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He was now by far the most powerful sovereign in Christendom. After extracting a good deal of money from the reluctant Cortes parliaments of Castilla and of Arag6n, Carlos departed in May for the Netherlands. The unhappy Spaniards wanted their own king and not simply a part of an emperor whose worldly ambitions would be financed to a large extent by them.


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The final insult was that a foreign regent, Adrian of Utrecht, was left behind in Valladolid to govern. Seething with anger, the townsmen of Castilla revolted. The uprising of the comuneros communities led by the city of Toledo, which expelled its corregidor crown-appointed governor , became a revolution that soon spread to most of the cities of Castilla.

A revolutionary junta was established that drove the royal officials residing in Valladolid from the city, including the regent Adrian. The junta sought to impose conditions on the power of the king, but it soon succumbed to infighting. Forces loyal to Carlos, mobilized by the aristocracy, took advantage of the dissension and captured the town of Tordesillas near Valladolid, the headquarters of the junta.

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The comuneros were no match for the army arrayed against them, and on 24 April , they were defeated at the battle of Villalar near Valladolid. Their leaders were executed. The following October Toledo fell, and the revolution was over. The revolt of the communities underscored the unrest rampant in the country and the difficulties of the monarchy and aristocracy to subdue the common people permanently.

Carlos I had other pressing problems besides maintaining political control in Spain. After , the year Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church, the number of Lutheran followers grew rapidly, and conflicts ensued between Protestants and Catholics over religious issues in the Holy Roman Empire. Carlos tried to stem the tide of religious revolt. At the same time, he was involved in struggles with the Ottoman Turks, who were threatening Europe from their base in the Balkans; with the pirates of the Barbary coast; with wars with the French Valois dynasty, which challenged his authority in Flanders, Italy, and elsewhere; with his need to control Spain, especially the rebellious Catalans who never wanted him as king; and with keeping the defiant Dutch in the fold of the empire.

Other matters, too, were pressing: By the s Spain exerted its influence over portions of the South American continent, Central America, Mexico, Florida and Cuba and disputed the East Indies with Portugal that claimed the islands. The inhabitants were authorized to surround their towns with defensive ramparts, to carry out their own internal administration, to maintain a militia, and in whole or in part to elect their own magistrates.

To the community was often given the right to tax itself to pay for local improvements, with only a light tribute destined for the monarch. Sometimes freedom from persecution of the town officials was guaranteed by the crown against charges brought by royal agents.

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Thus, personal liberty and fiscal and administrative autonomy were the primary features inscribed in the municipal charters, or fueros, which differed somewhat from town to town, depending on the historical circumstances. In Barcelona obtained a charter of privileges from Count Ram6n Berenguer, and Zaragoza was given extensive privileges in by Alfonso the Battler.

Toledo, Cordoba, Sevilla, and other towns all received their fueros from the reigning monarch as they were reconquered from the Muslims. Some communities were designated cities and had jurisdiction over larger territories or several parishes that might include neighboring villages and hamlets.

Towns, on the other hand, were usually limited to the areas encompassed by their walls and immediate surroundings. Those magistrates charged with communal affairs formed the ayuntamiento, or municipal council. There were also many other officials such as the alcaldes, responsible for civil and criminal justice; the regidores, who administered the affairs of the city, and the alguacil mayor principal peace officer , who commanded the militia.

Other officials controlled the building crafts and communal property. As guardian of the local fueros, the Cortes could refuse to obey orders from the crown if the demands jeopardized the interests of the region. While the Cortes advised the monarch on numerous matters including royal marriages and foreign alliances, its real power lay in controlling financial matters.

The king could not levy new taxes or raise old ones without its consent. As procuradores left their towns for meetings of the Cortes, they took with them detailed instructions. They were entrusted with the mandate to present complaints to the king from their constituents, and while in Castilla they had no power to legislate, their suggestions were sometimes made into law by royal edicts.

Some remote areas of the two kingdoms of Castilla and Arag6n were underrepresented or not represented at all, such as Galicia and Extremadura with no important cities. In Castilla the Cortes consisted of the three estates: the nobility, the Political Setting 21 church, and the commoners. Since it only had real authority over taxes and the first two groups paid none, nobles and clergy often absented themselves from the meetings.

In time they were not summoned, and the king went directly to the cities and towns for his requirements. Unable to withstand the pressure exerted by the sovereign, the towns gave him what he wanted, and the Cortes gradually became a useless body. In the reign of Carlos II, the last Habsburg king, it was never called to session, and the money required for the crown treasury was solicited directly from the town councils.

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The Cortes of Arag6n, Valencia, and Cataluna were not so compliant, and various kings were often frustrated by their refusal to grant them money, to levy troops for wars, or to house soldiers on their territory without considerable concessions. In these realms the Cortes shared legislative power with the king and approved or denied royal edicts.

Here the nobility did not shun the sessions and scrupulously watched over their own interests. The Cortes was often more interested in submitting their complaints than listening to the king's pleas for money. Always finding obstacles to put in the way of the king's demands, they were also seldom called.

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This royal body was designed by Isabella and Fernando in to be the central governing body of the kingdom. It was the supreme court of justice and supervised the workings of local governments. Under Carlos I, it had about twelve members, all university-trained lawyers, since the king preferred them to the grandees the high landowning nobility. Early in the sixteenth century, other councils were formed to deal with Arag6n, finance, the Indies, war, and foreign policy. The Council of the Supreme Inquisition, known as the Suprema, was founded in There were others of lesser importance, such as the Council of Military Orders, but none had much authority except the Suprema and the Council of Castilla.

The latter appointed corregidores, or civil governors, who served as representatives of the crown at the local level throughout the kingdoms. Their seats were in the larger cities where they presided over the town council and maintained vigilance over the area under their jurisdiction.

By the end of the sixteenth century there were sixty-eight corregidores', this number increased to eighty-six over the next century. Felipe II. On the emperor's death in , the Austrian branch ruled by Carlos's brother Ferdinand I retained the Holy Roman imperial title. Toledo, the current capital, gave way to Madrid in when Felipe II moved the court to this small town on the Manzanares River seventyone miles northeast.

Madrid became the permanent political and administrative center of the country. About 10, government officials and members of their families accompanied the king to the new location, rapidly changing the face of Madrid from a humble town to a noisy, cluttered, unsanitary city of narrow streets left over from earlier times combined with more spacious new avenues.

The Spanish empire reached it zenith under Felipe II, but as Spain became an imperial power, strong defensive measures became necessary to hold the empire together, and an effort was made to convert the country into an international military power. Mighty Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets were constructed, and both the armed forces and the technology were upgraded.

For all of this, foreign resources were needed, and with financial backing from European bankers, Spain developed an impressive military capacity drawing on the expertise, weaponry, and human resources of Italian and German states. Political Setting 23 The expenses were an enormous drain on Castillian revenues, which had a negative effect on development as money poured into military undertakings and not into industrial enterprises or increases in agricultural production.

In spite of the flow of gold and silver from the Americas into Castilla, it was never enough to keep the government out of debt. Beginning in the sixteenth century this coast was occupied by several independent Muslim states under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. Encroachment of the Ottoman Turks westward in the Mediterranean led many to believe that sooner or later another Islamic invasion of Spain would occur. In the space of a decade and a half after , Felipe II had galleys constructed for the Mediterranean fleet at a cost of 3. Felipe II paid half the costs of the expedition, which was entirely successful and devastated the Turkish fleet.

The costs of victory at Lepanto and maintaining a large fleet in the Mediterranean against the Turks and Barbary pirates, troops stationed in Italy, an army in the rebellious Netherlands, and a navy of galleons in the Atlantic to protect the treasure fleets from America ravaged by English and French corsairs were staggering. In spite of spiraling expenses, Felipe II ordered the construction of a colossal palace at El Escorial, which helped ensure that the crown remained heavily in debt while Spanish industry stagnated.

Interest on money borrowed from foreign bankers was already astronomical and growing. Several times the king confiscated the entire gold bullion imports from the New World, but it was not enough. In he arbitrarily canceled his foreign debts and had to renegotiate loans from Italian creditors. He hammered the Cortes into approving a large tax raise—a burden that fell on the merchants, artisans, and peasants that many could not pay. People lost their property, farms, and jobs, and the streets became overrun with beggars.

Returning soldiers, often maimed from the wars with no means of support, became vagabonds wandering from city to city looking for work. The country was rife with derelicts of all sorts with no money and no hope. While perhaps not totally oblivious to the plight of the people, the king thought it better to spend great sums on wars in defense of the 24 Daily Life During the Spanish Inquisition Titian. Catholic faith in distant lands than to worry about the state of affairs at home. This union, incorporating the Portuguese overseas possessions, created the largest and most far-flung empire that had ever existed.

Still troubles accumulated. Felipe had a zealous devotion to Roman Catholicism and to the preservation of absolute rule. This combination proved disastrous in the Low Countries where his persecution of.

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Protestants and his attempts to rule the Netherlands as a province of Spain led to war with England. Under Queen Elizabeth I, England had become a Protestant power whose foreign policy included unofficial support for the Dutch rebels and for the English privateers who raided Spanish colonies and treasure fleets in the Americas.

From the Spanish point of view, Elizabeth I ruled a nation of despised heretics. When Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots was put to death by order of Political Setting 25 Elizabeth on 8 February , her death provided Felipe with an added stimulus to deal a lethal blow to England. To put an end to English belligerency and force the country back into the Catholic mode, he took unprecedented measures. In , a huge fleet costing 10 million ducats was sent against England, but the great Spanish Armada met disaster from English cannon and North Sea storms, and most of the surviving ships were wrecked in gales on the way home.

Meanwhile, the domestic situation continued to deteriorate. American treasure alone could not support Spain's wars; taxation remained oppressive, and the state defaulted on loans. In addition, as Felipe strengthened the Inquisition, intellectual life became narrower and less open to new currents of thought. Felipe II died in and left a bankrupt country, rapidly declining domestically and internationally. The Castillian aristocracy regained its former political power, and the king allowed his favorite minister, whom he titled the duke of Lerma and on whom he bestowed a fortune, to control the government.

The duke's friends and relatives were also well taken care of and promoted to high posts. The duke accompanied the king everywhere, controlling access to him, sold favors for his own profit, dominated court patronage, and married his children into the wealthiest of the grandee families from which they gained noble titles.

The duke of Lerma set the pattern that was to be followed throughout the seventeenth century in which a favorite of the king known as a valido drawn from the aristocracy controlled the government. There were some matters neither the king nor his valido could do anything about.