Skip to content

Does the southernmost land of Spain belong to the United Kingdom?

When you look at the map of Europe, you will find that there is actually a territory belonging to the United Kingdom at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is generally marked as Gibraltar (British occupation) on the domestic map. Want to understand why this happens? The War of Succession to the Spanish Throne 300 years ago enabled Britain to seize Gibraltar and the French royal family to sit on the throne of the King of Spain.

Gibraltar before modern times

There are traces of human activity in Gibraltar from a long time ago. According to archaeological findings, stone tools and animal bones dating back about 40,000 to 5,000 years ago have been found in the Gehan Cave. These undoubtedly indicate that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens had been active in this place.

In addition, a large number of pottery fragments unearthed in the cave indicate that traces of human activities continued into the Neolithic Age. After the Bronze Age, people seemed to leave the cave, because no cultural relics from this period were found in archaeological activities. In the classical period, Gibraltar became a strong symbolic place.

In Greek mythology, this is the westernmost point of the great hero Hercules’ trial journey, so Gibraltar is called the Pillar of Hercules, and the Carthaginians and Romans made Gibraltar the Mount Calpe. With the rise and expansion of Rome, Gibraltar was under the rule of the Roman Empire.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, numerous barbarians flooded into the provinces of the empire, and Gibraltar was under the control of the Vandals for a period of time, and then was incorporated into the Visigothic kingdom.

In 710, Gibraltar was conquered by Muslims. Tariq Ibn Ziad led a Berber army from North Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar and conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula. The Capel Mountain was named after himself and changed to Jabba Tariq, which means Mount Tariq, and this name later evolved into what is now Gibraltar.

In 1160, the Sultan of the Almohad Dynasty ordered the establishment of a permanent settlement in Gibraltar and named it Medina Alphat, meaning the city of victory.

After 1274, the town was successively under the rule of Granada, Morocco and Castile. After many changes of hands, it eventually became part of the Kingdom of Spain in 1501. At that time, Queen Isabella I awarded the royal charter to Gibraltar, and the coat of arms still in use will be preserved from that period.

War of the Spanish Succession

In 1700, King Charles II of Spain died without an heir. Charles nominated Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, as the heir to the throne. Philip accepted the title of King of Spain, which triggered the War of Succession to the Spanish Throne.

As one party, France and Spain are facing the challenge of the alliance of many European powers. The French had the advantage in the early days of the war. France attacked the Rhine with its ally Bavaria in September 1702, breaking through the defenses and approaching Austria. However, the defeat of the French Fleet in the Vigo Bay naval battle led to the reversal of Savoy and Portugal’s two allies, who were very dependent on maritime trade, and the battle situation changed from then on.

In 1704, the British navy captured Gibraltar, which was also the beginning of Gibraltar becoming a British territory. The French army not only lost at sea, but also retreated in a row on land. The combined forces of England and Austria defeated the combined forces of France and Bavaria at the Battle of Blenheim, and Bavaria has since withdrawn from the war.

In 1706, Prince Eugen led the Austrian army to defeat the French army in Turin. In the same year, the French army was again defeated by the anti-French alliance in the Lamilli area, and the French army fell into a very critical situation. The French army had retreated within its own country, and the offensive launched by the Anti-French Alliance in Spain eventually forced Philip to withdraw from Spain, and Archduke Charles of Austria ascended the Spanish throne.

The Anti-French Alliance thought it was a winner, but the situation has changed again. The French army defeated the anti-French coalition forces in Almansa in 1707, and then captured most of Spain, and Philip’s position in Spain was also consolidated. In the battle of Toulon, the French army defeated Prince Eugen. However, the Anglo-Austrian forces defeated France again at the Battle of Oudenaarde in 1708.

On September 11, 1709, the two sides fought a decisive battle at the Battle of Malprache. The coalition had 86,000 troops and the French army had 75,000 troops. In this battle, the coalition army paid the price of more than 20,000 soldiers to win. Although the French army failed, the French army still has a strong combat capability. Since then, the war has entered a stalemate stage. In the following years, both sides avoided decisive battles as much as possible, so there was no major decisive battle like the Battle of Malprache.

Although the Anti-French Alliance maintained its superiority in military strength in the following years, it had no intention of launching an attack on France. The main force of the Allied Forces, Britain, was eager to get out of the war to check and balance Russia, which was expanding in Northern Europe. Peace talks. The other countries saw the change in British attitudes, so they all slowly stopped their offensive. Under the leadership of Marshal Vendôme, the French and Spanish forces defeated the Anglo-Austrian forces and regained the Spanish capital Madrid.

In 1711, the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph died, and Prince Charles, who was pushed to the Spanish throne, became the heir to the emperor. As a result, the two sides were reluctant to go to war. In the end, the two sides signed a series of armistice agreements, and the war ended.

According to the Utrecht Agreement, Philip inherited the Spanish throne, but at the same time stipulated that France and Spain could not be merged. Spain also lost a large amount of territory. Sicily was ceded to Savoy; the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Sardinia and Milan were ceded to the Holy Roman Empire; Gibraltar and Menorca were ceded to the United Kingdom.

Since then, Gibraltar ushered in a period of British rule.

Spain launched a siege of Gibraltar in 1727 and during the War of Independence in North America in an attempt to retake this important city but failed to return. Moreover, the great siege during the North American War of Independence caused great damage to the city, so that Gibraltar had to be rebuilt afterward.

In 1784, engineer Giovanni Pocheti came to Gibraltar from Milan to start the reconstruction of the city. During the Napoleonic Wars, Gibraltar became an important base for the Royal Navy and played an important role in the Battle of Trafalgar.

In short, with its important strategic position, Britain was able to control the Mediterranean in the 19th century, and with the opening of the Suez Canal, Gibraltar’s importance to the British Empire increased again. During World War II, Gibraltar once again played an important role, and it played the role of a supply depot in many military operations.

However, Spain has never given up its efforts to take back Gibraltar. In the 1950s, the Franco government reiterated Spain’s sovereignty claim to Gibraltar, but the people of Gibraltar supported the sovereignty of Britain in a referendum on sovereignty. Therefore, Franco decided to close the border between Spain and Gibraltar in response. In 1985, the border between the two sides was completely opened. Until now, Gibraltar still belongs to the United Kingdom. Although Spain has never given up its sovereignty claims, it has still failed to achieve its goals.

%d bloggers like this: