In 1808 Napoleon entered
Spain to attack Portugal. French forces remained in Spain for the next
five years. Under British pressure the French retreated to San
San Sebastian stands on a peninsula, projecting
northward into the Bay of Biscay. The fortress was of a basic square
design covering the flat area of the peninsula and fully enclosing the
town. In July 1818 a British army under the command of General Graham
placed the city under siege.
On August 31 an attempt to relieve the siege was
repelled by Spanish troops at San Marcial and the fortress fell to the
British. Because the townspeople were believed to support the French
the town and fortress were sacked and burned.
The stamp commemorates the battle of San Sebastian in
1813, and the 150th anniversary of the rebuilding of the town in 1863.
The Canary Islands came
under Spanish control in the 16th century. In 1599 the Dutch invated
the Islands and defeated the Spanish. The stamp was issued in 1999 to
commemorate the 4th centenary of the defense of Grand Canary.
The stamp shows the Dutch invaders rowing ashore and
advancing against the Spanish defenders massed in the upper right
area. In the lower right corner is the fortress, Gratiosa. It
was blown up when the Dutch left. The town of Allgona is on the left
side of the stamp. The ships are Dutch.
The picture on the stamp was engraved by Johan Theodore
de Bry (1528-1598) of Frankfort in 1590, and was published in 1600 in
Grands Voyages. It is preserved in the Museum of Colon de
The name, Canary Islands was named by King Juba II of
Mauretania (25 B.C to 25
a.d.) for the ferocious
dogs he found there. The Latin word for dog is canis. The
songbird was named for the islands.