Ricardo Wall (1694-1777)
(Anonymous, Museo Naval, Madrid)
Richard (Ricardo) Wall and Devereux (born in Nantes, 5
November 1694, died in Soto de Roma, 26 December 1777) was the
son of Jacobite refugees. His father, Mateo Wall, fought in
the Fitz-James Infantry Regiment of Lord Grand Prior, in the
army of James II.  His family lived in Kilmallock, County
Limerick, well known in those times as the 'crossroads of
Munster,' and belonged to a branch of an Old English
lineage. In fact, the Walls originally came from Normandy
(Wall = Du Val) with William the Conqueror in 1066, and were
transferred to Ireland in the following century.
As Ricardo's father supported James II, the family had to
escape to France around 1691. Soon after, Ricardo was born,
and was baptised at Saint Nicholas's Church in Nantes.
They lived then in the 'Pit of the Well of
Silver' and were given shelter by a relative, probably Gilbert
Wall, who was Ricardo's godfather.
Links between Irish refugees and the French nobility were
strong at that time. This was why Ricardo became a page to the
Duchess of Vendome, one of the most important French houses.
He was transferred to Spain in 1716 on the recommendation of
the latter, to Cardinal Alberoni, Prime Minister in Spain.
Thanks to this recommendation he was accepted as a midshipman
in the Spanish Navy.
entered the Royal Company of Naval Cadets ('Colegio Real de
Guardiamarinas') in 1717, where he graduated with the second
promotion. Immediately thereafter, he embarked on the Real
San Felipe (74 guns), under the command of Admiral
However, the defeat of the Spanish Armada at the battle of
Cape Passaro a few months later in 1718, coupled with a series
of health-related problems that hindered his adjustment to the
rigours of life at sea, prompted Wall to join the infantry. He
first joined the Hibernia infantry regiment (1719) and, after
that, the Batavia dragoons regiment (1721).
He participated in different engagements and campaigns during
his life: the Sicily campaign (1718-19), the raising of the
Siege of Ceuta (1720), Prince Charles' expedition to take
possession of La Toscana (1731), the War of Naples (1734-35)
and the Lombardy campaign (1743-46).
infant D. Felipe served in the latter campaign.
He made a brief incursion into the diplomatic field as well.
Ricardo accompanied the Duke of Liria on his ambassadorial
post to Moscow in 1727.
Liria had also been born in French exile
(Saint Germain-en-Laye, 1696) and was the son of the Duke of
Berwick, a descendant of James II. Wall was, according to the
Duke, 'a man in whom I put all my confidence, with whom undid
my heart in all my misfortunes, that were not few'.
sponsorship of the Duke, based on this solidarity of origin, relaunched the military career of Wall. He was entertained by
the King of Prussia; he received the Order of Generosity, and
he was proposed as ambassador in Berlin, though the project
did not prosper. Wall thus had his first contact with the
diplomatic world and became familiarised with some of the most
representative capitals of the continent: Parma, Vienna,
Dresden, Berlin, Saint Petersburg and Moscow.
Finally, he was invested with the habit of Santiago (Saint
James) in 1737 and was awarded the 'encomienda' (landlordship)
of Peñausende (1741). 
encomienda included the villages of Peñausende,
Peralejos de Abajo, Saucelle, Saldeana and Barrueco Pardo (now
in the provinces of Zamora and Salamanca).
This was a fitting acknowledgement of his noble origins and
allowed him to ascend in the Spanish administration.
After passing up through all the military ranks, thanks to the
protection of the Duke of Huéscar (since 1755, Duke of Alba,
and Liria's son's brother-in-law), he abandoned the sword for
the pen. Ricardo was first posted to Genoa (1747) before
moving on to London, where he took part in a secret mission of
rapprochement between Spain and England (1748). He was
appointed Minister Plenipotentiary after a peace accord was
signed (1749), and later ambassador (1752). During a brief
visit to Spain (1752), Wall was finally promoted to Lieutenant
General and made a good impression on the king and queen, who
in 1754 appointed him successor to Carvajal, the Secretary of
State, following the latter's death. In 1759, he was also
appointed Secretary of War. He resigned in 1763,
voluntarily to the Royal Residence of Soto de Roma, where he
was Governor. Wall led the works on the restoration of the
Arab Palace of La Alhambra.
 He died in 1777.
Prime Minister, Ricardo Wall played a very important role. The
core points of his political thought were neutrality and
monarchism. Both were divested of negative overtones. In fact,
historians use two stereotyped labels to define these
principles. So neutrality is conceived as Anglophile and
monarchism as anti-Jesuit. However, the supposed anglophilia
and the presumed anti-Jesuitism of the minister were no more
than political weapons used by his enemies to discredit him
and to try to remove him from power. Unfortunately these are
weapons that have proved extraordinarily persistent concepts
in the later historiography.
(Archivo Histórico Nacional, Madrid)
With regard to
international relationships, Wall's policy was not as unmoving
as historians claim. The concept of neutrality evolved during
this time. Spain adopted different positions during the
critical conjuncture of the Seven Years War. Wall was actually
in favour of participating in the conflict, for instance, in
1757, when English insolences became unbearable. The king's
illness postponed sine die this change of direction.
Nevertheless, the minister himself would lead, some years
later, - and not against his will, as historians think - , the
final change. He signed the Third Family Compact (1761), the
failure of which must be put in perspective by analysing the
events of the rest of the reign.
In any event,
we must not exaggerate the ministerial performance of the
Irish secretary. In reality there were some successes such as
the signature of a convention with Denmark in 1757, or the
'second neutralisation' of Italy, with the marriage between
the Spanish infant Maria Luisa and Archduke Leopold of
Austria, and the solution of the question of the Placentino.
But there were also failures, such as the attempt to approach
England or the cancellations of the border treaty. It was not
possible for Wall to resolve American conflicts with both
powers: the English settlements in Belize and the Portuguese
settlements in Colonia del Sacramento (present-day Uruguay).
However, a certain revaluation of the personage is necessary
in considering these and other issues related to Wall's
during his ministry, important institutional reforms took
place such as the connection of the diplomatic career with the
offices of the Secretary of State, the preparation of a
Consular Regulation, the beginning of the debate on free trade
with America, and reforms in the postal service. There were
many measures undertaken in the army also: regulations, the
creation of the 'Monte Pío' and of the Academy of Artillery in
Segovia and the preparation of the new Royal Ordinances of
1768. Notwithstanding, there were other negative measures: the
sale of military ranks, the return to the system of fleets and
galleons and the intensification of censorship, with the
taking over of newspapers such as the Gaceta de Madrid
and the Mercurio Histórico-Político by the State