Origin and History
During the dark age of the decadence of the Spanish monarchy, when obedience fell in disgrace and a bad spirit of provincialism was a real menace for the work of unification of the catholic kings, when the flames of war devoured the hearts and Catalonia and Flanders were ravaged, when loyalty was as changing as a flag on wind, turning as fortune, the plan to create a well disciplined unit was conceived. The aim was to raise a regiment capable of a valid service and able to protect his majesty body person. This was the origin of the king’s own regiment.
The question of the origin of the regiment was a difficult and contradictory one. The people were instinctively afraid of a military force who could be used in a repressive way. Also a number of high dignitaries of Spain were against the project of the comte duc de Olivares, for fears that the already powerful minister intended to create a “praetorian” guard for himself in order to become “invincible”.
Philip IV when in Catalonia, in 1632, decided to raise a unit composed of veteran soldiers in order to reduce the complete lack of discipline in the army. The marquis de Castrofuerte and Don Juan de Castro y de Castiglia were put in charge of the task. A first staff company of 140 men was stationed in Almansa. A request asking for volunteers was dictated and sent to general captains and majors of the cities. Problems soon aroused related to the double aspect of creating a new “elite” unit and its political and military implications.
A commission headed by the archbishop of Toledo and composed by the duc de Villahermosa, Don Fernando Castelvi, Don Geronimo Villanueva, Don Juan de Castro y Castilla, Don Jose de Napoles, Don Geronimo de San Vitores, Don Bernardo de Ribera, Don Manuel Vasconcelos and the Cid de Almeyda was created in 1634 in order to debate the matter.
This was the origin of the old King’s own Regiment, often referred as “immemorial”. The use of such a term, indicating something that was so old that it was impossible to ascertain its origins, gives a poor idea of our knowledge, revealing not only a complete impotence to find the historical documents out but, also of the laziness or the wrong directions of the students.
By chance all the documents we have found out are authentic and are a firm base. So the title “immemorial” should be avoided as far the king’s regiment is concerned.
Glory and merits were a characteristic of this unit, raised to be the most regarded formation of the Spanish army.
The tercio of the XVIIth century
- 1632. The marquis de Castrofuerte and Don Juan de Castilla tried to organize a new “elite” unit but only 140 men, including officers, NCO, drummers and soldiers were gathered.
- 1633. The creation was interrupted by a debating committee till, by a direct royal order, the unit was finally fully organized, dressed and equipped.
- 1635. The unit was transferred to Madrid in order to be employed as “security” at the palace.
- 1637. Under the command of the duc de Cardona, the regiment served in Catalonia. Invasion of Languedoc (August 28). Siege of Leucate (September 2). After a clash with the French army (September 28) was routed and then reformed in Rosellon.
- 1638. After a long fighting in the eastern Pyrenees, the “Tercio de la Guardia” was transferred in a hurry to the western side, because the prince of Condè was menacing the crucial place of Fuenterrabìa. General Roò was in charge of the unit but, the marquis de Los Velez, acting as CiC, directly ordered the unit to storm the enemy entrenchments positioned on the mount de Jaizquibel. It was considered a difficult task to assault a prepared position defended by 3,000 experienced men. On September 7, the mission was accomplished and the regiment obtained a complete victory. So decisive was this action that Condé, abandoned his movements against Fuenterrabìa, left his camp and decided to retire to France. The campaign ended and the regiment quartered in his winter cantonments.
- 1639. Back in Catalonia, the regiment, under the marquis de los Balbases, attacked the French army and, on September 19, stormed the enemy entrenchments at Salses.
- 1640. Salses was besieged by the Spanish army and surrendered on January 6. Catalonia revolted. There were clashes at Fornelles, San Feliù de Pallarols, Olot, Mer, Blanes, Vuidreras and Santa Coloma. The regiment seemed to be everywhere until a period of rest and refit in Aragona was needed. Rejoining the active army, it was present at the storming of the hill of Balaguer. The place surrendered December 10. Cambrils surrendered five days later. Then the important place of Tarragona surrendered, after a short siege, on December 23.
- 1641. The place of Martorell was reached and the Catalonian insurgents were defeated by the Spanish regular army and fled in disorder. The unit was divided between Barcelona and Tarragona (under the menace of the French marshall La Motthe) to assume garrison duties. Then the unit was re-united in Tarragona, after a clash in Llorens against French troops near the Noguera Pallaresa pass. The siege of Tarragona was abandoned. The ensuing battle of Perpinan on December 15 was a decisive one. The marshall of Brezé was defeated.
- 1642. The battle of Grana was lost by the Spanish army on February 19. The following bloody battle of Lerida on October 7 remained indecisive. Some rest and refit were needed.
- 1643. Notwithstanding a fierce resistance the place of Monzon surrendered on November 17 to general Don Felipe of Silva.
- 1644. The defeat of Lerida was avenged when general de Silva completely defeated de la Motthe. Lerida surrendered on July 31.
- 1646. The comte de Harcout captured Lerida once more. This important place was lost a second time.
- 1650. The unit was present at the storming of Flix on September 19, of Mirabete on October 8 and of Tortosa on November 3.
- 1651. In Barcelona, the besieged insurgents resisted the Spanish army. John of Austria was determined to besiege the city.
- 1652. Barcelona was besieged.
- 1653. A new French attack under the command of marshall de Hocquincourt. Siege of Gerona. John of Austria counter-attacked and the French army was repulsed.
- 1655. The “praetorian” unit was employed in mountain warfare duties against small French parties in the Pyrenees. The last action of the campaign was the surrender of the place of Solsona on October 7.
- 1658. The Spanish CiC, the Marquis de Mortara fought the decisive battle of Campredon on April 29th. The French army was crushed. The “Regimiento de la Guardia” fought gallantly.
- 1660. The unit was transferred to the Irun line of defence. The units acted as an escort for the Infanta Maria Teresa, promised wife to Louis XIV.
- 1661. Fighting against Portugal independence began. After an initial series of successes, military operation relented to a halt.
- 1662. The unit was reorganized as an ordinary Tercio, and under his first maestre de campo, Don Fernando de Còrdova, went to Talaveruela to join the Spanish army in order to operate against an Anglo-Portuguese force. At Borba on May 13. At Jurumenha on May 26. At Malpica on May 27. Veiros and Monforte surrendered.
- 1665. Siege of Evora which surrendered on May 22. An enemy relieving force attacked the Spanish on June 4. The Tercio de Còrdova, moving to the left flank came under heavy artillery fire coming from a British gun battery. The talented commander was hit and killed by a cannonball. He was regretted but, the Tercio proved unstoppable and under the Spanish pressure the Anglo-Portugueses were forced to retreat via Estremoz. On June 6, the Spanish army came again under heavy artillery fire and the battle was lost. The Spanish cavalry unexpectedly fled discovering the infantry’s flanks. Our tercio was in square formation, in the front line. The whole army soon disintegrated and fled, in disorder, to Estremadura.
- 1664. The whole year was spent in recovering from the crushing defeat then, the unit went to the frontier again.
- 1665. Siege of Villaviciosa. O June 10, the Spanish besieging army was confronted by an enemy relieving force. Our Tercio de Cordova was on the front line, to the right wing with the tercios of Guadalajara and Armada. The right wing repelled a British attack conducted by three regiments but, it was in vain. The left wing soon collapsed and retreated in disorder. At this point, the enemy converged all his forces against the last standing units. Fourteen cavalry squadrons and six battalions attacked. The tercio offered a stubborn resistance until the order of retreat, given by general Don Diego Caballero, was received. In the darkness, exhausted, it retreated.
- 1666. The Portuguese army was on the offensive. The reputed marshall Schomberg moved with 4,000 men to Nebla. The tercio was sent to assume garrison duties to Ayamonte.
- 1668. The ensuing peace concluded the hostilities. The tercio went to Gibralter in order to assume naval service duties. The important place of Ceuta, however, was in danger. A large part of his walls had been ruined by war, so the tercio was diverted in order to garrison the place until sufficient repairs had been made.
- 1670. The unit was again in Gibraltar employed in garrison duties and naval service.
- 1671. The comte de Punorostro, Don Juan Arias Dàvila y Pacheco, replaced the former commander, the marquis de Carpio. On December 13, the unit was sent to Cartagena.
- 1672. From Cartagena the tercio embarked to Catalonia.
- 1674. It was part of the Rosellon Army commanded by the duc de San German. Actions of Maurellas and Ceret. Good performance near Pertus in a fight against general Bret’s forces.
- 1675. Heroic defence of Pertus hill against the forces of, the so-defined “the eternal enemy of Spain”, marshall Schomberg .
- 1677. The comte de Monterey was completely defeated on July 4 at Espolla (Roussillon). Louis XIV dictated the harsh terms of the peace of Nijmegen.
- 1684. Two peoples, naturally allied, were enemies again, due to a government’s miscalculation. French and Spanish armies were again at war.
- 1685-1689. In reserve. The period was characterized by garrison duties and scarce actions. Rested and refitted, the unit re-entered the active army. On August 20 1689, it was at the battle of Camprodon. The Spanish CiC was the duc de Villahermosa . The French commander was the marshal de Noailles. The French army was defeated.
- 1690. Garrison duties at Rosas. Our tercio was relieved by the Tercio of Granada on July 29, to join the blockade of Castelfollit. On trench service and some action around Peralda.
- 1692 Some unnoticeable actions around Bera and Ripoll. Then the tercio joined the ultra-secret expedition to Sardinia, under the duc de Medina-Sidonia. The baron de Preux was in charge of the unit. Sardinia was invaded but, our tercio showed a solid but quite un-brilliant service near Pons de Molins.
- 1693 As part of the garrison of Rosas, helped in the defence of the place during the siege, led by Noailles. Without help the place capitulated, with honour on June 10. The unit then served in the Berga and Espolla districts. Winter time was spent in Gerona.
- 1694 The impatient Spanish general marquis de Villena, collected his forces and marched against the general de Noailles who was awaiting a Spanish assault and was well entrenched, on the Tet line. The French cavalry defeated the Spanish wing and disordered the centre of the formation. Our tercio resisted gallantly several infantry attacks. Then, in the ensuing general route of the Spanish army, it was forced to retreat to Foxà by the marquis of Conflans. This rearguard movement, conducted with remarkable coolness and in good order, contributed to save the rest of the army. The tercio was part of the garrison at the defence of Gerona, besieged by Noailles. Gerona surrendered. According to the articles of the surrender, the tercio was forced to avoid further fighting against the French army for the rest of the campaign. The unit was quartered in the Toledo’s alcazar.
- 1695. New danger near the coast of Africa. The tercio was transferred to the threatened Ceuta to resist an attack of the Moroccan army. A party of 50 men, commanded by the captain Don Martin de Jaque stormed one of the enemy batteries on May 28. The same officer’s company, in conjunction with captain Don Andre Lopez’s company stormed the whole external works of the enemy. After five days of fighting, under the command of the maestre de campo Diaz Pimienta, the enemies were finally repulsed. The joy of victory was diminished by the loss, in combat, of the Sargento mayor Don Bartolomé of Olmo.
- 1697 The tercio was back in Catalonia and was quartered in Barcelona on July 26. The city was besieged by the French general duc de Vendôme and capitulated.on August 10. Our tercio moved to Martorell until when, after the peace of Riswick, it returned to Barcelona.
- 1701. Remembering his ancient origins, the corps was charged of the security of H.M the King. For this precise reason, it was transferred to Madrid on May 9.
- 1702. In order to accomplish the dignity of the service, the unit received a brilliant uniform and was entirely re-equipped. The government decided to move back the unit to Barcelona. After three months of garrison duties the unit embarked and sailed for Càdiz. The ship which embarked the Sargento mayor and seven companies escaped a dreadful tragedy. The Genovese cargo hit the ground at the Almunecar beach. Five people lost their lives, a women and a child included. Only a miracle saved the remaining people who continued the journey to Cadiz, by land.
The regiment of the XVIIIth century
During the War of the Spanish Succession:
- 1703. The unit lost his title of tercio and was reorganized as a regiment. His first colonel was Don Isidro de Padilla y Rojas. The unit was sent to Badajoz, ready for action against the Kingdom of Portugal.
- 1704. Operations began. Under the command of the prince Tzerclas Tilly, the main Spanish army besieged Portoalegre. The place surrendered. So did Castel-Davide after a siege of a few days.
- 1705. Six companies out of a total of twelve tried to defend Valencia with a poor result. The remaining six companies were trapped in Alburquerque and surrendered after a fierce resistance. Then, the companies were sent to Badajoz by the enemy generals Galloway and the marquis de Das-Minas. The capital of Estremadura was the danger of encirclement. The marshal de Tessé, the French commander, and the Spanish general, the marquis de Bay reacted and avoided a siege.
- 1706. The Great League of European powers federated against the House of Bourbon made an imposing effort. The enemy armies made a two pronged assault from both the eastern and western side of the peninsula. Philip V was forced to abandon his capital and to take refuge in loyal provinces in the north. Our regiment, under the duc de Berwick, left Badajoz and rapidly reached Madrid. To join the main army, assembled near Atienza, the regiment was forced to march north to Siguenza, via Somosierra. The Spanish army recovered the offensive. The enemy retreated across the province of Valencia. Oribuela and Elche were reconquered. On October 23, the regiment was reviewed at Elche and the, quartered in Murcia.
- 1707. The regiment was renamed “Castilla Regiment”. The battle of Almanza was won on April 25th, the dynastic problem was solved and the regiment rivalled with the rest of the army in courage and discipline. The direct consequences of the battle were the conquest of Requena, Valencia and Alcira. Jàtiva surrendered. Even if unlucky in Denia, the Regiment of Castilla did well in Alcoy, storming the place after a short siege.
- 1708. Counter-insugency services against undisciplined parties of rebels in Valencia. Second siege of Dénia. Walls breached, the regiment had its finest hours on December 12 at the storming of the city. When the city was lost, the British garrison retreated inside the citadel. After a few days, the garrison, with no help, surrendered. The regiments of Castilla and Vessels assumed garrison duties.
- 1709. The first battalion of the regiment was transferred to the place of Tortosa. A second battalion was raised on July 17.
- 1710. Operations in Catalonia. As part of the army of general marquis de Villadarias, stormed the entrenched camp in Balaguer on June 13. With general Ronquillo, the regiment was posted in rearguard, around the Noguera pass in order to cover the retreat of the army. Attacked near Almenara it fought, even if heavily outnumbered against the Austro-British army. On August 15, it was at Penalva where the enemy was defeated. Then, it was almost destroyed at the battle of Zaragoza on August 20. The remnants of the unit were gathered around the pine-wooded area of Soria and was incorporated into the Army of Estremadura. Inspected in Plasencia by the king, the regiment was sent to man the Tajo line. The Confederate army left Madrid for Catalonia. On December 9, battle of Brihuega against general Stanhope. On December 10, battle of Villaviciosa where Starhemberg was disgraced.
- 1711. The regiment was at the siege of Mirabet. Then, was part of Vendôme's army, thereafter manned the Calaf line of defence.
- 1712. In the province of Lerida, under prince Tzerclas-Tilly. Quartered in Barbastro.
- 1713. In Aitona camp, where were gathered the forces of the duc de Popoli . From here the Spanish army marched against Barcelona.
- 1714. In Bagà village, 300 insurgents where killed in a fight. The regiment was present at the siege of Barcelona. The final assault, on September 11, was one of the bloodiest fight of the war. Our regiment penetrated the breach at Puerta Nueva and reached the middle of the town. After pacification, it formed part of the garrison.
In 1715, rest and refit were needed. The government decided to merge to the ancient colonelcy de la Guardia, and the regiments of Guadalajara and Madrid. Two battalions of the first formed the second battalion of the “Regiment of Castilla”. The Regiment of Madrid’s soldiers formed the third battalion. Soon after, when also the regiment of Guadalajara was reorganized, according to the Royal Order of March 26, the third battalion was disbanded and the personnel transferred to the second battalion of the “Regiment of Guadalajara. Embarked at Barcelona and reached Mallorca on June 8, where a feeble resistance was encountered. Alcudia and Palma were soon occupied.
In 1717, the regiment went back to Barcelona where the forces of its two battalions were augmented with 260 men.
In 1718 at first, the reasons of an augmentation of the force were not fully understood. The regiment was, in secret, embarked for southern Italy. The expedition, under the command of the general Marquis of Lede had to conquer Sicily. The army landed in Capo Zafferano and soon reached Palermo. The town was occupied without bloodshed. Austrian forces projected a last stand in Messina. The fleet brilliantly operated a second landing near the Faro and soon Messina was under siege. The town surrendered, only the citadel resisted for a while. The grenadiers company of the regiment suffered severe losses when an entrenchment was stormed on September 28. In Milazzo the regiment performed well, under command of general Armendariz, when on October 5 , with the “Regimiento de Guardias” it stormed a fortified house defended by two austrian battalions. Lieutenant-colonel Don Juan Bautista Merano was granted the privilege to bring in Madrid the official news of the victory.
In 1719, the regiment manned the Franca Villa line of defence, going from Scaletta, to Taormina and San Alessio where a bloody battle was fought on June 20. After heavy fighting, causing severe losses on both sides, the Austrian forces retreated.
In 1720, the imperial forces regrouped and attacked the Spanish lines near Palermo. Actions were limited to a heavy and futile cannonade between opposing batteries and small parties actions. An armistice was signed on May 1. The regiment went back to Barcelona on May 17.
In 1721, an epidemy broke out in Marseille. The regiment was sent to act as a sanitary cordon.
In June 1722, the regiment was quartered in Vich.
In 1723, after a few months, the unit was transferred to the province of Aragon. The battalions were separated, the first assuming garrison duties in Zaragoza and the second in Puigcerdà.
In 1725, the whole regiment garrisoned Valencia then, the first batallion was sent to Mallorca via Barcelona. The second battalion was distributed between Berga, Seo de Urgel and Cardona.
During the War of the Polish Succession:
- 1731. The regiment was chosen to be part of the expeditionary force destined to sail to Italy under the duc de Montemar. Its two batallions were gathered in Barcelona, embarked and sailed for Livorno where they landed safely on November 4.
- 1732. The regiment was quartered in Pisa and Livorno.
- 1733. A detachment served at the siege of Aulla in Lunigiana. The regiment garrisoned Volterra, Livorno and Pisa. The detached grenadiers companies of the regiment fought in the battle of Bitonto on May 25.
- 1734. After a long siege the surrender of Capua, on November 30 , was a success for the Spanish army in the Kingdom of Naples.
- 1735. After some rest, the regiment reached the marquis de la Mina's army. Tuscany was the major theater of operations. The regiment, fragmented into several detachments, stormed Porto Ercole, Monte Filippo and Orbetello. The enemy forced a concentration of the Spanish army on Castellazo. The Austrian army decided a retreat and the Spanish army was sent to its cantonments. The regiment crossed the San Benedetto in order to man the Po river line of defence. A column, composed by the grenadiers companies and four piquets, one from each battalion, under the comte de Maceda, reached the place of Mirandola. Soon, the whole first battalion arrived. Under siege, the defenders counter-attacked on July 25. Lieutenant Don Ventura Tejera of the grenadier company, three NCOs and several soldiers were killed. The place of Mirandola surrendered on August 31. The two battalions of the regiment left their encampment in the area of Mantova. They moved and passed the river Po to reach San Gineto, on the banks of the river Adige, on September 7. Under general de la Mina, the regiment encamped in Cerea, ready for an offensive movement on Colonia when, an armistice was signed. Lombardy was evacuated and the regiment was redirected to Tuscany where, it was quartered in Suzza on December 1.
- 1736. The Regiment marched to Livorno, embarked and landed in Barcelona in February.
In 1740, the regiment assumed garrison duties in Lérida. It was then transferred to Manresa on March 1.
During the War of the Austrian Succession:
- 1741. The regiment was quartered in Barcelona's citadel when the order was received to embark for Italy once more.
- 1742. After a quiet journey by sea, the regiment landed on Lerici beaches on February 8. It was directed to the camps of San Pietro and Bologna which were reached on May 17. In a clash with the enemy, on defensive, the regiment suffered heavy losses. Part of the army under the comte de Gages, moved to the banks of the river Tanaro. A bridge was built in Ospedaletto of Modena.
- 1743. In the Battle of Campo-Santo (February 8), the regiment fought gallantly then retreated to Pesaro.
- 1744. The Austrian forces received reinforcements, meanwhile the Spanish army was diminished by war attrition and lack of resources. It was decided to abandon northern Italy and to regroup in the southern regions. The Spanish army converged on Velletri, on the northern frontier of the Kingdom of Naples. During the retreat. the regiment clashed with the Imperials in Loreto. The enemy was repelled with losses on March 11. Our regiment was well positioned in an entrenched position on Monte della Faiola. The Austrian attack soon came but was repulsed with heavy losses. Four guns and 700 prisoners remained in Spanish hands on May 29. This success was a prelude of the glorious battle of Velletri on August 10 where the Austrians lost most of their forces and the campaign was decided.
- 1745. In Ottaggio, 3,000 Austrians held a strong position. The regiment assaulted the enemy and forced them to retreat. The detached grenadiers, part of a column under general comte de Saive reached Serravalle, occupied Tortona and penetrated into Piacenza on September 9. The regiment, after building a bridge at Pontebasso de la Stradella, on September 20, seized Pavìa. Then, the unit moved to Vigevano, threw a second bridge on the river Ticino and built entrenchments near Novara. Finally, it took some rest in quarters around Besate, carefully watching the recently built bridge.
- 1746. On the Ticino line. The bridge of Vigevano having no use, a new bridge was thrown in Oleggio by our regiment. At the bloody battle of Piacenza, the regiment suffered severe losses. A further terrible fight ensued in Codogno. The first battalion moved to Mortizza on July 8, then in San Rocco camp where it joined the second battalion. New clashes and reverses followed when the Piedmontese army crossed the Po under artillery cover on August 8. After the battle of the Tedone, on August 10, the regiment was forced to retreat in Tortona. The Austro-Piedmontese army advancing, the Spanish army was forced to retreat again in the Kingdom of Naples. The regiment embarked in Antibes and sailed to Naples. Once in the kingdom of Naples, the regiment took its quarters at Cassiditto and Casibanno.
In 1749, the regiment left the kingdom of Naples and sailed for Barcelona. On its return to Spain, it was assigned to the guard of the bridges of Olot, Sarria and San Martin where general Walmareck inspected it. Then, the fist battalion garrisoned Lérida while the second assumed garrison duty at Mataro.
In 1750, the entire regiment garrisoned Barcelona. A detachment went to Ocaña to receive the new training copied from the Prussian army.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was under the command of:
- no information available yet
In 1766, the regiment was renamed Rey (King).
Service during the War
In 1757, the regiment was first transferred from Barcelona to Tortosa and then to Valencia where the two battalions arrived on June 15 and June 25.
In 1761, the regiment assumed garrison duties in Catalonia and Ceuta.
In 1762, when war broke out with Portugal, the regiment moved to Algeciras to join the Spanish army assembling there for the projected invasion of Portugal. Soon Almeida surrendered and the regiment then manoeuvred in this region under colonel brigadier O'Reilly. At the end of the war, the regiment first went to Badajoz and then to Zafra.
|Coat||white with yellow buttons on the right side
Armaments consisted of a musket and a bayonet. Fusiliers carried a sword (brass hilt) while the grenadiers had a sabre.
The conde de Clonard indicates that the distinctive colour of the regiment changed from purple to scarlet red in 1755.
no information available yet
no information available yet
As per an État militaire, towards 1750 the coronela (colonel flag) of the regiment was white with a red Burgundian cross terminated in each corner by a medallion carrying the arms of Castilla (golden castle on a blue field) surmounted by a golden crown. In the middle: the arms of Charles III surrounded by the necklace of the order of the Toison de Oro (Golden Fleece).
As per an État militaire, towards 1750 the batallonas (ordonnance flags) of the regiment were white with a red Burgundian cross terminated in each corner by a medallion carrying the arms of Castilla (golden castle on a blue field) surmounted by a golden crown.
N.B.: the arms of Castilla are usually represented on a red field but it seems that, during this period, a blue field was used.
This article is mostly made of abridged and adapted excerpts translated from the following book which is now in the public domain:
- Clonard, Conde de, Historia Orgánica de las Armas de Infantería y Caballería, vol. VII, Madrid, 1851-62, pp. 6-9, 32-58
Album de Taccoli, 1759
Almirall, José, Las Banderas Españolas de 1704 a 1977, Agrupación Miniaturistas Militares de España, 1978, p. 24
État militaire (circa 1737-1750), Anne S.K. Brown Collection
Dr. Marco Pagan for the translation of the section of the work of the conde de Clonard dedicated to the “Rey Regiment” (formerly “Castilla Regiment”).
Juan José Torres and the Asociación Cultural de Modelismo Histórico Alabarda for the information and counselling provided for this article.