The French capture of Figueras, 18 March 1808, was one of a series of surprise attacks on Spain’s border fortifications that marked the beginning of the French invasion of Spain. At the time France and Spain were officially allies. French troops had passed through Spain on their way to invade Portugal, but after his easy success there Napoleon had decided to carry out a similar coup in Spain. The first obstacle to this plan was the series of border fortifications that guarded the Pyrenees. The fortress of Figueras guarded the large pass that ran between the mountains and the Mediterranean coast.
By 18 March the fortresses of Pamplona and of San Sebastian had already fallen to the French, but the news had not yet reached Figueras, where the Spanish garrison clearly still believed the French to be their allies. On 18 March a force of 200 French soldiers requested admittance to the fortress. Once inside the walls they seized control of the gates, and admitted an entire regiment of troops. The Spanish garrison was caught entirely by surprise and was unable to offer any resistance. The capture of Figueras removed the last obstacle in the way of Napoleon’s forces, which were now free to invade in force.