Rafael Casanova i Comes (Catalan pronunciation: [rəˈfɛɫ ˌkazəˈnɔβə]) (Moià, 1660 - Sant Boi de Llobregat, May 2, 1743) was a Catalan jurist, supporter of the Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor as a pretender to the Crown of Spain during the War of the Spanish succession. He became mayor of Barcelona and commander in chief of Catalonia during the Siege of Barcelona until he was wounded in combat when commanding a counterattack of the Barcelona milícia at the San Peter front on the last day of siege, September 11, 1714. Recovered from his wounds after the war he continued his fight against absolutism as a lawyer and it has been claimed that he was the author of the book Record de l'Aliança feta a Jordi Augusto de la Gran Bretanya (Remembrance of the Alliance to George I of Great Britain) in which Catalonia reclaims to England the fulfillment of the Treaty of Genoa.
The Peace of Utrecht and the Case of the Catalans
In April 1714, the House of Lords devoted several of their plenary sessions to what came to be known as the Case of the Catalans. The topic was that Treaty of Genoa signed in 1705 between the Catalan delegates and the plenipotentiary agent of Queen Anne of England. In that treaty, Catalonia agreed to engage into the war helping England, with a special emphasis on England ensuring the defense of the Catalan Constitutional system, whatever the outcome of the war. But in the Peace of Utrecht the Catalans were betrayed by the English ministers in the peace negotiations. Against all expectations, and faced with a vastly superior army, the Catalan institutions decided to stand against King Philip, and defend their constitutional system and freedoms at the highest price.
It is not for the interest of England to preserve the Catalan Liberties.—Henry St. John Bolingbroke, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; (Utrecht, 1713)
Catalonia declares the war: the siege of Barcelona
After the Peace of Utrecht (1713) he participated in the Parlament in which Catalonia proclaimed the continuation of the war in defense of their constitutions the on 6 July 1713. While Barcelona was besieged by Bourbon troops, he was proclaimed "Conseller en Cap" (mayor) of Barcelona on November 30, 1713, and by virtue of their functions he was also colonel of the regiment of the milícia citizen, governor of Barcelona and the fortress of Montjuïc, as well as member of the Veinticuatrena Board of Government.
On February 26, 1714, Rafael Casanova became the highest military and political authority in Catalonia, when the Generalitat of Catalonia gave him all the military powers and also was named President of the ninth Board of war. It ruled the city until he was wounded in combat when commanding a counterattack of the Barcelona milícia at the San Peter front on the last day of siege, September 11, 1714. Having capitulated the city, the institutions of self-government of Catalonia were abolished and Rafael Casanova was cleared of its political and military positions. After the defeat their assets were seized, being amnestied years later to return to practice as a lawyer in Barcelona until shortly before his death. He maintained contact with several that had been leaders of the city during the siege, as well as with the exiles in the Austrian Empire, and is credited with the authorship of a public manifesto addressed to king George II of Great Britain remembering the alliance between Catalonia and England which was published on 1736, the twenty-second year of our slavery. Rafel Casanova died on 1743 and two years after, the English historian Tindal wrote in 1745:
The Catalans, thus abandoned and given up to their enemies, contrary to faith and honour, were not however, wanting to their own defence; but appealing to Heaven, and hanging up at the High Altar the Queen’s solemn declaration to protect them, underwent the utmost miseries of a siege; during which multitudes perished by famine and the sword, many were afterward executed, and many persons of figure were dispersed about the Spanish Dominions and dungeons.—Nicolas Tindal; History of England (1745)
Homage to Rafael Casanova
His figure has become an icon of catalanism, regarding him as one of their great Patriots. A hundred and fifty years after the end of the war (in 1863), the city of Barcelona dedicated a street to Rafael Casanova; In 1888 again the municipal consistory honored his memory by erecting a statue in his honor as the last 'Conceller in Cap', shot in this city brandishing the flag of Santa Eulalia in defense of the Catalan institutions. From that year the monument to Rafael Casanova became a place to call for the return of Catalan freedom and institutions of self-governance, especially when these were abolished during the dictatorship of the general Miguel Primo de Rivera, who also prohibited paying tribute to Rafael Casanova, and again abolished during the dictatorship of the general Francisco Franco, when the statue was also withdrawn. Since the restitution in 1977 of the monument in honor of Rafael Casanova, it was placed near where he fell wounded in battle fighting against the absolutist troops. One of the traditional acts of the National Day of Catalonia is that carried out by the Catalan institutions, most of the Catalan political forces, and representatives of major cultural, social and sports associations from Catalonia like FC Barcelona, who present wreaths and floral decorations at the foot of the monument. It is also remembered what was said in 1715 in House of Lords.
"[..] and the Honour of the British Nation, always renowned for the Love of Liberty, and for giving Protection to the Assertors of it, was most basely prostituted and a free and generous People, the faithful and useful Allies of this Kingdom, were betrayed, in the most unparalleled Manner, into irrevocable Slavery.—Journal of the House of Lords, vol 19, 20 (1715)
- Catalan constitutions
- Principality of Catalonia
- Generalitat de Catalunya
- National Day of Catalonia
- FC Barcelona
- AA.VV. (2006: III, 185)
- VV.AA. (Various Authors, 2006): Catalunya durant la Guerra de Successió. Barcelona: Ara Llibres
- BAKER, J: Deplorable History of the Catalans : from their first engaging in the war, to the time of their reduction with the motives, declarations, and engagements, on which they first took arms, the letters, treties, .... London, 1714
- BAKER, J: The Case of the Catalans considerd. London, 1714
- MANONELLES, M.: The House of Lords and the ‘Case of the Catalans’
- SERRET, C. (1996): Rafael Casanova i Comes, Conseller en Cap. San Baudilio de Llobregat: Ayto. de San Baudilio de Llobregat.
- Personal website of Jordi Torrades. It talks about the War of the Spanish Succession
- La Coronela of the town of Barcelona
- The Battle of the 11 of September 1714
- Rafael Casanova