For almost two hundred years, the dominion of the British Empire stretched across the globe. With colonies in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Southern Pacific, author George McCartney was entirely correct to espouse of “this vast empire on which the sun never sets”. The complete dominance of the British in many of their colonies lasted through until World War II, when the country began releasing, or “decolonizing” its possessions in favor of new, small independent nations to make their own destinies. Whether success or failure, many of these colonies are still independent nations, actively involved in world affairs. However, to this day, the great authority of Parliament still extends past the shores of fair Britannia, specifically in the cases of Gibraltar and the Falklands Islands. Both hold overs from medieval treaties and holdings, both regions are claimed by Spain and Argentina respectively. Clear from both colonies is their importance before as naval installations, but in the days of lightning warfare, doubt is cast on their continued value to England. For Gibraltar, at stake is Spanish sovereignty and pride in territorial integrity; for Argentina, honor and a right to new, valuable natural resources. Through both times of war and peace, the United Kingdom has held steadfast to these two last colonies, even in the face of threats, blockades and warfare. In many respects, each of the colonies have some precedent to be a part of their home country; however, the reality to this day is that the shadow territories of the British Empire are complex subjects that even years of negotiations have yet to unravel.
In order to understand the British holding of the Rock of Gibraltar today, it is necessary to look at the peninsulas past. Gibraltar was a nominal part of Spain, first in the hands of the Moors and then a fiefdom affiliated with the newly formed kingdom of Spain. In 1713, after the end of the War of Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht provisioned that the United Kingdom would gain possession of Gibraltar. Specifically, Article X of the treaty stated:
The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever (Article X).
With such a powerful and limitless mandate, the British immediately seized control of Gibraltar. The naval fortress they constructed there was extremely important, as it allowed the British to have complete control of entrance to and from the Mediterranean, cementing British maritime power.Despite its benefits as a military fortress, the Rock was not held with much pride by the British, nor did the public in England see its potential, with many pamphlets following the...