Richard Devereux-Wall (5 November 1694 – 26 December 1777) was an Irish cavalry officer, diplomat and minister who rose in Spanish royal service to become Chief Minister. He is usually referred to as Ricardo Wall.
Wall belonged to a family settled in Killmallock, one of whom was Bishop of Limerick. Richard "Ricardo" Wall y Devereux was born at Nantes to a family of Irish Jacobite refugees, supporters the Catholic James II, King of England. He was baptized two days after his birth at the Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas in unfavourable circumstances: his father, Matthew "Matías" Wall of Killmallock, Co. Limerick, a long-serving officer in King James II's cavalry, was absent. His family then lived in the "pit of the well of the silver" supported by a relative, probably Gilbert Wall, the clockmaker.
Nothing much is known about his early years. Around 1710, he was introduced as page to the Bavarian Princess Marie Anne de Bourbon, Duchess of Vendôme who was Duchess d'Étampes in her own right (her father was Henry III Jules de Bourbon, prince de Condé). In 1716, he left France and joined the Royal House of Spain following a letter of request from the Prime Minister, Cardinal Alberoni, signed by the 38-year-old Dowager Duchess of Vendôme, Marie-Anne de Borbón-Condé.
Wall entered the Colegio Real de Guardiamarinas, founded at Cadiz by José Patiño in 1717, graduating in the second year of its foundation. He was then commissioned in the Spanish Navy serving on Real San Felipe (74 guns), under the command of Admiral Gaztañeta, which participated in the campaign of Sicily (1718) until the defeat of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape Passaro. Wall was then seconded to the Spanish Regiment of Hibernia, commanded by the Marquis of Lede taking part in land battles such as Milazzo and Francavilla. During the subsequent defence of Ceuta (1720–21), Wall was appointed the Marquis' Aide-de-Camp before being promoted captain in the Regiment of Batavia.
In 1727, Wall accompanied his compatriot James Fitz-James Stuart, 2nd Duke of Berwick (1696–1738) during his ambassadorial visit to the Tsar of Russia; the Scottish Duke was also Duke of Liria and Jérica, heir of the 1st Duke of Berwick, an illegitimate son of James II of England.
Wall was posted on other missions by the Duke of Líria y Jérica, such as to the King of Prussia, who decorated him as a Knight of the Red Eagle. While a Stuart ambassadorship to Berlin did not materialise, Wall took the opportunity to cultivate numerous contacts throughout Europe, in Parma, Vienna, Dresden as well as in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.
He returned to Spain in 1729. Between 1732 and 1734, he served in the expedition to Tuscany which placed Prince Carlos on the throne of Parma. Shortly after, he took part in the War of Naples (1734–35), seeing action at Capua, Messina and Syracuse.
In 1737 he was appointed a Knight of the Military Order of Santiago and in 1741, was created Encomienda of Peñausende, which in addition to Peñausende included Peralejos de Abajo, Saucelle, Saldeana and Barrueco Pardo (now in the provinces of Zamora and Salamanca).
Appointed Captain-General in 1744, he participated in the Lombardy campaign in the War of the Austrian Succession, being deployed by Infante Felipe de Borbón "in the boldest attacks". Promoted Brigadier in 1747, he formed a useful friendship with one of the most influential courtiers of the era, the Duke of Huéscar (later Duke of Alba).
Wounded in action at Piacenza (1746), he transferred to diplomatic service and, in May 1747, was posted to Genoa on a temporary mission "concerning solely military matters"; soon after afterwards, he was posted to London by the new Spanish Minister of State, José de Carvajal, a friend of Huescar.
Ambassador in London
Wall's diplomatic mission to London was for negotiating peace between the Bourbons and Great Britain, but it soon ran into difficulties not least because of reservations in British ministerial quarters about his Irish and Jacobite roots, but also from infighting on the Spanish side by the Marquis of Tabuérniga later de La Ensenada who had coveted his position.
The Marqués de La Ensenada was recalled to Madrid, leaving General Wall to enjoy the trappings of ambassadorial residence at Soho Square. Wall is depicted in a portrait by Van Loo (now at the National Gallery, Dublín), and he sponsored the Arts in general, commissioning a "Santiago" by Tiépolo for his private chapel (now hanging at the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum in Budapest), as well as written works such as those by Smollett, including the translation of Don Quixote (1755) which is dedicated to him.
Prime Minister of Spain
In 1754 Wall was recalled from London to Madrid becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, after the death of José de Carvajal. A few months later he played a part in driving Carvajal's successor the Marquis de La Ensenada from office, thereby also helping Huescar and the British Ambassador, Sir Benjamin Keene. Wall served as Chief Minister until 1763, when the Marquis of Grimaldi succeeded him.
The despatches of the British Minister, Sir Benjamin Keene, and those of his successor, George, 2nd Earl of Bristol, contain many references to General Wall. They are creditable to him. Though a constant partisan of peace and good relations with Britain, Wall was firm in asserting the rights of the government he served. During the early stages of the Seven Years' War (1756–63) he insisted on claiming compensation for the excesses of British privateers in Spanish waters. He frequently complained to British officials about the difficulties which these adventurers' violence was causing. As an expatriate, despite having previously represented the French Crown, he was often taunted by various French factions.
Wall himself was more concerned that Britain's colonial acquisitions from France could mean that Spain's South American Empire was threatened. The new King Charles III (1759–88) retained Wall as Prime Minister. When Spain declared War in 1761, Wall as Prime Minister naturally carried out his King's decree, although he later confessed to Lord Bristol, the British Ambassador, some regret with the benefit of hindsight that he could see the failure of his efforts in preserving the peace. The close relations between Charles III and the French Bourbon Kings later made General Wall’s position as Prime Minister very trying. Yet King Charles, who detested changing his ministers, refused all Wall's requests to retire, till Wall exhorted himself in 1763 by elaborately affecting an imaginary eye disease.
Throughout his Spanish government service Wall built a network of relationships which survived his tenure for several decades perhaps even helping Spain during the following reign of King Charles IV. Among the relationships he developed were those with: the Marquis of Grimaldi, the Count of Aranda, the Count of Campomanes, Manuel de Roda, Cayetano Pignatelli, Marquis of Rubí as well as with various ambassadors from around Europe such as the Counts of Fuentes, and also with commissioners from the colonies, like Ambrosio de Funes Villalpando, Count of Ricla.
Among his committed Irish supporters were the engineer William Bowles (1720–84) who studied the geology of Spain, Pedro Fitz-James Stuart, the de Lacy family, Alejandro O'Reilly, Arnold later Lord Mahoney, Carlos McCarthy, Francis Nangle, Ambrosio O'Higgins and Bernard Ward.
Wall extended friendship and knowledge with others such as Francisco Pérez Bayer, Jose Clavijo y Fajardo, Benito Bails, Celestino Mutis, Jose Agustín de Llano y de la Cuadra (Spanish Ambassador to Vienna under Emperor Joseph II & nephew of one of Spain's First Secretaries of State), Sebastián de la Cuadra, 1st Marquis of Villarías, numerous members of Juan de Iriarte's family, Bernardino del Campo, Ambassador José Nicolás de Azara (a follower of William Bowles' work) and Juan de Chindulza.
The King of Spain gave General Wall y Devereux handsome reward for his service.
General Wall spent the rest of his life, until 1777, between homes in Alhama de Almeria and near Granada, welcoming all visitors and particularly English travelers exploring Spain's culture. He left a reputation as being a very able minister as well as a most witty conversationalist.
He died on 26 December 1777, imparting a few words to his friend and confessor, Juan Miguel Kayser. A subsequent lawsuit between his natural heirs – namely, his cousin Eduardo Wall and family – and those of his confessor, somewhat clouded his memory for a while.
General Wall y Devereux did not marry and left no children. His closest relative, Eduardo Wall, married María condesa de Armildez de Toledo, whose remaining descendants include the Condes de Fuentes and de Floridablanca.
NB: some clarifications on General Wall's life: contrary to Coxe's writings he was never was sent on a mission to Spanish America nor did he lay plans for retaking Jamaica from the British. Coxe confuses one John Savy, nicknamed Miguel Wall, with Richard Wall, nor was Wall ever Ambassador to The Netherlands.
- List of Prime Ministers of Spain
- Marquesado de La Cañada
- Condado de Sástago
- Casa de Manrique de Lara
- Coxe's Memoirs of the Kings of Spain of the House of Bourbon (London, 1815).
- Diario del viaje a Moscovia, 1727–1730, of the duke of Liria (vol. xciii. of the Documentos inéditos para la historia de España), (Madrid, 1842, et seq.).
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “La misión secreta de D. Ricardo Wall en Londres (1747–1748)” in Brocar, 24, 2000, pp. 49–71.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “Guerra y regalismo a comienzos del reinado de Carlos III. El final del ministerio Wall” in Hispania, 209, 2001, pp. 1051–90.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “L’exil jacobite irlandais et l’Ouest de la France (1691–1716)” in DENÉCHÈRE, Y. y MARAIS, J. L. (dirs.), Les étrangers dans l’Ouest de la France (XVIIIe–XXe siècle). Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest, 109, 2002, pp. 25–40.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “La supuesta anglofilia de D. Ricardo Wall. Filias y fobias políticas durante el reinado de Fernando VI” in Revista de Historia Moderna. Anales de la Universidad de Alicante, 21, 2003, pp. 501–36.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “Richard Wall: light and shade of an Irish minister in Spain (1694–1777)” in Irish Studies Review, 11.2, August 2003, pp. 123–36.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “El grupo irlandés bajo el ministerio Wall (1754–63)” in *VILLAR GARCÍA, M. B. y PEZZI CRISTÓBAL, P. (eds.), Los Extranjeros en la España Moderna: Actas del I Coloquio Internacional. Málaga 28–30 de noviembre de 2002, 2 tomos, Málaga, 2003, Tomo II, pp. 737–50.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “Anson, Wall y el cambio de rol del ‘Lago español’ en el enfrentamiento colonial Hispano-británico (1740–1762)”, in Tiempos Modernos, 11, 2004, pp. 1–8.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., “El joven Campomanes y el ministro Wall (1754–63)” in MATEOS DORADO, D. (ed.), Campomanes doscientos años después, Oviedo, 2003, pp. 417–31.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., D. Ricardo Wall. Aut Caesar aut nullus, Madrid, 2008.
- Téllez Alarcia, D., Absolutismo e Ilustración en la España del s. XVIII. El Despotismo Ilustrado de D. Ricardo Wall, Madrid, 2010
- Téllez Alarcia, D., El ministerio Wall. La “España Discreta” del “Ministro Olvidado”, Madrid, 2012.
- Diego Téllez, D. Ricardo Wall el ministro olvidado
- Viscount Mountgarret: see Sir Nicholas Devereux
- Devereux genealogy
Duke of Hueścar
|Secretary of State
Marquis of Grimaldi