Monday, August 23, 2010

Diezmo de horca

Somewhere close to Cervera town, 25th July 1713

At the headquarters of the Spanish Army Group Center, the Duke of Populi gathered all his officers under the shelter of a wide tent. While the officers readily occupied their designed places, under the solemnial glance of their commander-in-chief, it could be heard far away the rythmical thump of Spanish mortars battering the walls of Cervera town. Once all of his subordinates were seated, the Duke loudly asked: -Major Ordoñez, please explain to us the situation in a few words.

-Ehem, yes Sire -this quickly responded- Not only have the town councils of Cervera, Montblanc and Igualada refused to pay due obedience to His Royal Majesty king Philip V, claiming to only owe allegiance to Charles of Habsburg, but even have been so superb and audacious to rise populace in arms against our troops.

-Inconceivable! -an officer exclaimed.

-What an insolence! -murmured another one. Everywhere, expressions clearly showed deception, disappointment and rage.

-However -then General Vallejo pointed-, we are proud to announce the rebellion to have been smashed at Igualada. We are now mastering the place again, and the rebellion leaders have all been apprehended.

-Good, that's really good news -answered the Duke- And what about the other two towns, may I ask?

-Sadly, I must admit that Montblanc is still resisting our efforts -cautiously informed General Velasco.

-Besides, as you can clearly perceive there out -the Duke then said, while adressing an angry glance to General Torre-, Cervera town is also still resisting. It's only a matter of time, we know; they shall give up, sooner or later. And this is precisely the matter I wished to talk you about, gentlemen: the day after their surrender.

The Duke of Populi then expanded a roll of paper he had been keeping at hand and, after a little theatrical pause, started in a studied loud voice: -I was yesterday delivered this missive straight from His Royal Majesty King Philip V -God bless Him- with His explicite orders on this subject. It reads as follows: "De las gentes de armas de los catalanes, se servirán vuesas mercedes de pasar a cuchillo a los prisioneros, menos algunos más señalados, a los que mandarán ahorcar." ["About the Men-of-arms of the Catalans, shall they be slaughtered by the sword, except those most prominent among them, who shall be hanged on the gallows"] (*)

The Duke then paused to look around. Expectation was high, nobody was moving a muscle or said anything, so that he continued reading: -"De las villas y pueblos que se alcen en armas, espero practicarán el diezmo de horca entre los paysanos, pegándole fuego después de esto a casas y lugares, para que sirva de escarmiento y exemplo." ["In the towns and villages having risen up in arms, it is My will that gallows tythe is practised among their inhabitants, thereafter setting in fire houses and places, to serve as warning and example"] (*)

After these words, a deep silence spread over the wide tent. Only a somewhat puzzled young officer dared to quietly ask to the one at his side: -¿Diezmo de horca?

-Yes, hanging on the gallows one in ten villagers, randomly chosen. That's Diezmo de horca, Gallows Tithe.

-Oh...

-Any questions, gentlemen? -the Duke asked. Nobody broke the silence -Alright, gentlemen. I must understand that all and everyone of you know well what must be done in Igualada, and what shall thereafter be done in Cervera and Montblanc, and in any other village, town or city insolent enough to rise in arms against their legitime King and Lord. Gentlemen, I expect you back to your duties as soon as your horses can.

(*) [Inspired in actual orders issued by Philip V to the Duke of Populi (Archivo General de Simancas, book 143, April 1713) and from this to his generals (Archivo Histórico Nacional de Madrid, bundle 433-1, July 1713, from Populi to Grimaldo), as well as personal chronicles of Populi himself, Marquis of San Felipe, and General Bracamonte].

7 comments:

abdul666 said...

In Monte-Cristo such orders are judged... unsightly. Of course we remain neutral, but...

abdul666 said...

Not so long ago, information we let... leak (judging the transaction 'indecent' for a Christian state) allowed an 'independent captain' to intercept a huge cargo of muskets and guns: in exchange we received half of the bounty, so far kept in our arsenal. The whole and a large amount of ammunition and gunpowder was loaded yesterday on 'Genovese' ships. Casual conversations with de Vilana's sailors let us know how to safely deliver the cargo to Galatea. Extra bullets can easily be made by melting lead pious medals: some think such bullets are 'blessed'...

abdul666 said...

A young (reputedly Italian?) lady left Monte-Cristo a week ago to meet Duchess Isabel de Farnesio. She carries several documents, including the credential for a well-funded numerical account in the Banque Presipapale (the credit comes from a seizure -outside Monte-Cristo- of the money corresponding to an 'unsightly' transaction concluded in the Presipality). Also a letter (a perfect fac simile, actually;
another will reach the extra-territorial Carreau du Temple in Paris where agents of the Secret du Roy come to chat with Monte-Cristan merchants: we keep the original) from one of Philip V's cronies, suggesting that the new King of Spain would claim the French crown at the death of Louis XIV. Wonder who gave him such an idea, and why he was unwise enough to put it in written form....

Another young woman -not of lady-like appearance, this one- went to meet the cabezas of the Gitanos.

Bluebear Jeff said...

Well, I'm sure that this order will have an effect . . . whether it is the one intended is an open question.


-- Jeff

Soldadets said...

Jeff, I'm also afraid of the consequences such folly can report... As one popular said states, 'violence only feed violence', so that one possible consequence is the radicalization of at least part of the Galatans, who might press for undertaking heavy reprisals -either on enemy troops or alleged collaborationists or pro-Bourbon nationals. Another one is a deep hesitation among the least combative pro-Habsburgs, so that a heavy risk of fragmentation is likely to appear at any moment...

Ever suspected that, when planning to 're-fight' this campaign, I would be forced to 're-fight' also such parallel battle for Ethics!!!

Soldadets said...

sorry, I meant "saying" for "said"!!!

Soldadets said...

Jean-Louis,

Allow me a little time to digest these your key pieces of information!!

So far, Marquis of Vilana must not know these yet, for "his" personal time is set to 4-5 days before the "Diezmo de horca" chronicle...

This global storyboard of ours is starting to grow huge and imponent, for sure! :)