Table of Contents


Contact Information

Richard Wall, the Irish-Spanish Minister

By Diego Téllez Alarcia


Wall's 'Discreet Spain'

Ricardo Wall's coat of arms
(Parish records, Fuentevaqueros,

From research into Wall's ministry it is possible to distinguish several contributions to the general debate on the Spanish Eighteenth Century. One of them is to answer some questions such as where and how political power was exerted during Wall's ministry and by whom. The Royal Court is the main scene, a place where politicians, courtesans, artists, intellectuals, high-ranking soldiers and clerics were centre-stage. Their purpose was to influence the 'Royal Desire'. The Secretaries of State became key players in the system because of their control over some information channels. They dispatched messages to the sovereign about political concerns, so that they could monopolise the King's influence. For that reason they were regarded as new 'court favourites' or 'ministerial despots' by political rivals. The courtesan intrigues consolidated themselves as a new form of social protest.

In this sense, the biography of the Irish minister confirms the validity of 'absolutism/enlightened despotism' as a historiographic category. Absolutism as a political system was disguised with elements of the Enlightenment. Wall is a perfect example of this. Nevertheless, his motivations were those of the State. Wall was capable, as a politician, of taking recalcitrant measures (Burriel and the Commission of Archives, for example), but he was also able to sponsor people such as D. Francisco Manuel de Mena and José Clavijo y Fajardo, very well-known intellectuals. This does not prevent the existence of a significant qualitative change with respect to previous times, which can be recognised and which justifies the invention of a new historiographic category.

Thanks to Wall's professional experience and versatility, I have been able to study the functions of several Spanish institutions in the eighteenth century: the army, the diplomatic service and the secretaries. For instance, the army is revealed as a far more complex institution, which sometimes serves as an instrument of social integration of foreigners or as a mechanism of social permeability. The same is true of diplomacy, where more important changes throughout the eighteenth century came from Wall's reforms (changes in the social extraction and in the geographic origin of ambassadors, the establishment of a diplomatic cursus honorum and new embassies in Russia, the Turkish Empire and Saxony).

Other reflections arise, very much linked to this institutional sphere. On the one hand, the role of the Irishmen and of other foreigners in Spanish society during the Modern Age in general, and in the eighteenth century in particular, is highlighted. On the other hand, the interrelation that exists already at so early a time between the diverse European chancelleries, a sort of initial political globalisation. There are some international political networks between politicians from different countries whose interests were the same. The Duke of Newcastle or Tanucci were the most important international allies of the Irish minister. These links explain the profound consequences that political movements had all over Europe. There are several examples, the main one being the repercussion of Ensenada's fall, a very important factor that contributed to the Reversion of Alliances.

These ideas contribute to modifying our vision of Spain in the eighteenth century. The country had great vitality and was in expansion, because the political elite became conscious of the necessity to change the image of a hegemonic Imperial Spain on the international stage to a 'Discreet Spain' that concentrated its efforts on internal recovery. Colonial administration was also improved in order to recover influence on international relationships. These efforts would be mitigated at the end of the century with the arrival of the French Revolution.


Diego Téllez Alarcia

Wall's baptismal record
(Archives Départementales de la Loire-Atlantique, Registres paroissiaux, Nantes, Église de Saint Nicolas,
BMS, 1691-1697


1 - 2 - 3 - 4


Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2007

Online published: 31 August 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

Téllez Alarcia, Diego, 'Richard Wall, the Irish-Spanish Minister
' in Irish Migration Studies in Latin America, 5:2 (July 2007), pp. 131-134. (www.irlandeses.org), accessed .


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies

 Copyright Information