Cornelis de Val. "Spanish soldiers in a bivouac"
Once upon a time, as a teenager, I no longer remember in which book, the expression "Spanish Road" caught my attention. The journey along it, based on the context, was somehow very long and difficult. I then quite logically assumed that the roads in medieval Spain were completely useless. True, I did not quite understand why. Solid pits, potholes and "seven bends per mile"? The wilderness is complete and there is not even the slightest sign of infrastructure? Or are robbers playing around everywhere and have to travel in roundabout ways - like we have to Chernigov from Murom (before Ilya Muromets tears from the stove)?
Or maybe it's some kind of figurative expression at all, like: "The way to Canossa"?
The question also arose: do they have such roads throughout Spain? Or is it just one? And which one?
At that time, no one had even heard of the Internet. I didn’t go to the library especially to search for reference books (you understand, at that age there were more pressing matters).
Later I learned that the Spanish Road was located outside of Spain and passed through the territory of other countries.
She had several routes, she led to the Netherlands, and only military people traveled along it. The "Spanish road" did not even begin in Spain, but in the north of Italy - in Milan, which served as a gathering place for the Flanders army. The most "lucky" of the soldiers got to the Netherlands in a very roundabout way: from the interior Spanish regions through Barcelona and Genoa followed to Milan, then to Besançon, where the road was divided into two main branches.
In general, this path was indeed long and difficult. And in Spanish since then there has been an idiom for some difficult and difficult task: "Poner una pica en Flandes" ("bring a pikeman to Flanders" or something like that).
Pikeman. Drawing from the textbook "Military exercises for musket and lances", edition 1607 The Spaniards, by the way, called the pica "lady and queen weapons».
Speech, as you probably already guessed, is about the notorious Eighty Years War of the Netherlands for independence from Habsburg Spain.
Let's first remember how this northern country was kind of subordinate to the Spaniards.
During the early Middle Ages, the territory of the modern Netherlands was occupied by the tribes of the Franks, Saxons and Frisians. Historically, the southern part of these lands came under the rule of Frankish kings, and in the north for some time there was an independent Frisian kingdom, which, however, was also later annexed to Francia (734). After the collapse of the empire of Charlemagne, these territories became part of the Mid-Frankish kingdom. After the middle son of the emperor, this state was often called Lorraine.
Later, Brabant, Friesland, Holland, Utrecht and Gelre emerged on these lands. By 1433, a large area of what is now the Netherlands was part of Burgundy. These lands were inherited in 1482 by the son of Mary of Burgundy Philip I the Handsome, who belonged to the Habsburg family. He became the husband of the Castilian queen Juana I (Mad). Their son, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, declared the Dutch lands to be the hereditary possession of the Habsburgs.
Empire of Charles V
Part of his possessions outside Spain, including the Netherlands, was transferred by Charles V to his son Philip II in 1556. At the same time, they were separated from Spain by a predatory France, whose kings were not averse to annexing the southern provinces of the Netherlands to their possessions.
Netherlands. Map of the XNUMXth century.
The Eighty Years War begins
When it comes to the Eighty Years War, the events of those years are usually explained as follows.
Catholic Spain, a country of ignorant religious fanatics and obscurantists, brutally oppressed the cultured, rich and freedom-loving Netherlands. The taxes collected here were almost the basis of the wealth of the Spanish Habsburgs.
Meanwhile, Spanish historians claim that their country spent much more on the Netherlands than it received in return. The fact is that to protect this province from the French, a large army had to be maintained. And this army "ate" more funds than the Spanish treasury received from the Netherlands in the form of taxes. Behind the Spanish Peak Wall, the Netherlands grew rich and prosperous. And gradually, the local elite developed their own interests, which were different from those of the metropolis.
Both sides had their own truth. However, it was the Dutch point of view that prevailed in historiography, depicting the "horrors of the Spanish occupation" in all colors and with commendable modesty keeping silent about the cruelty of the Protestant insurgents.
The Spaniards were outraged by the black ingratitude of the traders of the "lowlands". In their opinion, they simply betrayed the empire in a difficult time for it, when they were forced to slightly raise taxes. The war for this unprofitable province was viewed by the Spanish authorities as a matter of honor, which is why it dragged on for so long. Although, given the geographical position of the Netherlands, there are huge difficulties in the delivery of troops there and no less in their supply, it would be much easier and cheaper to abandon these distant and unnecessary "Lowlands".
These arguments of the Spaniards cannot be called completely unfounded.
So, in the Netherlands they were very unhappy with the new taxes, as luck would have it, introduced in the year that followed the crop failure. They were outraged by the restriction of trade relations with England. And besides, even in this province, the teachings of Calvin were rapidly gaining popularity, which, of course, the Spaniards did not like very much.
In the second half of the 1560s, an anti-Spanish uprising broke out in the Netherlands, which marked the beginning of the same Eighty Years War. The situation was favorable for the rebels. After the death of the Catholic Mary of England, who was married to the son and heir of Emperor Charles V - Philip, the Anglo-Spanish union, which had begun to form, fell apart. Britain's new queen, Elizabeth I, was anti-Spanish, and the Dutch rebel leaders could hope for her support.
And the Huguenots of France at that time captured La Rochelle, a port of strategic importance for controlling shipping in the Bay of Biscay. Catholic Paris was not an ally of the Habsburgs either. The situation was by no means favorable to Spanish shipping, and the transport of troops by sea was fraught with many risks. A strike on the transport ships could be expected from three directions. And the supply of the army by sea in such conditions would be extremely difficult.
Meanwhile, a sailing ship at that time could go up to 120 miles in a day, soldiers on land in a day - only about 14 miles (at best). And the path to the Netherlands found by the Spaniards was not at all close - about 620 miles, that is, about a thousand kilometers. In addition, a large number of Spanish soldiers (as well as mercenaries ready to fight in the Netherlands) were then on the Apennine Peninsula.
Thus, the rebels believed that the Spaniards would not be able to transfer large contingents of their troops to their country and were therefore full of optimism.
Indeed, the Flanders army, which the Habsburgs managed to form from
then still loyal to Spain, the French-speaking Walloons and Catholics of the Holy Roman Empire, initially numbered only about 10 thousand people. But the Spaniards were seriously underestimated by the rebels.
It was then that the most difficult route, which had been operating for more than 50 years, was designed and arranged - the very "Spanish road" - El Camino Español. In total, more than 120 thousand people were brought to the Netherlands through it. For comparison: during the same time, only about 17 and a half thousand soldiers were transported by sea.
At that time, this logistics project was, without any exaggeration, unique and had no analogues in terms of the scale and complexity of its implementation.
El Camino Español
So, it was decided to lead troops from Lombardy through the Habsburg-controlled territories of Central Europe.
The problem was that there was no continuous corridor, and they had to enter into difficult negotiations on the right of passage with the local princes and lords. In addition, this route took place in the immediate vicinity of hostile Protestant lands. Examples include Calvinist Geneva and the Palatinate, which is sometimes referred to as the "cradle of the Thirty Years' War."
The Spanish Road had two branches.
Part of the troops went from Milan through Savoy, Franche-Comté and the Duchy of Lorraine. This path has been used since 1567. Other military units moved through the Saint Gotthard Pass and the Swiss cantons. Or - through the Stelvio Pass, the southern part of the state of the Three Leagues (the future Swiss canton of Graubünden) and Austrian Tyrol. This second, eastern, route had a branch through Worms and Cologne. It began to be used later - from 1592.
In 1619, in order to rediscover this part of the "road", the Spaniards even provoked a religious war in the Three Leagues. At that time, by the way, along this branch of the "Spanish road" they transferred troops not only to the Netherlands, but also to Germany, where the Thirty Years War began.
Routes of the "Spanish road"
At the same time, great pressure was exerted on Savoy by the eternal rivals of the Spaniards - the French. Back in 1601, France annexed the two northern provinces of the Duchy of Savoy. And now part of the "Spanish road" passed through the territory of France, unfriendly to the Spaniards. And in 1622, due to their efforts, this corridor was completely closed to the Spaniards.
And part of the more eastern route of this road ran through the lands of hostile Protestants.
One should not think that, having led their troops along this road, the Spaniards here again “discovered America”. The route from Italy to the north of Europe has long been known to merchants and travelers. The problem was precisely the scale of the transfer of troops. And they had to be carried out more than once: the "Spanish Road" had to operate constantly and without interruptions.
Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, also known as the "Iron Duke" of Alba (another character pretty demonized by opponents who themselves were far from angels), was entrusted with organizing the movement of the first squad in El Camino Español.
Duke of Alba
After the routes for the movement of troops were determined, practical work began - drawing up detailed maps, creating the necessary infrastructure, expanding roads, strengthening old bridges and building new ones.
Organization of food and foraging was a huge problem. Looting your own land along the route would be a very bad idea. And the neighboring ones, too, could be robbed only once. And to bring to the Netherlands was required combat-ready and well-controlled units, and not crowds of undisciplined hungry ragamuffins.
I had to negotiate.
Residents of imperial territories most often received not money, but the so-called billets de logeme - documents exempting them from taxes for the amount of delivery.
Contracts were sometimes made with wealthy merchants who supplied food and fodder in exchange for government debt. Many of these merchants were Genoese.
Most often, the soldiers went in groups of three thousand people (this is the approximate number of one third). The estimated travel time was set at 42 days.
A. Dalmau. "Spanish road"
The first group of troops, numbering 10 thousand people, was sent to the Netherlands in 1567. They walked for 56 days. But the detachment of Lope de Figueroa (5000 soldiers) in 1578 reached the Netherlands in 32 days. Carduini in 1582 brought his people in 34 days. The two thousand-strong detachment of Francisco Arias de Bobadilla, who in December 1585 became famous for breaking out of the camp on the island surrounded by the ships of Philip Hohenlohe-Neuenstein between the rivers Baal and Meuse ("Miracle at Empel"), went exactly 42 days. But some detachments barely fit even in 60 days.
In 1635, France entered the Thirty Years' War, which had raged in Europe since 1618. This led to the fact that the last branch of the "Spanish road" was cut in two places at once: between Milan and Tyrol and between Lorraine and Far Austria. Now it was possible to deliver troops to the Netherlands only by sea. In 1639, the Spanish fleet off the coast of England was attacked by the ships of the Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp and almost destroyed in the Battle of Downs.
And for the Spaniards this was the "beginning of the end." Continuing the war in the Netherlands was now almost impossible.
Ultimately, it was the cessation of El Camino Español that led to Spain's recognition of the independence of the northern part of the Netherlands (the Republic of the United Provinces).
However, the southern part of this province, which roughly coincides with the territory of modern Belgium, was then retained by the Spaniards. For these lands, Spain had to fight with France in the so-called Devolutionary War (1667-1668), which ended with the division of this territory.