General Moragues

Hero in the War of the Spanish Succession against the French troops, he was born in a farmhouse in Sant Hilari and was working as a farmer when he was involved in the war until he was tried, tortured and killed in 1713. Moragues devoted much of his life to the struggle for Catalan identity and, years later, Sant Hilari Town Council dedicated a monument to him, which is located in one of its squares.

Josep Moragues i Mas was born in Mas Moragues, Sant Hilari, in 1669. There, he worked as a farmer when, for some reasons, he was involved in the movements that took place in different parts of these regions, Catalans against French troops, who very often invaded and occupied part of the Catalan territory.

Married to Cecília Regàs, from Arbúcies, he met people from Osona who had all kinds of problems with people from the region, which used to end up violently. He later met the so-called vigatans, people from Vic who showed strong opposition to the continued introductions of the French army, which led into a strong anti-French feeling. This was emphasised by the designation of the Bourbon monarch Philip V as king of Spain on the death, without descendants, of the last Austrian, Charles II, in 1700, despite the fact that Catalonia recognized him in the Courts of Barcelona in 1701.

Under the auspices of maintaining balanced politics promoted by England, which had already searched for allies, there was strong opposition to the French king in the area and the candidature made by Archduke Charles of Austria (Charles III), proposed by the allies, was viewed with sympathy. It would be the War of the Spanish Succession.

Moragues, along with other Catalan patriots such as Domènec Perera, Antoni de Peguera and Carles Regàs, was one of the signatories of the deal of San Sebastià chapel, which had to lead to the deal of Genoa, commitment made by the Catalans to bring six thousand armed men when the English disembarked again in Barcelona (1705). The objective was to install in Spain Archduke Charles of Austria, who had to be named Charles III.

In such a way, the vigatans took a position contrary to the ones who supported Philip V, known as botiflers, and the war broke out. Moragues stood out in the struggle in several places and gained considerable prestige as a leader of armed groups.

He soon rose through the military ranks to become a general in battle, the most important rank of all Catalan fighters. At the beginning of 1707, he was designated governor of Castellciutat, a military fortress in La Seu d’Urgell, place that had to protect the border from French entrances. At that time, once widowed, he married Magdalena Giralt, from Sort.

The war had different alternatives, but after the defeat in Almansa (1707), Bourbon troops’ forward move was already evident, although new strengths towards the centre of the Peninsula took place and, therefore, the conflict took new nature, contrary to Charless III’s interests. When he became emperor of Austria in 1711, after his half-brother’s death, the situation radically changed because suddenly the English were the most interested in stopping the war against the power the new emperor could have.

The Peace of Utrecht (1713) meant that the English, Dutch and Austrians rescinded the alliance created against France and Philip V in exchange for territorial concessions. Catalonia’s interests were not taken into account despite the commitments acquired and signed with the allies.

The Catalan leaders chose to continue the war because of the few alternatives they had to keep the status they had before the conflict.

In 1713, Moragues surrendered Castellciutat to the Bourbons, but kept the fight inland Catalonia and, finally, in Barcelona, which fell on 11th September 1714. Man of action and contrary to an easy personal solution that was offered to him, in 1715 he escaped with other Catalan patriots to Mallorca, where the struggle was still going on. In a second attempt to leave Barcelona and after being betrayed, the fugitives were taken on 22nd March. Moragues was tried, tortured and killed by garrot (weapon used to strangle a person). His head, as subject to ridicule, was placed in an iron cage and hung at the Portal del Mar in Barcelona, with a text that read:

“Josep Moragues, for committing the crime of repeated rebellion, for twice abusing royal clemency, finally, the third time, he was taken and executed by law.”

His head was there for twelve years.

Nowadays, the square of our town with his name pays homage to the general.