Rafael Del Riego Nunez - Encyclopedia

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RAFAEL DEL RIEGO NUNEZ (1784-1823), Spanish army officer, who has the melancholy distinction of having begun the long series of political military mutinies - pronunciamientos - in Spain, was born at Santa Maria de Tuna in Asturias on the 2nd of April 1784. He was educated for the legal profession at Oviedo, and passed the necessary examinations. But in 1807 he enlisted in the guard. When the French invasion took place in 1808 he was employed by the junta of Asturias and placed in command of a newly raised battalion. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Espinosa de los Monteros, on the 10th and rlth of November 1808, and was sent to France. During his years of imprisonment he, like many others of his countrymen, was converted to liberalism on the French model. Riego had the good fortune to escape and to reach England after various wanderings in Switzerland and Germany. In England he was incorporated with other rescued or escaped Spaniards, in a corps equipped by the British government, and was sent to Spain in 1814. He continued in service as a military officer, and was commandant of the second battalion of the regiment "Asturias," which formed part of the army collected at Cadiz

to be sent to South America in 1819. Service in America was unpopular with the soldiers, and there was much discontent in the country with the government of King Ferdinand VII. A conspiracy was formed among the officers to use the army for the purpose of forcing the king to grant a constitution. They were betrayed by a general who at first professed to sympathize with them, and many were arrested. Riego was apparently not suspected, and he decided to act on his own account. On New Year's Day 1820 he made his pronunciamiento with his regiment at the village of Cabezas de San Juan. He proclaimed for the constitution drawn up by the Cortes in 1812, which was unworkable, and which the chiefs of the conspiracy did not propose to restore. He hoped to seize Cadiz, but it was held by a loyal officer, and for a time no popular movement took place. Riego now started on a revolutionary propaganda through Andalusia at the head of his regiment. The country proved hostile or at the best indifferent. His following gradually melted away, and he was about to flee to Portugal when Galicia revolted. The rebellion extended rapidly, and the king was compelled to yield. When the liberals were in possession of power they would gladly have kept Riego in a subordinate place. But he came to the capital, where he was soon the most popular spokesman of the extreme parties. There he discredited himself by his vanity, and shocked even the populace of Madrid by appearing drunk at the theatre. He was at last persuaded to accept the military command in Aragon, which he thought below his merits. He began intrigues and agitations. The government was strong enough to put him under arrest at Lerida. When the new Cortes was elected in 1822, he was chosen deputy for his native city Oviedo, and the radicals selected him as president of the chamber on the 17th of February 1823. The unceasing intrigues of the king, the incapacity of the moderate parties and the hysterical excitement of the mob combined to make anarchy worse daily. Riego was the noisiest shouter of all. When the French intervention took place, he helped to carry the king to Cadiz, and he fought a few unsuccessful skirmishes with the invaders. He was at last captured at a farmhouse near -Arguillos in the province of Jaen. Unfortunately for him, he fell into the hands of the royalist volunteers, by whom he was carried to the capital. On his way he was repeatedly mobbed and had many narrow escapes from being torn to pieces. He was hanged at Madrid in the Plaza de la Cebada on the 7th of November 1823. At the end he professed abject repentance for his impiety and disloyalty. The popular revolutionary tune of Spain, the "himno de Riego," is named after him, and his picture is hung in the Cortes, but he was a poor creature, and a bad example of the light-headed military agitators who have caused Spain much misery.

H. Baumgarten, Geschichte Spaniens (Berlin, 1865-1871).

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