Historical reenactment. Members of the Torrijos 1831 cultural association in Alhaurín de la Torre last weekend. / SUR

Marking the doomed coup of 1831

Failed plot. The historic events of a plan hatched in Britain to overthrow King Ferdinand VII in December 1831 were recreated by the Torrijos 81 cultural association in Mijas and Alhaurín de la Torre last weekend

TONY BRYANT

Events to mark the failed attempt to end the reign of King Ferdinand VII and restore the Constitution of 1812 were held in Mijas Costa and Alhaurín de la Torre last weekend. Organised by members of the Torrijos 1831 cultural association, historic reenactments to celebrate the 190th anniversary of the landing of General José María Torrijos and his 60 doomed men took place on the El Charcón Beach in Mijas. Meanwhile, another event was held at Torrealquería in Alhaurín de la Torre, where the general and his men were arrested by the authorities. The attempted coup had failed through betrayal by a presumed ally, General Moreno.

Among the troop of liberal conspirators was Robert Boyd, a 26-six-year-old Irish-born Briton of noble descent who had become influenced by Torrijos' ideals.

Boyd, who was born on 7 December 1805, was a soldier with the 65th Native Bengal Infantry Regiment. After returning to England from the Greek War of Independence, he integrated into the young radical student society of the Cambridge Apostles, founded by Alfred Tennyson, and John Sterling, son of the editor of The Times newspaper and cousin of Robert Boyd. The group's clandestine meetings were frequented by General Torrijos, at that time in exile in London for his liberal ideas against the absolutist power of Ferdinand VII.

Torrijos found his most enthusiastic supporters among the young radicals of the group, some of whom, including Boyd, actively participated in the conspiracy he was preparing.

Torrijos became very prominent within the group and Boyd became one of his best friends; so much so, that when he received an inheritance of 5,000 pounds, he put it all at the general's disposal to pay for the expedition to Gibraltar. Boyd was entrusted to prepare the necessary infrastructure in Gibraltar in order to launch the liberal campaign.

False promise and betrayal

Lured with false promises by the so-called Viriato plan, Torrijos and his companions were forced to land on the shores of Mijas on 2 December 1831.

The main protagonist of the betrayal would be the governor of Malaga, Vicente González Moreno, who had begun an active correspondence with Torrijos under the pseudonym Viriato. Posing as a liberal, he assured Torrijos that the best place to disembark would be Rincón de la Victoria, where the support of the garrison would be assured by a group of liberals who were ready to assist him.

However, on arrival at the Malaga coastline, Torrijos and his men were attacked by King Ferdinand's forces and, with no shelter, the two ships carrying the liberals were forced to land on the beach of El Charcón.

The garrison headed inland, where they took refuge in the Conde de Mollina farmhouse in Alhaurín de la Torre. The house was soon surrounded by loyalist supporters, but the liberals still believed that help was on its way. Moreno arrived to meet with Torrijos with false news of support from Vélez Málaga, but it soon transpired that Torrijos had been deceived once again: on leaving the farmhouse, they were all arrested for treason.

After a short period in prison in Malaga, the general and his 48 surviving companions, who included Boyd, were, without any semblance of justice, taken out and executed by firing squad on San Andrés beach in the city on 11 December 1831.

Boyd wrote a letter to his brother hours before the executions took place, claiming, "I die like a gentleman and a soldier. I am to be shot with sixty others in about an hour."

The British consul in Malaga, William Mark, did everything possible to save Boyd, given his status as a British subject, but the governor of Malaga ignored his pleas and the Irishman was executed along with his companions.

His body was the first to be buried in the city's English Cemetery.