On September 11, the National Day of Catalonia is celebrated. The reason for this celebration is often simplified by saying that Catalans celebrate a defeat but, in reality, what we do is commemorate the day when, after 14 months of siege, was made a point and followed in a story to come from afar.
The death of a king, the end of a dynasty
The conflict was caused by the childless death, in 1700, of King Charles II of Spain. His death ended the Habsburg dynasty that had ruled Spain for 200 years.
Diplomacy pulled strings for months before Charles death to appoint as his successor a young French prince, Philip d’Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV of France. With this election, Archduke Charles of Austria, a member of another branch of the Habsburg dynasty, was left out of the game. And, of course, they didn’t agree at all.
But it was not just a change of dynasty, that also meant European political balances got broken. The same dynasty that ruled in France and Spain was something that didn’t like the other great European power: England.
And this sparked an international war, the Succession War of Spanish.
A civil and world war at the same time
The conflict, however, also became more complicated inside the kingdom. The former territories of the Crown of Aragon (Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia and the Balearic Islands) were opposed to the grandson of the Sun King as the new monarch. They distrusted him from seeing the rights, freedoms and institutions of their kingdoms in danger in the face of a monarchy that brought together all power. That is why they chose the Austrian candidate, Archduke Charles, with the support of England and its allies.
Thus, in 1701, this war began, with victories for obe side and the other until 1707, when the battle of Almansa took place, a rudder blow to the confrontation in favor of Philip V.
From this point, the Bourbon army advanced towards the lands of the Crown of Aragon faster. But what was really decisive for the events in Catalonia was the death, in 1711, of Emperor Joseph I of Austria. Thus, the brother of Joseph, become the emperor.
Again European balances were in danger, but now, England’ was worried about the possible control of the Madrid-Vienna axis over the continent. Therefore, they began to agree, first in secret and then openly, the conditions to end the war. They were the basis of the Treaty of Utrecht.
Everyone happy, or not
Thus, in 1713, more or less satisfied, everyone signed a treaty ending 12 years of war and recognized Philip V as King of Spain and Charles as Emperor of Austria.
Everyone, except the Arms Board of Catalonia, composed by the Catalonian government and the Council of elders of Barcelona, which didn’t recognize the treaty and decided to continue the confrontation on their own.
The siege of Barcelona
The siege of the city began in July 1713. The besiegers took it with some sarcasm until a year later, seeing his inability to achieve surrender, Philip V sent one of the best marshals of the French army: the Duke of Berwick, who had already been decisive in Almansa.
Was him who took the siege of Barcelona as a 1st military target order. At the head of 18,000 soldiers out of the almost 90,000 that existed at that time in Catalonia, the bombings began to open gaps in the walls of the northern sector of the city.
On the morning of 9/11 they succeeded, but despite the mass entry into the city, the struggle continued hand to hand until noon. The bastions passed from one side to the other in a matter of minutes and the result was not at all clear. Around 3 pm, the Board of Arms gathered at the Saint Anthony’s bastion and signed the surrender.
Berwick’s commitment was to relinquish the right to plunder and exterminate. In this way, the city was saved from fire and the people of Barcelona who had survived death.
The final being
On the 18th September the town of Cardona surrendered and the war ended. Then came the Nueva Planta Decree, confirming the worst omens. The prohibition of speaking Catalan, the cancellation of the country’s own government institutions such as the Generalitat and the municipal government councils, the repeal of the laws of Catalan civil law, the creation of the figure of a Captain General at the head of a military government that was in charge of enforcing the new order, the closure of the universities, the demolition of part of the Ribera neighborhood and the construction of the largest urban citadel in Europe were some measures that made Catalonia see stop your story that day.
But from all that, the desire would also be born not to forget those who died fighting for their rights. And that is what we remember on a day like today.
Want to know more? Don’t miss our route through Barcelona in 1714.