At the eastern end of the island of Minorca is the port of Mahón, one of the best deep-water anchorages in the Mediterranean Sea. For a naval power with no Mediterranean coast, possession of Minorca, therefore, was of major strategic advantage, and for most of the 18th century, Minorca was in the hands of the British. The narrow entrance to the port was guarded by a fort, known to the British as St. Philip's Castle, a translation of the original Spanish, el castillo de San Felipe.
Minorca was captured in 1708 by a joint British-Dutch force on behalf of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, during the War of the Spanish Succession. Its status as a British possession was confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
The island was lost to the French in 1756 following the naval Battle of Minorca and the final Siege of Fort St Philip. In a joint Franco-Spanish effort and following a long five-month invasion, the British surrendered the island again in 1782.
It was transferred to Spain in 1783 as part of the Peace of Paris. The British recaptured the island in 1798, during the French Revolutionary Wars. The British and the French tried (and failed) to end hostilities between themselves with the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. Both nations agreed to cede or withdraw from certain territories, with the Island of Minorca passing to the Spanish, with whom it has remained since.
Siege of Minorca 1756
The naval battle of Minorca took place on 20 May 1756. It was the opening sea battle of the Seven Years' War in the European theatre.
On April 18, 1756, the British tower men at Fort St. Philip saw 197 sails on the horizon, in particular in front of port of Ciutadella (Minorca), Mahón and Fornells. The island was sieged by Armand de Vignerot du Plessis or Duke de Richelieu after he landed on the island and besieged the British garrison. Fort St. Philip was captured on 29 June 1756, and the British forces were forced to surrender.
Although the French won that battle, they lost the Seven Years' War in 1763, and so Minorca was returned to Britain rather than France's ally Spain, to which the island was historically tied. The Spanish government renewed its alliance with France against Britain by means of the Treaty of Aranjuez (12 April 1779), with the recapture of Minorca as one of its main aims.
Siege of Minorca 1782
The Franco-Spanish conquest of Minorca from its British defenders in February 1782, after the Siege of Fort St. Philip lasting over five months, was an important step in the achievement of Spain's aims in its alliance with France against Britain during the American War of Independence. The ultimate result was the ceding of the island to Spain in the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, Duke de Richelieu (13 March 1696 - 8 August 1788)
was a French soldier, diplomat and statesman. Joining the army, he participated in three major wars and eventually rose to the rank of Marshal of France.
He was the son of Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu, who in turn was a great-nephew of the prominent French statesman, Cardinal de Richelieu who had dominated France in the early 17th century.
At the outbreak of the Seven Years War, in 1756, the Duc de Richelieu assumed command of the land force destined to the expedition against Minorca. His army landed at Ciutadella on April 18 and rapidly occupied most of the island. On April 23, he laid siege to Fort St. Philip (San Felipe de Mahón). The British garrison resisted for more than two months but finally capitulated on June 28.
On his return to France, the Duc de Richelieu was hailed by madame Pompadour who told him "your star has risen and it shall never be dimmed". While waiting for suitable employment, the Duc took command of the French forces on the southern coast around Toulon.
The French lost Mahón but according to certain sources, Mayonnaise was introduced into French cuisine after Armand de Vignerot du Plessis's victory over the British at the city's port in 1756. According to this version, the sauce was originally known as salsa mahonesa in Spanish and maonesa (later maionesa) in Catalan (as it is still known in Minorca), later becoming mayonnaise as it was popularized by the French.