Tangier Garrison

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The Tangier Garrison was the land force which oversaw the defence of English Tangier between 1661 and 1684 when it was evacuated. It was formally part of the English Army, the de facto standing army that Charles II established following the Restoration.

Charles II had received Tangier as part of the Marriage Treaty with Portugal in 1661. He chose to garrison it with four regiments then at Dunkirk which were being withdrawn following its sale to France. The early garrison of Tangier was a mixture of English Protestant (and often Republican) former soldiers of the New Model Army, and Irish (mainly Catholic) Royalists who had accompanied Charles in exile, serving in the Spanish Army following the Treaty of Brussels. The religious and political differences sometimes caused them to clash and, although martial law was strictly enforced, the Garrison was prone to bouts of ill-discipline most notably drunkenness. There was a string of duels fought amongst the Garrison's officers.

The Garrison quickly developed a reputation as a tough life, manning the forts of the town which were under constant threat from the Moorish inhabitants of the surrounding region. While this often involved sporadic skirmishes, it also included larger engagements such as the Battle of Tangier against Guyland and the Great Siege of Tangier.

Despite occasional enforcement of the Test Acts, the garrison was notable for the large number of Catholics serving in it. Irish Catholics in particular, unable to serve in the Irish Army due to the Penal Laws, went to Tangier. It also attracted professional soldiers, as it was one of the few places where those in the English Army could find active service. This made it a source of protests in the English Parliament, where Whigs regarded it as a large "Catholic Army" which might be brought to England by Charles to enforce absolute rule on the country. These fears grew especially large at the time of the Popish Plot. It was due to these political pressures, as well as its large cost, that the Garrison was eventually withdrawn and Tangier abandoned.

After returning to the British Isles, many of the veterans of the Garrison went on to play influential roles in the Glorious Revolution and the War of the Two Kings. A group of officers known as the "Tangerines" were part of the conspiracy to invite William III to invade England to take the throne from his uncle James II in 1688.[1] Many former Tangier officers were key figures in the development of the modern British Army.


  1. ^ Childs. The Army, James II and the Glorious Revolution p.156-57


  • Childs, John. The Army of Charles II. Routledge, 1976.
  • Childs, John. The Army, James II and the Glorious Revolution. Manchester University Press, 1980.