The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1979, Volume 25, Number 1
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

By Eric Beerman

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IN 1741, the Russian explorer Vitus Bering made an expedition to Alaska. Soon thereafter Russian entrepreneurs were obtaining sizable quantities of valuable furs from that region’s harsh environment. They continued their expeditions southward, eventually penetrating well into California. Spain, however, considered these lands within the domain of New Spain (Mexico) and looked with trepidation on the Russian encroachment. King Carlos III, seriously concerned with this undefended and unpopulated northern frontier, sent as his personal representative or viceroy to New Spain in 1766 a Flemish soldier in the service of Spain—Francois Charles de Croix. His orders were to establish and maintain Spanish territorial integrity in California.

The Viceroy Marquis de Croix as he appeared in later years. Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Bellas Artes. During the period of Croix’s viceroyalty, the Franciscan missionaries under Father Junípero Serra left the College of San Fernando in Mexico City to evangelize California. In addition to sending missionaries, the Marquis de Croix dispatched Spanish soldiers, sailors and settlers to join in this Sacred Expedition of 1769. The combined expedition, among other achievements, founded Mission San Diego de Alcalá and consolidated Spain’s claim to California. For the part he played in these efforts, Francois Charles de Croix is remembered in California history. The following biographical sketch plus genealogical information on Croix’s family provides some background material on this capable administrator who so ably served the Spanish crown.1

Like many of his fellow Spanish army officers, Francois Charles de Croix was not a native of Spain. This future viceroy of Mexico was born in the Flemish city of Lille, located today in France near the Belgian border.

Lille is an ancient city, founded on the Deule River by the counts of Flanders. Lille was fortified by Philippe August in 1030. In the first part of the sixteenth century, the Spanish army under the son-in-law of Isabella la Católica, Felipe el Hermoso, occupied Lille after fierce Flemish resistance. For one hundred and fifty years, Lille was under the Spanish crown, which many of Lille’s sons then served. In 1667, Lille was taken by the French king, Louis XIV, and its fortifications were improved by the brilliant military engineer, Vauban. Lille became the capital of French Flanders.2

Croix was born and baptized on the first day of the year 1703, with the latter ceremony taking place at the St. Magdeleine Church. His godfather was Eugene Francois de Croix, captain in the Spanish army and knight in the prestigious Order of Malta. His godmother was Charlotte de Estampes, Countess of Fiennes. Both godparents were related to the child. At a young age, Francois Charles de Croix left his native city of Lille and went to Spain. He entered the Spanish army as a cadet, highly recommended by his godfather.3

The Marquis de Croix commenced a brilliant career wherein he served in many different assignments and was highly regarded by his superiors.4

At the relatively youthful age of forty-two, Croix was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned as military aide to Crown Prince Felipe. He was also initiated into the Order of Calatrava,5 receiving the encomiendas of Molinos and Laguna Rota.6

Family genealogy of the Marquis de Croix. Royal influence no doubt was helpful as Croix was soon named military governor of the important Spanish fort at Ceuta on the northwest coast of Africa. His next post was military commander of Puerto de Santa María, a vital port on the Atlantic Ocean of Andalusia. For outstanding services, Croix was promoted shortly to Captain General of Galicia.7 These positions prepared the marquis for one of the most prestigious positions in the Spanish colonial empire—Viceroy of Mexico.8 On August 25, 1766, he assumed his new command, replacing the Marquis de Cruillas.9 Croix initiated a series of administrative reforms in Mexico for which history remembers him. He is also credited with honorable conduct, integrity and the introduction of French customs. His salary was 40,000 pesos a year, later raised to 60,000 pesos, a sum which was still not adequate to cover the viceroy’s expenditures. Still he refused to accept gifts and gratuities.10

After the settlement of California in 1769, but before completion of his tour of duty in Mexico, the Marquis de Croix requested that he be relieved of his duties. Carlos III concurred, and on February 22, 1771,11 Croix was replaced by Antonio María Bucareli y Ursúa, who took his predecessor’s residencia. After the usual investigation, Croix received full approval for his conduct in Mexico.12.

Works published by Croix while in Mexico include:3 Vando sobre limpieza de las calles de Mexico, 1769; Ordenanzas para el mejor govierno politico y economico de el nuevo Presidio de San Carlos, Estatuidas, Aprobadas y Mandadas observar por el Excelentissimo Senor D. Carlos Francois de Croix . . . Virrey, Governador y Capitan General del Reyno de Nueva Espana . . ., 1769; and Marques de Croix. Reales Cedulas que parala precisa instruccion de los Comissionados que en este Reyno han de entender en las Ventas de las Haciendas ocupadas a los Requlares de las Compania se mandaron reimprimir, 1770.

On his return to Spain, Croix was named captain general of Valencia. In 1781, he was initiated into the Order of Carlos III.14 It was rare for one person to be a member of more than one Royal Order. To prove eligibility for Orders, the candidate was required to establish his family genealogy to the great-grandparents of both paternal and maternal lines. The genealogical research below was presented by Frarupois Charles de Croix for entry to the Order of Carlos III.

His father was Alexandre Françoise de Croix, baptized at St. Magdeleine Church in Lille on June 1, 1664.15 As primogenitor, Alexandre Francois inherited the aristocratic titles of the Baron of Henchin, Sire of Frelinhien, Laprevoté and Allenes. Because of his distinguished action in combat, the French king, Louis XIV, awarded Croix the title of the Marquis of Croix at Mons in 1691. Later Alexandre Françoise entered the Order of Toyson de Oro. On August 25, 1684, at the St. Magdeleine Church in Lille, he married Dame Magdeleine Françoise de Fiennes, the Marquise of Fiennes.16 She was born at the nearby village of St. Omer and baptized at the St. Dionisio Parochial Church on December 5, 1665.17 This marriage produced five children: Alexandre Maximilien, who married Elizabeth Claire de Houchin, whose son, Francois de Croix, became a brigadier general in the Spanish army and member of the Order of Santiago; Marie Maximilien; Anne Magdeleine; Marie Florence, who established the family nobility in Lille in 1729;18 and Francois Charles, future Viceroy of Mexico. Their father, Alexandre Frarupois, gave his last will and testament at the ancestral Laprevoté Palace in Lille on August 24, 1707, dying soon after.19 He was survived by his wife, who later died on March 30, 1734, and is buried at the St. Nicolas Church in Tournai, located today in Belgium.20

Francois Charles de Croix’ paternal grandfather, Pierre Felix de Croix, was born in Lille just before the middle of the seventeenth century. He carried the family titles of the Baron of Henchin and Sire of Frelinhien.21 At the Geneck Parochial Church in Lille on December 13, 1662, he married Dame Eleonore de St. Aldegonde de Noircarnies.22 She died on September 2, 1702 and was buried at the St. Nicolas Church in Tournai.23

The Viceroy of Mexico’s maternal grandfather was Maximilien de Fiennes. He held the titles of the Count of Lumbre, Sire of Anstaing and Gruson and Field Marshal in the French army.24 At the small village of St. Omer, on October 30, 1662, Maximilien de Fiennes married Dame Catherine Cecile de Guernoval, Countess of Tour and Heiress of Blequin, La Motte and Colombie.25

Francois Charles’ paternal great-grandfather (grandfather’s line) was Banduin de Croix, Sire of Henchin and Frelinhien. His father was Pierre de Croix, Sire of Busgamechines.26 In Lille on October 22, 1613, Banduin de Croix married Dame Anne de Locquinhien, daughter of Philippe de Locquinhien, Judge of Flanders and Baron of Pamele.27

Croix’ other paternal great-grandfather was Albert André de St. Aldegonde, Baron of Noircarnies, member of the Order of Toyson de Oro and Captain General of the French region of Artois, which bordered Flanders.28 On June 20, 1633, Albert André married Dame Anne D’Ognies, Heiress of Rosimbos and Fromelle, daughter of Francois D’Ognies, Sire of Courires and Maisnel and Captain General of the French city of Philippeville, Belgium.29

Francois Charles de Croix’ maternal great-grandfather (grandfather’s line) was Marc de Fiennes, Viscount of Fruges and Baron of Enne. His father was Guislain de Fiennes, Sire of Henchin and Desquerdes.30 At the chapel of the Esden Palace in Lille, on January 29, 1624, Marc de Fiennes married Dame Magdeleine D’Ognies, Heiress of Anstaing and of Gruson. She was the daughter of Eustaquio D’Ognies, Sire of Grugeon, Field Marshal in the French army and member of Louis XIII’s Council of War.31

Croix’ remaining maternal great-grandfather was Julien de Guernoval, Sire of Blequin, La Motte and Colombie. His father was Louis Antoine de Guernoval, Governor of the Gravelingues Castle and member of the Council of War.32 In Lille on June 19, 1623, Julien de Guernoval married Antoinette D’Assignies, Heiress of Pienhove, daughter of Antoine D’Assignies, Sire of Court Liungueda.33

His genealogy thus established, Francois Charles de Croix, second Marquis of Croix, Spanish Viceroy in Mexico during the settlement of San Diego, entered the Order of Carlos III. He died just five years later in Valencia in 1786 at the age of eighty-three.


Eric Beerman, a native of California, received his doctorate from the University of Madrid in Spain where he has resided for the past twelve years, dedicated to research and writing on the Spanish historical and genealogical heritage in the Americas. He is a former official of the Department of State in Latin America and Washington D.C. and worked for the Gulf Oil Company in Venezuela.



1. Angeles Rubio Arguelles, Un Ministro de Carlos III (Malaga, 1949), pp. 25-26; Diario historico de los viajes de mar, y tierra hechos al norte de la California de orden del excelentissimo senor Marqués Ae Croix, virrey, governador, y capitan general de la Nueva Espana: y por dirección del illustrissimo senor D. José de Galvez, del Consejo, y Camara de S.M. en el Supremo de Indias, intendente de exercito, visitador general de este reyno. Executados por la tropa destinada a dicho objeto al mando de Don Gaspar de Portola, capitan de dragones en el regimiento de Espana, y governador en dicha peninsula y por los paquebots el S. Carlos y el S. Antonio al mando de Don Vicente Vila, piloto del numero de primeros de la real armada, y de Don Juan Pérez, de la Navegacíón de Philipinas, signed by Miguel Costansó (Mexico, 1770), Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid (hereinafter cited as BN), Raros, 1237; and “Relación diaria . . . navegación del paquebot San Carlos desde el día 11 de enero hasta el 1 de mayo de 1769 á San Diego y Monterey, al mando de D. Vicente Vila, inserta en una exposición al Virrey D. Carlos Francisco Croix,” Museo Naval, Madrid (hereinafter cited as MN), MS 331, Fol. 276. For the basic guide for Franciscan missions see, Fr. Marcellino de Civezza, Saggio de bibliografia geográfica stórica etnográfica Sanfrancescana (Prato, Italy, 1879). Regarding the establishment of presidios during the Croix viceroyship see Archivo Historico Nacional, Madrid (hereinafter cited as AHN), Estado, Leg. 3882, Expediente 16.

2. Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana (70 Vols., Madrid), XXX, pp. 712-716.

3. Copy of baptismal record of Francois Charles de Croix attached to a large dossier (expediente) concerning his membership in the Royal Order of Carlos III, AHN, Orden de Carlos III (Estado), Expediente 106 (hereinafter cited as Expediente de Carlos III). The original recorded at the St. Magdeleine Parochial Church, Lille, France, Book of Baptisms (1703). The Croix clan historical and genealogical background, family tree and colored coat-of-arms are included in this expediente.

4. Concession of use of foreign title in Spain, Archivo General de Simancas (hereinafter cited as AGS), Titulos de Indias, June 28, 1767 (2-51-112).

5. Croix’ earlier entry into the Military Order of Calatrava in 1745 attached to a dossier regarding membership, AHN, Orden de Calatrava, Expediente 682-bis. This dossier contains additional historical documentation on Croix.

6. AHN, Ordenes Militares-Calatrava, Encomienda de Molinos, legs. 15-P, 4397, 5699, 6467, 6468; and Ibid, Encomienda de Laguna Rota, Legs. 4397, 135, 167, 225, 256-P.

7. Enciclopedia universal ilustrada, XVI, p. 431.

8. Royal Order of December 20, 1765, AGS, Títulos de Indias, No. (184-182).

9. “Relación de la Nueva Espana dada por el virrey Marqués de Cruillas el ano 1766 a su sucesor Marqués de Croix,” Biblioteca del Palacio, Madrid (hereinafter cited as BP), Manuscritos de América, MS 2837, Fols. 194-200. For the residencia of Cruillas taken by his successor see AHN, Consejo de Indias, Legs. 20716-20717.

10. Adolfo Carrasco y Sayz, Icono-biografía del generalto espanol (Madrid, 1901), pp. 576-577.

11. Ibid. See the excellent work by José Antonio Calderón Quijano, Los virreyes de Nueva Espana en el reynado de Carlos III (Seville, 1967), Vol. I.

12. Residencia of Croix, AHN, Consejo de Indias, Leg. 20719; “Informe sobre el establecimiento de intendencia en Nueva Espana, dado por el Virrey Marqués de Croix y D. José de Gálvez al sucesor del primero, D. Antonio María Bucareli, Ano 1773,” BP, Manuscritos de América, MS 2837, Fol. 251, and MN, MS 569, Documento 1. On the Croix viceroyalty in Mexico see Archivo General y Pública de la Nación, Mexico City, Correspondencia de los Virreyes, Series II, Vol. 13, No.3, and Lucas Alamán, Disertación sobre la historia de la República Mejicana (3 Vols., Mexico City, 1849), III. For end-of-tour reports of viceroys of Mexico see Instrucciones que los virreyes de Nueva Espana dejaron a sus sucesores (2 vols., Mexico City, 1873).

13. Antonio Palau y Dulcet, Manuat del librero hispanoamericano (23 Vols, Barcelona, 1948-1971), IV, p. 190. See the published Croix correspondence, Varias cartas del Marqués de Croíx, XLV virrey de Nueva Espana, edited by A. Núnez Ortega (Brussels, Belgium, 1884) and Correspondence, 1737-1786 (Nantes, France, 1891). Contains photographs of two portraits of Croix.

14. Expediente de Carlos III and AHN, Estado, Leg. 2475, No. 9. Croix received the Order’s prestigious decoration of the Gran Cruz.

15. Copy of baptismal document of Croix’s father, Expediente de Carlos III. Original recorded at St. Magdeleine Parochial Church, Lille, Book of Baptisms (1664).

16. Copy of marriage certificate, Ibid. Original at the St. Magdeleine Parochial Church, Book of Matrimonies (1684).

17. Copy of baptismal document of Croix’s mother, Ibid. Original recorded at the St. Dionisio Parochial Church, St. Omer, France, Book of Baptisms (1665).

18. Copy of Croix family nobility certification, Ibid.

19. Copy of last will and testament of Croix’s father, Ibid.

20. Copy of certificate of death of Croix’s mother, Ibid. Original recorded at St. Nicolás Church, Tournai, Belgium, Registry of Burials (1734).

21. Croix family Coat of Arms, Ibid.

22. Copy of marriage document of Croix’s paternal grandparents, Ibid. Original recorded at the Geneck Parochial Church, Lille, Book of Matrimonies (1662).

23. Copy of burial record of Croix’s paternal grandmother, Ibid. Original recorded at the St. Nicolas Parochial Church, Tournai, Registry of Burials (1702).

24. Croix Coat of Arms, Ibid.

25. Copy of marriage certificate of Croix’s maternal grandparents, Ibíd.

26. Croix Coat of Arms, Ibid.

27. Copy of marriage record of Croix’s paternal great-grandparents, Ibid. Original recorded at the Geneck Parochial Church, Lille, Book of Matrimonies (1613).

28. Croix Coat of Arms, Ibid.

29. Copy of marriage certificate of Croix’s paternal great-grandparents (grandmother’s line), Ibid.

30. Croix Coat of Arms, Ibid.

31. Copy of marriage document of Croix’s maternal great-grandparents (grandfather’s line), Ibid.

32. Croix Coat of Arms, Ibid.

33. Copy of marriage record of Croix’s maternal great-grandparents (grandmother’s line), Ibid.