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The 18th Century

Philip V (1700-1724)

Charles II died in 1700 without an heir and the Duke of Anjou was crowned Philip V in Castile. It prompted England, Holland, Austria and Portugal to support the Habsburg candidate, Archduke Charles of Austria. On Mallorca, the people of Palma supported Philip while the landowners supported Charles.

mallorca in the 18th century

The War of Spanish Succession began in 1702 and while the main battles occurred in northern Europe, Allied troops landed in Portugal and French troops occupied northeast Spain in 1704, sparking an evacuation of Palma. Later that year French forces were defeated by the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim, changing the balance of power. A year later Madrid fell to the Allies while Austria seized Spain's territories in Italy.

After English troops captured Gibraltar, gaining control over the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, French troops reinforced Menorca to stop it falling into British hands. Troops were waiting along Palma's quayside when Admiral Sir John Leake's Anglo-Dutch fleet sailed into the bay in September 1706. They ran for cover when the ships opened fire and all the Bourbon supporters fled the city. 200 English soldiers garrisoned Bellver Castle on behalf of the Habsburgs and the fleet returned to the mainland. A Bourbon rebellion on Menorca seized Ciutadella and Mahon in January 1707. After 18 months of tyrannical rule, General Stanhope and Admiral Leake returned and captured the island, including Mahon's deep water harbour.

The defeat of the French at Malplaquet in 1708 marked the beginning of the end of hostilities but Spain lost all its European territories, including Gibraltar and Menorca, when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713. A Bourbon army landed at Cala Llonga, (now Cala d'Or) on the south-east coast in June 1715 and advanced on Palma. Their arrival heralded the start of a new regime on the island.

With great resentment, the Spanish War of Succession had turned Spain into a united state, one ruled by an absolute monarchy and Madrid based administration. While those loyal to Philip were given honours and privileges, Charles's supported were banished. Between 1715 and 1718 royal decrees were issued for the 'Nova Planta' or 'New Plan' and the people had to deal with a new tax system. Despite hopes for a better life, the barons bought their way into offices and corruption resumed.

mallorca in the 18th century

While the Bourbon army left Mallorca, the non-Spaniards stayed on as an army of occupation and began hunting down bandits hiding in the Tramuntana Mountains. 400 were rounded up in 1721 and given the choice of being imprisoned in Bellver Castle or being conscripted.

Philip abdicated when his son Louis II came of age but returned to the throne when he died only nine months later of smallpox. Spain was once again at odds with Great Britain in the War of Jenkin's Ear (so called because Spanish coastguards cut off Captain Jenkin's ear and it was exhibited in Parliament). The war started over the selling of slaves in Spanish territories but it soon became part of a Europe wide war over the Austrian Succession.

Ferdinand VI (1746-1759)

While the Austrian war of Succession ended in 1748, six years later Spain allied itself with France, Austria and Russia against Britain and Prussia in the Seven Years War. The British garrison on Menorca was soon under siege and Admiral Byng withdrew after the French ships engaged his British fleet in May 1756. The garrison surrendered a month later and Byng was executed by firing squad the following year for failing to "do his utmost" . Menorca was returned to Britain at the peace of Paris in 1763.

Charles III (1759-1788)

When Charles III came to the throne in 1759, peace was returning to the Western Mediterranean. Mallorca profited from the Europe's settled situation under Bourbon rule and the population rose to 120,000 with 33,000 living in Palma. While everyone concentrated on improving the economy, the 'Enlightenment' movement was rejected as being too French. With peace restored, the garrison of was reduced as the barons raised their own militias. Merchant shipping also increased while the many privateers brought considerable wealth to the island.

mallorca in the 18th century

Most of the island was devoted to wheat and barley but large quantities still had to be imported. In 1765 Catalan ports were permitted to trade with the West Indies but only a few of Palma's 300 merchant ships could cross the Atlantic. They were soon filled with textiles, leather goods, olive oil, dried figs, wine and brandy and they returned loaded with coffee, sugar and skins.

When it came to religious matters, King Charles blamed the Jesuit community for rioting in Madrid and expelled them from Spain in 1767. The Mallorcan enclave was taken to Rome on Captain Antoni Barcelo's ship (see the Pirates of the Mediterranean webpage for more about this illustrious sea captain). Jesuits were also banished from Spain's colonies and Father Junipero Serra's group of missionaries took over the missions in Baja and Alta California (see Father Junipero's webpage for more information). While the powers of the Inquisition were reduced, the Xuetes families still suffered discrimination. (Check out the Inquisition webpage to find out more information about the Jews and the Inquisition.)

In 1776, thirteen American colonies declared independence from Britain, and they were supported by France and Spain. It increased the fear that British troops based on Menorca might invade Mallorca; a fear that never materialised. When the tensions died down, King Charles allowed Mallorca to increase trade with the American colonies in 1778, reviving Palma's economy and shipyards.

mallorca in the 18th centuryGibraltar had always been a thorn in Spain's side and a plan to capture Menorca and negotiate an exchange of the two territories was put together. The Duke of Crillon's Franco-Spanish fleet sailed from Palma early in 1782 and captured the island, returning to Mallorca loaded with British prisoners. Unfortunately, Britain refused to negotiate and while Gibraltar remained British, Spain kept Menorca at the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.

Charles IV (1788-1808)


Charles IV became King at a difficult time because the French Revolution began in 1789. Many French monarchists, including aristocrats, artisans and clerics, escaped to Mallorca; the number of exiles increased after Louis XVI was executed in 1793.

While France declared war on Britain and Spain, the new first minister, Godoy, entered into an alliance with the French in 1795, putting the Spanish armed forces at their disposal. Opponents to the alliance were expelled from Spain and 2,500 moved to Mallorca, adding to the overcrowding in Palma.

The British defeat of the Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent, Portugal, in 1797 resulted in a blockade of Spanish ports, ending the lucrative trade with the Americas; it ruined the Spain's economy. A year later General John Stuart captured Menorca, placing a strong British force on Mallorca's doorstep. A coup in France two years later left Napoleon Bonaparte in control of Spain's ally; it heralded the start of a difficult era for Europe, Spain and Mallorca.

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