Gibraltar is a tiny British territory on the very southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, just 14.3 km from the African continent. With an area of 6.8 km2, it is as large as, for example, the city district of Prague 3. In 2020, 34,000 people lived in Gibraltar. But why does it belong to the United Kingdom?
Gibraltar was inhabited 50,000 years ago, when its cave complexes were used by Neanderthals and later by Homo sapiens. Later, the promontory was used by various nations, from the Phoenicians, through the Romans, to the Visigoths. In 711, Berber commander Tariq ibn Ziyad raided the Iberian Peninsula. The prominent Gibraltar rock was named Jabal `alā aṭ-ṭarīq in his honor, later creating the contraction Gibraltar. The territory later fell to the Almohads, who in 1160 built the first fortification and settlement on the promontory. In the last decades of Reconquista in 1462, Gibraltar was acquired by the Spaniards.
In 1665, Charles II, son of the Spanish Habsburgs, ascended the Spanish throne in his 4 years age. However, several of his female relatives were married to the French Bourbons. Charles II was physically and mentally weak and often suffered from various diseases. The reason was probably the constant kinship of his ancestors. In addition, Charles failed to produce a child. Throughout his reign, the other powers of Europe argued over his successor. On November 1, 1700 Charles II died, but before that he had managed to write a will, in which he mentioned Philip of Anjou, a descendant of the French Bourbon line, as his successor. After his death, a 13-year war broke out known as the War of the Spanish Succession.
The ever-expanding France resulted in the formation of the so-called Great Alliance, a coalition formed against King Louis XIV of France. The Great Alliance originated from the Augsburg League and at that time included the Holy Roman Empire, England, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark. In England, there were disputes over how to wage war. England eventually decided to weaken Spanish and French influence at sea and secure trade routes through the Mediterranean. To do this, it was necessary to have a port in the Strait of Gibraltar under control.
The Great Alliance twice tried to conquer the port city of Cádiz, but without success. On August 1, 1704, the Alliance attacked Gibraltar and captured it in just three days. The Alliance has agreed that Gibraltar will by guarded exclusively by England at its own expense. In 1711, France and the newly formed United Kingdom secretly agreed to end the war. France retained influence in Spain, among others, and the United Kingdom retained Gibraltar. The peace agreement was confirmed by the so-called Peace of Utrecht in 1713. Subsequent later efforts to gain Gibraltar by Spain failed and in two referendums in the 20th century, the people of Gibraltar gave their unequivocal consent to remain within the United Kingdom.