Friday, May 02, 2008

El Dos De Mayo....Interpretations

Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, the Mayor of Madrid, said the other day in a speech that no aristocrats were amongst those who were shot by the French on the 3rd May 1808 following the suppression of the uprising. Gallardonologists see in his words a barb aimed at the Condesa de Murillo, and they may well be right. Whether that is the case or not, Gallardón made a useful point. The Dos de Mayo uprising was a popular rebellion; not a revolt led, or even supported, by those who ruled the country until the French takeover. Whilst poorly armed citizens of Madrid were engaged in bloody fighting with the French army on the streets of Madrid, almost all of the Spanish troops stationed in the capital remained in their barracks; with a handful of notable exceptions. There is a divide between those who see the rebellion as a glorious patriotic reaction to foreign oppression, and those who regard it as being a more chaotic and spontaneous product of frustration amongst the population of the occupied city. In any case, the number of people who participated is not estimated to have been more than a fraction of the population of Madrid, perhaps a few thousand.

Last night I took the risky decision of watching Telemadrid’s documentary on the uprising without first donning full protective clothing. This exposed me to dangerously high levels of patriotic garbage, as it emerged that Napoleon’s defeat was almost entirely the work of the Spanish rebels. There was little or no mention of the role of Portugal, Great Britain or even of the broader European war that brought Napoleon’s overstretched empire building to an end. Who was the world renowned history expert chosen to deliver the final verdict in the documentary? Why, none other than the Condesa herself, who expounded on her view that the events marked the birth of liberty in Spain. That the immediate effect of Napoleon’s defeat for Spain was the return of an absolutist monarchy could not be allowed to interfere with such a narrow vision of history. Perhaps the whole commemoration should be named “Hats off to the Bourbons” in tribute to their powers of survival? The more I read about Spanish history the more it amazes me that they are still occupying the throne.


1 comment:

Colin said...

"In John Campbell's excellent biography of Margaret Thatcher, there's an intriguing glimpse of her aides attempting to inject her with a sense of humour before the Conservative Party Conference of 1990. The Liberal Democrats have unveiled their new logo, which is a yellow "bird of freedom". In response, Mrs Thatcher's speechwriters have written a line comparing the bird to the dead parrot in the famous Monty Python sketch: "This is an ex-parrot. It is not merely stunned, it has ceased to be, expired...." and so forth. It raises a laugh, but in a footnote, her political secretary John Whittingdale recalls: "the Prime Minister had not even heard of Monty Python. 'Are you sure this is funny?' she asked anxiously. She had to be shown the video, at which she set herself very professionally to master John Cleese's intonation. But she was still doubtful. 'Monty Python?'... 'Are you sure he's one of us?'?""