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The rock of Gibraltar has a fascinating, colourful but violent History. The majestic cliffs that dominate this tiny peninsular of land have played many key roles in the history of Europe from its earliest founding’s to the present day. For the traveller the rock of Gibraltar has always been of importance, as either an unmissable landmark or safe haven. It is thought that Gibraltar was one of the last strong holds for Neanderthal man. In fact Neanderthal man should have been called Gibraltar man, The First Neanderthal remains were found in 1848 in a cave on the rock, but were put in a draw and forgotten about. Eight years later similar remains were found in the Neander Valley, near Dusseldorf, the remains of these people were known hence forth as Neanderthal man.
For Thousands of years ago the Rock stood to mark the end of the known world. Mediterranean mariners would not sail past the rock for fear of not coming back. Plato refers to Gibraltar as one of the Pillars of Hercules along with Jebel Musa or Monte Hacho on the other side of the Strait, in Morocco.
To the soldier the rock has always been an obvious natural fortification, its commanding position at the entrance to the Mediterranean could not be underestimated. The Moors in the 11 Century built the first castle on the rock during their occupation of Spain. It is from the Moors that Gibraltar gets its name “Gib Tariq” or Mountain of Tariq. Tariq in Ziyad was the Moorish General who first took the rock as Moorish soil. Later the British had they’re eye on the rock for its strategic importance even as far back as the days of Cromwell. The British Didn’t actually get their hands on the rock until the 1704 when Spain handed it over as part of the treaty of Utrecht, to end the War of the Spanish Succession. The Spanish war of succession was a bitterly fought European war in 1700’s that lasted 13 years. Spain at the time was an immensely powerful country, and through blood lines was trying to become a super power with its birth right claims on the thrown of France. The Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, & Portugal together took on the mighty Spanish and French armies. The war was eventually concluded in 1713 by the signing of the treaty of Utrecht. The treaty most importantly prevented Spain and France from forming a super power, but one of the smaller clauses caused Spain to begrudgingly handed over The Rock of Gibraltar and the Island of Minorca to The British.
In 1783 Minorca was returned to Spain but the loss of Gibraltar has always been a difficult pill to swallow for the proud Spanish, and they have tried numerous times to get it back, sometimes with force. General Sir George Eliotte, who’s name you will see celebrated all over Gibraltar, successfully defended the Rock from the Spanish enduring a brutal 4 year siege at the same time as the American revolution.
During the second world war the Rock Fortrace was modernised and a runway was built. Gibraltar was once again a major strategic Military base, this time for the Allied forces. In 1942 General Eizenhower planned the French North African Campaine code name “Operation Torch” from a bunker carved deep into the rock. These secret rooms hundreds of feet underground protected by the safety of the Rock were in military use right up until 2009. It is hoped that The Preserved rooms in which Eizenhower ran his campaign will soon be open to the Public, There has been talk that the new owners may try and get a marriage licence for the main command centre. Watch this space.
The thorn of the English Rose in the Spanish side was felt again In a referendum held in 1967, where Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency. The subsequent granting of autonomy in 1969 by the UK led to Spanish Dictator General Franco closing the border and severing all communication links. This was felt very keenly buy Locals at the time, Closing the border not only cut communications but also put a fence through the middle of many families. Parents or grandparents able to see loved ones only through the barbed wire fence. In 1984, Although delayed because of the Falklands war, The Spanish had a vested interest in the Socialist Argentininia’s Claim on the British territory, The border was reopened to pedestrians and fully in 1984. In 2006 air traffic and telecommunication restrictions were lifted. Rather than fading into its old British colonial past Gibraltar has very much a modern thriving economy with state of the art internet and gaming and banking facilities with clients from all over the world. As Relations with Spain are constantly improving a new international Airport is being built in Gibraltar that will have both a Gibraltarian and Spanish Customs exit. Assuring its continual growth as a tourist destination as well as a place of international commerce.
As a wedding venue Gibraltar had a shaky start. It is told that in the days of Lord Nelson it was Naval tradition that no man was married past Gibraltar! But by the time of the swing 1960’s Gibraltar was firmly established as a rockstar venue, with Sean Connery tieing the knot with actress Diane Cilento in 1962 and in 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono, eloped. Sean Connery Liked Gibraltar so much, he got married here again in 1975 to French painter Micheline Roquebrune. More recently in 2008 Sir Mark Thatcher and Sarah Russell Married on the Rock.
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