Battle of Trocadero

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Battle of Trocadero
Part of the Spanish Expedition
Assedio del Trocadero (1823).jpg
French assault on Fort Trocadero
Date 1823
Location Spain
Result French and Spanish Royalist victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of France Kingdom of France
Spain Armée de la Foi
Spain Partisans of the Cortes
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of France Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême Spain Colonel Garcés
Strength
30,000 Soldiers 1,700 Soldiers
Casualties and losses
31 Dead
110 Wounded
150 Dead
300 Wounded
1,000 Captured

The Battle of Trocadero, fought on 31 August 1823, was the only significant battle in the French invasion of Spain when French forces defeated the Spanish liberal forces and restored the absolute rule of King Ferdinand VII.

Prelude[edit]

After the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte, King Ferdinand VII of Spain refused to adopt the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812 and in 1820 faced a rebellion in favour of a constitutional monarchy, led by Rafael del Riego y Nuñez. The King was captured and detained at Cádiz, where the Cortes, the Spanish parliament assembled. Alarmed by these events, the other European powers convened in October 1822 at the Congress of Verona and authorized France to intervene in the conflict and restore the rule of Ferdinand, with only Britain abstaining from that decision.

Military intervention[edit]

Situation of Trocadero in the Bay of Cádiz (1888)

On 17 April 1823, French forces led by Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, son of the future Charles X, crossed the Pyrenees into Spain.

The French forces were welcomed by the Basques and in Catalonia. The duke dispatched a force to besiege San Sebastian while he launched an attack on Madrid, held by the rebel government, which on 23 May withdrew to Seville, Madrid's military commander secretly surrendered and fled to France, and the leaderless Madrid garrison could not keep out the French, who seized the city and installed a regent, pending Ferdinand's expected return.

The French moved south to besiege the rebels at Cádiz. The French besieged the fort of Trocadero, which controlled the access to the city. On 31 August 1823 they launched a surprise bayonet attack from the seaside, using the low tide, and took the fort. After this action, French infantry captured the Trocadero village by a flank attack. After this last action, 1700 Spanish soldiers were captured by the French.

Cádiz itself held out for three weeks despite bombardments, but was forced to surrender on 23 September 1823 and King Ferdinand was handed over to the French. Despite a prior promise of amnesty, the king ordered reprisals against the rebels. The following years, an estimated 30,000 people were executed and 20,000 imprisoned.[citation needed]

Aftermath[edit]

The Battle of Trocadero was one of the events that triggered the United States of America to proclaim the Monroe Doctrine on 2 December 1823, to safeguard the Americas against intervention by European powers.

The fall of Trocadero was commemorated in Paris, with the Place du Trocadéro, where the city was expanding to the edges of the Bois de Boulogne. Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême, the victor of the battle, was honoured with the title "Prince of Trocadero".

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo devoted a long aside on the battle (Volume II, Book 2, chapter 3), in which he called the battle "a fine military action" but criticized the French intervention as "undoing by her arms that which she had done by her mind" and an "outrage on the generous Spanish nation ... at the same time, an outrage on the French Revolution." He also argued that the successful campaign was "fatal" to the Bourbons, as it encouraged reactionary forces to re-establish absolutism not only in Spain but also at home, which in turn provoked the July Revolution of 1830.

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