In 1842, the United States and Britain both colonized Seattle at the same time. This didn’t go over well. The world sat up and took notice. Would future Washingtonians call the trunk of a car a trunk or a boot? Would they think Mr. Bean movies were funny? And how good would they be at acting? It mattered. So the Great Powers were given the opportunity to weigh in. Spain decided to wait and see how everyone else was going to vote. And when the issue broke into war, Spain had forgotten to vote and was therefore dinged five prestige points.
I was in charge of Spain back then. You may not remember this from the history books, but it’s true. My bad. I was trying to figure out something else. Sue me. It’s not easy running a whole country. So we lost five points of prestige. This isn’t normally be a big deal, but at this particular point in history, Spain was low man on the totem pole of Great Powers. By losing those five points of prestige, Italy qualified for Spain’s Great Power slot. Spain had a little over a year to stay Great by earning more prestige. So she declared war on the Ottoman Empire, who had defaulted on Spanish loans some years earlier. Spain figured she could sink some Ottoman ships, sue for peace, rake in a little prestige from the victory, and hold her place in the geopolitical sun.
But Spain forgot to check that the Ottoman Empire was allied with Austria, which meant the 11 Spanish ships that weren’t policing Cuba and Indonesia were up against about 30 Ottoman and Austrian ships in the Mediterranean that had nothing better to do. Oops. Spain’s attempt to bully the Ottomans into renewing interest payments — “This is a nice empire you have, Ottomans; it would be a shame if something happened to it…” — resulted into the loss of Spain’s home fleet and a subsequent blockade of Spanish ports. What should have been a prestige gain turned into a prestige loss.
And that’s how the Brits and Americans bumping elbows in Seattle lead to the fall of the Spanish Empire in 1844. But as you also may recall from your history book, Spain didn’t give up! The invention of pressure chambers for thorax surgery — this is an actual thing is Victoria II, bless it’s historically detailed heart! — in 1848 gave the Iberian peninsula just the boost to prestige it needed to qualify again for the Great Power club. Take that, Italy!