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RICHARD WALL (1694-1778)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 275 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RICHARD WALL (1694-1778), diplomatist and minister in the Spanish service, belonged to a family settled in Waterford. As he was a Roman Catholic he was debarred from public service at home, and like many of his countrymen he sought his fortune in Spain. He served, probably as a soldier in one of the Irish regiments of the Spanish army, during the expedition to Sicily in 1718, and was present at the sea fight off Cape Passaro. During the following years he continued to be employed as an officer, but in 1727 he was appointed secretary to the duke of Liria, son of the duke of Berwick, and Spanish ambassador at St Petersburg. Wall's knowledge of languages, his adaptability, his quick Irish wit and ready self-confidence made him a great favourite, not only with the duke of Liria, but with other Spanish authorities. Spain was at that time much dependent on the ability of foreigners, and for a man of Wall's parts and character there were ample openings for an important and interesting career. The climate of St Petersburg seems to have been too much for him, and he soon returned to military service in Italy. It is said that when he was presented to the duke of Montemar, the Spanish general, and was asked who he was, he replied, " The most important person in the army after your excellency, for you are the head of the serpent, and I am the tail.” He became known to Don Jose Patino, the most capable minister of King Philip V., and was sent by him on a mission to Spanish America—a very rare proof of confidence towards a man of foreign origin. He is also said to have laid a plan for retaking Jamaica from the English. In 1747 he was employed in the negotiations for the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, and in 1748 was named minister in London. In England he made himself very popular. Though an exile through the operation of the Penal Laws, and though he proved loyal to his adopted country, he was a constant partisan of an English alliance. His views recommended him to the favour of King Ferdinand VI. (1746-1759), whose policy was resolutely peaceful. In 1752 Wall was recalled from London to assist in completing a treaty of commerce with England, which was then being negotiated in Madrid. Wall now became the candidate of the English party in the Spanish court for the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, in opposition to the leader of the French party, the marquis de la Ensenada. He obtained the place in 1752, and in 1754 he had a large share in driving Ensenada from office. He retained his position till 1764. The despatches of the English minister, Sir Benjamin Keene, and of his successor, Lord Bristol, contain many references to Wall. They are creditable to him. Though a constant partisan of peace and good relations with England, Wall was firm in asserting the rights of the government he served. During the early stages of the Seven Years' War (1756—1763) he insisted on claiming compensation for the excesses of English privateers in Spanish waters. He frequently complained to the English ministers of the difficulties which the violence of these adventurers put in his way. As a foreigner he was suspected of undue favour to England, and was the object of incessant attacks by the French party. The new king, Charles III. (1759—1788), continued Wall in office. When war was declared by Spain in 1761 the minister carried out the policy of the king, but he confessed to the English ambassador, Lord Bristol, that he saw the failure of his efforts to preserve peace with grief. The close relations of Charles III. with the French branch of the House of Bourbon made Wall's position as foreign minister very trying. Yet the king, who detested changing his ministers, refused all his re-quests to be allowed to retire, till Wall extorted leave in 1764 by elaborately affecting a disease of the eyes which was in fact imaginary. The king gave him handsome allowances, and a grant for life of the crown land known as the Soto de Roma, near Granada, which was afterwards conferred on Godoy, and finally given to the duke of Wellington. Wall lived almost wholly at or near Granada, exercising a plentiful hospitality to all visitors, and particularly to English travellers, till his death in 1778. He left the reputation of an able minister and a very witty talker. A full account will be found in volume iv. of Coxe's Memoirs of the Kings of Spain of the House of Bourbon (London, 1815). Further details of his early career can be gathered from the Diario del viaje a Moscovia, 1727-1730, of the duke of Liria (vol. xciii. of the Documentos ineditos Para la historia de Esparta), (Madrid, 1842, et seq.).
End of Article: RICHARD WALL (1694-1778)
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