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Allies or Enemies

Political relations between Spain and Great Britain during the reign of Ferdinand VII (1808–1833)

Patrycia Jakobczyk-Adamczyk

Spanish-British relations changed during the first three decades of the 19 th century. Both states emerged victorious from the Napoleonic wars and were united by the alliance, but their respective strength was totally different. While Great Britain enhanced its status as a sea power, strong enough to affect the political situation in Europe, Spain sank to the rank of a secondary state. Britain, protecting clearly defined interests, carried out long-term and rational policy. Spain’s policy was inconsistent and it could not be treated as a reliable ally in spite of its considerable economic resources and strategic importance. The book analyses a long and complex process of overcoming the traditional hostility between the two countries and outlines the international context as well as the internal conditions of that political evolution.
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Chapter V: Spanish-British relations in the age of the European Reconstruction


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Chapter V

Spanish-British relations in the age of the European Reconstruction

At the end of 1813 and the beginning of 1814, the nearly six-year Spanish War of Independence was nearing its end. The conclusive determinant in Napoleon’s campaign beyond the Pyrenees was the offensive mounted by Duke of Wellington in May 18131. Despite the fact that – after the victorious decisive Battle of Vitoria (21 June) – there was a lack of discipline in the British army, Marshal N. Soult’s effective operations were taking place in the north of the country, L. G. Suchet’s actions in the Levant, there were tough conditions in the Pyrenees and, perhaps to the largest extent, the generalissimo had doubts about the future of warfare in northern Europe – all made the French troops’ presence on the peninsula last several months longer. Following the defeat in Russia, Napoleon himself was becoming more and more convinced that it was imperative for him to change his policy regarding Spain2.

Great Britain’s potential and position, its zeal to wage the war and consistency in building European coalitions as well as, although last but not least, the exceptionality of Castlereagh, the then manager of the British foreign policy, determined that at the very moment the fate of Napoleon, France and all of Europe was being decided the island power took up the role of a leading architect of peace and order on the Continent. By contrast, towards the end of its War of...

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