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History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella V1 by William H. Prescott

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[25] For this account of the ancient polity of the Castilian cities, the
reader is referred to Sempere, Histoire des Cortès d'Espagne, (Bordeaux,
1815,) and Marina's valuable works, Ensayo Histórico-Crítico sobre la
Antigua Legislacion de Camilla, (Nos. 160-196,) and Teoría de las Cortes,
(Madrid, 1813, part. 2, cap. 21-23,) where the meagre outline given above
is filled up with copious illustration.

[26] The independence of the Lombard cities had been sacrificed, according
to the admission of their enthusiastic historian, about the middle of the
thirteenth century. Sismondi, Histoire des Républiques Italiennes du
Moyen-Age, (Paris, 1818,) ch. 20.

[27] Or in 1160, according to the Corónica General, (part. 4, fol. 344,
345,) where the fact is mentioned; Mariana refers this celebration of
cortes to 1170, (Hist. de España, lib. 11, cap. 2;) but Ferreras, who
often rectifies the chronological inaccuracies of his predecessor, fixes
it in 1169. (Hist. d'Espagne, tom. iii. p. 484) Neither of these authors
notices the presence of the commons in this assembly; although the phrase
used by the Chronicle, _los cibdadanos_, is perfectly unequivocal.

[28] Capmany, Práctica y Estilo de Celebrar Cortes en Aragon, Cataluña, y
Valencia, (Madrid, 1821,) pp. 230, 231.--Whether the convocation of the
third estate to the national councils proceeded from politic calculation
in the sovereign, or was in a manner forced on him by the growing power
and importance of the cities, it is now too late to inquire. It is nearly
as difficult to settle on what principles the selection of cities to be
represented depended. Marina asserts, that every great town and community
was entitled to a seat in the legislature, from the time of receiving its
municipal charter from the sovereign, (Teoría, tom. i. p. 138;) and
Sempere agrees, that this right became general, from the first, to all who
chose to avail themselves of it. (Histoire des Cortès, p. 56.) The right,
probably, was not much insisted on by the smaller and poorer places,
which, from the charges it involved, felt it often, no doubt, less of a
boon than a burden. This, we know, was the case in England.

[29] It was an evil of scarcely less magnitude, that contested elections
were settled by the crown. (Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, p. 231.) The
latter of these practices, and, indeed, the former to a certain extent,
are to be met with in English history.

[30] Marina leaves this point in some obscurity. (Teoría, tom. i. cap.
28.) Indeed, there seems to have been some irregularity in the
parliamentary usages themselves. From minutes of a meeting of cortes at
Toledo, in 1538, too soon for any material innovation on the ancient
practice, we find the three estates sitting in separate chambers, from the
very commencement to the close of the session. See the account drawn up by
the count of Coruña, apud Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, pp. 240 et seq.

[31] This, however, so contrary to the analogy of other European
governments, is expressly contradicted by the declaration of the nobles,
at the cortes of Toledo, in 1538. "Oida esta respuesta se dijo, que pues
S. M. habia dicho que no eran Córtes ni habia Brazos, no podian tratar
cosa alguna, _que ellos sin procuradores, y los procuradores sin ellos,
no seria válido lo que hicieren._" Relacion del Conde de Coruña, apud
Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, p. 247.

[32] This omission of the privileged orders was almost uniform under
Charles V. and his successors. But it would be unfair to seek for
constitutional precedent in the usages of a government, whose avowed
policy was altogether subversive of the constitution.

[33] During the famous war of the _Comunidades_, under Charles V. For
the preceding paragraph consult Marina, (Teoría, part. 1, cap. 10, 20, 26,
29,) and Capmany. (Práctica y Estilo, pp. 220-250.) The municipalities of
Castile seem to have reposed but a very limited confidence in their
delegates, whom they furnished with instructions, to which they were bound
to conform themselves literally. See Marina, Teoría, part. 1, cap. 23.

[34] The term "fundamental principle" is fully authorized by the existence
of repeated enactments to this effect. Sempere, who admits the "usage,"
objects to the phrase "fundamental law," on the ground that these acts
were specific, not general, in their character. Histoire des Cortès, p.

[35] "Los Reyes en nuestros Reynos progenitores establecieron por leyes, y
ordenanças fechas en Cortes, que no se echassen, ni repartiessen ningunos
pechos, seruicios, pedidos, ni monedas, ni otros tributes nueuos,
especial, ni generalmente en todos nuestros Reynos, sin que primeramente
sean llamados à Cortes los procuradores de todas las Ciudades, y villas de
nuestros Reynos, y sean otorgados por los dichos procuradores que á las
Cortes vinieren." (Recopilacion de las Leyes, (Madrid, 1640,) tom. ii.
fol. 124.) This law, passed under Alfonso XI., was confirmed by John II.,
Henry III., and Charles V.

[36] In 1258, they presented a variety of petitions to the king, in
relation to his own personal expenditure, as well as that of his
courtiers; requiring him to diminish the charges of his table, attire,
etc., and, bluntly, to "bring his appetite within a more reasonable
compass;" to all which he readily gave his assent. (Sempere y Guarinos,
Historia del Luxo, y de las Leyes Suntuarias de España, (Madrid, 1788,)
tom. i. pp. 91, 92.) The English reader is reminded of a very different
result, which attended a similar interposition of the commons in the time
of Richard II., more than a century later.

[37] Marina claims also the right of the cortes to be consulted on
questions of war and peace, of which he adduces several precedents.
(Teoría, part. 2, cap. 19, 20.) Their interference in what is so generally
held the peculiar province of the executive, was perhaps encouraged by the
sovereign, with the politic design of relieving himself of the
responsibility of measures whose success must depend eventually on their
support. Hallam notices a similar policy of the crown, under Edward III.,
in his view of the English constitution during the Middle Ages. View of
the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, (London, 1819,) vol. iii.
chap. 8.

[38] The recognition of the title of the heir apparent, by a cortes
convoked for that purpose, has continued to be observed in Castile down to
the present time. Práctica y Estilo, p. 229.

[39] For the preceding notice of the cortes, see Marina, Teoría, part. 2,
cap. 13, 19, 20, 21, 31, 35, 37, 38.

[40] So at least they are styled by Marina. See his account of these
institutions; (Teoría, part. 2, cap. 39;) also Salazar de Mendoza,
(Monarquía, lib. 3, cap. 15, 16,) and Sempere, (Histoire des Cortès, chap.
12, 13.) One hundred cities associated in the Hermandad of 1315. In that
of 1295, were thirty-four. The knights and inferior nobility frequently
made part of the association. The articles of confederation are given by
Risco, in his continuation of Florez. (España Sagrada, (Madrid, 1775-
1826,) tom. xxxvi. p. 162.) In one of these articles it is declared, that,
if any noble shall deprive a member of the association of his property,
and refuse restitution, his house shall be razed to the ground. (Art. 4.)
In another, that if any one, by command of the king, shall attempt to
collect an unlawful tax, he shall be put to death on the spot. Art. 9.

[41] See Sempere, Historia del Luxo, tom. i. p. 97.--Masdeu, Hist.
Crítica, tom. xiii. nos. 90, 91.--Gold and silver, curiously wrought into
plate, were exported in considerable quantities from Spain, the tenth and
eleventh centuries. They were much used in the churches. The tiara of the
pope was so richly encrusted with the precious metals, says Masdeu, as to
receive the name of _Spanodista_. The familiar use of these metals as
ornaments of dress is attested by the ancient poem of the "Cid." See, in
particular, the costume of the Campeador; vv. 3099 et seq.

[42] Zuñiga, Annales Eclesiasticos y Seculares de Sevilla, (Madrid, 1677,)
pp. 74, 75.--Sempere, Historia del Luxo, tom. i. p. 80.

[43] The historian of Seville describes that city, about the middle of the
fifteenth century, as possessing a flourishing commerce and a degree of
opulence unexampled since the conquest. It was filled with an active
population, employed in the various mechanic arts. Its domestic fabrics,
as well as natural products, of oil, wine, wool, etc., supplied a trade
with Prance, Flanders, Italy, and England. (Zuñiga, Annales de Sevilla, p.
341.--See also Sempere, Historia del Luxo, p. 81, nota 2.) The ports of
Biscay, which belonged to the Castilian crown, were the marts of an
extensive trade with the north, during the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries. This province entered into repeated treaties of commerce with
France and England; and her factories were established at Bruges, the
great emporium of commercial intercourse during this period between the
north and south, before those of any other people in Europe, except the
Germans. (Diccionario Geográfico-Histórico de España, por la Real Academia
de la Historia, (Madrid, 1802,) tom. i. p. 333.)

The institution of the _mesta_ is referred, says Laborde, (Itinéraire
Descriptif de l'Espagne, (Paris, 1827-1830,) tom. iv. p. 47,) to the
middle of the fourteenth century, when the great plague, which devastated
the country so sorely, left large depopulated tracts open to pasturage.
This popular opinion is erroneous, since it engaged the attention of
government, and became the subject of legislation as anciently as 1273,
under Alfonso the Wise. (See Asso y Manuel, Instituciones, Introd. p. 56.)
Capmany, however, dates the great improvement in the breed of Spanish
sheep from the year 1394, when Catharine of Lancaster brought with her, as
a part of her dowry to the heir apparent of Castile, a flock of English
merinos, distinguished, at that time, above those of every other country,
for the beauty and delicacy of their fleece. (Memorias Históricas sobre la
Marina, Comercio, y Artes de Barcelona, (Madrid, 1779-1792,) tom. iii. pp.
336, 337.) This acute writer, after a very careful examination of the
subject, differing from those already quoted, considers the raw material
for manufacture, and the natural productions of the soil, to have
constituted almost the only articles of export from Spain, until after the
fifteenth century. (Ibid., p. 338.) We will remark, in conclusion of this
desultory note, that the term _merinos_ is derived, by Conde, from
_moedinos_, signifying "wandering;" the name of an Arabian tribe, who
shifted their place of residence with the season. (Hist. de los Arabes en
España, tom. i. p. 488, nota.) The derivation might startle any but a
professed etymologist.

[44] See the original acts, cited by Sempere. (Historia del Luxo, passim.)
The archpriest of Hita indulges his vein freely against the luxury,
cupidity, and other fashionable sins of his age. (See Sanchez, Poesias
Castellanas, tom. iv.)--The influence of Mammon appears to have been as
supreme in the fourteenth century as at any later period.

"Sea un ome nescio, et rudo labrador,
Los dineros le fasen fidalgo e sabidor,
Quanto mas algo tiene, tanto es mas de valor,
El que no ba dineros, non es de si señor."
Vv. 465 et seq.

[45] Marina, Ensayo, nos. 199, 297.--Zuñiga, Annales de Sevilla, p. 341.

[46] Marina, Teoría, part. 2, cap. 28.--Mariana, Hist. de España, lib. 18,
cap. 15.--The admission of citizens into the king's council would have
formed a most important epoch for the commons, had they not soon been
replaced by jurisconsults, whose studies and sentiments inclined them less
to the popular side than to that of prerogative.

[47] Ibid., lib. 18, cap. 17.

[48] _Castilla_. See Salazar de Mendoza, Monarquía, tom. i. p. 108.--
Livy mentions the great number of these towers in Spain in his day.
"Multas et locis altis positas turres Hispania habet." (Lib. 22, cap.
19.)--A castle was emblazoned on the escutcheon of Castile, as far back as
the reign of Urraca, in the beginning of the twelfth century, according to
Salazar de Mendoza, (Monarquía, tom. i. p. 142,) although Garibay discerns
no vestige of these arms on any instrument of a much older date than the
beginning of the thirteenth century. Compendio, lib. 12, cap. 32.

"Hizo guerra a los Moros,
Ganando sus fortalezas
Y sus villas.
Y en las lides que Venció
Caballeros y Caballos
Se perdiéron,
Y en este ofloio ganó
Las rentas y los vasallos
Que le dieron." Coplas de Manrique, copla 31.

[50] Asso and Manuel derive the introduction of fiefs into Castile, from
Catalonia. (Instituciones, p. 96.) The twenty-sixth title, part. 4, of
Alfonso X.'s code, (Siete Partidas,) treats exclusively of them. (De los
Feudos.) The laws 2, 4, 5, are expressly devoted to a brief exposition of
the nature of a fief, the ceremonies of investiture, and the reciprocal
obligations of lord and vassal. Those of the latter consisted in keeping
his lord's counsel, maintaining his interest, and aiding him in war. With
all this, there are anomalies in this code, and still more in the usages
of the country, not easy to explain on the usual principles of the feudal
relation; a circumstance, which has led to much discrepancy of opinion on
the subject, in political writers, as well as to some inconsistency.
Sempere, who entertains no doubt of the establishment of feudal
institutions in Castile, tells us, that "the nobles, after the Conquest,
succeeded in obtaining an exemption from military service,"--one of the
most conspicuous and essential of all the feudal relations. Histoire des
Cortès, pp. 30, 72, 249.

[51] Asso y Manuel, Instituciones, p. 26.--Sempere, Histoire des Cortès,
chap. 4.--The incensed nobles quitted the cortes in disgust, and
threatened to vindicate their rights by arms, on one such occasion, 1176.
Mariana, Hist. de España, tom. i. p. 644. See also tom. ii. p. 176.

[52] Idem auctores, ubi supra.--Prieto y Sotelo, Historia del Derecho Real
de España, (Madrid, 1738,) lib. 2, cap. 23; lib. 3, cap. 8.

[53] Siete Partidas, (ed. de la Real Acad., Madrid, 1807,) part. 4, tit.
25, ley 11. On such occasions they sent him a formal defiance by their
king at arms. Mariana, Hist. de España, tom. i. pp. 768, 912.

[54] Ibid., tom. i. pp. 707, 713.

[55] The forms of this solemnity may be found in Mariana, Hist. de España,
tom. i. p. 907.

[56] Marina, Ensayo, p. 128.

[57] John I., in 1390, authorized appeals from the seignorial tribunals to
those of the crown. Ibid., tom. ii. p. 179.

[58] The nature of these dignities is explained in Salazar de Mendoza,
Monarquía, tom. i. pp. 155, 166, 203.

[59] From the scarcity of these baronial residences, some fanciful
etymologists have derived the familiar saying of "Châteaux en Espagne."
See Bourgoanne, Travels in Spain, tom. ii. chap. 12.

[60] Mariana, Hist. de España, tom. i. p. 910.

[61] Crónica de Don Alvaro de Luna, (ed. de la Acad. Madrid, 1784,) App.
p. 465.

[62] Guzman, Generaciones y Semblanzas, (Madrid, 1775,) cap. 84.--His
annual revenue is computed by Perez de Guzman, at 100,000 doblas of gold;
a sum equivalent to 856,000 dollars at the present day.

[63] The former of these two sums is equivalent to $438,875, or £91,474
sterling; and the latter to $526,650, or £109,716, nearly. I have been
guided by a dissertation of Clemencin, in the sixth volume of the Memorias
de la Real Academia de la Historia, (Madrid, 1821, pp. 507-566,) in the
reduction of sums in this History. That treatise is very elaborate and
ample, and brings under view all the different coins of Ferdinand and
Isabella's time, settling their specific value with great accuracy. The
calculation is attended with considerable difficulty, owing to the
depreciation of the value of the precious metals, and the repeated
adulteration of the _real_. In his tables, at the end, he exhibits the
commercial value of the different denominations, ascertained by the
quantity of wheat (as sure a standard as any), which they would buy at
that day. Taking the average of values, which varied considerably in
different years of Ferdinand and Isabella, it appears that the ducat,
reduced to our own currency, will be equal to about eight dollars and
seventy-seven cents, and the dobla to eight dollars and fifty-six cents.

[64] The ample revenues of the Spanish grandee of the present time,
instead of being lavished on a band of military retainers, as of yore, are
sometimes dispensed in the more peaceful hospitality of supporting an
almost equally formidable host of needy relations and dependants.
According to Bourgoanne (Travels in Spain, vol. 1. chap. 4), no less than
3000 of these gentry were maintained on the estates of the duke of Arcos,
who died in 1780.

[65] Mendoza records the circumstance of the head of the family of Ponce
de Leon, (a descendant of the celebrated marquis of Cadiz,) carrying his
son, then thirteen years old, with him into battle; "an ancient usage," he
says, "in that noble house." (Guerra de Granada, (Valencia, 1776,) p.
318.) The only son of Alfonso VI. was slain, fighting manfully in the
ranks, at the battle of Ucles, in 1109, when only eleven years of age.
Mariana, Hist. de España, tom. i. p. 565.

[66] The northern provinces, the theatre of this primitive independence,
have always been consecrated by this very circumstance, in the eyes of a
Spaniard. "The proudest lord," says Navagiero, "feels it an honor to trace
his pedigree to this quarter." (Viaggio, fol. 44.) The same feeling has
continued, and the meanest native of Biscay, or the Asturias, at the
present day, claims to be noble; a pretension, which often contrasts
ridiculously enough with the humble character of his occupation, and has
furnished many a pleasant anecdote to travellers.

[67] An elaborate dissertation, by the advocate Don Alonso Carillo, on the
pre-eminence and privileges of the Castilian grandee, is appended to
Salazar de Mendoza's Origen de las Dignidades Seglares de Castilla,
(Madrid, 1794.) The most prized of these appears to be that of keeping the
head covered in the presence of the sovereign; "prerogativa tan ilustre,"
says the writer, "que ella sola imprime el principal caracter de la
Grandeza. Y considerada _por sus efectos admirables_, ocupa dignamente el
primero lugar." (Discurso 3.) The sentimental citizen Bourgoanne, finds it
necessary to apologize to his republican brethren, for noticing these
"important trifles." Travels in Spain, vol. i. chap. 4.

[68] "Los llamaron fijosdalgo, que muestra a tanto como fijos de bien."
(Siete Partidas, part. 2, tit. 21.) "Por hidalgos se entienden _los
hombres escogidos de buenos lugares é con algo_." Asso y Manuel,
Instituciones, pp. 33, 34.

[69] Recop. de las Leyes, lib. 6, tit. 1, leyes 2, 9; tit. 2, leyes 3, 4,
10; tit. 14, leyes 14, 19.--They were obliged to contribute to the repair
of fortifications and public works, although, as the statute expresses it,
"tengan privilegios para que sean essentos de todos pechos."

[70] The knight was to array himself in light and cheerful vestments, and,
in the cities and public places his person was to be enveloped in a long
and flowing mantle, in order to impose greater reverence on the people.
His good steed was to be distinguished by the beauty and richness of his
caparisons. He was to live abstemiously, indulging himself in none of the
effeminate delights of couch or banquet. During his repast, his mind was
to be refreshed with the recital, from history, of deeds of ancient
heroism; and in the fight he was commanded to invoke the name of his
mistress, that it might infuse new ardor into his soul, and preserve him
from the commission of unknightly actions. See Siete Partidas, part, 2,
tit. 21, which is taken up with defining the obligations of chivalry.

[71] See Fuero Juzgo, lib. 3, which is devoted almost exclusively to the
sex. Montesquieu discerns in the jealous surveillance, which the Visigoths
maintained over the honor of their women, so close an analogy with
oriental usages, as must have greatly facilitated the conquest of the
country by the Arabians. Esprit des Loix, liv. 14, chap. 14.

[72] Warton's expression. See vol. i. p. 245, of the late learned edition
of his History of English Poetry, (London, 1824.)

[73] See the "Passo Honroso" appended to the Crónica de Alvaro de Luna.

[74] The present narrative will introduce the reader to more than one
belligerent prelate, who filled the very highest post in the Spanish, and,
I may say, the Christian Church, next the papacy. (See Alvaro Gomez, De
Rebus Gestis a Francisco Ximenio Cisnerio, (Compluti, 1569,) fol. 110 et
seq.) The practice, indeed, was familiar in other countries, as well as
Spain, at this late period. In the bloody battle of Ravenna, in 1512, two
cardinal legates, one of them the future Leo X., fought on opposite sides.
Paolo Giovo, Vita Leonis X., apud "Vitae Illustrium Virorum," (Basiliae,
1578,) lib. 2.

[75] The contest for supremacy, between the Mozarabic ritual and the
Roman, is familiar to the reader, in the curious narrative extracted by
Robertson from Mariana, Hist. de España, lib. 9, cap. 18.

[76] Siete Partidas, part. 1, tit. 6.--Florez, España Sagrada, tom. xx. p.
16.--The Jesuit Mariana appears to grudge this appropriation of the
"sacred revenues of the Church" to defray the expenses of the holy war
against the Saracen. (Hist. de España, tom. i. p. 177.) See also the
Ensayo, (nos. 322-364,) where Marina has analyzed and discussed the
general import of the first of the Partidas.

[77] Marina, Ensayo, ubi supra, and nos. 220 et seq.

[78] See the original acts quoted by Sempere, in his Historia del Luxo,
tom. i. pp. 166 et seq.

[79] Lucio Marineo Siculo, Cosas Memorables de España, (Alcalá de Henares,
1539,) fol. 16.

[80] Navagiero, Viaggio, fol. 9.--L. Marineo, Cosas Memorables, fol. 12.--
Laborde reckons the revenues of this prelate, in his tables, at 12,000,000
reals, or 600,000 dollars. (Itinéraire, tom. vi. p. 9.) The estimate is
grossly exaggerated for the present day. The rents of this see, like those
of every other in the kingdom, have been grievously clipped in the late
political troubles. They are stated by the intelligent author of "A Year
in Spain," on the authority of the clergy of the diocese, at one-third of
the above sum, only; (p. 217, Boston ed. 1829;) an estimate confirmed by
Mr. Inglis, who computes them at £40,000. Spain in 1830, vol. i. ch. 11.

[81] Modern travellers, who condemn without reserve the corruption of the
inferior clergy, bear uniform testimony to the exemplary piety and
munificent charities of the higher dignitaries of the church.

[82] Marina, Teoría, part. 2, cap. 2, 5, 6.--A remarkable instance of this
occurred as late as the accession of Charles V.

[83] The earliest example of this permanent committee of the commons,
residing at court, and entering into the king's council, was in the
minority of Ferdinand IV., in 1295. The subject is involved in some
obscurity, which Marina has not succeeded in dispelling. He considers the
deputation to have formed a necessary and constituent part of the council,
from the time of its first appointment. (Teoría, tom. ii. cap. 27, 28.)
Sempere, on the other hand, discerns no warrant for this, after its
introduction, till the time of the Austrian dynasty. (Histoire des Cortès,
chap. 29.) Marina, who too often mistakes anomaly for practice, is
certainly not justified, even by his own showing, in the sweeping
conclusions to which he arrives. But, if his prejudices lead him to see
more than has happened, on the one hand, those of Sempere, on the other,
make him sometimes high gravel blind.

[84] The important functions and history of this body are investigated by
Marina. (Teoría, part. 2, cap. 27, 28, 29.) See also Sempere, (Histoire
des Cortès, cap. 16,) and the Informe de Don Agustin Riol, (apud Semanario
Erudito, tom. iii. pp. 113 et seq.) where, however, its subsequent
condition is chiefly considered.

[85] Not so exclusively, however, by any means, as Marina pretends.
(Teoría, part. 2, cap. 17, 18.) He borrows a pertinent illustration from
the famous code of Alfonso X., which was not received as law of the land
till it had been formally published in cortes, in 1348, more than seventy
years after its original compilation. In his zeal for popular rights, he
omits to notice, however, the power so frequently assumed by the sovereign
of granting _fueros_, or municipal charters; a right, indeed, which
the great lords, spiritual and temporal, exercised in common with him,
subject to his sanction. See a multitude of these seignorial codes,
enumerated by Asso and Manuel. (Instituciones, Introd., pp. 31 et seq.)
The monarch claimed, moreover, though not by any means so freely as in
later times, the privilege of issuing _pragmáticas_, ordinances of an
executive character, or for the redress of grievances submitted to him by
the national legislature. Within certain limits, this was undoubtedly a
constitutional prerogative; But the history of Castile, like that of most
other countries in Europe, shows how easily it was abused in the hands of
an arbitrary prince.

[86] The civil and criminal business of the kingdom was committed, in the
last resort, to the very ancient tribunal of _alcaldes de casa y corte_,
until, in 1371, a new one, entitled the royal audience or chancery, was
constituted under Henry II., with supreme and ultimate jurisdiction in
civil causes. These, in the first instance, however, might be brought
before the _alcaldes de la corte_, which continued, and has since
continued, the high court in criminal matters.

The _audiencia_, or chancery, consisted at first of seven judges, whose
number varied a good deal afterwards. They were appointed by the crown, in
the manner mentioned in the text. Their salaries were such as to secure
their independence, as far as possible, of any undue influence; and this
was still further done by the supervision of cortes, whose acts show
the deep solicitude with which it watched over the concerns and conduct of
this important tribunal. For a notice of the original organization and
subsequent modifications of the Castilian courts, consult Marina, (Teoría,
part. 2, cap. 21-25,) Riol, (Informe, apud Semanario Erudito, tom. iii.
pp. 129 et seq.) and Sempere, (Histoire des Cortès, chap. 15,) whose loose
and desultory remarks show perfect familiarity with the subject, and
presuppose more than is likely to be found in the reader.

[87] Siete Partidas, part. 2, tit. 26, leyes 5, 6, 7.--Mendoza notices
this custom as recently as Philip II.'s day. Guerra de Granada, p. 170.

[88] Mariana, Hist. de España, lib. 15, cap. 19, 20.

[89] Garibay, Compendio, tom. ii. p. 399.--Mariana, Hist. de España, tom.
ii. pp. 234, 235.--Pedro Lopez de Ayala, chancellor of Castile and
chronicler of the reigns of four of its successive monarchs, terminated
his labors abruptly with the sixth year of Henry III., the subsequent
period of whose administration is singularly barren of authentic materials
for history. The editor of Ayala's Chronicle considers the adventure,
quoted in the text, as fictitious, and probably suggested by a stratagem
employed by Henry for the seizure of the duke of Benevente, and by his
subsequent imprisonment at Burgos. See Ayala, Crónica de Castilla, p. 355,
note, (ed. de la Acad., 1780.)



Rise of Aragon.--Ricos Hombres.--Their Immunities.--Their Turbulence.--
Privileges of Union.--The Legislature.--Its Forms.--Its Powers.--General
Privilege.--Judicial Functions of Cortes.--The Justice.--His Great
Authority.--Else and Opulence of Barcelona.--Her Free Institutions.--
Intellectual Culture.

The political institutions of Aragon, although bearing a general
resemblance to those of Castile, were sufficiently dissimilar to stamp a
peculiar physiognomy on the character of the nation, which still continued
after it had been incorporated with the great mass of the Spanish
monarchy.--It was not until the expiration of nearly five centuries after
the Saracen invasion, that the little district of Aragon, growing up under
the shelter of the Pyrenees, was expanded into the dimensions of the
province which now bears that name. During this period, it was painfully
struggling into being, like the other states of the Peninsula, by dint of
fierce, unintermitted warfare with the infidel.

Even after this period, it would probably have filled but an insignificant
space in the map of history, and, instead of assuming an independent
station, have been compelled, like Navarre, to accommodate itself to the
politics of the potent monarchies by which it was surrounded, had it not
extended its empire by a fortunate union with Catalonia in the twelfth,
and the conquest of Valencia in the thirteenth century. [1] These new
territories were not only far more productive than its own, but, by their
long line of coast and commodious ports, enabled the Aragonese, hitherto
pent up within their barren mountains, to open a communication with
distant regions.

The ancient county of Barcelona had reached a higher degree of
civilization than Aragon, and was distinguished by institutions quite as
liberal. The sea-board would seem to be the natural seat of liberty. There
is something in the very presence, in the atmosphere of the ocean, which
invigorates not only the physical, but the moral energies of man. The
adventurous life of the mariner familiarizes him with dangers, and early
accustoms him to independence. Intercourse with various climes opens new
and more copious sources of knowledge; and increased wealth brings with it
an augmentation of power and consequence. It was in the maritime cities
scattered along the Mediterranean that the seeds of liberty, both in
ancient and modern times, were implanted and brought to maturity. During
the Middle Ages, when the people of Europe generally maintained a toilsome
and infrequent intercourse with each other, those situated on the margin
of this inland ocean found an easy mode of communication across the high
road of its waters. They mingled in war too as in peace, and this long
period is filled with their international contests, while the other free
cities of Christendom were wasting themselves in civil feuds and degrading
domestic broils. In this wide and various collision their moral powers
were quickened by constant activity; and more enlarged views were formed,
with a deeper consciousness of their own strength, than could be obtained
by those inhabitants of the interior, who were conversant only with a
limited range of objects, and subjected to the influence of the same dull,
monotonous circumstances.

Among these maritime republics, those of Catalonia were eminently
conspicuous. By the incorporation of this country with the kingdom of
Aragon, therefore, the strength of the latter was greatly augmented. The
Aragonese princes, well aware of this, liberally fostered institutions to
which the country owed its prosperity, and skilfully availed themselves of
its resources for the aggrandizement of their own dominions. They paid
particular attention to the navy, for the more perfect discipline of which
a body of laws was prepared by Peter the Fourth, in 1354, that was
designed to render it invincible. No allusion whatever is made in this
stern code to the mode of surrendering to, or retreating from the enemy.
The commander, who declined attacking any force not exceeding his own by
more than one vessel, was punished with death. [2] The Catalan navy
successfully disputed the empire of the Mediterranean with the fleets of
Pisa, and still more of Genoa. With its aid, the Aragonese monarchs
achieved the conquest successively of Sicily, Sardinia, and the Balearic
Isles, and annexed them to the empire. [3] It penetrated into the farthest
regions of the Levant; and the expedition of the Catalans into Asia, which
terminated with the more splendid than useful acquisition of Athens, forms
one of the most romantic passages in this stirring and adventurous era.

But, while the princes of Aragon were thus enlarging the bounds of their
dominion abroad, there was probably not a sovereign in Europe possessed of
such limited authority at home. The three great states with their
dependencies, which constituted the Aragonese monarchy, had been declared
by a statute of James the Second, in 1319, inalienable and indivisible.
[5] Each of them, however, maintained a separate constitution of
government, and was administered by distinct laws. As it would be
fruitless to investigate the peculiarities of their respective
institutions, which bear a very close affinity to one another, we may
confine ourselves to those of Aragon, which exhibit a more perfect model
than those either of Catalonia or Valencia, and have been far more
copiously illustrated by her writers.

The national historians refer the origin of their government to a written
constitution of about the middle of the ninth century, fragments of which
are still preserved in certain ancient documents and chronicles. On
occurrence of a vacancy in the throne, at this epoch, a monarch was
elected by the twelve principal nobles, who prescribed a code of laws, to
the observance of which he was obliged to swear before assuming the
sceptre. The import of these laws was to circumscribe within very narrow
limits the authority of the sovereign, distributing the principal
functions to a _Justicia_, or Justice, and these same peers, who, in
case of a violation of the compact by the monarch, were authorized to
withdraw their allegiance, and, in the bold language of the ordinance, "to
substitute any other ruler in his stead, even a pagan, if they listed."
[6] The whole of this wears much of a fabulous aspect, and may remind the
reader of the government which Ulysses met with in Phaeacia; where King
Alcinous is surrounded by his "twelve illustrious peers or archons,"
subordinate to himself, "who," says he, "rule over the people, I myself
being the thirteenth." [7] But, whether true or not, this venerable
tradition must be admitted to have been well calculated to repress the
arrogance of the Aragonese monarchs, and to exalt the minds of their
subjects by the image of ancient liberty which it presented. [8]

The great barons of Aragon were few in number. They affected to derive
their descent from the twelve peers above mentioned, and were styled
_ricos hombres de natura_, implying by this epithet, that they were
not indebted for their creation to the will of the sovereign. No estate
could be legally conferred by the crown, as an _honor_ (the denomination
of fiefs in Aragon), on any but one of these high nobles. This, however,
was in time evaded by the monarchs, who advanced certain of their own
retainers to a level with the ancient peers of the land; a measure which
proved a fruitful source of disquietude. [9] No baron could be divested of
his fief, unless by public sentence of the Justice and the cortes. The
proprietor, however, was required, as usual, to attend the king in
council, and to perform military service, when summoned, during two months
in the year, at his own charge. [10]

The privileges, both honorary and substantial, enjoyed by the _ricos
hombres_, were very considerable. They filled the highest posts in the
state. They originally appointed judges in their domains for the
cognizance of certain civil causes, and over a class of their vassals
exercised an unlimited criminal jurisdiction. They were excused from
taxation except in specified cases; were exempted from all corporal and
capital punishment; nor could they be imprisoned, although their estates
might be sequestrated for debt. A lower class of nobility styled
_infanzones_, equivalent to the Castilian _hidalgos_, together with the
_caballeros_, or knights, were also possessed of important though inferior
immunities. [11] The king distributed among the great barons the territory
reconquered from the Moors, in proportions determined by the amount of
their respective services. We find a stipulation to this effect from James
the First to his nobles, previous to his invasion of Majorca. [12] On a
similar principle they claimed nearly the whole of Valencia. [13] On
occupying a city, it was usual to divide it into _barrios_, or districts,
each of which was granted by way of fief to some one of the ricos hombres,
from which he was to derive his revenue. What proportion of the conquered
territory was reserved for the royal demesne does not appear. [14] We find
one of these nobles, Bernard de Cabrera, in the latter part of the
fourteenth century, manning a fleet of king's ships on his own credit;
another, of the ancient family of Luna, in the fifteenth century, so
wealthy that he could travel through an almost unbroken line of his
estates all the way from Castile to France. [15] With all this, their
incomes in general, in this comparatively poor country, were very inferior
to those of the great Castilian lords. [16]

The laws conceded certain powers to the aristocracy of a most dangerous
character. They were entitled, like the nobles of the sister kingdom, to
defy, and publicly renounce their allegiance to their sovereign, with the
whimsical privilege, in addition, of commending their families and estates
to his protection, which he was obliged to accord, until they were again
reconciled. [17] The mischievous right of private war was repeatedly
recognized by statute. It was claimed and exercised in its full extent,
and occasionally with circumstances of peculiar atrocity. An instance is
recorded by Zurita of a bloody feud between two of these nobles,
prosecuted with such inveteracy that the parties bound themselves by
solemn oath never to desist from it during their lives, and to resist
every effort, even on the part of the crown itself, to effect a
pacification between them. [18] This remnant of barbarism lingered longer
in Aragon than in any other country in Christendom.

The Aragonese sovereigns, who were many of them possessed of singular
capacity and vigor, [19] made repeated efforts to reduce the authority of
their nobles within more temperate limits. Peter the Second, by a bold
stretch of prerogative, stripped them of their most important rights of
jurisdiction. [20] James the Conqueror artfully endeavored to
counterbalance their weight by that of the commons and the ecclesiastics.
[21] But they were too formidable when united, and too easily united, to
be successfully assailed. The Moorish wars terminated, in Aragon, with the
conquest of Valencia, or rather the invasion of Murcia, by the middle of
the thirteenth century. The tumultuous spirits of the aristocracy,
therefore, instead of finding a vent, as in Castile, in these foreign
expeditions, were turned within, and convulsed their own country with
perpetual revolution. Haughty from the consciousness of their exclusive
privileges and of the limited number who monopolized them, the Aragonese
barons regarded themselves rather as the rivals of their sovereign, than
as his inferiors. Intrenched within the mountain fastnesses, which the
rugged nature of the country everywhere afforded, they easily bade
defiance to his authority. Their small number gave a compactness and
concert to their operations, which could not have been obtained in a
multitudinous body. Ferdinand the Catholic well discriminated the relative
position of the Aragonese and Castilian nobility, by saying, "it was as
difficult to divide the one, as to unite the other." [22]

These combinations became still more frequent after formally receiving the
approbation of King Alfonso the Third, who, in 1287, signed the two
celebrated ordinances entitled the "Privileges of Union," by which his
subjects were authorized to resort to arms on an infringement of their
liberties. [23] The _hermandad_ of Castile had never been countenanced by
legislative sanction; it was chiefly resorted to as a measure of police,
and was directed more frequently against the disorders of the nobility,
than of the sovereign; it was organized with difficulty, and, compared
with the union of Aragon, was cumbrous and languid in its operations.
While these privileges continued in force, the nation was delivered over
to the most frightful anarchy. The least offensive movement on the part of
the monarch, the slightest encroachment on personal right or privilege,
was the signal for a general revolt. At the cry of _Union_, that "last
voice," says the enthusiastic historian, "of the expiring republic, full
of authority and majesty, and an open indication of the insolence of
kings," the nobles and the citizens eagerly rushed to arms. The principal
castles belonging to the former were pledged as security for their
fidelity, and intrusted to conservators, as they were styled, whose duty
it was to direct the operations and watch over the interests of the Union.
A common seal was prepared, bearing the device of armed men kneeling
before their king, intimating at once their loyalty and their resolution,
and a similar device was displayed on the standard and the other military
insignia of the confederates. [24]

The power of the monarch was as nothing before this formidable array. The
Union appointed a council to control all his movements, and, in fact,
during the whole period of its existence, the reigns of four successive
monarchs, it may be said to have dictated law to the land. At length Peter
the Fourth, a despot in heart, and naturally enough impatient of this
eclipse of regal prerogative, brought the matter to an issue, by defeating
the army of the Union, at the memorable battle of Epila, in 1348, "the
last," says Zurita, "in which it was permitted to the subject to take up
arms against the sovereign for the cause of liberty." Then, convoking an
assembly of the states at Saragossa, he produced before them the
instrument containing the two Privileges, and cut it in pieces with his
dagger. In doing this, having wounded himself in the hand, he suffered the
blood to trickle upon the parchment, exclaiming, that "a law which had
been the occasion of so much blood, should be blotted out by the blood of
a king." [25] All copies of it, whether in the public archives, or in the
possession of private individuals, were ordered, under a heavy penalty, to
be destroyed. The statute passed to that effect carefully omits the date
of the detested instrument, that all evidence of its existence might
perish with it. [26]

Instead of abusing his victory, as might have been anticipated from his
character, Peter adopted a far more magnanimous policy. He confirmed the
ancient privileges of the realm, and made in addition other wise and
salutary concessions. From this period, therefore, is to be dated the
possession of constitutional liberty in Aragon; (for surely the reign of
unbridled license, above described, is not deserving that name;) and this
not so much from the acquisition of new immunities, as from the more
perfect security afforded for the enjoyment of the old. The court of the
_Justicia_, that great barrier interposed by the constitution between
despotism on the one hand and popular license on the other, was more
strongly protected, and causes hitherto decided by arms were referred for
adjudication to this tribunal. [27] From this period, too, the cortes,
whose voice was scarcely heard amid the wild uproar of preceding times,
was allowed to extend a beneficial and protecting sway over the land. And,
although the social history of Aragon, like that of other countries in
this rude age, is too often stained with deeds of violence and personal
feuds, yet the state at large, under the steady operation of its laws,
probably enjoyed a more uninterrupted tranquillity than fell to the lot of
any other nation in Europe.

The Aragonese cortes was composed of four branches, or arms; [28] the
ricos hombres, or great barons; the lesser nobles, comprehending the
knights; the clergy, and the commons. The nobility of every denomination
were entitled to a seat in the legislature. The ricos hombres were allowed
to appear by proxy, and a similar privilege was enjoyed by baronial
heiresses. The number of this body was very limited, twelve of them
constituting a quorum. [29]

The arm of the ecclesiastics embraced an ample delegation from the
inferior as well as higher clergy. [30] It is affirmed not to have been a
component of the national legislature until more than a century and a half
after the admission of the commons. [31] Indeed, the influence of the
church was much less sensible in Aragon, than in the other kingdoms of the
peninsula. Notwithstanding the humiliating concessions of certain of their
princes to the papal see, they were never recognized by the nation, who
uniformly asserted their independence of the temporal supremacy of Rome;
and who, as we shall see hereafter, resisted the introduction of the
Inquisition, that last stretch of ecclesiastical usurpation, even to
blood. [32]

The commons enjoyed higher consideration and civil privileges than in
Castile. For this they were perhaps somewhat indebted to the example of
their Catalan neighbors, the influence of whose democratic institutions
naturally extended to other parts of the Aragonese monarchy. The charters
of certain cities accorded to the inhabitants privileges of nobility,
particularly that of immunity from taxation; while the magistrates of
others were permitted to take their seats in the order of hidalgos. [33]
From a very early period we find them employed in offices of public trust,
and on important missions. [34] The epoch of their admission into the
national assembly is traced as far back as 1133, several years earlier
than the commencement of popular representation in Castile. [35] Each city
had the right of sending two or more deputies selected from persons
eligible to its magistracy; but with the privilege of only one vote,
whatever might be the number of its deputies. Any place, which had been
once represented in cortes, might always claim to be so. [36]

By a statute of 1307, the convocation of the states, which had been
annual, was declared biennial. The kings, however, paid little regard to
this provision, rarely summoning them except for some specific necessity.
[37] The great officers of the crown, whatever might be their personal
rank, were jealously excluded from their deliberations. The session was
opened by an address from the king in person, a point of which they were
very tenacious; after which the different _arms_ withdrew to their
separate apartments. [38] The greatest scrupulousness was manifested in
maintaining the rights and dignity of the body; and their intercourse with
one another, and with the king, was regulated by the most precise forms of
parliamentary etiquette. [39] The subjects of deliberation were referred
to a committee from each order, who, after conferring together, reported
to their several departments. Every question, it may be presumed,
underwent a careful examination; as the legislature, we are told, was
usually divided into two parties, "the one maintaining the rights of the
monarch, the other, those of the nation," corresponding nearly enough with
those of our day. It was in the power of any member to defeat the passage
of a bill, by opposing to it his _veto_ or dissent, formally registered to
that effect. He might even interpose his negative on the proceedings of
the house, and thus put a stop to the prosecution of all further business
during the session. This anomalous privilege, transcending even that
claimed in the Polish diet, must have been too invidious in its exercise,
and too pernicious in its consequences, to have been often resorted to.
This may be inferred from the fact, that it was not formally repealed
until the reign of Philip the Second, in 1592. During the interval of the
sessions of the legislature, a deputation of eight was appointed, two from
each arm, to preside over public affairs, particularly in regard to the
revenue, and the security of justice; with authority to convoke a cortes
extraordinary, whenever the exigency might demand it. [40]

The cortes exercised the highest functions whether of a deliberative,
legislative, or judicial nature. It had a right to be consulted on all
matters of importance, especially on those of peace and war. No law was
valid, no tax could be imposed, without its consent; and it carefully
provided for the application of the revenue to its destined uses. [41] It
determined the succession to the crown; removed obnoxious ministers;
reformed the household, and domestic expenditure, of the monarch; and
exercised the power, in the most unreserved manner, of withholding
supplies, as well as of resisting what it regarded as an encroachment on
the liberties of the nation. [42]

The excellent commentators on the constitution of Aragon have bestowed
comparatively little attention on the development of its parliamentary
history; confining themselves too exclusively to mere forms of procedure.
The defect has been greatly obviated by the copiousness of their general
historians. But the statute-book affords the most unequivocal evidence of
the fidelity with which the guardians of the realm discharged the high
trust reposed in them, in the numerous enactments it exhibits, for the
security both of person and property. Almost the first page which meets
the eye in this venerable record contains the General Privilege, the Magna
Charta, as it has been well denominated, of Aragon. It was granted by
Peter the Great to the cortes at Saragossa, in 1283. It embraces a variety
of provisions for the fair and open administration of justice; for
ascertaining the legitimate powers intrusted to the cortes; for the
security of property against exactions of the crown; and for the
conservation of their legal immunities to the municipal corporations and
the different orders of nobility. In short, the distinguishing excellence
of this instrument, like that of Magna Charta, consists in the wise and
equitable protection which it affords to all classes of the community.
[43] The General Privilege, instead of being wrested, like King John's
charter, from a pusillanimous prince, was conceded, reluctantly enough, it
is true, in an assembly of the nation, by one of the ablest monarchs who
ever sat on the throne of Aragon, at a time when his arms, crowned with
repeated victory, had secured to the state the most important of her
foreign acquisitions. The Aragonese, who rightly regarded the General
Privilege as the broadest basis of their liberties, repeatedly procured
its confirmation by succeeding sovereigns. "By so many and such various
precautions," says Blancas, "did our ancestors establish that freedom
which their posterity have enjoyed; manifesting a wise solicitude, that
all orders of men, even kings themselves, confined within their own
sphere, should discharge their legitimate functions without jostling or
jarring with one another; for in this harmony consists the temperance of
our government. Alas!" he adds, "how much of all this has fallen into
desuetude from its antiquity, or been effaced by new customs." [44]

The judicial functions of the cortes have not been sufficiently noticed by
writers. They were extensive in their operation, and gave it the name of
the General Court. They were principally directed to protect the subject
from the oppressions of the crown and its officers; over all which cases
it possessed original and ultimate jurisdiction. The suit was conducted
before the Justice, as president of the cortes, in its judicial capacity,
who delivered an opinion conformable to the will of the majority. [45] The
authority, indeed, of this magistrate in his own court was fully equal to
providing adequate relief in all these cases. [46] But for several reasons
this parliamentary tribunal was preferred. The process was both more
expeditious and less expensive to the suitor. Indeed, "the most obscure
inhabitant of the most obscure village in the kingdom, although a
foreigner," might demand redress of this body; and, if he was incapable of
bearing the burden himself, the state was bound to maintain his suit, and
provide him with counsel at its own charge. But the most important
consequence, resulting from this legislative investigation, was the
remedial laws frequently attendant on it. "And our ancestors," says
Blancas, "deemed it great wisdom patiently to endure contumely and
oppression for a season, rather than seek redress before an inferior
tribunal, since, by postponing their suit till the meeting of cortes, they
would not only obtain a remedy for their own grievance, but one of a
universal and permanent application." [47]

The Aragonese cortes maintained a steady control over the operations of
government, especially after the dissolution of the Union; and the weight
of the commons was more decisive in it, than in other similar assemblies
of that period. Its singular distribution into four estates was favorable
to this. The knights and _hidalgos_, an intermediate order between
the great nobility and the people, when detached from the former,
naturally lent additional support to the latter, with whom, indeed, they
had considerable affinity. The representatives of certain cities, as well
as a certain class of citizens, were entitled to a seat in this body; [48]
so that it approached both in spirit and substance to something like a
popular representation. Indeed, this arm of the cortes was so uniformly
vigilant in resisting any encroachment on the part of the crown, that it
has been said to represent, more than any other, the liberties of the
nation. [49] In some other particulars the Aragonese commons possessed an
advantage over those of Castile. 1. By postponing their money grants to
the conclusion of the session, and regulating them in some degree by the
previous dispositions of the crown, they availed themselves of an
important lever relinquished by the Castilian cortes. [50] 2. The kingdom
of Aragon proper was circumscribed within too narrow limits to allow of
such local jealousies and estrangements, growing out of an apparent
diversity of interests, as existed in the neighboring monarchy. Their
representatives, therefore, were enabled to move with a more hearty
concert, and on a more consistent line of policy. 3. Lastly, the
acknowledged right to a seat in cortes, possessed by every city which had
once been represented there, and this equally whether summoned or not, if
we may credit Capmany, [51] must have gone far to preserve the popular
branch from the melancholy state of dilapidation to which it was reduced
in Castile by the arts of despotic princes. Indeed, the kings of Aragon,
notwithstanding occasional excesses, seem never to have attempted any
systematic invasion of the constitutional rights of their subjects. They
well knew, that the spirit of liberty was too high among them to endure
it. When the queen of Alfonso the Fourth urged her husband, by quoting the
example of her brother the king of Castile, to punish certain refractory
citizens of Valencia, he prudently replied, "My people are free, and not
so submissive as the Castilians. They respect me as their prince, and I
hold them for good vassals and comrades."[52]

No part of the constitution of Aragon has excited more interest, or more
deservedly, than the office of the _Justicia_, or Justice; [53] whose
extraordinary functions were far from being limited to judicial matters,
although in these his authority was supreme. The origin of this
institution is affirmed to have been coeval with that of the constitution
or frame of government itself. [54] If it were so, his authority may be
said, in the language of Blancas, "to have slept in the scabbard" until
the dissolution of the Union; when the control of a tumultuous aristocracy
was exchanged for the mild and uniform operation of the law, administered
by this, its supreme interpreter.

His most important duties may be briefly enumerated. He was authorized to
pronounce on the validity of all royal letters and ordinances. He
possessed, as has been said, concurrent jurisdiction with the cortes over
all suits against the crown and its officers. Inferior judges were bound
to consult him in all doubtful cases, and to abide by his opinion, as of
"equal authority," in the words of an ancient jurist, "with the law
itself." [55] An appeal lay to his tribunal from those of the territorial
and royal judges. [56] He could even evoke a cause, while pending before
them, into his own court, and secure the defendant from molestation on his
giving surety for his appearance. By another process, he might remove a
person under arrest from the place in which he had been confined by order
of an inferior court, to the public prison appropriated to this purpose,
there to abide his own examination of the legality of his detention. These
two provisions, by which the precipitate and perhaps intemperate
proceedings of subordinate judicatures were subjected to the revision of a
dignified and dispassionate tribunal, might seem to afford sufficient
security for personal liberty and property. [57] In addition to these
official functions, the Justice of Aragon was constituted a permanent
counsellor of the sovereign, and, as such, was required to accompany him
where-ever he might reside. He was to advise the king on all
constitutional questions of a doubtful complexion; and finally, on a new
accession to the throne, it was his province to administer the coronation
oath; this he performed with his head covered, and sitting, while the
monarch, kneeling before him bare-headed, solemnly promised to maintain
the liberties of the kingdom. A ceremony eminently symbolical of that
superiority of law over prerogative, which was so constantly asserted in
Aragon. [58]

It was the avowed purpose of the institution of the Justicia to interpose
such an authority between the crown and the people, as might suffice for
the entire protection of the latter. This is the express import of one of
the laws of Soprarbe, which, whatever he thought of their authenticity,
are undeniably of very high antiquity. [59] This part of his duties is
particularly insisted on by the most eminent juridical writers of the
nation. Whatever estimate, therefore, may be formed of the real extent of
his powers, as compared with those of similar functionaries in other
states of Europe, there can be no doubt that this ostensible object of
their creation, thus openly asserted, must have had a great tendency to
enforce their practical operation. Accordingly we find repeated examples,
in the history of Aragon, of successful interposition on the part of the
Justice for the protection of individuals persecuted by the crown, and in
defiance of every attempt at intimidation. [60] The kings of Aragon,
chafed by this opposition, procured the resignation or deposition, on more
than one occasion, of the obnoxious magistrate. [61] But, as such an
exercise of prerogative must have been altogether subversive of an
independent discharge of the duties of this office, it was provided by a
statute of Alfonso the Fifth, in 1442, that the Justice should continue in
office during life, removable only, on sufficient cause, by the king and
the cortes united. [62]

Several provisions were enacted, in order to secure the nation more
effectually against the abuse of the high trust reposed in this officer.
He was to be taken from the equestrian order, which, as intermediate
between the high nobility and the people, was less likely to be influenced
by undue partiality to either. He could not be selected from the ricos
hombres, since this class was exempted from corporal punishment, while the
Justice was made responsible to the cortes for the faithful discharge of
his duties, under penalty of death. [63] As this supervision of the whole
legislature was found unwieldy in practice, it was superseded, after
various modifications by a commission of members elected from each one of
the four estates, empowered to sit every year in Saragossa, with authority
to investigate the charges preferred against the Justice, and to pronounce
sentence upon him. [64]

The Aragonese writers are prodigal of their encomiums on the pre-eminence
and dignity of this functionary, whose office might seem, indeed, but a
doubtful expedient for balancing the authority of the sovereign; depending
for its success less on any legal powers confided to it, than on the
efficient and constant support of public opinion. Fortunately the Justice
of Aragon uniformly received such support, and was thus enabled to carry
the original design of the institution into effect, to check the
usurpations of the crown, as well as to control the license of the
nobility and the people. A series of learned and independent magistrates,
by the weight of their own character, gave additional dignity to the
office. The people, familiarized with the benignant operation of the law,
referred to peaceful arbitration those great political questions, which,
in other countries at this period, must have been settled by a sanguinary
revolution. [65] While, in the rest of Europe, the law seemed only the web
to ensnare the weak, the Aragonese historians could exult in the
reflection, that the fearless administration of justice in their land
"protected the weak equally with the strong, the foreigner with the
native." Well might their legislature assert, that the value of their
liberties more than counterbalanced "the poverty of the nation, and the
sterility of their soil." [66]

The governments of Valencia and Catalonia, which, as has been already
remarked, were administered independently of each other after their
consolidation into one monarchy, bore a very near resemblance to that of
Aragon. [67] No institution, however, corresponding in its functions with
that of the Justicia, seems to have obtained in either. [68] Valencia,
which had derived a large portion of its primitive population, after the
conquest, from Aragon, preserved the most intimate relations with the
parent kingdom, and was constantly at its side during the tempestuous
season of the Union. The Catalans were peculiarly jealous of their
exclusive privileges, and their civil institutions wore a more
democratical aspect than those of any other of the confederated states;
circumstances, which led to important results that fall within the compass
of our narrative. [69]

The city of Barcelona, which originally gave its name to the county of
which it was the capital, was distinguished from a very early period by
ample municipal privileges. [70] After the union with Aragon in the
twelfth century, the monarchs of the latter kingdom extended towards it
the same liberal legislation; so that, by the thirteenth, Barcelona had
reached a degree of commercial prosperity rivalling that of any of the
Italian republics. She divided with them the lucrative commerce with
Alexandria; and her port, thronged with foreigners from every nation,
became a principal emporium in the Mediterranean for the spices, drugs,
perfumes, and other rich commodities of the east, whence they were
diffused over the interior of Spain and the European continent. [71] Her
consuls, and her commercial factories, were established in every
considerable port in the Mediterranean and in the north of Europe. [72]
The natural products of her soil, and her various domestic fabrics,
supplied her with abundant articles of export. Fine wool was imported by
her in considerable quantities from England in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, and returned there manufactured into cloth; an
exchange of commodities the reverse of that existing between the two
nations at the present day. [73] Barcelona claims the merit of having
established the first bank of exchange and deposit in Europe, in 1401; it
was devoted to the accommodation of foreigners as well as of her own
citizens. She claims the glory, too, of having compiled the most ancient
written code, among the moderns, of maritime law now extant, digested from
the usages of commercial nations, and which formed the basis of the
mercantile jurisprudence of Europe during the Middle Ages. [74]

The wealth which flowed in upon Barcelona, as the result of her activity
and enterprise, was evinced by her numerous public works, her docks,
arsenal, warehouses, exchange, hospitals, and other constructions of
general utility. Strangers, who visited Spain in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, expatiate on the magnificence of this city, its
commodious private edifices, the cleanliness of its streets and public
squares (a virtue by no means usual in that day), and on the amenity of
its gardens and cultivated environs. [75]

But the peculiar glory of Barcelona was the freedom of her municipal
institutions. Her government consisted of a senate or council of one
hundred, and a body of _regidores_ or counsellors, as they were styled,
varying at times from four to six in number; the former intrusted
with the legislative, the latter with the executive functions of
administration. A large proportion of these bodies were selected from the
merchants, tradesmen, and mechanics of the city. They were invested, not
merely with municipal authority, but with many of the rights of
sovereignty. They entered into commercial treaties with foreign powers;
superintended the defence of the city in time of war; provided for the
security of trade; granted letters of reprisal against any nation who
might violate it; and raised and appropriated the public moneys for the
construction of useful works, or the encouragement of such commercial
adventures as were too hazardous or expensive for individual enterprise.

The counsellors, who presided over the municipality, were complimented
with certain honorary privileges, not even accorded to the nobility. They
were addressed by the title of _magníficos_; were seated, with their
heads covered, in the presence of royalty; were preceded by mace-bearers,
or lictors, in their progress through the country; and deputies from their
body to the court were admitted on the footing, and received the honors,
of foreign ambassadors. [77] These, it will be recollected, were
plebeians,--merchants and mechanics. Trade never was esteemed a
degradation in Catalonia, as it came to be in Castile. [78] The professors
of the different arts, as they were called, organized into guilds or
companies, constituted so many independent associations, whose members
were eligible to the highest municipal offices. And such was the
importance attached to these offices, that the nobility in many instances,
resigning the privileges of their rank, a necessary preliminary, were
desirous of being enrolled among the candidates for them. [79] One cannot
but observe in the peculiar organization of this little commonwealth, and
in the equality assumed by every class of its citizens, a close analogy to
the constitutions of the Italian republics; which the Catalans, having
become familiar with in their intimate commercial intercourse with Italy,
may have adopted as the model of their own.

Under the influence of these democratic institutions, the burghers of
Barcelona, and indeed of Catalonia in general, which enjoyed more or less
of a similar freedom, assumed a haughty independence of character beyond
what existed among the same class in other parts of Spain; and this,
combined with the martial daring fostered by a life of maritime adventure
and warfare, made them impatient, not merely of oppression, but of
contradiction, on the part of their sovereigns, who have experienced more
frequent and more sturdy resistance from this quarter of their dominions,
than from every other. [80] Navagiero, the Venetian ambassador to Spain,
early in the sixteenth century, although a republican himself, was so
struck with what he deemed the insubordination of the Barcelonians, that
he asserts, "The inhabitants have so many privileges, that the king
scarcely retains any authority over them; their liberty," he adds, "should
rather go by the name of license." [81] One example among many, may be
given, of the tenacity with which they adhered to their most
inconsiderable immunities.

Ferdinand the First, in 1416, being desirous, in consequence of the
exhausted state of the finances on his coming to the throne, to evade the
payment of a certain tax or subsidy customarily paid by the kings of
Aragon to the city of Barcelona, sent for the president of the council,
John Fiveller, to require the consent of that body to this measure. The
magistrate, having previously advised with his colleagues, determined to
encounter any hazard, says Zurita, rather than compromise the rights of
the city. He reminded the king of his coronation oath, expressed his
regret that he was willing so soon to deviate from the good usages of his
predecessors, and plainly told him, that he and his comrades would never
betray the liberties entrusted to them. Ferdinand, indignant at this
language, ordered the patriot to withdraw into another apartment, where he
remained in much uncertainty as to the consequences of his temerity. But
the king was dissuaded from violent measures, if he ever contemplated
them, by the representation of his courtiers, who warned him not to reckon
too much on the patience of the people, who bore small affection to his
person, from _the little familiarity with which he had treated them_
in comparison with their preceding monarchs, and who were already in arms
to protect their magistrate. In consequence of these suggestions,
Ferdinand deemed it prudent to release the counsellor, and withdrew
abruptly from the city on the ensuing day, disgusted at the ill success of
his enterprise. [82]

The Aragonese monarchs well understood the value of their Catalan
dominions, which sustained a proportion of the public burdens equal in
amount to that of both the other states of the kingdom. [83]
Notwithstanding the mortifications, which they occasionally experienced
from this quarter, therefore, they uniformly extended towards it the most
liberal protection. A register of the various customs paid in the ports of
Catalonia, compiled in 1413, under the above-mentioned Ferdinand, exhibits
a discriminating legislation, extraordinary in an age when the true
principles of financial policy were so little understood. [84] Under James
the First, in 1227, a navigation act, limited in its application, was
published, and another under Alfonso the Fifth, in 1454, embracing all the
dominions of Aragon; thus preceding by some centuries the celebrated
ordinance, to which England owes so much of her commercial grandeur. [85]

The brisk concussion given to the minds of the Catalans in the busy career
in which they were engaged, seems to have been favorable to the
development of poetical talent, in the same manner as it was in Italy.
Catalonia may divide with Provence the glory of being the region where the
voice of song was first awakened in modern Europe. Whatever may be the
relative claims of the two countries to precedence in this respect, [86]
it is certain that under the family of Barcelona, the Provençal of the
south of France reached its highest perfection; and, when the tempest of
persecution in the beginning of the thirteenth century fell on the lovely
valleys of that unhappy country, its minstrels found a hospitable asylum
in the court of the kings of Aragon; many of whom not only protected, but
cultivated the _gay science_ with considerable success. [87] Their
names have descended to us, as well as those of less illustrious
troubadours, whom Petrarch and his contemporaries did not disdain to
imitate; [88] but their compositions, for the most part, lie still buried
in those cemeteries of the intellect so numerous in Spain, and call loudly
for the diligence of some Sainte Palaye or Raynouard to disinter them.

The languishing condition of the poetic art, at the close of the
fourteenth century, induced John the First, who mingled somewhat of the
ridiculous even with his most respectable tastes, to depute a solemn
embassy to the king of France, requesting that a commission might be
detached from the Floral Academy of Toulouse, into Spain, to erect there a
similar institution. This was accordingly done, and the Consistory of
Barcelona was organized, in 1390. The kings of Aragon endowed it with
funds, and with a library valuable for that day, presiding over its
meetings in person, and distributing the poetical premiums with their own
hands. During the troubles consequent on the death of Martin, this
establishment fell into decay, until it was again revived, on the
accession of Ferdinand the First, by the celebrated Henry, marquis of
Villena, who transplanted it to Tortosa. [90]

The marquis, in his treatise on the _gaya sciencia_, details with
becoming gravity the pompous ceremonial observed in his academy on the
event of a public celebration. The topics of discussion were "the praises
of the Virgin, love, arms, and other good usages." The performances of the
candidates, "inscribed on parchment of various colors, richly enamelled
with gold and silver, and beautifully illuminated," were publicly recited,
and then referred to a committee, who made solemn oath to decide
impartially and according to the rules of the art. On the delivery of the
verdict, a wreath of gold was deposited on the victorious poem, which was
registered in the academic archives; and the fortunate troubadour, greeted
with a magnificent prize, was escorted to the royal palace amid a
_cortège_ of minstrelsy and chivalry; "thus manifesting to the world,"
says the marquis, "the superiority which God and nature have assigned to
genius over dulness." [91]

The influence of such an institution in awakening a poetic spirit is at
best very questionable. Whatever effect an academy may have in stimulating
the researches of science, the inspirations of genius must come unbidden;

"Adflata est numine quando
Jam propiore del."

The Catalans, indeed, seem to have been of this opinion; for they suffered
the Consistory of Tortosa to expire with its founder. Somewhat later, in
1430, was established the University of Barcelona, placed under the
direction of the municipality, and endowed by the city with ample funds
for instruction in the various departments of law, theology, medicine, and
the belles-lettres. This institution survived until the commencement of
the last century. [92]

During the first half of the fifteenth century, long after the genuine
race of the troubadours had passed away, the Provençal or Limousin verse
was carried to its highest excellence by the poets of Valencia. [93] It
would be presumptuous for any one, who has not made the _Romance_
dialects his particular study, to attempt a discriminating criticism of
these compositions, so much of the merit of which necessarily consists in
the almost impalpable beauties of style and expression. The Spaniards,
however, applaud, in the verses of Ausias March, the same musical
combinations of sound, and the same tone of moral melancholy, which
pervade the productions of Petrarch. [94] In prose too, they have (to
borrow the words of Andres) their Boccaccio in Martorell; whose fiction of
"Tirante el Blanco" is honored by the commendation of the curate in Don
Quixote, as "the best book in the world of the kind, since the knights-
errant in it eat, drink, sleep, and die quietly in their beds, like other
folk, and very unlike most heroes of romance." The productions of these,
and some other of their distinguished contemporaries, obtained a general
circulation very early by means of the recently invented art of printing,
and subsequently passed into repeated editions.[95] But their language has
long since ceased to be the language of literature. On the union of the
two crowns of Castile and Aragon, the dialect of the former became that of
the court and of the Muses. The beautiful Provençal, once more rich and
melodious than any other idiom in the Peninsula, was abandoned as a
_patois_ to the lower orders of the Catalans, who, with the language,
may boast that they also have inherited the noble principles of freedom
which distinguished their ancestors.

* * * * *

The influence of free institutions in Aragon is perceptible in the
familiarity displayed by its writers with public affairs, and in the
freedom with which they have discussed the organization, and general
economy of its government. The creation of the office of national
chronicler, under Charles V., gave wider scope to the development of
historic talent. Among the most conspicuous of these historiographers was
Jerome Blancas, several of whose productions, as the "Coronaciones de los
Reyes," "Modo de Proceder en Cortes," and "Commentarii Rerum
Aragonensium," especially the last, have been repeatedly quoted in the
preceding section. This work presents a view of the different orders of
the state, and particularly of the office of the Justicia, with their
peculiar functions and privileges. The author, omitting the usual details
of history, has devoted himself to the illustration of the constitutional
antiquities of his country, in the execution of which he has shown a
sagacity and erudition equally profound. His sentiments breathe a generous
love of freedom, which one would scarcely suppose to have existed, and
still less to have been promulgated, under Philip II. His style is
distinguished by the purity and even elegance of its latinity. The first
edition, being that which I have used, appeared in 1588, in folio, at
Saragossa, executed with much typographical beauty. The work was
afterwards incorporated into Schottus's "Hispania Illustrata."--Blancas,
after having held his office for ten years, died in his native city of
Saragossa, in 1590.

Jerome Martel, from whose little treatise, "Forma de Celebrar Cortes," I
have also liberally cited, was appointed public historiographer in 1597.
His continuation of Zurita's Annals, which he left unpublished at his
decease, was never admitted to the honors of the press, because, says his
biographer, Uztarroz, _verdades lastiman_; a reason as creditable to
the author as disgraceful to the government.

A third writer, and the one chiefly relied on for the account of
Catalonia, is Don Antonio Capmany. His "Memorias Históricas de Barcelona,"
(5 tom. 4to, Madrid, 1779-1792,) may be thought somewhat too discursive
and circumstantial for his subject; but it is hardly right to quarrel with
information so rare, and painfully collected; the sin of exuberance at any
rate is much less frequent, and more easily corrected, than that of
sterility. His work is a vast repertory of facts relating to the commerce,
manufactures, general policy, and public prosperity, not only of
Barcelona, but of Catalonia. It is written with an independent and liberal
spirit, which may be regarded as affording the best commentary on the
genius of the institutions which he celebrates.--Capmany closed his useful
labors at Madrid, in 1810, at the age of fifty-six.

Notwithstanding the interesting character of the Aragonese constitution,
and the amplitude of materials for its history, the subject has been
hitherto neglected, as far as I am aware, by continental writers.
Robertson and Hallam, more especially the latter, have given such a view
of its prominent features to the English reader, as must, I fear, deprive
the sketch which I have attempted, in a great degree, of novelty. To these
names must now be added that of the author of the "History of Spain and
Portugal," (Cabinet Cyclopaedia,) whose work, published since the
preceding pages were written, contains much curious and learned
disquisition on the early jurisprudence and municipal institutions of
both Castile and Aragon.


[1] Catalonia was united with Aragon by the marriage of queen Petronilla
with Raymond Berengere, count of Barcelona, in 1150. Valencia was
conquered from the Moors by James I., in 1238.

[2] Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. iii. pp. 45-47.--The Catalans were
much celebrated during the Middle Ages for their skill with the crossbow;
for a more perfect instruction in which, the municipality of Barcelona
established games and gymnasiums. Ibid., tom. i. p. 113.

[3] Sicily revolted to Peter III., in 1282.--Sardinia was conquered by
James II., in 1324, and the Balearic Isles by Peter IV., in 1343-4.
Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 247; tom. ii. fol. 60.--Hermilly, Histoire du
Royaume de Majorque, (Maestricht, 1777,) pp. 227-268.

[4] Hence the title of duke of Athens, assumed by the Spanish sovereigns.
The brilliant fortunes of Roger de Flor are related by count Moncada,
(Expedicion de los Catalanes y Aragoneses contrá Turcos y Griegos, Madrid,
1805) in a style much commended by Spanish critics for its elegance. See
Mondejar, Advertencias, p. 184.

[5] It was confirmed by Alfonso III., in 1328. Zurita, Anales, tom. ii.
fol. 90.

[6] See the fragments of the _Fuero de Soprarbe_, cited by Blancas,
Aragonensium Rerum Commentarii, (Caesaraugustae, 1588.) pp. 25-29.--The
well-known oath of the Aragonese to their sovereign on his accession, "Nos
que valemos tanto como vos," etc., frequently quoted by historians, rests
on the authority of Antonio Perez, the unfortunate minister of Philip II.,
who, however good a voucher for the usages of his own time, has made a
blunder in the very sentence preceding this, by confounding the Privilege
of Union with one of the Laws of Soprarbe, which shows him to be
insufficient, especially as he is the only, authority for this ancient
ceremony. See Antonio Perez, Relaciones, (Paris, 1598,) fol. 92.

Dodeka gar kata daemon aripretees Basilaees
Archoi krainonsi, triskaidekatos d' ego autos.
Odyss. O 390.

In like manner Alfonso III. alludes to "the ancient times in Aragon, when
there were as many kings as ricos hombres." See Zurita, Anales, tom. i.
fol. 316.

[8] The authenticity of the "Fuero de Soprarbe" has been keenly debated by
the Aragonese and Navarrese writers. Moret, in refutation of Blancas, who
espouses it, (see Commentarii, p. 289,) states, that after a diligent
investigation of the archives of that region, he finds no mention of the
laws, nor even of the name, of Soprarbe, until the eleventh century; a
startling circumstance for the antiquary. (Investigaciones Históricas de
las Antiguedades del Reyno de Navarra, (Pamplona, 1766,) tom. vi. lib. 2,
cap. 11.) Indeed, the historians of Aragon admit, that the public
documents previous to the fourteenth century suffered so much from various
causes as to leave comparatively few materials for authentic narrative.
(Blancas, Commentarii, Pref.--Risco, España Sagrada, tom. xxx. Prólogo.)
Blancas transcribed his extract of the laws of Soprarbe principally from
Prince Charles of Viana's History, written in the fifteenth century. See
Commentarii, p. 25.

[9] Asso y Manuel, Instituciones, pp. 39, 40.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp.
333, 334, 340.--Fueros y Observancias del Reyno de Aragon, (Zaragoza,
1667,) tom. i. fol. 130.--The _ricos hombres_, thus created by the
monarch, were styled _de mesnada_, signifying "of the household." It
was lawful for a _rico hombre_ to bequeath his honors to whichsoever
of his legitimate children he might prefer, and, in default of issue, to
his nearest of kin. He was bound to distribute the bulk of his estates in
fiefs among his knights, so that a complete system of sub-infeudation was
established. The knights, on restoring their fiefs, might change their
suzerains at pleasure.

[10] Asso y Manuel, Instituciones, p. 41.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 307,
322, 331.

[11] Fueros y Observancias, tom. i. fol. 130.--Martel, Forma de Celebrar
Cortes en Aragon, (Zaragoza, 1641,) p. 98.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 306,
312-317, 323, 360.--Asso y Manual, Instituciones, pp. 40-43.

[12] Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 124.

[13] Blancas, Commentarii, p. 334.

[14] See the partition of Saragossa by Alonso the Warrior. Zurita, Anales,
tom. i. fol. 43.

[15] Mariana, Hist. de España, tom. ii. p. 198.--Blancas, Commentarii, p.
218. [16] See a register of these at the beginning of the sixteenth
century, apud L. Marineo, Cosas Memorables, fol. 25.

[17] Zurita, Anales, tom. ii. fol. 127.--Blancas, Commentarii, p. 324.--
"Adhaec Ricis hominibus ipsis majorum more institutisque concedebatur, ut
sese possent, dum ipsi vellent, a nostrorum Regum jure et potestare, quasi
nodum aliquem, expedire; neque expedire solum, _sed dimisso prius, quo
potirentur, Honore_, bellum ipsis inferre; Reges vero Rici hominis sic
expediti uxorem, filios, familiam, res, bona, et fortunas omnes in suam
recipere fidem tenebantur. Neque ulla erat eorum utilitatis facienda

[18] Fueros y Observancias, tom. i. p. 84.--Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol.

[19] Blancas somewhere boasts, that no one of the kings of Aragon has been
stigmatized by a cognomen of infamy, as in most of the other royal races
of Europe. Peter IV., "the Ceremonious," richly deserved one.

[20] Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 102.

[21] Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 198.--He recommended this policy to his
son-in-law, the king of Castile.

[22] Sempere, Histoire des Cortès, p. 164.

[23] Zurita, Anales, lib. 4, cap. 96.--Abarca dates this event in the year
preceding. Reyes de Aragon, en Anales Históricos, (Madrid, 1682-1684,)
tom. ii. fol. 8.

[24] Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 192, 193.--Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 266
et alibi.

[25] Zurita, Anales, tom. ii. fol. 126-130.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp.
195-197.--Hence he was styled "Peter of the Dagger;" and a statue of him,
bearing in one hand this weapon, and in the other the Privilege, stood in
the Chamber of Deputation at Saragossa in Philip II.'s time. See Antonio
Perez, Relaciones, fol. 95.

[26] See the statute, De Prohibità Unione, etc. Fueros y Observancias,
tom. i. fol. 178.--A copy of the original Privileges was detected by
Blancas among the manuscripts of the archbishop of Saragossa; but he
declined publishing it from deference to the prohibition of his ancestors.
Commentarii, p. 179.

[27] "Haec itaque domestica Regis victoria, quae miserrimum universae
Reipublicae interitum videbatur esse allatura, stabilem nobis constituit
pacem, tranquillitatem, et otium. Inde enim Magistratus Justitiae Aragonum
in eam, quam nunc colimus, amplitudinem dignitatis devenit." Ibid., p.

[28] Martel, Forma de Celebrar Cortes, cap. 8.--"Bracos del reino, porque
_abraçan_, y tienen en si."--The cortes consisted only of three arms
in Catalonia and Valencia; both the greater and lesser nobility sitting in
the same chamber. Perguera, Cortes en Cataluña, and Matheu y Sanz,
Constitucion de Valencia, apud Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, pp. 65, 183,

[29] Martel, Forma de Celebrar Cortes, cap. 10, 17, 21, 46.--Blancas, Modo
de Proceder en Cortes de Aragon, (Zaragoza, 1641,) fol. 17, 18.

[30] Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, p. 12.

[31] Blancas, Modo de Proceder, fol. 14,--and Commentarii, p. 374.--
Zurita, indeed, gives repeated instances of their convocation in the
thirteenth and twelfth centuries, from a date almost coeval with that of
the commons; yet Blancas, who made this subject his particular study, who
wrote posterior to Zurita, and occasionally refers to him, postpones the
era of their admission into the legislature to the beginning of the
fourteenth century.

[32] One of the monarchs of Aragon, Alfonso the Warrior, according to
Mariana, bequeathed all his dominions to the Templars and Hospitallers.
Another, Peter II., agreed to hold his kingdom as a fief of the see of
Rome, and to pay it an annual tribute. (Hist. de España, tom. i. pp. 596,
664.) This so much disgusted the people, that they compelled his
successors to make a public protest against the claims of the church,
before their coronation.--See Blancas, Coronaciones de los Serenisimos
Reyes de Aragon, (Zaragoza, 1641,) Cap. 2.

[33] Martel, Forma de Celebrar Cortes, cap. 22.--Asso y Manuel,
Instituciones, p. 44.

[34] Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 163, A.D. 1250.

[35] Ibid., tom. i. fol. 51.--The earliest appearance of popular
representation in Catalonia is fixed by Ripoll at 1283, (apud Capmany,
Práctica y Estilo, p. 135.) What can Capmany mean by postponing the
introduction of the commons into the cortes of Aragon to 1300? (See p.
55.) Their presence and names are commemorated by the exact Zurita,
several times before the close of the twelfth century.

[36] Práctica y Estilo, pp. 14, 17, 18, 30.--Martel, Forma de Celebrar
Cortes, cap. 10.--Those who followed a mechanical occupation, _including
surgeons and apothecaries_, were excluded from a seat in cortes. (Cap.
17.) The faculty have rarely been treated with so little ceremony.

[37] Martel, Forma de Celebrar Cortes, cap. 7.--The cortes appear to have
been more frequently convoked in the fourteenth century, than in any
other. Blancas refers to no less than twenty-three within that period,
averaging nearly one in four years. (Commentarii, Index, _voce_ Comitia.)
In Catalonia and Valencia, the cortes was to be summoned every three
years. Berart, Discurso Breve sobre la Celebracion de Cortes de Aragon,
(1626,) fol. 12.

[38] Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, p. 15.--Blancas has preserved a specimen
of an address from the throne, in 1398, in which the king, after selecting
some moral apothegm as a text, rambles for the space of half an hour
through Scripture history, etc., and concludes with announcing the object
of his convening the cortes together, in three lines. Commentarii, pp.

[39] See the ceremonial detailed with sufficient prolixity by Martel,
(Forma de Celebrar Cortes, cap. 52, 53,) and a curious illustration of it
in Zurita, Anales, tom. iv. fol. 313.

[40] Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, pp. 44 et seq.--Martel, Forma de Celebrar
Cortes, cap. 50, 60 et seq.--Fueros y Observancias, tom. i. fol. 229.--
Blancas, Modo de Proceder, fol. 2-4.--Zurita, Anales, tom. iii. fol. 321.
--Robertson, misinterpreting a passage of Blancas, (Commentarii, p. 375,)
states, that a "session of Cortes continued forty days." (History of
Charles V., vol. i. p. 140.) It usually lasted months.

[41] Fueros y Observancias, fol. 6, tit. Privileg. Gen.--Blancas,
Commentarii, p. 371.--Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, p. 51.--It was anciently
the practice of the legislature to grant supplies of troops, but not of
money. When Peter IV. requested a pecuniary subsidy, the cortes told him,
that "such thing had not been usual; that his Christian subjects were wont
to serve him with their persons, and it was only for Jews and Moors to
serve him with money." Blancas, Modo de Proceder, cap. 18.

[42] See examples of them in Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 51, 263; tom.
ii. fol. 391, 394, 424.--Blancas, Modo de Proceder, fol. 98, 106.

[43] "There was such a conformity of sentiment among all parties," says
Zurita, "that the privileges of the nobility were no better secured than
those of the commons. For the Aragonese deemed that the existence of the
commonwealth depended not so much on its strength, as on its liberties."
(Anales, lib. 4, cap. 38.) In the confirmation of the privilege by James
the Second, in 1325, torture, then generally recognized by the municipal
law of Europe, was expressly prohibited in Aragon, "as unworthy of
freemen." See Zurita, Anales, lib. 6, cap. 61,--and Fueros y Observancias,
tom. i. fol. 9. Declaratio Priv. Generalis.

[44] The patriotism of Blancas warms as he dwells on the illusory picture
of ancient virtue, and contrasts it with the degeneracy of his own day.
"Et vero prisca haec tanta severitas, desertaque illa et inculta vita,
quando dies noctesque nostri armati concursabant, ac in bello et Maurorum
sanguine assidui versabantur; verè quidem parsimoniae, fortitudinis,
temperantiae, caeterarumque virtutum omnium magistra fuit. In quá
maleficia ac scelera, quae nunc in otiosâ hac nostrâ umbratili et delicatâ
gignuntur, gigni non solebant; quinimmo ita tunc aequaliter omnes omni
genere virtutum floruere, ut egregia haec laus videatur non hominum solum,
verum illorum etiam temporum fuisse." Commentarii, p. 340.

[45] It was more frequently referred, both for the sake of expedition, and
of obtaining a more full investigation, to commissioners nominated
conjointly by the cortes and the party demanding redress. The nature of
the _greuges_, or grievances, which might be brought before the
legislature, and the mode of proceeding in relation to them, are
circumstantially detailed by the parliamentary historians of Aragon. See
Berart, Discurso sobre la Celebracion de Cortes, cap. 7.--Capmany,
Práctica y Estilo, pp. 37-44.--Blancas, Modo de Proceder, cap. 14,--and
Martel, Forma de Celebrar Cortes, cap. 54-59.

[46] Blancas, Modo de Proceder, cap. 14.--Yet Peter IV., in his dispute
with the justice Fernandez de Castro, denied this. Zurita, Anales, tom.
ii. fol. 170.

[47] Blancas, Modo de Proceder, ubi supra.

[48] As for example the _ciudadanos honrados_ of Saragossa. (Capmany,
Práctica y Estilo, p. 14.) A _ciudadano honrado_ in Catalonia, and I
presume the same in Aragon, was a landholder, who lived on his rents
without being engaged in commerce or trade of any kind, answering to the
French _propriétaire_. See Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. ii. Apend. no.

[49] Blancas, Modo de Proceder, fol. 102.

[50] Not, however, it must be allowed, without a manly struggle in its
defence, and which, in the early part of Charles V.'s reign, in 1525,
wrenched a promise from the crown, to answer all petitions definitively,
before the rising of cortes. The law still remains on the statute-book,
(Recop. de las Leyes, lib. 6, tit. 7, ley 8,) a sad commentary on the
faith of princes.

[51] Práctica y Estilo, p. 14.

[52] "Y nos tenemos á ellos como buenos vassallos y compañeros."--Zurita,
Anales, lib. 7, cap. 17.

[53] The noun "justicia" was made masculine for the accommodation of this
magistrate, who was styled "_el_ justicia." Antonio Perez, Relaciones,
fol. 91.

[54] Blancas, Commentarii, p. 26.--Zurita, Anales, tom. i. fol. 9.

[55] Molinus, apud Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 343, 344.--Fueros y
Observancias, tom. i. fol. 21, 25.

[56] Blancas, Commentarii, p. 536.--The principal of these jurisdictions
was the royal audience in which the king himself presided in person.
Ibid., p. 355.

[57] Fueros y Observancias, tom. i. fol. 23, 60 et seq., 155, lib. 3, tit.
De Manifestationibus Personarum.--Also fol. 137 et seq., tit. 7, De Firmis
Juris.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 350, 351.--Zurita, Anales, lib. 10, cap.
37.--The first of these processes was styled _firma de derecho_, the
last, _manifestation_. The Spanish writers are warm in their encomiums of
these two provisions. "Quibus duobus praesidiis," says Blancas, "ita
nostrae reipublicae status continetur, ut nulla pars communium fortunarum
tutelâ vacua relinquatur." Both this author and Zurita have amplified the
details respecting them, which the reader may find extracted, and in part
translated, by Mr. Hallam, Middle Ages, vol. ii. pp. 75-77, notes.

When complex litigation became more frequent, the Justice was allowed one,
afterwards two, and at a still later period, in 1528, five lieutenants, as
they were called, who aided him in the discharge of his onerous duties.
Martel, Forma de Celebrar Cortes, Notas de Uztarroz, pp. 92-96.--Blancas,
Commentarii, pp. 361-366.

[58] Ibid., pp. 343, 346, 347.--Idem, Coronaciones, pp. 200, 202.--Antonio
Perez, Relaciones, fol. 92.

Sempere cites the opinion of an ancient canonist, Canellas, bishop of
Huesca, as conclusive against the existence of the vast powers imputed by
later commentators to the Justicia. (Histoire des Cortès, chap. 19.) The
vague, rhapsodical tone of the extract shows it to be altogether
undeserving of the emphasis laid on it; not to add, that it was written
more than a century before the period, when the Justicia possessed the
influence or the legal authority claimed for him by Aragonese writers,--by
Blancas, in particular, from whom Sempere borrowed the passage at second

[59] The law alluded to runs thus: "Ne quid autem damni detrimentive leges
aut libertates nostrae patiantur, judex quidam medius adesto, ad quem a
Rege provocare, si aliquem laeserit, injuriasque arcere si quas forsan
Reipub. intulerit, jus fasque esto." Blancas, Commentarii, p. 26.

[60] Such instances may he found in Zurita, Anales, tom. ii. fol. 385,
414.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 199, 202-206, 214, 225.--When Ximenes
Cerdan, the independent Justice of John I., removed certain citizens from
the prison, in which they had been unlawfully confined by the king, in
defiance equally of that officer's importunities and menaces, the
inhabitants of Saragossa, says Abarca, came out in a body to receive him
on his return to the city, and greeted him as the defender of their
ancient and natural liberties. (Reyes de Aragon, tom. i. fol. 155.) So
openly did the Aragonese support their magistrate in the boldest exercise
of his authority.

[61] This occurred once under Peter III., and twice under Alfonso V.
(Zurita, Anales, tom. iii. fol. 255.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 174, 489,
499.) The Justice was appointed by the king.

[62] Fueros y Observancias, tom. i. fol. 22.

[63] Ibid., tom. i. fol. 25.

[64] Ibid., tom. i. lib. 3, tit. Forum Inquisitionis Officii Just. Arag.,
and tom. ii. fol. 37-41.--Blancas, Commentarii, pp. 391-399.

The examination was conducted in the first instance before a court of four
inquisitors, as they were termed; who, after a patient hearing of both
sides, reported the result of their examination to a council of seventeen,
chosen like them from the cortes, from whose decision there was no appeal.
No lawyer was admitted into this council, lest the law might be distorted
by verbal quibbles, says Blancas. The council, however, was allowed the
advice of two of the profession. They voted by ballot, and the majority
decided. Such, after various modifications, were the regulations
ultimately adopted in 1461, or rather 1467. Robertson appears to have
confounded the council of seventeen with the court of inquisition. See his
History of Charles V., vol. i. note 31.

[65] Probably no nation of the period would have displayed a temperance
similar to that exhibited by the Aragonese at the beginning of the
fifteenth century, in 1412; when the people, having been split into
factions by a contested succession, agreed to refer the dispute to a
committee of judges, elected equally from the three great provinces of the
kingdom; who, after an examination conducted with all the forms of law,
and on the same equitable principles as would have guided the
determination of a private suit, delivered an opinion, which was received
as obligatory on the whole nation.

[66] See Zurita, Anales, lib. 8, cap. 29,--and the admirable sentiments
cited by Blancas from the parliamentary acts, in 1451. Commentarii, p.

From this independent position must be excepted, indeed, the lower classes
of the peasantry, who seem to have been in a more abject state in Aragon
than in most other feudal countries. "Era tan absolute su dominio (of
their lords) que podian mater con hambre, sed, y frio á sus vasallos de
servidumbre." (Asso y Manuel, Instituciones, p. 40,--also Blancas,
Commentarii, p. 309.) These serfs extorted, in an insurrection, the
recognition of certain rights from their masters, on condition of paying a
specified tax; whence the name _villanos de parada_.

[67] Although the legislatures of the different states of the crown of
Aragon were never united in one body when convened in the same town, yet
they were so averse to all appearance of incorporation, that the monarch
frequently appointed for the places of meeting three distinct towns,
within their respective territories and contiguous, in order that he might
pass the more expeditiously from one to the other. See Blancas, Modo de
Proceder, cap. 4.

[68] It is indeed true, that Peter III., at the request of the Valencians,
appointed an Aragonese knight Justice of that kingdom, in 1283. (Zurita,
Anales, tom. i. fol. 281.) But we find no further mention of this officer,
or of the office. Nor have I met with any notice of it in the details of
the Valencian constitution, compiled by Capmany from various writers.
(Práctica y Estilo, pp. 161-208.) An anecdote of Ximenes Cerdan, recorded
by Blancas, (Commentarii, p. 214,) may lead one to infer, that the places
in Valencia, which received the laws of Aragon, acknowledged the
jurisdiction of its Justicia.

[69] Capmany, Práctica y Estilo, pp. 62-214.--Capmany has collected
copious materials, from a variety of authors, for the parliamentary
history of Catalonia and Valencia, forming a striking contrast to the
scantiness of information he was able to glean respecting Castile. The
indifference of the Spanish writers, till very recently, to the
constitutional antiquities of the latter kingdom, so much more important
than the other states of the Peninsula, is altogether inexplicable.

[70] Corbera, Cataluña Illustrada, (Nápoles, 1678,) lib. 1, c. 17.--Petrus
de Marca cites a charter of Raymond Berenger, count of Barcelona, to the
city, as ancient as 1025, confirming its former privileges. See Marca
Hispanica, sive Limes Hispanicus, (Parisiis, 1688,) Apend. no. 198.

[71] Navarrete, Discurso Histórico, apud Mem. de la Acad. de Hist., tom.
v. pp. 81, 82, 112, 113.--Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. i. part. 1,
cap. 1, pp. 4, 8, 10, 11.

[72] Mem. de Barcelona, part. 1, cap. 2, 3.--Capmany has given a register
of the consuls and of the numerous stations, at which they were
established throughout Africa and Europe, in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries, (tom. ii. Apend. no. 23.) These officers during the Middle Ages
discharged much more important duties than at the present day, if we
except those few residing with the Barbary powers. They settled the
disputes arising between their countrymen, in the ports where they were
established; they protected the trade of their own nation with these
ports; and were employed in adjusting commercial relations, treaties, etc.
In short, they filled in some sort the post of a modern ambassador, or
resident minister, at a period when this functionary was only employed on
extraordinary occasions.

[73] Macpherson, Annals of Commerce, (London, 1825,) vol. i. p. 655.--The
woollen manufacture constituted the principal staple of Barcelona.
(Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. i. p. 241.) The English sovereigns
encouraged the Catalan traders by considerable immunities to frequent
their ports during the fourteenth century. Macpherson, ubi supra, pp. 502,
551, 588.

[74] Heeren, Essai sur l'Influence des Croisades, traduit par Villers,
(Paris, 1808,) p. 376.--Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. i. p. 213, also
pp. 170-180.--Capmany fixes the date of the publication of the
_Consulado del Mar_ at the middle of the thirteenth century, under
James I. He discusses and refutes the claims of the Pisans to precedence
in this codification. See his Preliminary Discourse to the Costumbres
Maritimas de Barcelona.

[75] Navagiero, Viaggio, fol. 3.--L. Marineo styles it "the most beautiful
city he had ever seen, or, to speak more correctly, in the whole world."
(Cosas Memorables, fol. 18.) Alfonso V., in one of his ordinances, in
1438, calls it "urbs venerabilis in egregiis templis, tuta ut in optimis,
pulchra in caeteris aedificiis," etc. Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. ii.
Apend. no. 13.

[76] Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, Apend. no. 24.--The senate or great
council, though styled the "one hundred," seems to have fluctuated at
different times between that number and double its amount.

[77] Corbera, Cataluña Illustrada, p. 84.--Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona,
tom. ii. Apend. no. 29.

[78] Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. i. part. 3, p. 40, tom. iii. part.
2, pp. 317, 318.

[79] Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. i. part. 2, p. 187.--tom. ii. Apend.
30.--Capmany says _principal nobleza_; yet it may be presumed that much
the larger proportion of these noble candidates for office was drawn
from the inferior class of the privileged orders, the knights and
hidalgos. The great barons of Catalonia, fortified with extensive
immunities and wealth, lived on their estates in the country, probably
little relishing the levelling spirit of the burghers of Barcelona.

[80] Barcelona revolted and was twice besieged by the royal arms under
John II., once under Philip IV., twice under Charles II., and twice under
Philip V. This last siege, 1713-14, in which it held out against the
combined forces of France and Spain under Marshal Berwick, is one of the
most memorable events in the eighteenth century. An interesting account of
the siege may be found in Coxe's Memoirs of the Kings of Spain of the
House of Bourbon, (London, 1815,) vol. ii. chap. 21.--The late monarch,
Ferdinand VII., also had occasion to feel, that the independent spirit of
the Catalans did not become extinct with their ancient constitution.

[81] Viaggio, fol. 3.

[82] Abarca, Reyes de Aragon, tom. ii. fol. 183.--Zurita, Anales, tom.
iii. lib. 12, cap. 59.--The king turned his back on the magistrates, who
came to pay their respects to him, on learning his intention of quitting
the city. He seems, however, to have had the magnanimity to forgive,
perhaps to admire, the independent conduct of Fiveller; for at his death,
which occurred very soon after, we find this citizen mentioned as one of
his executors. See Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. ii. Apend. 29.

[83] The taxes were assessed in the ratio of one-sixth on Valencia, two-
sixths on Aragon, and three-sixths on Catalonia. See Martel, Forma de
Celebrar Cortes, cap. 71.

[84] See the items specified by Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona, tom. i. pp.
231, 232.

[85] Idem, tom. i. pp. 221, 234.--Capmany states, that the statute of
Alfonso V. prohibited "all foreign ships from taking cargoes in the ports
of his dominions." (See also Colec. Dipl., tom. ii. no. 187.) The object
of this law, like that of the British Navigation Act, was the
encouragement of the national marine. It deviated far, however, from the
sagacious policy of the latter, which imposed no restriction on the
exportation of domestic produce to foreign countries, except, indeed, its
own colonies.

[86] Andres, Dell' Origine, de' Progressi, e dello Stato Attuale d' Ogni
Letteratura, (Venezia, 1783,) part. 1, cap. 11.--Lampillas, Saggio
Storico-Apologetico della Letteratura Spagnuola, (Genova, 1778,) part. 1,
dis. 6, sec. 7.--Andres conjectures, and Lampillas decides, in favor of
Catalonia. _Arcades ambo_; and the latter critic, the worst possible
authority on all questions of national preference.

[87] Velazquez, Orígenes de la Poesía Castellana, (Málaga, 1797,) pp. 20-
22.--Andres, Letteratura, part. 1, cap. 11.--Alfonso II., Peter II., Peter
III, James I., Peter IV., have all left compositions in the Limousin
tongue behind them; the three former in verse; the two latter in prose,
setting forth the history of their own time. For a particular account of
their respective productions, see Latassa, (Escritores Aragoneses, tom. i.
pp. 175-179, 185-189, 222, 224, 242-248; tom. ii. p. 28,) also Lanuza,
(Historias Eclesiásticas y Seculares de Aragon, (Zaragoza, 1622,) tom. i.
p. 553.) The Chronicle of James I. is particularly esteemed for its

[88] Whether Jordi stole from Petrarch, or Petrarch from Jordi, has been
matter of hot debate between the Spanish and French _littérateurs_.
Sanchez, after a careful examination of the evidence, candidly decides
against his countryman, (Poesías Castellanas, tom. i. pp. 81-84.) A
competent critic in the Retrospective Review, (No. 7, art. 2,) who enjoyed
the advantage over Sanchez of perusing a MS. copy of Jordi's original
poem, makes out a very plausible argument in favor of the originality of
the Valencian poet. After all, as the amount stolen, or, to speak more
reverently, borrowed, does not exceed half a dozen lines, it is not of
vital importance to the reputation of either poet.

[89] The abate Andres lamented fifty years ago, that the worms and moths
should be allowed to revel among the precious relics of ancient Castilian
literature. (Letteratura, tom. ii. p. 306.) Have their revels been
disturbed yet?

[90] Mayáns y Siscár, Orígenes de la Lengua Española, (Madrid, 1737,) tom.
ii. pp. 323, 324.--Crescimbeni, Istoria della Volgar Poesia, (Venezia,
1731,) tom. ii. p. 170.--Mariana, Hist. de España, tom. i. p. 183.--
Velazquez, Poesía Castellana, pp. 23, 24.

[91] Mayáns y Siscár, Orígenes, tom. ii. pp. 325-327.

[92] Andres, Letteratura, tom. iv. pp. 85, 86.--Capmany, Mem. de
Barcelona, tom. ii. Apend. no. 16.--There were thirty-two chairs, or
professorships, founded and maintained at the expense of the city; six of
theology; six of jurisprudence; five of medicine; six of philosophy; four
of grammar; one of rhetoric; one of surgery; one of anatomy; one of
Hebrew, and another of Greek. It is singular, that none should have
existed for the Latin, so much more currently studied at that time, and of
so much more practical application always, than either of the other
ancient languages.

[93] The Valencian, "the sweetest and most graceful of the Limousin
dialects," says Mayáns y Siscár, Orígenes, tom. i. p. 58.

[94] Nicolás Antonio, Bibliotheca, Hispana Vetus, (Matriti, 1788,) tom.
ii. p. 146.--Andres, Letteratura, tom. iv. p. 87.

[95] Cervantes, Don Quixote, (ed. de Pellicer, Madrid, 1787,) tom. i, p.
62.--Mendez, Typographia Española, (Madrid, 1796,) pp. 72-75.--Andres,
Letteratura, ubi supra.--Pellicer seems to take Martorell's word in good
earnest, that his book is only a version from the Castilian.

The _names_ of some of the most noted troubadours are collected by
Velazquez, Poesía Castellana, (pp. 20-24.--Capmany, Mem. de Barcelona,
tom. ii. Apend. no. 5.) Some extracts and pertinent criticisms on their
productions may be found by the English reader in the Retrospective
Review. (No. 7, art. 2.) It is to be regretted that the author has not
redeemed his pledge of continuing his notices to the Castilian era of
Spanish poetry.








Revolution of Trastamara.--Accession of John II.--Rise of Alvaro de Luna.
--Jealousy of the Nobles.--Oppression of the Commons.--Its Consequences.--
Early Literature of Castile.--Its Encouragement under John II.--Decline of
Alvaro de Luna.--His Fall.--Death of John II.--Birth of Isabella.

The fierce civil feuds, which preceded the accession of the House of
Trastamara in 1368, were as fatal to the nobility of Castile, as the wars
of the Hoses were to that of England. There was scarcely a family of note,
which had not poured out its blood on the field or the scaffold. The
influence of the aristocracy was, of course, much diminished with its
numbers. The long wars with foreign powers, which a disputed succession
entailed on the country, were almost equally prejudicial to the authority
of the monarch, who was willing to buoy up his tottering title by the most
liberal concession of privileges to the people. Thus the commons rose in
proportion as the crown and the privileged orders descended in the scale;
and, when the claims of the several competitors for the throne were
finally extinguished, and the tranquillity of the kingdom was secured, by
the union of Henry the Third with Catharine of Lancaster at the close of
the fourteenth century, the third estate may be said to have attained to
the highest degree of political consequence which it ever reached in

The healthful action of the body politic, during the long interval of
peace that followed this auspicious union, enabled it to repair the
strength, which had been wasted in its murderous civil contests. The
ancient channels of commerce were again opened; various new manufactures
were introduced, and carried to a considerable perfection; [1] wealth,
with its usual concomitants, elegance and comfort, flowed in apace; and
the nation promised itself a long career of prosperity under a monarch,
who respected the laws in his own person, and administered them with
vigor. All these fair hopes were blasted by the premature death of Henry
the Third, before he had reached his twenty-eighth year. The crown
devolved on his son John the Second, then a minor, whose reign was one of
the longest and the most disastrous in the Castilian annals. [2] As it was
that, however, which gave birth to Isabella, the illustrious subject of
our narrative, it will be necessary to pass its principal features under
review, in order to obtain a correct idea of her government.

The wise administration of the regency, during a long minority, postponed
the season of calamity; and when it at length arrived, it was concealed
for some time from the eyes of the vulgar by the pomp and brilliant
festivities, which distinguished the court of the young monarch. His
indisposition, if not incapacity for business, however, gradually became
manifest; and, while he resigned himself without reserve to pleasures,
which it must be confessed were not unfrequently of a refined and
intellectual character, he abandoned the government of his kingdom to the
control of favorites.

The most conspicuous of these was Alvaro de Luna, grand master of St.
James, and constable of Castile. This remarkable person, the illegitimate
descendant of a noble house in Aragon, was introduced very early as a page
into the royal household, where he soon distinguished himself by his
amiable manners and personal accomplishments. He could ride, fence, dance,
sing, if we may credit his loyal biographer, better than any other
cavalier in the court; while his proficiency in music and poetry
recommended him most effectually to the favor of the monarch, who
professed to be a connoisseur in both. With these showy qualities, Alvaro
de Luna united others of a more dangerous complexion. His insinuating
address easily conciliated confidence, and enabled him to master the
motives of others, while his own were masked by consummate dissimulation.
He was as fearless in executing his ambitious schemes, as he was cautious
in devising them. He was indefatigable in his application to business, so
that John, whose aversion to it we have noticed, willingly reposed on him
the whole burden of government. The king, it was said, only signed, while
the constable dictated and executed. He was the only channel of promotion
to public office, whether secular or ecclesiastical. As his cupidity was
insatiable, he perverted the great trust confided to him to the
acquisition of the principal posts in the government for himself or his
kindred, and at his death is said to have left a larger amount of treasure
than was possessed by the whole nobility of the kingdom. He affected a
magnificence of state corresponding with his elevated rank. The most
considerable grandees in Castile contended for the honor of having their
sons, after the fashion of the time, educated in his family. When he rode
abroad, he was accompanied by a numerous retinue of knights and nobles,
which left his sovereign's court comparatively deserted; so that royalty
might be said on all occasions, whether of business or pleasure, to be
eclipsed by the superior splendors of its satellite. [3] The history of
this man may remind the English reader of that of Cardinal Wolsey, whom he
somewhat resembled in character, and still more in his extraordinary

It may easily be believed, that the haughty aristocracy of Castile would
ill brook this exaltation of an individual so inferior to them in birth,
and who withal did not wear his honors with exemplary meekness. John's
blind partiality for his favorite is the key to all the troubles which
agitated the kingdom during the last thirty years of his reign. The
disgusted nobles organized confederacies for the purpose of deposing the
minister. The whole nation took sides in this unhappy struggle. The heats
of civil discord were still further heightened by the interference of the
royal house of Aragon, which, descended from a common stock with that of
Castile, was proprietor of large estates in the latter country. The
wretched monarch beheld even his own son Henry, the heir to the crown,
enlisted in the opposite faction, and saw himself reduced to the extremity
of shedding the blood of his subjects in the fatal battle of Olmedo. Still
the address, or the good fortune, of the constable enabled him to triumph
over his enemies; and, although he was obliged occasionally to yield to
the violence of the storm and withdraw a while from the court, he was soon
recalled and reinstated in all his former dignities. This melancholy
infatuation of the king is imputed by the writers of that age to sorcery
on the part of the favorite. [4] But the only witchcraft which he used,
was the ascendency of a strong mind over a weak one.

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