One of the things I like most about my jorb the moment when the visitor wants to share the wonders of the place where they come from. Some even draw me a route with what I should not miss, where to stay, where and what to eat, curiousfacts… This is how I got to go to visit Cáceres after one of the visitors’ recommendations meanwhile I had the pleasure of accompanying them on a circuit through the province of Cádiz last autumn.
I had no choice but to plan the trip under they plans, so I went to Extremadura to visit Cáceres a few days ago.
I must confess that I have fallen in love with this city. If I was already excited imagining everything I had been told about it. Walking through its cobblestone streets inside the city walls and its Jewish quarter has been an unforgettable experience. Now I understand why it has been the scene of numerous films and series such as “Isabel”, “La Catedral del Mar” or even the well-known Game of Thrones.
So while practicing the pleasant task of getting lost in its streets, I came across a commemorative plaque to Segismundo Moret and Prendergast… What did this citizen of Cádiz have to do with Cáceres? When I read the plaque I smiled remembering all the times I talked about Moret in his hometown Cádiz, and yet placing him there was totally unknown to me…
Certainly I had to start an investigation, and this is what I found out…
A bit about Moret
It is know that Segismundo Moret and Prendergast was born in the city of Cadiz, in the house number 15 of Sacramento street, and died in Madrid in 1913.
His family moved from Barcelona to Cádiz in the early 19th century, the golden age of the city’s sea trade. Her father was a member of the Treasury department and her mother was related to the English aristocracy, as she was the daughter of Luis de Prendergast and Gordon, Marquis of the Victory of the Tunas in Cuba. From her, he inherited the admiration for the British social and political model.
Although it is true that Segismundo had a very well social status thanks to his family, his in-laws contributed to it too, because he married Concepción Remisa, daughter of one of the most important bankers of the Spanish Queen Elisabet II.
He studied in Madrid, because his family left Cádiz when Segismundo was very young. There he joined the Central University to study Civil Law and Administration.
Once he obtained his bachelor’s degree, he was proposed to the chair of economics and politics on an interim basis, being by opposition the way in which he obtained the Chair of Financial Institutions in 1858.
In 1861 he founded the Spanish Society for the Progress of the Social Sciences, which reflects the philanthropic character of Segismundo, who was always interested in knowledge and all sciences.
Political career and archievements
- In 1863 he was appointed Independent Deputy in the city of Almadén, position to which he resigned, being reelected soon, this time in Ciudad Real.
- 1868 collaborates in the drafting of the ’68 Spanish Constitution.
- 1870 is appointed Minister of Overseas in the cabinet chaired by General Prim. He also drafted the Moret law, abolishing slavery in Puerto Rico and declaring the children of slaves free.
- 1871 he was appointed Minister of Finance during the reign of Amadeus I of Savoy. Soon after, he moved to London as ambassador, where he later resigned and worked in London banks.
- 1875, at the return of the Bourbons dinasty to the Spanish throne, he returned to Spain and founded the Democratic Monarchist Political Party.
- 1882, the party merges with the Left Dynastic and Moret ends up in the liberal party of Sagasta.
- 1883, he was appointed Minister of Government under the Liberal Government of José Posada Herrera.
- 1885, he was appointed Minister of State by the government of Sagasta.
- 1881, 1901 and 1902, Minister of the Government.
- 1892, Minister of Public Works.
- 1892-1894, Minister of State.
- 1895, he was appointed President of the Ateneo in Madrid.
- 1897-1898, becomes Minister of Overseas Affairs (during the Cuban crisis)
- 1902, creates the “Institute of Social Reforms” (precursor of the Ministry of Labour)
- 1905-1906, President of the Council of Ministers.
- 1909, he heads the Presidency of the Government, resigning months later.
- 1912, the Count of Romanones appoints him President of the Government.
On top of that, in the city of Cádiz:
- He inaugurated the maritime exhibition.
- He helped to commemorate the centenary of the Courts.
- He was responsible for the current lighthouse of San Sebastián Castle.
- He urged the widening and demolition of the city walls and the pier.
- He gave talks at the First Journalism Congress at the Falla Theater.
Whilst appreciating all these efforts, declare him favorite son and raised a monument (located in the crowded square of San Juan de Dios nowadays) and a commemorative plaque by his home where it says: “A great statesman, an outstanding orator and an outstanding defender of democratic ideas.” A recognition he enjoyed years before his death.
Favorite son of Cádiz and adoptive son of Cáceres
What is Moret’s connection with Cáceres?
Well, it turns out that Segismundo knew about the phosphate rocks of Extremadura, which were discovered in 1864 in a nearby calerize. This discovery prompted his numerous visits to the city between 1874 and 1881.
In 1876 Segismundo acquired the rights to the mining preserve, the Moret Village, and created the General Phosphate Society of Cáceres, of which he was also his president.
Another reason for visiting the city was the constitution of the railway line that linked Madrid with Portugal, specifically with Lisbon.
The municipality of Cáceres agreed to distinguish Moret with the title of Adoptive Son and a street that bears his name and in which this plaque is located.
But it won’t stop here…
The life and work of Sigismund Moret was so intense and fruitful that I am sure he left many things in the inkwell. If you’re interested, I encourage you to keep digging…
One thing that must be emphasized about his personality is that he did not boast of his exploits, being a man of austere character until the end of his days. An example of this is on his wishes for his own funeral: «The only thing that I wish is for my coffin covered with the national flag, so that this sacred sign speaks, when my voice is already extinguished, of the love that I profess to my homeland and I will profess it until my last moments. Neither flowers nor crowns».
Besides, touristically speaking:
- In Madrid, we can walk along the Moret parade, located between Moncloa square and Rosales promenade.
- In Huelva, the decree of Municipal Corporations that extended the life of the municipalities led to the famous Paseo de la Cinta, recovered as a park for leisure and recreation, being called Moret Park in 1910.
- In Zaragoza, the museum preserve a bust of him in commemoration of being the promoter of the Spanish-French exhibition of 1908.
And here concludes my research on this illustrious character…
I wish and hope you liked it. I read your comments.
And don’t forget, if you want me to be your guide through the province of Cadiz and beyond…