The People of Gibraltar
1624 - Felipe IV - A Visit to Gibraltar 

Philip IV of Spain was just sixteen when he became king. In 1624, still a young man of nineteen he undertook a trip to Andalucia which began on the 8th of February and ended on the 19th of April and during which he and his entourage were plagued by torrential rain, high winds and unseasonable snow.  

Philip IV a year before his Andalucian trip  ( Diego Velasquez )

The poet Francisco de Quevedo, who accompanied the King from Madrid to Andújar was thoroughly unimpressed by the whole affair. The logistics of the King's journey south left much to be desired and Quevedo went out of his way to write a satirical letter to the Marquéz de Velada and Roman which clearly expressed his humorous disapproval. 

A copy of Quevedo's letter as subsequently published in a 1927 magazine

It was dated the 17th of February 1624 and the following are a few quotes that will give the reader the gist of the overall tone of the letter.
Yo caí, San Pablo cayó; mayor fué la caída de Luzbel.  . . Volcóse el coche del almirante (íbamos seis); descalabróse D. Enrique Enriquez; yo salí por el zaquizami del coche asistiéndome una de las quijadas: y otro me decía: "Don Francisco, deme la mano:" y yo le decía "Don Fulano deme el pie" . . .    
Yo vengo sin pesadumbre y sin cama; que ha seis días que no sé de mi baúl. .  . Llegamos tardes a Andújar anoche viernes, sin luz ni guía; donde hoy nos hemos detenido por la gran creciente del Guadalquivir, y mañana porque no se sabe de las acémilas y del carruaje.  
El duque del Infantado se quedó en Linares, por haber caído su litera y aporreádose. El Patriarca no aparece, y le andan pregonando por los pantanos. Mis camisas me dicen se las pone un barranco.  
 The King's progress through his Kingdom - which seem to have consisted mostly of trying - and usually failing - to make sure he got a good square meal and a reasonably good bed to sleep in was rigorously recorded by Don Jacinto de Herrera y Sotomajor, a gentleman of the bedchamber of the Duque del Infantado in a folio entitled Jornada que su Majestad hizo a la Andaluzia. The section on Gibraltar is very short and singularly uninformative;
Salió pues de Medina Miércoles 27 de Marzo y fue a comer seis leguas de allí a una casa que llaman del Marques y a dormir a Tarifa, y el Duque mi señor escusado por sus años de amino tan penoso quedó aquel día en Sidonia; para tomar luego camino por otra parte. 
Jueves a 28 fue su Majestad a comer a Gibraltar 5 leguas de Tarifa q con el rodeo que se hizo para  mejorar el camino fueron ocho y hubierose de pasar dos barcas en q gastó la gente muchísimas horas. Este día fue el Duque mi señor de Sidonia a Arcos. 
Viernes a 29 se estuvo su Majestad adquiriendo lo necesario para aquel muelle y fortaleza y el Duque mi señor fue de Arcos a Villamartin. 
Sábado a 30 fue su majestad a comer seis leguas de Gibraltar a Estepona y de allí cinco a dormir en Marbella . . . . .  
The two "barcas" mentioned in the Jornada were almost certainly ferry boats used to cross the Rio Palmones and the Rio Guadarranque  (Unknown )

A contemporary portrait of the Rock   ( Early 17th century - Adam Villaerts )

According to Alonso Hernández del Portillo in his Historia de Gibraltar (see LINK) one of the few useful things the King did during his short stay in Gibraltar was to authorise continued improvements to the New Mole. (See LINK) In 1627 he would authorize Luis Bravo de Acuña,  (see LINK) a talented Spanish engineer to come to Gibraltar to carry out a survey of its fortifications. Bravo would later be responsible for writing an extraordinarily detailed report on the state of the Rock's defenses as well as recommendations for their improvements.

But there is little doubt that the visit is best remembered for a rather ridiculous incident that occurred at the very beginning of his visit when the King tried to enter the town through its only entrance from the north - La Puerta de Tierra, or Puerta de España as it was then known. (See LINK) The Spanish historian Ignacio López de Ayala (see LINK) puts it quite nicely in his Historia de Gibraltar:
 Salió a recibirlo el gobernador de la ciudad, i llegando a entrar el reí en su carroza, no fue posible poderla introducir por las muchas i angostas revueltas que había contra la peña para mayor defensa de la entrada. El Conde-duque, famoso por su valimiento, i más famoso por las graves pérdidas que padeció España en el tiempo de su ministerio, se irrito contra el gobernador, i le hizo cargo de que sabiendo que el rey había de entrar en Gibraltar en carroza, debió haber dado capacidad a la puerta. 
A la dura reprehensión del duque respondió con pausa el gobernador que la puerta no se había hecho para que entrasen carrozas, sino para que no entrasen enemigos. La corte se detuvo en Gibraltar un día  que fue fines de marzo.

On this plan, N is la Puerta de Tierra/Puerta de España - and O is the drawbridge leading up to it. S is the Baluarte de San Pablo. The passageway through the gate certainly seems as awkward as described in the literature.    ( 1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña )

Almost too good to be true, the story has been quoted and re-quoted by other historians over the years each of them adding their own embellishments. James Bell (see LINK) in his erratic translation of Ayala's History gives us the following version:
On arriving at the Rock, the Governor, accompanied by the town council and civil authorities, went out to meet the King; but, attempting to enter the place in his carriage, it was found impossible to pass the narrow and tortuous way by which the entrance was to be effected. It was found necessary to take the carriage to pieces, and the King entered the garrison on foot.
 . . . much of which is not mentioned by Ayala.

Elsewhere the Conde-Duque is identified as the future Count of Olivares while some local historians insist that it was the King himself that complained. In one particular case the King is wrongly identified as Philip III. 

Perhaps it is worth pointing out that the parts marked in yellow on Bravo's plan of the Puerta de España are supposed to represent new work carried out between 1624 and 1627. It is therefore possible that the gate through which Felipe was unable to get his carriage through in 1624 may have been brand new at the time. That might have been at least one reason why the King's criticism was felt to be unfair requiring a proper response.  

An eight  maravedís copper coin minted in the same year as Philip IV visited Gibraltar. Quite a few of these will have been used to pay for the King's little jaunt.

With thanks to Juan Antonio García Rojas who pointed me towards the two main sources used in this article - Francisco de Quevedo's letter and Jacinto de Herrera y Sotomajor's Jornada. Gracias Juan Antonio.