In the last eight wars in which they have coincided, both have been allies
In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II's death, many statements are being read on social media that seem more motivated by hate than patriotism.
Honors to fallen enemies: when war is not at odds with chivalry
When the Falklands were Spanish and the British were expelled from those islands
One of the most frequent statements is that Spain and the United Kingdom have always been enemies (and according to some they even continue to be). This statement does not respond to the truth. Certainly, Spain and the United Kingdom (and before that England) have been enemies in many wars. Throughout 224 years there were 21 wars between the Spanish and the British (or 20 and a half, if we take into account what happened in the Franco-Spanish War, as we will see below). Likewise, there were 21 wars between Spain and France (the last one ended in 1814).
The fact is that the last war between Spain and the United Kingdom occurred more than 200 years ago: it was the so-called Anglo-Spanish War of 1804-1809 and it ended, paradoxically, with the British allying with the Spanish against the French after they invaded Spain. In the last eight wars in which both countries have coincided, they have fought as allies. It should be noted that not even the maintenance of the British colony of Gibraltar has given rise to conflicts in these last two centuries: the last war between the two nations over Gibraltar ended in 1783, and ended in a British victory.
Let's review the wars in which the Spanish and British have been allies, over 500 years:
- Four Years' War (1521-1526). The unity of Spain had been completed with the annexation of Navarra in 1512. In this war, France invaded Navarra and the Spanish Netherlands. England (then reigned Henry VIII) allied itself with the Spanish Empire and the Papal States. The war ended with a victory for the Spanish Empire and its allies.
- Italian War (1542-1546). In this war, France allied itself with the Ottoman Empire against Spain. Again, Henry VIII, King of England, supported Spain. The war ended with a peace agreement between Spain and France in 1544.
- Italian War (1551-1559). Again, the war was initiated by France against the Spanish Empire, this time for its Italian possessions. England, under the reign of the Catholic Mary I, joined the war in 1557 as an ally of Spain. The war ended with a victory for the Spanish Empire and its allies.
- Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659). In this war, which is often framed as the Thirty Years' War, the Commonwealth of England (led by Oliver Cromwell) fought against Spain from 1655, but English royalists fought as allies of Spain. The war ended in a French victory.
- War of Independence from Spain (1808-1814). Taking advantage of the Anglo-Spanish War (1804-1809), Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire invaded Spain (despite initially being allies). The United Kingdom supported Spain by sending arms and troops, which played an important role in the conflict. The war ended with a Spanish victory.
- Gulf War (1990-1991). The war began in 1990 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Spain and the United Kingdom fought as allies as part of the international coalition that led to the defeat of Iraq and its expulsion from Kuwait.
- Somali Civil War (1993-1995). The war began with an uprising against the socialist regime of Siad Barre and with the separation of Somaliland in 1991. Spain and the United Kingdom participated as allies in the framework of the UN UNOSOM mission in the 1990s. To this day, the war continues.
- Operation Deliberate Force (1995). It was an operation carried out by NATO to put an end to the massacres of Bosnian civilians by Serb forces in the framework of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Spain and the United Kingdom participated as allies in the framework of the Atlantic Alliance.
- Kosovo War (1998-1999). It was a new NATO intervention against the massacres committed by Serbian forces, this time against Kosovar civilians. Spain and the United Kingdom participated as allies. The operation culminated in the establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission and the de facto independence of Kosovo, not recognized by Spain.
- War in Afghanistan (2001-2014). It began as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001, perpetrated by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, which was given refuge by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Spain and the United Kingdom participated as allies.
- Iraq War (2003-2004). The war began with the US invasion of Iraq to depose dictator Saddam Hussein. Spain and the United Kingdom participated as US allies. The Spanish contingent was withdrawn in 2004 by the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
- Military intervention in Libya (2011). It began with Resolution 1973 of the United Nations Security Council against the brutal repression carried out by the dictator Gaddafi. Spain and the United Kingdom participated as allies as member countries of NATO.
Obviously, the colony of Gibraltar continues to be an issue that confronts Spain and the United Kingdom, which does not prevent both nations from being members of NATO (as are Greece and Turkey, which have yes a much higher level of hostility). It is very unlikely that this colony could lead to a new armed confrontation between Spain and the United Kingdom, a peaceful solution being the most desirable within the framework of the UN decolonization plans. Those who want to see Spain at war with the United Kingdom over that colony should stop to think carefully about what a war implies. They just have to look at what is happening in Ukraine to get an idea.
Image: BritishBattles.com. Artistic recreation by Harry Payne of the battles between the French and the British at the Battle of Elviña, in La Coruña, in 1809, one of the battles of the Spanish War of Independence, in which the United Kingdom was an ally of Spain.
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