Carrol, William (Guillermo) Parker (1776-1842)

British envoy and subsequently volunteer in the Spanish army during the Peninsular War (1808-1814), Don Guillermo Parker Carrol, at times simply known in Spain as Guillermo Carrol was born in Tulla, Tipperary, Ireland on the 27 January 1776. He had a long military career that intertwined ranks and activities in both Britain and the global Hispanic world.

He studied at Trinity College, Dublin but soon showed keen interest in a military career, becoming captain of the 88th Regiment Connaught Rangers at an early age. His first contact with the Hispanic world was in the second of two disastrous British attempts to take Buenos Aires in 1807 (the first one being in 1806) when he was captured and kept hostage for eighteen months. He returned to Britain in January 1808 and provided testimony at the court martial of Lieutenant General John Whitelocke, commander-in-chief of the expedition against Buenos Aires, alongside two colleagues who became long-life friends, Philip Keating Roche (1772- 1829) and Samuel ‘Santiago’ Ford Whittingham (1772-1841).

Within months he was dispatched under the orders of Charles William Doyle (1770 or 1782? -1842) in a mission to return Spanish prisoners of war to Corunna. This turned to be a life-changing experience: he decided to join forces with the Spanish Patriots in their fight against the French invaders. He took this step mainly driven by emotional attachment to the Spanish cause and a thirst for adventure rather than by religion, as could perhaps been expected considering that in Spanish company he often made mention of his ancestral Catholic roots, an aspect of his background he never divulged in Britain, perhaps for fear of damaging the social standing of his family. Carrol used his family connections to enroll  two brothers –  Charles Morgan Carrol (O’Carrol) (1780-1820) and Richard Parker Carrol (1782-?) –  and a cousin – Michael (Miguel) Carrol (1789-1830?) in the Spanish Hibernia Regiment under his command.  He took part in a vast number of actions from Bilbao, Durango, and Espinosa de los Monteros (1808), Oviedo (1808 and 1809) to campaigns in Catalonia and Rousillon where he remained with the army of General Castaños until 1816, that is to say after the war has ended. His highest rank in the Spanish Army was  mariscal de campo  awarded on 13 October 1814. In the same year, he was rewarded for his commitment to the Spanish cause with the Orden de Carlos III.

William Parker Carrol saw himself as a key figure between the Spanish resistance and the British allies; as a result when the war situation deteriorated towards the end of 1808 he was quick to defend the Spanish Patriots from British accusations of poor resolve. Being a captain in the British Army and a teniente coronel in the Army of Galicia (1808), he decided to get involved in the politics of the region to accelerate the adoption of measures of military deterrence, actively plotting in the overthrow of the Junta of Asturias which at the time seemed either reluctant or incapable of mounting an effective defence against advancing French forces. He played a key role in an incident that has been inaccurately labelled as the ‘Romana coup’. This was in reference to Pedro Caro y Sureda, Third Marquess de la Romana whom Carrol wanted elected as ‘dictator’ by the Asturians convinced that vesting all the authority on a single individual would speed the adoption of crucial military decisions. Romana knew nothing of Carrol’s campaign and although he did take over the government of the province, he did not do it by means of a coup but following orders received from the national government, then legitimately constituted by the Junta Central. Later, Carrol argued in favour of the establishment of a national Cortes and in 1812 pledged himself in an oath to the Cadiz Constitution. He remained in active Spanish service until February 1816, but requested an extension of leave of absence to marry in England in March 1817. In Britain, he had already been knighted by the Prince Regent a year earlier and continued afterwards a successful career, arriving to the position of Lieutenant Governor of Malta (1822) and of Corfu (1829), then getting the rank of Major General (1830) and finally becoming the commander of the western district of Ireland (1839), which he was till his death in 1842.

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Source (indicative): Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, British Liberators in the Age of Napoleon: Volunteering under the Spanish Flag in the Peninsular War, (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).

Posted by:  Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, assisted by Adam Nour El-Din Hafez

How to cite: To cite from this page, please use any style (Chicago, Harvard, etc). Our preferred citation form is: Graciela Iglesias-Rogers, assisted by Adam Nour El-Din Hafez, ‘Carrol, William (Guillermo) Parker, (1776-1842)’, The Hispanic-Anglosphere: transnational networks, global communities (late 18th to early 20th centuries), project funded by the AHRC and the University of Winchester in partnership with the National Trust, [https://hispanic-anglosphere.com/indidivuals/carrol-william-guillermo-parker-1776-1842,   accessed – please add the date of your visit].

Thematic categories:

Family and Friends ; Politics ; War and the Military