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Tangier was a possession of England from 1661 to 6 February 1684, when it was evacuated and returned to being part of Morocco.

History[edit | edit source]

English take possession[edit | edit source]

In 1661 King Charles II married the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza, and as part of her dowry Charles received the ports of Tangier and Bombay. As soon as Charles and Catherine's marriage treaty had been signed, Admiral Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, was sent to take possession of Tangier.[1]

Tangier commanded the entry into the Mediterranean and was the principal commercial centre on the North West coast of Africa. However, there had been years of conflict between the Portuguese garrison and the Moroccans.[1] On 6 September 1661, King Charles appointed Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough, as Governor and Captain General of all the forces in Tangier. When Peterborough landed he found the town derelict and under constant attack from some 17,000 Berbers.[1]

The Tangier Regiment (later known as the 2nd Regiment of Foot) arrived in Tangier on 29 January 1662, and was joined by former Parliamentarian companies from the garrison of Dunkirk and by two units from the Royalist Force which had been serving in Flanders; they officially took over Tangier from Montagu's small naval garrison. The Regiment remained in Tangier for 23 years, until the port was finally evacuated in 1684.

Three additional regiments from the Dunkirk garrison were also placed under Peterborough's command, and he arrived in Tangier with a force of five hundred horse and two thousand foot, with between two and three hundred soldiers' wives, to serve in a domestic capacity. This was the first time that wives had officially accompanied an English army on an overseas posting. The Portuguese government was not in the least reluctant to part with Tangier. The anchorage was unsafe for shipping, and beyond the landward fortifications lived the Moroccans, who were looking for an opportunity to take back the city. The Portuguese inhabitants were not happy with these arrangements and departed on English ships, leaving a new civilian population made up of only the wives and families of the English military.

Work began on a fortified harbour at the end of November. It was to be six hundred yards long, thirty feet deep at low tide, and capable of keeping out the roughest of seas. Each redoubt had four hundred men guarding the excavation site, while to the front balls of spikes, stakes and piles of gunpowder-and-stone mix, which acted as basic landmines, were laid.[1]

Tangier declared a free city[edit | edit source]

On 4 June 1668, Tangier was declared a free city by charter, with a mayor and corporation to govern it instead of the army.[1] In 1674, William O'Brien, 2nd Earl of Inchiquin took up the post of Governor. In 1675, a garrison school was founded, led by the Rev. Dr George Mercer.

On 30 December 1676, Charles ordered a survey of the city and garrison of Tangier, which was costing about £140,000 a year to maintain. The survey showed that the total inhabitants numbered 2,225, of whom fifty were army officers, 1,231 other ranks, with 302 army wives and children. Amongst the buildings was a hospital and an army school.

Tangier circa 1670

In 1680, the pressure from the Moroccans increased, as the Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail joined forces with the Chief of Fez in order to pursue a war against all foreign troops in his land. Reinforcements were needed at the Garrison, which was raised to 3,000 in number. Also in 1680 the Earl of Inchiquin resigned and was replaced by Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory, who died before taking up his post.[1]

The Royal Scots, shortly followed by a further foot regiment, the 2nd Tangier Regiment raised on 13 July 1680, were sent to Tangier. The new regiment was accompanied by the King's Battalion, which was formed from the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards. The Battalion landed in July 1680, and fierce attacks were made against the Moors, who had gained a footing on the edge of the town, finally defeating them by controlled and well-aimed musket fire. The Battalion remained in Tangier until the fort was abandoned.

Growing concerns about the cost of the colony[edit | edit source]

For some time Parliament had been concerned about the cost of maintaining the Tangier garrison. By 1680 the King had threatened to give up Tangier unless the supplies were voted for its sea defences, intended to provide a safe harbour for shipping. The fundamental problem was that in order to keep the town and harbour free from cannon fire the perimeter of the defended area had to be vastly increased. A number of outworks were built but the siege of 1680 showed that the Moroccans were capable of isolating and capturing these outworks by entrenchments and mining.

Map of Tangier under English rule, 1680

The garrison at Tangier had to be constantly reinforced, having cost nearly two million pounds of royal treasure, and many lives had been sacrificed in its defence. Merchant ships continued to be harassed by Barbary pirates, and undefended crews were regularly captured into slavery. The so-called Popish Plot in England had intensified the dread of Catholicism, and the King's frequent request for more troops to increase the size of the garrison raised suspicions that a standing army was being retained in Tangier to ensure a Catholic succession and absolute monarchy.

In October 1680, Colonel Charles FitzCharles, 1st Earl of Plymouth, arrived as Governor, but was taken mortally ill soon afterwards. Colonel Edward Sackville took over the governorship temporarily.[1] On 20 December 1680, the House of Commons of England petitioned the King to give his assent to a Bill of Exclusion to disinherit the Duke of York; adding that, unless and until the bill was passed, Parliament could not give any supplies to Charles. The King refused to sacrifice his brother's right of succession to save Tangier.

On 28 December 1680 Colonel Percy Kirke was appointed Colonel and Governor.

Evacuation of Tangier[edit | edit source]

Finally, in 1683, Charles gave Admiral Lord Dartmouth secret orders to abandon Tangier. Dartmouth was to level the fortifications, destroy the harbour, and evacuate the troops. In August 1683 Dartmouth, as Admiral of the Fleet and captain general in Tangier, sailed from Plymouth. He was accompanied by Samuel Pepys who wrote an account of the evacuation.[1]

All the forts and walls were mined for last-minute destruction. On 5 February 1684 Tangier was officially evacuated, leaving the town in ruins, thereafter Kirke's Regiment returned to England.

One of Lord Dartmouth's main concerns was the evacuation of sick soldiers "and the many families and their effects to be brought off". The hospital ship Unity sailed for England on 18 October 1683 with 114 invalid soldiers and 104 women and children, alongside HMS Diamond. HMS Diamond arrived at The Downs on 14 December 1683. The main force of 2,830 officers and men and 361 wives and children finally completed the demolition of the harbour wall and fortifications, and evacuated the garrison during the early months of 1684. The 2nd Tangier Regiment left late in the second week of February for Plymouth with some six hundred men and thirty wives and children.[1] The Earl of Dumbarton's regiment went into quarters at Rochester, and Trelawney's Regiment to Portsmouth.

Before leaving, Dartmouth was able to purchase the release of many English prisoners from Ismail's bagnio, including several officers and about 40 men, some of whom had spent 10 years in the hands of the Moroccans.

Some of the departing soldiers were to be rewarded with large land grants in the newly acquired Province of New York. Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, a Lieutenant-Governor of Tangier, became New York Provincial Governor and William "Tangier" Smith, the last mayor of Tangier, obtained 50 miles of Atlantic Ocean front property on Long Island.

Governors[edit | edit source]

Term Incumbent Notes
29 January 1662 to 1663 Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough, Governor
1663 to 4 May 1664 Andrew Rutherford, 1st Earl of Teviot, Governor
4 May 1664 to 1664 Sir Tobias Bridges, Governor
1664 to April 1665 John Fitzgerald, Governor
April 1665 to 1666 John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse, Governor unable to take oath of conformity
1666 to 1669 Sir Henry Norwood, Governor
1669 to 1670 John Middleton, 1st Earl of Middleton, Governor 1st Term
1670 to 1672 Sir Hugh Chomondeley, acting Governor
1672 to 1674 John Middleton, 1st Earl of Middleton 2nd Term
1674 to 1675 Budget Meakin, acting Governor
1675 to 1680 William O'Brien, 2nd Earl of Inchiquin, Governor
1680 to 1680 Palmes Fairbourne, Governor
1680 to 1680 Thomas Butler, 6th Earl of Ossory died after appointment but before taking up position
1680 to October 1680 Charles FitzCharles, 1st Earl of Plymouth, Governor died soon after taking up position as Governor
October 1680 to 28 December 1681 Sir Edward Sackville, Governor
28 December 1681 to 1683 Sir Percy Kirke, Governor
1683 to 6 February 1684 Admiral Lord Dartmouth, Governor

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 John Wreglesworth, Tangier: England's Forgotten Colony (1661-1684)[dead link] at elsewhereonline.com.au, accessed 28 February 2011

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • E. Chappell, ed., The Tangier Papers of Samuel Pepys (London: Navy Records Society, vol. LXIII, 1935)
  • John Childs, The Army of Charles II (London: 1976)
  • Sir James Halkett, 'Tangier – 1680: The Diary of Sir James Halkett', in Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (1922)
  • W. F. Lord, The Lost Possessions of England (London: 1896)
  • E. M. G. Routh, Tangier: England's Lost Atlantic Outpost, 1661-1684 (London: 1912)
  • A. J. Smithers, The Tangier Campaign: the Birth of the British Army (Stroud: 2003)
  • Clifford Walton, A History of the British Standing Army, 1660-1700 (London: 1894)
  • Public Records Office ADM 106/294 Roger Allsopp 1673
  • ADM 106/314
  • ADM 12/18
  • ADM 12/28B
  • British Library Manuscript Collection: 1671-1675 - Samuel Luke, Merchant, Tangier, Morocco. Reference Sloane MSS
  • B. Museum Add. Mss.36528 Diary of John Luke (see & Judge Advocate to John Middleton, Earl of Middleton, Govr of Tangier)

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