If the question were “what does a person have to do to become Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo?” one of the possible answers would be to be born in the United Kingdom.
And this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any history, nor characters or heritage in this beautiful city of Salamanca. Quite the opposite, in all these areas, and in some others, the Mirobrigense, rodericense or civitatense are well served.
All of this is the result of a history as long in time as it is rich in characters and works. Like this, once more, it will be best to start at the beginning.
Once upon a time there was a fertile land that housed a river and this river in return would water all the lands close by. Thanks to this symbiosis, from as long as the Bronze Age (perhaps before that) we find signs of settlements that since then have continued without interruption.
One of the first people to live on those lands were the Vetones, Celtic people that left us many relics, among them the famous boar that currently decorates the entrance of the castle-hostel and which (it seems not just metaphorically) paved the way to the first great power: Rome.
This brought, apart from the Pax Romana (a package that also included their language, culture and economy), the three columns, probably part of an ancient temple, which still to this day can be seen on a roundabout in the city, and that from the Middle Ages appear on its coat of arms.
One of these columns has an inscription on it ¨Mirobriga¨ the reason why, although it is not too clear, is that this was the name that the Romans referred to this enclave.
As time went by, new people and cultures were settled, Swabians, Alans, Muslims and finally opening the doors to the Middle Ages, the Leonenses of Alfonso VI ¨the brave¨ who after destroying every Muslim traces from the area, ordered the foundation of the city that would end up carrying the name of its impeller, the Count Rodrigo Gonzalez.
From that time the ¨Civitatem de Roderic¨ (meaning Ciudad Rodrigo) begins to show off its first works of art that make it a living exhibition of art history; the supposedly Roman Bridge (almost fully medieval), the wall of the city, the castle of Enrique II (now a tourist hostel) or the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria built in the Romanesque to Gothic transitional style, are some of the best examples.
In the following centuries the importance of the city grew considerably since it became a fortified square facing Portugal´s kingdom and also facing the interests of the kings and nobles’ eager to conquer and to obtain power, more power and even more! Of this period are the Gothic and Renaissance Palacio de las Aguilas, Cardenal Pacheco´s church and the city hall, just to name a few of them. The list is as large as interesting and to let yourself go between its streets and buildings it´s a great and highly recommended option.
Yes, but, what about the British duke that we mentioned at the start? Well, to get to this we have to take a small step that will bring us back to the decade of 1810, in the middle of the Independence war also known as the Napoleonic wars.
As you know the importance of the city´s strategy had grown with the dynastic, revolutionary, communal and frontier swings to such an extent that in the middle of the 17th century the medieval walls were reinforced with a series of bastions shaped like saw teeth and stars, very High Tech for its time, military speaking.
Aware of its strategic location and defensive power, the Napoleonic troops commanded by the marshal Michel Ney, began the assault of the city. But the resistance of the village lasted for almost two months. which at least for a while avoided the so much wanted invasion from Portugal and its Grande Armee.
It was in this neighbour country where one of the most victorious British general was getting ready to invade-release-reconquer (call it what you like) Spain. The General in question was call Arthur Wellesley and made history with the name (and title) of General and Duke of Wellington.
And it was precisely this character who invaded-released-reconquered the city in 1812 after a few days of battles, in which the French were thinking more in returning home than in defending faraway places. Like this he opened the way to the allied troops on their way to Badajoz and the plateau, and by the way, he won the title of Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, a title still enjoyed by his descendants.