The People of Gibraltar
1808 - Emanuel Viale - Meddling and Officious

Castaños and Dalrymple - Ballesteros, Prince Leopold, and Clayton
Don Felix Herrera and Juan Viale - Major Cox and General Don
Angela Massa Viale and the Duke of Kent - Captain Charles Rochfort Scott 

On the second day of May 1808 the people of Madrid rebelled against French troops that were occupying the city. It provoked a brutal repression by Napoleon's forces triggering the start of the Peninsular War - or as the Spaniards prefer to call it - La Guerra de la Independencia.


Los Fusilamientos del 3 de Mayo ( Francisco de Goya)

Some 500 kilometres south of Madrid, the Governor of the Campo de Gibraltar, General Francisco Javier Castaños, received the news at his headquarters in Algeciras with complete equanimity. Perhaps he may have even nodded his head and smiled his approval.


General Francisco Javier Castaños ( Unknown )

He had always been a staunch nationalist and very much opposed to French presence on Spanish soil. So much so that during the years in which Spain had technically been an ally of France - and at war with Britain - he had maintained an exceptionally good relationship with his opposite number on the Rock - General Sir Hew Whitefoord Dalrymple.


General Sir Hew Whitefoord Dalrymple ( Unknown )

The uprising also convinced him that it was time to make full use of that relationship. The man he chose to carry the news to Dalrymple was Emanuel Viale, a member of a prominent Gibraltar family of Genoese origins.

Viale was born in Gibraltar in 1775 and it has been claimed that his family had been residents on the Rock since well before 1704. Whether this is true or not is debateable as Emanuel's father Juan Viale, was born in Genoa and is known to have arrived in Gibraltar in 1737 when he was eight years old.


Gibraltar one year after Juan Viale arrived ( 1738 - Tindal and Rapin)  

By the middle of the century Juan Viale's influence in the affairs of Gibraltar cannot have been done any harm when he married Mary, the illegitimate daughter of Lieutenant General Jasper Clayton, Governor of Gibraltar in the early 18th century. Viale had by now become one of the leading merchants on the Rock. In the 1777 census he appears under the catch-all category of 'sutler'. His young son is registered as Manuel.

By the end of the Great Siege, Juan Viale had become a very rich man. B. Cornwell, ( see LINK ) a local resident who wrote a first-hand account of the Great Siege, mentions the Viale residence as being among the more prominent ones destroyed during the Spanish bombardment. When his father died Emanuel, of course, inherited his father's wealth and influence, but there is also evidence to suggest that by that time he had already managed to accumulate a small fortune of his own.

In 1803 a Spaniard by the name of Rosendo José Gutiérez applied for the position of Spanish Vice-consul in Gibraltar. Gutiérez was vigorously opposed by Viale who realised that his appointment would have serious repercussions on contraband - which Gutiérez was fiercely against and which Viale counted as one of his principal sources of income.

Viale should not have worried. There was very little that the Spanish authorities could do to stop the enormous illegal traffic of goods from Gibraltar to Spain. According to Carlos Posac Mon writing in the Almoraima journal, the eventual appointment of Gutiérez would hardly make a dent in reducing Viale's wealth;
'. . . la riada de gente que pasaba el rastrillo de la línea fronteriza con Gibraltar procedente de las localidades próximas. Figuraban en ella hombres y mujeres, paisanos y militares, tanto soldados como jefes superiores . . . . . el bochornoso trafico que se hacía por aquella vía terrestre, parejo al que efectuaban por mar buen numero de contrabandistas.'
To make matters worse all land traffic theoretically required a permit signed by Castaños which obliged people to register at the frontier both when they left and when they returned. Unfortunately - for those against smuggling - it only took a small bribe for the frontier guards to turn a blind eye.

Later that same year Viale organised a sumptuous meal during Semana Santa in which his guests of honour were General Castaños and Señor Pedro Creus, the Oidor or Principle Judge of Seville. This may have been the beginning of his political relationship with the Spanish Governor as there is little doubt that his contraband was being actively sanctioned by the Spanish authorities. Part of his friendship with Castaños was probably based on the value of the bribes which Viale paid him in order to gain protection for his smuggling activities.

As regards Pedro Creus, one can almost take it as a given that Viale - protected by Castaños - supplied him with contraband tobacco which Creus in turn sold to the Real Fábrica de Tabacos in Seville in which Carmen worked as a cigarrera in Bizet's famous opera of the same name.

Several months later Viale locked horns once again with the Spanish vice-consul. Two French frigates called Prudente and Timeoleón were captured just off Punta Carnero by British ships. As the attack had taken place in Spanish waters, Gutiérez tried to get them released and returned to their owners. The first session was held in front of the Tribunal of the Vice-admiralty in Gibraltar. It was a hot summer's day. Viale - who was suspected of having been in cahoots with the privateers who had captured the ships - acted as fiscal attorney and argued the case against the return of the ships. It was a harangue that lasted for over two hours.

When the Spanish Vice-consul tried to present his side of the story, he was told that he would have to leave it for another day. They had run out of time. Viale must have left the court with a smirk on his face but in proved a pyrrhic victory; the Tribunal decided to release the ships and the Vice-consul was able to sail them back to Algeciras.

Over the years Viale extended his influence and became the confidant to several of Gibraltar's Governors - including the Duke of Kent. (See LINK) His relationship with Dalrymple, however, seems to have been particularly harmonious. In 1807 he was asked to prepare a report on Gibraltar's trade.

His recommendations showed a shrewd understanding of the real politics of both local and British interests - as well as his own. Spanish nationals who wanted to be part of the profitable contraband in tobacco should be encouraged to do so - as long as they were also required to carry British manufactured goods. It meant an increase in profits for the local merchants, and from the British point of view, a welcome breach in Napoleon's Continental System.

Dalrymple left a record of his meeting with Viale and his news from General Castaños about the May uprising. The Governor's previously dealings with him seems to have convinced him of Viale's reliability. The following passage appears in Dalrymple's memoirs.
On the 8th of April the arrival of a confidential agent from General Castaños, to inform me of the actual state of things with an accurate detail of late events; and to commence that confidential communication which henceforth subsisted between us, gave my subsequent reports to government, a new and more interesting character.
Throughout this period the Governor and the General communicated through various agents, Castaños tending to use either his secretary, Don Francisco Fontilla or Don Felix Herrera who later took over as Spanish Consul in Gibraltar. Viale, however, seems to have been Dalrymple's favourite conduit.


The 'Neutral Ground'. 
The Spanish lines had yet to be destroyed and the frontier control was close to the Fort of San Felipe shown on the bottom left on this map. This is probably where British and Spanish agents - including Emanuel Viale - met to discuss the progress of the war. ( 1799 - Barbie du Bocage) 

Frequent meetings took place 'under feigned names and figurative expressions'. and on several occasions Viale and the Spanish agents actually met face to face on the Spanish lines as did the two Governors.

It may have been as a result of these services rendered that some historians have identified Viale as a member of the King’s Messenger Corp. If so it identifies him as a person of considerable importance in Gibraltar. Even today the number of people who occupy a similar post is unknown for reasons of diplomatic secrecy but it has been estimated that in 2005 there were only 15 of these James Bond like figures.

My own feeling is that this is a misrepresentation of his role as go-between. Fundamentally he was a Spanish agent, a friend of Castaños who just happened to be a rich and influential resident of Gibraltar. Dalrymple for example, actually thought of him as Spanish - despite insisting in calling him by the unmistakably Italian name of Viali.


General Dupont surrenders his army to General Castaños, the leader of the Spanish Army of Andalucía, after the Battle of Bailén. It was an event that broke the myth of Napoleonic invincibility. It is curious to speculate whether the General's success - he was after all just the commander of a relatively insignificant rural area in southern Spain - would have been possible without the help of Dalrymple, and the merchants of Gibraltar who helped finance his army ( see LINK ) - or that of Emanuel Viale who acted as go-between throughout.
( Casado del Alisal ) 

Several months later in September 1808, a certain tension became evident between Viale and the British authorities. Most of this stemmed from the interventions of a certain Major William Cox who was Dalrymple's contact - or confidential agent - with the Spanish Junta Suprema de Sevilla and in particular with a priest by the name of Father Manuel Gil who was very pro British.

At one particularly critical meeting Major Cox was incensed by Viale's support for the Neapolitan Prince Leopold of Borbone -Two Sicilies. The proposal was to make Leopold either Regent of the Kingdom or President of the Junta - either of which the British Government were totally against.

Viale's 'conduct', wrote Cox, was 'indiscrete and improper' and his actions both 'meddling and officious in the extreme'. To make matters worse, his literacy left much to be desired. The letter he had written to the junta was 'ambiguous', with 'unconnected sentences' and 'not perfectly legible'.

Viale's support for Prince Leopold is understandable - he was Gibraltar consul to the Kingdom of the two Sicilies. The King had sent his son to Gibraltar in order to make a bid for the throne of Spain and it was Viale who had looked after him during his stay. The good consul must have given the Prince an exceptionally good time because when he returned home he rewarded Viale with the knighthood of the Constantinian Order - the first and probably the only knighthood of this type ever given to a citizen of Gibraltar.


Prince Leopoldo Giovanni Guiseppe Michelle of Borbone-Two Sicilies (Unknown)

As the knighthood happened to be gazetted in London, Viale immediately decided that in future he would to be known as Sir Emanuel and it is with this title that he appears on most documents after this date. Many years later in 1813, he added to his many honorary appointments when the Prince Regent approved his position as consul in Gibraltar for the Emperor of all the Russias.

But the tensions with Major Cox and British recognition of the various Spanish Juntas gradually made Viale's role untenable and in the end more or less redundant. As the Governor put it in his memoirs:
Mr Viali acquitted himself of the services for which he had been selected by General Castaños with zeal and fidelity; but when the Juntas were established, and my intercourse with the Spanish authorities were direct and official, I had no further communication with Mr. Viali on political matters; indeed he never was further in my confidence than was necessary for the communications with General Castaños.
What Dalrymple was unaware of - or chose to ignore - was that Viale still had the confidence of Castaños. In fact although Dalrymple and the British authorities in Gibraltar may have no longer felt any need for his services, he definitely retained his contacts and influence in Spain.

Shortly after Henry Wellesley was appointed British Ambassador in Cadiz he was introduced to Viale and was soon using him on various delicate missions. Wellesley - brother to Arthur Wellesley the eventual Duke of Wellington - had recently been forced to divorce his wife who had run off with a dashing cavalry officer. Perhaps Sir Henry found solace in the company of his new-found, exuberant and perhaps to him, rather exotic agent.


Henry Wellesley the 1st Baron Cowley ( Unknown )

And Viale was certainly exotic in more ways than one. When Sir Henry appointed him as head of trade to Morocco, the first thing he did on arrival in Marrakesh was to splash out lavishly on the embassy's furniture and fittings in the hope of achieving Wellesley's remit as quickly as possible - as well as improving his own finances in the process. According to the Gibraltarian historian Tito Benady, he was not particularly successful in either and his attempts at making a fortune out of trade with Morocco came to nothing.

The scale of Viale's failure to achieve his aims was well summarised by the French consul at Genoa. In a report to his bosses in Paris the consul suggested that Sir Emanuel had ‘more spirit than good judgement,’ and that ‘the smallness of his fortune’ did ‘not measure up to his great passion for show and ostentation'. Whatever money he had before he had arrived in Morocco had ‘disappeared in smoke.’

On yet another semi-political front, Viale corresponded with the Duke of Kent,  keeping him informed of the progress of the Peninsular War. The Duke, of course, was still the nominal Governor of Gibraltar. As a man who obviously enjoyed intrigues, Viale would almost certainly have had quite a few things to gossip about with his royal friend.


Prince Edward - Duke of Kent

But perhaps his most extraordinary connection was that with the Sir Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay and Britain's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Lisbon. From the of August 1810 right through to December that same year he bombarded the Honourable Sir Charles with a series of letters informing him of - among other convoluted financial matters  - the movement of French troops in Southern Spain.



Viale's Letter to Sir Charles Stuart dated 27th July 1810
( Courtesy of Allan Maki, President of Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd - Napoleonic War Archive )

The letter of the 27th July reads as follows
Dear Sir, The favor of your Note 6th Ulto did not reach me until 24th Inst when Mr Casamajor  (Stuart’s Secretary ) was just going to embark. The Gib Chronicle (see LINK) has been forwarded regularly either direct or thro’ Cadiz ever since I recd your order for this purpose thro’ Mr Hamilton your P.S. (Private Secretary]) & will continue to be sent.
General Blake arrived yesterday in HMS Eagle & proceeds this Even for his destination General Lacy’s headquarter one aft Roque. The French have made a Genl movement withdrawing their forces from Marvella, the Surrat & Nenda & Malaga & even Granada with what object t’is difficult to conjecture perhaps in reality none but to deceive.
Others are slated to have left Seville & taken a circuitous march to Cordova, Jaen, & Granada for Malaga on the latter Place many empty wagons are arrived. The Chief of the Patriots (Dr Juan Becera) writes to me from Squalejas (two leagues from Ronda) a Town wh(ich) the Enemy have not ever been able to enter. He has 1 000 Patriots with him. The French Garrison at Ronda did not exceed 700. He has Since had some Skirmishes with the Enemy – the Spirit of the People continues unabated. But security depends on the success of the war & brave Lord Wellington which I sincerely wish may be complete.
I beg to assure you of my profound respect & am SirYour most obedt humble ServtEmanuel Viale 

Viale's Letter to Sir Charles Stuart dated 11th August 1810
( Courtesy of Allan Maki, President of Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd - Napoleonic War Archive )

The letter of the 11th of August reads as follows
Dear Sir,The Enemy attacked the points? Of Pedrogrozo & Casas del Casaño road between Medina Sidonia & Algeciras Bay were repulsed – The French are making a road between Mijas & Marvella (Marbella) to bring artillery from Malaga have been interrupted & their progress rendered useless. From before Tortosa the Enemy has withdrawn: Cadiz busy with Cortes which I fear will not assemble so soon as maybe wished.I remain very faithfully your most obedient ServantEmanuel Viale 

Viale's Letter to Sir Charles Stuart dated 13th December 1810 ( Courtesy of Allan Maki, President of Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd - Napoleonic War Archive )

The letter of the 13th December reads as follows
Dear Sir,On Friday last in the Evening I was favored with your Letter 29th November ultimo relative to a loan for the immediate redemption of the Portuguese Slaves at Algiers on the Basis therein Stated. I could not have any interview with Mr Judah Benoliel, the Principal & directing Partner of the House of Trade of Benoliel, Arengo & Co to which I conjectured you alluded/ until Sunday when he expressed the difficulties of which I was aware: Scarcity of Specie and high rate of Exchange on England which affords greater advantage to any which might be derived from so great an advance as that Solicited – he Stated that the liberal terms on which he had supplied 50 [thousand?] $ (Spanish Dollars) towards the first installment of which he had only been reimbursed about 17 [thousand?]. 
He however referred me to a future conference after he would consider the matter – this took place Yesterday. He then repeated that altho’ he could raise the Sum by drawing upon England and from other Sources. He could not do this now owing to the rise of the Exchange without a great loss to which if common Interest on money alone was added the demand might Sound like exorbitance or usury when in fact it would be neither – That Nevertheless he would enter into a Contract for the Advance to be paid in Brazil Produce Specifying the Articles, Brazil Sugar; Hides & Cocoa / excluding altogether Tobacco, at a price to be Stipulated, And that as the fulfillment of his part would be a matter of certainty, he must likewise require a Guarantee from you on behalf of the British Government for the delivery of the Articles in Rio Janeiro or elsewhere as might be agreed. 
This Sir is the result of what passed with Mr Benoliel and altho’ I think them the most likely to enter into a matter of this magnitude, I thought it right Nevertheless to communicate Your letter to the other principal Merchants and did so in extensor as you will find by the inclosed Copy of My Note accompanying it – On this second endeavour of course I cannot yet say anything – But at all Events I think nothing would be concluded without Special Authority & instructions from the Regency & yourself which might be sent to the Portuguese Agent here exclusively, or joined to me, or in any other way which your better Judgment might Suggest, relying upon my Zeal in any share of the arrangement which may be confided to me as far as my abilities will allow –
I have the honor to be very respectfully SirYour most Obedient humble ServantEmanuel Viale
In 1812 his close friendship with General Francisco Ballesteros - another leading light in the Peninsular War - is borne out by a letter which the General sent him right after his triumph at Bornos in 1812.
Mi querido Viale: tengo la satisfacción de decir a vmd. que he batido y derrotado completamente al general Semelé, habiendo perdido todo el bagaje, un obús, todo el Parque de Artillería, infinidad de caballos y mulas, dejando el campo sembrado de cadáveres; fue sorprendido este famoso general, y salió en camisa buscando su caballo, en fin la fiesta ha sido completa. La marcha combinada en tres direcciones desde Los Barrios, San Roque y Algeciras, ha dado este día glorioso para nuestras armas. Estoy acampado y no tengo lugar para ser más largo  . . . 
That Ballesteros thought it fit to address Viale as vmd - short for Vuestra Merced - is an interesting point. In those days the term tended to be reserved for people who were either noblemen or held in exceptionally high esteem. Ballesteros, a proud and arrogant individual, was not the kind of person to use such a mode of address indiscriminately.

Unfortunately Viale soon lost his influential friend. In 1812, unwilling to accept a foreigner - Wellesley - as supreme commander of the Spanish Army, Ballesteros mutinied and was imprisoned in Ceuta.
General Francisco Ballesteros

When Viale returned to Gibraltar after his expensive fiasco in Marrakesh he was appointed the first - and for quite a while the only - Roman Catholic Justice of the Peace on the Rock. Despite his financial problems he still had his eleven bedroom house in Irish Town to fall back on. However his debts were continuing to accumulate and his lack of funds was quite evident in the appearance of a house in City Mill Lane which he part owned. It was so dilapidated that the authorities wanted to have it condemned.

His problems eventually caught up with him in the form of a massive debt of over £5000 which he owed to a local company called Ward and Thompson. In 1816, at the insistence of the owner of the company - the British merchant William Duguid -who was also the chairman of the Exchange and Commercial Library (see LINK) - he was arrested and jailed for non-payment of the debt. He eventually managed to obtain bail but the stress was obviously becoming too much for him. Shortly after being - rather surprisingly - appointed French consul, he died leaving his wife Angela Massa Viale completely penniless.

Mrs Viale petitioned General George Don, (see LINK) the Governor of the day, listing her husband services to the Crown. Don passed the petition on to London stating that he knew nothing at all about Viale which was an outright lie. He knew him well both personally and professionally. Unfortunately - and as has been pointed out elsewhere, the Governor was one of the many British colonial officials of the epoch that seemed to have had an engrained dislike for any inhabitant of the Rock who happened not to be British - all of which makes Emanuel Viale's close relationship with the British authorities all the more remarkable.

The officials in London, however, proved far more understanding than General Don and awarded Lady Viale a pension for life.


Gibraltar in the early 19th century  ( Noel, Daudet and Baugean ) 

In the early 1830s when Captain C. Rochfort Scott (see LINK) - at one time a member of the Garrison of Gibraltar - was traipsing around the mountains of Ronda and Granada, he stayed for a while in San Roque and spent several agreeable evenings in the home of a lady from Gibraltar. It was here that he was suddenly struck by 'the pleasant informality of the Spanish and the solid hospitality of English Society'. Captain Scott identifies the source of his epiphany as 'the widow of Sir Emanuel Viale - Roman consul in Gibraltar.'

The lady was apparently managing quite well on her government pension.


A view of the Rock from Jimena ( 1838 - Captain C. Rochfort Scott ) 


A neat and tidy Gibraltar with General Don in command   (1816 - Whitcombe and Sutherland)