the St Francis monastery. The fuses were lit and Lejeune was there to see the explosion and to watch the subsequent attack go in:

‘Brave Colonel Dupeyroux with his regiment and Valaze and his engineers were waiting in the ruins of the hospital for the signal. Breuille detonated the mine and it blew in part of the convent’s walls. The bell-tower, which we had expected to see collapse, remained standing. Although the dust still billowed in choking clouds Valaze and his troops swept into the building, flushing out the defenders with the bayonet. The assault was so brilliant that Palafox called the entire garrison to arms, fearing that we would break into the very centre of the city. We had hoped that Spanish resistance would collapse with shock but our attack seemed instead to rather provoke their ire.’

Despite the blast the fighting in the church was savage. Spaniards and French, mingled together, fought their way down the nave and up the stairs of the bell-tower. Refusing to surrender the Spanish were thrown down to their deaths. Masters of the tower the French took time to look down on the smoking city, seeing the barricades across streets and gallows in public squares. Their success has led to a state of alarm across the city, the tocsins dolefully sound out, drums are beaten, and as many men as are available are mustered in the central market place. Palafox hesitated to launch an attack but instead issued a proclamation; among other things he promised to hunt down defeatists and that ‘our friends in America’ are ‘preparing enormous sums for the repair’ of the city’s buildings.  Just as well, the St Francis monastery, for one, has been written off by the fighting:

‘The explosion had not only destroyed a large part of the building but also many of the cellars in which families had been sheltering in order to avoid the bombardment; in addition more than 400 defenders, including an entire company of grenadiers from the Regiment of Valencia had been blown to smithereens. The gardens and the surrounding land were a horror to behold, strewn with masses of human remains. It was impossible to make a step without standing on something.’

The area around the University was much the same. The French are still determined to take it, the Spanish to defend it as Brandt recalled

‘the first attack on the University buildings failed due to the fact that the miners had not been able to place their galleries close enough under the walls, the result being that the explosion failed to make a breach and our columns were exposed to a galling fire from which they fell back with the loss of about forty men’.

Recovering quickly, a 12-pdr gun was brought up along with a mortar to complete the breach but Lieutenant Vecten, directing these guns, was picked off by a sniper. The 12-pdr opened up but the defenders plugged gabions and sandbags into the breach making it impossible to use.

Such tenacious resistance in part stemmed from despair but also from rumours that a large relief force had gathered at Lerida under Palafox’s two brothers. Some 12,000 men were on the march and Lannes was now forced to strip Gazan of troops and march north to defeat this last attempt to break through. For many in the garrison it seemed one promise too many; a company of Swiss mercenaries, fighting for the Spanish, took their chance and desert to the French. More drama followed when 100 desperate citizens broke out of the city and approached the French lines asking to be taken prisoner; the French commanders cleverly turned this to their advantage by issuing them with bread and sending them back into Saragossa to spread the word that the French will treat the citizens honourably and, more importantly, feed them.

Spanish morale deteriorated further when the promised relief did not arrive. On the 16th Lannes received a letter from Paris promising everything he might need to prosecute the siege: reinforcements, supplies, soldiers’ pay for January and surgeons. The scales, it seemed, were slowly swinging the French way.

Still the defenders were fighting back, contesting every house, every garden. A particular problem was sniper fire. Artillery and engineer officers were favoured targets. On the 17th, Lannes, having driven the Spanish field army off, returned to be almost hit by a sniper. Furious he scaled up the bell-tower of the Jesus convent and had fifteen loaded muskets brought up. He fired them off but was soon targeted by a Spanish cannon; a roundshot killed Captain Lepot right next to the Marshal.

The next day – almost in retaliation – the French opened up a massive bombardment at 08.00; 52 guns pulverised the Archbishop’s Palace and cathedral. Gazan’s men launched three columns forwards in an attack on the shattered Lazarus monastery. Two failed outright but the third broke into the monastery’s church and on towards the bridge over the swift Ebro. This dramatic move cut off a considerable number of Spaniards on the northern bank and whilst some 300 forced their way across the bridge, and others jumped into boats and fled across the river, still more surrendered and 2,500 become French prisoners. Colonel Dode of the engineers capitalised on the French success by having the entrance to the bridge quickly barred and fortified.

Just as the Spanish were surrendering on the northern bank a massive detonation was heard from the centre of the city. Having put in a series of attacks, and ensuring that the buildings are packed with defenders, the French detonate a huge mine planted in the University cellar. Resistance was so dazed by the ensuing explosion that Polish and French attackers not only broke into the gutted compound but were able to push on as far as the Trinity church. The next morning the French detonated a mine under that sacred building, occupied it and captured two guns. This progress pushed a deep wedge into the Spanish position and Palafox, by now seriously ill, felt he can do little about it. No relief force was forthcoming, nothing more could be done. Few others seemed to want to shoulder the awful responsibility of resisting against such odds and so the Spanish general finally took it upon himself to send one of his aides to Lannes to ask for a cease-fire. Lannes rejected the proposal and, to underline his words, formed a powerful battery close by the bridge over the Ebro. Palafox resigned in response and left his command to a Junta of 40 notables; they deliberated throughout the night to the tune of detonating mines and thundering artillery.

Fearing popular hatred, and hardly daring to whisper the word surrender, the Junta was divided. Epidemics were killing 500 people a day. The French were stubbornly, if slowly, ploughing their way through the rubble and their noose grew tighter and tighter. They summoned up the courage, for it took courage to surrender after such a siege, to despatch a second messenger to Lannes, asking for a suspension of hostilities. At 16.00 the marshal ordered the artillery to stop firing and sent an officer into the city demanding surrender within two hours. Lannes revealed that he had prepared six mines, all of 3,000 pounds, beneath the Coso. The Junta bowed its head to the inevitable and accepted Lannes’ terms.

The day of glory, if it could be called such, was long in coming. On the morning of Tuesday the 21st February 1809 the Spanish garrison marched out of the Portillo gate and piled their arms before marching off into captivity. Brandt watched

‘After about an hour the vanguard of the famous defenders of Saragossa began to appear. Not long after we witnessed the arrival of the rest of the army: a strange collection composed of humanity of all shades and conditions. A few were in uniform but most were dressed like peasants. Most of them were of such non-military bearing that our men were saying aloud that we should never have had so much trouble in beating such a rabble.’

There were just 8,500 of them. A few thousand more were flushed out from hiding in the following few days. The city was a horror to behold. The narrow streets were choked with dead, heaps of ashes and rubble. Makeshift hospitals were clogged with the dead and dying, as are cellars and houses – anywhere, in fact, where the populace had attempted to shelter from the 32,700 shells and roundshot fired into the city. The central market place resembled a cemetery, the cathedral a charnel house. The French army camped outside the city for fear of epidemics, counting their loses. Lannes had lost 3,000 dead and 15,000 in hospital, mostly dying. A heavy loss but as nothing compared to that of the Spaniards – a staggering 53,873 dead according to the city authorities.

Aragon’s capital had undergone a holocaust quite unlike any city had ever seen, a siege ‘extraordinary and terrible’ according to Rogniat.  Nothing quite like it would be seen again until Stalingrad. The city’s surrender seemed to break resistance in Aragon, four years of occupation followed. But the example of Saragossa to the rest of Spain was inspirational and it was with immense pride that the Spanish recalled the siege. Outside of Spain, Saragossa earned Spain almost universal praise and not only from those countries at war, or soon to be at war, with France. Europe caught its breath that February as French power had been stretched to its limit by one gallant city.

Although it would be Spanish gallantry that would be remembered the siege had been a heroic feat for the French as well; Lejeune wrote that 13,000 men had braved hunger, fatigue and danger to force 100,000 citizens to capitulate. But the victory came at a terrible cost in morale. Outwardly laughing off Spanish resistance and fanaticism, French martial confidence was shaken to its core by the siege of Saragossa. How could they, the liberators of Europe, be so despised as to provoke such resistance? How many more Saragossas would be needed to pacify such a country? Questions such as these weighed heavily on the hitherto enthusiastic soldiers of Napoleon’s empire. There could be no glory for them in Spain.

Far away in Paris, Napoleon heard of the surrender on the 27th February but he had already turned his back on the peninsula and was already planning to march his legions against Austria. He, for one, wouldn’t be returning to Spain but would entrust his generals to find what glory they could in war-torn Iberia.

Africa Colonial Wars 1919–1939 Part I

Just as Africans were taking their first, tentative steps towards nationhood and independence, Spain and Italy launched what turned out to be the last large-scale wars of conquest on the continent, in Morocco and Abyssinia. Both nations were driven by greed and historic grievances which alleged that their legitimate imperial ambitions had been frustrated or overlooked by the great powers. Jealousy and bruised pride were most strongly felt by right-wing politicians, professional soldiers, moneymen and journalists who lobbied for imperial expansion, promising that it would yield prestige and profit. In Italy, aggressive imperialism and an infatuation with the glories of the Roman Empire were central to the ideology of Mussolini’s Fascist Party which snatched power in 1922. Like Spain, Italy was a relatively poor country with limited capital reserves and industrial resources, deficiencies that were ignored or glossed over by imperial enthusiasts who argued that in the long-term imperial wars would pay for themselves.

In 1900 Spain was a nation in eclipse. Over the past hundred years it had been occupied by Napoleon and endured periodic civil wars over the royal succession; it entered the twentieth century riven by violent social and political tensions. Spain’s infirmity was brutally exposed in 1898, when she was defeated by the United States in a short war that ended with the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, all that remained of her vast sixteenth-century empire.

National shame was most deeply felt in the upper reaches of a hierarchical society where the conviction took root that Spain could only redeem and regenerate itself by a colonial venture in Morocco. Support for this enterprise was most passionate among the numerous officers of the Spanish army (there was one for every forty-seven soldiers), who found allies in King Alfonso XIII, the profoundly superstitious and obscurantist Catholic Church and conservatives in the middle and landowning classes. The army had its own newspaper, El Ejército Español, which proclaimed that empire was the ‘birthright’ of all Spaniards, and predicted that ‘weapons’ would ‘plough the virgin soil so that agriculture, industry, and mining might flourish’ in Morocco.

Morocco was Spain’s new El Dorado. In 1904 Spain and France secretly agreed to share Morocco, with the French coming off best with the most fertile regions. Spain’s portion was the littoral of the Mediterranean coast and the inaccessible Atlas Mountains of the Rif, home to the fiercely independent Berbers. The war began in 1909 and jubilant officers, including the young Francisco Franco, looked forward to medals and promotion, while investors touted for mining and agricultural concessions. Optimism dissolved on the battlefield and, within a year, the Spanish army found itself bogged down in a guerrilla war, just as it had in Cuba forty years before. Reinforcements were hastily summoned, but in July 1909 the mobilisation of reservists triggered a popular uprising among the workers of Barcelona. Breadwinners and their families wanted no part in the Moroccan adventure, and henceforward all left-wing parties opposed a war that offered the workers nothing but conscription and death. Resentful draftees had to be stiffened by Moroccan levies (Regulares) and, in 1921, the sinister Spanish Foreign Legion (Tercio de Extranjeros), a band of mostly Spanish desperadoes whose motto was ‘Viva la Muerte!’ These hirelings once appeared at a ceremonial public parade with Berber heads, ears and arms spiked on their bayonets.

Resistance was strongest among the Berbers of the Atlas, who not only defended their mountainous homeland but created their own state, the Rif Republic, in September 1921. Its founder and guiding spirit was a charismatic visionary, Abd el-Krim, a jurist who had once worked for the Spanish, but believed that the future freedom, happiness and prosperity of the Berbers could only be achieved by the creation of a modern, independent nation. It had its own flag, issued banknotes and, under el-Krim’s direction, was embarking on a programme of social and economic regeneration which included efforts to eliminate slavery. The Riffian army was well suited to a partisan war. Its soldiers were chiefly horsemen armed with up-to-date rifles, supported by machineguns and modern artillery. The Riffians also had good luck, for they were pitched against an army with tenuous lines of communications and led by fumbling generals.

Riffian superiority in the battlefield was spectacularly proved in July 1921, when Spain launched an offensive with 13,000 men designed to penetrate the Atlas foothills and secure a decisive victory. What followed was the most catastrophic defeat ever suffered by a European army in Africa, the Battle of Annual. The Spanish were outmanoeuvred, trapped and trounced with a loss of over 10,000 men in the fighting and ensuing rout. Officers fled in cars, the wounded were abandoned and tortured, and their commander, General Manuel Fernandez Silvestre y Pantiga, shot himself. The circumstances of his death were ironic, insofar as his manly bearing and extended, bushy and painstakingly groomed moustache so closely fitted the European stereotype of the victorious imperial hero. A post-mortem on the Annual debacle revealed Silvestre’s reckless over-confidence, his obsequious desire to satisfy King Alfonso XIII’s wish for a quick victory, ramshackle logistics, a precipitate collapse of morale and the mass desertions of Moroccan Regulares.

Spain responded with more botched offensives, but now the deficiencies of its commanders were offset by the latest military technology. Phosgene and mustard gas bombs dropped from aircraft would bring the Riffians to their knees. This tactic was strongly urged by Alfonso XIII, a Bourbon with all the mental limitations and prejudices of his ancestors. Together, his generals persuaded him that, if unchecked, the Republic of the Rif would trigger ‘a general uprising of the Muslim world at the instigation of Moscow and international Jewry’. Spain was now fighting to save Christian civilisation, just as it had done in the Middle Ages when its armies had driven the Moors from the Iberian peninsula.

The technology for what are now called weapons of mass destruction had to be imported. German scientists supervised the manufacture of the poison gas at two factories, one of which, near Madrid, was named ‘The Alfonso XIII Factory’. Over 100 bombers were purchased from British and French manufacturers, including the massive Farman F.60 Goliath. By November 1923 the preparations had been completed, and one general hoped that the gas offensive would exterminate the Rif tribesmen.

Between 1923 and 1925 the Spanish air force pounded Rif towns and villages with 13,000 bombs filled with phosgene and mustard gas as well as conventional high explosives. Victims suffered sores, boils, blindness and the burning of skin and lungs, livestock were killed and crops and vegetation withered. Residual contamination persisted and was a source of stomach and throat cancers and genetic damage.4 Details of these atrocities remained hidden for seventy years, and in 2007 the Spanish parliament refused to acknowledge them or consider compensation. The Moroccan government disregarded the revelations, for fear that they might add to the grievances of the discontented Berber minority.

Conventional rather than chemical weapons brought down the Rif Republic. Worrying signs that Spain’s war in the Rif might destabilise French Morocco drew France into the conflict in 1925. Over 100,000 French troops, tanks and aircraft were deployed alongside 80,000 Spaniards, and the outnumbered Riffian forces were broken. Newsreel cameramen (a novelty on colonial battlefields) filmed the captive Abd el-Krim as he began the first stage of his journey to exile in Réunion in the Indian Ocean. He was transferred to France in 1947 and was later moved to Cairo where he died in 1963, a revered elder statesman of North African nationalism.


Spain had gained a colony and, unwittingly, a Frankenstein’s monster, the Army of Africa (Cuerpo de Ejército Marroquí). Its cadre of devout, reactionary officers assumed the role of the defenders of traditionalism in a country beset by political turbulence after the abdication of Alfonso in 1931. Politicians of the Right saw the Africanistas (as the officer corps was called) as ideological accomplices in their struggle to contain the trade unions, Socialists, Communists and Anarchists. The Moroccan garrison became a praetorian guard that could be unleashed on the working classes if they ever got out of hand. They did, in October 1934, when the miners’ strike in the Asturias aroused fears of an imminent Red revolution. It was forestalled by application of the terror that had recently been used to subdue Spanish Morocco. Aircraft bombed centres of disaffection and the Foreign Legion and Moroccan troops were summoned to restore order and storm the strikers’ stronghold at Oviedo. Its capture and subsequent mopping-up operations were marked by looting, rape and summary executions by the Legionaries and Regulares. Franco (now a general) presided over the terror. Like his fellow Africanistas, he believed that it was their sacred duty to rescue the old Spain of landowners, priests and the passive and obedient masses from the depredation of godless Communists and Anarchists.

Red revolution seemed to come closer on New Year’s Day 1936 with the emergence of a coalition government which called itself the ‘Popular Front’. It was confirmed in power by a narrow margin in a general election soon afterwards, and the far Left began clamouring for radical reform and wage rises. Strikes, assassinations and violent demonstrations proliferated during the spring and early summer, the Right trembled, acquired arms and covertly sounded out the Africanista generals. Together they contrived a coup whose success depended on the 40,000 soldiers of the Moroccan garrison who made up two-fifths of the Spanish army.

On 17 July 1936 Africa, in the form of Legionary and Regulares units from Morocco, invaded Spain. They were the spearhead of the Nationalist uprising and were soon reinforced by contingents flown across the Mediterranean in aircraft supplied by Hitler. Combined with local anti-Republican troops and right-wing volunteers, the African army quickly secured a power base across much of south-western and northern Spain. From the start, the Nationalists used their African troops to terrorise the Republicans. Speaking on Radio Seville, General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano warned his countrymen and women of the promiscuity and sexual prowess of his Moroccan soldiers who, he assured listeners, had already been promised their pick of the women of Madrid.

The colonial troops fulfilled his expectations. There were mass rapes everywhere by Legionaries and Regulares, who also massacred Republican civilians. Later, George Orwell noticed that Moroccan soldiers enjoyed beating up fellow International Brigade prisoners of war, but desisted once their victims uttered exaggerated howls of pain. One wonders whether their brutality was the result of their suppressed loathing of all white men rather than any attachment to Fascism or the Spain of the hidalgo and the cleric. Muslim religious leaders in Morocco had backed the uprising, which was sold to them as a war against atheism. As the Regulares marched into Seville they were given Sacred Heart talismans by pious women, which must have been bewildering.

When the Republicans were finally defeated in the spring of 1939, there were 50,000 Moroccans and 9,000 Legionaries fighting in the Nationalist army along with German and Italian contingents. Although necessity compelled him to concentrate his energies on national reconstruction, Franco, now dictator of Spain, harboured imperial ambitions. The fall of France in June 1940 offered rich pickings and he immediately occupied French Tangier. Shortly afterwards, when he met Hitler, Franco named his price for cooperation with Germany as French Morocco, Oran and, of course, Gibraltar. The Führer was peeved by his temerity and prevaricated. Fascist Spain remained a malevolent neutral; early in 1941 the tiny Spanish coastal colonies of Guinea and Fernando Po were sources of anti-British propaganda and bases for German agents in West Africa. Spanish anti-Communist volunteers joined Nazi forces in Russia.

Spain’s African Crusade(s)

Attack on La Goletta, with Tunis in the background.

Imperial troops in the conquest of Tunis, 1535

The dangers of rebellion among the sullen inhabitants of Granada, aided and abetted by their North African kinsmen, inevitably gave fresh impetus to a long-cherished project for the continuation of the Castilian crusade across the straits into Africa. This would be a natural sequel to the conquest of Granada, and one for which the times seemed especially propitious. The North African state system was in an advanced state of dissolution by the later fifteenth century. There were divisions between Algiers, Morocco, and Tunis, between the mountain-dwellers and the plain-dwellers, and between the traditional inhabitants and the recent émigrés from Andalusia. It was true that North Africa was difficult campaigning country, but the inhabitants were unacquainted with the new military techniques of the Castilians, and their internal feuds offered as tempting possibilities for the Spaniards as the faction struggles in the Nasrid kingdom of Granada.

Alexander VI gave his papal blessing to an African crusade in 1494, and, more important, authorized the continuation of the tax known as the cruzada to pay for it. But the crusade across the straits was postponed for a fateful decade. Spanish troops were heavily engaged in Italy during much of this time, and Ferdinand was in no mind to turn his attention elsewhere. Apart from the capture of the port of Melilla by the Duke of Medina-Sidonia in 1497, the new front with Islam was neglected, and it was only with the first revolt of the Alpujarras in 1499 that the Castilians really awoke to the dangers from North Africa. The revolt led to a great resurgence of popular religious enthusiasm and to new demands for a crusade against Islam, ardently supported by Cisneros and the Queen. When Isabella died in 1504, however, nothing had yet been done, and it remained for Cisneros to champion her dying request that her husband should devote himself ‘unremittingly to the conquest of Africa and to the war for the Faith against the Moors’.

Cisneros’s militant fervour was once again to carry all before it. An expedition was fitted out at Málaga, and set sail for North Africa in the autumn of 1505. It succeeded in taking Mers-el-Kebir, an essential base for an attack on Oran, but Cisneros’s attention was at this moment diverted to affairs nearer home, and it was not until 1509 that a new and stronger army was dispatched to Africa and that Oran was captured. But the beginning of the occupation of the North African coast in 1509–10 only served to sharpen the differences between Ferdinand and Cisneros, and to reveal the existence of two irreconcilable African policies. Cisneros, imbued with the spirit of the crusader, seems to have envisaged penetrating to the edges of the Sahara and establishing in North Africa a Spanish-Mauretanian empire. Ferdinand, on the other hand, considered North Africa a much less important theatre of operations than the traditional Aragonese preserve of Italy, and favoured a policy of limited occupation of the African coastline, sufficient to guarantee Spain against a Moorish attack.

Cisneros broke with his sovereign in 1509 and retired to the university of Alcalá. For the rest of the reign it was Ferdinand’s African policy that prevailed: the Spaniards were content to seize and garrison a number of key points, while leaving the hinterland to the Moors. Spain was to pay a heavy price for this policy of limited occupation in later years. The relative inactivity of the Spaniards and their uncertain command of no more than a thin coastal strip allowed the Barbary corsairs to establish bases along the coast. In 1529 the Barbarossas, two pirate brothers who had originally come from the Levant, recaptured the Peñón d‘Argel, the key to Algiers. From this moment the foundations were laid for an Algerian state under Turkish protection, which provided the ideal base for corsair attacks against Spain’s vital Mediterranean routes.

The threat became extremely grave in 1534 when Barbarossa seized Tunis from Spain’s Moorish vassals, and so secured for himself the control of the narrow seas between Sicily and Africa. It was obviously now a matter of extreme urgency for Spain to smoke out the hornets’ nest before irreparable harm was done. In the following year Charles V undertook a great expedition against Tunis and succeeded in recapturing it, but he was unable to follow up his success with an immediate assault on Algiers, and the opportunity for destroying the Barbary pirates was missed. When the Emperor finally led an expedition against Algiers in 1541 it ended in disaster. From now on Charles was fully occupied in Europe, and the Spaniards could do no more than hold their own in Africa. Their policy of limited occupation meant that they failed to secure real influence over the Maghreb, and their two protectorates of Tunisia and Tlemcen came under increasing Moorish pressure. By the time of Philip II’s accession, Spanish North Africa was in a highly precarious state, from which the new King’s efforts were unable to rescue it. Control of the Tunisian coast would have been an invaluable asset to Spain in its great naval war of 1559 to 1577 against the Turk, but although Don John of Austria was able to recover Tunis in 1573, both Tunis and its fortress of La Goletta were lost to the Moors in the following year. The fall of La Goletta was fatal to Spain’s African hopes. Spanish control was gradually reduced to the garrison posts of Melilla, Oran, and Mers-el-Kebir, to which were later added the African remnants of the Portuguese Empire. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Cisneros’s heroic vision of a Spanish North Africa had run to waste in the sands.

The most obvious reason for Spain’s failure to establish itself effectively in North Africa lay in the extent of its commitments elsewhere. Ferdinand, Charles V, and Philip II were all too preoccupied with other pressing problems to devote more than fitful attention to the African front. The cost of failure was very high in terms of the growth of piracy in the western Mediterranean, but it is arguable that the nature of the land and the insufficiency of Spanish troops in any event made effective occupation impossible. It is conceivable, however, that the formidable natural difficulties would not have been insuperable if the Castilians had adopted a different approach to the war in North Africa. In practice they tended to treat the war as a simple continuation of the campaign against Granada. This meant that, as in the Reconquista, they thought principally in terms of marauding expeditions, of the capture of booty and the establishment of presidios or frontier garrisons. There was no plan for total conquest, no project for colonization. The word conquista to the Castilian implied essentially the establishing of the Spanish ‘presence’ – the securing of strongpoints, the staking out of claims, the acquisition of dominion over a defeated population. This style of warfare, tried and proven in medieval Spain, was naturally adopted in North Africa, in spite of local conditions which threatened to limit its effectiveness from the start. Since the country was hard and the booty disappointing, Africa, unlike Andalusia, offered few attractions to the individual warrior, more concerned to obtain material rewards for his hardships than the spiritual recompense promised by Cisneros. Consequently, enthusiasm for service in Africa quickly flagged, with entirely predictable military consequences. North Africa remained throughout the sixteenth century the Cinderella of Spain’s overseas possessions – a land unsuited to the particular characteristics of the conquistador. The inadequacies of the crusading style of warfare of medieval Castile were here exposed; but failure in North Africa was almost immediately eclipsed by the startling success of the traditional style of warfare in an incomparably more spectacular enterprise – the conquest of an empire in America.

Spain’s Eighteenth Century

Philip V (Spanish: Felipe; 19 December 1683 – 9 July 1746) was King of Spain from 1 November 1700 to 14 January 1724, and again from 6 September 1724 to his death in 1746. Philip instigated many important reforms in Spain, most especially the centralization of power of the monarchy and the suppression of regional privileges, via the Nueva Planta decrees, and restructuring of the administration of the Spanish Empire on the Iberian peninsula and its overseas regions. The sum of his two reigns, 45 years and 21 days, is the longest in modern Spanish history.

In February 1701, Madrid gave enthusiastic welcome to teenaged King Philip V. Philip employed mostly Spaniards on his Council of State, though he did include Frenchmen. Confused by the problems of government, he corresponded with his grandfather Louis XIV in search of advice. Cardinal Portocarrero presided over government, and the Cortes of Castile met in grand assembly and voted the king money. In late summer Philip journeyed to Catalonia to meet his bride, thirteen-year-old Maria Luisa of Savoy. The Catalan Corts voted him a rich subsidy, despite strong separatist sentiment. Philip married Maria Luisa at Figueras; the young couple were soon smitten with each other. Full of energy, she gave the sometimes melancholy Philip crucial support. Even more crucial was the chief lady of her household, the princess of Ursins, handpicked by Louis XIV. Already aged sixty, Ursins arguably saved the Spanish throne for the Bourbon dynasty through her astuteness.

The Habsburgs of Vienna had not given Spain up, and Austrian armies marched on Philip V’s Italian possessions. Louis XIV provoked the English and Dutch into war when he sent French troops into the Spanish Netherlands to secure them for Philip. Thus erupted in 1702 the War of the Spanish Succession, which arrayed the Grand Alliance of Emperor Leopold, England, the Dutch, Savoy, and Portugal against Spain and France. Philip left his tender bride as regent in Spain and hurried with Spanish troops to defend his Italian possessions.

Philip’s victories in Italy temporarily saved Naples and Sicily for his crown, but the English navy sank Spain’s treasure fleet off Vigo. Emperor Leopold proclaimed his younger son, Archduke Charles, as King Charles III of Spain. Charles provided a rallying point for Spaniards who opposed the House of Bourbon and feared Philip would extend to Spain the centralization of government apparent in Louis XIV’s France. Many grandees feared the loss of influence over their provinces, while dominions subject to the Crown of Aragon feared the loss of autonomy. Philip hurried back to Spain to shore up his government against growing unrest. Louis XIV sent him French troops, commanded by the duke of Berwick, illegitimate son of deposed King James II of England.

In 1704 an English fleet landed Charles III in Portugal, then surprised Gibraltar and accepted its surrender in Charles’s name. In 1705 an army of Portuguese, English, and Dutchmen invaded Spain, while an English fleet bombarded Barcelona into submission. Austrian and English troops occupied it for Charles III, cheered by Catalan separatists. Charles reached Barcelona in November to find that Valencia and much of Aragon had also rallied to him. The allied armies next converged on Madrid and forced Philip and his queen to flee to Burgos. In June the allies paraded into Madrid and by late summer held Zaragoza. But the people of Castile proved hostile to them and made their situation tenuous, despite their victories in the field. Philip V acknowledged Castile’s loyalty and clung doggedly to his throne. Allied troops, isolated by Berwick’s reinforced army and popular hostility, abandoned Madrid late in 1706. Philip remained with Berwick; the queen returned to Madrid to cheers. In the spring of 1707, Berwick defeated the allies at Almansa and drove them from Aragon and Valencia. Philip deprived Aragon and Valencia of their traditional privileges and institutions as punishment for rebellion. In both kingdoms, the opposition had been undermined by conflicts between nobles and commoners. On both he imposed Castilian forms of government. That summer, the queen gave birth to an heir, Prince Luis. She bore a second son, Fernando, in 1713.

In 1708 Charles III married in Barcelona and proved as stubborn as Philip. Though most of Spain seemed secure in Philip’s hands, the English took Minorca. In 1709 Louis XIV sought to end the war. He agreed to abandon Philip and even to subsidize the allies but denied their request for French troops to aid them against his grandson.

The princess of Ursins refused Louis’s command to return to France and remained with Philip and Maria Luisa to bolster their morale and rally support. Alone, Philip’s army of Spaniards and a few Irishmen could not with stand the allies. Philip again abandoned Madrid, and Charles III marched in, welcomed by none but a few disgruntled grandees. The general population, disgusted by so many Protestants in the allied army, remained loyal to Philip V.

In 1710 French soldiers again joined Philip’s Spaniards after Louis XIV rejected the allies’ terms. Together Spanish and French forces soon had the allies in retreat. In 1711, Charles III’s older brother, Emperor Joseph, died, and Charles inherited Austria and was elected Emperor Charles VI. He returned to Vienna but did not yield his claim to Spain. He thus alarmed his allies with the specter of the European empire of Charles V all over again. Philip, in contrast, renounced all rights to France. Because the allies were as war weary as their enemies, they ignored Charles VI and opened peace negotiations at Utrecht, where in 1713 a treaty was signed by everybody but Charles, who settled a year later. By the Peace of Utrecht, Philip kept Spain and its overseas possessions. Charles VI received Naples, Milan, Sardinia, and the Spanish Netherlands, which became the Austrian Netherlands. The duke of Savoy got Sicily. England won trading concessions in the Spanish empire, including the lucrative African slave trade, and kept Gibraltar and Minorca.

In 1714 Philip reconquered Barcelona. To punish the Catalans, he stripped Catalonia of its ancient privileges, as he had stripped Aragon and Valencia of theirs, and went further, suppressing its universities.

Bourbon Spain was no longer a union of crowns but had become a unified kingdom. It had its capital in Madrid, centralized departments of government, and a single Cortes rendered largely ceremonial. The historic kingdoms became administrative regions and were each subdivided, giving Spain some thirty provinces. The old organization of government by councils, given to passing the buck among councillors, gave way to a government of ministries, each headed by a single responsible minister, on the French model. Although unpopular and associated with Finance Minister Jean Orry, a Frenchman, the reforms in government and finance were effective and doubled Philip’s annual revenues. Not happy with centralized government, the old grandees largely withdrew from public service, though they maintained palaces in the capital for its social whirl. Philip and his Bourbon successors proved generous in bestowing new titles on their public servants and soon created a titled nobility beholden to them. From Madrid the ministries worked to revive the economy of Spain and rebuild its army and navy.

Tuberculosis took Philip’s queen in February 1714, which left him depressed. Government routine carried no interest for him. His clinging to the aged princess of Ursins became ludicrous, and he was urged to marry again. An ambitious Italian cleric, Giulio Alberoni, agent in Madrid for the duke of Parma, persuaded Ursins that Elizabeth Farnese, Parma’s stepdaughter and heir, was the right match for Philip. When Elizabeth arrived in Spain, Alberoni met her at the frontier and gained her confidence. At her first interview with Ursins, she had the old princess packed out of the kingdom. She soon dominated Philip, and in 1716, she bore his son, Carlos, for whom she expected Parma, if not more.

Alberoni, backed by the queen, emerged from the Parmesan embassy to become in effect chief minister of Spain. The pope confirmed him as bishop of Malaga and in 1717 made him a cardinal. Aware that Austrian rule in Emperor Charles VI’s Italian possessions made people yearn for the good old days of Spanish government, Elizabeth and Alberoni sent the rebuilt Spanish fleet with troops aboard to reconquer Sardinia and Sicily. The English, who feared the revival of Spanish naval power in the Mediterranean, overwhelmed the raw Spanish fleet off Cape Passaro. Alberoni threatened to send the Stuart pretender, James III, in a Spanish armada against England and its new Hanoverian king, George I. But the rest of Europe, France included, ganged up on Spain and forced it to withdraw from Sardinia and Sicily. Alberoni was sacked. In 1720, by the Peace of the Hague, Philip V and Emperor Charles gave up their claims to each other’s territories, and all agreed that Elizabeth’s son Carlos would inherit Parma. Charles VI joined Sicily to Naples, to reconstitute the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and the duke of Savoy got Sardinia.

The energies Spain showed in rebuilding its army and navy were indicative of a return to prosperity. The population, measured at 7.5 million at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, would pass the 9 million mark by midcentury. Emigration to the Americas averaged 15,000 hopeful folk a year, and Spain’s shipping and American trade revived. In Madrid competent statesmen, such as Jose Patino and the marquis of la Ensenada, gave firm direction to government. Queen Elizabeth Farnese continued to connive, now for her second son, Felipe. The king kept his dignity in public and alternated between bouts of hunting and fits of deep depression.

The royal couple built the extravagant summer palace of San Ildefonso de La Granja, with its soaring fountains, on a forested slope above Segovia. There Philip hankered to retire, and in January 1724, he abdicated in favor of sixteen-year-old Luis. Luis died that August, and Philip V dutifully resumed the throne, although his fits of depression continued. Elizabeth’s moment came in 1733, when the War of the Polish Succession allowed her to further her ambitions for Carlos. With the first Bourbon family compact she got French support. Carlos marched from Parma, aided by Spanish troops and a fleet, and chased the Austrians from Naples. He obtained the Two Sicilies by the Peace of Vienna in 1738, at the price of Parma to Austria.

A mire in 1734 gutted the gloomy old Alcazar of Madrid, which Philip hated, and allowed him and his queen to begin construction of the current royal palace. Philip’s energies were revived when the War of Jenkins’ Ear with England erupted in 1739 over disputed commercial rights. It began after a Spanish coast guardsman in the Caribbean sliced off the ear of an English smuggler named Jenkins and in 1740 merged into the War of Austrian Succession. Elizabeth saw the chance to recover Parma and in 1743 dispatched Felipe to Italy with a Spanish army, under the tutelage of the marquis of la Ensenada. Felipe conquered it and by the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) became duke of Parma.

Philip V died in 1746, and Fernando VI, his surviving son by Maria Luisa of Savoy, succeeded to the throne. Fernando retained the public servants of his father’s reign and the successors to office they groomed. He gave Spain ten years of peace and prosperity. Catalonia, after a painful recovery, once more flourished economically, and the trade of Barcelona grew. Barcelona’s shipping linked a lively economy that included the Balearic Islands, the thriving orchards of Valencia, and the Andalusian coast as far west as Cadiz, where it met the American trade, now opened to all Spaniards by the Bourbons. Programs of road building begun under Philip V restored wheeled carts and wagons drawn by mules and bullocks to inland commerce. La Ensenada directed a detailed census to provide data on Spain’s economic strengths and weaknesses and aid in the reform of tax policy. Although conservative opposition blocked tax reform, Spain’s improving economy generated more revenues, and when Fernando died, he left the treasury with a surplus that equaled a half year’s ordinary income. Fernando also extended the crown’s authority over the Church through the Concordat of 1753 with the pope, which clarified and amplified the king’s power to nominate bishops for Spain’s dioceses. Fernando and his queen, Barbara of Braganza, cultivated the arts and employed Domenico Scarlatti as their court composer. Childless but devoted to his queen, Fernando suffered a mental collapse when she died, and he died in 1759, a year after she did.

And so Elizabeth Farnese’s eldest son Carlos, king of the Two Sicilies, became king of Spain as Carlos III. He abdicated the Sicilies to a younger son, Ferdinando, and embarked from Naples for Spain with his heir, now prince of Asturias and also named Carlos. Carlos III meant to continue the improvement of government and brought with him several of his best Italian ministers. Cognizant of the ideas on kingship in the eighteenth century Enlightenment, he stands prominent in the ranks of rulers called “enlightened despots” by history. According to theory, the enlightened despot should promote rational government, employ the best and brightest men available to assist him, regardless of their social status, and use his authority to sup port them. To Carlos this just seemed common sense. Carlos also tried to make good use of the Church in his programs and utilized the Concordat of 1753 to provide him the bishops he wanted. Traditionalists and the Jesuits, who opposed what they saw as too much government intervention in Church affairs, branded his bishops and supporters as “regalists.” Regalists called their enemies “ultramontane” (people who looked “over the mountains” to Rome), suggesting they put pope over king.

While most Enlightenment intellectuals downplayed the role of religion in public life, most ordinary people believed that sovereigns ruled by the grace of God; religion remained a major prop of government alongside habit, personal loyalties, patriotism, and fear. The Catholic Church and its Inquisition enjoyed enormous influence in Spain. The clergy numbered some 200,000 men and women in a population of nearly 10 million. Huge public religious devotions remained strong, even as they waned in other parts of Europe. Throngs turned out for Holy Week processions, and every region had its pilgrimages to local shrines, such as the romeria of El Rocio in Andalusia. Reports of miracles and apparitions were common. Carlos III was devout and once attracted cheering crowds in Madrid when he gave up his carriage to a priest carrying the Sacrament to a dying person.

The Church was also the single largest landowner in the realm. Enlightenment intellectuals thought its land management backward and preferred to put land in the hands of entrepreneurs who would make it more productive. The regime of Carlos III encouraged the spread of local economic societies of amigos del pals (friends of the country), who discussed the improvement of agriculture as well as of industry and education. Yet any talk that threatened the place of the Church ran into opposition at once.

Carlos III not only wanted to continue the economic improvement of Spain; he also wanted Spain to play the role of a great power. He signed another Bourbon family compact with France and in 1762 belatedly entered the Seven Years War. Great Britain promptly seized Manila and Havana. To recover them at the Peace of Paris in 1763, Carlos had to make formal concession of Gibraltar, Minorca, and all of Florida to Britain, and Uruguay to Portugal. In compensation, France, stripped by Britain of Quebec, conceded New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory to Spain.

Increased treasure from Mexico helped finance the war, as well as other reforms, but it also caused inflation. In 1766 the rising price of bread led to popular unrest and rioting that took a peculiar turn in Madrid. One of Carlos’s ministers from Naples, the tactless marquis of Esquilache, had revived a ban on the broad-brimmed hats and long cloaks popular among Spanish men, on the argument that criminal elements used the hats to hide the face and the long cloaks to conceal weapons. Spaniards, he decreed, should wear tricorn hats and proper skirted coats like other Europeans. Young toughs called majos took to flaunting the ban by sporting the forbidden hats and cloaks. Clashes broke out with soldiers ordered to enforce the decree and quickly led to widespread violence. For two days riots continued unabated until, with the aid of Madrid’s clergy, Carlos began the restoration of order by revoking the decree, sacking Esquilache, and promising to deal with the high price of bread. He appointed the count of Aranda to head the government.

While Carlos and the government in Madrid followed the latest European fashions, and Spain’s army and navy looked imposing, foreign travelers increasingly remarked on the differences between Spain and other parts of western Europe and northern Italy. They found many of the nobility illinformed about the world and indifferent to the new ideas spawned by the Enlightenment. They described the larger population as priestridden, ignorant, superstitious, lazy, and unclean. Their belief that Spaniards were lazy likely grew from what they saw of the indolence of too many of the well-todo. Most Spaniards worked hard to make a living, although the rhythm of the seasons in the countryside required more work at some times than at others. To be sure, the extreme heat of summer could be paralyzing. Spanish cities probably had no more idlers than most other metropolises of the times, but the better weather of Spain, as of southern Italy, made idlers more conspicuous.

The apparent indifference of many of the top people of Spain to the arts and sciences is reflected in the scant production of much that was memorable. Valencia’s university, long strong in science, benefited from Philip V’s temporary closure of Catalan universities. The medical research of Andres Piquer added to Valencia’s renown and led to improvement in Spanish medical practice. The best known literary figure was a Benedictine professor in Galicia, Padre Benito Feijoo (1676-1764), who wrote critical works about the shortcomings of his countrymen. In music, the Catalan composer Antonio Soler (1729-1783) worked with Domenico Scarlatti in Madrid and headed the choir at the Escorial, where the Bourbons established new royal apartments. The Bourbons also brought opera to Spain, and Spanish composers wrote operas. Architecture had a late Baroque fling with a style named after the brothers Churiguerra, who did the elegant Plaza Mayor of Salamanca. It soon settled into the respectable classicism of the era, as evidenced by the Royal Palace of Madrid. Carlos III imported his chief painters, but he also gave work to a rising Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya, who would prove to be one of the great artists of all time. Under Carlos, Goya began for the royal tapestry factory the Bourbons established in Madrid a series of cartoons that depict scenes of Spanish popular life. The tap estries graced royal apartments; Goya’s cartoons are now in Madrid’s Prado Museum. Commissions from the king introduced Goya to high society, and he painted splendid portraits of the rich, titled, and famous, as well as of the royal family, and circulated in their company.

Beneath a colorful veneer the clash of Enlightenment and Church simmered and took its most dramatic turn with the expulsion and suppression of the Jesuits. In control of secondary education, the Jesuits remained current with developments in philosophy and science but kept them in a religious framework. The Jesuits’ successes earned them the hostility of rival Catholic religious orders and people who believed that Jesuits compromised morality with worldliness. The Jesuits tended to smear any Catholic opponent, including regalists, as “Jansenists.” The papacy had condemned Jansenism, derived from the austere theology of Cornelius Jansen, a seventeenth-century Flemish bishop, and by mideighteenth century, it had become largely confused in politics.

The Jesuits also dominated the Inquisition, which many enlightened ministers found an embarrassment, and they opposed the spread into Spain of freemasonry, which many enlightened ministers found attractive. Freemasonry on the European continent had a decidedly political dimension. In Masonic lodges, differences of creed and social class were suspended, and members talked of the brotherhood of mankind. While Freemasons admitted a Supreme Being, they accepted the validity of many religions. The papacy lost no time in condemning freemasonry for Deism (a belief in God but no single church), immorality, and intent to subvert the true Catholic faith. Among secular rulers, reaction to freemasonry was mixed. While instinctively suspicious of secret societies, many thought freemasonry to be a viable alternative to the power of organized religion as well as a clearinghouse for fresh ideas. In Madrid, the count of Aranda was grand master of the Masonic lodge.

The downfall of the Jesuits began in neighboring Portugal, where the enlightened chief minister, the marquis of Pombal, had them expelled in 1759. In France the Jesuits’ enemies had them expelled in 1764. In Madrid, the Jesuits were made scapegoats for the Esquilache riots of 1766, and the count of Aranda proposed that they be expelled from Spain, too. Aranda had traveled widely, studied military tactics in Prussia, fought in Italy, and met the famous Voltaire, who detested the Jesuits. Aranda arranged an investigation of the Jesuits, which a panel of bishops and councillors hostile to them carried out. As a result, Carlos expelled the Jesuits from Spain in 1767. Aranda then joined with the Bourbon courts of France and the Two Sicilies to pressure the pope to suppress the Jesuit order entirely, which he did in 1773.

Without its Jesuits, the Inquisition investigated the bishops who recommended their expulsion but failed to find sufficient evidence. They also went after Aranda and his colleagues until Carlos III stopped them. Yet he and Aranda both knew that the Inquisition remained popular among ordinary Spaniards and would not abolish it. The days of burning heretics and torture waned as even inquisitors yielded to Enlightenment ideas. Still, a woman was burned as a witch in Seville in 1787, though she was strangled before the fire was lit. The most sensational case involved Pablo Olavide, royal. intendant of the province of Seville. Peruvian born, Clavicle, like Aranda, had met Voltaire and knew the intellectual life of the Parisian salons. In Seville he held salons to discuss new ideas and the arts in his home, which he hung with contemporary French paintings. At the same time, he made vigorous efforts to improve provincial agriculture, which aroused opposition from many landlords, including churchmen. His enemies had him hauled before the Inquisition for the possession of pornographic pictures and forbidden books, for unorthodox ideas, and for interfering with the Church in the management of its lands. The number of witnesses ready to testify against Olavide convinced even the king to let the trial proceed. It was held behind closed doors and resulted in his conviction. Humiliated, forced to wear the sanbenito and dunce cap, Olavide protested that he had not lost his Catholic faith. He was stripped of his offices and confined to a monastery for reeducation. He escaped to France and was lionized by the intellectual set. Not until 1798 was he allowed, at age seventy-three, to return to Spain.

The cases of Olavide and several other intellectuals convicted by the Inquisition chilled but did not stop the spread of the Enlightenment among its small Spanish following. Not only public servants and some of the better educated clergy but also many members of the prosperous middle class continued to seek the latest ideas in the press and periodicals, although they remained wary. Even though religious censorship prevented the publication of Denis Diderot’s French Encyclopedia, lesser encyclopedias that emphasized science and technology and avoided criticism of religion and the Church did appear. However, the prosperity that permitted a few to keep up with new ideas and developments did not extend to the many, whose incomes failed to keep pace with inflation. Envious of the few whose lives seemed ever more dedicated to private fulfillment and pleasure, the many clung to Spain’s old traditions and considered the new ideas disturbing, foreign, atheistic, and potentially dangerous to the God-given order of society.

However disturbing some of their ideas and reforms seemed to many, Carlos and his ministers persisted in what they believed best for Spain. After Aranda went to Paris as ambassador, the counts of Campomanes and Floridablanca and Asturian legal expert Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos emerged as the ministers with the greatest influence over policy. Floridablanca provides a good example of the kind of men who served the eighteenth-century Bourbon kings. Born Jose Monino to a hidalgo family of Murcia, he studied law at Salamanca, proved a successful lawyer, and was brought into government by Esquilache. Jovellanos was arguably the most brilliant of Carlos’s ministers, with the broadest range of knowledge. Though his father wanted him to be a priest, he pursued the study of law with the support of his uncle, a duke. He wrote essays, poetry, dramas, and histories and was active in the royal academies of language and history, founded by the Bourbons to promote scholarship.

Carlos III remained interested in foreign policy and kept Spain in the company of the great powers when he joined France in 1778 against Great Britain during the War of American Independence. In Paris, Aranda met Benjamin Franklin and John Jay and favored the American cause, though he acknowledged the differences between Spain and the infant republic over Florida and the Mississippi Valley. Unlike Louis XVI of France, Carlos did not recognize or directly ally with the new United States, because of territorial issues and because he did not wish to encourage his own American colonies to seek independence. In Spain there was talk that Spanish America should be divided into three independent kingdoms, each under a younger son of the king, but the most obvious candidates all died young.

In the war the Spanish army and navy failed to recover Gibraltar, despite a bitter siege. The Spaniards did combine with the French to take Minorca, and in the Atlantic the Spanish and French fleets joined to threaten England with invasion, which prevented the English from sending General Charles Cornwallis needed reinforcements and led to his surrender in 1781 at Yorktown. The Spanish navy also found time to bombard Algiers and force its corsairs to forgo further raiding of Spanish commerce and coasts. The Spanish governor of New Orleans defeated the British in the Mississippi Valley, then took Mobile, and proceeded to reconquer Florida. The 1783 Peace of Paris, which recognized the independence of the United States, conceded Florida and Minorca to Spain, although Britain kept Gibraltar. Carlos earlier recovered Uruguay from Portugal but failed to get the Falkland Islands back. Disputes between Spain and the United States over Florida and the Mississippi, valley remained unsettled, despite negotiations in 1785-1786 between Spain’s emissary, Diego de Gardoqui, and John Jay, appointed by Congress to deal with him.

Under Carlos III Spain’s overseas empire reached its greatest extent. In distant Alta, California, Franciscan friars established missions as far north as San Francisco, where a statue of Carlos III, a recent gift from Spain, graces the Embarcadero. To defend California the Spaniards had fewer than 200 soldiers, scattered among the presidios of San Diego, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco and doing sentry duty at the missions. Unruly California Indians were their chief concern. Only three cannons defended the Golden Gate, although both Great Britain and Russia had interests in the Pacific ghat potentially menaced California and New Spain.

Aged seventy-two, Carlos III died in December 1788. To Spaniards, his reign in retrospect seemed a second golden age, at least in international prestige, prosperity, and domestic tranquility, if not in literature and the arts. While the reign of his son, Carlos IV, began with good reason for hope, it would end in national calamity and the terrible war that gave the world the word guerrilla.

Carlos IV kept his father’s principal ministers of state, with Floridablanca as chief. Yet during the first year of his reign, revolution erupted in France and threatened the throne of his Bourbon cousin, Louis XVI. News of developments in France caused great stir in Spain and alarmed Floridablanca. Though he favored reform, it was reform from the top directed by an absolute sovereign, not reform promoted by an unruly constitutional legislature. Alarmed by the irreligion of many French revolutionary leaders, the Spanish Church shared Floridablanca’s fears. The French Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790 caused many French clergymen to seek refuge in Spain, where they spread horror stories about the revolution. Floridablanca put the Inquisition to the vain task of keeping news of French developments from Spain. Enemies of enlightened reform in Spain linked reformist ideas with revolution, and leading ministers began to waffle. Floridablanca censored new ideas in Spanish periodicals. Campomanes refused to support a minister under attack from the Inquisition, and Jovellanos, who defended the minister, was ordered home to Asturias.

In February 1792, Carlos IV replaced Floridablanca with Aranda, whose connections in Paris seemed helpful to Louis XVI. Aranda restructured Spain’s government around the Council of State, which unfortunately put more power into the hands of the weak-willed king and allowed less independence to ministers. Aranda pursued a friendly policy toward France until events overwhelmed him. In September 1792, France became a republic and put Louis XVI on trial. War had broken out between France and a coalition headed by Austria and Prussia. Carlos IV intervened on behalf of Louis XVI, who was guillotined in January 1793. French propaganda aimed at Spain called for the Cortes to arise, overthrow the Bourbon dynasty, and end the Inquisition. In Spain the most effective response came from the pulpit. Inspired by their priests, most Spaniards saw the brewing conflict as a struggle on behalf of God, fatherland, and king, against a nation of regicides leagued to the devil. Even enlightened Spaniards like Jovellanos were appalled by the spectacle of the Reign of Terror in France. Lingering sympathy for the ideals of the French revolution was reduced to university students, whom the Inquisition hounded.

In March 1793, France declared war on Spain. Spanish troops invaded Languedoc, while French troops occupied two enclaves in the Pyrenees. In 1794 the death of Spanish General Antonio Ricardos and the appearance of more aggressive French commanders led to a French invasion of Catalonia. While French officers spread revolutionary propaganda, French soldiers plundered the countryside and aggravated the hatred already incited by the clergy. French promises of Catalan independence fell on deaf ears. The French invasion of Navarre and the Basque Country met similar popular resistance.

The cost of war was stiff, and in early 1794 Aranda proposed that Spain seek peace. By then Aranda had been supplanted as chief minister by Manuel de Godoy, newly made duke of Alcudia. A handsome, twenty-fiveyear-old guards officer of rough charm, from a poor but proud hidalgo family of Extremadura, Godoy had become the favorite of the queen, Maria Luisa of Parma, sixteen years his senior. They met when she was still princess of Asturias, her looks not yet faded, and became constant companions and perhaps lovers. The king accepted and genuinely liked Godoy, which caused people to call him “the royal cuckold.” In Godoy’s explanation, Carlos IV and Maria Luisa knew that he was utterly loyal to them. They promoted him to ever higher posts and gradually demoted or eliminated the ministers who had served Carlos III. When Carlos IV rejected Aranda’s proposed peace with France and dismissed him, an uproar followed. Almost everybody-nobles, intellectuals, clergymen, and commoners-clamored for Godoy’s removal.

Peace did not come until the regicide government in Paris fell. By the Treaty of Basel made with the new French government in July 1795, Spain recovered the Pyrenean regions lost but ceded Santo Domingo on Hispaniola, where France already possessed what is today’s Haiti. Carlos bestowed on Godoy the title prince of the Peace and elevated him above all other grandees of Spain. In October, Spain signed the Treaty of San Lorenzo with the United States, represented by minister-extraordinary Thomas Pinckney, that settled differences over Florida and the Mississippi Valley. Spanish Florida’s border was adjusted roughly along the line of the thirty-first parallel. Spain accepted the Mississippi as the western boundary of the United States and permitted Americans free navigation through New Orleans.

The restoration of peace stifled the opposition to Godoy, who now opened negotiations with the French for an alliance. Spain had too many outstanding differences with Great Britain and feared for the future of Bourbon Parma when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded northern Italy. In August 1796, Spain and the French Republic became allies through the Treaty of San Idlefonso. Spain declared war on Britain, for which the price proved to be not o my higher taxes but a British blockade of Spanish commerce. In February 1797, off Cape St. Vincent, the Spanish battle fleet was beaten by a British squadron and the heroics of its Rear Admiral, Horatio Nelson. The English captured Trinidad and in 1798 again seized Minorca. The combined fleets of Spain and France could not match Britain’s, and Spain’s century-long effort to recover the Spanish-American market for Spanish shipping and manufactures collapsed. Under pressure, Carlos IV allowed his colonists to trade legally with neutrals, which benefited the merchant marine of the United States. Great Britain came to dominate the Spanish-American market and encouraged the tendencies of Spain’s colonies to seek independence.

Finding Spain pressed by war and its costs, Godoy sought the assistance of experienced ministers who had served Carlos III, including Jovellanos and his associate Mariano Luis de Urquijo. Jovellanos had refined his economic theories by reading Adam Smith and the French physiocrats, who favored the combination of free enterprise and private property. Smith emphasized commerce and manufacture, whereas the physiocrats held that all wealth came from the soil. Jovellanos drafted a detailed proposal for agrarian reform in Spain that became gospel for future reformers and anathema to the old landowning class. He believed that the system of entail, legitimized in the late Middle Ages, had resulted in the indifferent management of land, since the great clerical and noble landowners ran no risk of losing their estates, however encumbered they became with debt. Jovellanos argued that independent farmers with smaller estates, operating in a free market with its risks and profits, would prove more productive, and all Spain would benefit. Despite stubborn opposition, the needs of war forced the implementation of some of Jovellanos’s ideas to pay off government bonds. The crown appropriated some 10 percent of the Church’s property, sold it to private investors, and compensated the Church with low-paying annuities.

When Godoy fell victim to French intrigue and left court, Jovellanos and Urquijo carried on but were soon overwhelmed by religious issues thought dormant. When the French occupied Rome, in a gesture of charity Carlos IV allowed exiled Spanish Jesuits to return on an individual basis to Spain. They returned with a vengeance, leagued with the Inquisition, and pursued their enemies. They reached the ear of Carlos, who caved in to their demands. In 1798, he forced Jovellanos to resign and retire to Asturias. To placate Pope Pius VII, who negotiated with Napoleon Bonaparte a concordat that restored harmony between France and Rome, Carlos sacrificed Urquijo. Urquijo went to jail, and Jovellanos was sent to prison on Majorca. Rome and the Spanish Church had the upper hand over regalists and reformers.

Carlos recalled Godoy to power. Although his youthful instincts favored reform, Godoy cannily steered a cautious course between reformers and traditionalists. He won a bit of military glory in the brief War of the Oranges (1800-1801) against Portugal, when Carlos made him generalisimo of Spain’s army and began to see himself as Spain’s Napoleon. The war netted Spain the border district of Olivenza, although Carlos refused to annex Portugal from his son-in-law, the prince-regent, as Napoleon urged him to do.

In 1800 concern for another son-in-law, the duke of Parma, caused Carlos to cede Louisiana back to France. Bonaparte had annexed Parma to France but promised to establish an Italian kingdom of Etruria for the duke. Although Bonaparte agreed not to surrender Louisiana to a third party, in 1803 he sold it for hard cash to President Thomas Jefferson of the United States.

In March 1802, Spain and France made peace with Great Britain at Amiens. Spain recovered Minorca but not Trinidad. Peace did not last, and Spain’s renewal of war in December 1804 put an end to a brief recovery of prosperity and resumption of trade with Spanish America. In war, all the conflicting currents that developed during the eighteenth century would come to a violent head.

Elizabeth I – Opening New Fronts Against Spain Part I

Abd el-Ouahed ben Messaoud was the Moorish ambassador to Elizabeth in 1600.

A life-size portrait of Sultan Murad III (1574-1595), attributed to a Spanish artist, 17th century.

Europe 1600

Elizabeth was enjoying the final few days of her summer progress at Nonsuch late in September 1598 when the news filtered down via Paris, Venice and The Hague that Philip II was dead. After more than two months of unrelieved torture from his arthritis, the seventy-one-year-old Spanish king had taken the last rites of the Catholic Church in his study-cum-bedroom at the Escorial and died with his son and heir, the future Philip III, and the Infanta at his bedside. So severely afflicted by bedsores was he in these last, lingering days that his doctors were forced to wriggle underneath his bed and cut holes in his mattress from below to drain out the pus.

The Venetian ambassador to Madrid observed that Philip’s twenty-year-old son had the same prominent Habsburg jaw as his father and grandfather before going on to praise him as a man of peace: ‘affable, grave, temperate, beloved by those who serve him’. His assessment, many times repeated, helped to foster a myth that Philip was mild-mannered and agreeable, a keen horseman who loved music and magnificence and believed that the Spanish monarchy’s dignity was best preserved by peace, pomp and parade.

In reality, the new king of Spain was nothing of the sort. He demanded that force be met with force, agreeing with Don Baltasar Álamos de Barrientos, who wrote a steely memorandum to him on his accession, advising:

It would be neither proper nor profitable to make peace with England: nor would any such peace be firm, for this Crown has been extremely offended by that woman. She is a schismatic and utterly contrary to our religion, and will consequently never trust us; peace with her will be very unsure.

Philip III needed little persuasion. His feelings for the heretic bastard queen were no warmer than his father’s; he did, however, recognize the extent of Spain’s human and material losses since the failure of the Gran Armada of 1588. After his father’s bankruptcy, nothing on such a scale could be attempted again. Instead, the Treaty of Vervins presented an opportunity for the young king to open a new, limited front in the war against Elizabeth, one where he believed he could win a lasting victory. The result was a policy in which he decided to attack Ireland, England’s soft underbelly. He believed far fewer troops would be needed, as it was said in Spain that the English defences in Ireland outside Dublin were no more than rudimentary, while the Gaelic Irish were loyal Catholics almost to a man. The Protestant Reformation had made minimal inroads into Ireland. Henry VIII had even failed to dissolve many of the more remote Irish monasteries. Still better from the Spanish viewpoint, Ireland was now in open rebellion and had been for the last four years.

The revolt had begun in 1594 as little more than a regional uprising in the northern province of Ulster led by the wily and ambitious Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, but by the summer of 1598 much of Gaelic Ireland had been set aflame. Elizabeth’s Lord Deputy, based in Dublin, Lord Burgh, had mounted a strong offensive, building a new fort on the River Blackwater three miles north of the garrison town of Armagh to guard the main road to Dungannon. He had then fallen fatally ill on his return from revictualling it. Seeing his opportunity, Tyrone tripled the stakes, demanding liberty of conscience for all Catholic Irishmen and redress for English offences against the Irish over the past fifty years. When he was rebuffed, Tyrone laid siege to the Blackwater fort. On 14 August, after ambushing a relief force in the thick woods south of Armagh, his forces killed some two thousand English troops at the Battle of the Yellow Ford. It was the greatest victory ever achieved by Irish arms against the English and seemed to threaten the complete loss of Ireland.

And the reverberations echoed still further through the British Isles as Elizabeth increasingly suspected King James of colluding in Tyrone’s rebellion. Her quarrels with James had entered a new phase some two years into the revolt, when he had condoned a cross-border raid into England by the Laird of Buccleuch, who rescued one of the queen’s closely guarded prisoners in a midnight assault on Carlisle Castle.9 Elizabeth retaliated by slashing his pension again, and when negotiations for a new treaty for the regulation of the border did not go her way, she fumed to her ambassador in Edinburgh, ‘I wonder how base minded that king thinks me that with patience I can digest this dishonourable slur. Let him therefore know that I will have satisfaction, or else.’

In January 1598, Anglo-Scottish relations further deteriorated when Elizabeth levelled a raft of obscurely phrased but stinging accusations against James for criticizing her in the Scottish Parliament:

I do wonder what evil spirits have possessed you, to set forth so infamous devices void of any show of truth . . . I see well we two be of very different natures, for I vow to God I would not corrupt my tongue with an unknown report of the greatest foe I have, much less could I detract my best-deserving friend with a spot so foul as scarcely may ever be outraised . . . I never yet loved you so little as not to moan your infamous dealings which you are in mind. We see that myself shall possess more princes’ witness of my causeless injuries, which I could have wished had passed no seas, to testify such memorials of your wrongs. Bethink you of such dealings, and set your labour upon such mends as best may. Though not right, yet salve some piece of this overslip. And be assured that you deal with such a king as will bear no wrongs and endure no infamy.

After this, James began to ignore her, claiming, ‘It becomes me not to strive with a lady, especially in that art wherein their sex most excels’ (i.e. in trading insults).

Elizabeth’s misgivings about James’s intentions in Ireland were fuelled by his secret overtures to the European Catholic powers and by highly disturbing reports that Anne of Denmark was very close to converting to Catholicism. Up until Prince Henry’s christening, Anne had been safely Protestant, but afterwards her chief gentlewoman, the French-born Henrietta, Countess of Huntly, had slowly but surely begun to convert her. Late in 1596, a St Andrews clergyman noted for his attacks on the anti-English, pro-Spanish Earl of Huntly and his wife preached a sermon denouncing Anne as a renegade ‘papist’. ‘As to the queen,’ he declared, ‘we have no cause to pray for her. We hear no good of her. She will never do us good. It may be she [will] trouble us all shortly.’

James positively revelled in this growing appreciation of Anne’s apostasy: he found it an invaluable diplomatic tool in his quest to persuade the Catholic powers that he was the best candidate to succeed Elizabeth. Pope Clement VIII prayed for his conversion, and James went out of his way to foster this hope. Shortly before Philip II’s death, the Scottish king had sent Lord Robert Sempill to Madrid to rebuild commercial links between Scotland and Spain, armed with secret instructions to secure recognition of James’s title to the English throne. After Philip III’s coronation, Sempill’s mission encouraged the new king’s advisers to consider sending an ambassador to Edinburgh with instructions to work towards partitioning the British Isles into pro- and anti-Spanish spheres of influence. When Elizabeth learned of this, she raged against James, whom Cecil had also caught out drumming up Catholic support for his claim to the throne in Venice, Florence and Paris.

Elizabeth put two and two together and made five. Relying on warnings she had received from Tyrone’s former mentor, the Earl of Ormond, coupled with a leaked copy of a letter purportedly from James to the rebel leader, she convinced herself that James was in league with Tyrone and conspiring with Spain. She suspected him of joining clandestinely with Tyrone in a grand pan-Britannic conspiracy in which both men hoped to profit from her death. Prompted by dark hints from Cecil, she even harboured suspicions that there might be a plot, centred on James and Catholic Ireland, to force her to abdicate.

After their fatal encounter in the Privy Chamber on 30 June or 1 July 1598, when the Earl of Essex had insolently rejected her nomination of Sir William Knollys as Lord Burgh’s successor in Ireland, Elizabeth at first decided to leave him to sulk and feign illness at his country estate at Wanstead. ‘He hath played long enough upon me,’ she said. ‘I mean to play awhile upon him and to stand as much upon my greatness as he hath done upon [his] stomach.’18 But after news came in of the catastrophe at the Blackwater fort, she decided to recall Essex and make him live up to his proud boasts over so many years to be a true military leader. It was a coolly calculated gamble on her part, a toss of a coin she knew she could not lose. Heads, she would recover Ireland, and Essex his career. Tails, Essex would destroy himself, and she could distance herself from the disaster.

But before she gave Essex the command in Ireland, he would have to submit and apologize for the offence he had caused her. Until then, she refused to admit him to her presence. There seemed slender prospect of this after the Earl sent her a letter complaining of ‘the intolerable wrong you have done both me and yourself’. His friend and admirer Sir Henry Lee tactfully urged him to come to his senses:

Your honour is more dear to you than your life, but yet may it please your Lordship to consider these circumstances. She is your sovereign, whom you may not beat [treat] upon equal conditions . . . I grant your wrongs to be greater than so noble a heart can well digest, but consider my good Lord how great she is with whom you deal . . . What advantage you have in yielding when you are wronged, what disadvantage by facing her whom (though you deserve never so much) yet you must rely upon for favour.

The impasse was resolved only when Essex succumbed to a bout of genuine fever. Anxious for his welfare, Elizabeth sent one of her own physicians to treat him, and by 10 September he was sufficiently recovered to attend a Council meeting for the first time since their spectacular row. He met her privately two days later to kiss her hand. After that, it was said that, at least for the moment, he was ‘in as good terms as ever he was’. Although he lost out hands down to Cecil and his allies in the redistribution of offices after Burghley’s death, Elizabeth was still prepared to accept his service when it suited her, but strictly on her own terms.


By 20 October, the Court gossips were confidently placing their bets on Essex going to Ireland. But while, by December, it was certain that he would be sent there, a heated debate was taking place over the conditions of his appointment, which Essex contested clause by clause. Elizabeth signed his commission on 25 March 1599, granting him wider powers than any of his predecessors. In one notable clause she authorized him either to prosecute or conclude the war at his discretion, and even to come to terms with Tyrone. After endless discussion, he had finally convinced her that his expedition aimed at nothing less than ‘the saving of one of Her Majesty’s kingdoms’ and, to do this, he needed a free hand.

Given the sweeping nature of this last clause, the Earl secured a licence from the queen permitting him temporarily to put a deputy in place so that he might return and consult her at such times as he should find cause, ‘as well to see our person as to inform us of such things as may be to our important service’. He left London on the 27th and landed in Dublin just over two weeks later, feeling distinctly queasy after an unusually stormy passage across the Irish Sea. With him sailed twenty thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, the largest English army ever sent to Ireland.

The key to the Earl’s initial plan of campaign was to dispatch amphibious forces to Lough Foyle in the far north, well behind Tyrone’s lines, with the aim of establishing a new English garrison there. Modelled on his earlier template for Cádiz, the idea was to create a permanent military bridgehead that could readily be relieved and provisioned by sea. Before he died, Lord Burgh had intended to march to Lough Foyle to establish exactly such a garrison. The problem for Essex was that Cecil and his allies in the Privy Council had in the meantime diverted the necessary forces and supplies much further south for the defence of Dublin.

This diversion of resources was undertaken despite confidential warnings Cecil had received from his chief intelligence officer in Dublin, Sir Geoffrey Fenton, suggesting that a strong garrison at Lough Foyle would be essential for the reconquest of Ulster. Essex had pledged himself to an immediate attack on Tyrone before leaving England, but the profound lack of support he received from Cecil and his allies invites the conclusion that they were setting him up to fail.

Unable to establish the garrison, Essex dissipated the prime campaigning months of May and June in a southerly march through Leinster towards Waterford and from there into Munster, capturing the supposedly impregnable Cahir Castle, relieving a fort at Askeaton and driving the rebels into the woods and mountains. His sweep through southern Ireland was approved by the Privy Council. It safeguarded Munster from the threat of attacks from Spain and from Tyrone, but it also wasted valuable time, money and supplies. In particular, Essex was much delayed by a dire shortage of carriage horses, which had to be sent from England. Despite repeated warnings from his own officials, Cecil refused to treat this question with anything like the seriousness it deserved, stonewalling Essex by pretending that the queen ‘will not be content to be put to any new charge for that’.

Early in July, Essex returned to Dublin to file a decidedly hysterical report to the queen outlining the difficulties he had so far faced. Now in the hands of his physicians, with his body (as he claimed) ‘indisposed and distempered’ by the harsh conditions he had endured, he found his spirit crushed by the tenacity of Irish resistance. Already seething over the spiralling cost of his expedition, Elizabeth was exasperated by a series of damning reports she had received from Cecil outlining Essex’s demands for further ‘liberal supplies of men, money and victual’, the appointment of his younger protégé, the Earl of Southampton, as his General of the Horse – she flatly refused to confirm this nomination – and delays in confronting Tyrone. ‘O miserable employment and more miserable destiny of mine’, Essex wailed to the Privy Council, ‘that makes it impossible for me to please and serve Her Majesty at once.’

In a scorching diatribe she dictated on 30 July, Elizabeth instructed Essex to march north without any more excuses or delay: he was to attack Tyrone in his heartland of Ulster. But by the time her letter reached him, his forces had shrunk to fewer than six thousand infantry and five hundred cavalry. Many had slipped away home to England; others were feigning sickness; some had defected to the rebels. Essex’s thoughts quickly turned to how he might parachute himself out of Ireland and return to Court to confront not Tyrone but his enemies on the Privy Council, whom he believed to be subverting him at every turn. For a single madcap moment he even toyed with the idea of going over to Wales with two thousand or three thousand troops and marching on Whitehall to purge the evil councillors who were poisoning the queen’s mind against him.

In a typically extravagant gesture, with his forces diminishing by the hour, Essex then invited Tyrone to fight him in single combat. After a game of high-stakes poker, he finally accepted the fifty-four-year-old Irishman’s offer of a parley. On 7 September, the two men came face to face on the opposite banks of a river at Ballaclinch ford near the town of Louth, between Ardee and Dundalk. With Essex’s horse at the water’s edge and Tyrone’s standing belly-deep midstream, as the river was too wide at this point to shout across, they talked alone for half an hour. Playing for time, but also genuinely torn between a new accommodation with Elizabeth and one with Spain, it would appear from what he said about it afterwards that Tyrone demanded freedom of conscience, liberation of the Irish from English domination and a full pardon as the price of a settlement. Essex refused.

At last, a rolling truce was agreed upon that was to last for six weeks at a time. Renewable until 1 May 1601, the truce was to be terminable earlier by either side at two weeks’ notice. Tyrone, who swore an oath to observe it, also offered his eldest son as a hostage as a sign of his good faith. Afterwards, the rebel leader boasted to Philip III’s agent in Ireland that he had almost persuaded Essex to turn against Elizabeth, but this was surely bluster. Like Ralegh, Essex was a genuine patriot who would never have been able to reconcile himself to colluding with Spain.

And yet, however honourably intended, the murky circumstances of the truce left Essex, who now disbanded what was left of his army, open to damaging smears. Francis Bacon later summed up the extent of his vulnerability. Just as ‘the secrecy of that parley’, as he put it, gave Essex ‘the more liberty of treason, so it may give any man the more liberty of surmise what was handled between them’. Almost certainly, Essex’s overriding aim was to protect Elizabeth from the threat of a Spanish invasion of Ireland. The danger was that his enemies would find it easy to feed a distorted account of the purpose of the truce directly into Elizabeth’s fears of a grand pan-Britannic conspiracy.

But that was still to come. On reading Essex’s first reports of the truce, Elizabeth was not unduly concerned, believing it to have been ‘seasonably made (though now it seems that in many provinces the rebels make use of it), as great good hath grown to the most of Her Majesty’s subjects by it’. But from the outset she expressed a justified anxiety over the lack of witnesses to the parley. ‘For comeliness, example and for your own discharge’, she chivvied Essex a mere ten days after his rendezvous with Tyrone, ‘we marvel you would carry it no better.’ But this was chiefly because Tyrone was as slippery as he was duplicitous. ‘To trust this traitor upon oath’, she parried, ‘is to trust a devil upon his religion.’


The fact is that Elizabeth had far more on her mind in the summer and early autumn of 1599 than Essex’s Irish expedition. Since mid-June, rumours that Philip III was intent on sending a fourth Gran Armada had triggered a panic throughout southern England. Sixty great warships and a hundred and twenty other ships with three thousand soldiers on board were said to be victualled and ready to sail from Coruña.

In response, the queen appointed the Earl of Nottingham, who was still Lord Admiral, to be Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom with supreme command by land and sea. Working closely with Cecil, he dispatched a full complement of royal navy ships to patrol the Channel approaches and the southern coast of Ireland, while another forty or so armed merchantmen and pinnaces were requisitioned as support vessels. An improvised barrage was hastily created across the Thames, near Barking, by scuttling eighty-three small ships half laden with ballast. The coastal defences were strengthened and the county militias from Cornwall to Norfolk put on full alert. As in 1588, plans were made to assemble a field army some twenty-five-thousand-strong, drawn from the southern counties, to defend the queen and Court if the Armada landed. A serious failure of intelligence left the Privy Council entirely unaware that the Spanish fleet’s true destination was to be Ireland.

Several false alarms brought turmoil to London as heavy iron chains were once again hung across the streets and the city gates locked and bolted. In early August, a rumour spread like wildfire that Spaniards had landed at Southampton and were marching towards London. This had arisen from a mistake during the night of the 6th, when lookouts on the Isle of Wight had spotted a flotilla of ships passing eastwards along the Channel and fired the beacons. In fear of her life, Elizabeth was driven at high speed in her coach to St James’s Palace, where she took refuge, exactly as in 1588. Several days would elapse before she could be certain that these mysterious vessels in the Channel were no more than innocent merchantmen plying their trade, and she could safely emerge.