Home History How Spain’s Guzman Family Spent Centuries Battling For Gibraltar

How Spain’s Guzman Family Spent Centuries Battling For Gibraltar

by Enochadmin

It’s a story of paranoia, revenge, of kings and divided loyalties, and one household’s quest for honor. No, it isn’t the Wars of the Roses nor Julius Caesar’s civil battle in Rome. It’s the story of Spain’s Guzman household, and their epic generational mission to dominate the slender peninsula of Gibraltar, barely lower than 3 miles extensive, recognized popularly as “The Rock.”

Cue up the “Game of Thrones” theme song and envision an enormous boulder in the midst of the ocean.  

The Ancestor Who Began It All  

Gibraltar, the tip of the Iberian Peninsula recognized for its iconic rock formation that shoots up 1,398 ft into the air, had been a visitors cease for a motley assortment of Romans, Phoenicians, Visigoths, Byzantines and whoever else occurred to be floating across the coast of Spain at any given time. The Almohad Caliphate constructed a big fortress upon it—which could have contributed to the Rock envy that gripped numerous neighboring powers for the subsequent a number of centuries.

Gibraltar finally fell into the fingers of the Marinid Sultanate and was basking in scenic isolation when King Ferdinand IV of Castile determined he wished to say it as a part of Spain’s Reconquista in 1309.

The person chosen for this activity was Alonzo Perez de Guzman, the king’s loyal retainer, often known as Guzman “the Good.” However Guzman had not earned the epithet of “the Good” for his congenial character. The truth is he was notoriously ruthless. A loyal buddy of the king, Guzman had beforehand (in)famously refused to barter the discharge of his personal son from captivity by one of many king’s rivals—as an alternative Guzman is reputed to have provided his personal knife for use for the execution. The boy was murdered, and his head was allegedly catapulted into the midst of Guzman’s males to their nice misery. Guzman nevertheless remained impassive and is alleged to have knowledgeable his spouse about the entire thing later. She is reported to have been, justifiably, horrified. In any case, the king thought of “Guzman the Good” a perfect henchman. Guzman additionally had one other son, who would keep it up his legacy for years to return.

Guzman “the Good” is thought for volunteering his personal dagger for use to kill his son reasonably than try hostage negotiations. (College of Zaragoza)

Arriving at Gibraltar in June 1309, Guzman attacked the peninsula by land and sea and bombarded the place with catapults. The Muslim garrison surrendered by September, and Gibraltar turned a feather in Spain’s cap.

However Guzman’s success was short-lived. Though by then an older man over 50, he was ever desperate to be within the thick of slaughter and mayhem. He sallied forth to Algeciras, the place the king’s forces efficiently ousted a Muslim garrison. Apparently Guzman failed to note that enemy troops had not been ousted from the encircling countryside, which he determined to “tour” along with his troops. The tour was short-lived—Muslim forces annihilated Guzman alongside along with his encampment.

In a present of generosity, the king awarded governorship of Gibraltar to Guzman’s son, Juan Alonso Perez de Guzmán y Coronel, thereby tying the household to “the Rock” for which they might battle for years to return.

Guzman 2.0 and Even Extra Sieges

In contrast to his well-known father, Juan Alonso Perez de Guzmán y Coronel proved to be an absentee warrior. He seems to not have been current on Gibraltar when the Emirate of Granada, sad that the Rock had been unceremoniously snatched by the Spanish, tried to reclaim it in 1315 however failed in the course of the peninsula’s second siege.

This was removed from the top of the story. The Marinid Sultanate hadn’t given up on the Rock and made a seize for Gibraltar in 1333. This time they took it—a lot to the despair of Juan Alonso Perez de Guzmán y Coronel, who lastly confirmed up at Gibraltar. He arrived too late for the third siege, simply in time to see victory go to the opposing aspect.  

The Spanish determined they weren’t simply going to just accept this new rating, so that they instantly mounted a rematch—the fourth siege, additionally in 1333. Guzman wished to make good on his title this time…or at the very least as a lot as he was capable of. He’s described as vigorously serving to make preparations for the nice reconquest. What he really did in the course of the battle is unknown, since there don’t appear to be many, if any, historic sources describing him doing any combating in the course of the siege. Nonetheless he was at the very least in attendance for it.

A Stalemate

The top results of the fourth siege was that either side exhausted one another, ran out of meals, and have become so depressing that they drew up a truce settlement. The Spanish sailed away with out taking the Rock and the sultan of Granada was assassinated by indignant followers who, although they had been technically victorious, didn’t approve of the truce being signed.

A fifth siege happened afterwards, which ended with a fizzle after King Alfonso XI of Castile died of the Plague in 1350. Guzman—once more—appears to have failed to look for that engagement.

Gibraltar was out of Spain’s fingers. A sixth siege happened between two opposing Muslim factions when the Spanish weren’t trying, with the victors being the Nasrid kingdom of Granada.

Drowned On Arrival

Two generations later the Guzman household was at it once more—particularly, Enrique Pérez de Guzmán y Castilla, who launched an journey in 1436 to take the Rock for his household honor as soon as and for all…and failed with a freak accident.

After briefly abandoning their conquest of the Rock, the Guzmans had married into Spain’s royal household. Their fortunes and standing had improved. Enrique meant to mimic his well-known ancestor, Guzman the Good, and seize Gibraltar for honor and glory in a feat of navy would possibly. He organized a marketing campaign and rallied males to his trigger. They had been going to launch assaults from each land and sea. They had been going to take the Rock.

A Dutch map reveals the rocky panorama of the Gibraltar peninsula. (Rijksmuseum, Netherlands)

Issues shortly went askew. Enrique did not take the excessive tide under consideration. When D-Day arrived, Enrique and his males washed up on the mistaken aspect of the Rock under the sheer cliffs. Touchdown boats flipped over and males had been tossed overboard. Amongst them was Enrique.

Legend says he was attempting to save lots of his males when the accident occurred. Nobody is aware of for certain. In any case his boat was overloaded with males from one other boat who didn’t wish to drown and thus inevitably sank, drowning their commander.

Thus Enrique Pérez de Guzmán y Castilla died earlier than the seventh siege even started. We are able to solely marvel what the Muslim garrison, trying down from the cliffs, should have thought as they watched the Spanish floundering within the water under.

In any case, the Muslim defenders recovered Enrique’s body from the surf, posthumously decapitated him and hung his physique in a basket from the fortress partitions, presumably as a warning to would-be besiegers.

A Son’s Revenge—Siege No. 8

In the meantime, on one other aspect of the Rock, Enrique’s son, who was alleged to be commanding the land forces, fell into despair at his father’s drowning. He pulled again his troops and is alleged to have tried to barter with the Muslim garrison to return his father’s physique, however was rebuffed. The younger man withdrew in anger and humiliation…however, in traditional Guzman trend, he would positively return. His title was Juan Alonso de Guzmán y Suárez de Figueroa Orozco. He was decided to avenge the unintentional dying of his father.

Guzman got here again to Gibraltar to roost 26 years later in 1462, resolved that the Rock can be his finally. He had spent years fuming concerning the failure to own Gibraltar and his father’s ignominious demise. An informant introduced information to Spain that the Muslim garrison at Gibraltar had been slacking off by way of its defenses.

Forces led by Alonzo of Arcos had been the primary to get there, however couldn’t do the job with out assist and requested for support from Spanish nobles. Guzman determined it was the precise time to settle scores and jumped into the fray. The eighth siege was quickly underway.

Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, Duke of Cadiz, acquired right into a dispute with Juan Alonso de Guzman when it got here to taking the give up of Gibraltar after the eighth siege. (Metropolis Council of Seville)

Nonetheless, if Guzman had inherited the iron delight of his ancestor Guzman the Good, he additionally appears to have been affected by the curse of one other ancestor—he arrived late. The siege was fairly effectively over and Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, Duke of Cadiz, was already in command of town gates, prepared to just accept give up, when the indignant Guzman lastly arrived on the scene.

There was a spat similar to might solely have occurred between two proud Spanish noblemen. In accordance with lore, Guzman and Ponce de Leon narrowly averted a bodily combat over which considered one of them can be allowed to truly take the Rock. To keep away from an all-out duel, they labored out a deal to stroll into the fortress collectively and politely arrange their banners on the similar time. Thus the siege ended and the households hated one another ever since.

Rebelling in opposition to The Crown

So as to add insult to damage, King Enrique IV of Spain gave Guzman the boot after the siege was received. Ordering Guzman to depart the Rock’s premises, the king awarded himself the title of “King of Gibraltar.” In fact Guzman would have none of it. Guzman launched the ninth siege of Gibraltar, in opposition to his personal king, on July 26, 1467—and really achieved his life’s aim of taking the Rock for his household.

Nonetheless, in any case of that bother, his son Enrique Perez de Guzmán y Fonseca didn’t appear to have been very passionate concerning the Rock or build up household roots there. He was extra desirous about cash than battle. Reputed to have been the richest man in Spain, he was recognized for crooked dealings and treating those that engaged in enterprise with him unjustly.

Queen Isabella of Castile

Queen Isabella I of Castile gave him the title of Marquis of Gibraltar, however modified her thoughts after he died and took the title away from the household. Seemingly it was Isabella’s probability to rectify the truth that the Rock had technically been stolen from the crown beforehand.

Within the type of his ancestors earlier than him, the late nobleman’s son, Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y de Ribera, was livid that the Rock had been taken away from him and dared to jot down to the queen precisely what he thought of it. Evidently Isabella ignored him. She eliminated the Guzman household banners from Gibraltar and embellished the place with Spanish royal emblems.

After Isabella died in 1504, Guzman determined he was going to reverse this redecorating challenge and restore the Rock to Guzman household possession. Gathering a military, he mounted the tenth siege of the Rock with the assistance of his son, named Enrique.

The Destiny of Gibraltar

Guzman anticipated that town would welcome him with open arms. The other occurred. Royal troops within the fortress barricaded themselves inside and native Gibraltarians rallied to Spain’s trigger. The Guzmans sat exterior town for 4 months earlier than finally realizing that victory simply wasn’t going to occur.

Endorsed by the church, the Guzman household lastly gave up on Gibraltar—briefly. Juan de Guzman firmly believed that the Rock was his rightful property and was really planning to launch an eleventh siege earlier than he perished at age 40 in 1507.

A member of the Guzman household was the reluctant commander of the Spanish Armada, defeated by the English. The British would additionally in the end take management of Gibraltar. (Royal Museums, Greenwich)

After having shed blood, sweat and tears for Gibraltar from 1309 to 1507, the Guzman household ceased to besiege the Rock. Nonetheless it positively wasn’t the final time the household would depart an uncommon footprint in Spain’s navy historical past.    

A Guzman descendant, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y de Zuniga-Sotomayor, was positioned in command of the doomed Spanish Armada in 1588—in opposition to his needs. In distinction to his fierce ancestors, Guzman protested in opposition to being given command, pleading ignorance of naval issues and an alleged tendency toward seasickness.

However Guzman acquired the job regardless of expressly not wanting it. For sure the Spanish Armada was soundly defeated by the English, who would additionally in the end take possession of the Guzman household treasure, Gibraltar.   

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