The War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted from 1701 to 1714, was brought about by disagreement between the European nations over who should succeed King Charles II of Spain who had died in 1700 with no clear heir. Had the French candidate been accepted, the thrones, and empires, of France and Spain would have been united and tilted the balance of power in Europe and abroad. To prevent this England formed an alliance with the Dutch Republic, Portugal, and others to promote the rival Austrian candidate.
In 1707 an allied force under the Earl of Galway was in south east Spain aiming to march on Madrid. It encountered a far superior French and Spanish force at Almanza, which Galway decided to attack on the morning of 25 April. At first things went well as the assault developed on the allied left and in the centre. Portuguese troops on the right, however, failed to follow up, and were subsequently driven off by the French cavalry. This left the flank of the advance exposed and the bulk of the allied force was soon overrun. It was only by some gallant rearguard action that part of the force, hardly more than a quarter of those originally committed to the battle, was able to withdraw.
Steuart’s Regiment of Foot, later to become the 9th (East Norfolk) Regiment of Foot, performed with conspicuous gallantry in this rearguard action and took heavy casualties. As Almanza was a significant defeat, no battle honour was awarded. However, it is believed that as a result of its conduct there Queen Anne granted the Regiment the right to wear the badge of Britannia. The badge was certainly in use by the Regiment later in the 18th Century, although the first official record that can be traced is a letter of 30 July 1799 ‘confirming’ the Regiment’s right to it, and it is on the Regimental Colour to this day. Blood’s Regiment of Foot, later to become the 17th (Leicestershire) Regiment of Foot, also took part in the battle of Almanza, almost the entire regiment being killed or