The People of Gibraltar
1779 - Queen of Spain’s Chair - Gibraltar - Revisited

Torre de Sierra Carbonera - Silla de la Reina  - Queen of Spain’s Chair

Torre de Sierra Carbonera - Silla de la Reina - Queen of Spain's Chair

The tower shown above has a bit of history - as they say. It once stood more or less on the summit of Sierra Carbonera which lies to the north of the Spanish town of La Línea de la Concepción - Hence its first name. It was quite visible from Gibraltar. 

Sierra Carbonera in the distance with the tower clearly visible on its summit   ( c1870 - J.H. Mann)

The tower was also known in Spain confusingly as la Silla de la Reina - a name which one would have supposed derived from or gave rise to the English version of the Queen of Spain’s Chair. In fact the names refer to different myths in which neither of the “Queens” were actually queens. 

The British version refers to a queen who was supposed to have existed during the time of the Great Siege when Spain did not have a queen and the Spanish legend refers to Eleanora de Guzman who was actually the mistress of Alfonso XI of Castile rather than his wife.

The consensus is that the tower was probably built in the 13th or 14th century and that it is of Moorish origin. According to the 19th century San Roque historian Lorenzo Valverde:
Habrá 52 años que a esta Torre le subieron un tercio más de lo que antes tenía. A poco tiempo después se hizo un cuerpo de guardia inmediato a ella. Sobre la misma pusieron astas banderas y un Vigía inteligente, que cada vez que descubría naves por uno u otro mar, con variedad de gallardetes, hacia, hacia señales a la Comandancia general. 
The added height is confirmed by the difference in colour of the top section of the tower. Valverde suggested that this extension took place in 1797 but there is graphic evidence that suggests that the improvements were actually carried out a few decades earlier. Whatever the case, the project ended up being a waste of time. 
Esta empresa tubo que abandonarse porque las continúas y espesas Nieblas que ocasionan los vientos del lebante en aquel parage, impedían su vista cada vez que llegaban estos casos que eran mui frecuentes:
In other words not only was the tower very similar in both structure and usage to el Hacho in Gibraltar but it suffered from exactly the same problem. El Hacho - or signal station as it later became was abandoned in 1922 and moved to Wind Mill Hill.

Gibraltar’s el Hacho    (Reconstruction by P.Gurriaran)
Se trasladó la Vigía a otra parte más baja de la misma Sierra, en un sitio que llamamos las Pedreras . . . . y es el principio de toda la sierra por la parte del sur.
Torre Pedreras - Queen of Spain’s Chair

This tower took its one and only Spanish name from a nearby stone quarry.  It was also often confusingly referred to by the British as the Queen of Spain’s Chair.

Torre Pedreras

Despite appearances Torre Pedreras is much newer than the Torre Sierra Carbonera. It once sported a sign which read:
. . . which leads me to suspect that it was built as part of the overall plan of the Spanish fortifications of La Línea de la Contravalación - known to the British as the Spanish Lines - which were completed in 1735.

An 1804  French version of a Spanish Map of the land north of isthmus - The  Spanish lines appear at  the bottom, on the left the Castillo de Punta Mala - to its right  and just above it the Torre Pedrasa - Well above that is the Torre Sierra Carbonera      (1786 - Vincente Tofiño)

Its appearance as a ruin in the photographs dates from 1810 when British engineers with the grudging consent of the Spaniards dismantled the entire line of fortification that defended the northern part of the isthmus from coast to coast as well as the fortifications at Punta Mal and the Torre Pedreras. The rationale behind this wanton destruction was that these magnificent lines would not be used by the French against Gibraltar during the ongoing Peninsular War. 

It was a rationale that turned out to be incorrect. In 1816 the British Admiral Sir George Cockburn visited Napoleon at St. Helena and asked him whether he had intended to attack Gibraltar. His reply was revealing.
That was not our intention.  Things served us quite well as they were.  Gibraltar is of no use to you.  It defends nothing.  It intercepts nothing.  It is simply an object of national pride which costs the English a great deal and wounds the Spanish nation greatly.  We would have been quite stupid to have destroyed such a combination.
Sierra Carbonera - Queen of Spain’s Chair

The editor of Mark Twain’s Papers and Journals (1855-1873) includes the following phrase in his criticism of a passage written by Twain in his “Innocents Abroad”
. . . that the Queen of Spain sat in the tower at the summit of Sierra Carbonera  . . . 
However . . . what Twain actually wrote was: 
. . . that high hill yonder is called the Queen of Spain's Chair . . . . . 
In other words his interpretation was that the “Chair” was not a tower on the Sierra Carbonera, but the entire hill itself.

The beginning of the caption reads as follows -“The view is taken from the Queen of Spain’s Chair, a hill rising behind the Spanish town of Linea  . . . . (1891 - The Illustrated London News)

There is little doubt that the location of the place which the legend refers to could hardly have been said to be set in stone. But there is no doubt that the useful propaganda generated by it formed part of the overall mythologies of the Great Siege of Gibraltar - still touted as one of Britain’s greatest feat of arms. So much so that at least two of the artists who created the more well known paintings depicting the event made a point of including the Sierra Carbonera and its summit tower as part of the background scenery.

Crop of an engraving of the Great Siege with the sierra and its tower on the top left   (Late 18th century - John Singleton Copley)

Crop of a painting of the Great Siege with the Sierra and its tower in the middle background   (Late 18th century - George Carter)

Crop of an engraving of the Great Siege with the Sierra and its tower in the middle background   (Late 18th century - Roberts)

Crop of a painting of the Great Siege with the Sierra and its tower in the middle background   (Late 18th century - Thomas Davis)

1779 - Queen of Spain’s Chair - Gibraltar - Isabelline