Monday, May 16, 2011

British are back

Tarragona, 16th September 1713



That morning, the inhabitants of Tarragona awoke with an extraordinary vision from the sea side, for an imposing British fleet extended all along the horizon line. Likely come in with the first lights of dawn, British vessels had anchored in a tight pack face to the city shores and harbour, and were now quietly resting, their ensigns calmly waving to the morning breeze.

In other circumstances, or in other times, such news would have been cause for popular joy and celebrations, as it happened in 1705. But now, the arrival of that enormous fleet could only mean one thing: Yes British were back -but not to help them against the Two Crowns, but to evacuate the Imperial troops still defending the city instead, following the Treaty of Utrecht terms.

It was merely a matter of days that, once emptied of defenders, local authorities of Tarragona would be formally warned to release the old city to the Two Crowns. The joy of yesterday was suddenly replaced by the oppressive memory of the fate of Tivissa townsfolk.

12 comments:

abdul666 said...

Do you guess what the French expression -very old, obsolete but still generally understood- "British are back" could mean?
(Actually it's 'English are back': French people commonly use 'English' for 'British', "Anglais" being shorter than "Britanniques"; besides, the relationships between England and France are ... strained since the time of Richard the LionHeart, and the Hundred Years War, the burning of Joan of Arc... antedate the Act of Union.)

Hints:
- it can be used monthly,
- it has to do with the red coat of traditional British uniform...
Or, 'On the influence of military uniforms on colloquialisms' :) :)




About Richard the Lion Heart: son of Alienor d'Aquitaine, he wrote at least one long poem in Limousin tongue; while Limousin is among the northernmost provinces of the 'Langues d'Oc' area, 'Limousin' was used to name the whole 'Langues d'Oc' family, probably because the most famous troubadours were from Limousin and wrote in their native tongue. To the point that down to the 16th C. 'Limosi' was used in Valencia and Majorca to name the tongue of the Catalan Trobadors! Indeed in the 19th C. French linguists ranked Catalan, not as a 'Spanish' tongue, but as a member of the Limousin / Occitan family.

abdul666 said...

*Seriously* (8) now...
Could not the French troops of the Two Crown army besieging Tarragona ask to occupy the town for a time, so that they can be evacuated by sea, rather than having to cross the Pyrenees on their sore feet?
I'm sure that, given the current 'self-restricted' attitude of France, Tarragonans would prefer to open their gates to French rather than 'Castillan' soldiery...

Salvador said...

Sure, but french presence would not be welcome with any warmth as in the last twenty years it only brought war and famine...
We can be sure to see scores of refugees trying to get out of the city along the soldiers, be they british, imperials or even french.
BTW the catalan word for limousin is "llemosí" and effectively it was a "quality" name for catalan, which is again effectively an occitan descended, not iberian, tongue.
I'm very thankful to Msr. Jean Louis about his remark on the catalan tongue. One can only wish that such a show of respect for the truth and intelligent thinking would be more common in Spain as for now it is a lost cause for us, entrenched as they usually are in the "indefectible" spanish origin and belonging of the catalan culture, tongue and people...
Merci beaucoup!
P.S.: it's usual to say "mercès" or even "merci" in catalan for "thank you", as in french. You see...

abdul666 said...

Salvador,
thanks for the kind words.

While I love old tongues and songs -old people were still speaking Provençal rather than French in the village near the Sainte-Baume I spent my summer holidays (some... 55 - 60 years ago?), and later someone very important for me was proud of her Lemouzi heritage- I confess I have difficulties to understand the importance of multilinguism in the Iberic peninsula.

Probably because of the 'French exception': while the German and Italian unifications are recent and superficial, Belgian unity is easily broken, and seemingly Spain was a mosaic of provinces that was only part of the possessions of its sovereign, France has a deep, strong, uninterrupted tradition of centralism and national unity since the Hundred Years War -some historians even refer to Bouvines (1214)! The recent (Brussels-imposed?) division into 'regions' was perceived as a trick to allow some twenty politicians to turn potentates in their mini-banana republic. Except for a few Brittons and the Corsicans, French people manage to be proud of their local roots, to cultivate and revive them, but in the same time to feel 'French'.
Btw, 'official' Corsican is a modern creation: traditional dialects of Ajaccio and Calvi come from different Italian roots. When I was for some weeks in the Santiago University soon after Franco's death, I heard there were similar difficulties with 'official' Galician (± 'Lusitanian'): seemingly popular Galician had fragmented since the Cantigas de Santa Maria?

Please don't take it the wrong way, but Spain reminds me a little of Afghanistan: a mosaic of ethnico-cultural entities, united only against any (heathen) invader... :)

Best regards,
Jean-Louis

abdul666 said...

Before leaving, the Imperials can cover underground contacts between the Tarragonan authorities and garrison commander on one sise, and the two commanders of the besiegers on the other, in the hope to ensure a 'soft' transition.
Entering the town without a bloody assault, and feeling that for them the war has ended, the French soldiers are unlikely to behave badly; specially if the besieged garrison is allowed to leave with the honours of war. Thus, Tarragonans could only benefit from having the French troops as a 'buffer' between them and the 'Castillans', at least chronologically.
Much depends on the personality of the 'Spanish' commander -specially given that the war does not evolves as smoothly as hoped for his cause. If a bloodthirsty vindictive man, he can want to take an easy revenge on the helpless besieged. If a reasonable person -&/or a good strategist- he would want to carefully avoid a Tivissa-like massacre, a shame for Christianity and the seed for protracted hatred and rebellion...

Soldadets said...

Jean-Louis: fine, your comments!

As a matter of fact, Imperials in Tarragona are not being besieged -not in the sense of any 'war actions', at least. According to Treaty terms, they are expected to cede to the Two Crowns the places they have been garrisoning so far.

It's only that Tarragona is their last garrison in the Peninsula, and they explicitly delayed the cession until the English (I mean, British) fleet came to evacuate them.

The Two Crowns have encircled the town just for case: firstly, to prevent any Catalan infiltration attempt, and secondly, to exert some 'soft pression' on the Imperials themselves.

In current circumstances, it's expectable a peaceful transition of powers in the city: one garrison is to be replaced by another one. However, it is a good point from you to suggest some 'diplomacy' on the Imperial side to prepare local authorities for a peaceful acceptance...

If such was achieved, there would be no sacking or 'diezmo de horca' reprisals -which were solely aimed to punishing towns eventually raising in arms. Of course, later political repression of outstanding pro-Austrian citizens would be unavoidable, but it lies quite far from massive executions anyway...

'Besieging' troops are mainly French -but not solely. Untrustful about their 'allies', the Spanish command has attached a couple of Spanish regiments in the encircling force -just for case again: they wouldn't like the French to fly the wrong flag as soon as they got into the city... ;)

Soldadets said...

About your wise language discussions:

I'm persuaded Catalan language started in Dark Ages as a kind of trans-pyrenean dialect of Langue d'Oc. After centuries of diverging Catalan and Southern French History, our respective language have also evolved into different ones -just as Galician and Portuguese diverged too.

However, it is quite meaningful that a Catalan and a Languedocian are still capable of mutually understand to each other in their respective languages, even without a previous grammar knowledge -if they care not to intermix Spanish or French 'barbarisms' or 'neologisms', as I personally could check at Carcassone a few years ago... For sure it sounded quite 'archaic' (if you get what I mean), as if going back to Middle Ages, but it worked :)

Soldadets said...

BTW, I've just recalled a Historical anecdote, dating back to XVII century.

A Catalan nobleman raised a 'Tercio' and put it under service of His Catholic Majesty (can't remember the king). They were sent in Flanders, where else? :D

Once there, they got two different nicknames: on the civilian side, they were called Les Wallons de l'Espagne. Instead, the rest of Spanish (=Castilian) regiments called them El Tercio del Papagayo. Quite meaningful, don't you believe?

(what did our ancestors to do with the Psittaciforme birds?)

abdul666 said...

:)
As for 'besieged garrison' I was thinking of *Galatan* troops caught in Tarragona when the town was surrounded by the Two Crowns force. - though maybe 'officially' there were none?

Soldadets said...

Behind Tarragona walls, there are currently 1 Dragoons Regt. (Hamilton's), 4 light batteries and 5 Infantry Regiments. Theoretically, up to 3 of them are Austro-German (Geschwind, Farber and perhaps O'Dwyer), another one are Italians (Bagni) and the last regiment is some of a mistery to me. It's Laborda IR. They were historically evacuated in Naples, and some time later they're recorded as a "German" unit.

However, "Laborda" is a typically Aragonese surname (although it might also be Italian). Therefore, I belive it likely that by 1713 its ranks might be plenty of Catalans and Aragonese.

Besides, we should have into account the glorious remnants of Cordova's Cavalry, who have just got inside the city.

Would it provide a "critical mass" enough for a last-minute-refusal to evacuation? Not in my opinion -unless a charismatic Catalan leader managed to introduce himself in town -at his own risk!

abdul666 said...

I suppose the survivors of Cordova's Cavalry, and any town militia wishing so, could be evacuated 'discreetly' on the British fleet? In 1962, to save them from reprisals, French officers managed to embark some 40,000 harkis (out of 160,000) and their families against the most stringent orders...

abdul666 said...

According to Lace Wars and Napoleonic
letters and memories, it seems that French soldiers behave correctly, and went rather well, with the inhabitants of peacefully occupied towns, even gaining some reciprocity with times. No doubt that when leaving they would allow threatened Tarragonans to cross the 'Castillan' lines with them as 'camp followers'.