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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 IX: In quest of a rapprochement between London and Madrid (1826-1833) – from “the Portuguese question” to “the Spanish one”

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Chapter IX

In quest of a rapprochement between London and Madrid (1826-1833) – from “the Portuguese question” to “the Spanish one”

Throughout the second restoration of Ferdinand VII1, up until the first months of 1825, relations between Madrid and London were dominated by the issue of Great Britain’s recognition of the independence of the Spanish colonies on the American continent. The British policy on Spain at that time was accurately summed up and evaluated by Camillo Gutiérrez de los Rios, Ferdinand VII’s minister plenipotentiary to London in the years 1824-1825. The diplomat had perceived the already diverse attitude towards continental Spain and the American colonies under Spanish rule as was adopted by Great Britain then. In his view, London still saw the existence of a sovereign peninsular Spain, enfeebled however by its necessary engagement in resolving urgent domestic problems, which was in furtherance of British interests, as a prerequisite factor in maintaining Europe’s internal balance of power. Notwithstanding, there was no doubt in his mind that Canning, who was at the helm of British foreign policy, had already discerned Hispanic America as a separate goal. Hence, the Spaniards had to reckon that in the conflict between the Iberian mother country and its colonies, which was still ← 355 | 356 → going on, the British secretary would be ready to entirely disregard the former side’s interests2.

In 1826, another issue which was to jeopardise the mutual peaceful relations between the Spanish and British empires...

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