The War Of Spanish Succession and Catalonia.

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Dwarf, Jul 9, 2008.

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  1. I am constantly impressed by the fact that if you want to know something whether it be the intestinal workings of a squirrel or how to ride a bike backwards, somebody on arrse will know. So I have been presented with a question of which I know relatively little, it not being my favourite period of history, so I throw it over to my fellow arrsers to see if you can help out.

    I now live in Catalonia and have done for just over twenty years, and have come to understand the Catalans as distinct from the Spanish. Yesterday a friend e-mailed me with the following question about Britain's role in said War and the betrayal of Catalonia.

    -----How you're doin'?
    Just wanted to tell you, we were arguing yesterday, me and a friend of mine, about the Succession War, in which Catalonia lost its freedom. We agreed at one point, however: England withdrawed from the war, leaving us to our fate. My friend was angry about it, he said the english betrayed us. I defended your actions at the time, but had to admit that a treaty had been signed (Genoa Treaty 1705), but was not kept from the british side. He sent me here.....> and among other things, I read this:

    "and the Honour of the British Nation, always renowned for the Love of Liberty, and for giving Protection to the Assertors of it, was most basely prostituted and a free and generous People, the faithful and useful Allies of this Kingdom, were betrayed, in the most unparalleled Manner, into irrevocable Slavery".

    vol 19, 20
    Journal of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom, 1714 -------

    Part of my reply went thusly:
    I am not well up on the war and will try to find out more.
    However some points:
    Yes Catalunya needed British support to maintain her freedom and it was withdrawn for dishonourable reasons. Churchill himself said that the British owed a debt to the Catalan Nation, and I would go along with that.

    However given the nature of alliances in those days even had the British maintained their support at the time, then at some point it would have been withdrawn. I think that after a decent interval Spain might well have asserted her will, possibly in conjunction with France worried about secession in the Rousillon. Further could Catalunya have survived the upheavals during the Napoleonic Wars? Doubtful, and Britain could not have immediately mounted sufficient troops to have prevented conquest, especially if the Spanish had pitched in with the French for the prize of Catalunya.
    I think that even had the British maintained support at the time then Catalan independence
    would always have been fragile, this is no excuse, but a perspective.

    So finally to the questions Fellow Arrsers.

    1. Would you agree on my very brief take?
    2. Do you think that Britain had good reasons to abandon Catalonia to it's fate? Politically we secured an advantage, but having read a bit in the interval could we have maintained military support, especially after suffering a couple of reverses, and looks like we were not doing well on the ground?
    3. Can you recomend further reading so I can get up to speed on the topic?

    Thanks greatly for your help, it will allow me to discuss the incident with greater depth.
  2. I think your take is broadly correct. Britain did indeed betray the the Grand Alliance and the appelation "Perfidious Albion" dates from this. If I recollect rightly the withdrawal stemmed from a change in the political ballance of power within Britain and the fall from favour of the Duke of Marlborough. Much of this was about settling personal scores amongst the politicians of the time (no change there then).

    I can't comment on the specific question about Catalonia. For a good account of the general political situation the 4th volume of Churchill's biography of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough is worth reading. Just bear in mind that he is a descendant and the biography was written with the specific intent of debunking previous commentators; so, it is factually accurate but slanted in interpretation