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Don Miguel Ricardo de Álava y Esquivel
7 July 1770 – 14 July 1843 (aged 73)
Don Miguel Ricardo de Alava by William Salter cropped.jpg
Detail of a portrait of Miguel Ricardo de Álava by William Salter
Place of birth Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álava, Spain
Place of death Barèges, France
Allegiance  Spain
Service/branch Navy/Army
Years of service 1785-1815
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars War of the Third Coalition
Peninsular War
Hundred Days
Relations Ignacio Maria de Alava y Saenz de Navarrete (uncle)
Other work Politician/Diplomat

Don Miguel Ricardo de Álava y Esquivel (7 July 1770 – 14 July 1843) was a Spanish General and statesman. He was born at Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álava, in 1770.

Contents

War of the Third Coalition

Álava served first in the Navy, and had risen to be captain of a frigate when he exchanged into the army, receiving corresponding rank. He was present as a Marine at the Battle of Trafalgar on board the flagship of his uncle Admiral Ignacio Álava.

Peninsular War

In politics he followed a very devious course. At the assembly of Bayonne in 1808, he was one of the most prominent of those who accepted the new constitution from Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain. After the national rising against French aggression, and the defeat of General Dupont at Bailen in 1808, Álava joined the national independence party, who were fighting in alliance with the English. The Spanish Cortes appointed him commissary at the English headquarters, and the Duke of Wellington, who regarded him with great favor, made him one of his aides-de-camp.

Hundred Days

Before the close of the Peninsular War, he had risen to the rank of Brigadier-General. On the restoration of Ferdinand, Álava was cast into prison, but the influence of his uncle Ethenard, the Inquisitor, and of Wellington secured his speedy release. He soon contrived to gain the favor of the King, who appointed him ambassador to The Hague in 1815. It was therefore his remarkable fortune to be present at the Battle of Waterloo with Wellington's staff. He is supposed to have been the only man who was present at both Waterloo and Trafalgar. Four years later, he was recalled, owing, it is said, to the marked kindness he had shown to his banished fellow-countrymen.

Politician and diplomat

Equestrian statue of the General in the Monument to the Battle of Vitoria (1813), Vitoria, Spain.

On the breaking out of the revolution of 1820, he was chosen by the province of Álava to represent it in the Cortes, where he became conspicuous in the party of the Exaltados, and in 1822 was made President. In the latter year, he fought with the militia under Francisco Ballesteros and Pablo Morillo to maintain the authority of the Cortes against the rebels. When the French invested Cádiz, Álava was commissioned by the Cortes to treat with the Duc d'Angoulême, and the negotiations resulted in the restoration of Ferdinand, who pledged himself to a liberal policy. No sooner had he regained power, however, than he ceased to hold himself bound by his promises, and Álava found it necessary to retire first to Gibraltar and then to England. There, he was given a house on the Duke of Wellington's Hampshire estate Stratfield Saye and introduced to his bank Coutts: "This is my friend, and as long as I have any money with your house, let him have it to any amount he thinks proper to draw for."

On the death of Ferdinand, he returned to Spain, and espousing the cause of Maria Christina against Don Carlos was appointed ambassador to London in 1834, and to Paris in 1835. Proposed as Prime Minister in September 1835, he rejected his nomination. After the insurrection of La Granja, he refused to sign the constitution of 1837, declaring himself tired of taking new oaths, and was consequently obliged to retire to France, where he died at Barèges in 1843.

Frequent and honorable mention of Álava is made in Napier's History of the Peninsular War, and his name is often met both in lives of the Duke of Wellington and in his correspondence.

Quotation

References

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