It is rare to find a historical period in Spain that is not the object of discussion or self-interested distortion of the facts. Rare is it lately to find two Spaniards agreeing on something However, the Golden Age, the origin of the Black Legend against Spain and an uncomfortable obstacle to explaining the greatness of the Bourbon Reforms that were to come, has all the cards to be the culmination of errors, myths, and topics about the history of this country. Isabel, I did not sell her jewels for Columbus Legend has it that Isabel la Catolica, Queen of a poor and austere country, had to sell even her jewels to finance the adventure of a mysterious Genoese who, only after being rejected by France, England, and Portugal, ended up in a place as gloomy as the Spain of the Catholic Monarchs. That jewelry sale allowed the Italian, a true genius of navigation (so genius that, had it been true that he was heading to Asia, he would have led 90 men to their deaths, 85 of them Castilians), to discover a new continent and water of gold and slaves, Castilla.
This vision straight out of the Black Legend makes several mistakes. The first is that the anecdote of the jewelry sale is false. It was Hernando Colon himself, the navigator’s son, who is “The Admiral’s Story” launched the picturesque story in which the Catholic queen appears offering to pawn her jewels to finance the Columbian voyage. A very beautiful image that Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas collected in his “General History of the Indies.” Although Fernando and Isabel la Catolica at that time indeed had their finances focused on the war in Granada, three caravels were not a Herculean effort. It is rare to find a historical period in Spain that is not the object of discussion or self-interested distortion of the facts. Rare is it lately to find two Spaniards agreeing on something However, the Golden Age, the origin of the Black Legend against Spain and an uncomfortable obstacle to explaining the greatness of the Bourbon Reforms that were to come, has all the cards to be the culmination of errors, myths, and topics about the history of this country.
Legend has it that Isabel la Catolica, Queen of a poor and austere country, had to sell even her jewels to finance the adventure of a mysterious Genoese who, only after being rejected by France, England, and Portugal, ended up in a place as gloomy as the Spain of the Catholic Monarchs. That jewelry sale allowed the Italian, a true genius of navigation (so genius that, had it been true that he was heading to Asia, he would have led 90 men to their deaths, 85 of them Castilians), to discover a new continent and water of gold and slaves, Castilla. This vision straight out of the Black Legend makes several mistakes. The first is that the anecdote of the jewelry sale is false. It was Hernando Colón himself, the navigator’s son, who is “The Admiral’s Story” launched the picturesque story in which the Catholic queen appears offering to pawn her jewels to finance the Columbian voyage. A very beautiful image that Fray Bartolome de Las Casas collected in his “General History of the Indies.” Although Fernando and Isabel la Católica at that time indeed had their finances focused on the war in Granada, three caravels were not a Herculean effort.
In this sense, the Spanish economy did not collapse as a result of the expulsion but precisely coincided with the enormous benefits that the Discovery and colonization of America brought to Castile. Starting with the fact that the true number of those who came to leave the country was much lower than that proclaimed by the black legend and the expulsion mainly affected the lower classes, those who had the least to lose if they did not convert. to Christianity. In times of the Catholic Monarchs, always according to approximate data, the Jews represented 5% of the population of their kingdoms with about 200,000 people. Of all these affected by the edict, 50,000 never left the peninsula because they converted to Christianity and a third returned within a few months claiming to have been baptized abroad. Some historians have even affirmed that only 20,000 inhabitants left permanently, among whom were not those qualified as “talents of science and money”, who in their majority accepted the conversion.
3rd Charles V was not German.The Habsburg family has its most remote origin in the former Duchy of Swabia, a German-speaking region of what is now Switzerland. From there they extended their influence to Austria, the epicenter of their royal power, and managed to seize the imperial dignity, which was a nominal rather than effective position. In this ascent towards the European scepter, at the end of the 15th century the Habsburgs linked with another powerful family, the House of Burgundy, through the marriage of the future Maximilian I with Maria de Borgona, daughter of the mythical monarch Carlos “El Temerario.
Charles of Ghent, born and raised in what is now Belgium, was heir to these two traditions. As would happen to Felipe II when he traveled to the Netherlands at the beginning of his reign without knowing hardly any French, Carlos was received with considerable suspicion among the Spanish nobility when he was proclaimed King of Castile and then of Aragon because of his inability to express himself in their language beyond the formal greeting. The problem was repeated in Germany when he disputed and obtained the election as Emperor of the Holy German Empire. Carlos had never set foot in this territory and understood very little German. Moreover, it was a language that he could not fully master, as evidenced by the fact that in his speeches in front of German leaders he preferred to speak in French.
The expression “lasts longer than the work of the Escorial” is commonly used to define an endless undertaking, which takes longer than expected. Unfair reference to the works that Felipe II ordered and supervised in each of its details to build “the eighth wonder of the world”, the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, residence, and the tomb of the Monarch. The reality is that one of the largest buildings of its time was completed in just 35 years to the great amazement of European travelers. The Venetian ambassador defined it as “superior to any other building in the world today”, while the Lucca ambassador defined it as “the largest and best-arranged factory in Europe.”
In total, the older worker calculated that the King had spent six and a half million ducats to finish the building The works as such ended officially in September 1584 with the opening of the basilica, after only 21 years, although they lasted for another ten years in other rooms. In full view, Felipe II cried while attending the consecration of the basilica, after which the workers began to dismantle the scaffolding and wooden cranes. According to Fray Antonio de Villacastín, a senior worker at the temple, “1,500 construction officers, and as many laborers, 300 ox carts and mules” had worked, as a rule, earning 10,000 ducats a month in the key years of the work. In all, the older worker estimated that the King had spent six and a half million ducats to finish the building.
Black as a symbol of elegance, Due to the eagerness to give the Spanish Kings a sinister and fanatical air, the emphasis is usually placed on their dark wardrobe and the sobriety of their court. The first thing that should be clarified in this sense is that it is not true that kings like Felipe II always dressed in black there are several representations of him with colors as bright as white or blue. The second thing that can be said is that black was, for economic reasons, a color linked to elegance, and not fanaticism. In a time when synthetic dyes did not exist, the two most difficult, and therefore most expensive, colors to obtain were red and black.
The access in America to natural dyes such as the Campeche wood, a tree typical of the Yucatan, or the cochineal, a parasite that when crushed give rise to a pure red, placed the Spanish notables in a privileged position when it comes to dressing up in luxury. The Habsburg dynasty thus adopted at court the style of great sobriety, characterized by the use of these colors and tight-fitting garments, without wrinkles or folds and a rigid appearance, especially in women who wore executioner or infants (a hollow skirt composed of a frame of wires or wood). This style was extremely uncomfortable for women, who needed hours to dress. However, the rigorous appearance, in dark tones, incorporated some colored details such as gold chains or the cross of some order. And in the case of women, some more concessions in the form of accessories were allowed.
This fashion quickly spread throughout Europe, under the name of “dressing in the Spanish”, especially in Holland, France, Flanders, and England. Felipe II maintained the aesthetics proposed by his father but added the traditional ruffle with which the Monarch appears in all his portraits. The ruffle was a gathered or folded ornament used by men and women around the neck that was already used in central Europe since the Middle Ages. And, by the direct influence of the Spanish Empire, other garments were popularized as capes, corsets, and infant guards.
Yes there were slaves in America,The Spanish Crown tried since the time of Isabel La Católica, who repeatedly insisted that the Indians be treated “very well and with affection”, to avoid any method of the enslavement of the inhabitants of America. His efforts were limited by the impossibility of imposing his power so many kilometers away and by practical reasons. However, the Crown managed to put forward a series of laws to protect the Indians that were unprecedented in any other similar process in those centuries, but that did not even manage to end certain discriminations (in New Spain, for example, the Indians were prohibited from riding horseback riding or using firearms) nor did it mean that slavery completely disappeared from America. The encomiendas were still disguised slavery, not to mention the African slaves, so necessary as labor in the New World.
From the mid-15th century, Portugal began to capture groups of slaves on the African coast and sell them, among other European countries, to the Spanish kingdoms. The Portuguese Crown was made in 1455 with the rights of this trade by papal bull and, with it, a millionaire business in America was guaranteed. The first Africans would arrive in 1502 and, eight years later, the Crown authorized the shipment of 250 slaves to Hispaniola. Only a century later, it is estimated that 100,000 would have been sent to the American continent, although, according to the British historian Eric Hobsbawm, the figure could reach one million in the sixteenth century, three million in the seventeenth and during the eighteenth century 7 million if both the north and the south are computed.
Their labors ranged from domestic chores to be auxiliary to the conquerors in combat. Faced with the uniform image of bearded and white conquerors making their way across the continent, the reality was much more diverse. Apart from the Indians who were allied with the Spanish, the conquerors included in their ranks both slaves and free men of the black race. At that time, the chronicles distinguished between “ladino” or “Castilian” slaves, that is, those who had lived in the Peninsula for at least a year before going to America, and “bozales” or “Guinea slaves. “Or” from Cape Verde “, those recently taken from their own countries and who was” unfaithful.
Not surprisingly, Spanish law and customs guaranteed slaves certain rights and protections that are not found in other slavery systems. They had the right to personal safety and legal mechanisms by which they could escape the abuses of their masters. They were allowed to own and transfer property and initiate legal proceedings, which would lead to the “right to self-purchase.” This legislation laxer than other powers caused that some border cities with the British colonies ended up becoming a refuge for slaves. Well, known is the case of La Florida, whose first stable settlement was founded in 1565 by Menendez de Aviles.
The Great Armada was not a military defeat, The so-called Invincible Armada by British propaganda serves as the founding myth of the Anglican nation, hence a large number of lies and half-truths with which this stumbling block of Philip II has been adorned, which was not a military defeat as such. but rather an operational failure that resulted in the loss of a small part of the fleet on the way home. Far from the widespread myth, the mission of the King’s fleet was not to invade England but to contact the troops of Flanders, commanded by Alexander Farnese, to transfer them to the other side of the Channel, which was not achieved. Once the fleet left Flanders it was condemned to skirt Ireland without the proper cartography or means. Bad weather caused the small damage caused by the British to turn into subsidence.
Agustín Ramón Rodriguez Gonzalez and other modern researchers reduce the figure to 35 lost units, many of them “small tonnage”Most of the sinkings and shipwrecks were caused by the adverse elements, and not by the English (responsible for only four losses), as the phrase that Baltasar Porreno put in the mouth of Felipe II 40 years after the defeat clearly shows, I did not send my ships to fight the elements. In any case, only a third of the 130 ships (19 galleons, 45 merchants, 25 orcas, 4 galleasses, and some 33 light units) that left Spain was lost.
The exact number of damaged ships is difficult to remove because the return was carried out in a disorderly way and to different ports. The estimate of 60 units proposed by Fernández Duro to amend the British exaggerations suffered from important errors, beginning because he considered the ships that separated from the main squadron as definitive losses. Agustin Ramon Rodriguez Gonzalez and other modern researchers reduce the figure to 35 units, many of them small tonnage.
Piracy did not hinder trade. The idea that trade between America and Spain was repeatedly interrupted by pirates is a myth without documentary support. Between 1540 and 1650 – the period with the greatest flow in the transport of gold and silver – of the 11,000 Spanish ships that made the America-Spain route, 519 ships were lost, the majority due to storms and other reasons of a natural nature. Only 107 did so due to pirate attacks, that is, less than 1%, according to the calculations exposed by Fernando Martínez Laínez in his book Tercios de Espana: ‘Una infantry legendaria’.A 1% failure in an almost impregnable transport system, the Fleet of the Indies, which was one of the great logistical milestones of its time, later copied in the two world wars by the British, has led to a zillion movies and novels about piracy and the alleged deeds of those who dedicated themselves to “scorching the beard of the King of Spain.
Historian German Vazquez Chamorro, the author of the book ‘Mujeres Piratas’ (Algaba Ediciones), downplays the influence that piracy could have in the process of decline of the Spanish Empire. In his opinion, the most famous pirates raised to fame, especially by English literature and propaganda, actually attacked fishing boats or boats of little or no value to the Spanish Crown. In fact, the enemies of Spain dispensed with allying with the pirates when they discovered other methods to gain ground from this empire. Thus, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, all nations conspired to mercilessly hunt down and punish pirates.
The Spanish did not take all the gold,The star argument of those who accuse Spain of the poverty of its ancient lands is that the Europeans took all the gold and left behind a poor land. The extraction of precious metals was a priority objective during the conquest of America, between 1503 and 1660, it is estimated that some 185,000 kilos of gold and seventeen million kilos of silver arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, from the New World. The figure may seem very high, but it only represents a small part of the still existing American reserves. According to the CEIC website, dedicated to macroeconomic data, Mexico extracted an amount of 110,000 kilograms of gold last year, and Peru, 130,000. The same can be said of silver.
What Spain extracted in 150 years is what, according to CEIC records, Peru has produced only in the last five years. Metal remittances helped the Habsburgs to finance their wars and their palaces, but they had a negative impact on the Castilian economy and hampered industrial development. “The fact that there is no money, gold or silver in Spain is because of having it and not being rich is because of being so,” Martin Gonzalez de Cellorigo correctly stated already in those years. With the passage of time, most of the gold and silver did not even reach Spanish soil, being the bankers of northern Europe and Genoa its main beneficiaries.
The Tercios were a multinational force. A persistent nineteenth-century myth depicts the Spanish Tercios, the Habsburgs’ 16th-century elite unit, as patriotic warriors fighting for the Spanish nation and its religion. The main motivation of these professionals, who rarely fought on Iberian soil (the wars in Portugal, Catalonia, defense of the border with France, Rebellion of the Alpujarras, and little else, was money over the defense of one territory or another. The mere study of the nationalities of this infantry suggests that the Spanish made up the elite, yes, but a minority, within a multinational force.
Different studies have highlighted that the Spaniards represented only 16.7 percent on average of the soldiers who fought under the reign of Charles V. With regard to the armies that took part in the war in Flanders displaced from Italy, already in the reign of Felipe II, 14.4 percent were Spanish. Castile’s demographic problems, however, further decreased the percentage of Spaniards late in the seventeenth century. At the Battle of Nördlingen, Philip IV financed an army of 12,000 men that was greeted with cheers of “Long live Spain!” by the German forces of Ferdinand of Hungary, although, in reality, only 3,200 were Spanish (about 7 percent of the total imperial forces).
In addition to those from the Iberian Peninsula, with an overwhelming proportion of Castilians, the main regions that made up the armies of the Spanish Habsburgs were Walloons (the Catholic soldiers of the Netherlands), Germans, and Italians. The chronicler Zubiaurre described the Walloons as “good soldiers and the cheapest.” The Germans were praised for being patient and willing in fortification tasks, but their mercenary character and lack of spirit in assaults were criticized.
Philip IV was not a stunned King, Neither stunned, nor Austria less, nor libertine king, the historian Alfredo Alvar Ezquerra demonstrated a few years ago in his biography of ‘Felipe IV: El Grande’ (The Sphere of Books) that the negative image of the Spanish monarch was built in the Enlightenment and he used stereotypes that do not conform to reality. Despite imagining him as someone frivolous, only concerned with having fun, we must not forget that the King ruled directly for 22 years over the largest known empire. Beyond his political role, marked by the earthquake that led to the 30 Years War, Felipe IV maintained an astonishing cultural profile that elevates him as the most cultivated King in Spanish history. As a young man, he was a good student, educated, lover of History, Theology, Law, Music, and languages. Art, theater, and poetry attracted him, to the point that he painted and wrote fluently.
The King personally translated Italian works, wrote studies on the education of princes, composed plays, read desperately, and passionately loved painting. Over the years, he became one of the greatest paint collectors of his time, with important collections by Titian, Rubens, Jose de Ribera, and Velazquez, among others. The reign of Carlos II was marked by the health problems of the Monarch, whose consanguinity coefficient reached 0.25 percent, the equivalent of the fruit of a relationship between a father and a daughter, or between a brother and a sister. His physical and mental problems were a consequence of the marriage policy that the Habsburgs had carried out for more than a century and made his chain more valid than any of his predecessors. Not surprisingly, the more the reign is studied in detail, the more clearly it is seen that the King, whose figure was deformed, even more, if possible, by French propaganda, laid the foundations for the recovery of his kingdoms in the midst of a perfect storm. international level.
While the Spanish Empire had to face more enemies than ever, the tumult of valid people gave rise to a reign that, at times, faced from a long-term perspective the internal problems that gripped the peninsula since the time of the so-called Greater Austria. Especially the Duke of Medinacelli and the Count of Oropesa launched structural reforms that, although they were not visible until years later, contributed to the Spanish economy and demography finally raising their heads.
Castilian agriculture showed positive signs during these years, experiencing a ruralization process that cut the demographic drain that began in the days of Felipe II. A sangria from which the ecclesiastical population was exempt. Spain was increasingly a country of nuns, priests, and fanatics: if in 1620 there were approximately 100,000 ecclesiastics; in 1660, the number exceeded 180,000.