Battle of Almansa

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The Battle of Almansa, fought on 25 April 1707, was one of the most decisive engagements of the War of the Spanish Succession. At Almansa, the FrancoSpanish army under Berwick soundly defeated the allied forces of Portugal, Britain, and the United Provinces led by the Earl of Galway, reclaiming most of eastern Spain for the Bourbons.

It has been described as "probably the only Battle in history in which the British forces were commanded by a Frenchman, the French by a Briton."[2]


The Battle

The Bourbon army of about 25,000 was composed of Spanish and French troops in equal proportion, as well as an Irish regiment. Opposing them was a mainly Anglo-Portuguese force with strong Dutch, German, and French Huguenot elements.

The Battle began with an artillery exchange. When Galway committed his reserves to an attack on the Bourbon centre, Berwick unleashed a strong force of Franco-Spanish cavalry against the weakened Anglo-Portuguese lines, sweeping away the Portuguese horse. A general rout followed. Galway lost 5,000 men killed and 12,000 taken prisoner; of his army of 22,000 only 5,000 escaped to Tortosa.


The victory was a major step in the consolidation of Spain under the Bourbons. With the main allied army destroyed, the pretender Philip regained the initiative and gained Valencia.

The city of Xàtiva was burned, and its name changed to San Felipe in order to punish it. (In memory of these facts, nowadays the portrait of the monarch still hangs upside down in the local museum of L'Almodí [4])

Before long, the only remaining allies of the Habsburg pretender, Archduke Charles, were his supporters in Catalonia and Balearic Islands.


Frederick II of Prussia referred to Almansa as "the most scientific battle of our century," while Winston Churchill once compared the crushing British defeat to the disasters awaiting the British Army at the hands of Nazi Germany in the early years of World War II.

In the present-day Valencian Community, the saying: Quan el mal ve d'Almansa, a tots alcança ("Evil tidings spare no one when they come from Almansa", or, more literally, "When the wrong comes from Almansa, it reaches everybody" (Compare English: "It's an ill wind that blows no good") recalls this defeat, since one of the side effects of this defeat was the suppression of the autonomy of the Kingdom of Valencia within the Spanish Habsburg monarchy.

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