FORMATION OF GIBRALTAR
The Rock of Gibraltar is a monolithic Jurassic limestone promontory. The geological formation was created when the African tectonic plate collided tightly with Europe about 55 million years ago.
The Mediterranean became a lake that, in the course of time, dried up during the Messinian salinity crisis. About five million years ago the Atlantic Ocean broke through the Strait of Gibraltar, and the resultant flooding created the Mediterranean Sea.
Gibraltar was first inhabited over 50,000 years ago by the Neanderthals, Homo Calpensis and might also have been one of the last places Neanderthals lived before they died out around some 24,000 years ago.
The second ever Neanderthal discovery was made within Forbes’ Quarry Cave by Captain Edmund Flint who found the Skull of an adult female Neanderthal in 1848. This skull is known as Gibraltar 1. Between November 1925 and January 1927, Dorothy Garrod from Cambridge University discovered another skull very close by in Devil’s Tower Cave belonging to a Neanderthal child of around 4 years of age – now referred to as Gibraltar 2.
950BC THE PHOENICIANS (& OTHERS)
The Phoenicians are known to have visited the Rock circa 950 BC and named the Rock “Calpe”. They followed navigators from the eastern Mediterranean visiting the Strait, finding the city Carteia at the head of the Bay of Gibraltar. The Rock became a place of worship where sailors made sacrifices to the gods before entering the Atlantic. The Carthaginians also visited. However, neither group appears to have settled permanently.
The Romans visited Gibraltar, but no permanent settlement was established. Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Gibraltar was occupied by the Vandals and later the Goths kingdoms. The Vandals did not remain for long although the Visigoths remained on the Iberian peninsula from 414 to 711. The Gibraltar area and the rest of the South Iberian Peninsula was part of the Byzantine Empire during the second part of the 6th century, later reverting to the Visigoth Kingdom.
711 – 1309 & 1333 – 1462 THE MOORS
Arab army under Tarik landing at Gibraltar 711
The Moorish occupation is by far the longest in Gibraltar’s recorded history, having lasted from 711 to 1309 and then again from 1350 to 1462, a total of 710 years.
Historical importance of Gibraltar to both Muslims and Christians lies in the fact that the Moorish invasion and occupation of parts of western Europe started from Gibraltar in 711 and, through to its final recapture by Spaniards in 1462, Moorish rule was gradually undermined until, with the fall of Granada in 1492, Moorish occupation of parts of western Europe came to an end after 781 years.
The Umayyad general Tariq ibn Ziyad, leading a Berber-dominated army, sailed across the Strait from Ceuta. He first attempted to land on Algeciras but failed. Upon his failure, he landed undetected at the southern point of the Rock from present-day Morocco in his quest for Spain.
It was here that Gibraltar was named. Coming from the Arabian words Gabal-Al-Tariq (the mountain of Tariq). Little was built during the first four centuries of Moorish control.
Gibraltar was fortified for the first time in response to coastal threats posed by the Christian kings of Aragon and Castile. On 19th March, Almohad Sultan, Abd al-Mu’min, issued an order and charged two of the most important architects of the day with the task of building a permanent settlement. This city was to be laid out on the upper slopes of the Rock and was to include a castle, mosque, several palaces for himself and his sons, and reservoirs to provide a supply of water.
It was to be protected by a “wall of fine build” with a single gate known as the Bab al-Fath (Gate of Victory) facing towards the isthmus connecting Gibraltar with the mainland. A harbour was also to be constructed, and windmills were to be constructed on the Rock.
Gibraltar was renamed Jebel al-Fath (Mount of Victory), though this name did not persist, and a fortified city named Medinat al-Fath (City of Victory).
The Tower of Homage of the castle remains standing today (Moorish Castle).
The Castilians took the Upper Rock from where the town was bombarded. The garrison surrendered after one month. Gibraltar had about 1,500 inhabitants.
On 31st January, Gibraltar was granted its first Charter by the King Ferdinand IV of Castile. Being considered a high risk town, the Charter included incentives to settle in Gibraltar, such as the offering of freedom from justice to anyone who lived in Gibraltar for one year and one day.
This fact marked the establishment of the Gibraltar council.
King Alfonso XI of Castile attempted to retake Gibraltar aided by the fleet of the Castilian Admiral Alonso Jofre Tenorio. Even a ditch was dug across the isthmus. While laying the siege, the king was attacked by a Nasrid army from Granada. Therefore, the siege ended in a truce, allowing the Marinids to keep Gibraltar – fourth siege.
As the Civil War in Castile came to an end, with the murder of king Peter I by the pretender Henry (to be known as Henry II), the Nasrid king of Granada, Muhammad V, former ally of Peter, took over Algeciras after the 3-day Siege of Algeciras (1369). Ten years later the city was razed to the ground and its harbour made unusable. This fact increased again the importance of Gibraltar, yet in Marinid hands, in the strait trade. A subsequent truce was signed between Muhammad and Henry, preventing the Christian kings from attempting to recover the city.
1462 – 1704 CASTILIAN & SPANISH RULE
Shortly after Gibraltar’s recapture, King Henry IV of Castile declared it Crown property and reinstituted the special privileges which his predecessor had granted during the previous period of Christian rule. Four years after visiting Gibraltar in 1463, Henry was overthrown by the Spanish nobility and clergy. His half-brother Alfonso was declared king and rewarded Medina Sidonia for his support with the lordship of Gibraltar.
The existing governor, a loyalist of deposed Henry, refused to surrender Gibraltar to Medina Sidonia. After a fifteen-month siege from April 1466 to July 1467, Medina Sidonia took control of the town. He died the following year but his son Enrique de Guzmán 2nd Duke of Medina Sidonia, was confirmed as lord of Gibraltar by the reinstated Henry IV in 1469.
In 1474 Enrique sold Gibraltar to a group of Jewish conversos from Cordova and Seville led by Pedro de Herrera in exchange for maintaining the garrison of the town for two years. After which time the 4,350 conversos were expelled by the Duke. His status was further enhanced by Isabella I of Castile in 1478 with the granting of the Marquisate of Gibraltar.
Castilian forces captured Gibraltar – eighth siege. (See Reconquista). An immediate dispute broke out between the House of Medina Sidonia (the Guzmán family) and the House of Arcos (the Ponce de León family) about the possession of the town. Finally, the initiative of Juan Alonso de Guzmán, 1st Duke of Medina Sidonia, succeeded and he took possession of the town as personal property. However, the King of Castile, Henry IV, declared Gibraltar to be Crown property and not the personal property of the Guzman family.
Henry IV restored the charter granted to Gibraltar in 1310 and took two additional measures: the lands previously belonging to Algeciras (destroyed in 1369) were granted to Gibraltar; and the status of collegiate church was solicited from the pope Pius II and granted to the parish church of Saint Mary the Crowned (Spanish: iglesia parroquial de Santa María la Coronada), now the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, on the site of the old main Moorish Mosque. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast falls on 20 August, became the Patron Saint of Gibraltar.
Image: Moors and Christian Battle of Marrakesh
During a tour through Andalusia, Henry IV of Castile is the first Christian monarch to visit Gibraltar.
The Kingdom of Gibraltar was one of the many historic substantive titles pertaining to the Castilian monarchy and its successor, the Spanish monarchy, belonging to what is known as Grand Title (Spanish: Título Grande). It was added to the monarchy titles by the King Henry, upon the addition of Gibraltar to the Crown patrimony in 1462.
Image: Henry IV of Castile
After the death of Alfonso de Castilla and the 1st Duke of Medina Sidonia who both died in 1468, the Duke’s son and heir Enrique de Guzmán, 2nd Duke of Medina Sidonia, changed side and in reward, saw the status of Gibraltar, as part of the domains of the Duke, confirmed by the Queen Isabella I of Castile.
Due to the proximity of Gibraltar with Africa and Granada and therefore the increased risk of capture, King Henry IV granted the town a new charter – theThe Antequera Charter – Fuero de Antequera, which consisted of the absolute exemption from the payment of all duties and taxes to the Crown. This was a further inducement to settlers.
The marquisate was a short-lived Castilian noble title (1478–1501), created by the Queen Isabella, (Henry IV successor), to reward the Duke. It belonged to the House of Medina Sidonia.
Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon – the Catholic Monarchs, (los Reyes Católicos), jointly rule the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, including Gibraltar. Isabella succeeded her brother, King Henry IV of Castile, as Queen of Castile and Ferdinand became jure uxoris, (by right of his wife), King of Castile in 1474.
When Ferdinand succeeded his father as King of Aragon in 1479, the Crown of Castile and the various territories of the Crown of Aragon were united in a personal union creating for the first time since the 8th century a single political unit referred to as España (Spain). The Catholic Monarchs started policies to diminish the power of the bourgeoisie and nobility in Castile, and greatly reduced the powers of the Cortes (General Courts) to the point where they ‘rubber-stamped’ the monarch’s acts, and brought the nobility to their side.
Image: The Kingdom of Castile in 1210
After conquering Granada, the Catholic Monarchs sign the Alhambra decree ordering the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, to take effect from 31 July 1492. Many passed through Gibraltar on their way into exile in North Africa.
With the institution of the Roman Catholic Inquisition in Spain, and with the Dominican friar Tomás de Torquemada as the first Inquisitor General, the Catholic Monarchs pursued a policy of religious and national unity. Queen Isabella opposed taking harsh measures against Jews on economic grounds, but Torquemada was able to convince Ferdinand. On 31 March 1492, the Catholic Monarchs signed the Alhambra decree ordering the expulsion of the Jews from Spain.
The Jews had until the end of July, three months, to leave the country and they were not to take gold, silver, money, arms, or horses with them. Many of these Jews passed through Gibraltar on their way into exile in North Africa.
Rather than face exile, a significant proportion of the remaining Jews were forced to, or chose to convert to Christianity and joined the already large converso community.
Conversos who did not fully or genuinely embrace Catholicism, but continued to practise Judaism in secrecy were referred to as judaizantes (“Judaizers“) and pejoratively as marranos (“swine”) and were subject to the Inquisition.
Image: Expulsions of Jews in Europe from 1100 to 1600 (click here to enlarge)
After the death of the former Duke, his son and heir, Juan Alfonso Perez de Guzman, 3rd Duke of Medina Sidonia saw his lordship over Gibraltar reluctantly renewed by the Catholic Monarchs.
Gibraltar became the main base in the conquest of Melilla by the troops of the Juan Alfonso Pérez de Guzmán, 3rd Duke of Medina Sidonia.
Melilla is a Spanish autonomous city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco. During the Middle Ages, it was the Berber city of Mlila. It was part of the Kingdom of Fez when the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon requested the Duke to take the city.
The Duke sent Pedro Estopiñán, who in 1497, conquered the city, virtually without a fight. This was a few years after Castile had taken control of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, the last remnant of Al-Andalus in 1492.
Image: Map of Melilla
Acknowledging the importance of the town, the Catholic Monarchs asked the Duke of Medina Sidonia for the return of Gibraltar to the domains of the crown. The Duke accepted the Royal request and ceded the town to the monarchs.
Image: Marriage portrait of Isabella and Ferdinand, who married on 18th October 1469
Garcilaso de la Vega took possession of the town on behalf of the Queen Isabella I of Castile.
Isabella was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Ávila, to John II of Castile and his second wife, Isabella of Portugal on 22 April 1451. At the time of her birth, she was second in line to the throne after her older half-brother Henry IV of Castile. Henry was 26 at that time and married, but childless.
Her younger brother Alfonso of Castile was born two years later in 1453, lowering her position to third in line. When her father died in 1454, her half-brother ascended to the throne as King Henry IV of Castile. Isabella and her brother Alfonso were left in King Henry’s care. She, her mother, and Alfonso then moved to Arévalo.
Image: Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504), queen of Castile and León.
By a Royal Warrant passed in Toledo by Isabella I of Castile, Gibraltar was granted its Coat of Arms: “An escutcheon on which the upper two thirds shall be a white field and on the said field set a red castle, and below the said castle, on the other third of the escutcheon, which must be a red field in which there must be a white line between the castle and the said red field, there shall be a golden key which hangs by a chain from the said castle, as are here figured”.
ByThe Castle and Key remain the Arms of Gibraltar to this day.
Image: The arms granted to the city of Gibraltar by a Royal Warrant passed in Toledo on 10 July 1502 by Isabella I of Castile
Alleging a false donation by the king Philip I of Castile, the Duke of Medina Sidonia attempted to recover Gibraltar by besieging the town. The siege was unsuccessful and the Duke was admonished by the Regency and forced to pay a fee to the town. The town received the title of “Most Loyal City”. The Duke died in 1507.
Spain becomes a united kingdom under the 15 year old Charles I.
Charles was the heir of three of Europe’s leading dynasties: Valois of Burgundy, Habsburg of Austria, and Trastámara of Spain. As heir of the House of Burgundy, he inherited areas in the Netherlands and around the eastern border of France. As the head of the House of Habsburg, he inherited Austria and other lands in central Europe, and was also elected to succeed his grandfather, Maximilian I, as Holy Roman Emperor. As a grandson of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, from the Spanish House of Trastámara he inherited the Crown of Castile, which was developing a nascent empire in the Americas and Asia, and the Crown of Aragon, which included a Mediterranean empire extending to southern Italy.
Charles was the first king to rule Castile and Aragon simultaneously in his own right (as a unified Spain), and as a result he is often referred to as the first king of Spain. The personal union under Charles of the Holy Roman Empire with the Spanish Empire was the closest Europe has come to a universal monarchy since the time of Charlemagne in the 9th century.
Image: Charles V in 1516
Barbary pirates, sometimes called Barbary or Ottoman corsairs, were Ottoman and Maghrebi pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of Salé, Rabat, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. This area was known in Europe as the Barbary Coast, a term derived from the name of its ethnically Berber inhabitants. Their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa’s Atlantic seaboard and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, but they primarily operated in the western Mediterranean.
In addition to seizing merchant ships, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns and villages, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, but also in the British Isles, the Netherlands, and as far away as Iceland. The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Arab slavery market in North Africa and the Middle East.
Image: British captain witnessing the miseries of Christian slaves in Algiers (click here to enlarge)
After the requests from the inhabitants of the town, Charles I of Spain (the Emperor Charles V) sent the Italian engineer Giovanni Battista Calvi to strengthen the defences of the town. A wall was built (nowadays known as Charles V Wall); also a ditch by the wall of the town and a drawbridge at the Landport (Puerta de Tierra).
Image: Upper section of Charles V Wall
Juan Mateos turned his large house in the Upper Town into a 20-bed infirmary, putting all his fortune towards running the hospital.
It was the result of seeing the difficult situation of the poor sick people in the town, and also of the miserable sight of the many ill sailors that arrived in Gibraltar after returning from the New World (many of whom suffered from a virulent form of syphilis, a disease that had had its European outbreak just a century before with ineffective treatment). Mateos’ spent almost nothing on himself and retained a small room in his former house for himself.
It was Gibraltar’s first hospital, and remained on the same site serving the people of Gibraltar for almost four and a half centuries.
Image: The Civil Hospital on the site of Mateos’ home
The Moriscos (the descendants of the Muslim inhabitants in Spain) were expelled from Spain, (between 1609 from Aragon and 1614 from Castile), by King Philip III. They were ordered to depart “under the pain of death and confiscation, without trial or sentence… to take with them no money, bullion, jewels or bills of exchange… just what they could carry.”
Many passed through Gibraltar on their way into exile in North Africa.
Image: The Expulsion of the Moors, Vicente Carducho, c.1627 (click here to enlarge)
The town was unsanitary and crowded, which probably contributed to the typhoid epidemic which killed a quarter of the population.
1st November 1700
King Charles II of Spain died leaving no descendants. In the autumn he had made a will naming his successor as Philip of Bourbon, a grandson of Louis XIV backed by France. Upon any possible refusal, the crown of Spain would be offered next to Philip’s younger brother, the Duke of Berry, and then to the Archduke Charles of Austria.
Archduke Charles, supported by the Holy Roman Empire, England and the Netherlands did not accept Charles II’s testament.
Image: Portrait of Charles II of Spain, Juan Carreño, c. 1685
1st November 1700
Following the death of his relative, Charles II of Spain, son of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Archduke Charles of Austria declares himself King of Spain.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, inside of Spain, the majority of the nobility of the Crown of Aragon supported Archduke Charles’ claim to the Spanish throne by right of his grandmother Maria Anna of Spain. Charles was even hailed as King of Aragon under the name Charles III.
Image: Coat of arms of Archduke Charles of Austria as claim to the Spanish throne, variant used in the peninsular territories of the Crown of Aragon Version with Supporters
16th November 1700
Philip of Anjou is proclaimed Philip V of Spain.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, inside Spain, the Crown of Castile supported Philip, whilst the Crown of Aragon supported Archduke Charles.
Image: Proclamation of Philip V as King of Spain in the Palace of Versailles on November 16, 1700
July 1701 – August 1714
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was a major European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death in 1700 of the last Habsburg King of Spain, the infirm and childless Charles II. Charles II had ruled over a vast global empire, and the question of who would succeed him had long troubled the governments of Europe. Attempts to solve the problem by peacefully partitioning the empire among the eligible candidates from the royal houses of France (Bourbon), Austria (Habsburg), and Bavaria (Wittelsbach) ultimately failed, and on his deathbed Charles II fixed the entire Spanish inheritance on his grandnephew Philip, Duke of Anjou, the second-eldest grandson of King Louis XIV of France. With Philip ruling in Spain, Louis XIV would secure great advantages for his dynasty, but some statesmen regarded a dominant House of Bourbon as a threat to European stability, jeopardising the balance of power.
To counter Louis XIV’s growing dominance, England, the Dutch Republic, and Austria – together with their allies in the Holy Roman Empire – re-formed the 1680s Grand Alliance (1701) and supported Emperor Leopold I‘s claim to the whole Spanish inheritance for his second son, Archduke Charles.
The English, the Dutch and the Austrians formally declared war in May 1702. By 1708, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy had secured victory in the Spanish Netherlands and in Italy, and had defeated Louis XIV’s ally Bavaria. But Allied unity broke and the Grand Alliance was defeated in Spain. With casualties mounting and aims of the Alliance diverging, the Tories came to power in Great Britain in 1710 and resolved to end the war, ceasing combat operations in 1712. The Dutch, Austrians, and German states fought on to strengthen their own negotiating position, but defeated by Marshal Villars, they had to accept Anglo-French mediation. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the Treaty of Rastatt (1714) ended the conflict by partitioning the Spanish empire. The Austrians received most of Spain’s former European realms, while the Duke of Anjou retained peninsular Spain and Spanish America, where, after renouncing his claim to the French succession, he reigned (with one brief interlude) as King Philip V until 1746.
Image: Europe in 1700, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession
7th September 1701
England, the Netherlands and Austria signed the Treaty of The Hague. By this treaty, they accepted Philippe of Anjou as King of Spain, but allotted Austria the Spanish territories in Italy and the Spanish Netherlands. England and the Netherlands, meanwhile, were to retain their commercial rights in Spain. Later (in 1703), Portugal, Savoy and some German states joined the alliance.
1st – 21st August 1704
The Capture of Gibraltar by Anglo-Dutch forces of the Grand Alliance occurred between 1–3 August 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. Since the beginning of the war the Alliance had been looking for a harbour in the Iberian Peninsula to control the Strait of Gibraltar and facilitate naval operations against the French fleet in the western Mediterranean Sea.
Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt represented the Habsburg cause in the region. In May 1704 the Prince and Admiral George Rooke, commander of the main Grand Alliance fleet, failed to take Barcelona in the name of ‘Charles III’; Rooke subsequently evaded pressure from his allies to make another attempt on Cádiz. In order to compensate for their lack of success the Alliance commanders resolved to capture Gibraltar. Following a heavy bombardment the town was invaded by English and Dutch marines and sailors.
The governor, Diego de Salinas, agreed to surrender Gibraltar and its small garrison on 3 August. Three days later Prince George entered the town with Austrian and Spanish Habsburg troops in the name of Charles III of Spain.
Image: View of Gibraltar taken by an officer of Admiral Sir George Rooke’s fleet on July 1704
5th September 1704 – 31st March 1705
At the start of the siege, Gibraltar was garrisoned by around 2,000 Dutch, English, Austrian and pro-Habsburg Spanish troops facing a besieging force of up to 8,000 French, pro-Bourbon Spanish and Irish troops. The defenders were able to hold off the numerically superior besieging force through exploiting Gibraltar’s geography and the small town’s fortifications, though they were frequently short of manpower and ammunition. The besiegers were undermined by disputes between the French and Spanish officers and terrible conditions in their trenches and bastions, which led to outbreaks of epidemic disease and undermined morale. Sea power proved crucial, as the French navy sought unsuccessfully to prevent the Grand Alliance shipping in fresh troops, ammunition and food. Three naval battles were fought during the siege, two of which were clear defeats for the French and the last of which resulted in the siege being abandoned as hopeless after nine months of fruitless shelling. The outcome was disastrous for the French and Bourbon Spanish side, which was said to have lost 10,000 men against only 400 for the Grand Alliance.
2nd August 1705 – 1711
During the rest of the War of the Spanish Succession, although nominally in the hands of the Archduke Charles, and garrisoned with both English and Dutch regiments, Britain began to monopolize the rule of the town. Even if the formal transfer of sovereignty would not take place until the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht, the British Governor and garrison become the de facto rulers of the town.
1705, 2 August – The Archduke Charles stopped over in Gibraltar on his way to the territories of the Crown of Aragon. The Prince of Hesse joined him, thus leaving the town (he would die one month later in the siege of Barcelona). The English Major General John Shrimpton was left as governor (appointed by the Archduke Charles on the recommendation of Queen Anne).
1706, 17 February – Queen Anne though not yet the legal ruler of the territory declared Gibraltar a free port (upon request of the Sultan of Morocco, who wanted Gibraltar being given this status in return for supplying the town).
1711 – The British government, then in the hands of the Tories, covertly ordered the British Gibraltar governor, Thomas Stanwix, to expel any foreign (not British) troops (to foster Great Britain’s sole right to Gibraltar in the negotiations running up between Britain and France). Although he answered positively, he allowed a Dutch regiment to stay. It remained there until March 1713.
Under Article X of the treaty, Spain cedes Gibraltar to Great Britain
11th April 1713
The territory was subsequently ceded to the Crown of Great Britain in perpetuity by Spain under article X of the Treaties of Utrecht. Despite some military attempts by the Spanish to retake it in the 18th century, most notably in the Great Siege of 1779–1783, the Rock has remained under British control ever since.
In that treaty, Spain ceded Great Britain “the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging … for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.”
The Treaty stipulated that no overland trade between Gibraltar and Spain was to take place, except for emergency provisions in the case that Gibraltar is unable to be supplied by sea. Another condition of the cession was that “no leave shall be given under any pretence whatsoever, either to Jews or Moors, to reside or have their dwellings in the said town of Gibraltar.” This was not respected for long and Gibraltar has had for many years an established Jewish community, along with Muslims from North Africa.
Finally, under the Treaty, should the British crown wish to dispose of Gibraltar, that of Spain should be offered the territory first.
Image: The pre-1801 Union Flag (of Great Britain). Note the term “King’s Colours”. This term is used by US-based flag makers and sellers because this was one of the flags used by the King’s forces during the American Revolutionary War.
12th April 1713 – 1728
Between 1713 and 1728, there were seven occasions when British ministers was prepared to bargain Gibraltar away as part of his foreign policy. However, the Parliament frustrated always such attempts, echoing the public opinion in Britain.
1721, March – Philip V of Spain requested the restitution of Gibraltar to proceed to the renewal of the trade licences of Great Britain with the Spanish possessions in America.
1721, 1 June – George I sent a letter to Philip V promising “to make use of the first favourable Opportunity to regulate this Article (the Demand touching the Restitution of Gibraltar), with the Consent of my Parliament“. However, the British Parliament never endorsed such promise.
1727, February-June – Second of the sieges by Spain tried to recapture Gibraltar (Thirteenth Siege of Gibraltar). Depending on the sources, Spanish troops were between 12,000 and 25,000. British defenders were 1,500 at the beginning of the siege, increasing up to about 5,000. After a five-month siege with several unsuccessful and costly attempts, Spanish troops gave up and retired.
1730 – A Belgian Engineer, the Marquis of Verboom, Chief Engineer of the Spanish Royal Engineer Corps, who had taken part in the 1727 siege, arrived in San Roque commissioned by the Spanish government to design a line of fortifications across the isthmus. Fort San Felipe and Fort Santa Barbara were built. The fortifications, known to the British as the Spanish Lines, and to Spain as La Línea de Contravalación were the origin of modern-day town of La Línea de la Concepción.
1749-1754 – Lieutenant General Humphrey Bland is the Governor of Gibraltar. He compiles the twelve “Articles” or regulations that ruled the administration of Gibraltar for over sixty years. First article, dealing with property, establishes that only Protestants may own property. In 1754 the population settled at around 6,000 people, with the garrison and their dependants constituting about three-quarters of it. The civilian population comprised mainly Genoese and Jews.
1776, 23 February – One of the heaviest storms ever recorded in Gibraltar. The lower part of the town was flooded. Linewall was breached along 100 m.
1779, June – In the midst of the American Revolutionary War, Spain declared war against Great Britain (as France had done the year before).
24th June 1779 – 7th February 1783
The Great Siege of Gibraltar (the fourteenth and last military siege of Gibraltar), was the longest (3 years & 7 months) and most famous of Gibraltar’s sieges. It was an unsuccessful attempt by Spain and France to capture Gibraltar from the British during the American War of Independence which broke out in 1775. This was the largest action fought during the war in terms of numbers, particularly the Grand Assault of 18 September 1782.
In 1779, Spain allied with France and declared war on Britain, the primary ambition of which being to recover Gibraltar. Bearing in mind the futility of previous sieges in which Gibraltar had been blockaded only by land, the Spanish launched a combined land and sea blockade in an attempt to starve the garrison into surrender. They bribed the sultan of Morocco into severing trade with Gibraltar and built booms to prevent ships landing supplies, while simultaneously blockading the isthmus with over 13,000 men, where work began on rebuilding the batteries from the previous siege 50 years earlier.
From the summer of 1780, Spanish forces attempted to bombard Gibraltar with fire ships and gunboats, while the British attempted to devise ways of frustrating these attacks as well as bombarding the Spanish camp with the few cannon that could reach. The Spanish bombardment continued throughout the siege, though slackening at times, but the naval blockade was intermittent, meaning that merchants were able to land and sell supplies to the garrison, preventing it from being starved into submission. The merchants also conveyed those civilians who could afford it away from the Rock, and so the civilian population gradually declined. The siege concluded after Britain ceded East and West Florida and Minorca to Spain in exchange for Gibraltar in lengthy negotiations facilitated by France.
1779, July – Start of the Siege. French and Spanish forces tried to wrest control of Gibraltar from the established British Garrison. The garrison, led by George Augustus Eliott, later 1st Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar, survived all attacks and a blockade of supplies.
1782, 13 September – Start of an assault involving 100,000 men, 48 ships and 450 cannon. The British garrison survived.
1783, February – By now the siege was over, and George Augustus Eliott was awarded the Knight of the Bath and was created 1st Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar. The Treaties of Versailles which ceded Minorca and Florida to Spain, reaffirmed previous treaties in the rest of issues, thus not affecting to Gibraltar.
1782 – Work on the Great Siege Tunnels started. The tunnels became a great and complex system of underground fortifications which nowadays criss-crosses the inside of the Rock. Once the Siege was over, the fortifications were rebuilt and, in the following century, the walls were lined with Portland limestone. Such stone gave the walls their present white appearance.
The successful resistance in the Great Siege is attributed to several factors: the improvement in fortifications by Colonel (later General Sir) William Green in 1769; the British naval supremacy, which translated into support of the Navy; the competent command by General George Augustus Elliot; and an appropriately sized garrison. As in the early years of the British period, during the Siege the British Government considered to exchange Gibraltar for some Spanish possession. However, by the end of the Siege the fortress and its heroic response to the siege was now acquiring a sort of cult status amongst the population in Britain and no exchange however attractive, was likely to be acceptable.
Malta voluntarily became part of the British Empire as a protectorate. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the island became a military and navel fortress for the British Mediterranean fleet. Although initially the island was not given much importance, its excellent harbours became a prized asset for the British, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The island became a military and naval fortress, the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet.
This increased the attractiveness of Gibraltar, since controlling both Gibraltar and Malta would mean the effective mastery of the Mediterranean Sea by the Royal Navy.
Image: Ensign of Malta in the 19th Century
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn took up his post on 24 May 1802 with express orders from the government to restore discipline among the drunken troops. The Duke’s harsh discipline precipitated a mutiny by soldiers in his own and the 25th Regiment on Christmas Eve 1802.
It was recognized at the time of his appointment that his predecessor, Charles O’Hara’s administration was permissive or relaxed (source: Gillen, pp. 153 & 157). It seems that Edward was told of this and that he should take the appropriate steps to bring the garrison back into line and the government would support him in his endeavours.
The Duke closed most of the wine houses in town (there were 90 of them) and reduced the licences for the sale of Malt liquor to three houses – The Three Light Infantrymen in Cooperage Lane, The Three Guns in Cannon Lane and the Halfway House (later the Three Grenadiers – between Southport and South Barracks).
“Edward also insisted on uniformity of the appearance of sentries. All sentries were ordered to don or remove greatcoats at the command of the orderly officer, and not merely when they felt too cold or too hot. At daylight every day each member of a guard or a picket had to wash, untie his hair, comb it, tie it afresh, and brush his clothes to the satisfaction of the orderly officer.” Source: McKenzie Porter Overture to Victoria (Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1961) p. 108.
A mutiny broke out. The Duke met this with firmness, seizing the head mutineers. Ten were found guilty and three were put to death.
The first merchant token to bear the name Gibraltar (albeit spelt Gibralter) was issued by Robert Keeling in order to alleviate a shortage of copper.
The real was the official currency of Gibraltar until 1825 and continued to circulate alongside other Spanish and British currencies until 1898.
3rd June 1803
Admiral Horatio Nelson is appointed Mediterranean commander-in-chief on 15th May 1803. His new command stretched from the straits of Gibraltar, all the way to Greece and Turkey.
Diplomatic relations between Britain and France were at crisis point and Britain declared war on France on May 16th.
He reached Gibraltar on 3 June, bringing the first news of the renewal of war following the collapse of the Peace of Amiens on 16 May 1803.
Image: Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott
The first reported victim of the 1804 Gibraltar yellow fever epidemic had recently returned from a trip to one of the Spanish port cities afflicted with yellow fever.
Medical authorities reported, “a shopkeeper, named Santo (a resident of Gibraltar) arrived from Cadiz on the 28th of August, 1804, and was taken ill on the 29th; he had lodged in a house at Cadiz, where some persons died of the then prevailing fever.” Santo was probably bitten by a mosquito carrying the yellow fever virus while in Spain and imported the virus into Gibraltar via his infected blood.
Timing is crucial since the outbreak of yellow fever in nearby Malaga had already prompted the enactment of a Gibraltarian government proclamation, dated 27th August, which ordered that “commencing with tomorrow and until further orders all communications with Spain both by Land and Sea shall be cut off. The impulse to close the open border was wise, though unfortunately too late, as Santo had just made his way back into Gibraltar. Under the threat of yellow fever, Santo appears to be one of the last to travel between the two countries.
Following Santos arrival in Gibraltar, it appears that many of his immediate neighbours in the Boyd’s Buildings patio, located in the centre of the town, were the first to be struck by yellow fever. Medical reports indicate that, Mrs. Fenton [wife to Bombardier Fenton of the Royal Artillery] was the second person attacked; she was taken ill on the 3rd of September, her
husband and a child of the name of Roland, were taken ill on the 8th, and died on the 12th. Mrs. Boyd, who had visited Mrs. Fenton, was taken ill on the 13th, and died on the 19th; her husband was taken ill on the 14th, and died on the 16th: all those families were neighbours.
By the end of September, the fever raged with such violence that it was necessary to force civilians to help remove the dead.
‘Mrs Baynes was obliged to put both Mr Frome and his wife in their coffins, not having any creature near her, nor could she get them buried till the Governor ordered some men who were then in the street to be pressed for that purpose. How the town is to be cleansed we can scarcely tell, we fear dead bodies are at this moment shut up, our men at the sick lines need to be forever running to the main guard to beg them to remove the dead from our street, there being six persons lying there, and there was no other chance of getting their dead buried but by doing so. Mrs Fletcher who is now a very pretty young woman, was seen throwing her father out of the chamber window‘.
After four months epidemic had run its course, leaving more than 5000 dead and many more incapacitated. It was reported that some 4864 civilians and 869 military perished during the course of the epidemic.
While yellow fever visited Gibraltar in 1810, 1813, 1814, and 1828, mortality in those epidemics was never as great as in 1804. The reduction in the mortality rate beginning with the 1810 epidemic was likely attributable to some degree of immunity built up among the inhabitants since 1804.
Source: Gibraltar’s 1804 Yellow Fever Scourge: The Search for Scapegoats
Image: click here to enlarge
21st October 1805
The Battle of Trafalgar was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1796–1815).
Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under the French Admiral Villeneuve in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar, near the town of Los Caños de Meca. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost. It was the most decisive naval battle of the war, conclusively ending French plans to invade England.
The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the eighteenth century and was achieved in part through Nelson’s departure from the prevailing naval tactical orthodoxy. Conventional practice, at the time, was to engage an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy, to facilitate signalling in battle and disengagement, and to maximise fields of fire and target areas. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns directed perpendicularly against the enemy fleet, with decisive results.
During the battle, Nelson was shot by a French musketeer; he died shortly thereafter, becoming one of Britain’s greatest war heroes. Villeneuve was captured along with his ship Bucentaure. Admiral Federico Gravina, the senior Spanish flag officer, escaped with the remnant of the fleet and succumbed months later to wounds sustained during the battle. Villeneuve attended Nelson’s funeral while a captive on parole in Britain.
Image: The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory. J. M. W. Turner (1806–1808)
Image: John Baptist Nosardy Zino
2nd May 1808 – 17th April 1814
The Peninsular War was a military conflict between Napoleon’s empire and the allied powers of Spain, Britain and Portugal, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war started when French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.
The War overlapped with what the Spanish-speaking world calls the Guerra de la Independencia Española (Spanish War of Independence), which began with the Dos de Mayo Uprising on 2 May 1808 and ended on 17 April 1814. The French occupation destroyed the Spanish administration, which fragmented into quarrelling provincial juntas.
A reconstituted national government, the Cádiz Cortes—in effect a government-in-exile—fortified itself in Cádiz in 1810, but could not raise effective armies because it was besieged by 70,000 French troops. British and Portuguese forces eventually secured Portugal, using it as a safe position from which to launch campaigns against the French army and provide whatever supplies they could get to the Spanish, while the Spanish armies and guerrillas tied down vast numbers of Napoleon’s troops. These combined regular and irregular allied forces, by restricting French control of territory, prevented Napoleon’s marshals from subduing the rebellious Spanish provinces, and the war continued through years of stalemate.
Image: 2nd May 1808: the defenders of Monteleón make their last stand
14th February 1810
The Governor of Gibraltar removed the Spanish forts of San Felipe and Santa Barbara, located on the northern boundary of the neutral ground. Fearing that the forts might fall into French hands, Lieutenant General Sir Colin Campbell instructed Royal Engineers to blow the forts up. Such a task was carried out on 14 February together with the demolition of the rest of the fortifications of the Spanish Lines. On the evening of 14 February 1810, thousands of people crowded onto Gibraltar’s walls and bastions to watch the demolitions taking place.
The London Chronicle noted, “every part of the garrison facing the Spanish Lines was crowded with Spectators, to witness the explosion which was truly grand and picturesque … the entire front of [Forts San Felipe and Santa Bárbara] being blown into the ditch, and the whole rendered a complete mass of ruins.” The line of fortifications between the two forts was also demolished, along with various other Spanish fortifications around the bay. The debris was hauled away by volunteers from Gibraltar, British soldiers and allied Portuguese sailors from ships in the bay. The demolition achieved its desired objectives; the lines could no longer be used to besiege Gibraltar and they could not be rebuilt by the French without enduring British cannon fire and Spanish guerilla attacks in their rear lines. The French made no attempt to attack Gibraltar and focused their efforts on Cádiz and Tarifa instead.
Image: Spanish Lines at the time of the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779–83) Click here to enlarge
The civilian population of Gibraltar was about 10,000 people (two and a half times the size of the garrison). Genoese constituted about one-third of the civilian population (a large number of immigrants had arrived from Genoa at the beginning of the century). The rest were mainly Spaniards and Portuguese fled from the war, and Jews from Morocco.
Image: Civilian population in Gibraltar according to the censuses from 1725 to 2001
The legal system in Gibraltar had been based on English Common and Statute Law since 10th May 1740 when a Charter of Justice granted by George II formally introduced English law to the territory, thereby replacing Spanish Law.
Image: Coat of arms of the HM Government of Gibraltar Version adopted in 2014
The British government changes the status of Gibraltar from The town and garrison of Gibraltar to the Crown Colony of Gibraltar. Thus, the responsibility for its administration is transferred from the War Office to the new Colonial Office.
Legal institutions and the Gibraltar Police Force were established.
The Royal Gibraltar Police, previously the Gibraltar Police Force is the oldest police force in the Commonwealth of Nations outside of the United Kingdom, having been formed just nine months after Sir Robert Peel founded the Metropolitan Police in London.
1st August 1841
The Europa Point Lighthouse, also referred to as the Trinity Lighthouse at Europa Point was inaugurated in a brief ceremony witnessed by about 10,000 people.
The lighthouse first underwent construction in 1838. Sir Alexander George Woodford, Governor of Gibraltar from 1835 – 1842, set the first stone for the lighthouse’s foundation on 26 April 1838, with the aid of the Masonic Order of Gibraltar.
Photo: Trinity Lighthouse 1879
21st August 1842
The Church of England Diocese of Gibraltar was founded by Letters Patent and took over the pastoral care of the chaplaincies and congregations from Portugal to the Caspian Sea. George Tomlinson is enthroned as the first Bishop of Gibraltar.
The Church of the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar becomes Cathedral for the Diocese.
Image: Diocese in Europe
17th November 1869
The Suez Canal was opened. It heavily increased the strategic value of the Rock in the route from the United Kingdom to India. Gibraltar economy, mainly based on commercial shipping and import-export trade, takes a new income source with the opening of a coaling station for the new steam ships.
17th March 1891
The passenger steamer SS Utopia was accidentally blown onto the ram of the anchored Anson during a strong gale in the Bay of Gibraltar. It sank in less than twenty minutes. Out of the 880 passengers and crew of the Utopia and the two rescuers from HMS Immortalité, 562 were killed in the accident.
The sinking of Utopia was blamed on “grave error of judgement” of her captain John McKeague, who survived the accident.
Image: Sketch of the sinking of Utopia by a witness, Ms. Georgina Smith
5th August 1908
The British Ambassador in Madrid informed the Spanish Minister of State ‘as an act of courtesy’, of the British Government’s intention to build a fence along the line of British sentries on the isthmus to prevent smuggling and reduce sentry duty.
According to the British government, the fence was erected 1 metre inside British territory. Spain currently does not recognize the fence as the valid border, since it claims the fence was built on Spanish soil. Even though Spain, the United Kingdom and Gibraltar are all part of the European Union, the border fence is still relevant today since Gibraltar is outside the customs union. The border crossing is open 24-hours a day as required by EU law.
Image source: Gibraltar Panorama Paper May 20, 2015
28th July 1914 – 11th November 1918
The value of the naval base in Gibraltar was soon apparent when the First World War broke out in August 1914. Only a few minutes after the declaration of war went into effect at midnight on 3/4 August, a German liner was captured by a torpedo boat from Gibraltar, followed by three more enemy ships the following day.
Although Gibraltar was well away from the main battlefields of the war – Spain remained neutral and the Mediterranean was not contested as it was in the Second World War – it played an important role in the Allied fight against the German U-boat campaign. The naval base was heavily used by Allied warships for resupplying and repairs.
The Bay of Gibraltar was also used as a forming-up point for Allied convoys, while German U-boats stalked the Strait looking for targets. On two occasions, Gibraltar’s guns unsuccessfully fired on two U-boats travelling through the Strait. Anti-submarine warfare was in its infancy and it proved impossible to prevent U-boats operating through the Strait. Only two days before the end of the war, on 9 November 1918, SM UB-50 torpedoed and sank the British battleship HMS Britannia off Cape Trafalgar to the west of Gibraltar.
Image: Courtesy of J. LaRocque Anderson, 1930. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.
24th July 1930
The Gibraltar Museum is a national museum of history, culture and natural history located within the city centre of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. Founded in 1930 by the then Governor of Gibraltar, General Sir Alexander Godley, the museum houses an array of displays portraying The Rock’s millennia-old history and the unique culture of its people. The museum also incorporates the remains of a 14th-century Moorish bath house. Its director since 1991 is Prof. Clive Finlayson.
17th July 1936 – 1st April 1939
After the United Kingdom recognised the Franco‘s regime in 1938, Gibraltar had two Spanish Consulates, a Republican one and a Nationalistic one. Several incidents took place during the Spanish Civil War which affected Gibraltar.
In May 1937, HMS Arethusa had to tow HMS Hunter into port after Hunter hit a mine off Almeria that killed and wounded several British sailors. In June 1937, the German pocket battleship Deutschland arrived in Gibraltar with dead and wounded after Republican planes bombed it in Ibiza in retaliation for the Condor Legion‘s bombing of Guernica.
In August 1938, the Republican destroyer Jose Luis Diez took refuge in Gibraltar after taking casualties from the guns of the National cruiser Canarias.
The one incident that resulted in the death of Gibraltarians occurred on 31 January 1938 when the insurgent submarine General Sanjurjo sank the SS Endymion, a small Gibraltar-registered freighter taking a cargo of coal to Cartagena, which was chartered by the Republican government. Eleven members of her crew were killed.
Image: Residents of Gibraltar and Spanish refugees watch the bombardment of Algeciras 10th August 1936 (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images. See more photos).
1st September 1939 – 2nd September 1945
During World War II, Gibraltar served a vital role in both the Atlantic Theatre and the Mediterranean Theatre, controlling virtually all naval traffic into and out of the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition to its commanding position, Gibraltar provided a strongly defended harbour from which ships could operate in both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Force H, under the command of Vice-Admiral James Somerville was based in Gibraltar and had the task of maintaining naval superiority and providing a strong escort for convoys to and from the besieged island of Malta. During the course of the war, Gibraltar came under aerial bombardment from Vichy French aircraft and from aircraft of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) based on Sardinia. Additionally, the fortress was the focus of underwater attacks by the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) commando frogman unit (Decima Flottiglia MAS) and their human torpedoes. This Italian unit was based on the interned Italian ship SS Olterra in the nearby Spanish harbour of Algeciras. A number of attacks were also carried out by Spanish and Gibraltarian agents acting on behalf of the German Abwehr.
Inside the Rock of Gibraltar itself, miles of tunnels were excavated from the limestone. Masses of rock were blasted out to build an “underground city”. In huge man-made caverns, barracks, offices, and a fully equipped hospital were constructed, complete with an operating theatre and X-ray equipment.
Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, was coordinated from the “Rock”. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was given command of the operation, set up his headquarters in Gibraltar during the planning phases of the operation. Following the successful completion of the North African campaign and the surrender of Italy in 1943, Gibraltar’s role shifted from a forward operating base to a rear-area supply position. The harbour continued to operate dry docks and supply depots for the convoy routes through the Mediterranean until V-E Day in 1945.
Image: Searchlights in the night sky during an air-raid practice on Gibraltar, 20 November 1942
6th April 1944
The situation in Gibraltar is considered safe and the first of the evacuees return to Gibraltar. On 6 April 1944 the first group of 1,367 repatriates arrived on The Rock directly from the United Kingdom and on 28 May, the first repatriation party left Madeira, and by the end of 1944 only 520 non-priority evacuees remained on the island.
The last of the evacuees did not see The Rock again until 1951.
Image: Monument to the evacuation of Gibraltarians, North Mole Road, Gibraltar
Gibraltar’s first Legislative Council was opened. Prior to 1950, the Governor-in-Council retained the legislative power in the then Crown colony. The creation of the legislature gave some limited autonomy, with seven members of the Legislative Council being elected from the 1950s on.
Image: Parliament Building from Main Street
24th April 1951
The RFA Bedenham explodes while docked in Gun Wharf, Gibraltar, 13 people were killed in the explosion and the hundreds of injured were taken to the Royal Naval Hospital, (then known as the British Military Hospital Gibraltar).
In addition to the human casualties, many buildings suffered substantial damage, including the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the Covent, (the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar).
Image: RFA Bedenham c.1950
10th May 1954
This was the 250th anniversary of its capture. Queen Elizabeth II visited Gibraltar, which angered General Franco, who renewed its claim to sovereignty, which had not been actively pursued for over 150 years.
This led to the closure of the Spanish consulate and to the imposition of restrictions on freedom of movement between Gibraltar and Spain. By the 1960’s, motor vehicles were being restricted or banned from crossing the border, while only Spanish nationals employed on the Rock were allowed to enter Gibraltar.
At the United Nations, Spain, which had just been admitted to membership, initiated a claim to the territory, arguing that the principle of territorial integrity, not self-determination, applied in the case of the decolonization of Gibraltar, and that the United Kingdom should cede sovereignty of the Rock to Spain. Madrid gained diplomatic support from countries in Latin America, with the UN General Assembly passing resolutions (2231 (XXI), “Question of Gibraltar” and 2353 (XXII), “Question of Gibraltar”).
1965 April – The British Government published a White Paper dealing with the question of Gibraltar and the Treaty of Utrecht.
1966 – In response, the Spanish Foreign Office Minister Fernando Castiella, published and presented to the Spanish Courts the “Spanish Red Book” (named so because of its cover; its reference is “Negociaciones sobre Gibraltar. Documentos presentados a las Cortes Españolas por el Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores”, Madrid, 1967).
Image: Emblem of the United Nations
10th September 1967
The first sovereignty referendum was held on 10 September, in which Gibraltar’s voters were asked whether they wished to either pass under Spanish sovereignty, or remain under British sovereignty, with institutions of self-government.
Upon the request of resolution 2070 of the United Nations General Assembly (approved on 16 December 1965), in 1966 the governments of Spain and Great Britain started formal talks on Gibraltar. On 18 May 1966, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fernando Castiella made a formal proposal to Her Majesty’s Government comprising three clauses:
1. The cancellation of the Treaty of Utrecht and the subsequent return of Gibraltar to Spain.
2. The presence of the British in the Royal Navy base in Gibraltar, its use being subject to a specific Anglo-Spanish agreement.
3. A “Personal Statute” for Gibraltarians, under United Nations guarantee, protecting their cultural, social and economic interest in Gibraltar or anywhere else in Spain, including their British nationality. “(An) appropriate [..] administrative formula” should also be agreed on.
The Spanish proposal was made by the Spanish government while the Francoist regime was in power, which did not allow its own citizens the civil liberties that the British government guaranteed to the Gibraltarians.
Furthermore, the Spanish economy, though steadily growing, was weaker than the British, and working-class people across the frontier were living in a state of great poverty.
The options presented to Gibraltarians were:
1. To pass under Spanish sovereignty in accordance with the terms proposed by the Spanish Government; or
2. Retain their link with Britain, with democratic local institutions. Britain retaining its present responsibilities.
Over 99% voted in favour of remaining British.
The Gibraltar National Archives were established in 1969 following Gibraltar’s first constitution. The institution is responsible not only for the collection and preservation of public records, but for providing access to the records that may be released to the public and to academic researchers in those cases where records can be released.
Besides public records, historical records from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries are also deposited in the Gibraltar Archives. Such records were donated from bodies and institutions that took part in any way in the administration of Gibraltar.
Private individuals, groups and associations have also donated records to the Gibraltar Archives.
30th May 1969
A new constitution for Gibraltar was introduced by the United Kingdom Parliament, under the initiative of the British Government (Gibraltar Constitution Order 1969). Under it, Gibraltar attained full internal self-government, with an elected House of Assembly. The City Council and the Legislative Council disappeared. The preamble to the Constitution stated that:
“Her Majesty’s Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.”
Image: The Gibraltar 1969 Constitution preamble engraved onto a stalactite at the Gibraltar Museum.
6th June 1969
In response, Spain closed the border with Gibraltar, and severed all communication links. For about 13 years, the land border was closed from the Spanish side, in an attempt to isolate the territory. However, the closure affected both sides of the border. Gibraltarians with families in Spain had to go by ferry to Tangier, Morocco and from there to the Spanish port of Algeciras, whilst the 4,800 or so Spanish workers who entered Gibraltar every day, lost their jobs.
Image: Opening of the gate of Gibraltar to pedestrians in 1982. See more images