An influential Spanish duke has made the first official apology to the Jews of Gibraltar, for their expulsion in the lead up to the Inquisition.

The Duke of Medina Sidonia, D. Alonso Gonzalez de Gregorio y Alvarez de Toldeo, read the apology at an event Monday at the Instituto Cervantes, attended by members of the Gibraltar Jewish community.

The duke expressed his regret over atrocities committed against Jews in Gibraltar during the years leading up to the Spanish Inquisition, when more than 4,000 Jews were expelled from the territory.

“Today I apologize before the Jewish Community in Gibraltar, who are moral and genetic heirs of the converted Andalucíans, who in 1474 fled the cruel, uncontrollable genocide in Andalucia and resorted to take refuge in this city,” he said.

Gibraltar was captured by Juan Alonso de Guzman, 1st Duke of Medina Sidonia, in 1462. The duke later sold the territory to a collection of Jewish converts to Christianity, known as conversos, for a period of two years, after which time the Jewish community was expunged.

“Although some historians may have already distanced him from the atrocities, in no case have they been successful in exempting him from the grave responsibility which, through historical justice, I recognize in his name.”

The apology marked the first time a member of the Medina family has returned to Gibraltar in an official capacity in more than 500 years, since the 1474 expulsion.

Gibraltar is now under British sovereignty.