Spain History: Catholic Kings and Carlo V


According to Sourcemakeup, the tendency towards the unification of the peninsular kingdoms came from far away, at least since it was reborn in the Asturias of the century. VIII the Isidorian myth of the “Gothic monarchy” (also evident in the adoption of names of Germanic origin – Alfonso, Ferdinando etc. – by the peninsular kings). At the end of the century. XV it was made possible not only by an understandable reaction to the chaos into which Castile had fallen, but also by the spread of humanistic ideals (favored by the weak but cultured Trastámara) and by the fact that he sat on the throne of Aragon, by the dynastic compromise of Caspe (1412), a dynasty of Castilian origin. Without forgetting, of course, the tendency towards the formation of strong national units, evident in contemporary European history. It is known that the marriage of the future Catholic kings (so titled by the pope after the conquest of Granada in 1492) did not lead to the merger of the respective states. On the contrary, these preserved borders, assemblies (Cortes) and distinct governments, even when, after the death of his son-in-law Philip of Habsburg, Ferdinand was regent of the kingdom of Castile (1506-16). But if the spirit of Isabella is noticeable in the internal affairs of Castile – reestablishment of order, with a hard hand; initiation of a religious reform; birth of the “spirit of the crusade”, which led to the conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada in eleven years of war (1481-92), to the introduction of the Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews – the “politician” Ferdinand, not surprisingly admired by Machiavelli, deserves the credit for having made Spain a power of international rank, with the conquest of southern Italy and Navarre, the expeditions to Africa (1509-11) and the alliances with the House of Burgundy and the House of Austria, which, overturning the pro-French policy of medieval Castile, were to have serious consequences for future Spain. It should also be noted that, while in Aragon Ferdinand generally respected the traditional, albeit relative, “democracy”, in Castile Isabella “put in place” the turbulent aristocracy, but did not take away its privileged political and territorial position (latifundia, majoraschi, etc.) and also respected all the privileges of the Mesta, for which, ultimately, the crisis of Castilian agriculture only increased. Not to mention the collapse of trade and industry (despite protectionist measures) and the financial chaos after the expulsion of the Jews (1492). And when fate bestowed upon the Castile of Isabella the unprecedented gift of America, with the fabulous abundance of its precious metals, they did not solve the economic crisis at all, but rather, paradoxically, aggravated it. The era of the Catholic kings was certainly important for Spain, as a true “turning of the wheel” from the Middle Ages to the modern age. But not everything was splendid in it, as it seemed to nationalist and hagiographic historiography. Intolerance and the “spirit of the crusade”, on the one hand, and the lack of an economic policy, on the other,


It is known how a series of fortuitous circumstances (deaths, royal marriages, the madness of Giovanna, heir to the Catholic kings) ended up assigning the greatest empire in European history to the young Charles of Habsburg, born in Ghent in 1500, educated in the environment Burgundian-Flemish, absolute lord of Spain – which he didn’t even know – at 16 and, as if that weren’t enough, Holy Roman Emperor at 19, as successor to his paternal grandfather Maximilian. For 40 years, until he left his countless crowns to seek peace in the monastery of Yuste, the story of Charles V (Charles I of Spain) is that of a dramatic moment in Europe – Reformation and wars of religion, duel to the death with France of Francis I, Turkish threat in the Balkans and the Mediterranean, wars in Italy even with the pope (sack of Rome in 1527) – and at the same time of Spain and America. His Spanish reign began with a violent aristocratic revolt against the Flemish ministers (Comuneros of Castile, defeated at Villalar in 1521 and fiercely punished); it continued amid violent theological-political polemics (for and against the Illuminati and the Erasmusists, for and against the methods of colonization in America, for and against the reforming Council) and was always characterized by external wars – in Germany, in Italy, in the Balkans, in the Mediterranean, in Africa – and by a frantic search for cash with the Italian and German bankers, in whose hands the precious metals of America ended up before they were even extracted. Despite the moral “Hispanization” of Charles V (demonstrated, in the end, by his ascetic desengaño of Yuste), it is clear that the immense drain of men and money required by so many and so disparate companies could not fail to backfire, ultimately, against Spain, always on the verge of economic bankruptcy and, what is even more serious, radically unable to understand the capitalist and bourgeois world. The European policy of Charles V, which ended in failure, was fatally resolved in an aggravation of the economic crisis and in the accentuated detachment of Castilian “idealism” from the ethical-political “realism” of modern Europe.

Spain History - Catholic Kings and Carlo V