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First Siege of Gibraltar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

First Siege of Gibraltar
Part of the Spanish Reconquista
Rock of Gibraltar northwest.jpg

View of Gibraltar from the West.
Date1309 – 12 September 1309
Result Victory for the Crown of Castile
Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg
Crown of Castile
Cross Santiago.svg
Order of Santiago
Badge of the Order of Calatrava.svg
Order of Calatrava
COA of Nasrid dynasty kingdom of Grenade (1013-1492).svg
Emirate of Granada
Commanders and leaders
Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg
Ferdinand IV of Castile
Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg
Juan Núñez II de Lara
Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg
Alonso Pérez de Guzmán
Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg
Fernando Gutiérrez Tello
Badge of the Order of Calatrava.svg
Garci López de Padilla
Bandera de la Corona de Castilla.svg
Juan de Castilla el de Tarifa
COA of Nasrid dynasty kingdom of Grenade (1013-1492).svg
Muhammed III
COA of Nasrid dynasty kingdom of Grenade (1013-1492).svg
Abu'l-Juyush Nasr
Thousands (Unknown) 1,200 defenders[1]
Part of a series on the
History of Gibraltar
Coat of arms of Gibraltar
Flag of Gibraltar.svg
Gibraltar portal

The First Siege of Gibraltar was a battle of the Spanish Reconquista that took place in 1309. The battle pitted the forces of the Crown of Castile (mostly those from the military councils of the city of Seville) under the command of Juan Núñez II de Lara and Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, against the forces of the Emirate of Granada who were under the command of Sultan Muhammed III and his brother, Abu'l-Juyush Nasr.

The battle resulted in a victory for the Crown of Castile, one of the few victories in what turned out to be a disastrous campaign. The taking of Gibraltar greatly increased the relative power of Castile on the Iberian Peninsula though the actual city was later recaptured by Muslim forces during the Third Siege of Gibraltar in 1333.[2][3]

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Gibraltar, on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, has a long and complex history. Throughout the centuries many have coveted the land; and who wouldn’t, the Rock of Gibraltar boasts panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea and North African coast and is strategically located at the gateway to the Atlantic its location, location, location at its best! Today, at just 6.7 square kilometres and home to over 30,000 people Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory. So why is a small piece of land on the southern end of Spain, one of the last remaining colonies of the British Empire? We pick up our story in October 1700. The Kingdom of Spain, with Charles the Second on the throne, controls Gibraltar. Generations of royal inbreeding had left Charles physically, emotionally, and mentally retarded as well as infertile. He died childless on the first of November leaving Spain without a clear Heir. European powers had seen this coming, and had attempted to make diplomatic arrangements. There were three competing claims: from Austria, France and Bavaria. Bavaria being the weakest of the three was preferred by European leaders. King Louis the 14th of France colluded with his rival William of Orange, who was both Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic and the King of England. The two signed the Treaty of Den Haag to resolve the issue. They proposed dividing the Spanish Kingdom, which included holdings in Italy, the Southern Netherlands, and colonies in the Americas and Pacific between the three houses but Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria was suggested the heir of the bulk of the Spanish Empire preserving the balance of power between France and Austria. Quite to everyone’s surprise, however, the health stricken Spanish King outlived Joseph, undermining the whole treaty. Louis and William reconvened and signed another treaty (of London), under the new arrangement; Archduke Charles from Austria was to inherit the Spanish Crown, with the Italian holdings going to France. However the Spanish didn’t want to see their Empire split, and refused to sign. As did the Austrians, who desired the entire inheritance for themselves and furthermore were more interested in Italy than Spain. In one final effort to find a diplomatic solution Charles, on his deathbed, named his grandnephew Philip, the second-eldest grandson of King Louis as Heir to the Spanish Crown. As Philip was not directly in line for the Throne of France his advisors hoped this would ease tensions and stabilise the power dynamics across the continent. This left Louis with a decision to make. He could follow through with his agreement and forbid his grandson from claiming the throne or he could accept the will of Charles of Spain and back Philips claim Both option appeared to lead to war, and accepting the Austrian claim would leave France with nothing, so he choose the latter. The growing dominance of Europe’s big blue blob worried the other European powers. The Grand Alliance that had fought France in Nine Years' War was reconvened and Britain, The Dutch Republic, and Austria declared war on France on the 15th of May 1702. The War of the Spanish Succession had begun. While the majority of the land offence took place to the north of the Pyrenees; the British sent a force to the Mediterranean to carry out a diversionary naval offensive. This took the form of an attack on Gibraltar, after heavy bombardment, British marines attacked the town, and the Spanish surrendered shortly after. Although the Spanish attempted to retake Gibraltar they failed to do so before the end of the war. Legend has it, that during one such attempt Spanish soldiers attempted to sneak into position to launch a surprise attack, only the monkeys that inhabit the Rock spoilt the surprise. This has led to the notion that as long as the monkeys remain on Gibraltar so will the British However, during the war, the King of Austria who was by way, the Holy Roman Emperor and his successor died, leaving the Empire to Charles. The prospect of a union of the Austrian and Spanish crowns was just as undesirable as a unified Bourbon monarchy of France and Spain. Peace would come with the Treaty of Utrecht; Philip was accepted by Britain and Austria as King of Spain. In exchange for guarantees that the crowns of France and Spain would not be unified and Spain ceded lands to the Austrians and British, crucially for our story, Gibraltar was officially ceded to Britain, but Spain resented the loss of territory. Spain attempted to recapture Gibraltar during the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727 to 1729, and again during the American War of Independence; but they failed to retake the region. Gibraltar’s strategic value became more apparent with time. Allowing the Allies to control naval traffic into and out of the Mediterranean Sea during war and during peace she was a useful port for trade vessels sending cargo east via Egypt. In 1954 the Queen visited Gibraltar, this angered Spain’s fascist Dictator General Franco who responded by imposing increasingly stringent restrictions on trade and the movements with Gibraltar. But this didn’t weaken the resolve of the population to remain British as intended, the isolation did quite the opposite, and now they say that Gibraltarians are more British than the British. After the war the United Nations was established, and opposed to imperialism. The UN called for decolonisation throughout the world, including Gibraltar. But while other British colonies moved through self-governance and then onto independence, that option was unavailable to Gibraltar. The Treaty of Utrecht contains a reversion clause where if Britain is to give up her claim on Gibraltar, it will be returned to Spain. But the UN push for decolonisation reignited Spanish efforts to recover the territory. The result was a referendum in 1967 where Gibraltarians were asked to choose between Spain and Britain. The results were resounding, with over 12,000 opting to maintain the current relationship with Britain, to only 44 supporting a union with Spain, less than the number of invalid or blank votes. The Francoist regime responded to the defeat by ramping up pressure on the dependency and closed the border. While Gibraltar moved to establish a constitution that agreed the British would not impose a solution on Gibraltarians and acknowledged their right to self-determination. After General Franco's death, Spain sought to join the European Economic Community, and needed British support. The Lisbon Agreement was the first of a series between the British and Spanish Governments intended to resolve their differences over Gibraltar. These talks eventually led to the reopening of the border; but didn’t quite settle the issue. Eventually, in 2002, Britain and Spain proposed to share sovereignty, but the government of Gibraltar, excising their now constitutional right, put it to a referendum and the agreement was rejected 17,900 to 187. It seems, given their options, the Gibraltarians wish to remain a British dependency, but Britain’s impending departure from the European Union has once again brought up the issue, and Gibraltar finds itself again as a pawn in a bigger European game.



On 19 December 1308, at Alcalá de Henares, King Ferdinand IV of Castile and the ambassadors from the Crown of Aragon, Bernat de Sarrià and Gonzalo García agreed to the terms of the Treaty of Alcalá de Henares. Ferdinand IV, supported by his brother, Pedro de Castilla y Molina, the archbishop of Toledo, the bishop of Zamora, and Diego López V de Haro agreed to wage war against the Emirate of Granada by 24 June 1309 which was also when a previous peace treaty between Granada and Castile was set to expire.[4] It was further agreed that the Aragonese monarch, James II, could not sign a separate peace accord with the Emir of Granada. A combined Aragonese-Castilian navy was also formed to support the siege in a blockade of the coastal Granadian towns. It was also stipulated that the Crown of Castile would attack the towns of Algeciras and Gibraltar and that the Aragonese forces would attempt to conquer the city of Almería.[citation needed]

Ferdinand IV promised to cede one sixth of the conquered Granadan territory to the Aragonese crown and therefore chose the entirety of the Kingdom of Almeria as its limits for the agreement with the exception of the towns of Bedmar, Alcaudete, Quesada, Arenas, and Locubin which would stay as part of Castile, having all previously been part of the Kingdom of Castile and León prior to their Muslim takeovers. Ferdinand IV further stipulated that if the lands taken from the Kingdom of Almería did not amount to one sixth of Granadan territory, that the Archbishop of Toledo would step in to resolve any differences related to the matter. These concessions to the Crown of Aragon led a few of Ferdinand IV's vassals to protest the ratification of the treaty, amongst them were John of Castile and Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena.[5]

The concessions to Aragon, which had begun a period of relative irrelevancy compared to Castile, would once again restore the kingdom's power within the Iberian Peninsula. Aragon had previously reached its height under the Treaty of Cazola and the Treaty of Almizra which saw its territory and influence expand considerably. Ferdinand insisted on the Aragonese alliance to cement an alliance between Aragon and the Marinid dynasty so that they would not intervene in the coming war with Granada.[6]

After the signing of the treaty at Alcalá de Henares, Castile and Aragon both sent emissaries to the court at Avignon to gain the support of Pope Clement V and to obtain the clerical backing of an official Crusade to further support military operations. They also asked for the papal blessing of a marriage between the Infanta Eleanor of Castile, the firstborn daughter of Ferdinand IV and Jaime de Aragón y Anjou, son and heir of James II of Aragon. The Pope agreed to both ventures and on 24 April 1309, Clement V issued the papal bull Indesinentis cure which authorised a general crusade against Granada to conquer the Iberian Peninsula together with mandates to conquer Corsica and Sardinia.[7]

At the Courts of Madrid of 1309, the first courts to ever occur in the actual Spanish capital, Ferdinand IV publicly announced his desire to wage war against the Emirate of Granada and demanded subsidies to begin battle manoeuvres.[8]

Castilian mobilization

The main vassals contributing to operations against Gibraltar were Juan Núñez II de Lara, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, Fernando Gutiérrez Tello, the Archbishop of Seville and Garci López de Padilla, the grand master of the Order of Calatrava.[9] The majority of this army consisted of the militia councils of Seville and the noblemen of that city.[citation needed]

On 29 April 1309, Pope Clement V issued the papal bull Prioribus decanis which officially conceded to Ferdinand IV one 10th of all clergy taxes collected in his kingdoms for three years to aid in financing the campaign against Granada.[10]

From Toledo, Ferdinand IV and his army marched to Córdoba where the emissaries of James II announced that the Aragonese king was prepared to besiege the city of Almeria.[11] Final preparations for the siege were carried out in Seville, where Ferdinand IV arrived in July 1309. The supply line for the invasion army passed through Seville and crossed the Guadalquivir River and travelled by sea to the territories of the Kingdom of Granada.[citation needed]

The siege

Some of the Moorish fortifications of Gibraltar, dating to this period, still stand today. The most prominent being the remains of the Moorish Castle.
Some of the Moorish fortifications of Gibraltar, dating to this period, still stand today. The most prominent being the remains of the Moorish Castle.

After the start of the siege of Algeciras, Ferdinand IV sent part of his army from the military councils of Seville to complete their remaining objective of capturing Gibraltar, whilst keeping the larger portion of his forces encamped around Algeciras. The force sent to besiege and capture Gibraltar was put under the command of Juan Núñez II de Lara, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, Fernando Gutiérrez Tello, the Archbishop of Seville and the council of nobles associated with that city. The group was further bolstered by Garci López de Padilla, the contemporary grand master of the Order of Calatrava and a contingent of his knights.[citation needed]

The forces from the Crown of Aragon, under the command of James II had already begun their own war against the Kingdom of Granada and were in place besieging the city of Almería by 15 August 1309.[11] That ill-fated venture lasted until 26 January 1310 when the forces of Aragon were obliged to withdraw from the campaign due to stalemate.[12]

The chronicles of Ferdinand IV mention that the Castilian forces surrounded the city of Gibraltar and besieged it with two engeños (or siege machines of an unspecified type) that began to fire into the city from towers built by the besiegers. The same chronicle states that the troops of Núñez de Lara and those of Alonso Pérez de Guzmán had enveloped the town so effectively that the Muslim defenders were powerless to resist their attackers, being forced to surrender the city rather after an extended and gallant defence. Guzmán and Lara allowed for some 1,125 Muslim inhabitants of the city to leave unharmed.[2]

On 12 September 1309, Ferdinand IV's army officially occupied Gibraltar. According to the Castilian king's chronicle, when Ferdinand IV entered the city, one local Muslim elder told him that he had been present at three previous cities where Christian forces had expelled him. First at the city of Seville where he was expelled by Ferdinand IV's great grandfather, Ferdinand III, second at Xerez where he was expelled by Ferdinand IV's grandfather, Alfonso X, third by Ferdinand IV's father, Sancho IV[13] when his forces took the city of Tarifa, and now finally again by Ferdinand IV himself. The original Spanish language text from this passage is as follows:

Señor, que oviste conmigo en me echar de aquí; ca tu visabuelo el rey D. Fernando quando tomó a Sevilla me echó dende é vine a morar á Xerez, é después el rey D. Alfonso, tu abuelo, quando tomó a Xerez hechome dende é yo vine á morar a Tarifa, é cuydando que estaba en lugar salvo, vino el rey D. Sancho, tu padre, é tomó a Tarifa é hechome dende, é vine a morar aquí á Gibraltar, é teniendo que en ningún lugar non estaría tan en salvo en toda la tierra de los moros de aquende la mar como aquí. É pues veo que en ningún lugar destos non puedo fincar, yo yré allende la mar é me porné en lugar do biva en salvo é acabe mis días.

— Fernando IV de Castilla[13]

The Castilian victory at Gibraltar ended almost 600 years of Muslim rule over the city.[14]


After the conquest of Gibraltar, Ferdinand IV ordered the repair of the city defences which had been damaged during the assault. He also ordered the construction of a new tower to defend the city walls. He further ordered the building of a shipyard that would serve to shelter passing ships. He then returned with his army to Algeciras, where the Castilian forces, being unable to take the great fortress town, were obliged to retreat. This ended their campaign against Granada, at great cost to Castile that was only mitigated by its success at Gibraltar and the cession of the border towns of Quesada, Quadros, Belmar and a payment of 5,000 golden pistoles.[15]

The Muslim historian Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari writes of the Algeciras campaign in a similar form, saying:

In the year 709 (beginning June, a.d. 1309), the King of Castile, Herando (Ferdinand IV.), laid siege to Algeciras. He remained before that city from the 21st day of Safar to the end of Shaban, when, desparing of reducing that place, he raised the siege, though not without making himself master of Gibraltar.

— Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari[16]

In the immediate aftermath of the peace treaty, the Emir of Granada, Muhammed III found himself almost immediately under attack from his vassals who were angry of his concessions to Ferdinand IV. Upon the discovery of an attempt on his life, Muhammed III travelled back to Granada where the populace was up in arms and his brother, Nasr Abul Geoix had installed himself on the throne. Muhammed III was made to watch his minister be slaughtered and his palace plundered. He abdicated in favour of his brother shortly afterwards.[17]

Ferdinand IV appointed one of the besieging officers, Alfonzo Fernando de Mendoza, to the post of governor of the newly captured city.[15][18] By 1310, Ferdinand IV issued edicts initiating a repoblación of Gibraltar. One of the incentives offered for this repoblación was that all swindlers, thieves, murderes and wives escaped from their husbands could refuge in the city and be free of any prosecution from the law, including the penalty of death (although this provision did not extend to traitors to the crown). Further, he decreed that no duty could be imposed on any goods passing in and out of the city but the number of disreputable people residing in the city significantly dampened re population efforts.[19] In February and March 1310, Ferdinand IV rewarded the town of Seville whose militias had been instrumental in the victory at Gibraltar, offering its people various privileges.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Sayer, Frederick (1865). "I: First Siege by Ferdinand IV". The History of Gibraltar and of Its Political Relation to Events in Europe (2nd ed.). Harvard University: Chapman and Hall. p. 15.
  2. ^ a b "Information Services". History. Government of Gibraltar. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  3. ^ "GIB". The Encyclopædia Britannica, or, Dictionary of arts, sciences, and general literature, Volume 10 (8th ed.). University of Wisconsin, Madison: Adam & Charles Black. 1856. p. 618.
  4. ^ Mann, J. H. (1873). "XVII: The First Siege". A History of Gibraltar and its Sieges (2nd ed.). University of California: Provost. p. 135.
  5. ^ GONZÁLEZ MÍNGUEZ, CÉSAR (2009). "Fernando IV de Castilla: La Conquista de Gibraltar (1309)". Medievalismo: 177–178.
  6. ^ Ferrándiz Lozano, José (1994). Data Almizrano. Siete siglos y medio de historiografía valenciana sobre el Tratado de Almizra (1244–1994). Alicante: Ateneo. ISBN 84-600-8983-5.
  7. ^ GONZÁLEZ MÍNGUEZ, CÉSAR (2009). "Fernando IV de Castilla: La Conquista de Gibraltar (1309)". Medievalismo: 181.
  8. ^ "Madrid". The Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 14. University of Wisconsin, Madison: Encyclopædia Britannica. 1973. p. 559. ISBN 9780852291733.
  9. ^ Mann, J. H. (1873). "XVII: The First Siege". A History of Gibraltar and its Sieges (2nd ed.). University of California: Provost. p. 136.
  10. ^ R.P. Fidel Fita y Colomé (1882). "III Concilio Provincial de Alcala de Henares, 8 Noviembre I309". Actas Inéditas de Siete Concilos Españoles Celebrados Desde el Año 1282 Hasta el de I314 (PDF) (Individuo de Numero de la Real Agademia de la Historia ed.). Madrid: Imprenta de F. Maroto é Hijos. p. 40.
  11. ^ a b Giménez Soler, Andrés (1904). El sitio de Almería en 1309. Barcelona: Tipografía de la Casa Provincial de Caridad. pp. 34–35.
  12. ^ Benavides, Antonio (1860). "XV". Memorias de Don Fernando IV de Castilla. dos tomos (1ª ed.). Madrid: Imprenta de Don José Rodríguez. p. 223.
  13. ^ a b Benavides, Antonio (1860). "XV". Memorias de Don Fernando IV de Castilla. dos tomos (1ª ed.). Madrid: Imprenta de Don José Rodríguez. p. 220.
  14. ^ Alistair, Ward (2004). "IX". España Britannia: A Bitter-sweet Relationship. dos tomos (illustrated ed.). London: Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd. p. 114. ISBN 9780856832246.
  15. ^ a b Sayer, Frederick (1865). "I: First Siege by Ferdinand IV". The History of Gibraltar and of Its Political Relation to Events in Europe (2nd ed.). Harvard University: Chapman and Hall. p. 16.
  16. ^ Mann, J. H. (1873). "XVII: The First Siege". A History of Gibraltar and its Sieges. in Al-makkari, vol. ii. p. 355. (2nd ed.). University of California: Provost. p. 135.
  17. ^ Sayer, Frederick (1865). "I: Conspiracy Against Muhammed". The history of Gibraltar and of its political relation to events in Europe (2nd ed.). Harvard University: Chapman and Hall. p. 17.
  18. ^ Jackson, William G. F. (1986). The Rock of the Gibraltarians. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses. p. 41. ISBN 0-8386-3237-8.
  19. ^ Sayer, Frederick (1865). "I: First Siege by Ferdinand IV". The History of Gibraltar and of Its Political Relation to Events in Europe (2nd ed.). Harvard University: Chapman and Hall. pp. 16–17.


This page was last edited on 16 November 2019, at 18:38
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