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Miquelets in a popular celebration in Badalona, Catalonia, Spain.

Miquelets (in Catalan; Spanish: Miqueletes, Migueletes) were irregular Catalonian militia. The name is a diminutive of Michael; it is claimed it comes from Miguel or Miquelot de Prats, a Catalonian mercenary captain in the service of Cesare Borgia. The term was used for many unconnected groups of Catalonians who took up arms in many wars, as well as in banditry; the term was generic rather than referring to a specific militia. The two most notable usages were during the Catalan secessionist revolt of 1640 (Catalan: Guerra dels Segadors; "War of the Reapers") against the Spanish government and the Peninsular War against Napoleonic France. Miquelet was a sobriquet used by Catalonian soldiers on both sides of these and other wars; the French raised Catalonian troops in 1689 in the Revolt of the Barretinas as well as in 1808 in the Peninsular War. Those cases were the exceptions rather than the rule, though.

The occasional banditry aspect was reflected in the Dictionnaire de L'Academie francaise, 5th Edition, 1798: "MIQUELET. sm Il se dit d'Une sorte de bandits qui vivent dans les Pyrénées. Les Miquelets sont fort à craindre pour les voyageurs." The miquelets were maintained at the parish level, not by the central or the provincial governments, and as they had to turn out for duty on sound of the village alarm-bell (someten) they are frequently called somatenes.

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In specific wars

In the War of the Spanish Succession, the Miquelets continued the struggle against the French claimant Philip, Duke of Anjou (Philip V) until long after the peace.

During the Peninsular War they were exceedingly successful in harassing the French occupiers in the mountains of Catalonia. Sometimes they even attempted operations in large bodies, as in the operations around Gerona in 1808 and 1809.

Miquelets in the Americas

Regiments of Miquelets were also integrated in the Spanish army and fought in other places of the Empire, outside Spain. For example, the First Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia, which was composed of Catalonian Miquelets, was destined in New Spain. From there, the Company played a crucial role in the Spanish colonization of the Pacific Northwest, building Fort San Miguel, the first formal European settlement in British Columbia, from 1790 to 1792. Its captain, Pere d'Alberní i Teixidor, reached the higher military decorations and even was appointed Interim Governor of California in 1800.

Other uses

The police forces of the autonomous governments of Biscay (1784-1877) and Guipuscoa (1796-1936) were known as Miqueletes.

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See also

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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