The People of Gibraltar
1705 - Charles III - A Visit to Gibraltar

John Leake and Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt - Charles III and Henry Nugent
Father Figueroa and John Shrimpton - Alonso de la Capela  and Joseph Corrons

In March 1705 the final skirmish of the 12th Siege of Gibraltar took place - Admiral Sir John Leake with a hugely superior English fleet at his disposal defeated a French squadron under Admiral de Ponitis. 

On the 2nd of August 1705 and almost a year to the day after Gibraltar had been taken by Anglo-Dutch forces led by Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt (see LINK) , Leake returned to Gibraltar. He was carrying a Catalan expeditionary force which would be used in an attempt to take Barcelona. On board the Ranelagh - Leake’s flagship - was the Archduke of Austria himself - Pretender to the Spanish throne and the man ultimately responsible for both the 11th and 12th Sieges of Gibraltar. 

The Archduke of Austria - Pretender to the throne of Spain as Charles III as a young man   ( Late 17th century - Unknown )

He was welcomed by the Garrison with a massive gun salute acknowledging him as King Charles III of Spain but not by Colonel Henry Nugent, Count of Valdesoto who had been appointed as military Governor by George of Hesse - somewhat against the wishes of the King who would have preferred a Spaniard. 

Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt - The Catalans knew him as Jordi Darmstadt

Conveniently - as it so happened - Nugent had recently been killed in action and as a good Catholic had been buried in a Franciscan Convent by the parish priest Father Juan Romero de Figueroa (see Link). That same Convent (see LINK) would one day become the official residence of the many subsequent Governors of Gibraltar - but not just yet.  

The Franciscan Convent and its gardens now used as the official residence of the Governors of Gibraltar ( 1753 - James Montressor - detail )   (See LINK)

I am not sure whether the King did very much of importance during his visit to the Rock although he must have confirmed Hesse’s choice of Brigadier-General John Shrimpton as the next Governor by making him a Major-General in the Spanish army. No doubt the King would still have preferred a Spaniard as Governor of the Rock. The appointment of Shrimpton, however, was an acknowledgement that most of the Garrison were neither Catholic nor Spanish and that it was the English who were mostly financing his campaign. 

Shrimpton took up residence in what is today 181 Main Street. It stood in la Calle Real, just east of the “Parade” – today’s John Mackintosh Square (see LINK). It had probably once been the residence of the Spanish civilian governors of Gibraltar. 

Town plan     ( 1753 -  James Montressor - detail ) 

Whether Shrimpton was actually on the Rock during the King's visit is a moot point. The war was over and Shrimpton had other problems on his mind. The houses which his wife Philadelphia, the daughter of the Earl of Essex had inherited from her father required their mortgages to be repaid - and neither she nor he had the money to do so. Shrimpton found a solution by shipping ten of the Gibraltar Garrison’s guns to Lisbon where he sold them. 

Whether he was in Gibraltar or not my guess is that Charles was housed in what had once been the official Spanish Military Governor’s residence in the Plaza del Gobernador - today’s Governor’s Parade. (See LINK) It was probably the more imposing of the two buildings. His official host and tourist guide during his short stay must have been his loyal lieutenant, Prince George of Hesse.

Town plan - the Spanish Governor’s residence taken up by Hesse could be any of the buildings shown close to the French Parade - today’s Governor’s Parade    ( 1753 -  James Montressor - detail )

The King must have been introduced to the main English military characters who were still lingering on in the Rock. One of these may have been Colonel Roger Elliott who had arrived with his regiment a few months previously. Ironically, Elliott would go on to become the first Governor of Gibraltar not to be appointed by Charles II but by the English.

The King probably also met with some of the more important civilian big-wigs in Gibraltar - and there weren’t too many of these on the Rock at the time. One of them was Don Alonso de la Capela, who had been chosen by Hesse - with the King’s approval - as the Rock’s one and only civil and criminal Judge. The appointment had taken place less than a week before the King’s arrival. 

Capela belonged to a group of about 200 Catalans who had originally accompanied Hesse during the capture of the Rock in 1704. De la Capela was well qualified for the job both politically and academically - he had previously been a loyal supporter of Charles III as an “Abogado de los Reales Consejos de Cataluña”. After the Treaty of Utrecht which was signed in 1713 (see LINK) the British authorities thought that there was no longer any need for Spanish judges - something of a mistake as it turned out. Gibraltar’s legal matters would continue to be based on Spanish law for quite a few years hence. 

The King was probably also introduced to Joseph Corrons - yet another of Hesse’s Catalan followers during the capture of Gibraltar. Joseph Corrons was named as “Alcaide de mar de esta ciudad y presidio de Gibraltar” also just a few days before the King’s arrival. It was an important and lucrative post in the sense that it lent itself to all sorts of financial shenanigans which Corrons made good use of long after both Charles and Hesse had disappeared from the scene. Indeed well after Utrecht. 

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that it was Charles III himself - rather than either the English or the Dutch - who appointed people such as de la Capela and Corrons - a timely reminder that the capture of Gibraltar had been done in his name as pretender to the throne of Spain and not for the benefit of either England or Holland.

Two days later and to the sound of yet another forty-one gun salute echoing across the Bay, Charles III and the Prince of Hesse left Gibraltar. Neither of them would ever return. Leake’s flagship would take both of them to Barcelona, where Hesse would be killed in action during an assault on Montjuich. Charles would return to Austria and eventually abandon his claim.