Cádiz is the oldest city in Spain. It was founded by the Phoenicians who called it Gadir, or Agadir, which was their name for an enclosure, or port.
The Romans called it Gades. Later came the Arabs who called it Qádiz. Most English speakers pronounce it incorrectly. The accent is on the first syllable.
On this day, Feb 5th, 1810, Cádiz became the last chance saloon for the Spanish Cortes. The government fled from Madrid ahead of the advancing Napoleonic armies. They holed up in the last Spanish city, and held out for two years of siege.
Marshalls Victor and Soult failed to break the Spaniards. The British and the Spanish mounted a number of daring counter attacks to relieve the siege. The most famous was the Battle of Barrosa, where Patrick Masterson of the 87th Royal Irish Fusiliers captured an Imperial Eagle from the French, the first ever won by British forces.
But it was the actions of another Irish born soldier, Lord Wellington, that eventually relieved Cádiz. The battle of Salamanca threatened to cut off the French and they were forced to retreat and regroup.
The war in Spain became known as the “Spanish Ulcer”. It was the open sore that bled France and weakened her. Spain was Napoleons Vietnam. Army after army was sent to Spain. Some died on the battlefield in the big war, la Guerra. But more died in the little war, la guerrilla, a word invented by the Peninsular war.
Sometimes the lowest point, the last gasp, becomes the foundation for new growth. From the ashes of disaster the Cortes sowed the seeds of eventual success.
The Girl of Cádiz; by Lord Byron
O, NEVER talk again to me
Of northern climes and British ladies;
It has not been your lot to see,
Like me, the lovely Girl of Cadiz.
Although her eyes be not of blue,
Nor fair her locks, like English lassies,
How far its own expressive hue
The languid azure eye surpasses!
Prometheus-like, from heaven she stole
The fire that through those silken lashes
In darkest glances seems to roll,
From eyes that cannot hide their flashes;
And as along her bosom steal
In lengthened flow her raven tresses,
You ’d swear each clustering lock could feel,
And curled to give her neck caresses.
Our English maids are long to woo,
And frigid even in possession;
And if their charms be fair to view,
Their lips are slow at love’s confession;
But, born beneath a brighter sun,
For love ordained the Spanish maid is,
And who, when fondly, fairly won,
Enchants you like the Girl of Cadiz?
The Spanish maid is no coquette,
Nor joys to see a lover tremble;
And if she love or if she hate,
Alike she knows not to dissemble.
Her heart can ne’er be bought or sold,
Howe’er it beats, it beats sincerely;
And, though it will not bend to gold,
’T will love you long, and love you dearly.
The Spanish girl that meets your love
Ne’er taunts you with a mock denial;
For every thought is bent to prove
Her passion in the hour of trial.
When thronging foemen menace Spain
She dares the deed and shares the danger;
And should her lover press the plain,
She hurls the spear, her love’s avenger.
And when, beneath the evening star,
She mingles in the gay Bolero,
Or sings to her attuned guitar
Of Christian knight or Moorish hero,
Or counts her beads with fairy hand
Beneath the twinkling rays of Hesper,
Or joins devotion’s choral band
To chant the sweet and hallowed vesper,
In each her charms the heart must move
Of all who venture to behold her.
Then let not maids less fair reprove,
Because her bosom is not colder;
Through many a clime ’t is mine to roam
Where many a soft and melting maid is,
But none abroad, and few at home,
May match the dark-eyed Girl of Cadiz.