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JOSE DE PALAFOX Y MELZI (1780-1847)

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Originally appearing in Volume V20, Page 593 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOSE DE PALAFOX Y MELZI (1780-1847), duke of Saragossa, was the youngest son of an old Aragonese family. Brought up at the Spanish court, he entered the guards at an early age, and in 1808 as a sub-lieutenant accompanied Ferdinand to Bayonne; but after vainly attempting, in company with others, to secure Ferdinand's escape, he fled to Spain, and after a short period of retirement placed himself at the head of the patriot movement .in Aragon. He was proclaimed by the populace governor of Saragossa and captain-general of Aragon (May 25, 1808). Despite the want of money and of regular troops, he lost no time in declaring war against the French, who had already overrun the neighbouring provinces of Catalonia and Navarre, and soon afterwards the attack he had provoked began. Saragossa as a fortress was both antiquated in design and scantily provided with munitions and supplies, and the defences resisted but a short time. But it was at that point that the real resistance began. A week's street fighting made the assailants masters of half the town, but Palafox's brother succeeded in forcing a passage into the city with 3000 troops. Stimulated by the appeals of Palafox and of the fierce and resolute demagogues who ruled the mob, the inhabitants resolved to contest possession of the remaining quarters of Saragossa inch by inch, and if necessary to retire to the suburb across the Ebro, destroying the bridge. The struggle, which was prolonged for nine days longer, resulted in the withdrawal of the French (Aug. 14), after a siege which had lasted 61 days in all. Palafox then attempted a short campaign in the open country, but when Napoleon's own army entered Spain, and destroyed one hostile army after another in a few weeks, Palafox was forced back into Saragossa, where he sustained a still more memorable second siege. This ended, after three months, in the fall of the town, or rather the cessation of resistance, for the town was in ruins and a pestilence had swept away many thousands of the defenders. Palafox himself, suffering from the epidemic, fell into the hands of the French and was keptprisoner at Vincennes until December 1813. In June 1814 he was confirmed in the office of captain-general of Aragon, but soon afterwards withdrew from it, and ceased to take part in public affairs. From 1820 to 1823 he commanded the royal guard of King Ferdinand, but, taking the side of the Constitution in the civil troubles which followed, he was stripped of all his honours and offices by the king, whose restoration by French bayonets was the triumph of reaction and absolutism. Palafox remained in retirement for many years. He received the title of duke of Saragossa from Queen Maria Christine. From 1836 he took part in military and political affairs as captain-general of Aragon and a senator. He died at Madrid on the 15th of February 1847. A biographical notice of Palafox appeared in the Spanish translation of Thiers's Hist. des consulates de l'empire, by P. de Madrago. For the two sieges of Saragossa, see C. W. C. Oman, Peninsular War, vol. i.; this account is both more accurate and more just than Napier's.
End of Article: JOSE DE PALAFOX Y MELZI (1780-1847)
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