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HomeAmerican HistoryHow Spain's Guzman Family Spent Centuries Battling For Gibraltar

How Spain’s Guzman Family Spent Centuries Battling For Gibraltar

It is a story of paranoia, revenge, of kings and divided loyalties, and one household’s quest for honor. No, it isn’t the Wars of the Roses nor Julius Caesar’s civil battle in Rome. It is the story of Spain’s Guzman household, and their epic generational mission to dominate the slender peninsula of Gibraltar, barely lower than 3 miles broad, recognized popularly as “The Rock.”

Cue up the “Game of Thrones” theme music and envision a large boulder in the course of the ocean.  

The Ancestor Who Started It All  

Gibraltar, the tip of the Iberian Peninsula recognized for its iconic rock formation that shoots up 1,398 ft into the air, had been a visitors cease for a motley assortment of Romans, Phoenicians, Visigoths, Byzantines and whoever else occurred to be floating across the coast of Spain at any given time. The Almohad Caliphate constructed a big fortress upon it—which could have contributed to the Rock envy that gripped numerous neighboring powers for the following a number of centuries.

Gibraltar finally fell into the palms of the Marinid Sultanate and was basking in scenic isolation when King Ferdinand IV of Castile determined he needed to assert it as a part of Spain’s Reconquista in 1309.

The man chosen for this activity was Alonzo Perez de Guzman, the king’s loyal retainer, often called Guzman “the Good.” But Guzman had not earned the epithet of “the Good” for his congenial character. In truth he was notoriously ruthless. A loyal buddy of the king, Guzman had beforehand (in)famously refused to barter the discharge of his personal son from captivity by one of many king’s rivals—as an alternative Guzman is reputed to have supplied his personal knife for use for the execution. The boy was murdered, and his head was allegedly catapulted into the midst of Guzman’s males to their nice misery. Guzman nevertheless remained impassive and is alleged to have knowledgeable his spouse about the entire thing later. She is reported to have been, justifiably, horrified. In any case, the king thought of “Guzman the Good” a really perfect henchman. Guzman additionally had one other son, who would stick with it his legacy for years to return.

Guzman “the Good” is thought for volunteering his personal dagger for use to kill his son moderately than try hostage negotiations. (University of Zaragoza)

Arriving at Gibraltar in June 1309, Guzman attacked the peninsula by land and sea and bombarded the place with catapults. The Muslim garrison surrendered by September, and Gibraltar grew to become a feather in Spain’s cap.

But Guzman’s success was short-lived. Although by then an older man over 50, he was ever desperate to be within the thick of slaughter and mayhem. He sallied forth to Algeciras, the place the king’s forces efficiently ousted a Muslim garrison. Apparently Guzman failed to note that enemy troops had not been ousted from the encircling countryside, which he determined to “tour” along with his troops. The tour was short-lived—Muslim forces annihilated Guzman alongside along with his encampment.

In a present of generosity, the king awarded governorship of Gibraltar to Guzman’s son, Juan Alonso Perez de Guzmán y Coronel, thereby tying the household to “the Rock” for which they might battle for years to return.

Guzman 2.0 and Even More Sieges

Unlike his well-known father, Juan Alonso Perez de Guzmán y Coronel proved to be an absentee warrior. He seems to not have been current on Gibraltar when the Emirate of Granada, sad that the Rock had been unceremoniously snatched by the Spanish, tried to reclaim it in 1315 however failed through the peninsula’s second siege.

This was removed from the top of the story. The Marinid Sultanate hadn’t given up on the Rock and made a seize for Gibraltar in 1333. This time they took it—a lot to the despair of Juan Alonso Perez de Guzmán y Coronel, who lastly confirmed up at Gibraltar. He arrived too late for the third siege, simply in time to see victory go to the opposing facet.  

The Spanish determined they weren’t simply going to simply accept this new rating, so that they instantly mounted a rematch—the fourth siege, additionally in 1333. Guzman needed to make good on his identify this time…or not less than as a lot as he was capable of. He is described as vigorously serving to make preparations for the good reconquest. What he really did through the battle is unknown, since there don’t appear to be many, if any, historic sources describing him doing any combating through the siege. However he was not less than in attendance for it.

A Stalemate

The finish results of the fourth siege was that each side exhausted one another, ran out of meals, and have become so depressing that they drew up a truce settlement. The Spanish sailed away with out taking the Rock and the sultan of Granada was assassinated by indignant followers who, even if they have been technically victorious, didn’t approve of the truce being signed.

A fifth siege occurred afterwards, which ended with a fizzle after King Alfonso XI of Castile died of the Plague in 1350. Guzman—once more—appears to have failed to seem for that engagement.

Gibraltar was out of Spain’s palms. A sixth siege occurred between two opposing Muslim factions when the Spanish weren’t trying, with the victors being the Nasrid kingdom of Granada.

Drowned On Arrival

Two generations later the Guzman household was at it once more—particularly, Enrique Pérez de Guzmán y Castilla, who launched an journey in 1436 to take the Rock for his household honor as soon as and for all…and failed with a freak accident.

After quickly abandoning their conquest of the Rock, the Guzmans had married into Spain’s royal household. Their fortunes and standing had improved. Enrique supposed to mimic his well-known ancestor, Guzman the Good, and seize Gibraltar for honor and glory in a feat of army would possibly. He organized a marketing campaign and rallied males to his trigger. They have been going to launch assaults from each land and sea. They have been going to take the Rock.

A Dutch map exhibits the rocky panorama of the Gibraltar peninsula. (Rijksmuseum, Netherlands)

Things rapidly went askew. Enrique didn’t take the excessive tide under consideration. When D-Day arrived, Enrique and his males washed up on the unsuitable facet of the Rock beneath the sheer cliffs. Landing boats flipped over and males have been tossed overboard. Among them was Enrique.

Legend says he was making an attempt to avoid wasting his males when the accident occurred. No one is aware of for certain. In any case his boat was overloaded with males from one other boat who didn’t need to drown and thus inevitably sank, drowning their commander.

Thus Enrique Pérez de Guzmán y Castilla died earlier than the seventh siege even started. We can solely marvel what the Muslim garrison, trying down from the cliffs, should have thought as they watched the Spanish floundering within the water beneath.

In any case, the Muslim defenders recovered Enrique’s physique from the surf, posthumously decapitated him and hung his physique in a basket from the fortress partitions, presumably as a warning to would-be besiegers.

A Son’s Revenge—Siege No. 8

Meanwhile, on one other facet of the Rock, Enrique’s son, who was alleged to be commanding the land forces, fell into despair at his father’s drowning. He pulled again his troops and is alleged to have tried to barter with the Muslim garrison to return his father’s physique, however was rebuffed. The younger man withdrew in anger and humiliation…however, in basic Guzman style, he would positively return. His identify was Juan Alonso de Guzmán y Suárez de Figueroa Orozco. He was decided to avenge the unintentional loss of life of his father.

Guzman got here again to Gibraltar to roost 26 years later in 1462, resolved that the Rock can be his ultimately. He had spent years fuming concerning the failure to own Gibraltar and his father’s ignominious demise. An informant introduced information to Spain that the Muslim garrison at Gibraltar had been slacking off by way of its defenses.

Forces led by Alonzo of Arcos have been the primary to get there, however couldn’t do the job with out assist and requested for help from Spanish nobles. Guzman determined it was the suitable time to settle scores and jumped into the fray. The eighth siege was quickly underway.

Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, Duke of Cadiz, bought right into a dispute with Juan Alonso de Guzman when it got here to taking the give up of Gibraltar after the eighth siege. (City Council of Seville)

However, if Guzman had inherited the iron pleasure of his ancestor Guzman the Good, he additionally appears to have been affected by the curse of one other ancestor—he arrived late. The siege was fairly effectively over and Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, Duke of Cadiz, was already in command of the town gates, prepared to simply accept give up, when the indignant Guzman lastly arrived on the scene.

There was a spat comparable to may solely have occurred between two proud Spanish noblemen. According to lore, Guzman and Ponce de Leon narrowly prevented a bodily combat over which one in every of them can be allowed to really take the Rock. To keep away from an all-out duel, they labored out a deal to stroll into the fortress collectively and politely arrange their banners on the identical time. Thus the siege ended and the households hated one another ever since.

Rebelling towards The Crown

To add insult to harm, King Enrique IV of Spain gave Guzman the boot after the siege was gained. Ordering Guzman to depart the Rock’s premises, the king awarded himself the title of “King of Gibraltar.” Of course Guzman would have none of it. Guzman launched the ninth siege of Gibraltar, towards his personal king, on July 26, 1467—and really achieved his life’s aim of taking the Rock for his household.

However, in spite of everything of that bother, his son Enrique Perez de Guzmán y Fonseca didn’t appear to have been very passionate concerning the Rock or build up household roots there. He was extra considering cash than battle. Reputed to have been the richest man in Spain, he was recognized for crooked dealings and treating those that engaged in enterprise with him unjustly.

Queen Isabella of Castile

Queen Isabella I of Castile gave him the title of Marquis of Gibraltar, however modified her thoughts after he died and took the title away from the household. Seemingly it was Isabella’s likelihood to rectify the truth that the Rock had technically been stolen from the crown beforehand.

In the fashion of his ancestors earlier than him, the late nobleman’s son, Juan Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y de Ribera, was livid that the Rock had been taken away from him and dared to write down to the queen precisely what he considered it. It appears that Isabella ignored him. She eliminated the Guzman household banners from Gibraltar and embellished the place with Spanish royal emblems.

After Isabella died in 1504, Guzman determined he was going to reverse this redecorating undertaking and restore the Rock to Guzman household possession. Gathering a military, he mounted the tenth siege of the Rock with the assistance of his son, named Enrique.

The Fate of Gibraltar

Guzman anticipated that the town would welcome him with open arms. The reverse occurred. Royal troops within the fortress barricaded themselves inside and native Gibraltarians rallied to Spain’s trigger. The Guzmans sat outdoors the town for 4 months earlier than finally realizing that victory simply wasn’t going to occur.

Counseled by the church, the Guzman household lastly gave up on Gibraltar—quickly. Juan de Guzman firmly believed that the Rock was his rightful property and was really planning to launch an eleventh siege earlier than he perished at age 40 in 1507.

A member of the Guzman household was the reluctant commander of the Spanish Armada, defeated by the English. The British would additionally finally take management of Gibraltar. (Royal Museums, Greenwich)

After having shed blood, sweat and tears for Gibraltar from 1309 to 1507, the Guzman household ceased to besiege the Rock. However it positively wasn’t the final time the household would go away an uncommon footprint in Spain’s army historical past.    

A Guzman descendant, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán y de Zuniga-Sotomayor, was positioned in command of the doomed Spanish Armada in 1588—towards his needs. In distinction to his fierce ancestors, Guzman protested towards being given command, pleading ignorance of naval issues and an alleged tendency towards seasickness.

Nevertheless Guzman bought the job regardless of expressly not wanting it. Needless to say the Spanish Armada was soundly defeated by the English, who would additionally finally take possession of the Guzman household treasure, Gibraltar.   


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