The People of Gibraltar

1309 - Alonso Pérez de Guzmán  - 'El Bueno

Ferdinand IV and Muhammad III - Juan Nuñez II de Lara, and Alonso Perez de Guzman
Fernando Gutiérrez Tello and Garci Gutierrez -  Gil Garcia and Abd-al Mu'min
Lope Ordoñes and Miguel Martin - Gonzalo Pérez  and Juan Pérez de Jahen
Alonso Hernandez de Mendoza  and Vasco de Meyra,

Ferdinand IV King of Castile, León and Galicia was sitting in his tent close to the Moorish town of Algeciras. The year was 1309, he was 23 years old and the rain was falling heavily. Worse still he was thoroughly bored. He had begun besieging Algeciras on the 27th of July and he had now been there for about a month - and it felt like more. The town in front of him was well stocked with food, its defences were in good shape and as far as Ferdinand could make out there seemed little prospect of ever taking the place.1 

Fernando IV  ( 1554 - Frontispiece of Book )

In true Castilian fashion he had purposely refused to allow any barriers or proper defences to be built between his forces and those of the enemy because he thought it would appear spineless to do so. 2 In any case he would much prefer to have them come out of the town and do battle with him on open ground. Looking across the Bay he could make out the massive Rock of Gibraltar its top covered in cloud looming ominously through the rain. 

It too was a Moorish town. In fact it had been one since 711 AD. ( see LINK ) From the 8th to the early 14th century Gibraltar had been something of  a backwater with very little history.  There had been a short period during the mid 12th when the Almohade Caliph, had attempted to build on it the city of Medinat-al Fath ( see LINK ) - but it had been a short lived interlude 

Nevertheless it was a Moorish town, the property the Nasrid Muhammad III, Sultan of Granada who was also happened to be the master of Algeciras. 3. Could it not be the answer to the prevailing lack of action? The debts owing to Genoese merchants that were financing part of the siege were piling up and he had little to show for them. 4 He also knew that a good part of the present population was made up of Moorish inhabitants that had fled Tarifa after his father Sancho IV had besieged and taken the place in the autumn of 1292. 

No doubt the people of Algeciras were receiving support  from Gibraltar. His  fleet had taken up their position in order to blockade entry from the Gut but they were at a loss as to how to stop small boats carrying in supplies during the night. 5  It was  making things even more difficult than they were already. 

It was yet another sore point from Fernando's point of view. His father had originally intended to take Algeciras as part of his plans to deprive the Merinids of a base in southern Spain but had changed his mind because he felt that Tarifa was not only closer to Africa than Algeciras but that it had much better port facilities 6. If he hadn't changed his mind, Ferdinand would have been elsewhere. One way or the other it would definitely be a good idea to take Gibraltar if he could.

Ferdinand  summoned his minions and ordered them to ask two of his stalwarts - Don Juan Nuñez II de Lara, and Alonso Pérez de Guzmán  - to come and see him. He also sent instructions to the Archbishop Fernando Gutiérrez Tello and his council in Seville to bring their troops and meet him in his camp. 7 On the whole Fernando must have felt that the risks were relatively small. His forces were made up of troops from all over Spain. 

People such as Garci Gutierrez and his son Gil Garcia had recently joined him from Segovia. They had arrived with their Bishop's blessing. Curiously, three hundred years later, their Campaign standards could still to be found close to the main Baptismal font of the Cathedral of Segovia. 8

Alonso Pérez de Guzmán  ( Unknown )

In a very short time plans were made and before the end of the month of August the Siege had began. 9. It was actually more of an all-out assault against the town rather than a siege. Guzman's plan were to attack from all sides. He placed the Archbishop of Seville and Juan Nuñez to attack from the isthmus while he landed the remainder of his forces on to the Rock itself and in a short while he was able to gain the heights behind the Calahorra or castle, that lay above the town itself. 

There he quickly found a strategic position on a cliff which would later be given the name of Salto del Lobo, and erected a strongly built, wide-walled  tower on to which he placed two huge catapults which he used to bombard the old Calahorra 10 These engines proved powerful enough to reach the town itself causing immense physical and psychological damage. Predictably and for many years afterwards the tower - which no longer exists - was known la Torre de Don Alonso. 11

Wolf's leap or Salto del Lobo, the area above the castle where  the Torre de Alonso was probably erected  ( 1874 - G. Muller )

The Moors held on, continuing to repair the destruction as best they could, but after a month they realised that the battle was too one-sided.  They offered to give up if Ferdinand would assure them of a safe passage to Africa. 12

The King agreed. When he finally entered the town in triumph, he thanked God for the mercy he had shown him raising his hands towards the sky in acknowledgement. 13 He then kept his part of the deal and allowed the Moorish population to leave. One thousand one hundred and twenty five of them left the Rock, probably for good. 14 Among them was one rather annoyed old man who insisted on addressing the King personally.

'My Lord', said the old Moor,' what is it that you have against me? Why are throwing me out?  Your great-grandfather King Ferdinand threw me out of Seville when he took it so I went to Jerez. Your  grandfather King Alonso then turned me out of Jerez when he took it and I went to Tarifa thinking that I would out of danger there; but then your father King Sancho came and turned me out of there as well so I came to live in Gibraltar thinking that there would be nowhere in Moorish territory this side of the sea where I would be safer; and since I see that I will not be allowed to settle anywhere on this side, I will go beyond and find a place where I can settle down safely till the end of my days.' 15

King Ferdinand smiled as he heard the old man out and found it hard to punish him for his impertinence. Instead he turned his attention to the town he had just made his own. Its defences had probably not been improved upon since the days of Abd-al Mu'min. There was much to be done.

He ordered the walls of the town which had been badly damaged by his two siege to be rebuilt together with a new keep which was to be situated above the slope of the town. He also wanted a dockyard or atarazana to be built inside the most northern area of the town and close to the sea.  Satisfied that these things were being done he returned to the thankless task of besieging Algeciras. 16 By January 1310 he gave it up as a lost cause. 

The long building middle right was the atarazana in the 17th century  ( 1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña )

But he did not forget Gibraltar. On the 31st of January while he was Jerez the on his way back home he found time to write a letter patent setting out exactly what he wanted done. It may have been a long winded document but its aim was clear. He wanted Gibraltar to prosper and he didn't care too much as to how that might be achieved. 

Its boundaries would remain the same as when it was Moorish territory, in other words it included much of what is today known as the Campo de Gibraltar. The inhabitants would all be exempt from paying taxes and the council was entitled to charge duty on any ships entering its harbour. Anybody, whether he was a Moor, a Jew or a Christian bringing in food, would be allowed to come and sell it free of duty. 17

The population would be made up of 300 families not counting agricultural workers and stone masons. He obviously thought that most of the male heads of the family would form part of the fortress militia as he specified generous salaries for everybody as well as well as generous payments to the children of orphaned soldiers. 18 As regards how all this was going to be paid for, he ordered that the council should receive one third of the profits of the salt pans found in the neighbourhood.19

Also, and perhaps knowing that Gibraltar was not the most enticing of places to live in when compared to its hinterland, he ordered that swindlers, thieves, murderers, women who had run away from their husbands and all manner of outlaws and misfits should be enticed to live in the place and that they would not be prosecuted if they did so. The only people who would not be welcome were traitors and anybody eloping with the wife of his feudal lord. 20

Fernando appointed Lope Ordoñes, as the military governor of Gibraltar. He had strict instructions not to interfere in the affairs of the civilian population and should concentrate on making sure it was in a state of readiness to defend itself against any attack. He also assigned his servant, Miguel Martin as sheriff  and Gonzalo Pérez  and Juan Pérez de Jahen as judges. It would be the council that would decide who should be the person responsible for looking after the keys of the town. As overall 'propetario' or Governor, he appointed Alonso Hernandez de Mendoza. 21

He probably intended giving Alonso Pérez de Guzmán  overall command but unfortunately the man most responsible for Ferdinand's success in Gibraltar - an almost mythical hero in the whole of Spain for his defence of Tarifa against the Moors - had other plans. On the 19th of September 1310, he went on a rampage near Gaucin, damaged a few properties while rustling cattle and ended up dead on the end of a Moorish spear. 22

These appointments seem to have proved quite durable in that they were still in place when Gibraltar was confronted yet again by the Moors except that by them, and perhaps unfortunately for the new population, Alonso Hernández de Mendoza had been replaced by a crook, Vasco de Meyra, who ended up pocketing most of the money meant for the defence of the town. 23 

Ferdinand IV  ( 1782 Reyes de España )

In 1312, Ferdinand condemned two brothers - to death. To the last they proclaimed their innocence and just before they were executed they swore that they would summon the King to face his judgement with God in thirty days.   

On Thursday the 6th of September 1312, Fernando took a siesta just after midday and died unattended in his bed. 24 He was succeeded by his son, Alfonso XI. Gibraltar would be lost yet again to the Moorish invaders twenty years later. Rather than be remembered for being the first Christian King to capture Gibraltar, he has gone down in history as Fernando IV, El Emplazado -  the King who was 'summoned' by God to answer for his actions.

Alfonso XI of Castile some twenty years later -  ( 1410 - Jean Foissart )


1. Al-Makkari
In the year 1309, the King of Castile, Herando ( Fernando IV ), laid siege to Algeciras. He remained before that city from the 21st day of Safar till the end of Shaban, when, despairing of reducing the place, he raised the siege, though not without making himself master of Gibraltar. 

This rather laconic statement is all the Al Makkari had to say about the loss of Gibraltar to the Christians after nearly half a millennium under Moorish control. Of course, he already knew that they wouldn't be there for too long. In 1309, Safar fell on the last few days of July and Shaban  probably during the end of January. It meant  they were there for over half a year.

2. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV -
Mas el rey D. Fernando non tenía en la cerca de Algesira barrera ninguna , ca la non avía menester nin fué nunca costumbre de los castellanos faser barreras quando' cercaron algunas villas  é ante lo ovieron por grand mengua. E en quanto estudo el rey D. Femando en esta cerca, nunca se atrevieron los moros á venir á aquella parte donde él estaba , nin lo tenían por derecho.

3. Crónicas de Don Alfonso XI 
 . . et en el tiempo deste Rey Don Mahomad  el tercero Rey de Granada fue el Rey Don Fernando de Castiella et de León cercar Algecira, que era deste Rey de Granada, et tovola cercada siete meses . . .

4. Crónicas de Don Alfonso XI 
. . . yo rogué et vos mandé que entrasedes mañeros et debdores et pagadores por mi á Juan de Rivaldo consol de los genoeses de Sevilla por el et por los otros genoeses . . . . nin á omme que en el mundo sea tomar ninguna cosa destos derechos sobredichos fasta que los dichos mercadores genueses sean pagados de todo lo que me prestaron . . 

5 William Jackson - The Rock of the Gibraltarians
Unfortunately he gives no reference.

6. Crónica de Sancho IV
E desque las gentes fueron y llegadas y la flota que en castilla en Asturias y en galizia armaran en que yvan honze engeños que mandara el fazer llego a Tarifa. E comm o quier que llevava en talante de yr a çercar a algezira consejaronle que çercase a tarifa por razon que era la mar más estrecha allí & que aujan alli mejor salida para los caballos quando los moros pasasen aquende que en otro lugar njnguno.  E el Rey acogiose a este consejo  . . 

7. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV -
é luego á pocos de dias desque el rey D. Fernando ovo cercado á Algesira , enbió á D. Juan Nunez é á Don Alonso Pérez é al arzobispo de Sevilla con el concejo de Sevilla á cercar á  Gibraltar ; 

8. Diego de Colmenares - Historia de Segovia - 1640
Disponiendole el rey guerra contra Granada y Algecira . .  nombró por capitanes  . . . Garci Gutierrez, y a Gil Garcia su hijo los cuales el diez de Julio . .  recibido en la Iglesia Catedral bendicion del Obispo, que juntamente bendixo a los estandartes; otorgaron en la misma Iglesia junto a la pila del sacro Bautismo . . . 

9. Cronicum de Juan Manuel
. . .obsedit Rex Dns fernandus Algeciram et cepit Gibraltarum in mense augusti.

10. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV -
. . . é pusieron dos engeños é combatiéronla muy fuerte á la redonda on ellos, en guisa que lo non pudieron sofrir los moros: 

11. Ignacio López de Ayala - Historia de Gibraltar 
Determinó acometerla por todas partes , i quedando en los arenales i puerta de tierra el Arzobispo i Don Juan Núñez; pasó en bar cas al monte con las tropas restantes , que colocadas sobre las alturas. que dominan al castillo principia ron á combatirlo. En aquella ocasión se edificó la torre de Don Alonso , que llamaron así por este D, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán , i no por D. Alonso rey onceno de Castilla. Hecha la fábrica con tanta diligencia como fortaleza , revestida de anchos i ter replanados muros , colocaron dos trabucos en la torre que comenzaron á despedir gruesos peñascos contra la de la Calahorra , contra el castillo i la Barcina , que era la población principal.

12. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV 
é ovieron de pleytear con el rey que fué y, é dieronle la villa en tal que los mandase poner  en salvo allende de la mar, 

13. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV 
É luego el rey entró en la villa é físo su oración aleando las manos al cielo, dando gracias á Dios del bien é merced que le fisiera. 

14. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV 
 . . é el rey físolo asi é fallaron por cuenta que salieron mili é ciento é veinte é cinco moros . . .

15. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV
. . . . é estonce le dixo un moro viejo -Señor, que oviste conmigo en me hechar de aquí ; ca tu visabuelo el rey D. Fernando quando tomó a Sevilla me hechó dende é vine á morar á Xerez, é después el rey D. Alfonso, tu abuelo, quando tomó á Xerez hechome dende é yo vine á morar á Tarifa, é cuydando que estava en lugar salvo, vino el rey D. Sancho, tu  padre , é tomó á Tarifa é héchome dende, é vine á morar aquí á Gibraltar, é teniendo que en ningún lugar non estaría tan en salvo en toda la tierra de los moros de aquende la mar como aquí. É pues veo que en ningún lugar non puedo fincar, yo yré allende la mar é me porné en lugar do biva en salvo é acave mis días.

All this, of course, sounds suspiciously like a contrived bit of propaganda thought up by either the chronicler himself.  Or he may have been quoting  from some lost ballad or other. Whatever the case it is too good to leave out.

16. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV
É mandó labrar los muros de la villa que derrivarón los engeños. 
É otrosi mandó labrar una torre encima del recuesto de la villa. 
É otrosi mandó labrar una atarazana desde la villa fasta la mar, porque esloviesen las galeas en salvo é tornóse el rey D. Fernando para su hueste de Algesira que tenia cercada. 

It is hard to say how much of this was ever put into practice. Presumably some of the walls would have been repaired but the building of the new tower sets up a series of interesting questions such as that the origins of the Tower of Homage. As George Hills suggests -

The origins of the castle in Gibraltar now known as the Moorish Castle are to be found no further back than in Ferdinand's order that a 'keep should be built on the slope above the town.'

However, as he also admits, the popular Gibraltarian name is justified as most if not all of what remains is of post 1333 construction.

17. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV - Vol II
Mandamos que todos aquellos christianos, ó moros, ó judíos que truxeren vianda a Gibraltar que sean francos, é quitos, é que no paguen derecho ninguno de qualquier que venda , é vendan como pudieren.

18. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV - Vol II
é por que la villa de Gibraltar se pueda mejor guardar, mandamos que hayan y trecientos vecinos , á menos de los almaganares é de los otros alvarranes que ayan por su soldada todos los que y moraren, el vallestero de monte quarenta é cinco maravedís, é el vallestero de estribera quarenta maravedís, é el peón treinta y cinco maravedís , é si fuere almocaden cínquenta maravedís ; é si qualquier destos soldados murieren é ovieren fijos que sean de dos años arriba, que aya y esta mesma quitación que su padre havia, é si oviese fija que herede los bienes del padre ; é sí alguno destos sobre dichos velare encima del muro de Gibraltar que aya demás de su soldada diez maravedís de su vela . . .

19. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV - Vol II
Que aya el concejo de Gibraltar el tercio de las mis salinas que son en su término . . . 

20. Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV - Vol II
Mandamos é defendemos firmemente que todos aquellos que se fueren para Gibraltar , é que sean y vecinos y moradores quier que sean golfines, ó ladrones, ó que haya muerto homes , ó otros homes qualesquier malhechores que sean , ó muger casada que se fuya á su marido , ó en otra manera qualquier , que sean y defendidos y amparados de muerte , ó que los que y estubieren é moraren en la villa ó en su termúio que ninguno non sea osado de les faser mal ninguno . . .

21.  Ignacio López de Ayala - Historia de Gibraltar - Appendix
Mando que sea en esta Gibraltar nuestro alcayde mayor Lope Ordoñes, é nuestro alguacil mayor Miguel Martin nuestro criado , é que ayan y dos jurados que sean Gonzalo Pérez é Juan Pérez de Jahen , y que aya cada uno su oficio é use del bien é complidamente para en todos sus dias, é después de sus dias que ponga el concejo todos los oficiales que ovieren menester é qualesquisieren,  é que den las llaves de la villa a quien el concejo tuviere por bien . . .

. . . é que estas soldadas que gelas paguen á eslos sobredichos bien é complidamente á cada uno segund que lo oviere de haber por los tercios del año Alfonso Fernandez de Mendoza , ó aquel ó aquellos que después vinieren del, ó por mi tuvieren á la dicha Gibraltar . .

Many historians insist that Alfonso Fernandez de Mendoza was the first Christian Governor but the above rather ambiguous statement is the only source I can find that might confirm it. for example;

Alonso Hernández del Portillo tells us that ;

Por falta de mas escritores no sabemos a quién dejo por Alcayde en esta Ciudad el Rey esta vez.

George Hills in his Rock of Contention tells us without giving any reference that ;

The overlordship of Gibraltar was given to Alonso Perez de Guzman's son . . 

Nobody gives a proper source but in any case according to Manuel Ortiz de la Vega's Las Glorias Nacionales  which were published in 1853 - 

Don Alonso Pérez de Guzmán   . . . Sucediole en sus estados su hijo, Juan Alonso de 

22. Retratos de los Reyes de España - 1788 - Joachín Ezquerra 
Hizo otra entrada por las sierras de Gaucin, hizo algunos destrozos, tomo algunos ganados, pero le alcanzó una saeta que le hirió de muerte acabando su vida a pocos dias en 19 de Septiembre del año 1309, pero no su fama, que siempre será eterna en los anales Españoles.

Melodramatic representation of Alonso Pérez de Guzmán  throwing his dagger at the Muslims below who had Tarifa under Siege. They had captured his son and had threatened to kill him if he didn't surrender. Guzman - henceforth known as 'el Bueno' - threw them his knife and told them to use it. They did

23. Alonso Hernandez del Portillo 
Estaba como diré aquí por este tiempo Alcaide Basco Perez de Neyra, y habian en aquella sazón en Gibraltar grande falta de mantenimientos, que además de que aquel año debió de ser estéril y falto de ellos el Alcaide, con su codicia había vendido el trigo que tenia para su provisión y de su gente a los Moros; los cuales como le conocieron el humor, y le querían engaña y ganar la Ciudad, procurándolo desabastecer con la golosina del dinero. . .

24.  Crónicas de Alfonso XI
En ese día jueves siete días de setiembre víspera de santa María echose el Rey a dormir un poco después de medio día, y fallarnole muerto en la cama, en guisa que ninguno non lo vió morir.

Additional Notes
Most historians from Portillo to Lopez de Ayala right through to modern British writers have all used the two volume Crónica  del Rey Don Fernando IV - 1340 as either as their main source or have quoted people using them as sources.

The Cronica is written in old Spanish and is often awkward to modern ears and although several of the references above are given as they were written in the original version much of the story itself is based on its interpretation by the Spanish 19th century politician and historian Antonio Benavides.

Antonio Benavides ( 1860s - Unknown )