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“Death to the French!”: the dangerous profession of notary in the War of Independence | Culture

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On Monday, May 2, 1808, early in the morning, perhaps without knowing what was coming, Miguel de Iranzo, colonel of grenadiers “with an upcoming departure for Lisbon,” gave power of attorney to his wife. It was authorized by the Madrid notary Valerio Cortijo, who from 1811 to 1813 would sign in Cádiz, where he would flee during the War of Independence, and he would not be the only one. Rafael Maroto, with an office on Calle de las Huertas, would leave it written: “Due to the French invasion and not having wanted to succumb to his ideas, I had to go to Seville and Cádiz in 1809.” When he returned in 1813, he found that his wife and his mother had died.

On May 1 there had been a market and this had attracted many people to the capital. Given the news that spoke of the imminent departure of the members of the Royal Family who still remained in Madrid, after the departure to France of Charles IV and his son Ferdinand VII, on May 2 many waited expectantly in the vicinity of the Royal Palace. What happened next is known. The fight against the French would last until three in the afternoon, and the reprisals in the form of shootings, the immediate morning, are also known: “All those who have been arrested or found with weapons in their hands will be shot,” the order read. given by the French Marshal Murat.

This takes us to the secluded and little-known cemetery of La Florida, next to the hermitage of San Antonio. Part of those who fell during the repression are buried there, and were later immortalized by Francisco de Goya.

Among them, two notaries: the first, Francisco Sánchez, active since 1805 and with an office at 31 Barrionuevo Street, was shot with 42 other people that fateful day. He left two daughters, who went to live in Segovia, and a widow, who would also die shortly afterwards. His last deed, a power of attorney, he had signed the previous Thursday. The other, Andrés Ibáñez, died in the General Hospital (now the headquarters of the Reina Sofía Museum), where he had been admitted with a gunshot wound.

‘May 2, 1808 in Madrid’ or ‘The fight with the Mamelukes’ (1814), by Francisco de GoyaPRADO MUSEUM

The French invasion divided the notaries—then called notaries—among French and patriots, as happened with the rest of the Spaniards. Among the first we can cite the case of Francisco Camps, from Gerona, who interrupted his work on July 13, 1808, not returning to his work until 1818. Upon resuming it he would note: “Young and single, he left the pen for the sword and enlisted in the army to fight the invader” (young and single, he left the pen for the sword and enlisted in the army to fight the invader).

In the same city, Joan Mallol began to serve as captain of a company for the defense of Gerona, on June 29, 1808. When the city surrendered, he was deported to France as a prisoner of war. He returned after the armistice, in May 1814. He would state this when exercising again.

In Malaga, two other notaries, the brothers Bernardo and Rafael San Millán, who had pointed out against the French, were hanged in 1810 by order of General Sebastiani. While Francisco de Roa, from Antequera, organized a very active guerrilla group in the Malacitana mountains.

Among the Frenchified, the notary of Villaviciosa de Córdoba, Miguel de Vargas, was murdered in 1810 by guerrillas for collaborating with the French. For the same reason, Tomás de Arteaga from Villafranca del Bierzo was imprisoned and his property seized.

'Fernando VII with royal mantle', by Francisco de Goya (1814-1815).
‘Fernando VII with royal mantle’, by Francisco de Goya (1814-1815).PRADO MUSEUM

Notarial documentation during the French occupation fell significantly. What is evident, logically, is the increase in wills, something similar to other critical moments in our history. When the State of Alarm declined during the Covid pandemic (after 88 days, between March and June 2020), I authorized 22 wills in a single day, a figure never before, nor, most likely since, repeated.

Returning to the War of Independence, the documents granted in that period allow us to get closer to the personal dramas that occurred. Like the case of María Bosch, from Nerja, a widow with two minor children, who had to sell her only property in 1812. A notarial document explained her situation: “On the night of December 13 of last year, a group of insurgents entered (the town) and in (her) house they murdered her husband with handfuls and shotguns and broke (her) hair. arm destroying everything in the house, leaving (she) and her children in the greatest misery, supporting themselves on alms.

Antonia Rodríguez from Malaga, in her will of 1811, recognized the son she had had with Joaquín Sierra, “enlisted in defense of the Homeland due to the circumstances that prevailed at the time” and that had prevented them from marrying. When she fell ill, she recorded that her son was “under promise (of marriage).” And she added: “Carried away by love and sensual appetite, we met carnally, from whose actions I became pregnant.” The child had been noted as “son of the Church.”

After the war, the “hateful” (as it was described) “forced command or legacy” was implemented. a legal imposition created to help those affected by the conflict and that lasted until 1845! It had to be included in all wills. The amount was 12 reales in Spain and three pesos in America. Thus, the Ponferrad notary José Gasalla left in 1821 “twelve reales for the widows and children of those who died as a result of the last war.” In 1843, María Gallardo, from Crevillente, ordered in her will “12 reales for the relief of families orphaned by the War of Independence.”

I confess that sometimes I question whether so much suffering in those days was worth it, and what followed, let us remember the terrible famine of 1812 and so much destruction and looting – the property damage was incalculable – to ultimately achieve the return of the “Desired” Ferdinand VII.

Ten years later, in 1823, after the arrival of the One Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis, a contingent of the French army, the Liberal Triennium came to an end. Then the work of the liberal scribes will be questioned and we will witness a purge In all rules. A decree of 1824 will shape it, in order to prosecute possible collaboration with the deposed liberal regime and, if this is proven, separate them from his office. For example, in 1826, the notary of Capellades (Barcelona), Francesc Pujol, upon re-entering the profession, was forced to declare “not belonging to any secret association, nor recognizing the absurd principle that the People are the arbiters of varying the form.” of the established Governments.”

The heroic efforts of so many people were not reciprocated by a king so ungrateful that, in addition, as a posthumous legacy, he would leave us a civil war in three successive installments over half a century.

The two Spains had been born.

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