Mrs S. Jayne
While it is generally conceded that the present Anglican parsonage, with an adjoining building since pulled down, were used as a hospital for the British wounded, and wounded French prisoners, during the Peninsular War, it is not so well known that the monastery of the Estrella was put to the same use on two occasions.
The following extracts are taken from a book in manuscript called the Diario do Mosteiro da Estrella, which is in the Biblioteca Nacional (B 12-6 733). In connection with the first the following circumstances must be recalled.
The French Revolution had plunged Europe into a witches cauldron of contending ideologies. Spain and Portugal took up arms in an alliance against atheist France, and the Portuguese under a Scot, General Forbes of Skelater, fought some gallant actions in the Eastern Pyrenees between 1793 and 1795. At this point the Spanish Court under the influence of the opportunist Godoy rather suddenly deserted its ally and concluded a separate peace with the French at Basle.
This left the Prince Regent of Portugal with no alternative but to make peace on his own account but it was immediately clear that the Basle Treaty had gone much further than was at first apparent. It was in fact framed with the deliberate purpose of attaching Prussia and Spain to France and to unite all three against Austria, England, and Portugal. In 1796 Spain declared war on England and hard on the heels of this news came information of a secret convention between France and Spain by which these two powers were to divide Portugal. Spanish troops were assembling on the frontier.
The Portuguese Government applied to England for assistance. The House of Commons voted Portugal a sum of £200.000, and a force of 6,000 men was dispatched under Sir Charles Stuart. The Portuguese Government, on their side, set about making ready to receive them. An entry in the «Diario» runs as follows:
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