.. the Walrus said, ‘To talk of many things ..’
I’ve managed ships and cabbages in the last post, so let’s move on to sealing wax and kings (not sure I can fit in the shoes) with the Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713.
First up, a little context, and a rush through some Gibraltarian history.
Archaeological remains have shown that Neanderthals inhabited Gibraltar at least 100,000 years ago, and the Rock was possibly the last place of refuge for them, with other remains being found dating back to around 24-28,000 years ago. More on every pic about our archaeology.
The first modern occupation of Gibraltar, though, is regarded to have started from the eighth century (AD or whatever it is currently called) when it was conquered by Moslems in 711. Berber general Tarik ibn Ziyad landed in Gib to begin his conquest of southern Spain. The Rock became known as the Mountain of Tarik – Jebel Tarik – and the current day name Gibraltar comes from that.
Gibraltar was happily Moslem for many years, as was Andalucia, and we have the Moorish castle and remains of Moorish baths in the basement of our city museum. But in 1309, the Spanish decided to get their sticky little mitts on it, the 1500 inhabitants were allowed to leave for North Africa and Spain held it until 1333 when they surrendered to a Moslem siege.
As part of the reconquest of (Moslem) Spain, Gibraltar was taken by Spain in 1462 and remained part of Spain until 1704.
Note then, to get this into perspective, Gibraltar was Moslem for more than 700 years, and Spanish for less than 250.
So, how did England (it was before the Union of Great Britain in 1707) come into it? The short answer is the Spanish war of succession following the death of Charles II, the last of the Spanish Hapsburgs, who left no direct heir.
Back in the early eighteenth century things were no different to now, countries were hungry for power, territory, money – the usual really.
The main players at the time were England, France, Spain, Austria/Prussia/Hanover, the Netherlands and Portugal. This is a time of big empire building, particularly in the North Americas, and while all these countries were grappling for power in Europe, they were fighting for ownership and possession in the Americas and the Caribbean too.
Plus ça change?
Needless to state, France and England weren’t very pally, and when Spanish King Charles II died leaving his relative by marriage, Philip of (Anjou) France as his heir, England wasn’t prepared to see a potential union between two of the biggest powers in Europe. Neither was the Netherlands. So they found a different candidate for the Spanish throne, Archduke Charles, also a Hapsburg but from the northern (ie Austria/Prussia/Hanover) branch of the family. Portugal joined in with the Dutch and the English.
It’s slightly more complicated than that, but you get the general idea, and the war lasted from 1701 to 1714, although various countries continued in a state of war long after that.
So this is the background to why an Anglo-Dutch fleet took Gibraltar from the Spanish in 1704 in the early years of the war.
Towards the end of the war, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, although it is in effect a number of treaties relating to all the various participants and different provisions eg some trading ones, slavery for example.
While the main provision of the treaty was to ratify Philip as king of Spain and for him to renounce all claims to the French crown, there were numerous articles where the countries swapped bits of ground around. Including Gibraltar. And interestingly Britain gained Minorca too, but we didn’t hang onto that one too long.
So, here is the bottom line. In 1713, through the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain in perpetuity, ie for ever. Later in 1729, Britain’s right to Gibraltar (and Port Mahon in Minorca) were repeated in the Treaty of Sevilla.
Perpetuity however, wasn’t on the Spanish agenda, (still isn’t), and so they besieged the citadel of Gib in 1727, and again with a joint French force in 1779. This Great Siege lasted for three and a half years – Gib stuck it out, or rather the British forces did. The war finally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1784. And the reason for that war, incidentally, was a trade war regarding the Americas.
As I said, power, territory, money.
So that’s the background and the reason why Gibraltar is British and has been for more than 300 years. Longer than it was Spanish, although not as long as it was Moslem.
Let’s get up to date with a laugh at a few journalistic blunders. I’ll start with my favourite, one of, or the oldest newspaper in the world, depending on whose claims you believe, our very own Gibraltar Chronicle, first published in 1801, and hopefully their standard of journalism was slightly better then. These days it rivals the Grauniad in terms of errors.
The Spanish cross-border workers association Citypeg has apologised to the Gibraltar Government over claims of discrimination it made last December. The claims led to Employment Minister Joe Bossano and the Gibraltar Joinery and Building Society issuing libel proceedings against Citypeg’s president, Francisco Ponce.
Unless I have something wrong, GJBS is a construction firm not a building society, Gibraltar Joinery and Building Services, I believe. Either way, I won’t be rushing to their offices to invest my money.
And in a story about the Royal Marines running to the top of the Rock, here we have a nice little error, regarding dates. Those of you who have paid attention to this history lesson will remember that Gibraltar was taken from the Spanish in 1704. Not 1702. Fine proof-reading there, Chron. And lack of historical knowledge/walking around with eyes shut. It’s not as though there aren’t flags all over the place proclaiming Gib’s tercentenary with the dates 1704-2004.
The Royal Marines were founded in 1664 and were instrumental in leading the capture of The Rock for the British in 1702 during the War of the Spanish Succession; hence the only battle honour which adorns their caps is the legend ‘Gibraltar’. Next year they celebrate their 350 years and it is fitting that they should commemorate the anniversary back on ‘their’ Rock where it all began – in aid of Royal Marine and Gibraltar charities.
Moving onto British/international newspapers, nice little gaffe from the FT (Financial Times – the pink pages). I used to like the FT and thought it was a decent paper.
Our Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, had a letter published in the FT correcting the hopeless journalism, written apparently, in a leader column (aka editorial). His letter was restrained in my opinion.
(quote from the Chron which at least can manage to criticise other newspapers accurately)
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo this week wrote to the Financial Times after the respected financial daily made a glaring error about Gibraltar in an editorial column centred on Argentina.
“To be fair, the UK does not insist that Gibraltar islanders attend talks with the Spanish,” the FT said. “Then again, Spain has not elevated Gibraltar to the centre point of its foreign policy.”
Let’s deal with these one by one:
1) Gibraltar is NOT an island. The Falklands are islands. Gibraltar is a peninsula stuck on the end of Spain (and happily dominating the entrance to the Mediterranean – just thought I would add that one). Writing about the Falkland Islanders and then calling Gibraltarians Gibraltar Islanders because you are comparing the two is the sloppiest of journalism. And this from a leading international newspaper. Appalling. Equally as bad as a Gib Chron reporter getting the date of the Anglo-Dutch victory wrong.
Don’t they have atlases any more in newspaper rooms? Or alert news editors, sub editors with an iota of general knowledge?
2) Some sleazy deals were being done between the UK and Spain when Jack Straw was kicking around back in 2002 and Peter Caruana was Chief Minister of Gibraltar. But that was more than ten years ago. Perhaps the FT reporter isn’t aware our government has changed, we have a new Chief Minister, and the government is putting the interests of Gibraltarians before political deals.
Similarly the UK government has changed too. And as Picardo wrote in the FT:
“Successive British Foreign Secretaries have insisted that they will not engage bilaterally with Spain on Gibraltar issues, referring their counterparts to the Trilateral Process for Dialogue in which the UK, Spain and Gibraltar have agreed to discuss all matters of mutual interest except sovereignty.
“In addition, the UK has long agreed that it will not engage in talks about Gibraltar’s sovereignty with Spain unless the people of Gibraltar wish such talks to be commenced.
“Rightly, the UK is therefore clearly on record setting out that it is not going to engage bilaterally with Spain on the future of our homeland.”
[Another pedantic journalistic point. Someone on the Chron obviously hasn’t learned how to use quotation marks. I’ve changed them on the above quotation, but when you open a quote, you put the marks at the beginning of each par. You only add them to the end par when you close the quote. I always remember that one because I got it wrong when I first started on a newspaper.]
3) Spain hasn’t elevated Gib to the centre point of its foreign policy. Does Spain have a foreign policy I ask myself? Does Spain have any policies at all apart from corruption, funding banks, continuing to employ dubious executives and chief officials in top positions, and stamping its foot and blustering about Gibraltar?
Meanwhile, I pointed out to my partner these appalling examples of journalism. He rolled his eyes, and said, ‘People aren’t what they were, they’ve been dumbed down.’
‘Down down, deeper and down,’ I sang, launching into a rendition of Status Quo at 7.12 am. It wasn’t popular.
Note, more posts to follow on the Treaty of Utrecht, and Spanish claims, border incidents, and some more on the comparison between Argentina and Spain, and the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar (not an island).
Falklands referendum on sovereignty: March 10 and 11 2013
Tercentenary of Treaty of Utrecht: April 11 2013