Ceremonies mark bicentennial of Spain's war of independence
Soldiers in period uniforms paraded outside Madrid's Royal Palace Tuesday to mark the beginning of months-long celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the War of Independence against France.13 February 2008
MADRID - Soldiers in period uniforms paraded outside Madrid's Royal Palace Tuesday to mark the beginning of months-long celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the War of Independence against France.
Ministers and soldiers from all the countries involved in the 1808-1814 conflict -- Spain, France, England, Poland and Portugal -- took part in the commemorations presided by Spain's Crown Prince Prince Felipe.
The war saw Spain, helped by her allies, evict Napoleon's forces from Spanish soil. It also marked the first use of the term "guerrilla" war.
"We must never forget history, and so it's normal that we would find ourselves alongside our Spanish friends," said French veterans affairs secretary Alain Merliex, underscoring the stunning transformation of Spanish-French relations from past enemies to present allies.
The conflict began on 2 May 1808 with a mass uprising in Madrid against the French troops, quickly followed by vicious repression -- made famous by the Spanish artist Goya in a series of paintings.
Polish, Portuguese and finally English troops under General Wellington came to the aid of the Spanish to defeat Napoleon's troops, who were backed by Polish forces.
The successful six-year war is considered the foundation stone of the modern state of Spain.
Today, the principles of "liberty, equality and fraternity" unite all the war's former combatants, Spanish Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said.
Various other events are planned over the next few months to commemorate the bicentennial, including in the southern city of Bailen, scene of a symbolic Spanish victory in July 1808, and Zaragoza in the north-east, whose residents led a fierce resistance against Napoleon's troops.
An exhibition entitled "Spain 1808-1814: A Nation in Arms" also opened on Tuesday in Madrid, while the city's Prado Museum plans to host an exhibition entitled "Goya in Wartime" from April to June.
[Copyright AFP 2008]
Subject: Spanish news