Minorca is preparing to celebrate the bicentenary of being returned to Spanish rule. In 1802, after five hundred years of attacks by pirates, falling under the control of the British Empire in the 18th century and a rather short rule by the French, the Treaty of Amiens was signed which returned the island to Spain. The peace treaty was signed by France, Spain and Batavian Republic on the one hand and Great Britain on the other. It is generally regarded as having marked the end of the French Revolutionary Wars and setting the stage for the Napoleonic Wars. In accordance with the treaty, England was to give up most of its conquests and France was to evacuate, apart from Minorca, Naples and restore Egypt to the Ottoman Empire. England retained Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Trinidad but abandoned its claim to the French throne. However, the peace lasted just under a year because in 1803, England refused to evacuate Malta and in May 1803, war broke out again between Britain and France. Minorca's military commander, Colonel Francisco Riva, who is overseeing the bicentenial festivities, said yesterday that the celebration will have a very cultural flavour. Riva said “we're going to remember all aspects of our past, not just a small part of our history under British and French rule and also look at the present and the future as part of Europe.” “As Minorcans we should be proud of our history,” he added, pointing out that all the different epochs of the island's history has had a marked effect on the people's identity. “The island has lived through hard times, marked by poverty and hardship which forced a number of people to emigrate to Algiers or Constantinople, but also through highly prosperous times such as the past few decades which has enabled Minorca to develop its culture and creativity. “We've learnt the lessons of our past and feel very proud of it,” Rivas said. The influences of the British and French rule of Minorca are still clearly visible to this day, but it was the British who left the biggest mark on the island and its people. The architecture and colour of the old buildings have a distinct British appearance and some of the houses still have the original sash-cord windows and the old English locks. The Minorcans still produce a potent gin and in their Minorcan language use words such as “marbles” and call young boys “Johns.” The island still posesses some fine forts built by the British and the barracks in Es Castell, which house a military museum. The islanders are still keen to keep the mystery of Admiral Nelson and his mistress alive. Some claim Nelson actually went ashore in Mahon, while others claim his mistress used to join him on board his galleon. The pink house where she used to live still looms high over Mahon harbour. The French landed at Ciutadella, but folklore claims that mayonnaise hails from Mahon.


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