Algiers expedition (1541)

The 1541 Algiers expedition occurred when Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and king of Spain attempted to lead an amphibious attack against regency of Algiers, in modern Algeria. Inadequate planning, particularly against unfavourable weather, led to the failure of the expedition.

Algiers expedition
Part of the Ottoman-Habsburg wars

Siege of Algiers in 1541. Engraving of 1555.
DateOctober – November 1541
Result Ottoman-Algerian victory[1]

Empire of Charles V:

Order of Saint John
 Republic of Genoa
 Papal States
Kingdom of Kuku[2]
Regency of Algiers
Commanders and leaders
Charles V
Navy: Andrea Doria
Army: Duke of Alba[3]
Ferrante I Gonzaga
Hernán Cortés
Giannettino Doria
Bernardino de Mendoza
Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon
Hasan Agha
Total of 80 galleys
Total of 500 ships[3]
12,000 sailors[3]
24,000 soldiers[3]
100 transports[3]
50 galleys[3]
100 transports[3]
14 galleys
8 galleys
150 transports[3]
700 knights
2,000 troops[4]
800 soldiers
5,000 Moors[3][5]
Casualties and losses
300 officers killed[3]
8,000[3] or 12,000[6][7] killed
150 ships sunk[3]
200 killed[8]


Algiers had been under the control of the Ottoman Emperor Suleiman the Magnificent since its capture in 1529 by Hayreddin Barbarossa. Barbarossa had left Algiers in 1535 to be named High Admiral of the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople, and was replaced as governor by Hassan Agha, a eunuch and Sardinian renegade.[3] Hassan had in his service the well-known Ottoman naval commanders Dragut, Sālih Reïs, and Sinān Pasha.[3]

Charles V made considerable preparations for the expedition, wishing to obtain revenge for the recent siege of Buda,[9] However the Spanish and Genoese fleets were severely damaged by a storm, forcing him to abandon the venture.[10][11]


Charles V embarked very late in the season, on 28 September 1541, delayed by troubles in Germany and Flanders.[3][12] The fleet was assembled in the Bay of Palma, at Majorca.[3] It had more than 500 sails and 24,000 soldiers.[3]

After enduring difficult weather, the fleet only arrived in front of Algiers on 19 October.[13] The most distinguished Spanish commanders accompanied Charles V on this expedition, including Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, though he was never invited to the War Council.[12]

Troops were disembarked on 23 October, and Charles established his headquarters on a land promontory surrounded by German troops.[12] German, Spanish, and Italian troops, accompanied by 150 Knights of Malta, began to land while repelling Algerine opposition, soon surrounding the city, except for the northern part.[3]

The fate of the city seemed to be sealed, however the following day the weather became severe, with heavy rain. Many galleys lost their anchors, and 15 were wrecked onshore. Another 33 carracks sank, while many more were dispersed.[14] As more troops were attempting to land, the Algerines started to make sorties, slaughtering the newly arrived. Charles V was surrounded, and was only saved by the resistance of the Knights of Malta.[15]

Andrea Doria managed to find a safer harbour for the remainder of the fleet at Cape Matifu, five miles east of Algiers. He enjoined Charles V to abandon his position and join him in Matifu, which Charles V did with great difficulty.[16] From there, still oppressed by the weather, the remaining troops sailed to Bougie, still a Spanish harbour at that time. Charles could only depart for the open sea on 23 November.[17] Throwing his horses and crown overboard, Charles abandoned his army and sailed home.[18] He finally reached Cartagena, in southeast Spain, on 3 December.[19]

Losses amongst the invading force were heavy with 150 ships lost, plus large numbers of sailors and soldiers.[3] A Turkish chronicler confirming that the Berber tribes massacred 12,000 invaders.[20] So many of Charles' troops were taken captive that there was a glut of slaves on the market in Algiers, so that 1541 was said to be the year when Christians were sold for the price of an onion per head.[21]


The disaster considerably weakened the Spanish, and Hassan Agha took the opportunity to attack Mers-el-Kebir, the harbour of the Spanish base of Oran, in July 1542.[22]

See also

  • Algiers Expedition (1516)
  • Algiers Expedition (1519)


  1. Phillip C. Naylor (5 September 2006). Historical Dictionary of Algeria. Scarecrow Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-8108-6480-1.
  2. Berber Government: The Kabyle Polity in Pre-colonial Algeria, p191
  3. The Story of the Barbary Corsairs by Stanley Lane-Poole p.114ff
  4. Murray (Firm), John; Playfair, Sir Robert Lambert (1887). Handbook for Travellers in Algeria and Tunis, Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Carthage, Etc. J. Murray.
  5. Handbook for travellers in Algeria and Tunis, Algiers, Oran, Constantine ... by John Murray (Firm),Sir Robert Lambert Playfair p.38
  6. Garcés, María Antonia (2005). Cervantes in Algiers: A Captive's Tale (illustrated, revised ed.). Vanderbilt University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0826514707. Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  7. ibn Ruqaya al Tlemceni, Al Zahra nai'ra, p. 122
  8. ibn Ruqaya al Tlemceni, Al Zahra nai'ra, p. 120
  9. Garnier, p.201
  10. European warfare, 1494–1660 by Jeremy Black p.177
  11. E.J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936 by Martijn Theodoor Houtsma p.258
  12. Garnier, p.202
  13. Garnier, p.203
  14. Garnier, p.204ff
  15. Garnier, p.204
  16. Garnier, p.205
  17. Garnier, p.207
  18. Roger Crowley, Empires of the Sea, faber and faber 2008 p.73
  19. Garnier, p.206
  20. Garcés, María Antonia, p .24
  21. Roger Crowley, Empires of the Sea, faber and faber 2008 p. 73
  22. A history of the Maghrib in the Islamic period by Jamil M. Abun-Nasr p.155 ff


  • Garnier, Edith L'Alliance Impie Editions du Felin, 2008, Paris ISBN 978-2-86645-678-8 Interview

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.