Luis de Lacy

Luis Roberto de Lacy (11 January 1772,[1] San Roque, Cadiz, Spain – 5 July 1817, Palma, Majorca) was a brigadier general in the Spanish Army who fought in the Peninsular War. He came from an Irish family that had two previous generations serving in the Spanish army: his grandfather, Patrick de Lacy Sr., had been a general in the infantry regiment of the Spanish "Irish Regiment" of Ultonia, and his father, Patrick de Lacy Jr., had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel before his early death.


Luis was the only child of Spanish-born Lt. Colonel Patrick de Lacy Jr., who died young, and his wife Antonia. Luis was born in San Roque, a Spanish village near the frontier of Gibraltar. Spanish historians tell us that he was born into a "distinguished Irish family". No Irish family has attained greater fame in the military history of Europe than the de Lacy family of county Limerick, Ireland.[2]

Family history

Luis was the grandson of Limerick-born General Patrick de Lacy Sr., who was a Spanish hero of the siege of Oran in 1732.[3] Patrick de Lacy Sr. was part of the de Lacy-Billingari family; the suffix "-Billingari" refers to the branch of the de Lacy family from Ballingarry, Limerick, also known as "of La Garthe".[4][5] Luis's Spanish-born uncle Francis Anthony de Lacy (1731–1792), his father's brother, was also well known for his military and diplomatic exploits. He conducted the siege of Gibraltar in 1779, was later sent as minister plenipotentiary to Sweden and Russia, and in 1789 became Governor and Capitan General of Catalonia. He was also created a Knight of the order of Carlos Tecera. One of Luis's aunts married General Count Browne, Governor-General of Livonia, Russia, and his other aunt married the Marquis Canada, of the ancient family of Terry.[6]

Further back, Luis's descent is traced from John de Lacy (born c. 1646) of La Garthe in county Limerick in Ireland. John de Lacy is believed to have descended from John Roe ("the ruddy") de Lacy(-Billingari) of La Garthe, who owned Ballangarry castle, and who was attainted and had some of his lands confiscated in 1583 during the time of Elizabeth I.

One of the sons of John de Lacy was Luis's great-grandfather, Pierce (Peter) de Lacy, a Captain in the Jacobite army in the service of King James II of England, who married the Lady Arabella Gould (the daughter of Robert Goold & Eda O'Connor) of Knockraun in the county of Cork. Luis's grandfather General Patrick de Lacy Sr., apparently the second son of a large family, married in Spain. His wife was the daughter of the Irishman Sir (Baron) Ignatius White (d. 1798, France), Marquis D'Albeville, who had been in the service of both King Charles II of England and King James II of England.[6]

Even further back the de Lacys of county Limerick claim descent from William Gorm de Lacy the son of Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath (bef.1135–1186) from his second marriage to Princess Rose Ní Conchobair, daughter of King of Ireland, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair. It is also from the de Lacys of Limerick that the famous soldiers Count Peter von Lacy (1678–1751), and his son Count Franz Moritz von Lacy (1725–1801) descend, and the different branches of the de Lacy family of Limerick did support each other as kinsmen in their respective military careers. The Limerick man whom they all claim as kinsman, Pierce Oge (the young) de Lacy of Bruff (–1607, executed)— celebrated from the wars against Elizabeth I, the son of Sir Hempon Pierce de Lacy— maintained that he was 18th in direct descent from William Gorm de Lacy,[7] son of Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, and great-great-grandson of Walter I de Lacy (d. 1085), the Norman soldier. It is known that a highly distinguished family known as "de Lacy" was settled in county Limerick and had castles at Ballingarry, Bruree, Bruff and more which were in the family down to the time of the Desmond confiscations in 1583, but that family may be of different origins entirely.[8]

Many references state that Luis's mother Antonia was French, but this is because she married again to a Frenchman named Gautier who was also in the Spanish army. In Spanish references even today they call him "Luis de Lacy y Gautier" which means that his mother's surname was Gautier. However, his mother's surname and ancestry are unknown; there is nothing to say she was French, and she was probably Spanish.

Early military career (1785–1808)

The French invasion of Spain

From the date of his desertion from the Napoleon's army, Spanish history makes frequent references to Brigadier General Luis de Lacy. He became a Spanish hero fighting the French from the river Ebro to the river Tagus. He inflicted notable losses on the French troops, and on one occasion captured 3,000 enemy cavalry.

Early army fighting against Napoleon's forces (1808–09)

Andalusia (1810)

Catalonia (1811–12)

Luis de Lacy. Detail of a furniture piece decorated with scenes of the Peninsular War dated 1866. Barcelona City History Museum MUHBA

Galicia (1813–14)

The events leading to Luis's execution (1814–1817)

Restoration to honor (1820)

After Luis's execution in 1817 many other military coups were attempted, until finally in 1820 Col. Rafael del Riego led a revolt which succeeded and forced the King to accept the Spanish Constitution of 1812. This was the beginning of what is today called the "Trienio Liberal" (the Three Liberal Years) from 1820 to 1823. In those years the King did everything he could to obstruct the Government, such as vetoing nearly every law, but also asked many powers, including the Holy Alliance, to invade his own country and restore his absolutist powers. He finally received help from a French army (The Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis), which allowed the King to restore his powers and begin his second period of absolutist rule.

Back in 1820, however, the newly reconstituted Cortes of Madrid of Madrid, in recognising Luis's "Pronouncement of Lacy", declared Luis de Lacy a heroic martyr in his country's cause. Their Royal Order of 25 March 1820 provided that Luis would be restored to all his honors and have his name placed onto a plaque in the Hall of the Parliament bearing the names of those who, like Rafael del Riego, had served the cause of democracy in Spain. Luis was accorded a public funeral as a Spanish war hero. Ferdinand VII himself, who had three years earlier ordered Luis's execution, begrudgingly attended the funeral. Riding the public sentiment, the King also posthumously created Luis as Duke of Ultonia.

Today the plaque bearing the name of Luis de Lacy and the other heroes of Spanish democracy is seen on the right side of the President of Spain when he faces the Cortes of Madrid.

See also


  1. Some references record him as born in 1775. If this is true he was only 10 years old when he joined the army, and put his age up by 4 years. It is unlikely that a pre-pubescent 10-year-old could pass as an adolescent 14-year-old.
  2. "Irish surname Lacy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05.
  3. There is some dispute as to whether it was General Patrick de Lacy or his de Lacy 1st-cousin General Count William de Lacy-Billingari (b. 1726), who commanded the famous Irish regiment of Ultonia in the relief of the Moorish city of Oran in 1732. The latter is impossible, however, as Count William de Lacy-Billingarri was only 6 years old in 1732, and his military career was spent fighting in Europe (hence the title of Count that was granted to him), not in Spain. He joined the Imperial Army in 1758 with the support of his kinsman Count Franz Moritz von Lacy.
  4. "In old records, Ballingarry is referred to originally as ‘Garth’, and variations including Gare, Gorth, Garry, Garrystown and Ballingarrie were all used. The De Lacy family is mentioned on record as far back as the early 14th century, and it is likely then that Ballingarry owes its existence to the illustrious Norman family settling there.""Ballingarry: A Brief History". Ballingarry, Co. Limerick. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  5. A later example is Count William de Lacy-Billingari (b. 1726) who styled himself "Lord of La Garthe" ("Comte de Bellingarri")
  6. 1 2 Denis Larionov & Alexander Zhulin. "History of Maunsell or Mansel, and of Crayford, Gabbett, Knoyle, Persse, Toler, Waller, Castletown; Waller, Prior Park; Warren, White, Winthrop, and Mansell of Guernsey". Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  7. Annals of the Four Misters, vol. III. p. 75
  8. Some doubt is cast upon the authenticity of this claim in a closely reasoned article on the subject by N.J. Synnott (J.R.S.A.I. 1919), who suggested that the Limerick families may be Lees, a name of frequent occurrence in Limerick records from the 12th to the 15th century; he points out that in the 16th century the Lacys of Bruff and Bruee spelt their name Leash, as well as Lacy; and Leash, of course, is phonetically equivalent to the Irish form Leis. (In the Annals the name is de Lacy is written as de Leis in Irish.) Most Rev. Hugh Lacy, Bishop of Limerick from 1557 to 1581, is a case in point, as his name appears in records as Lacy alias Lees.


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