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British in Iberia

British history and stories in Spain and Portugal.

Menorca, English evocation
13 January 2010 @ 14:47

When the ambassador of Spain in France, the Marquis de Dos Rius Castell, informed the Duke of Anjou, later King Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV, who inherited the crown of Spain upon the death of King Charles II, said, " There are no Pyrenees anymore!  They have been sunk into the ground and we are no more than a nation now! " Eighteen years later, when Spain and France entered into war, the phrase" There is no Pyrenees” became popular and was spreaded in a humoristic way; today, the phrase is used to name goods, works or situations of very short life.

According to historian Thomas Macaulay " the conduct of Spanish people during the War of Succession was extremely characteristic” Counted the few advantages of  number and situation, they were ignominiously defeated; all the  European lands owned by  Spain were lost, Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia owed allegiance to the archduke;  Gibraltar was surprised under the power of England, a few troopers had made themselves masters of Barcelona, the invaders, penetrating to the center of the peninsula, had their headquarters in Madrid and Toledo.

Juan Miguel Saura and Morell raised the menorquines to the Austrias and against Felipe V. It was on 19 September 1708, when an Anglo-Netherlands army commanded by Sir John Leake accompanied by Gen. James Stanhope took the island in less than nine days, being the Menorca Navy caught in a pitiful state.

The Peace of Utrecht awarded the domination of Minorca to England, which was later taken away to France by Admiral Galissoniere and General  Duc de Richelieu, Admiral John Byng who was executed on the deck of his ship by his own countrymen, a very strange event apart from times of revolution or civil war. Bynd was defeated in 1756 and was returned to England under arrest. It was submitted to court-martial in which he could not be accused of cowardice but, of not doing enough and was condemned to death.  Prime Minister Pitt made all in his hands for Bynd to be pardoned by King George but he refused. The Island returned to Britain with the peace in 1763 and was lost again in 1781, returning to British hands in 1798 until the Peace of Amiens, when this was incorporated into the Crown of Spain.

The British presence on the island lasted less than 70 years but still they left numerous influences and perennial features; emblematic interesting documents, mayonnaise types of that time drawn by Chiesa, colonial painter of those days. Paintings where British influence is seen in the dresses of women even when these were wearing the typical dress of the island. The map and printed sheets of Armstrong in his historical work "The History of the island of Minorca" (1752) report and stage the character of British, always respectful of the traditions and customs of the islanders. We need to remark too that the British presence was not always understood by all or estimated as shown in the engravings, lithographs and satirizing drawings of the customs of British in Minorca at that time.

The English governor who left the deepest imprint on Minorca was Sir Richard Kane, who made great works of sewerage in the  strip of Es Vergers to prevent epidemics of malaria: he also improved the roads and fortifications (Camí d'en Kane).  He also intervened on the economic adjustment of prices of products of the island, regulated imports and deforestation practices and introduced new weights and measures, ie English traces in public works, agriculture, livestock and also in language with different Anglicisms. Kane ended his government of Minorca island by death in December 1736. He has conquered the appreciation of the inhabitants and the gratitude of their King.

But there were also clashes between British and menorquines especially when the English needed men for their squads and ordered forced conscriptions. As there were also times of bad government and provocation with the Church.

Of the Anglicisms, still remain around 60 words in the language of Menorca as manifested by Vincent and Xavier Campos in his book "Els anglicisme of Menorca". In this context, the most comprehensive study is that produced by Professors Ortell and Campos. Some examples of these menorquine Anglicisms are: Correr de Berecs (barracks), bricbarca, berguin (bargain), boi (boy), Jan (Johm), Miledy (my lady), piquels (pilchard), pudin (pudding), grog, sutimbor (setting board), tiquitil (tea kettle), xaques (shake hands), mervles (marbles).

Algeciras, Thirteen of January 2010.
Jesus Castro.

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