Freedom Beheaded

Dramatis Personae

General Moragues

Josep Moragues, 46, a major hero of the War of Succession. He heroically defended the French border, thus blocking the provisioning of Bourbon troops.

Although a paradigm of the brutality inflicted on Catalonia by King Philip V, Moragues paradoxically remains a little-known figure of this war.

The son of a prosperous peasant from Sant Hilari Sacalm, at 25 he started to participate in the struggle against the French invasion of the late seventeenth century. He was part of the group of eight Vigatans who first rose in arms against Philip V in 1705 in representation of the Catalan people. He was married twice: to Cecília Regás, who died in 1711, and subsequently to Magdalena Giralt. He settled down in Sort with his family. During his military career, he rose to general at the service of Charles III, and served as commander of the square of Castellciutat. In September 1713, he was compelled to surrender this square to the Bourbon officer Feliciano Bracamonte, who failed to honour the capitulation agreement. On seeing the attacks from Bourbon troops, burning entire villages, Moragues decided to take up arms once again, more as a Catalan than as a general, in his own words.

Following the fall of Barcelona and Cardona, he was summoned by the new Bourbon captain general, Tserclaes de Tilly, to appear before him daily. Fearing arrest, Moragues made his will in his wife’s favour and, with three of his officers, he decided to sail to Majorca, where the Habsburg resistance was still extant. They were betrayed and imprisoned. After being tortured and vilely tried, they were sentenced to death. Bourbon rule proved especially cruel towards Moragues, with a punishment that had never been applied before in Catalonia: the general’s throat was slashed and his body quartered, after which his head was exhibited in a cage at the entrance to Barcelona for twelve years.


Magdalena Moragues Giralt, Moragues’s second wife. She was abducted at her home so that the general would lay down his arms. After her husband’s execution, she was imprisoned for several years. Following the Treaty of Utrecht and the signing of the peace agreement between Philip V and the Holy Roman Emperor, Magdalena ardently appealed for the delivery of her husband’s head, which had been exposed at the city’s Puerta del Mar for ten years. It was not until two years later that the Bourbon monarch responded to her pleads. When he ordered the removal of the cage, there was nothing left of his head, just air.


Antoni and Manel Desvalls i de Vergòs were staunch defenders of the Catalan Constitutions at the Barcelona Courts of 1701-1702, and always participated in the struggle for the liberties of their people..

Antoni Desvalls, Marquis of Poal, was the highest-ranking officer in the Catalan army within the inland regions, having General Moragues under his command.

Manel Desvalls was the governor of Cardona, from where he would deliver supplies to his brother’s troops and to all the Catalan militias. He accepted the capitulation of Cardona fourteen days after the fall of Barcelona. The agreements signed, such as that of being permitted to reside in his house, were never honoured by the Bourbon.

In order not to be imprisoned, both brothers remained in hiding for two months until they succeeded in reaching Genoa.


Jaume Batlle, known as Captain Paloma (Captain Pigeon) because of his skill at dodging the Bourbons, always remained by General Moragues’s side. He escaped with his life from the ambush prepared to capture the general and his companions in their attempt to sail to Majorca and resumed fighting in 1719 alongside Carrasquet. He was imprisoned in Perpignan, when the French left the Catalan militias to their devices, but he managed to escape and reach Vienna. It was said that trying to seize Paloma was like trying to seize the clouds.


Captain Francesc Descatllar Tord, a pro-Habsburg officer throughout the War of Succession and a member of the guard of the Archduke of Austria, the regiment of Royal Catalan Guards. In 1713 he was promoted to Captain of the Regiment of Our Lady of the Rosary. After the fall of Barcelona, he managed to escape from Bourbon persecution and join General Moragues, with whom he participated in the attempt to sail to Majorca. He was tried jointly with Moragues and executed with military honours in 1715. The whereabouts of his tomb are unknown.

Pau Macip and Jaume Roca

Pau Macip and Jaume Roca "Jaumic", two officers who enjoyed Moragues’s trust, accompanied the general and Descatllar in their failed escape to Majorca. Along with them, they were imprisoned, tried and hanged.


The notary Segismón Rosell Riart had long been friends with Moragues and his family, since the times of Sant Hilari Sacalm. Unlike several colleagues of his, he refused to defend Barcelona at its walls. After the war, however, when Philip V disbarred those notaries who had defended the city, Rosell expressed the opposition of his trade to the new regime. When Moragues decided to make his will, he called on Rosell, despite the moderate Philippist tendency the notary had acquired, which made him try to convince the general to accept the new situation established by the victorious Bourbon.


Gregori Matas Pujol. A Figueres-born lawyer, he remained a loyal vassal of Philip V. A highly intelligent man, he knew of all those people who were not in favour of the king. His repressive actions placed him in a position of favour before Marshall Berwick, who trusted him more than he trusted the Castilian ministers. He was the prosecutor of numerous criminal cases of the Nueva Planta hearings, and all of his “trials” sent their defendants straight to the gibbet. He was the main party behind the capture, torture and execution of General Moragues and his men, as well as of hundreds of Catalans.


Prince Tserclaes de Tilly was born in Antwerp. He remained all his life at the service of the Bourbon king. He was appointed the first Captain General of Catalonia in 1714 and observed Philip V’s orders very loosely. A thoroughly frivolous man, he had numerous mistresses despite his congenital ill health. Towards the end of his life, in September 1715, he was old and infirm but continued with his licentious lifestyle. After his death, his wife burnt all of his documents and letters.


Agustí Marimon, a Philippist from the start of Bourbon rule. He participated in the siege of Barcelona and Berwick made him one of the five Catalan ministers of the first Interim Junta prior to the Nueva Planta decree, in which capacity he functioned as a judge although he was not officially appointed as such and had no legal experience. He squandered his fortune on gambling. He died in Madrid at 85, a debt-ridden man.


Feliciano Bracamonte, a brigadier of the Philippist troops that repressed the inland towns. He signed the capitulation of Castellciutat with Moragues and never observed any of the articles of the agreement. He delighted in burning entire towns; he rejoiced over the burning of the town of Arbúcies by his men, observing this from a nearby hill. After the war, he was promoted to field marshal and mayor of Tarragona, and was subsequently made governor of Saragossa and acting commander of Aragon.


Rough in appearance and manner, Falguera spent his whole life working as a blacksmith and armourer. A staunch defender of the Habsburg cause, he devoted himself after the war to collecting scrap from the forests and mountains in order to continue with his trade, manufacturing weapons clandestinely, as Philip V’s Nueva Planta decrees made the possession of any type of arms punishable by death. The elderly Falguera distrusted Moragues due to the capitulation of Castellciutat, as he tells him when they meet in the forest.


Leaders of the group of mountain rebels, Castells and Vila fought as volunteers under the orders of General Moragues. Years later, Moragues met them once again on his way from Sort to Barcelona to appear before the new Bourbon captain general, Tserclaes de Tilly. The two men remained willing to fight alongside Moragues to the death.


The abbot Lluis Tapies, of the Monastery of Santes Creus, is one of the most significant ecclesiastical figures of Bourbon repression; forced to leave his abbey and go on exile to Rome due to Philip V’s decision to expel from the country all those friars and priests who had conspicuously collaborated with the Catalan forces.

Moragues meets the abbot when, during his journey on horseback to Barcelona for his rendezvous with Tserclaes, he stays overnight at the Monastery of Sant Miquel del Fai.