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SPAIN: Almansa, a forgotten battle and a Virgin with a homepage



I was evacuated from Madrid in 1936 after thr first siege of the Spanish capital was broken when the Loyalists recaptured Albacete. It was the first train from Madrid to Valencia, and we were lucky not to be attacked by Franco forces. Just after leaving Albacete province I saw on a mountain the castle of Almansa, the scene of a historic battle. Few Americans have heard of it, but it was the decisive battle in the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1714) which has been described as "the first world war". It was triggered by a personal decision by Charles II, who had no more idea of the consequences than Truman did when he recognized the state of Israel. So many major events are the unforeseen consequences of personal decisions. Charles II, the last of the Spanish Hapsburgs, had no children, and his last act was to leave Spain to the Bourbon Philip of Anjou. Britain and Austria did not want France to add Spain and the Spanish Empire to its possessions, so they declared war. Almansa was the scene of the decisive defeat of the Austrian Army. By the Treaty of Utrecht Philp was allowed to start the Bourbon dynasty of Spain, but it was never to be united with France. Great Britain won Gibraltar. However, it was also a civil war, as the Catalans fought on, using guerrilla tactics. It sounds like the Middle East today. The legacy was Catalan resentment which survives to this day.

While the battle has been forgotten, the Virgin lives on. Which Virgin? The only guide where I found a reference to her is the Phaidon cultural guide to Spain, but in a message Francisco Jiménez says it is the Virgin de Belén (Bethleham) and gives her url: http://www.almansa.com. The page would no come up for me. Probably I did not pray hard enough. I wonder how many shrines to the Virgin there are in the world, and how many have their own home page?

Ronald Hilton - 6/1/02


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