środa, 7 grudnia 2011

Georg von Hessen-Darmstadt - hero of Hessians and Catalans

Can one be a hero in the eyes of two geographically very distant nations? Yes! And it's possible even if 300 years passed since his death.

Piotr Napierała, Hesja-Darmstadt w XVIII stuleciu. Wielcy władcy małego państwa, Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań 2009. ISBN 978-83-232-2007-7
(fragment of the chapter III)

The skillful defense of Barcelona against the French (May 1696) earned him much recognition . On 1st of June he was attacked by overwhelming French forces, himself having only 2000 infantry and 2500 cavalry at his disposal. He started a daring attack against the enemy cavalry, which deed was praised by the Catalan historian Antonio de Bofarull (1821-1892). Bofarull has contributed to the legend of the brave german prince (El Princep Jordi), friend of Catalansand and enemy of the French, which is alive even today.

From September 1701 to February 1702 year, Georg von Hessen-Darmstadt was in Landgraviate of Hesse-Dramstadt. Has always been very close to all his family. Between a great leader and the Landgrave Ernst Ludwig were exemplary brotherly relations, even though a blunder resulted of the high expenditure of George's, who, after leaving Darmstadt, visited his mother in Butzbach. George was looking for the alleged treasure in the family castle. The Landgrave had nothing against it, as he was himself a lover of mysteries.

In February, George went through Frankfurt to London to organise troops for Austro-British military operation in Spain. As a military representative of the Emperor Leopold, he often talked with William III, and -later- with Queen Anne (reigned: 1702-1714). The destination of the operation was Cadiz, where where 160 ships landed on 26th of august 13.800 soldiers. The attack failed. Next the British-Austrian-Dutch-Hessian army began its raids around Cadiz. Duke wasn't able to do anything about it, because even his aide-de-camp Steinwehr participated in plundering . At the same time the army was attacked by guerrillas. Shortly afterwards a fierce quarrel occurred between the Hessian and the English commander James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745). The Englishman was angry at his ally, becouse his conviction about the pro-Hapsburg attitude of the Spaniards didn't correspond with the truth. In response he heard from prince Georg about his bad manner of deploing troops, which had caused the ineffectivness ot the assault.

English discouragement prevailed and the fleet sailed back home on September the 20th 1702. Complaints made by Prince George in London and The Hague led to nothing but an fruitless investigation. He remained until January 1704 in London as a diplomatic representative of the Austrian army and head of the Emperor's party in Spain (since 1703).

In May 1703 Georg's younger brother, Georg Heinrich, came to London. He used to suffer from poor health and depression in his youth, so the family hesistated long what kind of career would be appropriate for him.

Soon after the capture of Gibraltar, Georg who was the hero of this assault, had to defend the town against the Spanish-French army. George died on September the 14th 1705 while assaulting Fort Montjuïc (Castell de Montjuïc). When British commander in chief Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough (1658-1735) drove closer, he saw George's body lying on the ground. He and other witnesses were shocked. Heinrich, George's brother was devastated. Barcelona was re-conquered after naxt assault. The Habsburg Pretender entered the city on October the 23th 1705.

The body of the duke was embalmed and buried in a sarcophagus at the monastery near Barcelona Gracia. It was later missing, and unsucessfuly sought for.

His heart was to be sent to George's Mother to Butzbach, but she died in 1709 year, when the heart was (from 1705 on) still in possession of Louis XIV, who used the relic as a bargaining chip. It was not until 1711 years when it was eventually buried in Darmstadt, where it was arranged in a silver casket in the dukes' tomb (Fürstengruft) in Stadtkirche. To honour "the prince Jordi" a Catalan poet from Barcelona wrote an epitaph in 1706:

Visqué el Príncep per la Glòria de Catalunya, en la defensa de la seva Capital, expugnada de francesos. I per redimir-la, captiva dels mateixos, havia de morir, en la llei del fidel amic. orí en la captura de Montjuïc. Amb ella sortí lliure Catalunya, de la dura opressió i del tirànic jou de França. El nostre Sereníssim Jordi, com Pare de la Pàtria, li procurà a Catalunya, la més sobirana Joia. Defensà el Príncep Barcelona, assetjada de francesos. Qui mort com a noble, mai cau rendit. Aquí viu a qui la fama ernitza

(...Prince lived for the Glory of Catalonia, and defended the capital (Barcelona), he died capturing the castle of Montjuic to free Catalonia from the harsh oppression and tyrannical yoke of France. Our most serene George, who died as a nobleman, and live in eternal fame...)

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