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In what is sometimes called the age of absolutism, Castilian nobles and commoners, tribunals
and towns, were to a considerable degree able to resist and shape royal commands. Whilst
there was little open conflict, there was sometimes a surprising amount of autonomy, rights,
and reciprocity on the part of the king's vassals. This is a study of one such form of
resistance: the opposition to military levies.
This opposition took place during a period of crisis, during the 1630s and 1640s, when the
crown's need to raise an army came into conflict with a notion of kingship that was far from
absolute. From the king's advisory councils to the Cortes, from city councils and seigneurial
estates to the most humble villages, Castilians had recourse to a wide range of political and
jursidictional means with which to dispute the king's claims and avoid conscription. They
were not always successful, but the assurance with which they addressed the Crown reveals a
society in which many people had a great deal to say about the definition and use of political
RUTH MACKAY was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz, at Stanford
University, and at the University of California, Berkeley. This is her first book.


Edited by Professor Sir John Elliott, University of Oxford
Professor Olwen Hufton, University of Oxford
Professor H. G. Koenigsberger, University of London
Dr. H. M. Scott, University of St. Andrews

The idea of an "early modern" period of European history from the fifteenth to the late
eighteenth century is now widely accepted among historians. The purpose of Cambridge
Studies in Early Modern History is to publish monographs and studies which illuminate the
character of the period as a whole, and in particular focus attention on a dominant theme
within it, the interplay of continuity and change as they are presented by the continuity of
medieval ideas, political and social organization, and by the impact of new ideas, new
methods, and new demands on the traditional structure.
For a list of titles published in the series, please see end of the book

The Limits of Royal Authority

Resistance and Obedience in Seventeenth-Century Castile




Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo
Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
www. c ambridge. org
Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521643436
Ruth MacKay 1999
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 1999
This digitally printed first paperback version 2006
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data
MacKay, Ruth.
The limits of royal authority: resistance and obedience in
seventeenth-century Castile/Ruth MacKay.
p. cm. - (Cambridge studies in early modern history)
ISBN 0 521 64343 0 (hardback)
1. Power (Social sciences) - Spain - Castile - History - 17th century.
2. Prerogative, Royal - Spain - Castile - History - 17th century.
3. Spain Armed Forces Recruiting, enlistment, etc. History 17th
century. I. Title. II. Series.
HN590.C36M33 1999
303.3*09463 - dc21 98-38428
ISBN-13 978-0-521-64343-6 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-64343-0 hardback
ISBN-13 978-0-521-03363-3 paperback
ISBN-10 0-521-03363-2 paperback

There is no more encouraging spectacle for a

historian than a people that has decided it will no
longer fight and that, without fuss, returns home.
Richard Cobb


page xi


Recruitment and royal authority


Making soldiers of townsmen


War, lords, and vassals


Common claims











In writing this book, I benefitted from the knowledge of some of the finest
contemporary scholars of Early Modern Spain, and it is a great pleasure to thank
them for their generosity: J. H. Elliott, Richard Herr, Richard Kagan, Geoffrey
Parker, I. A. A. Thompson, and Bartolome Yun Casalilla read part or all of the
manuscript, offering advice, correcting my errors, and encouraging me.
Thomas A. Brady, Jr. and Peter Sahlins read the dissertation on which the book
is based. Research funding came from the Mellon Foundation, the University of
California at Berkeley, and the Program for Cultural Cooperation Between Spain's
Ministry of Culture and United States' Universities. Small but essential bits and
pieces of historical information came from Paul Allen, James Boyden, Sarah Nalle,
and Lorraine White. The chart in the Introduction and the map were created by
Doug Griswold.
Archivists throughout Castile helped me locate the thousands of documents that
tell this tale of resistance and obedience; I especially must thank Isabel Aguirre and
Jose Luis Rodriguez de Diego, of the Archivo General de Simancas, and Mariano
Garcia, of the Archivo Muncipal de Toledo.
The epigraph is from Richard Cobb, The Police and the People (Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 97.
My colleagues at the San Jose Mercury News have granted me several leaves of
absence which have enabled me to write, teach, and research. They also have taught
me the value of a clear sentence.
Though I'm not sure this book is the best way to repay personal debts,
nonetheless: to Javier Alvarez Dorronsoro, Michael Hannigan, and Kelly MacKay
- this is for you.


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This is a study about resistance and obedience in mid-seventeenth-century Castile

and the nature of the state that people were either resisting or obeying. Usually they
were doing both, and that, in large part, is the point: Resistance was framed by the
language of obedience; indeed, few of the figures in this study would have admitted
they were resisting authority. Much of the study concerns institutions, for it was
the tools of litigation, jurisdiction, and legal precedent that enabled individuals and
corporations successfully to resist the Crown. The very structures of old-regime
Castile provided them with the means for challenging royal orders.
The study uses military recruitment as a means with which to analyze the
relationship between ruler and ruled, between the king and his kingdom, between
rey and reino. It argues that the nature of this relationship posed both an enormous
obstacle to the centralization and administration usually thought necessary for
raising an army, whilst it also provided individuals and corporate institutions with
sufficient rights and capacities to dissuade them from rebelling, thus contributing
to the survival, despite all odds, of a system of rule sometimes regarded as having
been in perpetual decline.
The common good, one of the fundamental measures of law in early modern
Spain, assumed the coexistence of authority and liberty and required that both king
and kingdom be accountable to that criterion. "As observance of the law does not
diminish the majesty and power of rulers, neither does obedience toward kings
diminish a people's liberty," contemporary theorist Calixto Ramirez wrote. A more
celebrated writer, Bartolome de las Casas, went even further: "Citizens are not
under the power of the sovereign, they are under the power of the law."1 In that
spirit, the laws of medieval and early modern Spain, updated in Philip II's Nueva
Recopilacion, specified that royal commands contrary to divine and natural law, or
against conscience, the church, or the faith; or uttered in anger, were of no force.
Commands contrary to established law and legal principles, to privileges, to the
common good, or to specific laws, unless expressly excepted, were not to be obeyed

Luciano Perena, introduction to Francisco Suarez, De iuramentofidelitatis (Madrid: CSIC, 1979), 138.

The Limits of Royal Authority

until confirmed.2 In such a case - and this study is full of such cases - recipients of a
royal command replied with a variant of the formula, "Obedezcase, pero no se
cumpla" (to be obeyed, but not put into effect, or complied with) and appealed the
command to the Council of Castile. While they were awaiting the council's reply,
the command did not have to be carried out. The king's subjects could obey while
not complying, and the king was not above the law, despite the formula he often
used when issuing orders: "of my own accord, in full knowledge, and with absolute
royal power which we hereby wish to use, and we use, as King and natural Lord,
recognizing no temporal superior . . . " 3
Closely related to this belief in the supremacy of law is the notion of vassalage.
Castile did not have a feudal tradition similar to that of other European nations but
nonetheless acquired some of the vocabulary of feudalism, including "vassal"
(vasallo). A person could be a vassal of a lord and owe him certain duties or
payments, but one was also a vassal of the king, as, indeed, was the lord himself.
One could also be the vassal of a superior and owe him nothing more than vague
allegiance and loyalty. It seems that the closest and best translation of this status,
which all Castilians shared, is "subject" (siibdito), so memorably described by
Thomas A. Brady as "the inert subsoil of the absolutist state." Indeed, Maria
Moliner has defined a vassal, "in historical language, [as] the subject of a sovereign," a definition also accepted by Jose Antonio Maravall, who, in his study of the
development of the state, writes that by the seventeenth century "vassal" had come
to mean "subject."4
What has come to be known as Spanish absolutism did not conform to any of our
available models, which leads me to suggest not that Spain was an exception but,
rather, that the models are deficient. The seventeenth-century Spanish monarchy
was a hybrid of elements - localism and centralization; representation and autocracy; traditional aristocracy and modern state-builders; order and improvisation.
This was the condition not just of the entire Spanish monarchy, what J. H. Elliott
has called a "composite monarchy," but of Castile itself, and there was no

The formula dates from the fourteenth century; the Cortes used it often in the fifteenth century to
oppose royal incursions into municipal affairs. It was also used in Spain's American colonies. I. A. A.
Thompson, "Castile: Policy, fiscality, and fiscal crisis," Philip T. Hoffman and Kathryn Norberg,
eds., Fiscal Crises, Liberty, and Representative Government 1450i?8g (Stanford University Press,
1994), 148; Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso, "La formula 'obedezcase, pero no se cumpla' en el derecho
castellano de la baja edad media," in Anuario de historia del derecho espanol, 50 (1980); A. Garcia Gallo,
"La ley como fuente del derecho en Indias en el siglo XVI," Anuario de historia del derecho espanol,
212, 1951-2.

"de mi propio motu, cierta ciencia y poderio real absoluto de que en esta parte queremos usar, y
usamos, como Rey y Senor natural, no reconociente superior en lo temporal. . ." See Helen Nader,
"'The more communes, the greater the king': Hidden Communes in Absolutist Theory," Peter
Blickle, ed., Theorien kommunaler ordnung in Europa (Munich, 1996) for a discussion of this formula,
which first appeared in Castile in the mid-fifteenth century.
Thomas A. Brady, Jr. Turning Swiss (Cambridge University Press, 1985), 230; "En lenguaje historico,
subdito de un soberano," Diccionario del Uso del Espanol (Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1967); Jose
Antonio Maravall, Estado modernoy mentalidad social, (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1986), vol. 1, 420.

perceptible, unidirectional movement by the Crown toward sorting out such an
inappropriate combination.5 The king and his ministers had to impose enormous
financial and manpower demands on society without unduly threatening the
privileges and rights which all sectors - nobles, cities, magistrates, even peasants regarded as theirs. Flexibility was therefore of the essence, as it should be, too,
when considering the definition, development, and workings of that system of rule
so inadequately known as absolutism.
A study of this kind, which sets out to redefine analytical concepts, runs up
against an immediate problem, which is what to call those things whose name and
definition we are rejecting. The form of rule in seventeenth-century Castile was not
absolute in any sense, and contemporaries would never have described it as such,
yet the term will not go away. Phenomena such as the rise of the state, the creation
of armies, and the development of a fiscal system have come to be identified with
"absolutism" despite the fact that historians are increasingly rejecting the term. So
I try to avoid the word, but it is sometimes inevitable. It may not be a good word,
but we generally know what we mean by it.
A more difficult question of terminology is what to do with "resistance."
Objectively speaking, I believe Philip IV's subjects were resisting his authority by
evading military service. However, precisely because of the non-absolute nature of
that royal authority, they were not compelled to resist in a manner that would
threaten the structures of civil society. They could couch their actions in words of
obedience, they could appeal to the king's mercy and justice, they could demand, in
short, that he behave as a king should behave by granting them favors. They could
negotiate, and the very terms they used in negotiations both reaffirmed the
differences between ruler and ruled and allowed the latter to exercise their rights.
"Resistance" was a term contemporaries reserved for acts committed against
tyranny, and clearly draft evasion fell short of that. The actions described in this
study include insistence, delay, pleading, squirming, and obstinacy, all of which
contemporaries might have described as obedience. That said, I still choose to call
this behavior, as a whole, resistance, but the reader must realize that I am using the
term as we use it today.
Historians have gradually abandoned the assumption that there was a necessary
opposition between monarchy and commonwealth. Their focus has shifted from
domination to consensus. Kings and estates could and did work together as
partners, and the estates were often not as docile as they were believed to have been.
The seventeenth-century Castilian Cortes is an obvious case. Opposition to royal
authority throughout Europe, it turns out, took place in unexpected places and in
unexpected ways. Recent studies about the relationship between king and subject
in seventeenth-century Europe generally have examined either the monarch and

J. H. Elliott, "A Europe of Composite Monarchies," Past and Present, 137, November 1992. Elliott
treats Spain's efforts to manage its fragmented empire but not the internal disaggregation and
contradictions of Castile.

The Limits ofRoyal Authority

the estates or the monarch and the nobility. Patronage and clientage, and the
distribution of wealth and favors among the elites, both in the center and in the
periphery, have demonstrated the extent to which the monarch had to bargain for
his power.
This study goes one step further. It argues that such bargaining extended to the
commoners. As nobles and municipal corporations countered the king's demands
with their own, reminding the king that such negotiation was part of the very
nature of their relationship, the inhabitants of cities, villages, and seigneurial estates
did the same. I further suggest that corporate opposition was to some extent
motivated by pressure from below. Vassals were subjects, they had rights, and they
could fight on their own. Kings did not have to contend just with estates and
ambitious nobles; they also had to answer to men and women who did not equate
their own humble status with powerlessness.

The remarkable thing about Spain, its army, and its empire, is that it managed to
survive the period described in this study. Like that mad, obstinate knight in Monty
Python and the Holy Grail who kept flailing away at his enemies even as his limbs
were being chopped off, Spain survived. As armies and empires do not generally
survive through luck, there must be some other explanation. I propose that it lies in
part in the monarchy's unfailing capacity to improvise, a capacity in part born of
necessity but also as a result of the way in which the king's vassals understood royal
authority and the location of political power. Despite all odds, the Spanish military
prevailed, decisive defeat after decisive defeat.7
The diplomatic events leading up to the crisis of the 1630s and 1640s began in
1621 with the expiration of Spain's Twelve-Year Truce with the Netherlands.
Most of Philip Ill's advisers, though not all, believed the truce should not be
renewed, as Dutch commercial and naval influence in America and Asia, which had
been allowed to prosper during the twelve years, was becoming increasingly
dangerous. Two days before his death, in March 1621, Philip III ordered that the
Dutch were to be treated as enemies upon the truce's expiration.8
At the same time as Spain debated what to do about the Netherlands, Baltasar de
Zuftiga, the dominant figure in Philip Ill's Council of State, was advocating

Antonio Machado, "Orillas del Duero," Antologia poetica (Salvat, 1969), 80.
See Robert Stradling, "Seventeenth-Century Spain: Decline or Survival?" and "Catastrophe and
Recovery: The Defeat of Spain, 163943," i n h' s Spain's Strugglefor Europe 15981668 (London: The
Hambledon Press, 1994). Throughout this introduction, the word "Spain" describes, more or less,
the geographic area of present-day Spain and the political and diplomatic actions of the Spanish
Habsburg monarchs.
Geoffrey Parker, The Dutch Revolt (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 263-6; Jonathan Israel, "Olivares,
the Cardinal-Infante and Spain's Strategy in the Low Countries (1635-1643): The Road to Rocroi,"
Richard L. Kagan and Geoffrey Parker, eds., Spain, Europe and the Atlantic World: Essays in honour of
John H. Elliott (Cambridge University Press, 1995).

sending troops to Vienna to assist Emperor Ferdinand. If the Protestants were to
defeat the Empire, he reasoned, the Catholic Netherlands and Italy would be in
danger. The Habsburg alliance, the MadridVienna axis, must be defended at all
costs. A few troops were sent to Vienna in 1618, 12,000 more moved to Bohemia
and Germany in 1619, and then, in 1620, 20,000 veteran Spanish troops from the
Army of Flanders, under the command of Ambrosio Spinola, occupied the Palatinate. "From the basic premise of defense in the Low Countries the rest of Spanish
foreign policy flowed with a remorseless logic," John Lynch has written. "To
prevent the isolation of the Low Countries Spain was led to intervention in
Germany, a break with England, conflict in northern Italy and eventually war with
The crisis of the Mantuan succession was the next event which would set the
stage for far greater military entanglements. It forced Philip IV to address the
familiar and crucial choice between Flanders and Italy: whether it was wiser to
invest men and money in defending lands he was likely to lose anyway, or if he
should bolster Spain's position in Italy and thus, it was hoped, hold off France.
Louis XIII, occupied with the Huguenots, was unable to help his ally, the duke of
Nevers, who was heir to the Mantuan duchy. Philip IV took advantage of the
French absence by ordering the Spanish army of Milan to lay siege to the strategic
stronghold of Casale. The issue then became who would hold out longer - the
Huguenots in La Rochelle or the Mantuans in Casale. The former finally surrendered in October 1628, enabling the French army to march to Italy to relieve
Casale. Six months later, Spain was forced to recognize Nevers.
Intervention in Mantua, motivated by Spain's fear of France, has been termed by
the Count-Duke of Olivares' biographer to have been "the most serious mistake" of
the Count-Duke's political career, and Philip later said it was the only unjust war of
his reign.10 It was expensive, it had taken men away from Flanders, it had angered
Spain's allies and the pope, and it had given a victory to France. Meanwhile, the
course of what would be the Thirty Years' War drew Spain in further: Swedish
gains in the Palatinate, still a Spanish stronghold, and renewed French threats
pushed Spain to assemble an army under the command of the king's brother, the
Cardinal Infante Ferdinand. The result was a crushing defeat for the Swedes at
Nordlingen in September 1634. The Spaniards raided Trier on 26 March 1635 and
captured the elector, and on 29 May a French herald announced in Brussels that
' John Lynch, Spain under the Habsburgs, 2nd edn (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1981), vol. 2, 75.
J. H. Elliott, Richelieu and Olivares (Cambridge University Press, 1984), 95, passim; R. A. Stradling,
"Olivares and the Origins of the Franco-Spanish War, 1627-1635," English Historical Review, 101,
(January 1986), 75. See also Elliott's The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age ofDecline
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), ch. 9. An earlier study that also described the Mantuan
war as the beginning of the end for Spanish military diplomacy is M. Fernandez Alvarez, Don
Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba y la guerra de sucesion de Mantua y del Monferrato, 1627-29 (Madrid,
1955); for the economic effects of the Mantuan intervention and the crown's efforts to raise money for
the coming war with France, see Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, Politicay hacienda de Felipe /F(Madrid:
Editorial de Derecho Financiero, i960), 3749.


The Limits of Royal Authority

France was declaring war to avenge the King of Spain's unlawful detention of a
sovereign prince. The war would be concluded only in 1659, with the signing of the
Treaty of the Pyrenees.
Two more wars, the 1640 revolts of Catalonia and Portugal, were to occupy
Spain during the period covered by this study. The late 1630s brought a series of
military disasters: In October 1637 the Dutch recaptured Breda; in July 1638 the
French laid siege to the Basque town of Fuenterrabia, which would eventually be
recovered, at enormous expense, by the Admiral of Castile; and in October 1639 the
fleet of Antonio de Oquendo was destroyed in the battle of the Downs. The Crown
desperately needed men and money, which Castile could no longer furnish on its
own, but there was serious resistance in Catalonia to providing either. Already in
the 1620s the Corts, its representative assembly, had refused Philip's requests for
money, arguing that they violated Catalonia's traditional constitutional liberties.
Nor, as Spain's first line of defense against the French, was Catalonia a very sturdy
ally. Olivares' response to this uneasy situation was to move the French front to
Catalonia itself, thus forcing Catalonia to participate. The tremendous loss of lives
during the subsequent French siege of the fortress of Salces - an estimated
one-quarter of the principality's nobility died there - proved Olivares' gamble to
have been a mistake. Long-standing resentment by the Catalonian nobility and
urban elites toward their counterparts in Madrid, popular anger over the infliction
of billetted troops, class-inspired acts of violence by peasants and artisans, and the
insistent demands that Catalonia participate in a war not of its choosing, culminated in the murder on 7 June 1640 of the viceroy, and the revolt began. It would
last until 1652, when Barcelona surrendered."
Justfivemonths after the eastern part of the peninsula rebelled, the west followed
suit. Philip II in 1580 had proclaimed himself ruler of Portugal and its empire,
taking advantage of a succession crisis. But like the rest of Spain's possessions,
Portugal was a fiscal drain rather than an advantage, and, like the Catalans, the
Portuguese nobility resented Madrid's demands and meddling, particularly as
Portugal had not only been an independent country, but had an empire of its own.
Already in 1637 tax riots had broken out in the town of Evora; demands for troops in
1640 to put down the Catalan revolt moved the Portuguese nobility to take the
opposite approach and themselves rebel. The duke of Braganza was proclaimed
King John IV of Portugal on 1 December 1640; the war lasted until 1668, when
Philip IV's widow, Mariana, finally recognized Portugal's independence.
Throughout the years covered by this study, then, Philip IV's troops were
fighting the Dutch, the anti-Habsburg alliance, Catalonia, Portugal, and France.
How many troops were there altogether? It is beyond the scope of this study to
" The definitive work on the revolt is J. H. Elliott, The Revolt ofthe Catalans: A Study in the Decline of
Spain, 1598-1640 (Cambridge University Press, 1963). See also Jose Sanabre, La action de Francia en
Cataluna en la pugna por la hegemonia de Europa (16401659) (Barcelona: Real Academia de Buenas

Letras de Barcelona, 1956).

provide reliable, comprehensive estimates of the size of the Spanish armed forces,
and the fact that no one has yet done so indicates what a difficult job it would be. All
we have are partial estimates, often based on orders that were delivered but which
never came true. Richelieu once warned Louis XIII that "if you wish to have 50,000
men serving, you must raise 100,000, working on the assumption that a regiment of
twenty companies which should include 2,000 men will in fact only have i,ooo."12
Things were not much different across the border, and the inflated numbers
designed to enrich recruiting captains, assuage commanders, or frighten the enemy
can also confuse the historian. Geoffrey Parker estimates the size of the Army of
Flanders in 1640 to have been 88,280 men, of whom 17,262 (roughly twenty
percent) were Spaniards; seven years earlier the figures had been 63,258 and 5,693,
respectively, meaning the percentage of Spaniards would have been cut in half.13
Jonathan Israel puts the size of the Army of Flanders at around 70,000 in 1636,
growing to 77,000 by the end of 1639.'4 But in addition to the Army of Flanders, of
course, Spain maintained soldiers in Lombardy, Sicily, and Naples, and in garrisons throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Philip IV in 1625 said that thoughout Spain
and Europe there were some 300,000 men serving him, which was highly unlikely.15
Stradling suggests 150,000 on the eve of the 1640 revolts.16 Elliott, however, says
that as the French had 132,000 infantry, and Spain was unlikely to have fewer, a
grand total of 170,000 men under arms for Philip IV in 1635 is plausible.'7
This study concerns potential or actual soldiers who were Castilian, whose
relative numbers were steadily declining. The rest of the army was drawn largely
from the Netherlands itself, and from Germany, Italy, and the rest of the Iberian
Peninsula. It was a sort of multinational militarization of the Union of Arms, the
Count-Duke's ill-fated 1625 attempt to induce all the components of the monarchy
to share its fiscal burdens. Olivares also searched for mercenaries outside the
Crown's possessions and was particularly successful in Ireland and Poland.'8
" Cited in Frank Tallett, War and Society in Early-Modem Europe 1495-1715 (London: Routledge,
1992), 7.
Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road (Cambridge University Press, 1972), 272.
The Spaniards fighting in Flanders were the famous tercios, usually ten companies of 200 men,the
best-trained and best-paid troops there. See Rene Quatrefages, Los tercios espanoles, 156777 (Madrid:
Fundacion Universitaria Espanola, 1979).
' 4 Israel, "Olivares, the Cardinal-Infante," 278,288.
Geoffrey Parker questions the figure; see his The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise
of the West (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 45. R. A. Stradling, Europe and the Decline ofSpain:
A Study of the Spanish System, 1580-1720 (London, 1981), 62, accepts it.
Stradling, "Olivares and the Origins."
Elliott, The Count-Duke, 509. John Lynn estimates the French had only 100,368 soldiers on the books
in August 1634, which may have risen to 125,000 the following year; see John Lynn, "Recalculating
French Army Growth During the Grand Siecle, 1610-1715," Clifford Rogers, ed., The Military
Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe (History and
Warfare), (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995), 124-5.
'8 R. A. Stradling, "Filling the Ranks: Spanish Mercenary Recruitment and the Crisis of the 1640s," in
his Spain's Struggle, 251-7; Parker, Army of Flanders, 27-35. I n a more general vein, see V. G.
Kiernan, "Foreign Mercenaries and Absolute Monarchy," Trevor Aston, ed. Crisis in Europe 15601660 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965).

The Limits of Royal Authority

The resistance to military recruitment documented in this study is instructive
regarding the nature of rule within Castile, but did it also have a meaningful impact
on Castile's military fortunes? This is an important question to which it is virtually
impossible to respond with any degree of precision. First, it must be emphasized
that the mid-seventeenth-century wars dragged on for decades, and therefore most
men probably ended up serving. We cannot know how many troops there would
have been had Castilians been more willing to go, so we cannot gauge the loss.
Moreover, opposition finds its way into the documents more easily than does
acquiesence. It seem likely, however, that the attitude of Castilians affected the
quality of military personnel more than the quantity. Impressment, desertion, and
fraud obviously resulted in a less reliable army, but, then again, that was probably
always true. This study can make few claims about the Spanish military forces. It
loses track of men once they were recruited and left their towns. Though it uses
military recruitment as the thread binding it together, it is less about the military
than about administration and politics, about the effort required to create an army.
It is about civilians, not soldiers.
The way in which civilians became soldiers was not very different in Castile from
that followed in the rest of Europe.19 In the sixteenth century, recruitment was
carried out generally either by commission or by contract. Under the first, a captain
was given a royal patent and authorized by the Crown to raise a certain number of
volunteers in an assigned district. Under the second, a private entrepreneur was
paid a set price to raise men. Both methods, which were similar, were still in use
during the period under consideration. The vast majority of recruits during the
mid-seventeenth century, however, were raised in general levies (levas) administered by the Cortes, by nobles, or by the cities. In theory, volunteers were sought;
in practice, most men were either captured or were subject to lotteries (quintas or
suertes). Ecclesiastical and seigneurial estates were not exempt from levies; on the
contrary, as we shall see, the senores played a key role in military mobilization. They
themselves were subject to another sort of recruitment: the traditional military
obligations of feudal service, which Olivares unsuccessfully attempted to revive.
And,finally,the municipal, or provincial, militias were to become a mainstay of the
army in the 1640s, so much so that the army in general was often termed la milicia.
Not all men had to be impressed or forced to enter a lottery before they would
join the army; there were plenty who went willingly. Soldiers got paid badly and

On recruitment see Parker, Army of Flanders, 3549; Cristina Borreguero Beltran, El reclutamiento
militarpor quintas en la Espana del sigh xvm (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, 1989), 31-47; I.
A. A. Thompson, War and Government in Habsburg Spain 1560-1620 (London: The Athlone Press,
1976), 10345; Andre Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe 14941789 (Bloomington, 1979),
4160; Tallett, War and Society, 69104; David Goodman, Spanish Naval Power 1589-1665 (Cambridge University Press, 1997), ch. 6. For cases other than Spain see John L. H. Keep, Soldiers of the
Tsar: Army and Society in Russia 14621874 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985); M. E. Mallett and J. R.
Hale, The Military Organization of a Renaissance State: Venice 1400 to 1617. (Cambridge University
Press, 1984); James B. Wood. The King's Army: Warfare, Soldiers, and Society During the Wars of
Religion in France, 1562-1576 (Cambridge University Press, 1996).

irregularly, but even that might be better than what they earned at home; the basic
wage in the Army of Flanders was increased from three escudos (established in 1534)
to four escudos in 1634.20 In addition, they usually got cash in hand once they joined
up, which must have been a powerful incentive for Castilians whose towns and
villages were becoming depopulated and barren and who sensed that the recruiting
captain may have brought with him an opportunity: "I left Toledo happy, proud,
and content," one such soldier wrote, "full of high hopes - the way men are when
they go to war. With me were a great number of friends and neighbors who were
going on the same expedition, hoping to better their fortunes." And, he added, "I
thought it would be a poor war if I couldn't get more than I would lose."21
The argument behind this study, then, is not that there was massive resistance to
military service, which there was not. Rather, it is that localized opposition could
prosper both because there was no administrative apparatus to curtail it and
because there were political beliefs to legitimize it. The many and varied disputes
between and among institutions regarding recruitment allow us to better comprehend how political power was wielded, and by whom. "In purely administrative
terms," Richard Bonney has written, "the Spanish government became less, not
more, absolute as a result of its military successes." As manpower needs grew,
responsibility for fulfilling them was increasingly delegated by the Crown to local
jurisdictions, usually in such a way as to leave doubts about who was in charge.
Recruitment thus became an arena in which relative political power and the
exercise of authority often were put to test.22
In order to raise an army and buy weapons, the Crown obviously needed money.
But neither in finance nor in recruiting was the size of the endeavor matched by an
effort to establish an organizational system capable of obtaining what the Crown
required. The failure of this sequence is one of the subjects of this study. Financial
administration was hindered less by inefficiency or corruption than by traditional
respect for and reliance upon the assent of a complicated series of private individuals and public corporations, each with particular interests and conditions. Inefficiency and corruption, however, added to the difficulties for the Council of Finance;
Olivares, in a 1637 memorandum, complained:

Parker, Army of Flanders, 158. However, most documents examined in this study refer to reales.
" The Life ofLazarillo ofTormes, His Fortunes and Misfortunes, As Told By Himself, tr. Robert S. Rudder
et al., (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1973), 113, 122.
" Richard Bonney, The European Dynastic States I4g4~i66o (Oxford University Press, 1991), 350. For
comparisons with contemporary French efforts to rationalize recruitment and adopt a regular
national service, see Louis Andre, Michel Le Tellier et I'organisation de I 'armee monarchique (Montpellier, 1906), 20770, Douglas Clark Baxter, Servants of the Sword: French Intendants of the Army
1630-70, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976), 319; David Parrott, "Richelieu, the Grands,
and the French Army," Joseph Bergin and Laurence Brockliss, eds., Richelieu and His Age (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1992); and John A. Lynn, Giant of the Grand Siecle: The French Army, 16101715
(Cambridge University Press, 1997). The French provincial intendants were responsible for tasks
such as recruiting, supplies, and billetting that in Castile were divided among commissioned captains,
contractors, royal agents (corregidores), city councils, magistrates, and army officials.

The Limits of Royal Authority

Sire, no town councilman in Spain, no constable, no town clerk, no titled noble, no grandee,
no lord of a town, no one who owns the sales taxes of the town, no one who holds bonds on
the town's sales taxes, no one with any property, no one with power, in short, pays taxes.23

To pay for recruitment, the Crown relied upon a variety of taxes, dwindling
silver from America, grants from the church, frequent tinkering with the currency
and, above all, loans. It was a system that relied upon improvisation.24 As with
military personnel, this study can provide no estimate of the total cost of the wars or
the revenue collected. It examines just those fiscal mechanisms that impinged
directly on local recruitment and the impact they had on political relationships,
especially among cities, the Cortes, and the Crown. In particular, it looks at the
imposition of excise taxes (sisas) on basic foodstuffs, the most frequent manner in
which towns paid for their own soldiers, and at the millones, the subsidy first
granted to the Crown by the Cortes in 1590 and renewed frequently thereafter.
Both examples illustrate the dispersed, rather than consolidated, nature of royal
authority during this period and cast doubt on any necessary linkage between
large-scale military ventures and the development of powerful, central state institutions, fiscal or otherwise.
The Castilian example, in fact, directly contradicts generally held assumptions
about the parallel courses of modern warfare and a central bureaucracy.25 The
absolutist state's impetus, the theory goes, was war, which required taxes, which in
turn required a bureaucracy. But what happened in the rest of Europe did not



AHN E, libro 894, Olivares to king, August or September 1637; John H. Elliott and Jose F. de la Pena,
eds., Memorialed y cartas del Conde Duque de Olivares, (Madrid: Ediciones Alfaguara, 1981), vol. 2,
The improvisation was possible in large part because of "the extraordinary financial flexibility
provided by the American surplus;" Perry Anderson, Lineages ofthe Absolutist State (London: Verso,
1979), 72. The best overall sources for Castilian finance during this period remain Miguel Artola, La
hacienda en el antiguo regimen (Madrid: Alianza, 1982), and Dominguez Ortiz, Politicay hacienda. A
much older study is E. J. Hamilton, American Treasure and the Price Revolution in Spain, 15011650
(Harvard University Press, 1934). For an analysis of war finance during mid-sixteenth-century
Castile see M. J. Rodriguez-Salgado, The Changing Face ofEmpire: Charles V, Philip II and Habsburg
Authority, 15511559 (Cambridge University Press, 1988). For France see Richard Bonney, The
King's Debts: Finance and Politics in France 1589-1661 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981); and James B.
Collins, Fiscal Limits ofAbsolutism: Direct Taxation in Early Seventeenth-Century France (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1989). For England, and a comparison of English and Continental tax
collection, see John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money and the English State (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1989).
This issue is usually discussed within the framework of the "military revolution" debate initiated by
Michael Roberts in 1955: Michael Roberts, The Military Revolution, 1560-1660 (Belfast, 1956).
Subsequent revisions include Jeremy Black, A Military Revolution? Military Change and European
Society 1550-1800 (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1991); Parker, The Military Revolution; Parker, "The 'Military Revolution,' 1560-1660 a Myth?," Journal of Modern History 48 (June
1976); Stradling, "'A Military Revolution'; The Fail-Out from the Fall-In," European History
Quarterly, 24 (1994); Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 9901990 (Cambridge,
Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1990); Brian M. Downing, The Military Revolution and Political Change:
Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe (Princeton University Press, 1992); and
Tallett, War and Society.


happen in Spain. As described convincingly by I. A. A. Thompson, indirect
administration under Charles V in the early sixteenth century became more direct
in the early part of Philip IPs reign, and then again indirect by the late sixteenth
century and into the seventeenth century, when there was a "dual shift from central
to centrifugal government and from public to private administration." The determining role each time was played by the pressures of finance and war, Thompson
argues, to which I would add the king's vassals' insistent assertion of their rights.26
So, if absolutism and warfare and centralization must all go together, then either
there was something wrong with Castile or the formula needs adjusting. A huge
army not quite yet a standing army, one of the frequent definitions of an absolutist
regime - was mobilized using techniques left over or rediscovered from a prior
age.27 The state and the army did not grow bigger and stronger at the same time.
Furthermore, a strong state may not necessarily be an effective one if it lacks
legitimacy or if, as in the case of Castile, individual and corporate rights and
privileges made opposition likely and legal. Bureaucracy is not equivalent to control
and, indeed, can be quite inefficient if papers merely pile up and decisions are made
far from the arena in which they will have an impact. Centralizing tendencies can
shift course, or can be effective for some purposes and not for others. "Centralization," too, can even be said to take place at the local level, for example through
royal concessions to nobles that result in a strengthened Crown; this occurred in
Castile and in Eastern Europe.28 And a strong center may simply indicate effective
management of peripheral jurisdictions, not their elimination.29
So, rather than posit a priori what the structure of a state should be, given a
certain war-making capacity, I suggest reversing the problem: A government's
response to war reveals its structures of power. Castile raised an army in the 1630s
and 1640s by relying on the Cortes, municipalities, and lords; by heeding individual
soldiers' pleas for exemption; and by impressing outcasts and holding lotteries.
Those responses, along with the language of the Castilians themselves - obeying
while resisting, endlessly litigating, and speaking directly to the king - help us to
understand how Spain survived and endured, both on and off the battlefield.




Thompson, War and Government, 2746- Pablo Fernandez Albaladejo has criticized Thompson for
overestimating the degree to which Philip II's government was centralized; see his Fragmentos de
monarquia (Madrid: Alianza, 1992), 283. Tallett draws attention to places that were, in this respect,
somewhere between Spain and the rest of Europe for example the United Provinces, parts of the
Austrian lands, and Portugal (War and Society, 2024). Brewer (Sinews, passim), who also disagrees
with the standard explanation of the relationship between war and absolutism, notes that England's
very effective fiscal-military administration cannot be called absolutist.
Not quite standing because companies were still often disbanded after battles. Thousands of men who
defended Fuenterrabia in 1638, for example, were sent home afterward, only to be recalled the
following year.
See Fedorowicz, Bogucka, and Samsonowicz, eds., A Republic of Nobles: Studies in Polish History to
1864 (Cambridge University Press, 1982); and Valerie Kivelson, Autocracy in the Provinces: The
Muscovite Gentry and Political Culture in the Seventeenth Century (Stanford University Press, 1997).
William Beik, Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-Century
France (Cambridge University Press,

The Limits ofRoyal Authority

" W A I T , DOES IT SLEEP OR D R E A M ? " 3 0

In 1600, Martin Gonzalez de Cellorigo wrote that Spain had become "a commonwealth of bewitched men living outside the natural order;" three-hundred and fifty
years later, in one of his most famous essays, Pierre Vilar concurred: "Cut off from
reality, the Spain of 1600 preferred to dream."3' Spells and dreams have given way
to other criteria, but much of the scholarship and debate that has occupied
historians of Spain over the past decades continues to grapple with the country's
alleged peculiarity and its refusal to fit into categories, particularly concerning the
state and rational economic behavior, that were invented for and by other countries.
Prime among these debates is the famous "decline of Spain." This study
certainly has implications for the debate but does not come down firmly in favor or
against any of the arguments because there are too many different sets of criteria for
the debate to make much sense anymore. There was an economic decline, a
diplomatic decline, a military decline, an administrative decline, and a subjective
decline. What is clear is that Spain was the dominant world power in the sixteenth
century and was no longer so by the middle of the seventeenth century. But I am
not convinced of the utility of trying to isolate crucial causes and moments leading
up to the sad spectacle of a weak Spain handing over the baton to a strong France.32
Analyses that look at events in Castile on their own terms rather than comparing
them to what was happening elsewhere are more useful. Thompson's theory of
administrative devolution is the most notable among these interpretations; as this
study shows, devolution was neither a wrong step off the course of centralism nor a
sure indicator of decline, but a mechanism that allowed the Crown to raise an army,
albeit at the cost of tolerating increased power in the hands of the Cortes, cities, and
It would be nice to be able to cease fighting a term that is faulty both in
conception and in application, but, as with "absolutism," so with "decline."
Explanations necessarily imply that some things should happen while others should
not and that there is an implicit standard of growth or power which some nations
fail to attain. This is not at all helpful in determining what actually happened, and
why. The Spanish monarchy did a remarkably good job of administrating during
times of near chaos, and the very improvisation - in finance, in judicial matters, in
decision-making, in recruitment seen as a failure by some can also, more


Machado, "A orillas del Duero," Antologia poe'tica, 75.

Martin Gonzalez de Cellorigo, Memorial de la politica necesaria y litil restauracion de la republica de
Espana (1600), cited by Pierre Vilar, "El tiempo del 'Quijote'," first published in French in 1956 and
reprinted in Spanish in his Crecimiento y desarrollo (Barcelona: Ariel, 1983), 341, 344.
See Henry Kamen, "The Decline of Spain: A Historical Myth?" Past and Present, 81, (November
1978), a response to J. H. Elliott's 1961 article "The Decline of Spain," reprinted in the classic
anthology on the "general crisis" of the seventeenth century, Crisis in Europe, Trevor Aston, ed., and
later in Elliott's Spain and Its World 1500-ijoo (Yale University Press, 1989). In response to Kamen,
who had called upon scholars to relegate the concept of decline to the "dust-heap of useless
concepts," Jonathan Israel disputed his economic data in a reply in Past and Present, 91 (May 1981).

accurately, be seen as a triumph. "Decline," then, depends on one's angle. The
closer one gets, the less descent one will detect.
A second question that has puzzled historians is that of Castile's apparent
passivity in the midst of oppression, war, taxation, and hunger. Logically, the
people of Castile should have rebelled. Everyone else was doing it: the Catalans, the
Portuguese, as well as the French. Many explanations have been offered for this
anomaly: loyalty to the king, fear, municipal self-government, the large distance
between cities, the breadth and diversity of Castile, the nobility's incapacity to
organize, the Crown's cooptation of the nobility, the calming influence of the
church, silver shipments from America, and Olivares' role as scapegoat for all the
regime's failings.
This study suggests, first, that failure to take up arms should not be confused
with passivity, and, second, that commoners, officials, and nobles all had a wide
range of tools at their disposal that almost always made armed resistance unnecessary. Neither rebellion nor submissiveness were reasonable options. Through litigation, direct appeals to the king, and invocation of privilege and precedent, and by
skillfully playing one jurisdiction off against another, individuals and institutions
throughout Castilian society often got their way. They did so in a manner that
ensured the survival of the structures of civil society. Victory might not always be
theirs, but they generally had the satisfaction of knowing they had gained some
An important element of the resistance described in this study is precisely that it
was not the result of disloyalty toward the king; on the contrary, it was always
described by the protagonists as a means for furthering the king's own interests.
The prime demand of the nobility during this period, Elliott writes, which led to
the eventual palace coup that toppled Olivares, was "that the king should govern
personally;" that coup, he goes on to say, obviated the need for a rebellion during
this period.33 There were no claims by anyone during this period that remotely
meet a modern definition of "revolutionary." Yet there was conflict. As with the
debate over the decline of Spain, the problem with the failure-to-rebel puzzle is one
of criteria and definition. Just as we know Spain in 1650 was not what it was in 1550,
we also know there was no general armed revolt in Castile. But that does not
necessarily tell us much about the relationship between the king and his kingdom.
Rather than reduce vassals' options to acceptance, resignation, or rebellion, if we
broaden our criteria for obedience and resistance to include the possibility of
contradictory or simultaneous tactics that far better reflect the complex social and
political conditions of the time, we will be closer to understanding the meaning of
authority. Quite simply, it is more instructive to look at what people did do rather

John Elliott, "A Non-Revolutionary Society: Castile in the 1640s," Etudes d'histoire europeenne:
Melanges offerts a Rene et Suzanne Pillorget (Angers: Presses de l'Universite d'Angers, 1990), 264. In
his article, Elliott does not address popular attitudes toward royal authority.

The Limits ofRoyal Authority

than punish them for what they did not do. If we look at their words, at their
strategies, and at their goals, we will find they did a great deal.
Third, and closely connected to the alleged decline and the alleged failure of
Castilians to protest, is the disappointing role of the Cortes. Though traditionally it
was thought that here, too, Castilians had fallen short, research since the 1980s has
entirely revised that interpretation. This study confirms the political protagonism
of the seventeenth-century Cortes as well as that of village and town councils. But a
few words of caution are in order. Just as Castile's "failures" are often placed
against other nations' "successes," so too the happy discovery that Castile was not
an authoritarian wasteland can bask in a foreign shadow. Granted, the argument
goes, Castile had no revolution, but it had the 1520 Comunero Revolt; likewise, the
Cortes may not have been particularly representative, but the village councils
(concejos) were virtual islands of participatory democracy.34 In part this viewpoint
responds to a desire by Spanish historians to establish their country's modern
credentials and by Castilians to rid their region of the stigma of having oppressed
the rest of the peninsula. It also reflects the enthusiasm of all historians, not just
Hispanists, at finding life where we had been taught to expect none. But there is an
obvious danger in too much celebration over this communal tradition, gratifying as
it is to find, and in broadening the definition of resistance until it encompasses just
about anything that annoys someone important. This study makes no claims to
have uncovered the seeds of revolution or democracy. Rather, it points out that
political power in mid-seventeenth-century Castile was located simultaneously in
many sites, both geographic and jurisdictional.
The geographic dispersion raises the issue of the tension between center and
periphery, which J. H. Elliott has identified as the leading cause of the midseventeenth century revolts throughout Europe.35 But it was not just that Castile
was the center of the Spanish monarchy and everything else was the periphery;
within Castile, too, there was, in a way, a periphery. The Cortes and the city
councils were the institutional manifestations of that distinction. Local loyalties
must be considered along with jurisdictional jealousies and political positioning in
explaining local elites' balancing act with the Crown, which at times provoked
conflict but, in the long run, ensured stability.
This study, then, attempts to explain apparent contradictions: decline and
survival, crisis and cohesion, resistance and loyalty. The key to understanding these
contradictions lies in the ability to envision the simultaneity of authority. Royal
authority was not something that came only from above, and particularism was not
something that existed only at the local level. The "state" did not confront
"society," but rather they met and interpenetrated each other - indeed, they are


See especially Jose Antonio Maravall, Las comunidades de Castilla, 4th edn (Madrid: Alianza
Universidad, 1984); and Helen Nader, Liberty in Absolutist Spain: The Habsburg Sale of Towns,
1516-1700 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).
Elliott, "Revolution and Continuity in Early Modern Europe" in his Spain and its World.

meaningless conceived apart. That dialectic manifested itself in different ways
throughout the geography and hierarchy of Castile, in villages, cities, royal councils, palaces, and imaginations. It is to those meeting places that we must look to see
how power was understood, received, and lived.

It is not easy to define exactly where the events described in this study took place.
Our geographic terms do not correspond to those of the mid-seventeenth century, and there are often contradictions in the terms used then. The men organizing the army used partido, distrito, provincia, and reino, at times interchangeably,
to describe what today we would call a province.37 "Spain," "Castile," and their
derivatives were used rarely by policy-makers, usually inconsistently, and hardly
ever by common people, whose concerns did not embrace such large geographic
expanses. The king's appeals for troops early in 1635 referred to threats against
the monarchy and the church, not against Spain or Castile. When they described
themselves, people gave the name of the town in which they lived, or they might
offer a geographic description, as in the case of a group of men who traveled
together because they were all from the mountains, from the same patria. Castilian identity in the seventeenth century did not extend much beyond the town
In modern terms, the study covers the regions of Castilla y Leon, Extremadura,
part of Castilla-La Mancha, and Madrid. The provinces included are Leon,
Burgos, Zamora, Valladolid, Salamanca, Segovia, Avila, Soria, Palencia, Caceres,
Badajoz, Toledo, Cuenca, and Madrid. There is the occasional mention of other
sites, but for the most part the study is focused on the central part of the Iberian
Peninsula, the great Castilian meseta. Galicia and the Basque provinces were
omitted to control for any resistance to recruitment motivated by regional loyalties
today termed "nationalist." Catalonia was excluded for obvious reasons, and
concern that the Aragonese and Valencians might have felt some sympathy with
their rebellious neighbors led me to omit those two regions as well.
This high, arid land, whose proverbial heat and cold are described by Castilians
as ten months of winter and two months of hell (diez meses de invierno y dos de
infiemo), is a plain largely surrounded by mountains. Three principal rivers run
east-west through the meseta: the Tagus, which passes through Toledo and empties
at Lisbon; the Duero, which runs through Valladolid and west to Oporto; and the
Guadiana, which runs from La Mancha to Badajoz, and then south to Huelva,

Antonio Machado "Orillas del Duero," Antologia poe'tica, 80.

Provinces were created in 1833, and they gained jurisdiction over municipal governments only in
See I. A. A. Thompson, "Castile, Spain and the Monarchy," Kagan and Parker, eds., Spain, Europe
and the Atlantic World, for the changing meanings of community, Castile, and patria in early modern

The Limits of Royal Authority

where it empties into the Atlantic. It is a harsh land that can be stunningly
beautiful, even in winter, when subtle variations of brown are the only colors in a
landscape that even today, for immense stretches, is broken only by an abandoned
village or a ruined castle. In spring, poppies turn thefieldsa brilliant red. Vineyards
and grains remain the most important crops, and herds of sheep wander the plains
as they did when the Mesta ruled the mighty Castilian wool industry.
Castile in the seventeenth century was a rural, agricultural expanse dotted with
around fifteen large towns or cities, each with its own jurisdictions, and with
thousands of small villages.39 The modern towns and cities of Castile were established during the Reconquest, as Christian forces in the northern part of the
peninsula slowly pushed the Muslims south, finally expelling them, after nearly
eight-hundred years, in 1492. Two legacies of this period are relevant for a study of
the seventeenth century: a military tradition that included urban militias and
warrior knights; and municipal autonomy, manifested through charters (fueros)
extended by the Castilian kings to towns in exchange for having defeated the
Moors. These charters, which often granted towns extensive lands of their own,
established what would become a tradition of urban self-governance.
The population of Castile in the 1590s, just before the region was swept by the
worst plague in its history, was around 6.6 million. By 1665, plague and epidemics,
emigration, wars, depression, bad harvests, and the expulsion of the Moriscos had
combined to leave the region with around five million inhabitants, a twenty-five
percent drop.40 Though the precision of these figures is certainly open to debate,
the subjective sense among contemporary writers that something was severely
amiss is not. Emigration to America probably accounted for less of a population
drain than was thought, and movements of population within the peninsula, from
rural to urban areas, rather than a net loss, can explain many abandoned villages.
Yet Castile was passing through an acute economic crisis in the 1620s and 1630s,
and the writers of economic tracts, the arbitristas, knew it. There were few appeals
by towns and cities against recruitment levies that did not include references to how
few inhabitants there were in comparison with the recent past.41

A late sixteenth-century judge claimed there were 32,000 municipalities in all of Spain, half of which
were in Castile; Nader, Liberty, 4.
Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, La sociedad espaiiola en el siglo XVII (Madrid, 1963), 112; Jordi Nadal, La
poblacion espaiiola, sighs xvi a xx (Barcelona, 1976), 37-83. The "central regions of Castile" in the
1590s accounted for 30.9 percent of the population of Spain: J. H. Elliott, "The Decline of Spain,"
223. See also Enrique Llopis Agelan et at., "El movimiento de la poblacion extremena durante el
antiguo regimen," Revista de Historia Economica, 8, no. 2, (1990), for an account of the population
decline in Extremadura which, along with Old Castile, suffered the most from the crisis.
There is a vast literature on the arbitristas and the decline of Spain. Two contemporary tracts are
Sancho de Moncada, Restauracion politica de Espana, ed. and intro. Jean Vilar (Madrid, 1974); and
Pedro Fernandez Navarrete, Conservation de monarquias y Discursos politicos, Michael Gordon, ed.
(Madrid: Institute de Estudios Fiscales, 1982). Among the most important modern studies are J. H.
Elliott, "Self Perception and Decline in Early Seventeenth-Century Spain," and "The Decline of
Spain," in his Spain and its World; Juan Ignacio Gutierrez Nieto, "El pensamiento economico,

The bulk of this study concerns the 1630s and early 1640s. It begins in 1631,
when Olivares, his eye on France, began pushing for a general levy to man the
garrisons. It ends just before his fall from power, in January 1643, though some of
the material dates from after that time. There is no clear cut-off point, however, and
the political relationships and processes described endured, to some extent, for
many years. The Cortes' importance did diminish, but the juntas were eliminated
only to be re-established, and though Olivares was gone, new validos appeared, first
under Philip IV and then with Charles II. The mutual reinforcement of the nobility
and the Crown, which was so crucial in enabling the latter to raise an army,
survived throughout the seventeenth century. Indeed, Olivares' fall is usually
interpreted as having been a victory for the aristocracy. Cities, too, retained much
of their jurisdiction. So I believe it is safe to say that there was little change insofar
as power arrangements are concerned until the establishment of the Bourbon
dynasty on the Spanish throne in 1700.42
The study begins at the top: with the nature of royal authority. Chapter 1 examines
the workings of the royal councils, juntas, and courts of law, which all intervened in
raising the army. The mobilization machine was made of movable parts government and judicial officials traveling throughout Castile, all armed with legitimate
royal authority. That mobility meant the chain of command could and did change
from day to day, and as a result there were constant jurisdictional disputes
concerning the proper site for giving orders. The first chapter also treats the
Cortes' role in the military effort and their relationship to the Crown and the cities.
In particular, the Cortes exercised control over the millones subsidies and, as part of
the same agreement, over a levy of 18,000 soldiers. An analysis of these two areas
shows that, both ideologically and materially, the Cortes were still of considerable
importance and, in fact, often posed substantial resistance to the Crown.
Chapter 2 begins with an institutional analysis of city government and finance. It
then traces selected cities' resistance to levy orders, underlining the autonomy
enjoyed by municipalities and the possibilities they had for stalling, altering, or
refusing royal orders to recruit soldiers. There follows a discussion of the urban (or
"provincial") militia, a reinvented military organization whose ambiguous jurisdictional status provided for endless conflicts between cities and military authorities.
The chapter closes with a look at the often contentious relationships between cities
and their dependent towns and villages and the frequent efforts by the latter to
bypass their cities and deal directly with the king.
The impact of military levies on seigneurial lands is the subject of chapter 3.
politico y social de los arbitristas," in vol. 26 of Historia de Espaiia, Ramon Menendez Pidal (Madrid:
Espasa-Calpe, 1986); Jean Vilar Berrogain, Literaturay economia: Lafigura satirica del arbitrista en el
Sigh de On (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1973); and Pierre Vilar, "El Tiempo del 'Quijote'" in his
Crecimiento y desarrollo.
*" Henry Kamen, Spain in the Later Seventeenth Century (London: Longman, 1980).

The Limits of Royal Authority

Lords, in exchange for raising men, demanded that they be allowed to disentail
their estates, enclose and lease common lands, or take out mortgages. The levies
thus played a role in the mutually beneficial compromise between king and nobles
which allowed both to overcome their respective crises. As in the case of the cities,
where royal demands could be seized upon by city councils as opportunities for
gain, Castilian nobles tried to turn the burden of raising an army to their advantage.
Logically, the cost was passed on to their vassals, but here too, Castile's social
structure offered a variety of jurisdictional and rhetorical tools which commoners
were perfectly entitled to use in their own defense.
Finally, in chapter 4,1 turn to the experience of those commoners. Despite the
Crown's rhetoric about seeking volunteers for the army, it was usually necessary to
resort to lotteries. The mechanics of the lotteries, and decisions regarding who
went and who did not, reveal much about power relations in a given town. Military
recruitment could both bind a community together and fracture it; resistance
would bind, compliance might fracture, as neighbors reported on one another,
cheated in lotteries, or were obliged to replace local deserters. With the Crown's
blessing, town authorities often used lotteries to rid communities of unwanted
elements and bad vecinos, particularly men who had violated norms of sexual
propriety, chapter 4 also includes a discussion of desertion and the rare instances in
which individuals or communities chose to resist recruitment through violent
Almost all the figures in this study appear in the chart on the facing page. The
many lines drawn among and between them show that political relations during this
period could be both flexible and hierarchical. The issuing of orders and the
lodging of complaints did not always occur in the same way. If one channel was
blocked, for whatever reason, there were usually alternative routes. There is,
however, one very important aspect of this tale of obedience and resistance that
cannot be portrayed on the chart: the processes described in chapter 4 by which
individuals were able to exert pressure, speak up, and fight back before every one of
these institutions, including the Crown itself. A third dimension would have been
necessary to depict this omnipresent force; confined to two, I can only affirm the
people's presence in the story and lament their absence from the diagram.
The material on which this study is based comes almost entirely from two rich
sources: the Council of War papers in the national archives in Simancas and city
and town council minutes in municipal archives throughout Castile. Both are
apparently inexhaustible. They bear witness to the thoroughness of the Habsburgs'
vast army of clerks and to the pride of cities and towns, which have jealously
guarded their written patrimony for centuries.
I must reiterate that this is a study not of soldiers but of civilians and their king.
The irruption of military recruitment into people's lives, whether they were
potential draftees or ministers or judges in charge of raising men, set in motion
disputes and tensions involving status, jurisdiction,finance,justice, and geography.



Consejos and Juntas

(internal conflicts)


2 Political relationship affected by military levies


The Limits of Royal Authority

Recruitment tested the power of authorities, subject to a wide range of responses at
the disposal of virtually all individuals and institutions, and disclosed a society in
which power - even if that meant just the power to say "no" - was held by a
remarkably diffuse and varied collection of vassals, all of whom acted, or said they
acted, in the king's best interest.


Recruitment and royal authority

The tests to which obedience was put in seventeenth-century Castile, the nuances
and ambiguities, not to say manipulation, to which it was subjected, reflected not
only popular and local attitudes toward royal power but also, of course, the nature
of the power itself. The ways in which orders were formulated, the bodies that
issued them and the strictures conditioning royal orders all must be taken into
account in order to understand the subsequent response to orders. In short, how
was the country governed? Such a discussion is, essentially, about the nature of the
Castilian state.
The decentralized nature of the Spanish monarchy was clearly a source of
structural weakness; maintaining authority over the Iberian Peninsula and much of
Europe and the Americas in an equitable and efficient way was virtually impossible.
Efforts, notably by the Count-Duke of Olivares, to attain a higher degree of
integration, control, and obedience were ultimately unsuccessful. Indeed, the
Castilian state's resistance to being reshaped to meet its imperial tasks is quite
remarkable.1 The fragmentation was not only geographic, linguistic, and cultural; it
was also jurisdictional. Just as Spain was traversed by internal frontiers marking
seigneurial, customs, and regional boundaries, whose limits were often uncertain,
the map also shows a mesh of conflicting administrations - military, fiscal, judicial,
ecclesiastic, seigneurial, and municipal. In addition, some formerly royal functions,
such as tax-collecting, had moved into private hands, the result of the dispensation
of favors by kings burdened with debts or obliged to buy loyalty, making a
definition of the public function even more difficult. With authority so widespread,
effective orders and obedience were clearly problematic.
Some writers have seen the administrative disaggregation, or the absence of
consolidation (as it had never been aggregated in the first place), as a sensible
delegation of authority that was to the mutual benefit of Crown and nobles or

Not all writers stress fragmentation over cohesion, however; see Robert Stradling, "Domination and
Dependence: Castile, Spain and the Spanish Monarchy," European History Quarterly, vol. 14 (1984),
who asks if perhaps Ranke's assessment of Spain's government as "unitary" does not deserve more
favorable treatment, seeing that we are "confronted with the now-established fact of the Monarchy's
effective survival" p. 79.

The Limits of Royal Authority

Crown and cities.2 Whereas that is demonstrably the case in some instances, and
there is no doubt that these arrangements could enhance the stability of the
Crown, it is unclear that that was the Crown's intention. Reading state papers, one
is struck by haphazardness, not method; conflict rather than delegation of authority. Seventeenth-century Spain was not unique among European nations in being
a composite of parts, but the ultimate ineffectiveness of Olivares' unifying program, aimed at strengthening the monarchy, marked a contrast with similar
European efforts.
The theory of the king's absolute sovereignty above all other temporal powers
was unquestioned by contemporaries. All legislative, administrative, and jurisdictional acts and all privileges and affirmation of status were possible only because
the king granted them, and such acts implicitly assumed his superior power.3 But
the king's position in Castile was not unbounded; exclusive and arbitrary authority would amount to tyranny, contemporary theorists believed, and subjects had
the right to defend themselves against tyrants. Such a position was not new; the
relative positions of ruler and ruled had been debated since the times of St
Thomas Aquinas, and few would have disagreed with the idea that an unjust king
forfeits the allegiance of his subjects. But the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
brought forth a new body of political and legal philosophy in Spain, inspired in
large part by the need to elaborate a philosophy of society and government that
could help Spain's rulers and theorists address the issues raised by the conquest of
One of Aquinas' chief interpreters in the sixteenth century was Francisco de
Vitoria (1492-1546), a Dominican theologian at the University of Salamanca who
was the first of his generation to write extensively about the principles governing
nations, power, rights, and liberty. In his view, the commonwealth had willingly
transferred its power to the monarch. The resultant kingly authority, however,
was necessarily less extensive than that of the comonwealth: "What has been
transferred into royal hands, then, is not the state's potestas properly speaking, but
its authority; the commonwealth does not invest the ruler with dominium over its
parts but with the authority to act as its administrator." Part of this authority
allowed the king to legislate, leading to the question of whether the king was above
the law. Vitoria answered in the negative, offering a twofold proof:
First: that a legislator of this sort [above the law] injures the State, and the other citizens if,
being himself a part of the State, he does not bear a part of the burden . . . But since this
obligation is indirect, we shall offer another proof. The laws which are made by kings have

Bartolome Yun Casalilla, "La aristocracia castellana en el seiscientos. Crisis, refeudalizacion o ofensiva
politica?" in Revista internacional de sociologia, vol. 45 (January- March 1987); Luis Antonio Ribot
Garcia, "El ejercito de los Austrias: Aportaciones recientes y nuevas perspectivas," Pedralbes, 3
(1983), p. 18.
Mara vail, Estado moderno, 285.

Recruitment and royal authority

the same force ... as if they were made by the whole State; but the laws made by the State are
binding upon all; therefore, even those laws which are made by the king are binding upon the
king himself.4
Castilian political theorists, then, did not perceive the king's subjects, even the
humblest ones, to be passive beings. Their relationship to their ruler was, in the
words of Francisco Suarez (i548-1617), a Jesuit at the University of Salamanca,
one of "active obedience" that rested on the pillars of freedom and equality.5
Government was, at least in part, an act of human will. Therefore, if man could
make government, he could also unmake it. The king was both above and part of
the legal system, whose legitimacy lay in consent.
But neither Vitoria nor Suarez suggested any specific means by which a people
could ensure that the king did, indeed, rule with their consent. Once a people
entrusted their government to a ruler, there were no safeguards, even though the
writers all agreed that a people retained the right to fight a tyrant. One of Suarez's
fellow Jesuits, Juan de Mariana (15351624), however, was more specific. In his De
Rege, written in 1598 as a mirror book for the future Philip III, Mariana set out his
vision of the best form of government: a hereditary monarchy in which the king is
advised by a council and limited by an elective assembly. Which of the two, the king
or the assembly, has the greater power? The latter, Mariana wrote:
As I understand it, given that royal power, if it is legitimate, is born from the people, and that
the first kings of all commonwealths were placed in the summit of the state only through the
consent and will of the people, it must be limited from the start by laws and sanctions so that
its excesses do not harm subjects and it does not degenerate into tyranny.6
These laws and sanctions would be created by the Cortes, which must always, in his
view, have the right to appeal to the monarch. In this regard, Mariana praised the
Aragonese Cortes, which retained that right, while he lamented the diminished
powers of the Castilian Cortes. Mariana could not exactly define an unjust law, but
he did at least bestow upon the Cortes the right to remedy the injustices they

From De Potestate civili, cited in J. A. Fernandez-Santamaria, The State, War and Peace: Spanish
Political Thought in the Renaissance 1516155Q (Cambridge University Press, 1977), 74-5. The
previous quote is from the same source. Vitoria was the leading voice of the so-called School of
Salamanca, whose greatest legacy was its theory of political power; other figures were Melchor Cano
(1509-60) and Domingo de Soto (1494-1560). See also Bernice Hamilton, Political Thought in
Sixteenth-Century Spain (Oxford University Press, 1963).
Suarez wrote on the compatibility of the freedom of man's will with the omniscience of God and
argued that political power originated in the people, not the king. Such ideas earned him a
condemnation from the Paris Parlement in 1610. See Jose Antonio Mara vail, La teoria espanola del
estado en elsiglo xvn (Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Politicos, 1944), 324-30.
Juan de Mariana, Del Rey y de la Institucion Real (Barcelona, 1880), 162. On Mariana see Guenter
Lewy, Constitutionalism and Statecraft During the Golden Age of Spain: A Study of the Political
Philosophy of Juan de Mariana, S. J. (Geneva: Librarie E. Droz, i960); John Lynch, Spain 1516-1598
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), 284-7.

The Limits of Royal Authority

perceived. Nor was he (or anyone else) very specific about the definition of a tyrant:
A king "does not take his subjects as slaves, as the tyrant does, but rather he governs
them as his children." Or, a king, "perverting the law andfixingmatters in his own
interest without respecting his country's institutions and customs, [is] in no way
licit because [his] is the conduct of a tyrant." More directly related to the subject of
this study, a true king would never need to resort to conscription, hire mercenaries,
impose special war taxes, or requisition his people's weapons.7
A just law must not only be given by a just ruler; it must also respond to the
common good, el bien comun. Already by the reign of Juan II, the term had
acquired a juridical or political significance, as opposed to a religious or moral
one, and the reign of Juan's daughter, Isabel the Catholic, was famously marked
by the celebratory rhetoric of a Crown at the service of the common good. This
was the vision of authority embraced a generation later by the comuneros.8 Geronimo Castillo de Bovadilla, author of the famed Politica para Corregidores (1597),
wrote that "the aim of he who governs the commonwealth is to preserve the
common good, which is impeded by discord among the citizens or by war by
[our] enemies, and as mortals' greatest good is peace, and, on the contrary, the
greatest evil is war," the corregidor should make sure the former prevailed over
the latter.9 Tyranny violates the common good; war, also, disrupts the common
good. More than one Castilian would probably take the obvious next step in this
logical construction, though none to my knowledge publicly equated war and
But tyranny is obviously an exceptional situation. In those far more common
cases in which government was perceived as wrong but not quite tyrannical, what
sort of resistance was considered legitimate? And who was entitled to decide?
If the common good was the criterion for the justice of law, orders to subjects had
to be just and reasonable. If they were not, then subjects would not comply unless
the king explicitly commanded them to, and in that case a distinction was almost
always made between obedience to the king and compliance with his dictate. As a
result, there was a long tradition of ignoring unwelcome orders from middle royal
officials until they were confirmed by the king.10 Most contemporary theorists
believed the duty to obey was necessarily linked to one's conscience and that all
subjects, no matter what their station, were able to distinguish a just order from an
unjust one. Reasons for refusing an order included illegitimate authority, inequity,
illegal application, and political imprudence. If one's conscience told one that any


Mariana, Del Rey, 118, 183-4, 1201,4767.

Jose Manuel Nieto Soria, Fundamentos ideologicos del poder real en Castilla (siglos xm-xvi) (Madrid:
Eudemia, 1988); Joseph Perez, "L'ideologie de Petat," Le premier age de Vetat en Espagne 14501700
(Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1990), 194-8.
Geronimo Castillo de Bovadilla Politica para corregidores (Madrid, 1759), vol 2, 386.
See Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso, "La formula 'Obedezcase, pero no se cumpla'" en el derecho
castellano de la baja edad media," Anuario de historia del derecho espanol, 50 (1980).


Recruitment and royal authority

of these conditions existed, then one had the duty to disobey. However, the king's
command had the benefit of the doubt. According to Vitoria, "If subjects believe,
rightly or wrongly, that a war is unjust, then they cannot participate in it. But in
case of doubt, the presumption in favor of the State's legitimate authority allows
participation in the war, indeed it obliges a citizen thus if he is called up to fight."
Likewise, if a subject believes the king has issued an order based on erroneous or
partial information, then he has the obligation to inform the king of these inadequacies and should refrain from compliance until the order is confirmed. In this
fashion, resistance can be considered a sort of long-term obedience, a way in which
the subject, by not obeying, is arguably protecting the king from himself. This
situation occurred frequently when communities resisted military recruitment
orders. The echoes of the political theory debates were heard whenever such orders
were delivered.11
Castile and its empire were governed simultaneously from many sites, both in
the geographic and jurisdictional sense. Local elites, the nobility, and a large
collection of councils and juntas exercised effective power over many aspects of
social, political, economic, and military affairs, and this affected the way orders
were received and understood. Through delegation of authority and patronage, the
king and his valido, the Count-Duke of Olivares, simultaneously maintained
centralized control and oversaw a loosely articulated system of government. The
latter would prove to be one of the key explanations for the survival of the former,
for despite the inevitable conflicts that ensued from the disaggregation of administration, the confluence of interests of the king and his spokesmen in councils,
juntas, and tribunals guaranteed the ultimate stability and continuity of royal

The king issued royal decrees after consulting with his councils, making orders the
outcome of debate rather than of individual caprice. In the seventeenth century
there were thirteen councils: State, War, Indies, Aragon, Italy, Portugal, Flanders,
Finance, Inquisition, Orders, the Holy Crusade, and the two most important:
Castile (also called the Royal Council), and the Chamber of Castile, originally
established as a cabinet of the Council of Castile. Many of their members sat on
more than one council, and the bodies were linked to each other and to the king by
the powerful secretaries (secretarios del despacho), who wrote consultas (internal
memoranda), met with the king and with Olivares, and could even sometimes
convoke meetings. Their "supreme" power was, again, a power granted to them by

See Perena, introduction to Francisco Suarez, De iuramentofidelitatis,144-8. Other theorists who

wrote on civil disobedience included Tomas Sanchez, Cristobal de Anguiano, and Luis de Molina.

The Limits of Royal Authority

the king and therefore subject to his will. They were neither merely consultative
nor all-powerful.12
By the reign of Philip IV, the council system, which had elements both of feudal
tradition and modern bureaucracy, had become a source of conflict rather than a
vehicle for efficiency. In the words of I. A. A. Thompson, "it had ceased to be clear
who was ruling and whose voice the command of the king represented." Orders
from one council (or junta) could be disobeyed on the grounds that they were
invalid for the jurisdiction to which they were directed: "The conciliar system itself
therefore served as a sort of official, internal opposition, a channel for the expression of grievances, and a protection for individual and corporate rights, as well as a
buffer deflecting any legal challenge away from the king's authority and against the
council which was implementing it." It contributed more to the enrichment of the
Simancas Archive, Joseph Perez wryly notes, than to the agility of Castilian
The case of the Council of War and its corresponding juntas is an example of
how conflicting jurisdictions and fragmented authority facilitated non-compliance
with royal orders. Remarkably few of the thousands of documents in the Guerra
Antigua section of the Simancas archive for the years corresponding to this study
(especially 1633-42) emanated from or were directed to the Council of War, which
is presumably what the section is all about. Instead they are to and from the juntas,
ad hoc commissions that had been used for their agility ever since the reign of the
Catholic Kings, but which the Count-Duke raised to new and criticized heights.
They were often established to streamline unwieldy decision-making by bringing
together a few members of other juntas or councils, thus uniting dispersed bodies
into one, but the result was usually more diversity than unity, as the creation of yet
another body, with its own jurisdiction, only made things worse. The Council of
War as early as 1632 was worried enough to complain that its proceedings were
constantly being interrupted by the comings and goings of members attending
different junta meetings and, as a result, it could get no work done. The council
inquired as to why the junta meetings and council meetings could not coincide: The
king replied that unfortunately they could not. There were certainly enough


Francisco Tomas y Valiente, "El gobierno de la monarquia y la administration de los reinos en la

Espafia del siglo xvn," Ramon Menendez Pidal, ed., Historia de Espana 25: La Espana de Felipe IV
(Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, S.A., 1982), 119-30; see also Jose Antonio Escudero, Los secretarios de estado
y del despacho (Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Administrativos, 1969, 4 vols.). Alonso Nunez de
Castro, Libro historico politico. Solo Madrid es corte y el cortesano en Madrid (Madrid, 1658), 37ff.,
provides a contemporary list of the councils and juntas and their functions, as does Olivares (Gaspar
de Guzman), Relation politica de las mas particulares acciones del Conde Duque, tr. D. Juan Antonio
Dighero (Naples, 1661), 337-43 v ff. (Bancroft MS, 75-119 z). For an example of intra-council
conflict, in this case between the councils of Orders and Castile, see Elena Postigo Castellanos, Honor
y privilegio en la corona de Castilla: El consejo de las Ordenes y los caballeros de hdbito en el siglo xvn
(Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y Leon, 1988), 231-45.
I. A. A. Thompson, "Castile" in John Miller, ed., Absolutism in Seventeenth-Century Europe (New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 87; 79, Joseph Perez, "La couronne de Castille," in Hermann, ed., Le
premier age, 97.

Recruitment and royal authority

council members for some to be spared for the juntas.14 And while the Genoese
ambassador may have been a bit premature when he remarked in 1629 that the
Council of State had been reduced to impotence, it is nonetheless true that by 1633
Olivares had replaced the councils with his own, appointed juntas.15
In principle, the juntas were no different in function than the councils, whose
duty was to advise the monarch as part of the vassal's duty to the lord and to ensure
that the king acted with the good of his subjects in mind.16 Most juntas had fewer
than ten members, far fewer than the councils. They were flexible, hand-picked
and often secretive bodies that generally did not meet at the palace but rather at the
lodgings, or posada, of their respective presidents. They were usually devoted to
one particular problem, making them, at least in theory, more efficient. But the fact
that Olivares preferred appointing his own "creatures" rather than men with able
minds of their own, and the problems that arose from duplicative functions and
competing interests, meant efficiency was not always the end product.
The proliferation of juntas during the reign of Philip IV became one of the focal
points of Olivares' detractors, who argued that the "junta system" was a perversion
of the prior "council system" because its ad hoc nature placed it beyond the
monarch's reach. This argument was used both by arbitristas who mourned the
demise of the institutions and practices that were the legacy of the Catholic Kings
and by more interested critics who resented having been excluded from the inner
sanctum. The charges drawn up in 1643 against Olivares by Andres de Mena listed
among his failings that of having relied upon juntas, to which Olivares replied that
the juntas had been necessary because the councils were unable to handle all the
tasks before them. Furthermore, he quite rightly pointed out, they had been widely
used already by his predecessors, including the duke of Lerma. Indeed, the juntas
during this period can be seen in two lights: as tools to increase the power of one
man, Olivares, which was the critical contemporary view; and as administrative
instruments to facilitate both the concentration of government activity in the hands
of the monarch while at the same time allowing the participation of different


AGS GA, leg. 1050, consulta 13 December 1632.

By 1634 the Council of State had only six members. Elliott, Count-Duke, 383, 479. But the council
still had some sway in 1631 judging by a bitter complaint by the Council of War concerning the
Council of State's privileged access to the former's original correspondence, a privilege that was not
reciprocal. AGS GA, leg. 1029, consulta 22 September 1631.
Sanchez, El deber, 18-23. For a study of one junta, established in 1618 to reform taxes, the economy
and morals, see Angel Gonzalez Palencia, La junta de reformation (Valladolid, 1932).
Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso, "El Conde Duke de Olivares y la administration de su tiempo," John
Elliott, ed. La Espana del Conde Duque de Olivares (Universidad de Valladolid, 1990), 298-301. For a
contemporary criticism of the juntas see Fernandez Navarrete, Conservation de monarquias, 45-53.
For Mena's charges and Olivares' defense, "El Nicandro" (whose authorship is unclear), see Elliott
and de la Pefia, eds., Memoriales, vol. 2, 22580, esp. 237-8, 257. Mena had served as the agent of the
duke of Be jar during the period when the Crown had most pressured his master for military

The Limits of Royal Authority

The task of managing several wars was, of course, in many ways an obstacle to
Olivares' plans for reforming the monarchy because of the drain of resources it
supposed. Yet at the same time it was an opportunity to force through his proposals
and create a new bureaucracy of loyal supporters, what John Elliott has called an
"alternative administration," that could respond to the new challenges in the
manner he thought best. These new administrators were to raise an army, squeeze
the cities for money, and manage or mediate a wide range of social, juridical,
political, and jurisdictional conflicts born out of military mobilization. Though it is
impossible to say exactly how many juntas operated during these years, there were
from twenty-five to thirty that dealt only with war matters.18 The names on the list
may overlap, and the similarity among them may indicate duplication, but the
juntas, which were disbanded or revitalized, coming and going just like their
members, offer a glimpse of the mechanics of raising and financing an army and the
tremendous jurisdictional maze that was seventeenth-century Castile.
The most important of the war juntas, which essentially replaced the Council of
War as policy-maker, was the Junta de Ejecucion, already functioning in September 1636.19 Among its members were Jose (or Joseph) Gonzalez, Olivares' closest
collaborator; Protonotario Geronimo Villanueva, another Olivares creature; Pedro
de Arce, secretary of the Council of Italy; Nicolas Cid, who also sat on the millones
commission; Pedro Pacheco, the marquis de Castrofuerte and a member of the
councils of War, State, Indies and Castile; Don Carlos de Coloma, a longtime
ambassador who was also a member of the Council of Castile; and Carlos de Borja y
Aragon, duke of Villahermosa, in addition to Olivares himself and the junta's
secretary, Fernando Ruiz de Contreras.20 The junta, which met in the CountDuke's offices, attended to matters concerning the militia, the garrison levies, the
levies organized by the councils, and the levies of former soldiers, in addition to
planning the king's oft-delayed foray to the front and handling appeals from some
nobles. In the words of a contemporary observer,

Elliott says that by the time of Olivares' fall in 1643 there were more than thirty juntas; based on what
I found for the Council of War alone, the total figure must be higher. Elliott, The Count-Duke, 296,
511. Sanchez counted around thirty-eight for the Council of Finance, plus eleven for coinage; her
grand total is 104: Maria Dolores Sanchez, El deber del consejo en el estado moderno: Las juntas ad hoc en



Espana (Madrid: Biblioteca Historica-Juridica, 1993), 158 n. Tomas y Valiente, in "El gobierno de la
monarquia," says the Council of Finance had more juntas than any other council.
AGS GA, leg. n 54, consulta, 17 September 1636. Elliott says the first reference is January 1637;
Count-Duke, 512. Robert Stradling aptly translates the junta's name as "ways and means:" The
Armada of Flanders: Spanish Maritime Policy and European War, 1568-1668 (Cambridge University
Press, 1992), 96. This junta's predecessor was the Junta de la ejecucion de las prevenciones de la
defensa de estos reinos, established in 1634. See Elliott and La Pefia, eds., Memoriales, vol. 2, 128.
For Gonzalez, see Elliott and de la Pefia, Memoriales, vol. 2, p. 129; Dominguez Ortiz, Politica y
Hacienda, 1723; and Janine Fayard, "Jose Gonzalez (i583?-i668) 'creature' du comte-duc
d'Olivares et conseiller de Philippe IV," Hommage a Roland Mousnier: Clienteles etfidelites en Europe a
Vepoque moderne. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1981). For Villanueva, one of many
members of his family to serve as a royal secretary, see Elliott and La Pefia, eds., Memoriales, vol. 1, p.
80, and Elliott, Count-Duke, 260,421. Fernando de Fonseca Ruiz de Contreras, marquis de la Lapilla,
who began serving as the king's secretary in 1621, was also secretary to the Council of War.


Recruitment and royal authority

The Junta de Ejecucion deals with all matters. It is extremely efficient, to the relief of
petitioners, because it is not weighed down by all the formalities and circumstances of
memorandums, ups and downs, lost memorandums, replies, reports, etc. as are all the other
tribunals, and thus everything can be done in a day. This is to the service of the King, whose
authority cannot be less than that of other kings and princes, who are not bound by any of the
abovementioned formalities.21
Another writer referred to the junta as the "first among all," because its authority was
equal to that of all other councils and tribunals and it was accountable to no jurisdiction other than its own. It dealt with "everything concerning the universal good of
the Monarchy... all matters of state, both of war and of peace." When its workload
obliged it to split into three sub-juntas, "these three juntas seemed to emulate the
most sublime mystery of our faith, being one in substance and three in person."22
The other important body concerned with military matters was the Colonels
Junta, sometimes called the Junta de Coronelias, which dated from 1635. While its
name indicates it was formed specifically to oversee the coronelias, or regiments led
by noblemen, it also made arrangements with private recruiters, negotiated asientos
for military supplies, organized the 1635 Cities Levy and the 1636 Corregidores
Levy, and dealt with artisans guilds assigned to raise men. Smaller bodies included
the Cities Junta, which attended to the Cities Levy; the Registration Junta and
Junta del Despacho, to round up former soldiers in Madrid; the Junta de Defensa
and Junta de Levas, both of which disappear from the records soon after they were
established in 1635; the Junta del Embargo, which supervised the seizure of French
properties after 1635;23 the Junta de Presidios, which was concerned with the
garrisons but not the levies for the garrisons; the Junta de Galeras, in charge of
galley ships; and the Junta de Armamentos, in charge of weapons.
The division of labor between the two key juntas is not always clear today. More
importantly, it was not clear even to their members, which naturally led to frequent
disputes. Virtually all jurisdictional conflicts regarding mobilization policy occurred between Ejecucion and Colonelias or between one of them and the Council of
Finance (in contrast to the Council of War, the Council of Finance still exercised
considerable power throughout this period), and they almost all concerned money.
The desperate need for revenue after 1635 increasingly led to improvisation, which
often resulted in confrontations between competing policy-making bodies. "Administrative anarchy" reigned both within the various treasury bodies and between
the councils of Finance and War:
The division of responsibility was fairly straightforward. The Council of Finance was
concerned with the wholesale provision of funds; the Council of War with their detailed

Antonio Rodriguez Villa, ed., La corte y monarquia de Espana en los anos de 1636 y 163/ (Madrid,
1886), 75. The entry is from the week of 17-24 January 1637.
Olivares, Relation politica, 43 v.
See Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "Los extranjeros en la vida espafiola," Estudios de historia social de
Espana, vol. 4 (i960).

The Limits of Royal Authority

allocation and distribution. The Council of War decided on the requirements of the armed
forces and submitted to the Council of Finance an estimate of the cost; the Council of
Finance then tried to find the money, while the Council of War nagged and harried them
until they did. The result was that the Council of Finance had no idea where the money
was going nor the Council of War when it was coming.24
The most frequent problem was over who had legitimate access to royal taxes in
the hands of the cities. Whereas the king's royal agents in the cities, the corregidores,
had received assurances on several occasions from the king and the Colonels Junta
that they could use those funds to raise men, the Council of Finance argued either
that the local treasurers who controlled taxes must answer only to the council, and
not to the corregidor, or that the money must go to repay private loans. The issue,
which came up repeatedly throughout Castile, illustrates not only the existence of
competing jurisdictions but confusion over legitimate claims to royal monies. As
the alcalde mayor of Toledo, Marcelo Godiner, sadly wrote to Pedro de Villanueva,
secretary of the Colonels Junta, "different councils, judges, juntas, and tribunals
have claims to the incomes and monies of His Majesty, and each one in his service
defends his own case." He knew whereof he spoke, as his fight with the city's
depositary oi millones had ended with his sending the latter to jail.25
In general, the Junta de Ejecucion and the Council of Finance lined up on one
side, with the Colonels Junta and the corregidores on the other, though nothing was
ever quite that simple. In part there was a conflict of priorities between those who
were actually raising men in the field and those who were supervising the money
from Madrid. The Colonels Junta, for example, allowed corregidores to be paid as
they were raising men, particularly in the cities of Burgos, Valladolid, and Avila,
where it said companies would disintegrate if there was no ready cash. The Council
of Finance protested such an arrangement, insisting the corregidores be paid only
once there was written proof that the men had actually arrived in the ports of Cadiz
or La Corufia.26 But there were conflicts among the Madrid policy-makers as well.
A dispute in early 1638 is illustrative. On 25 January the Council of Finance,
having heard that the corregidores were using the millones for the levies, wrote an
angry consulta to the king:
For the corregidores to interfere in this way, drawing on the millones and treasury monies,
would be a new and never before seen thing and against all form and the way of doing things,
because royal funds can be drawn upon only by virtue of warrants and orders from Your
Majesty given by this council whose jurisdiction it is ... 2 ?
A month later, the matter still unresolved, the council wrote another consulta saying


Thompson, War and Government, 78-9. Thompson is referring to a slightly earlier period, but his
analysis is equally valid for the 1630s and 1640s.
AGS GA, leg. 1371, consulta 14 January 1639. A relative of Geronimo de Villanueva, Pedro de
Villanueva had taken over the secretary's post from Juan Lorenzo de Villanueva, yet a third member
of the clan, who died in October 1637.
AGS GA, leg. 1186, consulta Colonels Junta, 3 April 1637.
AGS CJH, leg. 784, consulta 25 January 1638.


Recruitment and royal authority

that, whereas it understood the Colonels Junta had to pay for the levies by using
royal tax funds,
it is advisable that such practices be reducedso as to not have negative consequences, nor
should the corregidores have the authority to draw on royal monies . . . The Junta de
Coronelias should inform this Council of the amount of money necessary in each district,
and on the same day this information is received, I, Lie. D. Antonio de Camporedondo [a
member of the council], will write to the treasurer or depositary of the money ordering him
to hand it over to the person named by the corregidor . . . 28

The king agreed with the suggestion, and so ordered it. But a March 8 consulta from
the Council of Finance indicates the Colonels Junta had not only not complied but
once again had persuaded the king of the merits of the junta's own position. It was
not the first such volte-face on the part of the king, nor was it to be the last.
When the Council of Finance protested against paying for recruitment with
money on which the asentistas had a claim, however, the king invariably saw its
point of view, the financiers being the most crucial and untouchable link of the war
effort. It was far more expedient to pass the cost of the war onto the people through
taxes than to tax the patience of the Crown's creditors. On this point, once again,
the council differed from the Colonels Junta and the corregidores. In April 1640 the
secretary of the council, Juan de Otalora Guevara, wrote the king that five creditors
had complained that their consignaciones, or interest payments drawn on the
millones, were being used by royal officials, and those funds which had not been
used were being frozen. Otalora reminded the king that a 26 March consulta from
the council had relayed a request from the creditors that the corregidores not be
allowed access to the consignaciones or, if they absolutely had to use them, that they
at least not embargo the rest of the money, a practice that "satisfies one at the cost of
hampering ten." If interest payments were meddled with, creditors would lose
confidence in the royal treasury, the council warned. Otalora ended his consulta by
reminding the king that he (the king) had already issued an order in accordance
with the council's wishes. Philip was persuaded by the reminder, and an order went
out on 11 April to the Colonels Junta regarding the embargos. Nine days later the
Junta replied, reminding the king that he had ordered the corregidores to take the
money from wherever they could to raise men because the Council was not
providing the junta with sufficient funds, and that if that order were revoked there
would be no levy.29
There is no documentation of the exact end of the Colonels Junta, which
had essentially overseen recruitment since 1635, but its functions were clearly
subsumed into the Junta de Ejecucion sometime in 1640, and all military administration from that time until Olivares' dismissal was in the hands of the
Junta de Ejecucion. The last reference to the Colonels Junta comes in February

AGS CJH, leg. 784, consulta 20 February 1638. Camporredondo, a member of the Order of Santiago,
also served on the Council of Castile and the Chamber of Castile.
AGS GA, leg. 1344.

The Limits ofRoyal Authority

1640,30 and the last one to the Registration Junta in May.31 Both had been run by
Garcia de Haro y Avellaneda, the count of Castrillo, whose power Olivares was
clearly curtailing.32 In December 1642, just weeks before his fall from power, the
Count-Duke dissolved the Junta de Ejecucion, replacing it with three smaller
bodies, called salas, which basically added up to the same thing. The word "junta"
had acquired a bad taste, though after a brief linguistic banishment it reappeared a
few years later under the new valido, Don Luis Mendez de Haro, Castrillo's
nephew; there was a Junta de Guerra in 1646, which lasted until at least 1648.33 But
after Olivares, and particularly during the reign of Charles II, the Council of
Castile, and the councils in general, returned to their old prominence.34
The juntas both consolidated and fragmented the Count-Duke's power. On the
one hand, Olivares created the bodies and, through his appointments, he controlled
them from the center, as his enemies claimed. But at the same time they offered
opportunities for actors such as the corregidores, whose jurisdictional affiliations and
loyalties were particularly ambiguous, to find alternative channels for their projects
and complaints. The hierarchy was not necessarily vertical, nor was it static, which
meant power was sometimes wielded effectively by competing institutions, and
central cohesion could appear to coexist with disaggregation. At the same time, the
multiplicity of bodies meant that Olivares, despite having hand-picked junta
members, had a difficult time controlling them all, which is probably why he was
consolidating them when he was ousted. The junta system added to the fragmentation of government caused by noble family feuds, personal jealousies and ambition,
conflicting administrative priorities, and competing financial claims, and the disputes among the juntas of the still-existing but impotent Council of War, whose
edicts touched every village in Castile, to some degree reflect general disagreement
about the location of legitimate power.

"The intent and principal goal that the good corregidor must maintain is the cult
and observance of justice . .. Without justice, the commonwealth will soon come to
an end." So wrote Castillo de Bovadilla, whose words were echoed some twenty
years later by Don Quixote, whose advice to Sancho Panza, the newly appointed
governor of an island, dwelt exclusively on the acts of justice Sancho should
undertake.35 Spanish thinkers of the seventeenth century believed justice was the



AGS GA, leg. 1258, consulta 18 February 1640.
AGS GA, leg. 1334, consultas 20 May 1640.
The count, who was the son of Olivares' brother-in-law and the uncle of Luis de Haro, Olivares'
eventual successor, served on the councils of Indies, Castile, Orders, and State. Elliott and La Pena,
Memoriales, vol. 2, 114 n. 6.
AGS GA, leg. 1615, in BCM Aparici 5704, consulta Junta de guerra, 18 June 1648; AGS GA, leg.
1691, in BCM Aparici 5392, "Relation de la gente," 1648.
See Kamen, Spain in the Later Seventeenth Century.
Castillo de Bovadilla, Politic a, 2, 2, 262-3; Miguel Cervantes, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la


Recruitment and royal authority

ultimate end of government, and in Habsburg Spain the administration of justice
and government were explicitly linked. All the king's councils except the Council of
State had an adjunct chamber of justice, and the Council of Castile was the court of
highest appeal. As a component of government, the courts formed part of the
dynamic of cohesion and fragmentation, of central control and of opposition, and
jurisdictional conflicts concerning the administration of justice thus could call into
question the substance of government. Opponents of royal policy used the courts,
and the courts themselves obstructed the implementation of royal policy.
The proliferation of courts and tribunals meant litigants could literally shop
around for the most favorable conditions; in 1640 there were twenty-two different
courts in Toledo alone, but the rest of Castile was equally burdened by ambiguous
laws, conflicting fueros and special privileges.36 This provided nearly unlimited
legal opportunities to challenge law. Cases of individuals' or towns' opposition to
recruitment involved ecclesiastical and Inquisition tribunals, local first-instance
tribunals, corregidores (who were also judges), the Chancilleria, the justice chambers
of the councils of Finance and War, the Council of Castile and, in Madrid, the
alcaldes de casay corte. The problem of multiple jurisdictions had, of course, existed
for years, and it would be a mistake to see the 1630s and 1640s as unique in this
respect. But the tensions that arose during this period, as the Crown grappled with
the task of raising and financing an army, had repercussions in the courts that
brought jurisdictional antagonisms clearly into focus. Conflicts over military matters became struggles for judicial authority.
Lawsuits and complaints were first heard by first-instance judges, or justicias seigneurial town corregidores, a variety of alcaldes, or the governor of a town in a
military order. Appeals were lodged with the corresponding city corregidor or, if the
case had begun in the city's court, the appeal went directly to the corresponding
Chancilleria. The second-instance court for cases from seigneurial lands was the
lord's court; those cases were also appealed to the chancillerias. Finally, decisions by
the chancillerias could be appealed to the Council of Castile.37
The Valladolid Chancilleria, established in the mid-fifteenth century and consolidated in i486, was the court of appeal for all of Castile north of the Tagus River.
Cases south of the Tagus were heard in the Granada Chancilleria. The CountDuke had intended to reform the judiciary, including the Chancilleria, and had
included such plans in his u Gran Memorial" to Philip in 1624, but he was gradually
forced to scuttle the program and instead turn his attention to organizing the
military effort. His defeat was the magistrates' victory. Their successful resistance


Mancha, ed. Luis Andres Murillo (Madrid: Clasicos Castalia), 2, ch. 42.
Richard Kagan, Lawsuits and Litigants in Castile (Chapel Hill, 1981), 35; Antonio Dominguez Ortiz,
Las clases privilegiadas en el antiguo regimen (Madrid: Ediciones Istmo, 1973), 13, says there were
twenty jurisdictions in Seville, though he gives no date.
See Ignacio Atienza Hernandez, Aristocracia, poder y riqueza en la Espana moderna (Madrid: Siglo
Veintiuno, 1987), 171, for a chart of the seigneurial justice system; Nader, Liberty, 145, for a chart of
the Castilian judiciary; and Kagan, Lawsuits, ch. 2.

The Limits of Royal Authority

to royal inspections (the Valladolid tribunal was "visited" only once between 1589
and 1663) meant the Chancilleria was increasingly independent, for better or for
worse as far as the cause of justice was concerned, and such independence naturally
led to jurisdictional disputes in which a note of insolence on the part of the court
can often be discerned.
The Chancilleria, which heard both civil and criminal cases, acted as both an arm
of the state and as an inexhaustible source of loyal aides to the king. It was
simultaneously an institutional instrument and a manifestation of the king's personal rule. It administered justice in the name of the king and was itself considered
a physical part of the royal court, "accepting the fiction of the Sovereign's presence
there."38 Traditionally, the president of the tribunal had worked at the behest of the
king to enforce the latter's edicts, and, in general, the magistrates had doubled as ad
hoc administrators. By the reign of Philip IV, though the Chancilleria as an
institution may have become increasingly independent of the Crown, the individual
magistrates who worked there were still frequently called upon by the king to
organize the militia, goad cities into providing men, or drag unwilling hidalgos off to
the front. However, the exact extent of the Chancilleria's jurisdiction over military
affairs, both coercive and judicial, was often unclear, and throughout this period the
king alternately exhorted the magistrates to stay out of military matters and
enrolled them in more and more mobilization tasks.
There were virtually no levies in which an oidor (civil judge), fiscal (state
prosecutor), or alcalde (criminal judge) of the Chancilleria was not present. Don
Diego de Riano de Gamboa, for example, although not a Chancilleria official when
he was put in charge of organizing the new militia in much of Castile, had a
distinguished judicial career: A member of the Order of Santiago, he had been a
professor of canon law at the University of Salamanca, afiscaland member of the
Council of Castile, and in 1642 was made president of the Chancilleria. He would
eventually (in 1659) become the count of Villariezo. During the years he carried
out military duties he was the king's chief correspondent about the state of the
militia. He ordered levies, negotiated with stubborn nobles, and fought with
juntas and councils. And even after his appointment as president of the Chancilleria, he continued lending a hand in militia matters, at times supplanting the
The magistrates had charge of a wide variety of tasks in the mobilization effort,
ranging from supervising naval supplies, to collecting donativos, to organizing levies
of hidalgos and nobles. One of the more important of their functions was to oversee
local judicial officials to make sure they diligently pursued deserters, whose numbers were rising. Geronimo de Fuenmayor, a former alcalde de casa y corte and now
an oidor, was one of several court officials ordered to round up deserters along the

Jose Luis de las Heras Santos, La justicia penal de losAustrias en la Corona de Castilla (Universidad de
Salamanca, 1991), 68; see 65-79 f r a useful overview of the origins and functions of the Chancilleria.
See, for example, AMB, Sec. Hist. 3113.


Recruitment and royal authority

Castilian-Aragonese border.40 Another alcalde de casa y corte,fiscal,and later an
oidor, Antonio de Lezama, helped Fuenmayor and had previously been asked to
assist Gaspar de Bracamonte, the count of Penaranda, in organizing a shipment of
2,000 men to calm "the troubles in Catalonia."41 Bracamonte, in charge of raising
the militia in much of Castile, had warned Junta de Ejecucion Secretary Fernando
Ruiz de Contreras in a series of April 1641 letters that desertion along the Aragon
border was a serious problem and that if a Chancilleria official were not appointed
to watch over local judicial officials, including the corregidores, the army would soon
be left without men, particularly as harvest season approached. "The ordinary [i.e.
local] justice does not have enough authority for these tasks [rounding up deserters]," he wrote. "It would be more in the Royal service to appoint in each district
seat a minister above the corregidores to turn things around and help."42
One of the busiest magistrates was Bernardo de Cervera y Lasarte, an alcalde de
crimen (and later an oidor) who had helped with troop transports to Aragon and
Portugal and had raised levies of former soldiers in Toledo in 1639 and 1640.43 Royal
troubleshooters such as Cervera occasionally encountered opposition from local
authorities, indicating the complicated jurisdictional position they were in. In Leon,
both the city council and the corregidor, Fernando de Valdes, put up a fight. On 15
March 1639, two city council members wrote Valdes to complain that Bracamonte's
order that the militia should be left alone was being violated, "and as this comes
from a higher order, you should not and cannot change or alter anything in this case.
. . We ask and beg and, speaking rightly, we demand that you comply with the said
instructions and guidelines of the said militia and not take soldiers and officers who
have been designated for that purpose... '544 The trouble, Valdes told the king, was
Cervera, who was raising nobles in Leon with "roughness and rigor," plucking
them from among the militia. The campaign to raise nobles followed a series of
other levies, he explained: the one-percent service, the Corregidores Levy of 200
men, one for 291 men to the garrisons, another 30 for the Count-Duke's coronelia,
plus a loan of 3,000 ducats of silver "in which no one here was remiss." But beyond
these burdens, Don Bernardo's behavior was inappropriate in the city's eyes:
What most offends us is that [we have] so often received from Your Majesty firm orders that
the four militia companies be prepared with all their men and officers, and many soldiers
were forced to contribute and other officers were enlisted without this city's pleas and



AGS GA, libro 183, cedula 4 November 1640.

AGS GA, leg. 1420, consulta 16 November 1642; AGS GA, libro 181, cedula October 1640. Lezama
also signed instructions which a sergeant major repeatedly presented to the Avila city council in 1641
in an effort to force the city to raise a militia. AHPA Libro de Actas no. 40, 85 v ff., 87, 91.
AGS GA, leg. 1402,15 April; AGS GA, leg. 1404, 20 April. Bracamonte was one of the key players in
the mobilization effort. A member of the Order of Alcantara, he served on the councils of Castile,
Orders, Indies, and State and as Spain's chief representative to the Congress of Westphalia.
AGS GA, leg. 1365, letter, Corregidor Fernando de Valdes to Ruiz de Contreras, 27 February 1640;
AGS GA, leg. 1366, letter Valdes to Ruiz de Contreras 13 March 1640.
AGS GA, leg. 1287, notarized letter.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

intercessions having been heard . . . We beg Your Majesty to order that said Don Bernardo
de Cervera and all other ministers in charge of raising the nobility refrain from enlisting or
taking or forcing contributions from any soldiers or officer of the militia and if any money
had been taken from them it be returned, because if their privileges are not respected the
service of Your Majesty will suffer because no one will want to enlist in the militia . . . 45
Cervera was caught in one of the better examples of the cross purposes of the
military effort, one that was repeated again and again throughout Castile: The
king's personally named agent to raise the nobility, in this case Cervera, was obliged
to undo the work of the king's personally named agent to raise the militia, in this
case Bracamonte, whose orders, it is interesting to note, the city council considered
"higher" than Cervera's. Both the city council and the corregidor used the conflict
for their own purposes, defending the sacrosanct status of the militia, an institution
over which they had some control and therefore wanted to protect, but which they
were also perfectly willing to boycott when it served their purposes.
Another Chancilleria official who found himself in jurisdictional difficulties was
oidor Alonso Enriquez de Sotomayor, who in 1641 was sent to Zamora to raise 1,800
men and came up against the count of Alba de Aliste, lord of most of Zamora (and
who sat twice for Zamora, in 1607 and 1649, in the Cortes). The count, who
detested Enriquez, wrote in identical letters to Olivares and the king that there was
nothing Enriquez touched that did not go wrong. Alba de Aliste reminded the king
of his own untiring service to the Crown, among which he counted the damage
control he was forced to exercise both against Enriquez's actions and against his
omissions. The last straw, he wrote, had been an altercation that day between the
two men in which the count waved his royal warrant in the oidor\ face to prove he
had jurisdiction over the troops, while Enriquez yelled that he had another warrant
at his house and did the count want to come over and see it. All of this took place in
front of captains, clergymen, and gentlemen, the count wrote, who were witnesses
to his suffering and his service. "I humbly beg Your Majesty to believe this truth
and do me the favor of removing Don Alonso from here and send me the minister
whom you think best. Anybody would be better." In a postscript the count asked
the king not to mention any of this to the corregidor of Zamora, who was an ally of
the oidor ("ambos son de una profusion"). The same day, Enriquez wrote to someone
in Madrid to explain his side of the dispute. The problem, he said, was that the
count had bad advisers, selfish men who spent their time going from "convent to
convent and from nun to nun," and the count did nothing to stop it.46 The count, it
is true, did not enjoy widespread respect; after a disastrous attack against Portugal,
in which he lost five companies and did not even attempt to recover his wounded
men, the lieutenant corregidor of Zamora wrote the king that men would rather hang
themselves than serve under the count,47 and discipline among the troops in

AGS GA, leg. 1401, letters 7 August 1641.
AGS GA, leg. 1405, Andres Florez de la Parra to king.


Recruitment and royal authority

Zamora was said to be deplorable, largely due to his incapacity or unwillingness to
impose order.48 There were plenty of cases, as we shall see, in which lords,
corregidores, and court officials worked well together. But regardless of the count's
personal idiosyncrasies, or precisely because of them, the clash illustrates the
potential for conflict contained in military administration whose execution depended largely on arbitrary questions of personality, royal appointments, and jurisdictional one-upmanship.
All the Chancilleria officials who contributed to the mobilization effort did so not
because of their post but by virtue of their personal, temporary appointment by the
king. Lawyers were raising an army. Their ad hoc functions, authorized by a royal
warrant, empowered them to police city councils, lords, corregidores, and other local
judicial officials, in the course of which they tested the limits of all sorts of
jurisdictional relationships and antagonized a great many people. If, as Kagan said,
the tribunal's corps was a "highly professionalized, well-organized hierarchy in
which officials moved regularly from lesser to higher posts," there is little doubt
that raising troops and keeping corregidores in line would help one move up the
ladder. Wartime, then as now, makes careers, but in seventeenth-century Castile it
also scrambled the ordinary lines of command. The arbitrary intrusion of a tribunal
official into military and municipal affairs could streamline mobilization, but it also
could further confuse the relationship of each jurisdiction to the king.
The Chancilleria apparently never registered any protest against its officials
being sent on military errands throughout Castile. Indeed, in addition to lending its
personnel, the tribunal as a body put itself at the service of the war effort. In early
1635, as the country was preparing for war against France, tribunal members were
asked to donate a total of 13,825 reales to help defray the cost of the king's visit to
the front. It can be assumed such financial contributions continued throughout the
wars. Similarly, court revenues were used to cover military expenses, as in the
1640s when the king ordered all judicial jurisdictions to apply one-quarter of the
fines they collected to pay the salaries of the soldiers in the Council of Castile's
The Chancilleria and other courts at times altered sentences to suit the urgency
of the times, which must have led to conflicts with competing jurisdictions. The
king, for example, instructed the Colonels Junta to advise corregidores that men
sentenced to "shame or exile" should instead be sent to the garrisons. The
Chancelleria granted some nobles moratoriums of pending lawsuits for as long as
they served in the military, which could not have pleased the nobles' creditors.50
More ominously, in 1640 the king decided there were to be no more pardons for

AGS GA, leg. 1409, Juan de Pera to king, 18 July 1641.

A V 3424-1, cedula 24 D e c e m b e r 1643.
ARCV Libro de Acuerdo no. 8, fol. 157. Similar privileges for common militia members, proposed by
the Council of Castile, were rejected by the Junta de Defensa because "if the honors and offices of the
noble estate were admitted it would be very harmful." BCM Aparici 5704, from AGS GA, leg. 1615,
consulta Junta de Guerra, 18 June 1646.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

men sentenced to serve in the galleys (galeotes) and, furthermore, that such cases
should get priority on the court's docket. Judges were to report on this matter every
two weeks, prosecutors should dispatch all pending cases within the next 60 days,
and even prisoners who had not been sentenced to galleys should now be shipped
off anyway. But in an indication that all was not harmonious between the Chancilleria and the king, the orders indicate, first, that a similar order had been issued the
previous year and had been ignored; second, that this particular order had sat
unobeyed for six weeks; and third, that the Chancilleria was in the habit of reducing
galleys convictions to sentences in the garrisons, which was as good as doing
nothing because captains were easily bribed into freeing such men, whose contributions to military discipline were negligible anyway. Such a practice could not have
endeared the magistrates to military authorities. Ten days after the king's most
recent order, which the court grudgingly said it would obey, "the Council"
(probably Castile) reiterated to the magistrates that, whereas it was sure they were
doing their job, the king was nonetheless adamant that all galleys convicts were to
be in the port of Cartagena by the end of the month. To prevent escapes, they were
to be transported heavily guarded, probably at the court's expense.51 It was men like
these whom Don Quixote encountered early on in his adventures and whose
appearance so puzzled him: "That is a chain of galeotes, men on their way to the
galleys where by order of the king they are forced to labor," Sancho explained.
"What do you mean by 'forced'?" asked Don Quixote. "Is it possible that the king
uses force on anyone?"52
At the same time as the king was telling the Chancilleria not to pardon galeotes,
he had also given authority to Pedro de Amezqueta - corregidor of Salamanca and
therefore a magistrate himself- to round up slaves in Andalucia and send them to
the galley ships, commute sentences of death and whippings to rowing sentences,
and pardon victimless crimes in exchange for payment of a fine, which was then
applied to the cost of transporting the prospective rowers to their ports. The
Council of Castile was not pleased with these wholesale pardons and did what it
could to stop them.53
Thus the Chancilleria could, and sometimes did, become an active partner in
mobilization but it could also ignore orders or even oppose them. On the whole, it
would seem that individual magistrates, whose personal careers were at stake, were
less likely to protest orders than was the court as a body. It could also be that
Chancilleria president Juan Queipo de Llano was particularly obstinate, though it is

ARCV, Libro de Acuerdo no. 9, fols. 31-5.

Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1, ch. 22, my translation.
De las Heras Santos, La justicia penal, 47-8; AHN Consejos 4427-27, consulta 16 February 1639,
cited by Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, Politicafiscaly cambio social en la Espana del siglo xvn, (Madrid:
Instituto de Estudios Fiscales, 1984), 195. The Council of Castile had unsuccessfully ordered an end
to the pardons in the past: AHN Consejos 7.155-7, cited in ibid, 194. Amezqueta was an ubiquitous
presence during these years; in addition to being corregidor of Salamanca, he eventually served on the
Council of Castile and became president of the Sala de Alcaldes de Casa y Corte.


Recruitment and royal authority

also true that he consistently pressured the Valladolid city council to raise troops.
Regardless of the motives, however, the Chancilleria throughout these years
clashed with juntas, councils, and corregidores over jurisdictional and judicial
matters concerning the military.
Although the Chancilleria could help raise money for recruitment, it was strictly
instructed to stay out of military matters, though it is never clear how exactly it was
interfering or even what that meant. A letter from a junta (probably Ejecucion) to
Bernardo Cervera reveals that the junta met for three successive days to issue royal
warrants to both chancillerias and the Audiencia de Galicia,
excluding them from taking part in all cases of whatever type involving levies, both of
soldiers sent to the garrisons in the King's service and levies of the Colonels Junta, grandees
and lords, because they must be inhibited from everything having to do with levies, leaving
jurisdiction of matters concerning garrisons to the local judiciary and the junta in charge of
Several months later, the issue came up again, a typical indication that nothing had
changed. This time the "Junta that deals with the formation of militia tercios" an
ad hoc junta that must have been very short-lived, told the king "it would be wise to
send an order to the Council of Justice [sic] which it should then send to the
Chancillerias ordering them that neither directly nor indirectly should they involve
themselves in anything having to do with levies."55
There is plenty of evidence, though, that the Chancilleria, in addition to
interfering in the levies, was taking on court cases claimed by the Council of War's
justice chamber. The limits of the fuero militar, or military legal code, were hazy
enough to permit plausible arguments on both sides, one of which was summed up
tersely by the haughty captain in Calderon de la Barca's UE1 Alcalde de Zalamea:"
"What does ordinary justice have to do with me?" he asked local officials.56 The
Chancilleria's blatant disregard of the king's orders to refer cases back to the
Council of War is striking, for the king generally sided with the latter. Nor is it clear
why the Chancilleria would be interested in crowding its docket with cases of
lieutenants who insulted ladies or of drunken soldiers who stabbed villagers.
Captain Francisco Agun, for example, was accused of murder, we don't know of
whom, and his case was heard by the Chancilleria. On 6 June 1639 the king sent a
royal warrant to the alcaldes de crimen telling them that if they did not submit
written justification for their role in the case they were to hand over the prisoner to
the Council of War. On 18 July a similar warrant was sent, to which the court
obviously paid no attention because on 29 August there was a third one, reiterating


AGS CC, leg. 1263, junta to Cervera, 4 February 1640.

AGS GA, leg. 1329, consulta Junta que trata de la formation de los tercios de las militias, 5 July 1640.
The reference to the council is probably to the justice chamber of the Council of War, known
sometimes as the Consejo de Guerra de Justicia. A scrawled draft of the order to which Villanueva
refers is contained in AGS GA leg. 1351.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca, El Alcalde de Zalamea (1651; Madrid: Clasicos Castalia, 1976), 274.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

the king's order and mentioning in passing that Agun had since been sentenced to
death. "It is unjust that a soldier who has served so many years die defenseless," the
warrant reads, an interesting reflection of the king's opinion of the justice dealt out
in his royal tribunal, and for a third time he requested information on the case.57
The Chancilleria also took military cases out of the hands of corregidores, who
frequently had their own problems with the Council of War. On 7 April 1636, for
example, Burgos corregidor Pedro Guerrero wrote the king that he had jailed Juan
Esteban, a soldier from the town of Torquemada, who had enlisted in three
companies in fewer than six months and collected payment from all three. Guerrero had sentenced him to ten years in the galleys without pay, but could not
execute the sentence because the Chancilleria was demanding jurisdiction. This
was not right, he said, because the Chancilleria did not have a say in militia cases
and "because this man has been a prisoner for many days and because a man who,
with his blaspheming and crimes, has caused such a scandal should have an
exemplary punishment." He nonetheless handed over the court papers to the high
court, where the oidores studied them and then claimed jurisdiction over the case.
Informed of this turn of events, the Council of War told the king to issue a warrant
instructing the Chancilleria to explain its reasons. Once again the court did what it
wanted. Four months later, on 11 August, Guerrero bitterly wrote that Valladolid
oidor Juan Chacon had freed two of his prisoners: a sergeant who had organized a
mass desertion, and Juan Esteban, who by then was credited with having enlisted in
four different companies.58
The existence of special fueros allowed each jurisdiction to argue that they either
were or were not responsible for something, whichever best suited them. The fuero
militar was especially irritating to corregidores and, in Madrid, to the alcaldes de casa
y corte, a special royal court within the Council of Castile that oversaw the capital
and whose duty to maintain order was compromised by the presence of thousands
of rowdy, underpaid young men with little to do.59 But the chamber (sala) of the
alcaldes de casa y corte had a history of challenging the Council of War's judicial
jurisdiction over Madrid and was not put off by the fuero. In the face of the alcaldes'
obstinacy, in 1625 the king had explicitly reserved jurisdiction over soldiers in
Madrid to their respective captains. Such orders were reiterated in 1626 and again
in 1632, though they were at times offset by contradictory orders placing military
jurisdiction in the hands of the alcaldes. By the period we are studying, both

AGS GA, libro 176, cedulas reales.

AGS GA, leg. 1178, 7 April 1636, Guerrero to king, town clerk's statement; 16 April 1636, consulta
Consejo de Guerra; AGS GA, leg. 1154, n August 1636, consulta Consejo de Guerra.
The alcaldes were the highest judicial authority in Madrid and a radius of five leagues, known as the
Rastro. They oversaw cases of public order, supplies and pricing of foodstuffs, and criminal cases.
Their decisions could not be appealed. The Sala de Alcaldes had six to eight members, a prosecutor,
clerks, and many alguaciles de corte, or policemen. See Carmen de la Guardia, Conflictoy reforma en el
Madrid del siglo XVIII (Madrid: Caja de Madrid, 1993); Enrique Villalba Perez, La administracion de
lajusticia penal en Castilla y en la corte a comienzos del siglo XVII (Madrid: Actas, 1993); and De las
Heras Santos, Lajusticia penal, 79-87. For a careful description of the fuero militar, see ibid., 109-28.


Recruitment and royal authority

because public order in the capital had become such a problem and because of their
successful appeals, the tendency favored the alcaldes. The king decided in 1637
they could take action "against soldiers who resist, even if they are members of His
Majesty's Guard and claim the corresponding privilege." 60 And in 1639 he essentially abolished the fuero militar altogether in the capital:
Given the frequency of excesses and crimes committed in my court, and that the principal
excuse for the mildness with which justices punish them is the licentious freedom with
which soldiers behave . . . (and) having reached the point where it is impossible to live safely
in my court, I have resolved that criminal cases involving soldiers shall be sent to the Junta
that meets in the count of Castrillo's lodgings [the Junta de Registro]... The Council of War
will issue the necessary papers.61
Five months later, at the start of an effort to round up and register soldiers in the
capital, the king dispatched the above order as a royal warrant to two alcaldes de casa
y cortey Gregorio de Mendizabal and Julio de Quinones, with the following
instructions appended:
I give you power and faculty to capture any person [who commits excesses and crimes] even
if they fall under the fuero militar and to enter for that reason in any guards' quarters in my
court, and I order the maestres de campo, sergeant majors, captains, and other officers and
soldiers of the levies in the court not to hinder you in any way but rather to give you all the
assistance you might need, and you will inform the marquis de Castrofuerte of my Council of
State of all that you do in this sense.62
The registration effort in Madrid was as long as it was unsuccessful. The Crown
was interested in mobilizing experienced soldiers, but quite possibly it was equally
keen on removing veteran soldiers who frequently caused disturbances, relied on
charity, and had nothing productive to do. By mobilizing them, one could alleviate
Madrid's chronic public order problem while at the same time avoiding the need
for drafting young men, which caused public order problems of a whole different
Similar to the judicial squabbles discussed above, the campaign to register
former soldiers - laggards who had ignored insistent orders - involved, in varying
degrees, members of the councils of State, War, and Castile; the juntas of Registro,
Ejecucion, and Observancia de las Ordenes; and the alcaldes.^ All would have done
well to heed the words of Castillo de Bovadilla, who decades earlier had advised
corregidores to "avoid competing with other of the King's justices over jurisdiction
. . . As all are derived from one head, the supreme royal jurisdiction, of which they


26 September 1637 auto, Autos acordados, vol. 2, 6, 24 (1745; Valladolid: Lex Nova, 1982, facsimile
edn). Quoted in Villalba, La administration, 145.
AGS GA, leg. 1259, bando 4 March 1639.
AGS GA, libro 176, cedula real 16 August 1639. It is worth noting that this is the Council of State's
only appearance in the matter of military recruitment, although Castrofuerte probably intervened
here as a member of the Junta de Ejecucion.
See AGS GA, leg. 1334, for several registration orders from early 1640.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

are all members, it is not right that they give a bad example to their subjects by
competing, each one defending his own area."64 Philip established a junta in 1643 to
sort out the various jurisdictional claims over military justice. But the attempt was
unsuccessful, and the disputes continued throughout the seventeenth century. The
king's treatment of Pedro de Amezqueta, who became an alcalde after leaving his
post of corregidor of Salamanca, is indicative of the confusion among authorities
who spoke in the king's name: After Amezqueta and three colleagues on the Sala de
Alcaldes were banished from the capital in 1645 for a ruling that angered the
Council of War, not only were they soon allowed to return, but Amezqueta was
rewarded with the post of chief justice of that same court, plus a seat on the Council
of Castile.65

The Kingdom assembled in Cortes (el Reino junto en Cortes) was, during this
period, the site of frequent resistance against the king, the motives for which may
not have been directly related to the military tasks at hand but which nonetheless
could compromise or alter the war burden borne by towns and cities. The Cortes of
Castile, which emerged in the late twelfth century, at one time included representatives of as many as 100 towns, but by the fifteenth century the number had
dwindled to eighteen cities, which claimed to speak for the entire kingdom. The
cities were Leon, Zamora, Toro, Valladolid, Salamanca, Burgos, Soria, Segovia,
Avila, Guadalajara, Madrid, Cuenca, Toledo, Jaen, Cordoba, Seville, Granada, and
Murcia.66 When measures were proposed in the Cortes of 1538 to end the nobles'
tax exemption, the nobility and the clergy withdrew, and neither estate ever
returned. The kingdom was the cities.
Reino is an ambiguous term. It can signify either the territory over which the
king ruled, or the political representation of that territory - the Cortes - or both.
Indeed, most of the disputes discussed in the following pages ultimately hinged
upon the definition the participants gave the term and their understanding of who
the Cortes spoke for. The assembly of representatives {pro curadores) from each of
Castile's cities was an active and significant participant in taxation and in corollary
recruitment measures. It was both the representative body for the cities of Castile
and the enforcer of royal warrants which often violated the cities' will. The
significance of the Cortes' role in military recruitment lies in this dual nature as
participant and enforcer, as representative and executive. It is difficult to say

Castillo de Bovadilla, Politica, 4, ch. 2, 404.
De las Heras, La justicia penal, 119-24.
They were joined in 1623 by the region of Galicia, which finally had freed itself from the tutelage of
Zamora. Galicia, Murcia and the Andalusian cities are, for the most part, excluded from this study.
The Portuguese Cortes continued to gather representatives from some ninety cities as late as the
seventeenth century, though they were ranked by importance. See Antonio Manuel Hespanha,
"Cities and the State in Portugal," Charles Tilly and Wim P. Blockmans, eds., Cities and the Rise of
States in Europe (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1994), 191.


Recruitment and royal authority

precisely when, in the process, it ceased being one and became the other, or why
that occurred. Decision making was neither constant nor predictable; the balance of
power - among king, Cortes, and ayuntamiento - for one problem in one city might
be very different for another problem elsewhere. The important thing is that the
insertion of the Cortes into the business of raising men made the matter one which
inevitably evoked questions of justice, representation, and reciprocity.
Until the 1980s, most historians of Spain agreed that during the late Middle
Ages and the reign of the Catholic Monarchs there was a gradual shift in the balance
of power in favor of the Crown and in detriment to the Cortes. According to this
interpretation, Charles V concluded the process in 1521 by defeating the comuneros,
who were Iberian democracy's last chance. Once the Habsburgs crushed the cities
at Villalar, Spain was condemned to a parliamentary Sonderweg, destined to be a
country that would never know representation.67 Henceforth the Cortes would be,
in the memorable words of Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "una maquina de impuestos," a group of corrupt, venal, and discredited men whose only function was to
rubber-stamp the king's requests for money and in whom the cities, which they in
theory represented, had hardly any interest. Because the Cortes did not make laws
but rather existed only to approve (or reject) the king's requests for taxes, and the
king convoked the Cortes only for that reason, they were not, nor could they be, a
"constitutional opposition."68
Several seminal articles published in the 1980s challenged this interpretation.69
Precisely because the Cortes' primary function was to approve, administer, and
negotiate taxes and other subsidies, revisionist historians of the Cortes have
centered their attention on finance, seeking lessons that cast light on Castilian
political and constitutional development. During the 1630s and 1640s the issue that
most affected the three-way relationship among Crown, Cortes, and cities was the
millones, an extraordinary subsidy first granted by the Cortes in 1590, after the
defeat of the Armada, and renewed periodically from then on. Through analysis of
the millones, historians and economists have attemped to discern exactly where the
balance of power lay and what was at stake for each of the three players. Much as
the present study uses recruitment to understand obedience and resistance, they
used the millones to sort out the institutional and political arrangements of a period
misnamed absolutist. And, not surprisingly, recruitment and the millones are
related; this is partly because they raised similar questions of authority and


See especially Maravall, Las comunidades.

Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "Concesiones de votos en Cortes a ciudades castellanas en el siglo xvn,"
Crisis y decadencia de la Espana de los Austrias (Barcelona: Ariel, 1969); J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain
(London: Penguin, 1963), 197. In a later essay, Dominguez Ortiz seems to have softened his position
somewhat; see "El estado de las Austrias y los municipios andaluces en el siglo xvn," Centre National
de la Recherche Scientifique, Les elites locales et Vetat dans VEspagne moderne, (Paris: CNRS, 1993).
Most notably: Charles Jago, "Habsburg Absolutism and the Cortes of Castile," in American Historical
Review, vol. 86, 2 (April 1981)"; I. A. A. Thompson, "Crown and Cortes in Castile 1590-1665,"
Parliaments, States and Representation, vol. 2,1 (June 1982);" and Thompson, "The End of the Cortes
of Castile," Parliaments, States and Representation, vol. 4, 2 (December 1984).

The Limits of Royal Authority

jurisdiction involving the same institutions, and partly because the capitulos, or
terms, of the millones that were elaborated in the Cortes and then passed on to the
cities, explicitly set out what the Crown could and could not do in raising and
paying for an army.70
The millones, so called because each subsidy was valued at several million ducats
annually, were, in theory, an extraordinary subsidy, though they became a permanent feature of the Castilian fiscal landscape. They were unique in that, again in
theory, no one was exempt. Hidalgos and the clergy, as well as commoners, were
required to pay, a provision that provoked stiff resistance from the urban oligarchy.
They were to be a tax on wealth, not on transactions; but in fact, they were no such
thing.71 The millones were also unique in that they were essentially a contract; the
Cortes approved the total amount of the subsidy and each municipality was then
apportioned a share of the amount. The choice of which taxes or other fiscal
expedients would be used was left to each town and city to arrange individually;
towns generally resorted to excise taxes on foodstuffs (sisas), leasing out municipal
lands and properties, or trafficking with the holdings of the local municipal granary
(posito), all of which clearly hurt the poor more than the rich.
Both in conception and in execution, the millones made manifest the balance
between rey and reino, between two centers of power. But beyond the contest of
wills between the king and the Cortes and the leverage each could bring to bear, the
administration of the millones underlined schisms further down the hierarchy: The
Crown used the millones to try to drive a wedge between the procuradores and their
respective cities, a suspicious relationship at the best of times; and the cities used
them to redistribute the tax burden downwards and also, because of the explicit link
between the subsidy and military levies, as a line of defense against the king's orders
to raise men. As with the complex mesh of juntas and councils analyzed earlier, the
essence of the millones agreements and the power-sharing they implied became
concrete only at the local level.
The Cortes had had considerable voice in the administration of the subsidy from
the very start. When it was renewed for the first time, in the waning years of the
reign of Philip II, the old king protested the terms, arguing "it would be an
annullment and violation of royal authority."72 A settlement wasfinallyreached in
January 1601, after which Philip III dissolved the Cortes. Administration of the
current millones subsidy of 18 million was then entrusted to the Diputacion del


According to Felipe Ruiz Martin, one of the conditions imposed during the Cortes session of 1592-98
was that the money "would be spent on national defense, and national defense was understood to
mean the kingdoms of Castile." Unfortunately he gives no source for this interesting observation, and
I have been unable to confirm it. Felipe Ruiz Martin, "Hacienda y grupos de presion en el siglo xvn,"
Estado, hacienda y sociedad en la historia de Espana (Valladolid: Instituto de Historia Simancas,
Universidad de Valladolid, 1989), 99.
Jose Ignacio Fortea Perez, Monarquia y Cortes en la corona de Castilla (Cortes de Castilla y Leon,
1990), 27198, esp. 274-81.
Actas de las Cortes de Castilla (ACC), vol. xv, 168. Quoted in Modesto Ulloa, La hacienda real de
Castilla en el reinado de Felipe II (Madrid: Fundacion Universitaria Espafiola, 1986), 331.


Recruitment and royal authority

Reino, a standing committee of the Cortes, and that same year, the Millones
Commission was born. Thus nearly from the start, the millones were administered
by a body other than the Council of Finance, which also distinguished this subsidy
from all others.
The Commission, in effect, acted as a council and was the apex of an entirely
separate financial apparatus that would survive until 1658, when management of
the millones was finally handed over to the Council of Finance, thus restoring royal
authority. One might see a certain "rationalization" in the process, though the
addition of yet another administrative structure was bound to clog rather than
speed things up. Lorraine White provides the example of the town of Alcantara,
which was accountable to the Council of Finance for the collection of alcabalas, to
Trujillo for the collection of servicios, and to Salamanca for millones.13 Following
new, urban criteria, then, the territorial division of the new administration was
structured around the eighteen member-cities of the Cortes, each of which then
took responsibility for its respective territory. Each territory had its own millones
commission and, more importantly, organized collection according to geographic
and jurisdictional criteria that could differ from those of the Crown. Towns and
villages were obliged to turn over their revenue, collected through sisas, to the
treasurer in the city. If they did not comply "the city or villa may appoint persons
and executors .. . who, with the staff of justice (vara dejusticia, i.e. with full judicial
powers), will execute and collect what the towns owe . . . at the expense of the towns
that were negligent and remiss in payment."74
A three-tiered structure was thus established: the territory, or partido; the city, or
cabeza; and the Millones Comission.75 The local millones commissions, made up of
the corregidor and two city councilmen, had civil and criminal jurisdiction over all
crimes and offenses linked to the millones, linking administrative and judicial
functions. Below them, each town or village had two millones commissioners who
established and enforced local taxes earmarked for the millones, and "neither the
corregidor nor the city council nor the [millones] commission of the said district nor
any other person or judge may interfere in appointments of the Reino or its
commission."76 The corregidor represented both the Crown and the city; the
treasurer was accountable to the Cortes.
While in the 1560s Cortes grants had made up only about twenty-five percent of
royal revenues, by 1601 they reached fifty percent and during the reign of Philip IV


Lorraine White, "War and Government in a Castilian Province: Extremadura 1640-1668" (Ph.D.
thesis, University of East Anglia, 1985), i n .
ACC, vol. 11, 339. Quoted in Ulloa, La hacienda real, 321.
The following discussion of the administration of the millones is based on Jose Ignacio Ruiz
Rodriguez, "Estructura y recaudacion del servicio de millones 1590-1691," Hispania, vol. 52/3, 182
(1992), and "La recaudacion territorial del servicio de millones (Toledo y el distrito de Villanueva de
los Infantes)," Adas, II Reunion cientifica de la Asociacion de Historia Moderna (Murcia, 1992), by the
same author.
AGS CC, oficios, leg. 37. Quoted in Ruiz Rodriguez, "Estructura," 1082.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

they exceeded sixty percent.77 As the economic crisis grew so too did the Cortes'
importance as financier, and the Cortes and the cities used this seller's market to
their best advantage. Forced to turn to the Cortes for money, Philip III convoked
the body on six occasions during his 21-year reign, during which three separate
millones "services" were approved, each one granting successively more power to
the cities and the Millones Commission.78 Philip IV was forced to convoke the
Cortes on eight occasions; during the period under analysis the Cortes was in
session from 1632 to 1636, and from 1638 to 1643. Under the Count-Duke of
Olivares, naturally, such a state of affairs could not continue. The valido mounted a
campaign to recapture royal control over the millones, a campaign that was eventually successful, though he would not live to see that day.
Olivares realized that the urban elite, through the Cortes, had established a
financial and judicial apparatus parallel to that of the Crown, redesigned with the
city as its center. Soon after he became Philip's minister he began trying to undo
the damage. His efforts at financial reform merged with those aimed at rationalizing
military mobilization largely because millones funds were being used to pay for the
garrisons. In 1622 his Junta Grande de Reformation proposed that the millones be
abolished as of 1624 and replaced with a standing army of 30,000 men drawn from
and paid for by all 15,000 of Castile's cities, towns and villages as well as by Aragon,
Portugal, Navarre, and the Basque Country.79 In part the aim was to eliminate the
administrative abuses associated with the collection of the millones but, more
importantly, it was one aspect of a more grandiose scheme for the redistribution of
the burdens of empire, a sort of preview of the Union of Arms.80 The measure was
resisted, first by the cities and then by the Cortes, but in May 1625 the Cortes did
approve a new millones agreement that reduced their own control over expenditure
of funds.81
Then, in early 1631, Philip proposed a levy of 18,000 men for the garrisons, to be
raised and paid for by cities, nobles, the church, and royal councils, and he
unilaterally abolished the millones, which would be replaced with a royal salt tax.
This tax, a financial disaster, provoked rioting in Vizcaya and the resistance of the
church, though not much response from the Cortes.82 With no available extraordinary source of funding, the garrison levy of 18,000 - which, along with the militia,
was the most important recruitment effort of this period - would have to be
financed through loans and special millones appeals to the Cortes.
This levy of 18,000 men would continue throughout the 1630s and 1640s, with
continual renewals to compensate for deaths and desertions. Unlike sporadic

Thompson, "Crown and Cortes," 31.

See Fernandez Albaladejo, Fragmentos de monarquia, 295, n. 25.
Elliott, Count-Duke, 149; Olivares' speech in the Cortes, 16 September 1623, in Elliott and de la Pena,
eds. Memoriales, vol. 1, 15-23.
Thompson, War and Government, 98.
Jago, "Habsburg Absolutism," 320.
On the salt riots, see Elliott, Count-Duke, 432-51, and Renato Barahona, "Histoire d'une revoke en
Biscaye: Bilbao, 1631-1634." (Paris: Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, 1971).


Recruitment and royal authority

one-time levies or companies raised by private contractors, authority over which
emanated from the Crown, the garrisons levy placed local authorities face-to-face
with the Cortes. The decision by the Cortes to get into the business of raising
soldiers could also indicate a desire to edge out the municipalities, which had had
considerable power on this terrain ever since the 1625 militia reorganization. It was
a power, however, that the cities squandered, having regarded the militia as an
unwelcome financial imposition, and the 1625 militia proved to be as inefficient as
the previous ones. By taking over the garrison levy, then, the Cortes may have been
bowing to the Crown, but they effectively also were trying to supplant the cities.
The plan to raise a permanent army of 18,000 men for the garrisons was debated
during the first half of 1631 by the councils of State, War, and Castile and was
approved before summer, during the short period during which the millones did not
exist.83 A consulta from the Council of Castile, probably written in April, described
the reasoning behind the measure, emphasizing at the start that continual military
levies were destroying the country:
When aflagis set down in a city to raise men, there are more violent deaths than there are
recruits, because of those who enlist not even a quarter reach their ship: and this is not an
exaggeration but the truth as it is lived every day. The violence, robberies and theft would be
tolerable if they were committed only against property; but husbands fear for their wives,
fathers for their daughters, brothers for their sisters. While the levy goes on, cities and towns
are treated as if they were occupied by the enemy.84
Spaniards, "who are by nature inclined toward war," knowing the garrisons were
manned and the soldiers were being paid (they often went hungry and barefoot, the
council admitted), would now feel greater respect for the garrisons, and no enemy
would dare attack. The country would be free of the terrible levies and thus, the
council reasoned, "Spain will recover its reputation in war and become terrible for
her enemies and be the mistress of all."85
The soldiers in the garrisons would be used for fighting in Europe, the Atlantic,
and for the galley ships. Any men taken would be replaced by new ones. The
garrison, or presidio, system had been used for years in Italy and Flanders with
enormous success. Their trained troops formed the strike-force of the Spanish
Monarchy, Parker says; the garrisons of Italy were "the seminary in which the
invincible Spanish tercios were made."86 There they learned discipline, developed
loyalty, and could train far away from the line of fire. But if Olivares intended the
garrisons on the Iberian Peninsula to serve a similar purpose, he must have been
disappointed, for by the 1630s it does not appear the garrisons were any longer the


Elliott and La Pefia, Memoriales, vol. 2, 104-7.

AMT Milicias, caja 7. This is probably a version of a prior consulta. It is incorporated into a letter to
Toledo telling the city how many men it would have to provide. Presumably, the identical letter was
sent to all cities.
"para recobrar Espana la reputation en las armas, y hacerse horrible a sus enemigos, y ser senora de
todos . . . " ibid.
Parker, Army of Flanders, 33.


The Limits of Royal Authority

backbone of the Spanish army. They had become a mere stopping-off point for
According to the Council of Castile, the project to raise a permanent force of
18,000 men would cost 1,178,172 ducats a year for six years, or sixty reales per
month for 18,000 men:
Payment for the garrisons had been covered by the millones, but this amount was neither
fixed nor sufficient, which is why the presidios are in the state they are in. His Majesty has
abandoned the millones [and] his income is not enough to cover such large and necessary
obligations as arise every day outside Spain in defense of the Catholic Religion and the
So where to get the money, given that everyone - the king, the Church, the
grandees, and the cities - was financially strapped? Divide it up among everyone,
the council proposed, which would diminish the strain and underline that everyone
would benefit from the new system. The distribution would be as follows:

the king
archbishops, bishops (32)
grandees and titles (241)
comendadores (163)
order of St John
councils and tribunals
churches, cathedrals
military convents (4)
abbeys and priories (19)
the Mesta
Seville Consulado, Contratacion
cities and town councils


















The distribution to cities and towns was based, the Council of Castile said, on one
soldier for every 100 vecinos (except for towns with fewer than 200 vecinos, which


AMT Milicias, caja 7, consulta Council of Castile.

According to a list included in a 22 June 1631 order, the grandees and titles were responsible for 1,425
men; AHN Osuna, leg. 1642.2. See Charles Jago, "Aristocracy, War, and Finance in Castile,
1621-1665," (Ph.D. diss, Trinity College, Cambridge, 1969), 689, for the nobles' tepid response.
S e e A G S C S ( 2 ) , leg. 3 3 8 , " L i b r o d o n d e e s t a n las e s c r i t u r a s d e s u e l d o s d e s o l d a d o s . . . " for a list o f

the contribution of twenty-three institutions, including the universities of Salamanca, Seville,

Valladolid, and Santiago, colegios mayores, abbeys, the Chancilleria of Granada, and the Casa de
Contratacion de Sevilla.


Recruitment and royal authority

were excluded), but as the levy progressed it would become clear that no one had
much idea of what the population was, giving towns and villages a way of stalling
mobilization. The council explicitly instructed town governments that they could
decide only which kind of tax (arbitrio) to levy in order to pay for garrison troops,
but could not administer the funds; a treasurer or receptor was to be appointed for
that purpose. The king ordered that garrison funds collected in Madrid be placed
in a separate coffer to which there would be three keys, each held, respectively, by a
member of the councils of Castile, War, and Finance.90
The obligation on the nobility was a new version of the old lanzas, a tax which
had obliged them to pay for a certain number of soldiers.91 The number of men
actually, of men's salaries - that each noble was required to provide for the
garrisons in no case was more than twenty (for the dukes of the Infantado, Medina
Sidonia, Osuna, and Alcala), and usually just five. Both the duke of Bejar and the
count of Oropesa were assigned fifteen soldiers instead of their sixty lanzas, and
they paid sixty reales per month per soldier. This obligation, first contracted in
1632, would end up running for at least thirty more years, being renewed repeatedly for six-year terms.92
The rest of 1631 and the early part of the following year was spent unsuccessfully casting about for money and persuading the components of the above list to
contribute to the cause. The king appointed seven of his ministers (including the
count of Castrillo, Antonio de Camporredondo, Jose Gonzalez, and Antonio de
Contreras) to travel throughout Castile, town by town, to collect money from the
towns to pay for the presidios.93 But already by early 1632, with the financial
crisis having only gotten worse, Olivares decided the Cortes would have to be
The first six months were spent debating a new issue of millones, which would
incorporate the 548,781 ducats that cities and towns were supposed to contribute
toward the 18,000-man levy, effectively transfering responsibility away from the
Crown and individual municipalities onto the Cortes. In June the Cortes hammered out the pertinent condition of the agreement:
It is resolved that the 548,741 [sic] ducats which each year are assigned to the cities, towns
and villages of these Kingdoms for payment and provision of the garrisons cease and that


AGS GA, leg. 1037, decreto 26 July 1631.

The lanzas were a tax arising from commutation of the lords' feudal obligation to serve with mounted
lancers. Philip IV had converted the obligation from men to money in 1625; the amounts were set at
7,000 reales a year for dukes and 3,600 for marqueses, according to Atienza {Aristocracia, poder, 50).
Six years later, with the garrisons levy, it was essentially being converted back again. The royal decree
ordering the nobles to provide men instead of lanzas was issued 4 August 1631; see AGS GA, leg. 480.
AGS CS(2), legs. 336, 337, and 342, receipts and cedulas, 1633-1665. Around 1602, the dukes of
Medina Sidonia, Osuna, and Alcala were required to provide eighty lanzas in case of war, most other
grandees were required to contribute thirty to forty, and the titled nobility from ten to twenty;
Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "La movilizacion de la nobleza castellana en 1640," in Anuario de historia
del derecho espanol, vol. 25 (1955), 801.
AGS CS(2), leg. 335.


The Limits of Royal Authority

they be included in the service now being made to His Majesty . . . and that levies, billeting
and transit of soldiers be done away with.94
In other words, the Cortes agreed to pay for the 18,000 men as long as the matter
was placed firmly within their own realm, and, furthermore, they would place
conditions on the financial service rendered. There were to be no more levies; those
companies still existing would be billeted in large towns or cities with at least 500
vecinos in order to protect smaller villages from the ravages of rowdy soldiers;95 and
militia companies in towns further inland than 20 leagues would be dismantled, the
Cortes having judged them to be too expensive.96
Next, the Cortes drew up a letter for the cities informing them of the new
arrangement, under which local taxes levied to cover the 548,781 ducats would now
be applied to the millones, and from the day the sisas were applied to the millones the
towns' obligation to the garrisons would cease. The king issued a royal warrant on
27 July stating that the current sisas on wine, vinegar, oil, and meat would now "be
freed and applied, as they were before, for the said millones, and the cities, towns
and villages may not use the said arbitrios and sisas . . . "97 That same day, he issued
warrants explicitly ending the 548,78i-ducat obligation, transfering it to the
millones, and dismantling the militia, as the Cortes had demanded.98
While these negotiations were going on, the Cortes of 1632 had been dealt a
serious blow when the king finally managed to pry the pro curadores away from their
respective cities by making their votes decisivos rather than consultivos, meaning the
individual members no longer had to consult with their cities. The Cortes resisted
no fewer than seven royal orders to make the procuradores1 votes independent of
their cities' will, but finally had to give in. Thus the cities lost their leverage.99
Exactly why "the resistance of the Cortes on a point of major constitutional
principle crumbled"100 is not clear, but it is important to keep in mind that the
defeat occurred as these millones negotiations were taking place. The balance of
power had shifted for good, though the wedge between the Cortes and the cities did
not necessarily mean either was entirely docile or submissive.
The new millones agreement went into effect 1 August, and soon the problems
began. On 30 August the Cortes appointed two commissioners to investigate the
alarming news that recruitment was under way in Madrid, which would have been


ACC, vol. 50, 138. In the line-item breakdown of the millones (ACC, vol. 51, 2-5), exactly 548,781
ducats were set aside for the garrisons, indicating that money from the other contributors was to go
toward other items or that their contributions never materialized. Maravall comments on the use of
the plural reinos: "The expression 'reinos' alludes to the parts that, in perfect unity, make up the body
of the Monarchy, and is just a purely terminological leftover from ancient peninsular pluralism."
Maravall, La teoria espanola, 345.
ACC, vol. 51, 33, from the "Escritura que el Reino otorgo del servicio de los quatro millones en cada
uno de seis afios." These conditions take up over 100 pages in the minutes.
Ibid, 34.
Ibid, 179. The Reino had no authority to collect tax monies without a royal warrant having previously
been issued to that effect.
Ibid, 184, 289.
ACC, vol. 49, proceedings of March 1632.
Elliott, Count-Duke, 440.


Recruitment and royal authority

a violation of the agreement. The two men reported back on 7 September that they
had spoken to the Count-Duke about the matter:
[Olivares] responded that it was just to raise some soldiers through D. Francisco de Yrazabal
[sic], of the Council of War, because they are necessary at the present time, and that this
imposed no hardship on the villages; the count of Castrillo, to whom they also spoke,
responded similarly. The Reino agreed that they should bring up the matter again with His
Majesty . . . so that the terms of the millones, stating that there are to be no levies, are
On 10 September the king ordered the Cortes to transfer 694,687 ducats in millones
funds in each of the following six years to Octavio Centurion, the marquis de
Monasterio, a Genoese banker who had been named treasurer of the garrisons and
with whom the Crown had taken out an asiento, or loan, with which to pay for the
maintenance of the garrisons and soldiers.102 A few days later the Cortes assigned all
of the cities their proportion of the 694,787 ducats and a payment schedule (they
were to pay twice a year, in May and November), along with a description of the
means by which they should raise the money. The system eventually worked out
would be a complicated one: The Cortes ordered the local millones commissions to
pay Centurion, who would then return the money to the cities in three installments;
one-third up front, the second third once he had notarized testimony that the cities
had raised one-third their required allotment of men, and the final third once he
had notarized testimony that the second third had been raised. The amount would
be the product of the number of men times the number of days of their journey to
the garrison.103
But a disturbed count of Castrillo wrote the Cortes on 16 September about the
problems the Crown was having collecting the millones: The Cortes must order
local millones commissions to turn over the money to Centurion, the Cortes, or the
central Millones Commission, he said. Delays are "extremely damaging" for those
who must advance 70,000 escudos z month for the garrisons, and the process would
"in no way alter the Reino\ role" because the local millones commissions are "mere
executors." Just one week later, the king was forced to order local treasury officials
to release funds earmarked for the garrisons, telling them they had no right to place
conditions on their payments or refuse to recognize Centurion's signature as
sufficient, as some were apparently doing.104
The Cortes meetings in 1632 and 1633 were punctuated by repeated wranglings
over application of the terms of the millones agreement as regarded not only finance

ACC, vol. 52, 95. "Yrazabal" was Francisco de Andia Irarrazabal y Zarate, Marquis del Valparaiso,
who would later become the Viceroy of Navarre and governor of Galicia.
Ibid, 120. For cedulas concerning Centurion's asiento, see AGS CS (2) leg. 335.
AGS CS(2), A#. 331.
AGS CS(2), leg. 335, libranzas 16 September 1632; AGS CS(2), leg. 331, cedula 25 September 1632.
Just one day after the millones had gone into effect, on 2 August, the king had ordered all relevant
local officials to cooperate, which obviously they were not doing.

The Limits of Royal Authority

but also the raising and transport of men. On 30 December 1632 the king
announced that his brother, the Cardinal Infante Ferdinand, would be going to
Flanders as military commander and needed men to accompany him. Whereas the
king knew billeting and levies had been excluded, "the journey of my brother being
such an extraordinary occasion and it is so important that he travel quickly, could
not the Reino permit the journey for just this once."105 The Cortes took up the
matter on 4 January, delayed it, took it up again on 14 January, again delayed it,
discussed a letter from the count of Castrillo on 18 January, delayed it, and finally
held a debate on 19 January 1633. The issue was whether or not to suspend the
proviso of the millones agreement that specifically ruled out the raising and transit
of troops.
The majority agreed that it would be "a matter of great scruples and conscience
[for the king] to have obliged the Reino with 548,000 ducats and then once again
impose the punishment and inconvenience of levies," but the matter could be
remedied if three conditions were met: the Reino must be relieved of the payment of
416,500 ducats from the grant of 2.5 million over six years made in November 1632,
because the towns were already loaded down with taxes; the Cardinal Infante's
soldiers must be paid for by the king and the lords on whose estates the men were
raised; and the corregidores must be given the same judicial jurisdiction as military
captains to prosecute soldiers, yet another case in which royal judges encroached
upon the fuero militar. A few worried pro curadores suggested further limitations to
ensure that towns not be liable for any payment, and the matter was tabled.106
Nothing much must have happened because ten days later the count of Castrillo
was insisting that some decision be reached, whereupon the Cortes sent off a
consulta to the king, presumably outlining the above conditions. Philip responded
on 10 February, assuring the procuradores that there had been a misunderstanding:
I was horrified that the Reino, in responding, did not inform itselffirstwhat it was that I was
requesting. If it had done so it would have earned my thanks ... What I offered the Reino was
not to impose levies on my vassals, billet recruits, or transport them at the cost of the towns,
but raise the men myself and pay them and lodge them in abandoned houses and inns in
France . . . "I07
The issue reappeared several months later for a new reason: On 22 August the
count of Castrillo told the Cortes billeting would be necessary in thirty-nine coastal
towns, and if that "in any way affects the conditions" of the millones, which of
course it did, the king would be willing to compensate the towns implicated. The
Cortes then commenced another of their exercises in delay. They scrutinized the
terms of the millones agreement, took a vote, and were unable to achieve a majority

ACC, vol. 53, 183. See also Elliott, Count-Duke, 459-82 on Ferdinand's journey.
ACC, vol. 53, 240-6.
Ibid, 350. The minutes contain no further mention of the Infante's army, which, of course, did
eventually go to Flanders.

Recruitment and royal authority

though they tried three times. They reassembled on 27 August, voted twice, and
remained stuck. Castrillo warned them on 29 August and again on 31 August to
reach a decision. At a 7 September meeting it was resolved to try again on 9
September, which they did not, but on 12 September there was still no majority.108
Meanwhile, as the Cortes were meeting and debating the conditions and terms of
the millones, the force of 18,000 men was supposedly being raised for the garrisons.
In fact, by late 1633 it was clear the levy was not working. There were only 7,000
men actually in the garrisons, the Crown was still 11,000 men short, and war with
France was increasingly likely. The reiteration of orders to local officials to ensure
that money earmarked for the garrisons made its way to Centurion indicates
deliberate stalling. On 4 February 1634 Olivares wrote the king to urge that
Castrillo meet with representatives of the Cortes to impress upon them how dire
the financial situation was and how important it was to "fill the garrisons."109 At the
same time, lists were drawn up to determine how many men were lacking and how
many each city could be expected to provide based on what the government
thought the country's population was. The "province" of Toledo, for example, was
thought to have 132,000 vecinos\ it had to provide a total of 2,340 soldiers, 910 of
whom were already in the garrisons, leaving 1,430 to raise. Three years earlier,
when Toledo first was informed about the 18,000-man levy, the city had been
assigned 100 men; even if this much smaller figure refers only to the capital city,
clearly the numbers had been revised, and cities' obligations were not based upon
the original one-percent figure. Madrid had 70,000 vecinos and had to provide 1,244
men, of whom 483 were already raised, leaving 761.110
On 22 February 1634, less than three weeks after Olivares had written his
memorial urging quick action, the king ordered the Cortes to cooperate in manning
the garrisons, and he attached a proposal in which, among other things, he
reassured the cities that the Reino was not being asked to pay for anything new.
Each city was simply being asked to come up with the prescribed number of men.111
The Cortes deliberated, and on 31 March informed the cities that they had agreed
"to take charge of and undertake to raise, transport, and deposit in the said
garrisons and borders and maintain there the 18,000 infantrymen." Volunteers
would serve three years; others would serve five. Payment for the men's maintenance was to be covered through a contract for the asiento taken out with Octavio
Centurion, and transport was to be paid for by the royal treasury. Cities would be
obliged to replace men who died or deserted, no men were to be sent abroad
without their permission, and it was reiterated yet again that no new levies were to

Ibid, 4589, 464-71; ACC, vol. 55, 21, 31, 40, 63, 75.
Eliott and La Pena, Memoriales, vol. 2, 109-15.
AGS GA, leg. 1095. There are three such lists, each with slightly different figures: "Relacion de la
vecindad que hay en las provincias... ", "Relacion de los soldados que toca... ", and "Tanteo de los
soldados que tocan . . . "
in p rO p OS j c ion que Su Magestad embio al Reyno . . . " All the documents referred to in the following
discussion come from AMT Milicias, caja 10. Presumably all other cities also received them.


The Limits ofRoyal Authority

take place and that ongoing recruitment by the Constable of Castile, the dukes of
Najera, Hijar and the Infantado, the marquis de la Hinojosa and other lords were all
to stop. This agreement was sent to the cities along with instructions on how to
raise men, starting with requesting volunteers and ending with imposing lotteries.112 The cities also received a breakdown by province of how many men were
required (somewhat different than the previous lists referred to, partly because now
the Crown believed there were only 6,000 men in the garrisons, not 7,000) and how
much money each city would need to raise its allotment. One royal warrant stated
that the period of the agreement would last only as long as the current millones
agreement (24 million ducats over six years), and another instructed cities to
appoint commissioners to work jointly with the sergeant majors already there.
When the cities received these letters and documents, they were nearly all
embroiled, to a greater or lesser degree, in several recruiting drives: for the
garrisons, for noble coronelias, and for the militia, in addition to occasional forays by
private military contractors and, in the early years of the war against France,
one-time levies throughout Castile ordered by the king. The millones agreement
provided them with some protection against this potential recruiting chaos. As the
millones moved, chronologically and hierarchically, from Crown to Cortes to cities,
they provided cities with a possible lever against interference from above or
outside. By their very nature, they implicated all three levels as participants and
offered each a way of combating the others.
In Palencia, for example, the millones were used as ammunition to thwart a
recruiter for the Constable of Castile. Captain Antonio Giron arrived in Palencia in
May 1637 with a royal warrant to raise 100 men, which he presented to the
corregidor and the city council, and he requested permission to raise a recruiting flag
and have his drummers beat their drums. The city responded on 28 May that it was
already burdened with levies, including one for eighty-seven men for the garrison
in Lisbon and 200 for La Coruna, and that it was going to inform the king and his
ministers of the situation. Until then, it told Giron, there were to be noflagand no
drums. That same day, the corregidor, Diego de Villaveta Castro y Ramirez, ordered
Giron to sit still "until the matter is determined by the said superiors" and free the
city from the "arrests, riots, and troubles" that would inevitably ensue from any
more recruiting. (Already in February the corregidor had reported that the 200-man
levy was causing "noise and continual disturbances.")113 Giron paid no attention,
and the result was "many disturbances and riots" ("muchos alborotos y motines").
In a sworn statement the following day, the corregidor testified that he had received
Giron's warrant, obeyed it and placed it on his head, but had not complied.114 He
justified his and the city's stance by invoking the millones agreement:

"Forma que han de guardar . . . " AMT Milicias, caja 10.

AGS GA, leg. 1207, corregidor to king, 28 February 1637.
" . . . y por su Md. vista habiendola obedecido y puesto sobre la cabeza y en cuanto a su cumplimiento
dijo . . . " AGS GA, leg. 1202. All documents referred to in this discussion are from the same legajo.


Recruitment and royal authority

The Reino junto en Cortes took on the obligation of serving His Majesty with 18,000
infantrymen for the garrisons and always maintaining them, replacing those who died or who
for another reason were missing, on condition that there were to be no levies of infantry
soldiers in the cities of these kingdoms.
The city had thought it best to inform the king and his ministers first. Giron's
refusal to obey the corregidor^ order landed him in jail. Neither the appeal from the
corregidor nor that of the city seem to have done much good, however, for on the
corregidor^ 29 May letter to the king Philip wrote: "Que se guarde la orden." It is
worth noting that Palencia did not have a seat in the Cortes and obtained one after
repeated attempts only in 1666. The city was bitterly under the tutelage of Toro
and had traditionally been assigned more than its true share of the millones.115
Zamora was the Castilian city that appeared most anxious about the abrogation
of the miHones agreement, at least judging from the city council minutes. This
concern may have been prompted by questions of individual personalities or the
fact that the city was one of Castile's poorest and was situated on the border with
Portugal, meaning it already had considerable burdens of self-defense.116
On 18 May 1637 the city considered a letter from the Cortes, dated 5 April, and
followed up by a royal warrant, signed 17 April, to come up with seven soldiers it
still owed from the third round of the garrison levy and thirty more for the fourth
round, all to replace men who had died or deserted. The corregidor, Vicencio
Vecario, appealed to the council "to respond as necessity demands even though it
falls outside of and exceeds the Reino\ agreement" because the kingdoms had
never before been in such a dire predicament.
During the debate, the council members all agreed they had the obligation
to raise the seven soldiers, but they were not sure they were liable for the
thirty, who perhaps were missing from the garrisons because they had been
moved, which, according to the millones agreement, meant the city was not
responsible for replacing them. Letters were sent off to the king and the
Cortes asking for a clarification and protesting that the thirty would be a
"nuevo servicio" over and above the city's share of the 18,000 infantrymen.
On 10 July the corregidor had the replies: The king would abide by the decision of the Cortes' Millones Commission which, in essence short-circuiting the
Cortes, had resolved that the gravity of the military situation outweighed the
inviolability of the millones terms. The regidores asked the corregidor for a few


Felipe Ruiz Martin, "Palencia en el siglo xvn," Actas del I Congreso de Historia de Palencia
(Diputacion de Palencia, 1987). Guillermo Herrero Martinez de Azoitia, "La poblacion palentina en
los siglos xvi y xvn," Publicaciones de la Institution Tello Tellez de Manises, 21 (1961), estimates the
1631 population of Palencia to have been 5,000 inhabitants.
Self-defense would seem to be a good reason for not burdening a town with further levies, but orders
to both Zamora and the Extremaduran towns indicate otherwise. In March 1642, during the war
with Portugal, Trujillo successfully appealed its illogical garrison quotas, which would have sent
four soldiers to Catalonia and five to Cadiz. White, "War and Government," 77. The following
discussion of the Zamora city council is taken from AHPZ, Libros de Actas, 33 fols. 46 v, 81 v-99.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

days to consider this new turn of events and write the king again, "as they
always have done."
On 15 July the city council voted to reject the levy, defying both the king and the
Cortes. Vecario responded with a court order (auto) stating he considered the vote
worthless (de ningun valory efecto) because "neither the letter from His Majesty nor
the orders from the Millones Commission give the city or council members
authority to approve or disapprove their content but only to obey and execute." He
ordered the city council immediately to appoint commissioners to come up with the
thirty soldiers, who would be transported to Lisbon at the city's expense, using
money it had received for that purpose from the Crown. Failure to comply would
entail a fine of 50,000 maravedies for each disobedient regidor, or even a prison
Two days later the council meeting began with an order from the corregidor to
vote on the auto and on nothing else. Of the first seven speakers, four voted to
appoint commissioners, but three others opted to register a formal appeal to the
auto (apela para ante Su Majestad . . . y lo pide por testimonio), and the corregidor

interjected another warning to stop protesting and instead vote. More objections
followed: Don Diego de Altamirano reiterated that the thirty soldiers amounted to
a new service that should not be implemented until the city consulted directly with
the king. Antonio Vazquez declared that the city had lodged a demand in the
Chancilleria for the corregidor to accept the will of the majority, and furthermore
that the king's order from 17 April had not been shown to him. This was too much
for the corregidor, who ordered Vazquez to immediately face afineof 500 ducats or
admit that he had indeed seen the king's and the Cortes' orders and that the rest of
the regidores had been witnesses. Vazquez confessed that yes, he had seen the
orders, but because it was a new service he thought the king had to be consulted
first, given the shortage of men in the city. The round continued, and once again
the levy was rejected by the majority.
Out came another auto. Despite having received a warrant from the king, orders
from the Millones Commission, and the previous auto, the gentlemen councillors
had not obeyed, they were still delaying, and they had "insulted the said Millones
Commission." As a result, the corregidor declared the council chambers to be a
prison, in which ten of the seventeen councilmen present were to remain until they
relented. Another round of statements ensued, in which four of the captive regidores
stated that they would allow the appointment of commissioners for the thirty
soldiers but specified they were doing so under duress. With that, the corregidor had
a majority of eleven in favor and six opposed. He ordered the recalcitrant six out to
the hallway while the rest of the council figured out how to organize the levy of
thirty infantry, after which the holdouts were to return to the chambers and stay
there until they paid the fines he had imposed on them.
Zamora's disobedience continued, usually conducted from the relative safety of
legal precedent. In January 1639 one of the Crown's ubiquitous captains appeared

Recruitment and royal authority

with a royal warrant authorizing him to raise ioo men in the city. The city "obeyed
with the proper respect and insofar as there are different orders from His Majesty,
one concerning the millones service and another concerning the garrison soldiers,"
the city decided to refer the matter to the city attorney, a frequent recourse. Either
the city was obliged to raise men or it was not; it could not do both. The council,
having heard the opinion of the city attorney, asked the king to abide by his 1634
order prohibiting levies, and reminded the monarch that it had complied with every
one since that date. It added that if any more men were taken from the city, local
sales tax collection would collapse.117
What happened to that 100-man levy is unknown, but two months later the
Cortes and the king were making new demands on Zamora, this time for forty-four
men to be sent to Lisbon. The council naturally sent off letters of protest, but it
appears the men were sent, not without a skirmish with Leon, which apparently
was stealing recruits from Zamora's partido de millones, the area of fiscal jurisdiction
that doubled as recruiting territory.118 By 1639, though, the city council minutes
reflect a gradual loss of power to the Crown, staggering povery and depopulation,
and increasing nervousness about neighboring Portugal. In November the Crown
announced it would send a royal administrator to the city to oversee its millones,
which enraged the council. The city attorney, consulted once again about the
ambiguities and contradictions of millones legislation, responded with a succint
statement of the legal strategy not only of Zamora, but of all cities:
In this case, what the law provides is that the custom and style which the city has observed in
similar cases shall be maintained, and if in the city there is no custom or style in similar cases,
then the custom and style observed in other cities with votes [in the Cortes] shall be
As the cities used every tool they could to resist or delay the levies, the Crown's
need for men and money intensified, and the procuradores were also feeling the
pressure. They were "very stirred up," a chronicler reported in early 1636, when
the Crown requested thirteen million on top of the nine million already granted.
Their subsequent refusal was taken "very badly" by the Council of Castile, whose
fiscal filed a criminal complaint against the procuradores and moved to send them all
back to their respective cities. Six months later, a Jesuit correspondent wrote, the
representatives were apparently still facing punishment for their opposition.
"Many thinkers (contemplativos) say these will be the last Cortes;" the assembly's
matters in the future, in the opinion of these observers, would be handled by the
Chamber of Castile.120
In the summer of 1638 the French laid siege to Fuenterrabia. The disaster

AHPZ, Libros de Actas, 34, fols. 10-15.
Ibid, fols. 35 v-45 v.
"9 Ibid, fol. 155.
Rodriguez Villa, ed., La cortey monarquia, 13, entry for 20 January 1636; Memorial Historko Espanol:

Coleccion de documentos, opusculos y antiguedades. Cartas de algunos PP. de la Cotnpania de Jesus

(Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1862), vol. 13, 437, entry for 24 June 1636.


The Limits of Royal Authority

coincided with the start of a new session of the Cortes, which began badly as many
cities, still angry over their defeat in 1632, refused to send pro curadores who would
no longer be required to consult with the cities. But their initial defiance soon
sputtered out. In the shadow of the siege, the Cortes' sentiments shifted from
protest to patriotism, and they agreed not only to raise 6,000 paid men for six
months but to renew the millones at the rate of four million per year for six years.
Although the cities might continue acting as if the Cortes and the millones agreements were things to which they were an active party, the Cortes were increasingly
autonomous after 1638. Cities, robbed of their voto consultivo, might at first refuse
to send pro curadores, which is what occurred in 1638 and again in 1645-46. But they
ended up sending their representatives after a few weeks or months of remaining on
the sidelines, issuing objections that were rarely seriously considered.121
Payment for the 6,000 soldiers approved by the Cortes was to come from the sisas
placed on wine and meat that had covered the previous millones service.122 If, after
six months, the sales taxes had produced more than necessary to cover the soldiers'
salaries, then the money was to revert back to the Cortes' millones fund. But by
October 1638 the Cortes had expanded the number of soldiers covered to 8,000.
The agreement was extended in 1641 and again in 1643. Madrid in 1650 renewed
sisas on cattle, wine, and meat to pay the 8,000 soldiers' salaries, which had
effectively become a permanent fiscal burden.123
By the late 1630s the various millones agreements, the sisas to cover soldiers'
salaries, and the local taxes to cover the garrisons and the militia, as well as an array
of occasional donativos, were running concurrently, mostly in arrears, and were
frequently being given extensions by the Cortes.124 And, of course, towns and cities
were still raising soldiers in addition to money, for which they were accountable to
the Cortes, and they inevitably lagged behind schedule. On 29 January 1639 the
Cortes notified all cities that, in accordance with an order from the king, who was
displeased that the garrison levies were moving so slowly, cities should adopt a
seven-point plan aimed at raising one percent of the able-bodied male population.
While the Cortes played a lesser role in the one-percent levy than in the garrison
effort, the former having been the result of a royal edict, not of negotiations, the
Cortes nonetheless appear to have assumed some sort of policing function over the
cities. In his confirmation of the order, the king was quite explicit that "this does
not depend on (the Cortes') consent but on its obligation, born of the service and
vasallage I have in these Kingdoms."125 The Cortes in August 1640 agreed to
maintain the garrison levy until the current 24-million servicio expired in 1644 (first

Felipe Ruiz Martin, "Las finanzas de la monarquia hispanica en tiempos de Felipe IV," discurso
leido el dia 21 de octubre en la Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, 1990), 103-4.
AMB, Sec. Hist. 2794, "Traslado de una cedula de Su Majestad," 11 July 1638.
Ruiz Martin, "Las finanzas," 109; Artola, La hacienda, 116; ACC, vol. 56, 75-80, 169, 197; AMT
Milicias, caja 7; Hilario Penasco de la Puente, Las Sisas de Madrid (Madrid, 1890), 20.
See Artola, La hacienda, 4701 and 116, the latter an instructive chart of the overlapping subsidies.
ACC, vol. 56, 52.


Recruitment and royal authority

approved in 1632, it was renewed for six years in 1638). Cities continued to make
their twice-yearly payments to the Marques de Centurion until at least 1644, and
there are indications the levy was confirmed again in 1643.126
This account implicitly raises the questions of how the cities regarded the Cortes
and how the Cortes represented the cities; the answers lie in a more detailed
analysis of municipal and Cortes minutes and of the personalities of individual
regidores and procuradores than is possible here. Though the Crown managed to
create a schism between cities and Cortes through the imposition of the voto
decisive, it is still unclear who the winners and losers were, at least insofar as
military recruiting was concerned. Nor did the voto decisivo necessarily resolve
anything, though it was decisive in the long run; just as the 1638 Cortes were
delayed by cities which refused to send procuradores with autonomous powers, the
1646 Cortes got off to a slow start for the same reason. Zamora and Soria were
especially recalcitrant.127 The Crown's eventual decision after 1643 to bypass the
Cortes, Thompson says, returned the advantage to the cities, as they were left
dealing face-to-face with the monarchy. Yet we have seen how the cities' abandonment by the Cortes' Millones Commission forced them to comply with agreements
to which they really had not been a party. So it does not appear the cities gained
much during the period under examination, though the situation changed between
then and the 1660s, when the Cortes was dissolved for good. Testimony of attitudes
among city records is elusive. There is little evidence to indicate how important it
was to the cities that it was the Cortes, not the Crown, that were in charge of the
garrison levy; certainly, by the 1630s, there was little, if any, popular sentiment in
favor of the assembly. Nor is it clear if the cities used the millones agreements as a
bargaining lever merely because they were useful or because they somehow felt
implicated in their creation. Both could be true.


Juntas, councils, corregidores, magistrates, and courts, all wielding royal warrants,
all spoke in the king's name as his surrogates. But such jurisdictional cacophony
meant it was never really clear who spoke with the most authority in a given
situation, an ambiguity which made it not only easy to ignore or disobey orders, but
fully justifiable. Refusing an order in deference to another order or to an allegedly
violated chain of command transformed insubordinacy into an act of loyalty, or at
least it offered loyalty as an alibi. Because the mobilization machine was made up of
highly movable parts, of Crown and judicial officials all armed with legitimate
authority, the chain of command could and did change from day to day. When it

AGS CS(2), leg. 335, libranzas 26 October 1643, showing each city owing Centurion 507, 268
maravedis; ACD, leg. 124, "Relacion de las concesiones de millones . . ., " 1638-43.
ACC, vol. 56, 313-79.


The Limits of Royal Authority

came to raising an army, if one acted in the king's name, it seemed one could do, or
not do, virtually anything.
But in the sphere of affairs that corresponded to the Cortes, even the king's name
was not enough to command immediate obedience, and city after city refused to
comply with royal orders that allegedly violated the kingdom's authority over the

To a greater or lesser degree, even as the relative powers of the Crown, Cortes,
and cities waxed and waned, the millones agreements, on which the garrison levies
were based, implied the active participation and consent of the Reino junto en
Cortes. The form and language of the agreements allowed for the possibility of
resistance by cities or procuradores. The threat of resistance is often as potent as
resistance in fact. The capitulos de millones did not always grant the kingdom
effective power, but they could do so.
In a broader context, this discussion of the Cortes' intervention in military
recruitment has shown two things: the importance of jurisdiction in defining policy
and setting limits to authority; and, more significantly, that raising an army lay in
the realm of mutual obligation between king and vassal, between rey and reino, a
matter of both justice and government. The explicit link between soldiers and
millones made this more obvious. The king's military needs had transformed the
customary obligation of service into a contractual transaction, and the degree to
which the contract was upheld shed light on the relative political advantages the
three powers - cities, Cortes, and Crown - reaped from the crisis. When Philip
accepted the Cortes' 1638 offer to pay for 6,000 (later 8,000) soldiers, he said the
agreement should "take effect as a mutual contract, reciprocal and obligatory, made
and granted among parties."128 Recruitment was thus regarded as one more aspect
of the reciprocity that was supposed to underly the relationship between ruler and
ruled. Of course, the king's wording cannot be taken too literally. Ultimately, a
corregidor, in the name of the king, could and did lock up regidores until they
buckled under. The king, then, could always have the last word, but there were
many meaningful words spoken beforehand.

" . . . quiero que tenga fuerza de contrato mutuo, reciproco y obligatorio, hecho y otorgado entre
partes." AMT Milicias, caja 7, "Traslado de una cedula . . ., " 11 July 1638. See also ACC, vol. 56,


Making soldiers of townsmen

Castile was an urban landscape in which a handful of cities spoke in the Cortes for
the whole region and, as Helen Nader has pointed out, where everyone lived in a
city, a town, or a village. Castilians' responses to military recruitment and the
recourses they used to delay, alter, or alleviate the burden, were therefore defined
by the social and jurisdictional confines or possibilities of their municipality,
whether it was royal (realengo) or seigneurial. Negotiation over levies brought to
light the limits and capacities of the municipality, the relative weight of its claims
against those of other institutions, and the arguments it deemed important for
establishing its rights.
We do not know what proportion of Castilians lived on realengo lands, though
the figure of thirty percent is often accepted.1 This included inhabitants of the
thirteen Cortes cities in the area under consideration, the cities' subject towns,
those towns' subject villages, and towns that had attained their own liberty. It has
also been estimated that eighty percent of Castilians lived in towns and villages
(both realengo and seigneurial), and the remaining twenty percent lived in the
cities.2 All municipalities were aware that they were losing inhabitants at an
alarming rate; the demographic crisis of the first half of the seventeenth century
reduced Castile's population by nearly twenty-five percent from the 1590s to
mid-century, from 6,600,000 to around 5,000,000. Burgos' population during that
period plunged from 10,500 inhabitants to just 2,700; Toledo's loss was even
greater, from 80,000 to 10,000. The great plague at the turn of the century alone
killed an estimated ten percent of all Castilians. Echoing the alarmed warnings of
Spain's prolific treatise writers, the arbitristas, virtually all towns and cities framed
their appeals against recruitment orders with images of shops with no customers,

Thompson, War and Government, 65, citing similar figures from Vicens Vives and Dominguez Ortiz.
Nader, Liberty, p. 3. She cites Miguel Angel Ladero Quesada for this figure. A lower estimate is
offered by Juan E. Gelabert, "Urbanisation and Deurbanisation in Castile, 1500-1800." I. A. A.
Thompson and Bartolome Yun, eds., The Castilian Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge
University Press, 1994), 183, who, by using the criteria of Jan de Vries, comes up with 11.4 percent
city dwellers in 1600.

The Limits of Royal Authority

fields lying untilled, women with no husbands, and neighborhoods where only the
old and useless remained.3
The tradition of urban autonomy in Castile, too, was a constant, if tacit, presence
in ayuntamientos* petitions. The Comuneros revolt, in which Castilian cities rose up
against Charles V, had occurred 120 years before the Catalan revolt. As the
previous chapter has made clear, the cities had a great deal to say about fiscal policy
and municipal privilege. So too, regarding recruitment, regidores often communicated to the king a tone of bruised dignity and an awareness that their city had
privileges, rights, and a certain tradition to uphold that all were being violated by
levy orders. And though it was the city officials who generally articulated this
defense of political liberty, it is also true that they could be motivated to stand up to
the Crown for fear that the city's populace might have a memory of its own and a
notion of a liberty worth defending.


The Crown's need for soldiers was transformed into an army through the financial,
political, and administrative capacities of cities and towns. The corregidor, the
king's representative on a city council, received royal orders to raise soldiers and
then passed them on to the council. (Recruiting captains, who worked for noblemen
or as private contractors and had commissions to raise a certain number of men,
presented their royal patent directly to the city council.) The ayuntamiento, in turn,
distributed the responsibility of a particular levy among towns, ordered lotteries,
raised the necessary funds for feeding and housing soldiers until their departure
and then for their transport, and generally served as the interlocutor between the
Crown and both the eventual cannon fodder and their social betters. Town councils
defended their interests to the cities, which in turn informed the Crown and then
usually tried to force the towns to submit. Villages had the same relationship with
towns. Each level had a council and judiciary (or, in the case of some villages, just a
couple of alcaldes), which also could appeal directly to the king for redress from
unreasonable demands from the next-highest level.
Along with the burdens that military recruitment entailed there were also
considerable potential benefits for cities: the power to comply or not, to delay, to
negotiate orders, to assert privilege, to impose sales taxes, to cleanse towns of
In addition to disease, the population decline can be attributed to lower birth rates, internal migration,
warfare, emigration, and the expulsion of the Moriscos. John Lynch, The Hispanic World in Crisis and
Change i^g8ijoo (Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1992), 175-8; Paul Hiltpold, "Noble status
and urban privilege: Burgos, 1572." The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 12, no. 4 (1981), 27; David R.
Ringrose, Madrid and the Spanish Economy, 1560-1850 (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1983), 373; Nadal, La poblacion espanola; Vicente Perez Moreda, Las crisis de mortalidad en la Espana
interior, siglos XVI-XIX (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1980).

Making soldiers of townsmen

unwanted elements, and to push off obligations onto other towns. The band of
roving Chancilleria officials trying to reorganize the militia in Castile had to
contend with often obstinate city councils that must have made more than one
ambitious ladder-climber ask himself if it was really worth the trouble. If, as was
shown in chapter i, lawyers and judges were raising an army, they did so in
necessary collaboration with the cities. Such autonomy in the hands of city
governments was the price the Crown paid for being unable to raise the army itself.
Ayuntamiento meetings, usually held in the town hall three times a week, were
attended by the regidores, the corregidor (or his lieutenant), the justice officials
(alcaldes), the town clerk (escribano), and guests, whose presence was noted down in
the minutes. Decisions were decided by a simple majority of those present, with the
corregidor casting the deciding vote, if necessary. Matters that were very time
consuming or complicated would be handled by commissions; there were standing
commissions whose members were chosen at the start of each calendar year, and ad
hoc commissions established as the need arose. Toledo, Madrid and possibly other
cities had such "soldiers' commissions." which met separately and reported to the
regidores at the full meetings.4
By the seventeenth century, the old aristocracy had been joined in the municipal
council chambers by members of the lower nobility, holders of new titles, magistrates, conversos, merchants, tax farmers - in short, men who had bought their way
in, who had inherited the post as part of an entailed estate, or who had received an
office as a merced; Olivares himself was appointed by the king in 1640 to be a regidor
of Madrid.5 When there were no offices to reward, they were created, often leading
to a cumbersome surfeit of offices, such as in Medina del Campo, once one of
Castile's greatest market towns, whose exasperated vecinos complained in 1636 that

For general discussions of city administration, see Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Les
elites locales et Ve'tat dans VEspagne moderne (Paris: CNRS, 1993); Francis Brumont, "Le pouvoir
municipal en Vieille-Castille au siecle d'or." in Bulletin hispanique, vol. 87 (1985); Fortea Perez,
Monarquia y Cortes, 183206; Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso, "Sociedad urbana y gobierno municipal en
Castilla" in his Sobre elestadoy la administracion de la Corona de Castilla en elantiguo regimen (Madrid:
Siglo Veintiuno, 1981); Adriano Gutierrez Alonso, Estudio sobre la decadencia de Castilla (Valladolid,
1989), 295-330; Mauro Hernandez, A la sombra de la Corona: Poder localy oligarquia urbana (Madrid
16061808), (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1995); Hiltpold, "Noble Status;" Bartolome Yun Casalilla,
ed. and intro. to Jose Ruiz de Celada's Estado de la bolsa de Valladolid (Universidad de Valladolid,
1990), 19-32.
Gutierrez Alonso provides a list of the purchasers of Valladolid council seats and the price they each
paid: Estudio, 313-4. There is a great deal of literature on the purchase of office during the reign of
Philip IV. In particular, see Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "La venta de cargos y oficios publicos en
Castilla y sus consecuencias economicas y sociales." in his Instituciones y sociedad en la Espana de los
Austrias (Barcelona: Ariel, 1985); Janine Fayard, Les membres du Conseil de Castille a Vepoque moderne
(1621-1746) (Geneva, 1979); Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso, "El Conde Duque de Olivares y la
administracion de su tiempo." in Elliott, ed. La Espana, 303-11; and Francisco Tomas y Valiente,
"Ventas de oficios publicos en Castilla durante los siglos xvn y xvm" in his Gobierno e instituciones en la
Espana del antiguo regimen (Madrid: Alianza Universidad, 1982).


The Limits of Roy al Authority

there were thirty-two regidores, most of them corrupt, for just 600 vecinos.6 War
provided the regidores with opportunities for even greater rewards and promotions.
They served as militia captains, took charge of transporting recruits (for which they
were paid), made personal loans to their cities, and lobbied in Madrid, all of which
could prove beneficial to their political and financial interests.
Between the regidores and the Crown sat the corregidor, who might well have
acquired his post after serving on a city council himself.7 The post was established
in 1480, during the reign of Isabel and Fernando, though there were fourteenthcentury antecedents. Throughout the sixteenth century there were around sixty
corregimientos, a district that could be defined in geographic, judicial, fiscal, or
administrative terms, and which usually corresponded to a city or town and the area
surrounding it.8 By 1610 there were sixty-eight such districts. Corregidores were
occasionally called upon to collect donativos and inspect trouble spots. They
received a salary from the corregimiento (though there were complaints of nonpayment)9 and usually remained in office for two years, though the term could be
extended. They voted at council meetings only in order to break a tie or when a
municipal charter was being altered; in the latter case, they had a veto. In addition
to presiding over the councils and being solely responsible for convoking council
meetings, corregidores were chief magistrates in their districts. In both capacities
they were a key part of the war mobilization effort and had a leading role in all the
levies of this period: the 1635 Levy of the Cities, the 1636-7 Levy of the
Corregidores, the 1639 and 1640 one-percent levies, the 1639-40 rounding up of
former soldiers, and the garrison levies, in addition to the militia. As the king's
AGS CC, leg. 1220, petition to king, February 1636. Most large cities had between twenty and forty
regidores; the usual number in the sixteenth century had been twenty-four - hence the term
veinticuatro for Andalusian council members. Madrid had forty-four regidores in the early 1640s;
Valladolid had thirty-six regidores in the mid-seventeenth century, when the population was approximately 20,000, or 4,400 vecinos (Gutierrez Alonso, Estudio, 93, 301); compare this to Medina del
Campo, whose population in this period Alberto Marcos estimates at from 900 to 1,000 vecinos;
Alberto Marcos Martin, Augey dec live de un nucleo mercantilyfinancier0 de Castilla la Vieja: Evolucion
demogrdfica de Medina del Campo durante los siglos xviy XVII (Universidad de Valladolid, 1978), 67-73.
On the corregidor see Castillo de Bovadilla, Politica, an exhaustive description of the corregidores duties:
his judicial jurisdiction, his responsibilities toward the city council and to the city's villages, his role in
local military affairs, and even the importance of street-cleaning. See also Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso,
El corregidor castellano 13481808. (Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Administrativos, 1970; Heras
Santos, Lajusticia penal, 60-5; and, though less useful, Fernando Albi, El Corregidor en el municipio
espanol bajo la monarquia absoluta (Madrid: Instituto de Estudios de Administration Local, 1943).
Corregimiento was not the only inexact geographic jurisdiction during this period. Provincia generally
referred to the area represented in the Cortes by a particular city, which was subdivided into partidos.
But the two were also sometimes synonymous. Granada, Cordoba, Leon and others were referred to as
reinos rather than provincias. See Annie Molinie-Bertrand, "Le nombre des hommes - La saisie de
l'espace," Le premier age, 281.
"All the offices of Spain are worth something, but this one is worth no more than 400 ducats because I
am not getting paid and have no hope of ever getting paid . . . " AGS GA, leg. 1207, Toledo corregidor
to archbishop of Granada, 10 May 1637, regarding a levy of 100 men. Castillo de Bovadilla, Politica, 2,
book 5, ch. 11, lists the funds with which each corregimiento paid its corregidor.


Making soldiers of townsmen

agents, the corregidores were not entirely trustworthy. Though a corregidor might
bully and threaten a council into submission, he could also plead with the king or a
junta on the city's behalf, arguing that raising more men was beyond the city's
capacity. Often holding the post as a reward for service, susceptible to favoritism
and subject to little control, with as much loyalty to the officials below him as to
those above him, this crucial link between city and Crown often proved to be
Like the regidores, or even more so, the corregidores reaped what advantage they
could from recruitment tasks. They were men who had probably held other posts
and were on their way to holding more; among them were ladder-climbers,
respected magistrates, and holders of titles, though usually lesser or recently
created ones. Corregidores of Madrid during this period included the counts of
Revilla (Pedro Fernandez de Velasco) and Montalvo (Juan de Castro y Castilla); the
latter also was procurador for Burgos and had bought a seat on its ayuntamiento,
over that city's protests. The count of Torralba, Ifiigo Fernandez de Cordoba y
Mendoza, a member of the Order of Alcantara, was corregidor of Toledo; he
followed Julio de Quinones, a former alcalde in Madrid, who followed Francisco
Arevalo de Zuazo, who during his long career was corregidor of Valladolid, Toledo,
Madrid, and Granada.
While trying to make sure they and their relatives would benefit from their post,
the corregidores* most crucial and time-consuming job clearly was to win over the
city council. "Truly, there is no task among the courts and government like
bullfighting the ayuntamientos" Castillo de Bovadilla wrote. In his dealings with
the city council, the "corregidor should conform to the majority of regidores
whenever he can and contradict them only in grave matters, when failure to do so
would be a violation of office or a weight on his conscience."11 When the corregidor
of Zamora responded to that city's refusal to supply troops by locking up the
regidores until they voted to the corregidores liking, it was a radical reply but not an
atypical one. In Valladolid, the same measure was taken in 1647 and again in 1653,
when the council balked at levy orders, and it was used throughout Castile on a
variety of occasions, particularly concerning the millones, when corregidores saw no
other way of avoiding an adverse vote.12 But they also had less drastic, though
equally effective means at their disposal: They could walk out of a meeting, fine
council members, or simply cancel a vote they were sure of losing. All such tactics

For Olivares, this failing was a manifestation of the broader problem offalta de cabezas, the lack of
adequate leadership which so obsessed the valido; see Elliott and de la Pefia, eds., Memoriales, 162-4.
Castillo de Bovadilla, cited by Gonzalez Alonso, El corregidor, 212, 208. Castillo de Bovadilla was a
magistrate in several corregimientos, the Cortes, and the Chancelleria. See Francisco Tomas y
Valiente, "Castillo de Bovadilla: Semblanza personal y profesional de un juez del Antiguo Regimen"
in his Gobierno e instituciones.
Gutierrez Alonso, Estudio, 299; Fortea, Monarquia y Cortes, 320; Gonzalez Alonso, El corregidor, 211.


The Limits of Royal Authority

were employed in the effort to oblige cities to provide the Crown with soldiers.13
The first thing an ayuntamiento did after receiving the usually unwelcome levy
orders from the corregidor was state its obedience, demur on its compliance, and
discuss how best to pay for the soldiers. Municipal and Crown finance were
inextricably bound together. Castile's war machine was financed largely by loans,
not by taxes, but that does not mean tax monies did not contribute.14 The
management of towns' and cities' fiscal burden, deciding who would pay for the
wars and how, were reflections of who and what were important in a given
municipality and how that municipality and its officials stood in relation to the
Crown. Rising municipal debt was both a burden and an opportunity. The regidores
were allowed to resolve the cycle of royal demands, municipal debt, and local taxes
with considerable autonomy, consistent with decades of relative municipal control
over the distribution of the millones burden and the establishment of a lump-sum
payment (encabezamiento) for the alcabala, the general sales tax. It is hard to avoid
the impression while reading city council minutes that the regidores during this
period, whether because of incompetence, corruption, or interest, were active
participants, not innocent bystanders, in their cities' indebtedness.15
As with the millones, a city council was empowered to decide how to finance
military demands, though ultimately it had to get royal approval. Ayuntamientos
could cover expenditures by leasing or selling municipal properties (propios) or by
levying impositions (arbitrios). The most frequent arbitrios were excise taxes (sisas)
on basic foodstuffs such as meat, oil, vinegar, and various classes of wine; less
common during this period, but only because they were options that had already
been taken, was the leasing out or enclosure of common lands and trafficking with
municipal properties and revenues.
The choice of which arbitrio to levy in a community was an extremely delicate
task that could entail balancing the interests of competing economic groups;
threatening the exempt status of clergy, hidalgos, and officials of the Chancillerias



Fortea traces these harsh measures to the sixteenth-century millones debates, and he further remarks
that Philip II was less inclined to resort to coercion than were the corregidores. (Monarquia y Cortes,
200, 312-27). The Cortes repeatedly protested such attacks on regidores: see Gonzalez Alonso, El
corregidor, 209.
See I. A. A. Thompson, "Taxation, Military Spending and the Domestic Economy in Castile in the
later Sixteenth Century" in his War and Society in Habsburg Spain (London: Variorum, 1992) in
which he refutes the notion that Castilians had been crushed by taxation. By the 1630s the country
was approaching fiscal exhaustion, but no more so than the rest of Europe. Furthermore, he says,
military spending could actually favor certain regions, most notably the periphery, where the
garrisons were located. For an overview of Spain's wartime finance, see Thompson's "Money,
money, and yet more money!" Finance, the fiscal-state, and the military revolution: Spain 15001650." in Clifford J. Rogers, ed., The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe (Boulder, Co. Westview Press, 1995).
In this regard see Yun, Estado de la bolsa, 29-32. For a well-documented study of the relationship
between Crown debt and municipal finance see Jose Ignacio Martinez Ruiz, Finanzas municipals y
credito publico en la Espana moderna: La hacienda de la ciudad de Sevilla 1528-1768

Ayuntamiento de Sevilla, 1992).



Making soldiers of townsmen

and the Inquisition; and unfairly burdening the already weary poor. Councilmen, a
contemporary theorist wrote, had the duty to balance these competing claims and
reach a just decision, acting as "judges between the contributors on the one part
and the public good on the other, judging between the merits of the King's cause
.. . and the excuses put forward by his vassals."16 The king himself, troubled by the
conflicting claims of the state and the common good, created a junta de conciencia in
1641 with the express purpose of determining if the many taxes he had imposed on
his kingdoms had angered God, uwho is so clearly irritated with us." The nobles
and priests on the junta were to advise the king on the best way to ensure a clear
conscience: "I do not want to enjoy any tax with the slightest shadow of scruple."
he wrote, "for he who does not satisfy his conscience cannot defend his kingdoms."17
In March 1635, as militia mobilization plans were under way, a junta led by the
count of Castrillo told the city of Leon to draw up population lists for all its subject
villages (lugares), and he sent an eight-point list of instructions on how villages were
to choose arbitrios with which to purchase weapons. Measures involving propios
were listed first, followed by taxes on articles of consumption, the latter carrying
the proviso that they were not to be placed on articles that were already being taxed
to pay the millones. In the case that no arbitrios were finally levied, villages were
authorized to simply divide up the cost of the weapons among the inhabitants {hacer
repartimiento), but not until an open town meeting (concejo abierto) had been held, at
which two-thirds of the population was to be present and a decision taken by
majority vote.18
The following year the same junta issued a general guide to villages everywhere
regarding the arbitrios they could take out to pay for weapons. In large part it was
identical to the 1635 instructions. One-eighth of the population, excluding the
clergy, widows, and children, was to be armed, and the price for each type of
weapon was set. As before, the preferred option was to use revenue from propios;
only if there were no propios to be had (because they were already mortgaged or
leased out) was the town to propose other arbitrios. If the village decided to enclose
common lands and create a dehesa, a grazing or agricultural area which the town
could lease or rent, it had to describe to the Crown exactly which piece of land it



Joseph Laynez, El privado christiano (Madrid, 1641), 211-20, cited by Charles Jago, "Taxation and
political culture in Castile," Kagan and Parker, eds., Spain, Europe, 62. See Fortea, Monarquia y
Cortes, 303-12, 497-503 for examples of how these debates divided councils and communities in the
late sixteenth century.
Ronald Cueto Ruiz, Quimerasy Suenos: Los profetas y la monarquia catolica de Felipe 7F(Valladolid,
1994), who cites MemorialHistoric0, vol. 17, 27-8. Members of the junta included many of the figures
who appear in this study, including the counts of Castrillo, Chinchon, and Onate, Antonio de
Alarcon, Antonio de Contreras, and the king's confessor, Padre Antonio de Sotomayor.
AHML Libro de Actas, no. 24, 31 March 1635. Presumably, other cities received similar orders. See
David Vassberg, Land and Society in Golden Age Castile (Cambridge University Press, 1984), 21-6 for
a discussion of propios, which were, in general, any income-producing municipal properties such as
land, mills, taverns, mines, etc.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

was, who used it, and if it had ever been enclosed before. Similarly, if it decided to
sell lumber it had to describe the forest and what it was worth. In both these cases, if
two villages were using the same common land and both had to raise money for
weapons, they were to reach an agreement. If the village decided to use an arbitrio
currently earmarked for a donativo, it could do so, but it could not assess taxes on
articles already earmarked for the millones.19 The king gave villages two years to
raise the money, dating from the time the arbitrio was approved.
Royal permission to impose an arbitrio was a crucial step. In the absence of such
permission (licencia or facultad), city councils had to scramble for money wherever
they could get it - the townspeople, the regidores themselves, or revenues from royal
taxes already collected - or they could refuse to recruit, using the lack of permission
as a line of defense. The jurisdictional rules here appear even more complicated
than in other cases: Villages, towns, and cities all were to propose arbitrios directly
to the Council of Castile, but the revenue from the smaller municipalities, once
approved, would be funneled to the royal treasury through the cities. Through this
arrangement, cities could exercise considerable power over the towns and had a
bargaining chip with the Crown, but it also meant smaller towns were able to
determine the conditions of the arbitrio on their own, without interference from the
cities, and could always delay handing over the money. There was a mesh of mutual
checks and balances here, of dependencies and relative advantages, which made
municipal finance in many ways a microcosm of institutional relations during this
But if the Crown did not approve an arbitrio, for whatever reason, the municipality had to improvise. Such was the case in the walled city of Avila, which Council of
Castile member Fernando Pizarro in April 1636 ordered to prepare its militia force.
The city council resolved to seek arbitrios but at the same time commenced a series
of delaying tactics. Responding to an irate letter from Pizarro, the ayuntamiento on
31 May said it had no propios and had no idea how to raise the money. Again on 10
June the city told the militia sergeant major "the city and its land is so poor they
have no way of paying, and although they have sought arbitrios, they have found
none."20 In July the city asked the Council of War to clarify which expenses the city
was liable for. On 9 May 1637, a year after Pizarro's order, the regidores voted
unanimously to ask the corregidor to suspend the establishment of the militia
because the arbitrios (which were not specified) to pay for salaries and weapons had
never been approved by the Crown and the "poverty and lack of men" was such
that the city could not bear the burden. Predictably, corregidor Pedro Gonzalez
turned down the request. As late as 1641, by which time war had broken out with
Portugal, Avila was still alleging that its arbitrios had never been approved and it
was therefore not obliged to provide men or weapons.

A G S G A , leg. 1165, " R e l a t i o n d e los generos d e arbitrios . . . " Originally signed b y Matias
F e r n a n d e z de Zorilla o n 5 M a r c h 1636.
AHPA, Libro de Actas 36, fol. 55. This discussion is drawn from city council minutes.


Making soldiers of townsmen

T h e lumbering way in which cities went about financing the militia and the
delays in royal approval stood in marked contrast to the alacrity with which the
Count-Duke's personal regiment was financed. Cities repeatedly received requests
for anywhere from five to thirty soldiers, usually accompanied by guarantees from
Olivares that their arbitrios would win approval. On 22 July 1638 the Count-Duke
asked for ten soldiers; on 18 August the regidores of Avila unanimously voted to
request permission to extend for two years an existing sisa of eighteen maravedis on
each cdntara of wine, which was being used to pay the town doctor and the fiestas del
santisimo salvamento. On 7 May 1639 he wanted more soldiers, and he offered new
arbitrios. And again on 28 January 1640 Avila received a request from Olivares for
five soldiers; on 4 February the city council already had proposed sisas.
Madrid, as capital and court, in many ways enjoyed, or suffered, a peculiar status
among Castilian cities, but it resorted to sisas just like the rest. In the summer of
1636 the ayuntamiento met to consider orders from the archbishop of Granada,
acting in his capacity as president of the Council of Castile, to raise 1,000 men to be
sent to Milan. Not only could it not provide the men, the city council decided, but
it was equally impossible to raise the money; a lengthy citation from the city council
minutes illustrates the regidores^ position:
Recognizing the dire straits in which Madrid finds itself, because all its sisas are earmarked
for creditors . . . to pay off municipal bonds, hospital maintenance, fiestas of the Holy
Sacrament, street cleaning, cobblestones, fiestas and public works .. . [and] the sisa del rastro
to pay for water works is committed until 1638 and it will not be sufficient to pay for the said
works; the sisa on wine, granted to repair the plaza, is committed until the end of 1639; and
the sisas granted to repair the palace are committed until 1643 . . .
[Madrid] deems it impossible to execute and fulfill this demand to raise and transport
from Madrid and its province one thousand men to the state of Milan, with the speed
required, because the money must be readily available to pay and feed the men, and the city
does not have it nor can it acquire it, and because there is a great shortage of men because of
the many who have been taken to the garrisons and for other levies over the past two years .. .
And although Madrid's indebtedness and its shortage of men are great, greater still is its love
and desire to serve His Majesty, and it deeply regrets that it does not have the strength to
demonstrate this and achieve its desires. And in order not to be remiss in this much-needed
aid . . . it agrees to serve His Majesty with two years' worth, from 1640 and 1641, of the sisa of
two maravedis in each azumbre of cheap and expensive wine that this city levied for works in
the plaza mayor, for the sisa is earmarked until the end of 1639 . . . 2 I
As long as cities, towns, and villages resorted to creative financing within
municipal boundaries and did not meddle with money set aside for the millones,
they were usually allowed to do what they wished. It made no difference how
miserable the town was. Torrejon de Velasco, a seigneurial town near Madrid, had
525 vecinos in 1639. In 1637 its olive trees and vineyards had frozen; in 1638 a

AV, 3-418-6, copy of city council minutes for 9 August 1636.


The Limits of Royal Authority

hailstorm destroyed the remaining vines and an unspecified illness had killed more
than fifty townspeople. Every time men were called up for the garrisons - six times
by 1639 - Torrejon had to supply ten men, though it requested that it be allowed to
give money instead. At an open town meeting in September 1638 the townspeople
and the ayuntamiento voted to propose a sisa on beef and bacon, "the best and
gentlest measure for the poor." They received permission.22 Segovia paid for its
troops with sisas on meat and wine;23 Palencia paid for the Count-Duke's soldiers
with a sisa on white wine;24 Becerril de Campos (Palencia) paid for its militia
weapons with three separate sisas on meat;25 Valladolid requested extensions of sisas
on wine and olive oil to pay for its militia force and in 1636 had five separate sisas
placed on wine, though not all for war-related reasons;26 Toledo in 1643 placed a
sisa on sugar and also ordered all pastry shops to be searched, because the city
council was sure bakers would try to hide their sugar.27
Although sisas were the most frequent fundraising measure, they were not the
only recourse, and in fact the 1635 instructions had specifically told villages, towns
and cities to try to raise money first through propios, not taxes. Resorting to the
latter might make the popular burden appear greater; Felipe Ruiz Martin calls sisas
a "panacea" for regidores.28 But urban patricians also could have much to gain from
using municipal properties.29 The maintenance of social order, social services,
public works, law enforcement, fiestas, bullfights, common grazing lands, and the
public granary were all in the hands of the ayuntamiento. As Madrid's case makes
clear, many services were financed through sisas, and most of the sisas were being
used as collateral for municipal bonds, probably already before the garrison levies
and the militia began placing new demands on municipal treasuries. One would
have to conduct a detailed study of one or a few cities to determine the exact
benefits of the arbitrios, investigating not only the methods chosen but their
implementation, which almost always involved fraud on the part of the regidores
and their appointed tax farmers. Even then, it would be nearly impossible to gauge
the motives of the regidores in choosing to mortgage one public service over another.


AV, 3-418-8
AGS GA, leg. 1261, relation, Colonels Junta; AHN, leg. 4427, no. 92, Camara de Castilla to Olivares,
May 1639.
AHMP, Libros de Actas, 8 January and 20 April 1639.
AMBC, Libros de Acuerdos, 40, fols. 66; AGS GA, leg. 1148.
AHMV, Libros de Actas, 15 November 1637; Adriano Gutierrez Alonso, "Un aspecto poco conocido
. . . " in Investigaciones historicas, no. 6 (1987), 30. All sisas on wine in Valladolid were leased out to the
powerful Gremio de Herederos de Vinas, dominated by regidores and the clergy. The latter, in
particular, were accused of claiming artificially high rates of consumption, meaning they not only did
not pay the sisa but they benefitted from it. Adriano Gutierrez Alonso, "La crisis del siglo xvn en
Valladolid." Valladolid en elmundo (Valladolid: El Mundo, 1993), 199.
AMT Milicias, caja 19, copy of city council minutes, 13 November 1643.
Felipe Ruiz Martin, "Procedimientos crediticios para la recaudacion de los tributos," Dineroy credito
(actas) (Madrid, 1978).
See Jose Manuel de Berardo Ares, "Fiscal pressure and the city of Cordoba's communal assets in the
early seventeenth century," Thompson and Yun, eds., The Castilian Crisis, for an account of how a
city's elite could profit from arbitrios to the detriment of a city's dependent towns and villages.


Making soldiers of townsmen

But the speed with which the ayuntamiento of Burgos in 1635 hit on the idea of
selling wheat from the public granary {posito, or alhondiga) - when just three
months later it had to buy wheat - reflects its priorities.30 The following year
Burgos again resorted to trafficking in wheat, this time to pay for 250 militia
soldiers.31 In its eagerness to traffic whenever possible, Burgos may have stood out;
it had once been the center of the Iberian wool trade, the southernmost point of the
important Burgos-Bilbao-Flanders commercial axis, but by the early seventeenth
century it had faded. In 1646 it had just one-quarter the population it had had fifty
years earlier.32
Valladolid, on the other hand, was less willing to compromise its grain. The
former capital of Spain, which had never recovered from Philip Ill's decision to
move the court back to Madrid, had been plagued by poor harvests and epidemics,
and its granaries were more often empty than full. The city managed to delay orders
to assemble, arm, and supply its militia from February 1636 to the end of October,
when it finally decided to take what funds it could from the granary. In contrast to
Burgos, however, farmers were not expected to pay the price of the loan; rather, the
city said it would return whatever it took as soon as it had enough propios, sisas or
other monies to do so. Two years later the city was again in afinancialbind, leading
to an interesting exchange over the use of propios to pay for the militia. When the
council voted to give the militia 200 ducats from its treasury, two regidores objected.
One of them "asked the corregidor if this was a favor or justice. And the corregidor
responded that because it concerned service to His Majesty and the universal good
of the kingdom it was justice and not a favor to provide the said aid." The city was
to perform innumerable such acts of justice in the following months.33
But the regidores of Valladolid, despite their initial hesitance about the granary,
were, like their counterparts throughout Castile, perfectly willing to profit from
their own city's spiraling debt, which, along with that of other cities throughout
Castile, began rising in the 1630s as a result of the Crown's demands and the
subsequent imposition of local taxes. The most frequent instrument of credit used
by cities was the censo consignativo, a sort of annuity or mortgage loan. Regidores
increasingly placed their money in bonds and annuities, thus making themselves



AMB, libros de actas, 12 July, 25 October 1635. For the mechanics of buying and selling from the
posito in late sixteenth-century Toledo see Linda Martz, Poverty and Welfare in Habsburg Spain: The
Example of Toledo (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 138-9 and 145-6.
AGS GA, leg. 1148, ayuntamiento to king, July 1636.
Ringrose, Madrid and the Spanish Economy, 170. The ayuntamiento itself in 1635 determined there
were just 800 vecinos, down from 5,800, 4,000 of them de caudal, in 1575; see AGS GA, leg. 1149,
undated memorial from city to king. For slightly different figures, a 1564 census showed there were
3,604 vecinos; in 1646 there were just 600; Hiltpold, "Noble Status." 27. Hiltpold quotes Antonio
Dominguez Ortiz, La sociedad espanola en elsiglo xvn (Madrid: CSIC, 1963) for the latter figure. On
the decline of the Burgos economy see Hiltpold, "Politica paternalista y orden social en la Castilla del
Renacimiento." in Cuadernos de Investigacion Historica BROCAR, no. 13 (1987).
AMV, Libros de Actas, 17 October 1636, 12 July 1638.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

potential beneficiaries of the taxes they levied.34 Nearly seventy percent of seventeenth-century censos on municipal propios in Medina de Rioseco (Valladolid), the
agricultural center of Tierra de Campos, were in the hands of regidores.35 In
Valladolid, which in 1640 was on the verge of bankruptcy, of at least thirteen censos
the council took out between 1636 and 1641, three were with council members, two
were with city notaries, and another was with Dona Ana Francisca de Rivadeneira,
wife ofJuan de Benavides, chief inspector (veedor general) of the Army of Catalonia,
and probably the sister of a regidor.36 In the same city, from 1630 to 1671,
twenty-two percent of the sixty-five municipal censos were in the hands of regidores31 Given the precarious nature of municipal finance during this period, this
act of faith on the part of the regidores is somewhat paradoxical, and one would have
to know to whom they were lending the rest of their money in order to gauge its
true meaning. It is possible they were pressured into making the loans, but it is
more likely that lending money to their own city was good business, at least in the
short term.
A 1639 account of the funds used by all corregidores for the one-percent levy is
illustrative of the variety of sources appropriated for recruitment purposes. Unfortunately, the numbers do not add up, and it is impossible to know if the problem
was a mistake in addition or in the amounts noted down for each source. According
to the list, millones funds accounted for over twenty percent of the money used by
corregidores to finance the levy. According to my calculations, they accounted for
thirty-nine percent. Aside from that discrepancy, admittedly a large one, the
proportions hold: In descending order, corregidores used revenues from aleabalas,
papel sellado, weapons, butcher shops, the media anata, sisas, the donativo, and
wealth confiscated from French residents. In addition, there were some local
peculiarities, such as Tarifa's use of revenue from the sale of planks from a lost ship,
the 16,640 reales given outright by the city of Caceres, and the 6,139 reales from the
villages of Guadalajara.38 Each one of these categories undoubtedly represents a



See Thompson, "Cortes, Cities." 48-50 for procuradores1 investments in bonds, and Janine Fayard,
Les membres du Conseilde Castille a Vepoque moderne (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1979), 397-405 for that
of members of the Council of Castile.
Bartolome Yun Casalilla, Sobre la transition al capitalismo en Castilla. (Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y
Leon, 1987), 381.
ARCV DM SG, cajas 39,49, 50, 52, 54, 60. The remaining seven censos were taken out by lawyers, an
architect, a confraternity, clergymen, and a widow. The thirteen loans were not necessarily the only
ones taken out during this period. The Crown in 1642 granted Valladolid a moratorium on interest
payments, a measure which eighteenth-century historian Jose Ruiz de Celada reported was opposed
by some creditors, though he provided no names. See Gutierrez Alonso, "Un aspecto." 23; Gutierrez
Alonso, Estudio, 384; Ruiz de Celada, Estado de la bolsa, 181-5.
Gutierrez Alonso, "Un aspecto." 27.
AGS GA, leg. 1274, "Relation del gasto .. .," 1639. Papel sellado was stamped paper for documents;
the media anata, instituted in 1631, was the payment to the Crown of half a year's salary during the
first year an office was held, excluding ecclesiastical posts. The total amount spent on the one-percent
levies was between 350,000 and 450,000 reales, accounting for discrepancies in the arithmetic or


Making soldiers of townsmen

battle between the corregidor and the ayuntamiento for access to the funds. Whereas
cities were, in theory, prohibited from using millones funds to pay for militia
expenses, they would also fight to impede access by the corregidor to the same funds,
claiming them as their own. And if cities fought to retain their own royal revenues,
one can imagine the fight in Ecija (Seville) where the corregidor paid for the entire
one-percent levy with 24,000 re ales from the municipal butcher shops.
Despite such evidence, which indicates that corregidores managed to wrest
revenue from regidores, the pattern throughout the war years is one of fairly
autonomous ayuntamientos managing a fiscal system impervious to Olivares' attempts at reform. The regidores had every interest in paying for levies with sisas.
Not only were they regressive, but they also avoided the unpleasantness of a head
tax. In Valladolid, a middleman would advance interest payments on the censos in
return for income from the sisas, a further incentive to maintain the sisas.39 But the
commercial collapse of Castile in the mid-seventeenth century meant the sisas were
worth less and less, and cities were increasingly unable to meet their debts.
Castile's tax system, with its immense inequities and jurisdictional muddle, was
in many ways a reflection of its social structure. War brought tremendous suffering
to the villages, towns, and cities of Castile; thousands of men were away, grain was
requisitioned, municipal debt soared, and new taxes continuously were being
levied. The challenge of managing such a crisis often was crystalized in economic
decisions, and so each new facultad was a test of the relative strength of the
economic elite, the urban populace, the city council, the Council of Castile, and
even the king. Negotiation over sisas and other fiscal measures was far more than a
simple measure of the correspondence between material interest and political
behavior; it described a complex series of political priorities. The fact that tiny
villages could choose their own arbitrios, or that some cities were willing to
mortgage their grain while others were not, tells us as much about political
authority as it does about taxes.

A month before war broke out with France, the king, anticipating that he might be
going to war himself, had ordered all cities, towns, grandees, and churches to raise
troops to accompany him. His edict reflected how little the Crown knew about its
own population, its haphazard approach toward raising an army, and the degree to
which the king depended upon the municipalities.
The enemies of the Crown, the king told his vassals, were preparing to attack by
sea and by land, "trying to bring war to these kingdoms to infest them and prevent
my arms from defending the Catholic religion, which is my first obligation." In
order to meet this challenge, he said, he needed all towns and cities to "mobilize the

Gutierrez Alonso, "Un aspecto," 18. The middleman was the receptor de sisas y pagador de censos, a
figure that probably also existed in other cities.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

(number of) men with which you have been accustomed to serve in similar
occasions."40 The question was, how many was that?
To find out, towns were supposed to search their records. Philip sent a group of
notaries to the castle of Simancas, then as now Spain's main historical archive, to
check through old documents. And he dispatched around ten high-ranking ministers, who were at the time traveling through Castile trying to raise a donativo, to
supervise this research. The ministers included most of the councilors and magistrates who throughout these years repeatedly acted as royal emissaries to the cities:
Diego de Riafio, Luis Gudiel, Pedro Pacheco, Fernando Pizarro, Gaspar de
Bracamonte, Juan Queipo de Llano, and Jose Gonzalez.
The basis on which towns were to calculate the number of men they should raise
was the contributions they had made to previous battles and wars. Eight conflicts
were considered, from 1542 to 1615, though some diligent notaries in Simancas
included correspondence from as far back as the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.
Municipal minutes, appeals, petitions, and privileges were copied out by town
officials and the royal scribes and sent back to the Cities Junta in Madrid, which
then compiled a report on how many men the king could reasonably expect to
accompany him.41 A list drawn up that summer included some 100 towns, cities,
provinces, partidos, senorios, and other geographic subdivisions, showing how many
men each place had contributed to each campaign.
But that was then and this is now, the towns protested. Palencia, for example,
had contributed 400 soldiers in 1552 and again in 1595, but the ongoing militia
mobilization made it impossible to maintain that level, the city said, besides which
the towns and villages were all short of money and men. Plasencia, which also had
given as many as 400 men in the past, said it was unable to raise even 100, what with
the scarcity of men and money plus a recent garrisons levy of 143 men. The Toledo
regidores referred the matter to their ayuntamiento\ soldiers commission, which
reported that it could not inform the junta as unfortunately it could not find the
pertinent records. (The king's officials did the Toledo regidores* checking for them
and discovered that Toledo had given as many as 800 men on four previous
occasions, an indication of its erstwhile prominence.) In its letter to the king,
Toledo omitted mention of the lost documents, stressing instead its poverty,
claiming that it was paying only four of its fifty-five creditors. The ayuntamiento
assured the king it would do anything to serve him, saying, "and if things should
get worse, Your Majesty will have our lives and our fortunes at your royal feet, with
the loyalty and devotion we have shown so many times in the past." Tordesillas
(Valladolid) and Aranda del Duero (Burgos) had also lost their records. Valladolid


AGS GA, leg. 1148, ce'dula real 28 April 1635, copied in testimony by the notary of Becerril de
Campos (Palencia) on 28 June 1635. The same text appears copied in other legajos and minutes. The
Junta de la Defensa's discussions regarding the advisability of requesting this service of the cities can
be found in a December 1634 consulta in AGS GA, leg. 1099.
AGS GA, leg. 1131, Cities Junta papers from June to August 1635; AGS GA, leg. 1166, scattered
papers from February and March 1636; AGS GA, leg. 1152, scattered papers.


Making soldiers of townsmen

managed to be excused. The Arevalo (Avila) town council pleaded poverty and
depopulation and furthermore said it had never received an order directly from the
king, and therefore had no obligation to obey, an excuse also alleged by Trujillo
But, as it turned out, the king never went anywhere in 1635, and these surveys
eventually were put to use for the Levy of the Cities later that year. The object of
this recruitment campaign, aimed at the towns and cities of Castile, was to ship
troops to the garrison in La Coruna, Galicia. It followed a similar summer
campaign in Andalusia in which men had been sent to Cadiz. They had been sent,
but often did not arrive; a 15 July consulta from the Council of War reported that of
1,168 infantrymen transported as of then, 889 had deserted.43
The order was sent out to the corregidores on 20 October 1635. They had until the
end of November to transport their allotted number of men to La Coruna, clearly
an impossible goal. They were to inform the king if there was someone in their city
willing to be named captain and capable of moving the men out, and they were to
suggest (insinuar) to these aspirants that the king would take their service into
account. Any locals who were currently petitioning for membership in a military
order should be told that participating in the mobilization effort would certainly
help their chances.
Just after the declaration of war, the Crown had ordered the seizure of all French
residents' property, and officials throughout Castile were supposed to conduct the
appropriate inventories. Now, in autumn, the proceeds from this property were to
pay for a large part of the Levy of the Cities, much of the rest coming from the
Church. It was, plainly, a preposterous idea. Palencia officials had reported in July
they had found just one Frenchman, a tailor, and they had taken his vineyard.44
There were no French people to be found in Segovia, Burgos, or Becerril de
Campos, the corregidores reported. The corregidor of Zamora said the city was
"perplexed" by the October levy orders, as there was no way on earth it could raise
troops. As for the French, Zamora had come up with four; one was a healer, who
claimed to cure urinary problems with small candles, but his belongings and those
of his three compatriots added up to less than 100 reales.45 It was an inauspicious
Most Castilian cities, including Salamanca, Zamora, Leon, Segovia, Avila,
Plasencia, and Caceres, were required to give 100 men to the Levy of the Cities,


Palencia: AGS GA, leg. 1148, city to king, 8 May and 19 June 1635. Plasencia: AGS GA, leg. 1148,
city to king, 9 May 1635. Toledo: AGS GA, leg. 1148, city to king, 25 May 1635; AMT Libros de
Actas, 21 May 1635, AGS GA, leg. 1131. Tordesillas: AGS GA, leg. 1148, 16 May 1635. Aranda:
AGS GA, leg. 1148, 10 May 1635. Valladolid, Arevalo, Trujillo: AGS GA, leg. 1166.
AGS GA, leg. 1124, 15 July 1635.
AGS GA, leg. 1146, Lie. Geronimo de Ledesma to Pedro Coloma, 24 July 1635
AGS GA, leg. 1149, corregidor to king, 8 November and 20 November 1635. There is evidence in
these documents and elsewhere that many town officials were lax in enforcing the embargo against the
French; see Dominguez Ortiz, "Los extranjeros."


The Limits of Royal Authority

although some had initially been asked for more, and most would end up giving
less. Burgos and Palencia were to split a levy of 150 men, and Valladolid was
assigned 200.
In Valladolid the levy was entrusted to Juan Queipo de Llano, president of the
Chancilleria, future bishop of Pamplona, and member of one of Spain's most
distinguished families, full of councilors, inquisitors, and members of military
orders.46 Queipo de Llano received the levy order of 20 October a few days after it
was issued, and he informed the city council of its obligation to raise the men and
pay for their transport.47 The city said it would obey the order and seek volunteers
if possible or, in their absence, divide up the levy among the villages in accordance
with the distribution used for the garrisons in 1634. Over the next two months
Queipo de Llano wrote the king and the Junta de Coronelias several times a week to
keep them abreast of his progress, or lack thereof. On 7 November he said he had
publicized the order, calling on candidates for an hdbito or a captaincy to step
forward. But by 14 November not a single hidalgo had volunteered, and the city had
resigned itself to raising the troops, partially offsetting the cost by selling a clerk's
post. The following day Queipo de Llano wrote the king that the duke of Bejar's
recruiters were interfering with the city's levy; the good news was that he had
received an offer of 3,500 ducats for the clerk's post, though he was holding out for
4,000. On 17 November he told junta secretary Pedro Villanueva that the only
hidalgo willing to take on responsibility for the levy was a relative of a regidor.
Around this time the city gave Queipo de Llano a list of six "doubts" for
clarification. First, although the king had ordered that recruits be drawn from the
villages according to the distribution approved by the cortes for the 1634 garrisons
levy, "you must declare that the city can carry out the said distribution and force
the village to comply." the city wrote. Second, if the city were not allowed to
borrow money from the judicial fines fund (penas de cdmara y gastos de justicia) to
pay for the upkeep of the soldiers awaiting transport, no one would volunteer, and
those already enlisted would become rowdy and heap discredit on the levy. Third,
Queipo de Llano should check with the municipal and Chancilleria jails, as well as
those in the villages, to see if any prisoners could be conscripted. Fourth, the city
was unable to pay for uniforms (vestidos) and weapons for all the soldiers and
requested that only the poorest be subsidized.48 Fifth, some of the soldiers were
sure to desert, as they had last time, but as this was not the city's fault, it should not
be held responsible. And sixth, the person in charge of disbursing money to the
soldiers should be stationed near the main square and have payment orders signed


The corregidores of Valladolid had less responsibility than their colleagues in other cities because of
the presence in the city of the royal tribunal, which superimposed royal over municipal jurisdiction.
AGS GA, leg. 1149, letters to and from Queipo de Llano, the king and Villanueva; also AMV, Libros
de Actas. All discussion of this levy in Valladolid, from October to December, is drawn from these
A vestido was probably less a uniform than a decent set of clothes that would last a few months.


Making soldiers of townsmen

by the corregidor and the regidores who had been appointed commissioners of the
Queipo de Llano replied to each one of these doubts and sent copies of the
questions and answers to the junta, which added its own comments. In response to
the first doubt, Queipo de Llano told the city it could force villages to turn over
men, but that it could free them of the responsibility for uniforms, weapons, and
eventual casualties and deserters. The men had to be young and of sound body and
mind but could be "vagabonds, vicious, idlers, scatterbrains, and troublemakers."
The junta did not agree with this. It had said the levy was to be voluntary, and these
instructions had to be followed. "The city cannot force anyone." it wrote in the
margin of Queipo de Llano's list. Both Queipo de Llano and the junta agreed to the
second request and to the third, which Queipo de Llano said he found an excellent
idea. As for the uniforms, owing to the cold weather, the city had to make sure the
men were properly dressed, Queipo de Llano said. It did not have to give each man
a complete outfit of clothing but did have to make up for anything the man lacked, a
judgment with which the junta agreed. To limit desertion, Queipo de Llano said, a
complete list of the men, including their distinguishing physical marks, should be
drawn up and forwarded to each town along the route between Valladolid and La
Coruna. If there were still desertions despite this precaution, the royal treasury
would be responsible. Finally, Queipo de Llano and the junta agreed that disbursement of monies for the levy would be in the hands of a city-appointed official.
Queipo de Llano, the ayuntamiento, and the junta had managed to reconcile their
uncertainties and orders, but the levy was not progressing. By 28 November there
were just twelve volunteers, and the weather was so awful, Queipo de Llano told
the king, he could not possibly send them on the road. In December, the duke of
Bejar's recruiter was back to interfere, several recruits hadfledbecause they had not
been paid, the Cortes authorized a new garrisons levy in Valladolid (to replace
sixty-one casualties and deserters), and no one wanted to buy the clerk's post,
which was still up for sale. "The misery and dearth here is unbelievable." Queipo
de Llano wrote the king on 28 December.
Meanwhile, things were going no better in Segovia and Avila.49 In late December, the corregidor of Avila, Don Pedro Gonzalez de Villaslada, told the junta that
Captain Antonio Verdeja, whom he had put in charge of finding 100 soldiers in the
city and its region, had been unable to raise more than around forty men. The junta
replied on 7 January 1636 that Verdeja should combine his levy with that of either
Segovia or Valladolid, which were also having difficulties. A month later, Gonzalez
ordered Verdeja to move to Valladolid, 100 kilometers away, and there inform
Queipo de Llano of the junta's new orders. Verdeja and his troops left Avila a week
later, marching through the freezing Castilian winter to Valladolid. He arrived to
find that the president of the Chancilleria refused to cooperate. Queipo de Llano

AGS GA, leg. 1166, letters and testimony from October 1635 to March 1636. Discussion of this
incident is drawn entirely from this legajo.


The Limits of Royal Authority

acknowledged Verdeja's orders but pointed out that not a single soldier had enlisted
in Valladolid's own levy (the twelve he had in November must have disappeared, or
else he chose not to mention them.) Queipo de Llano ordered Verdeja to take down
his recruiting flag, leave the city, and take his troops with him, this time to Segovia.
Another ioo kilometers later in Segovia, the situation only worsened for Verdeja.
Corregidor Don Diego de Giron received him with orders to leave at once. A
recruiter working for the count of Fuensalida had been in Segovia two days earlier
to begin raising a company of soldiers, Giron said in his letter of explanation to the
junta. The city also sent a petition to the archbishop of Granada, the chair of the
junta, in this regard. If it was difficult to raise one company, it was impossible to
raise two, Giron said, and he asked the junta to decide which of the two companies
was more important. Verdeja also wrote to the junta, protesting that Giron was
making it absolutely impossible for him to serve the king and that the corregidor was
himself disobeying orders from the king and from the Council of War. He sent
statements and testimony to back up his story, filed a formal petition with the
Segovia notary, and asked the junta to remedy the problem.
The Levy of the Cities limped along for months. Cities tried to fulfill their
obligation while they also replaced garrison soldiers, trained their militia, and
fended off recruiters working for noblemen. Then, the following autumn, another
levy was ordered, this one called the Levy of the Corregidores. Each Castilian
corregidor was to use donativos or millones to pay for a company of between fifty and
two-hundred soldiers from his city, which would be sent to Flanders. 50
In Burgos, there were immediate problems. Previously, on 22 September, the
king had asked the archbishop there to pay the cost of sending 300 infantrymen to
La Coruna. In his reply, the archbishop reminded the king of his (the archbishop's)
generosity in the past and recounted all the donativos, court costs, charities, and
military expenses he had had to pay, including for the Levy of the Cities:
This archbishopric is in the poorest and most miserable land in all of Spain, and the number
of needy people consumed by hunger and misery is infinite. No one can remedy this but their
archbishop . . . It is impossible to believe, with the depopulation of this city and its
surroundings, that 300 men could be raised even in many months, much less in a few days. In
these years so many people everywhere have died of hunger and misery and there have been
so many levies that it seems only the useless remain, and it is difficult to find people today
who can work the land. If soldiers must be raised they are taken through lotteries and by
force, because there is no one left, and most of those who are taken die of hunger before they
reach the garrisons . . . I tell Your Majesty all this because as a just King, being fully
informed, you will take my desire to oblige as satisfaction, when there are so many causes
that make execution of that desire impossible.51
Throughout October and November the king and the archbishop continued to

AGS GA, leg. 1165, archbishop of Granada to king, December 1636. The levy order, issued 17
December 1636, appears copied in many legajos and minutes.
AGS GA, leg. 1172, archbishop to king, 26 September 1636.


Making soldiers of townsmen

exchange letters, the latter trying to impress upon the former the desperate
financial straits he and his church were in. He was living in poverty, he wrote, and
the most he could do was offer 2,000 ducats, which he would take from a bond the
church had on customs revenue (diezmos de la mar). The correspondence finally
culminated in partial payment by the archbishop (who meanwhile had been
appointed viceroy of Navarre) of the 2,000-ducat debt and shipment of 130
soldiers. Thirty of them, including the sergeant and his lieutenant, deserted before
they reached La Coruna, but, still, it had not been a complete disaster.52
Zamora and Salamanca were among the Castilian capitals that had to provide just
fifty men for the Levy of the Corregidores, and the corregidores there had each been
authorized by the archbishop of Granada and the Colonels Junta to withdraw for
that purpose 1,000 ducats of millones or donativos revenue from their respective
municipal treasuries. Vicencio Vecaria, the corregidor in Zamora, reported in
January 1637 that he had gone to see Antonio de Villacuadrado, the regidor acting as
millones treasurer, to ask for the money and was told that the millones were
earmarked for the artillery and the city would not pay one maravedi without orders
from the Cortes.53 Vecaria ordered the recruiting flag to be hoisted in front of the
city hall anyway. By 12 February, he reported, he had exactly one volunteer, plus a
few vagabonds, the only type of recruit the archbishop had told him he could
impress. During the Levy of the Cities, he said, men had been carried off in ropes
and handcuffs, and, logically, the townspeople were fearful. There was a big market
day the first Tuesday of Lent - an increasingly rare event, as the economy of
Zamora, like that of other Castilian cities, had essentially collapsed - and Vecaria
was hopeful he could find men there. But without money he could do nothing, and
he reiterated his request to the archbishop of Granada to obtain orders from the
Cortes to free up the millones. By March that stalemate had not been resolved. Like
all Castilian cities, Zamora was simultaneously battling several levies; it was during
the summer of 1637, while the Levy of the Corregidores was still ongoing, that the
incident described in chapter 1, when the ayuntamiento refused to send thirty more
soldiers to the garrisons, had occurred. By September, nine months after the levy
was ordered, the city had managed to raise thirty-six men.54
All in all, the Levy of the Corregidores was supposed to raise 1,050 men, plus
1,000 from the Constable of Castile and a highly optimistic contribution of 400 men
from the archbishop of Santiago. A report from the Colonels Junta in April 1637
shows 598 soldiers had been sent. Of these, just sixty-six had arrived in La Coruna,

AGS GA, leg. 1207, letters archbishop of Burgos, archbishop of Granada, Corregidor Pedro
Guerrero, Colonels Junta; November 1636May 1637.
AGS GA, leg. 1207, letters Corregidor Vicencio Vecaria, January-March 1637.
Zamora's population in 1635, according to zfacultad de sisa in AGS GA, leg. 1406, was 930 vecinos,
which roughly agrees with Jose Carlos Rueda Fernandez's estimate of 989 vecinos in 1637, down from
2,200 vecinos in 1591; see his "La ciudad de Zamora en los siglos XVI-XVII: La coyuntura demografica." Primer congreso de historia de Zamora (Actas), vol. 3 (Zamora, 1991). On the thirty-six men
raised, see AGS GA, leg. 1199, 17 September 1637 letter from Vicencio Vecaria.


The Limits of Royal Authority

prompting the junta to remind the king how it had counseled in favor of paying the
corregidores only after the men had arrived in Galicia. The numbers, however,
improved, and there is a record of most corregidores eventually sending off a
company of men to La Coruna.55
The Levy of the Corregidores and the Levy of the Cities were the last such
one-time, widespread Crown levies during this period. Perhaps because of their
obvious inefficiency, as in the case of Palencia, where in spring 1637 there were four
simultaneous recruitment efforts working at cross purposes and causing more
damage than good, after 1638 military recruitment was consolidated, though
without much apparent forethought. Thereafter there are references only to the
militia and to the garrisons, the latter manned through one-percent levies and the
efforts of private contractors.
The implementation of the Levy of the Cities and the Levy of the Corregidores
provoked just about every sort of jurisdictional conflict possible: a corregidor such as
Queipo de Llano found his orders being contradicted by a junta; the president of
the Council of Castile, himself an archbishop, was at loggerheads with his colleague
in Burgos; nobles outbid cities and corregidores for recruits; corregidores and regidores, the former in the name of the Crown, the latter in the name of the Cortes,
fought over who had access to the millones; villages objected to having to pay for
what they said was the cities' obligation; and cities such as Valladolid and Segovia
made sure their neighbor did not dip into the local recruit pool.
The criterion of how best to serve the king - how would the king's service be
damaged more, by allowing the levy or by not allowing it? - and the ayuntamientos'
frequent insistence that orders say what they mean and mean what they say, speak,
once again, to the intimate relationship between obedience and resistance. In what
was essentially a work-to-rule protest, cities couched their refusal in the language of
obedience. Their only aim was always to serve the king; but it was this levy, or
another levy, or the captain, or the sloppy orders that were, unfortunately, preventing them from doing so.

Disputes between cities and the Crown over financing, provisioning, and maintaining the militia were, in many ways, similar to those that arose as a result of the Levy

AGS GA, leg. 1211 relation, 18 April 1637. The numbers of men sent (and arrived): Valladolid 30,
Segovia 24, Avila 50 (46), Zamora o, Palencia 95, Salamanca 40, Toro 0, Burgos 132, Leon 0, Toledo
27 (20), Asturias 200. Another list, drawn up in March 1637, in AGS GA, leg. 1207, shows Leon had
sent twenty-seven men by 22 January and had raised all fifty by 5 February. Companies from Zamora,
Salamanca, and Burgos all eventually arrived in La Coruna, and it is possible the other companies did,
too. The junta's position here appears disingenuous, as it had previously opposed the Council of
Finance, which advocated retaining funds until the men's arrival, instead arguing that companies
would fall apart if corregidores were unable to pay them from the start. AGS GA, leg. 1186, consulta 3
April 1637.


Making soldiers of townsmen

of the Cities, the Levy of the Corregidores, and the one-percent garrison levies.
There was always an alleged shortage of men and money, and there were often long
delays as ayuntamientos checked and double-checked their orders, testing the
patience of the corregidores. The difference lay in the fact that municipalities had
historically defined jurisdictional claims over the militia, which inevitably affected
their tactics and claims. By the 1640s, the Crown was essentially using the militia as
if it were a regular army, but generations of local control over the institution and a
sense that they were helping the king as autonomous, self-regulating bodies offered
cities both motive and means for fighting to retain jurisdiction.
Since the time of the Reconquest, Castilian cities had had their own militias,
which the kings would call up periodically, as need dictated, in conjunction with
private or mercenary troops. Throughout the sixteenth century and on into the
reign of Philip III there were repeated attempts to create a stable reserve force;
ideas were floated and troops were raised, but except in the coastal and frontier
towns, the efforts generally foundered after a short time, largely because of the
unwillingness of the Cortes and local authorities to put them into effect.56
In 1625, after the English attacked Cadiz for the third time, the militia was
reorganized yet again. Philip IV, with the agreement of the Cortes, ordered that the
remnants of the militia, which had last been reorganized in 1619, u be extended and
established generally in all the cities, towns, and villages of these kingdoms." and
not just within twenty leagues of the sea, as had been previously the case. Officers
and soldiers of the renovated force were to continue to enjoy their traditional
privileges: They would not be shipped outside "these kingdoms of Spain;" they
could keep and bear arms; neither they nor their wives could be imprisoned for
debts acquired after enlistment; and hidalgos who chose to serve would not see their
nobility, privileges, or exemptions affected.57
By the early 1630s, on the eve of war with France, the militia had once again
fallen into disrepair, and the Crown ordered towns and cities to get their forces back
in order. Earlier we saw how towns were instructed to choose fiscal measures to this
end; they were also supposed to ensure they had the proper number of men enlisted
in their local militia, usually ten percent of the able-bodied men. To make up for
any shortfall, they were to hold lotteries, "with the greatest delicacy and convenience possible . . . placing special attention on relieving married men and poor men
with children."58

On the origins and history of the municipal militia, see Ramon Carande, Carlos Vy sus banqueros: La
vida economica en Castilla (1516-1556), 2nd. edn (Madrid: Sociedad de Estudios y Publicaciones,
1965), 13-24; vol. 2, Jose Contreras Gay, "Las milicias en el antiguo regimen. Modelos, caracteristicas generates y significado historico." Chronica Nova, no. 20 (University of Granada, 1992); J. F.
Powers, A Society Organized for War: The Iberian Municipal Militias in the Central Middle Ages,
1000-1284 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Thompson, War and Government,


AGS GA, libro 187, ucedula de preheminencias a la gente de milicias." 1 September 1625.
AGS GA, leg. 1120, consulta Council of War, 14 November 1635. See also 1632 correspondence in
AGS GA, leg. 1067.




The Limits of Roy al Authority

As always, the problem was knowing what the population really was. If oneeighth of the population was to be armed and one-tenth of the men were to be in the
militia, then surveys were needed to find out what that meant. Starting in 1632, the
king ordered corregidores to conduct censuses of the male population in all their
towns within the twenty-league limit. But as the surveys came in, disputes broke
out over towns' true population and location and it became clear that more men and
many more weapons were needed. In February 1636, therefore, Philip specifically
ordered that the militia be extended to within forty leagues of the coast, borders,
and dry ports and he told the corregidores to expand their census reports accordingly. They were to include both realengo and seigneurial towns, and he cautioned
them to coordinate the task with neighboring officials so towns were neither left
uncounted nor counted twice: "My intention is only to guard against the damage
my enemies could inflict on [the towns] and not make them suffer expense or
disturbance, and I order you to make sure they suffer neither," Philip wrote.59 The
king appointed Gaspar de Bracamonte and Diego de Riano to reorganize the militia
in Castile. Bracamonte, the count of Pefiaranda, took Valladolid, Segovia, Leon,
Salamanca, Zamora, and Plasencia; Riano took Burgos, Guadalajara, Soria, Toledo,
Avila, Cuenca, and Madrid.60
The militia in many ways fell into a jurisdictional no-man's land. It owed its
existence to orders from the king and his appointed ministers. They, in turn,
appointed sergeant majors and lieutenants in the twenty militia zones, or partidos,
to make sure towns and cities complied with the orders, held lotteries, raised
money, and conducted basic training sessions on Sundays.61 But the militia also
belonged, in a sense, to the municipality. Its unsalaried captains were generally
regidores, appointed by the city, though subject to royal approval. The ayuntamiento
determined the soldiers' rate of pay and the sort of fiscal measures necessary for
raising revenue. The men lived at home and were (at least at first) exempt from
garrison levies and therefore were civilians as well as part of the military. The
expenses incurred by the towns were a burden but, as with the sisas, it was a burden
the ayuntamientos could sometimes turn to their advantage. Part of the logic of
reviving the militia, or the tercios provinciales as they were also called, was precisely
to improve discipline by creating units of men and officers drawn from the same
region. Decentralization would increase efficiency and save money, it was hoped.


" A G S G A , leg. 1165, ce'dula, " A l C o r r d e p a r a q u e e n v i e r e l a t i o n d e v e c i n d a d e s . . . " u n d a t e d .

I am unsure which of the two was in charge of Palencia. Riano replaced Antonio de Chumacero, a
member of the Council of Castile and a former governor of the Sala de Alcaldes de Casa y Corte, who
died in October 1636. He allegedly raised between 7,000 and 10,000 men, although a Madrid news
sheet reported that 3,000 married to avoid service. Quoted in Real Academia de la Historia, Memorial
historico, vol. 13, 528. The same source said he died of heartbreak after Olivares would not believe he
could not raise more men. Ibid, 396.
The twenty partidos, which did not coincide exactly with the division of labor between Riano and
Bracamonte, were: Leon, Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca, Toro and Zamora, Segovia, Avila, Madrid,
Toledo, Guadalajara, Cuenca, Ciudad Real, Alcaraz, Jaen, Cordoba, Llerena, Merida, Trujillo,
Granada, and Murcia. See AGS GA, leg. 1072, "Relation de la gente que hay en los partidos."

Making soldiers of townsmen

But it also created a certain proprietary attitude on the part of local government and
quasi-military units whose loyalty could be to home rather than to the Crown.
Some city and town councils challenged militia orders from the very start. They
could argue, as Valladolid did, that they did not lie within the forty-league limit.62
Others, such as Avila, protested that they had been placed in the wrong military
district. Or, like Logrono, Calahorra, and Alfaro, they could allege exemption from
militia duty altogether.63 Many towns refused to allow lotteries. Among them was
Valladolid, which, in an effort to evade Bracamonte's orders to raise 240 men which had brought about "outcry and grief throughout the commons" - repeatedly
asserted that, "by virtue of royal warrants and privileges, [the city] is free and
exempt from lotteries."64 Other towns would not even discuss the matter with the
sergeant major, refusing to recognize his orders or, indeed, his very existence.65
And once the militiafinallyhad been established, ayuntamientos fought the sergeant
majors over every maravedi, every bed, every soldier, and every captain. They may
not have wanted the responsibility for raising and maintaining a militia, but now
that they had it, it was theirs.
The first thing a town council had to do was nominate its captains. Each
candidate spoke to the council about his merits, and the regidores then chose those
they were most impressed with, generally forwarding more names than necessary to
the king so he could have the final word.66 But because without captains there were
no militia companies, towns sometimes delayed making their appointments. In
April 1636 Council of Castile member Fernando Pizarro ordered Avila to organize
its militia; after a month with no reply from the city (except a challenge over which
district it lay in) Pizarro warned the council that if a captain were not appointed in
two days, he would make the appointment himself. "I am amazed that this
illustrious and ancient city, which in the past has always served the king, should
now, in times of hardship and war, fail to provide that service," he wrote. The city
replied, first, that it had never received clear orders and, second, that it had old
militia companies with old captains so it was not sure how to proceed. Later, as we
saw, Avila blamed its failure to appoint new captains on the Crown's delay in
approving sisas. Another common scenario was that towns would object when the
Crown rejected their candidate for militia captain. Controversial appointments
thus could be used by town councils as a stalling device or to claim local prerogative.


AGS GA, leg. 1178, ayuntatniento to king, 19 April 1636.

AGS GA, leg. 1178, Juan de Canas to king, 24 March 1636.
AMV, Libros de Actas, 10 October 1636, 15 November 1637.
Such was the case in Malaga, Loxa, and Alcala la Real; see AGS GA, legs. 1099 and 1112. Alcala la
Real appears to have been a particularly contentious place; according to the duke of Bejar, the
corregidor there in 1633 dismantled the duke's recruiting captain's station, threatened the soldiers
with hangings, and personally wounded a few of them. AGS GA, leg. 1076, duke to king 27
November 1633.
A description of the process is contained in the Trujillo city council minutes of 27 September 1635,
copied in AGS GA, leg. 1140.


The Limits of Royal Authority

The presence and demands of military officials in the cities was the cause of
continual conflict, sometimes over apparently insignificant issues. Sergeant majors
were outsiders. Alonso de Aponte, for example, had to wait eight months before he
obtained lodging in Zamora, and then only after Gaspar de Bracamonte issued a
decree to that effect. Aponte's stay was so unpleasant, however, that he probably
would have been better off without lodging.67 He first arrived in June 1635, when he
tried unsuccessfully to get his hands on Zamora's old militia lists. Towns were
always loath to surrender these lists because they were an obvious aid in determining how many men lived there, which towns figured was their business and nobody
else's. And the old lists generally reflected a higher population than existed in fact.
So Aponte ordered new lists. In the case of Zamora, there is some confusion as to
whether or not they were drawn up; there is later reference to the city continuing to
hold onto its lists, but it is unclear if they were new or old lists. In any case, Aponte
determined that the city of Zamora should have a militia force of 92 men, with four
The next battle concerned who should pay for the recruiting drums and flags
(cajas y banderas). This was the principle point of contention, in Zamora as in all
other cities, towns, and villages. Without a captain there was no company, but
without a drum and flag, there was no recruitment. Captains generally hoisted their
flag on the main square, or sometimes in front of a tavern, the public granary, or the
military officers' lodgings. The presence of the flags and the noise of the drums,
whether for garrisons, noble regiments, or the militia, was always disruptive. They
attracted vagabonds and gamblers and lots of shiftless young men, often resulting in
serious problems of public order. Cities therefore wanted to retain as much control
as possible over the timing and location of the hoisting of the flags, particularly, as
in the case of the militia, if they were paying for them. The cost of sending two
militia companies to Fuenterrabia from Burgos in January 1639 included 320 reales
for aflagand 170 reales for two drums, together accounting for over ten percent of
the total cost, including salaries. Aflagfor the Count-Duke's regiment around the
same time cost 300 reales!^ So there was considerable cost involved, although one
gets the distinct impression that cities' obstinacy was not a matter offinancealone;
rather it was a calculated and effective means of limiting the State's physical
encroachment onto urban territory.
On 18 January 1636, in Zamora, Aponte made the first of his requests to the
regidores (four of whom would eventually become captains) for lodging, drums, and
flags. The winning vote, that of Don Gregorio Hurtado, was that the city consult
with the Council of War to see who was supposed to pay - the captains, the city, or
the king. If it turned out the city had to pay, then they should request an extension
of the sisa being used to pay for weapons. Four months later, Aponte returned with
the king's reply stating, not surprisingly, that it was the city's responsibility. Once

AHPZ, Libros de Actas, 31, 399; AGS GA, leg. 1178.

AMB, Libros de Actas, 15 January 1639.


Making soldiers of townsmen

he left the council chambers, the regidores decided to write back to the king to
explain what a burden the militia was, request an extension of the sisa, and
emphasize that the city was righting creditors' suits in the Chancilleria and was
therefore unable to pay for the drums andflags.In the meantime, much to the city's
distress, Aponte had organized a ten-percent lottery "paying more attention to
serving the king than to the common good of the commonwealth." an interesting
distinction. He also was organizing drills (alardes) which meant young men were
being taken away from their jobs in the fields. Merchants were tilling in their place,
the city pointed out to the king, which could only lead to a drop in royal sales tax
Aponte and the council exchanged petitions and letters throughout the summer
of 1636, with the council usually insisting that it was waiting for a reply from the
king or that it did not have the money. Finally, in 18 August, Bracamonte
authorized the extension of the sisa on barley, but it was not until the following
April that the ayuntamiento authorized using sisa revenue to buy eight drums and
four flags.
Toledo, too, proved to be expert at the technique of holding flags and drums
ransom.70 Diego de Riaiio's orders to the city arrived in August 1637, and shortly
thereafter the corregidor, Francisco Arevalo de Zuazo, ordered Toledo and fortytwo villages to deliver their assigned portion of money and men to the city's receptor
de milicias, Agustin de la Cuesta. The city of Toledo was to give 479 men for eight
militia companies. A year later, sergeant major Fernando de Guzman complained
to La Cuesta that the latter had not paid forflagsand drums. La Cuesta replied that
the towns were refusing to pay their part, saying Toledo should pay instead, and he,
in turn, asked the corregidor to order the towns to pay. Arevalo de Zuazo then
decided that, given the lack of flags and drums, more should be made, and in the
meantime each Sunday one militia company should hold drills with the few flags
there were.
Guzman was perplexed. In 1625, he said, eight flags and drums had been made
for the old militia and handed over to the captains, and now suddenly there were
only two flags, in very bad shape, and no one seemed capable of finding out what
had happened to the rest. Why, he wondered, didn't the corregidor just order the
missing six flags to be made with the money being collected from the towns? In
part, the answer probably was that the towns were not paying. On 20 May the
corregidor ordered the official in charge of city properties (mayordomo de propios) to
give La Cuesta 100 ducats with which to buy threeflags,which were handed over to
three captains the following month, an occasion marked with a series of elaborately
notarized documents. But the remaining three flags, plus ten drums, were still
missing, and stayed missing at least until November 1638, when Riafio pleaded
with Arevalo de Zuazo to help rather than hinder the sergeant major.

AGS GA, leg. 1178, city to king 17 April 1636.


AMT Milicias, caja 9.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

In early 1643 there were renewed militia orders, and though the personnel in
Toledo had changed, the tactics had not.71 The new distribution called for the city
of Toledo to give around 650 soldiers.72 In September, when Toledofinallyput the
orders in practice, Alcalde Mayor Bernardino de Cordoba (the corregidor, the count
of Torralba, was not there) gave the towns eight days to get their money to the city
council. Once again, the problem was the flags, the whereabouts of which were
somewhat of a mystery. The city council assigned commissioners to look into the
local history of payment for flags and drums. Going back to 1590, the regidores
found that the city had been responsible for buying weapons for the militia
"because of the great benefit it receives from not having voluntary levies." and that
in 1609 the city also was supposed to pay for weapons. A royal order of 29 May 1610
had instructed Toledo to pay for drums, flags, and drummers, despite the city's
argument that it was going bankrupt. The city had appealed the king's order, and
received another on 6 May 1612 saying the city had to pay for flags and drums just
once and also had to pay the drummers' salaries. The city had appealed a third time.
The king then sent a warrant to the corregidor reiterating that even though city
properties had been embargoed by creditors, the city could still buy drums and
flags just once. The corregidor ordered that half the cost of the flags and drums be
borne by the city and the other half by the towns, and eightflagsand sixteen drums
were purchased and given to the militia. These were the eight flags Guzman had
referred to. The commissioners' report then jumps to May 1638, by which time, as
we saw, the flags had mostly disappeared. The city bought six new flags that year
(contradicting Riano's correspondence, which mentioned just three), which were
handed over to the militia captains or their aides, and on 29 August 1640, the city
spent 15,980 maravedis on yet another flag, and since then no more had been
In the late 1630s, cities and towns began to have the option to pay off their
obligation, both for the militia and for the garrisons, with money instead of with
men, which generally suited both the ayuntamiento and the Crown.74 But the
conversion of the militia into afinancialobligation (composition) did not mean cities
and towns ceased to protest. As before, they wrote the king, alleging poverty or
privilege, and they often obtained reductions in the amount of money they had to


AMT Militias, caja 19.

One contemporary source estimates the 1645 population of the city of Toledo at 5,000 vecinos, less
than half what it had been in the late sixteenth century; Mendez Silva, Poblacion general de Espana
(1645), cited in Martz, Poverty and Welfare, 99. Ringrose, Madrid and the Spanish Economy, 373, also
cites estimates of 5,000 vecinos for 1646. The city itself, in a 1639 appeal against a levy of hidalgos, said
its population was 5,000 vecinos of whom 1,000 were clergy, not counting the inhabitants of some
forty convents and monasteries. AGS GA, leg. 1265, consulta Council of War, 25 May 1639.
AMT Milicias, caja 19, report, 24 September 1643.
See Luis Antonio Ribot Garcia, "El reclutamiento militar en Espana a mediados del siglo xvn. La
'composition' de las milicias de Castilla," in Cuadernosde investigacion historica, no. 9 (1985); and Jose
Contreras Gay, "Aportacion al estudio de los sistemas de reclutamiento militar en la Espana
moderna," Anuario de historia contempordnea, no. 8 (1981).


Making soldiers of townsmen

pay. And although the repartimiento en dinero freed towns from losing their men or
holding lotteries, it also meant a house-to-house collection had to take place, which
could and did create local difficulties, including the inevitable allegations of fraud.
It is not hard to see why Crown and municipal authorities preferred cash payments
to lotteries that yielded recruits of highly questionable talent. But there is a
disturbing silence from the commoners in this respect, and one has to wonder how
they managed to pay.
One of the goals behind establishing the militia was to have a reliable army and
avoid the inevitable disruption and fraud that ensued from lotteries. But the steady
stream of reports and proposals for militia reform indicates the Crown did not
attain this stability. A 1641 list of u the way in which it appears the districts of the
kingdom can be divided up" had some 55,500 men organized in militia companies
in thirteen districts, including both royal and seigneurial lands. It would appear the
list was a statement of intentions rather than of fact.75 The following year a report
admitted that desertions were forcing villages to repeat lotteries, that sergeant
majors and that local officials were usually working at cross purposes, and that
lotteries were still rife with fraud. The author of the report, weighing the relative
merits of having civilians or military officials undertake yet another reorganization
of the militia, opted for the latter, adding that each was equally suspect. But a
soldier was more likely to obey a military official than a civilian, the report argued:
The [military official] treats him as a soldier; the other treats him as a prisoner. As
a soldier he will be more eager; as a prisoner, he will be more difficult." Such a
recommendation could not have improved relations between the corregidores and
their resident sergeant majors.76
One of the obstacles to imposing discipline over the militia was that its role was
unclear, even to those running it. By the early 1640s it had become a recruiting pool
for what was beginning to look like a regular army. There are records of militiamen
from Salamanca and Valladolid serving more than ten years in the Portuguese
front.77 Cities frequently took militiamen and put them into garrison levies; Gaspar
de Bracamonte complained this was the case in Ubeda (Jaen), where the men,
"figuring they will not be able to avoid going to war, would rather go with someone
who pays them."78 The king in late 1638 allowed noblemen who had to raise troops
to dip into the militias on their estates and, adding insult to injury, he told the duke
of Pastrana to keep Bracamonte apprised of his progress in picking out 300
militiamen from his towns, which only meant 300 fewer men for Bracamonte.79
After the revolt in Catalonia, the king ordered that 2,000 of Bracamonte's men be

AGS GA, leg. 1387. Among the cities: Toledo, 1,913; Madrid, 2,022; Valladolid, 399; Leon, 2,166;
Zamora, 836; Burgos, 669; Salamanca, 683.
AGS GA, leg. 1441, unsigned and undated report, 1642.
AGS CS(2), leg. 108.
AGS GA, leg. 1255, consulta Council of War, 23 March 1639.
AGS GA, leg. 1278, Antonio de Contreras to king, 9 March 1639; AGS GA, libro 181, cedula real, 4
October 1639.


The Limits of Royal Authority

moved from Old Castile to the Army of Aragon.80 A year later he delivered a similar
order to Diego de Riafio, asking him for 1,500 of the 6,000 militiamen in his district.
Riano was to coordinate with the Constable of Castile, who was by then captain
general of Old Castile and therefore sat atop a parallel hierarchy. Among the 1,500
men were 180 from Burgos and 312 from Valladolid, the latter almost accounting
for that city's entire militia force.81 Avila, which, according to the 1641 report
mentioned above, was supposed to have 876 militiamen (an unlikely estimate), was
ordered in August of that year to move 325 of them to Ciudad Rodrigo, near the
Portuguese border; the order, as far as one can tell from city council minutes, was
never obeyed, but if it had it would have resulted in more militia lotteries, more
protests, and more delays.82 After the Portuguese rebellion in December 1640,
Zamora urgently needed its militia for self-defense, yet - according to the city and
its corregidor, Inigo de Angulo y Velasco - it was to be left defenseless. A regidor sent
to Madrid to plead its case was joined later by a representative of the cathedral; even
the count of Benavente told the king it was foolish to ship men from that region to
Aragon. Better to put them in the Army of Portugal, he said, where the men would
be closer to their land and their homes. If they were taken to Aragon, they would
only desert.83 By 1642, Angulo y Velasco complained, every militia company had
been taken from Zamora to different parts of the country. Left without a proper
militia, the city organized its own improvised self-defense, rotating guard duty
among some 700 men under the leadership of the corregidor, a former military man
himself, whom the city obviously respected.84
The complaints and conflicts that arose from towns and cities as a result of the
recurrent reorganization of the militia were similar to those that ensued after the
garrison levies or the Cities and Corregidores levies. The militia was perceived as
an imposition from above that was costly in terms of money, men, and social peace.
The difference lay in the claims the municipality had over the companies and the
militia's impact on daily life. Town councils could argue that they needed the
militia for their own self-defense, which was not the case with other levies. They
could appoint their own captains, who were usually local men. Towns literally
owned their flags and drums, without which there were no companies, and whereas
this was a burden, it also gave the ayuntamientos an important means of leverage.
And, while the constant military drills and lotteries were likewise a burden, they
also provided councils with a battery of justifications for refusing orders.


AGS GA, libro 181, cedula, October 1640.

AHN Frias Velasco leg. 196.3, correspondence June-November 1641. The figure of 6,000 comes
from the king's order to Riano, though other documents refer to 3,000 men.
AHPA Libros de Actas, 40, 83 v-i 14.
AGS GA, leg. 1404, count of Benavente to king, 15 February 1641.
AGS GA, leg. 1461, Angulo to king, 14 August 1642.

Making soldiers of townsmen


Opposition to military recruitment was manifested in jurisdictional conflict and

arguments, and the structures and rules of jurisdiction provided judges, Cortes
representatives, the king's ministers, and city councilmen with the means to protect
what they considered rights or privileges and to evade what they considered unjust
or simply bothersome duties. These same opportunities for challenging the Crown
existed in towns and villages, hierarchically the lowest of Castilian jurisdictions.
Indeed, with less personal access to the men who conceived and issued orders,
townspeople, represented by their concejo, or town council, would be even more
liable to resort to institutional means for resisting perceived wrongs.
In 1644, when Burgos corregidor Francisco de Bazan received his orders to
oversee yet another reorganization of the militia in the city and its subject towns
and villages, the king specifically told him (and, presumably, the rest of Castile's
corregidores) to stay away from the towns:
You are warned that neither you nor the sergeant major may go to the towns and villages . . .
nor may you send commissioners or people on salary to make enquiries, because my will is
that. . . one or two regidores from each town or village come to the city to receive orders on
how to undertake the lottery, and they will send you the lists of those who have been chosen
. . . or the same regidores can return in person to bring you these lists.85
The requirement that corregidores "visit," or inspect, the cities' towns and villages
had been adopted in the early sixteenth century. By the reign of Philip III the towns
were showing signs of fatigue with these visits. The 1618 Cortes had heard
complaints from villages about the hardships endured at the hands of corregidores
"mindful more of their own interest than of the common good."86 Both the Cortes
and the towns blamed the visits for depopulation, as villagers allegedly fled from
the unjust accusations of over-zealous corregidores, and for flooding the already busy
Council of Castile with lawsuits disputing the corregidores'' findings. So in autumn
1635, when the king instructed the corregidores how to implement the Levy of the
Cities, telling them "I hereby give you the necessary powers to raise this levy,
intervening personally in the city and in the villages of your district," he exacerbated the problem and opened the way for claims by villages and towns of undue
The first recourse of towns and villages to a recruitment order often was to
challenge a city's (or commander's) right to relay the orders at all. They might later
advance other claims regarding population, location, or poverty, but their structural relationship to their respective cities was of particular importance in establishing their responsibility and place on the huge Castilian administrative flow chart.
Towns that had a history of challenging their city were probably more likely to

AMB, Sec. Hist., no. 3113, real orden, 13 January 1644.

ACC, vol. 32, 31 August 1618, 297; cited by Gonzalez Alonso, El corregidor, 219.
AGS GA, leg. 1149, real ce'dula, 20 October 1635.


The Limits of Royal Authority

challenge recruitment orders. They not only had precedents in their favor, they
also had generations of legal experience in playing off one higher institution against
Burgos' disputes with its towns were in part linked to the city's medieval
development.88 Like other Castilian cities, Burgos in some ways functioned as a
seigneurial entity, receiving symbolic tribute from its subject towns and reserving
the right to appoint town officials and lease town posts. But these were rights the
city often did not exercise. In general, the towns functioned autonomously, appointing their own officials and regulating their own affairs. Therefore, when the
city suddenly decided to impose its will on its vassals, the vassals invariably took
their urban lord to court. The extremely complicated mesh of competing jurisdictions in Burgos meant these suits could last an eternity. The town of Muno, for
example, was awarded to Burgos by Alfonso XI in the fourteenth century. The
town, in turn, had seventy-eight hamlets or villages: twenty-nine were behetrias,
fourteen belonged to nobles, two were noble behetrias, eight belonged to the Abbot
of Covarrubias, eight belonged directly to Burgos, four belonged to the Convent of
Las Huelgas, three to the cathedral, two to the Hospital del Rey, and eight
pertained to other entities.89 By the seventeenth century, some consolidation had
occurred, of course, but the weight of this convoluted past could lie heavy in a court
of law and complicate already difficult recruiting tasks.
Along with Muno and other towns, Juarros, located just east of the city, had
complained to Burgos about the corregidor in 1635, arguing that he was not
respecting the king's orders that the Levy of the Cities be voluntary. The ayuntamiento registered a complaint with the corregidor on the towns' behalf. Juarros had
to provide six soldiers, which it considered excessive because of "the illnesses and
injuries and calamities of these times," which had reduced the population from 600
vecinos four years earlier to just 200 miserable, poor inhabitants.90 A year later, one
of Burgos' two militia companies drew men from Juarros, and there is no record of
any disagreement between the two parties.91 But in 1639, when Burgos had to raise
a compania de socorro of 200 infantry, led by Don Manuel Gutierrez de Ayala,
alcalde mayor of Burgos and a member of the Order of Santiago, Juarros decided
not to cooperate.
The act of disobedience that triggered the dispute came when twenty villages
belonging to the junta of Juarros and La Mata refused to hand over lists of all their
men between the ages of seventeen and fifty. Represented by Juan Capacho, the
villages argued that the alcalde mayor of Juarros, Bartolome Gomez de la Fuente
(who probably was appointed by Burgos), had no right to demand the lists. Quite


See Juan Antonio Bonachia, El senorio de Burgos durante la baja edad media (Valladolid, 1988).
/fa/, 251.
AGS GA, leg. 1149, Alonso Martinez to Burgos. Burgos had purchased the partido of Juarros y La
Mata in 1568 in order to increase its propio income, though the maneuver turned out to have negative,
rather than positive, financial results; see Hiltpold, "Noble Status," 28-30.
AGS GA, leg. 1148, "Relation ajustada de todas las compafiias," April 1636.

Making soldiers of townsmen

simply, Burgos had no jurisdiction:
[De la Fuente] says he has a commission from this city, acting as lord of the said villages and
juntas, saying they are its vassals, but my clients are not nor have they ever been [the city's
vassals]. . . because they have always been vassals of the King our Lord.92

The argument directly contradicted that put forth in 1635, when Juarros had
wanted a reduction of its six-man levy. Then, the procurador, after describing the
town's great poverty, had appealed to Burgos' propriety sense: "I ask and I beg, as
[you] are so concerned about the suffering or welfare of the said juntas and their
villages, due to the right you enjoy over them . . . "93 Now, four years later, the
alcaldes of the villages told the Council of Castile,
the vecinos who make up this Junta de Juarros y La Mata are vassals of His Majesty, and all
that corresponds and belongs to the city [su senorio] is to place and appoint a judge, and not
issue such orders, unless they are issued with an express royal warrant from His Majesty that
specifically speaks to the said Junta . . . 94

The Burgos city council argued that Juarros had an obligation to supply soldiers,
citing the fact that it had been done in the past. A copy of a 1597 order from Philip
II to the corregidor of Burgos which explicitly listed Juarros (and Mufio) among the
towns that should contribute to a company of 250 men, was among the documents
two Burgos regidores delivered to the villages. The example was entirely irrelevant,
Capacho retorted; the town was required to respond only to a royal order on
properly stamped paper explicitly naming the two regidores and the town, not the
"so-called order" it had been given. The 1597 order corresponded to different
purposes and different people, "and such matters are of strict law and cannot be
extended from person to person or from case to case."95
The question of who had the right to deliver orders to the town, and what those
orders should look like, was one of two key issues; the other concerned the rules of
litigation. Juarros already had a suit against Burgos pending before the Council of
Castile concerning Burgos' attempts to collect the donativo. According to Juarros,
the Council of Castile had issued orders that the town was not to be bothered with
more demands until that suit was settled. The town furthermore argued that it
would not be proper for what was essentially the same dispute to be heard by
another tribunal, i.e. by the Burgos corregidor, an argument it presented before the
Council of Castile, appealing to the council's own sense of judicial jurisdiction.
On 21 October lawyers for both sides presented their written arguments. Among
other things, the city's lawyer, seeming to agree with the towns, said the "so-called
Juntas de Juarros y La Mata" had committed a crime in appealing to the corregidor,
a lower judge, while their previous case was pending before the Council of Castile.

Statement by Capacho, 11 October 1639, included in the legal autos of the lawsuit, AMB, Sec. Hist.,
no. 3163.
AGS GA, leg. 1149, Alonso Martinez to Burgos November 1635.
AMB, Sec. Hist., no. 3163.

The Limits of Royal Authority

Capacho responded with the arguments he had presented previously, adding that
Burgos' attempt to rule vassals other than its own was "in clear detriment to His
Corregidor Francisco de Arbieto on 26 October ruled that the recruitment
orders and the fines imposed by Burgos on Juarros were to be suspended until such
time as the city complied with Juarros' repeated demand that the city show the
town the orders it had received from the Crown. The ruling must be seen as a
victory for the town. By November the Burgos city council, having reaped more
legal headaches thanfinancialadvantages from owning Juarros, decided to consider
ways of selling the town back to itself.
The Imperial City of Toledo also had problems disciplining its vassals, among
them the litigious little town of Olias. Located just northeast of the city, Olias in
1458 had received a privilege from King Enrique IV exempting it from all collective
obligations {repartimientos) to supply soldiers, grain, or money:
nothing [shall be] be taken from the said village of Olias nor from the homes of its vecinos and
inhabitants, no clothes, nor straw nor fowl nor wood nor anything else at all, in violation of
your will. And in addition . . . now, and from now on, for ever and ever you will be free and
rid of and exempt from guarding and patrolling and watching gates and from . . . [fighting
with] crossbows and lances or going to any war on any border, neither you nor your animals,
nor will you have to pay money [for the wars] nor for anything else . . .96
Since 1458, this privilege had been confirmed by every subsequent monarch. Not
suprisingly, Olias lost no opportunity to point to it when called upon for men or
Throughout the 1620s, Toledo demanded that Olias supply grain or money for a
variety of military reasons, and each time the town successfully appealed. In 1626,
after Olias contacted the Council of War, the corregidor of Toledo ordered the city
to reimburse Olias for militia costs it had imposed and to free imprisoned town
officials. In August 1629 the town protested when Toledo ordered it to hand over
9,037 maravedis for militia drummers and fifers; the Council of War again intervened and ordered Olias to be reimbursed.
The town was again assessed a contribution to assist with militia expenses in
1631, including the sergeant major's salary. This time, in the face of more protests
from Olias, Toledo chose to seize and auction off town properties. Olias immediately filed suit against the sergeant major, Don Fernando de Guzman (the same one
involved in the dispute over Toledo'sflags),who argued that as Enrique IV had not
explicitly ruled out the distribution of militia costs, Olias' "so-called privilege"
could hardly be invoked in the town's favor. The town's lawyer, meanwhile, argued
that because the requisite approval by the concejo had not taken place and the
corregidor\ predecessor and the king's ministers had acknowledged the town's
exemption, the subsequent seizure of property was null and void.

AHN CS, leg. 11,549, no. 797.1 am grateful to Juan Manuel Magan for showing me this document.

Making soldiers of townsmen

A few months later, Olias filed suit against Agustin de la Cuesta, Toledo's official
in charge of collecting militia revenues, over the 9,037 maravedi portion he had
assigned Olias. The town again wrote to the Council of War, which once again took
its side. Like Juarros, which appealed to the Council of Castile's proprietary sense
of jurisdiction, Olias told the Council of War that Toledo had ignored the council's
previous orders, attaching proof in the form of anti-council testimony by Toledo's
alcalde mayor, and it asked the council to order Toledo to send the town the original
documents of the case. Again echoing the case of Juarros, physical possession of
orders and documents was an important part of the dispute. The Olias papers, the
Council of War instructed Toledo, were to be sent "numbered, signed, sealed, and
stamped, and in a public form and manner."97
Military recruitment, then, could effectively be stalled when towns and villages
such as Juarros and and Olias refused to accept the dominion or authority of a city,
generally arguing that acceptance would amount to violation of a previous order or
privilege. In addition, disputes among towns and villages, which also often ended
up in court, could stall recruitment. Towns objected to each other's assignment of
soldiers, argued over whether a man was truly from one village or actually from
another, and captured each other's men as they tilled their common fields. They
summoned witnesses, engaged lawyers, wrote appeals, flooded city councils and
corregidores with letters, and searched the archives for precedents.
But towns and villages did not answer just to the municipality above them. On
some matters, such as the establishment of arbitrios to cover military expenses, the
towns spoke face-to-face with the Crown. Earlier we saw how this occurred in 1635,
during militia mobilization. Such was also the case in 1631, when the Council of
Castile was considering ways to finance the proposed levy of 18,000 men for the
garrisons. The towns and cities of Castile were supposed to contribute 548,781
ducats, and town councils met throughout the fall to decide how to pay for the
number of soldiers they had each been assigned. They sent their proposals for
arbitrios to Antonio de Contreras, of the council, who considered their merits and
then replied with a decree; there was sometimes a second round of negotiations if
the town or village was unhappy with the outcome. The arbitrios were eventually
incorporated into the millones agreement when the Cortes assumed responsibility
for the levy of 18,000 men.98
Once towns received word of how many soldiers and how much money they
were expected to contribute - according to the Council of Castile's proposal, one
man per 100 vecinos and 720 re ales per soldier per year for six years - they

AMT Milicias, caja 9, Don Gonzalo Perez de Valenzuela, 20 November 1631. All papers concerning
the Olias conflicts of 1626, 1629, and, 1631 are from this box.
To some degree, having towns choose their own arbitrios was a throwback to the millones system in the
late sixteenth century when each town could decide how to assess the subsidy within its boundaries.
That autonomy disappeared with the 1601 millones contract. See Jose Ignacio Fortea Perez, "Politica
y hacienda en el antiguo regimen," paper presented to the second meeting of the Asociacion espanola
de historia moderna, (Murcia, 1992), 74.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

sometimes tried to get their allotment reduced by pleading poverty and depopulation." The Andalusian village of Gaviote, for example, had been assigned five
soldiers, but as it had only 460 vecinos, more than 100 of whom were widows, young
men, clergy, or simply poor, it considered the number to be "excessive, in
accordance with the instruction and royal orders" and asked that it be reduced to
two. The village was tiny, measuring just one league by a quarter-league, and had
no funds with which to pay the soldiers' salaries; it proposed sisas on meat, cattle,
oil, soap, and fish, as well as permission to impose fines on cattle that grazed in a
particular field and to lease hay from a common field. Its arbitrios were granted; the
number of men, however, was reduced by just one.
But if towns and villages were carefully counting up their own populations, they
were doing the same with their neighbors', particularly if they thought other
villages had gotten off easier than themselves. Palma (Seville), for example, was
assigned fourteen soldiers, though it had no more than 1,000 vecinos, most of
whom, naturally, were poor. Meanwhile, nearby Lora, also situated on the Guadalquivir River, and which had 500 vecinos more than Palma, had been assigned only
eight soldiers, which town clerk Pedro de Velasco told the Council of Castile he
considered highly unfair. His protests, however, went unheard in Madrid, which
perhaps did not want to get involved in quarrels between the towns. Nor did
Antonio de Contreras respond directly to a request from Rociana, which proposed
paying for its single soldier's salary by leasing out land and oak trees. Rociana
wanted the council "to order the town of Niebla [under whose jurisdiction Rociana
lay] and its judges to respect [Rociana's] privileges and leave the administration and
collection to its coneejo and the people it appoints." Rociana could not have had
more than 100 vecinos; its insignificance, though, was no impediment to its seeking
guarantees of its rights directly from the Crown.
The fiscal measures proposed by towns were generally sisas or the enclosure of
common lands to create a dehesa. In the latter case, a town had to prove that similar
permission had been granted in the past, which sent town clerks everywhere
scurrying to their archives. The town of Vedmar (present-day Bedmar, Jaen), with
400 vecinos, which received permission for a six-year dehesa, had the bad luck of
being unable to find its records:
Sire, the town of Vedmar says that in order to pay the four soldiers Your Majesty has
assigned it... it has been given permission to enclose the dehesa of Azebuchar provided it has
been enclosed before, and although it is true that it was (enclosed) with royal permission
(facultad real), we cannot find the said facultad in the archive of the said town. It is known
only through the word of many old people, who saw the enclosure and knew ofthe facultad

The Council of Castile originally said towns with fewer than 200 vecinos were to be excluded; clearly,
this did not occur. All sites included in the following discussion are in Andalusia; the documents are
from AHN CS, leg. 40891, "Facultades concedidas a varios pueblos. Milicias y presidios." I am
grateful to Lorraine White for pointing out this legajo to me.


Making soldiers of townsmen

real. And because the facultad Your Majesty grants this town now is conditional, the
enclosure is doubtful and unclear, without which the said town cannot serve Your Majesty as
it wishes. Therefore, it asks and begs Your Majesty to grant the said enclosure without
condition, or at least that the said dehesa be admitted and valid whenever the town produces
sufficient information that it was enclosed in the past.
The Council of Castile was unwilling to bend the rules, however, and it told
Vedmar it would have to rely on sisas on wine and meat to raise the money for the
soldiers. But that verdict "appeared so harsh and injurious to the vecinos of this
town, and particularly to the poor," that the town council decided to appeal and ask
once again that it be allowed to enclose the Azebuchar dehesa. This time it was
successful; the Council of Castile withdrew permission to levy sisas, and allowed the
enclosure to proceed.
The sisas levied in these small towns and villages were generally the same as those
in the cities: they were placed on cattle, meat, wine, vinegar, fish, soap, or oil. Jaen,
a member-city of the Cortes, paid for its fifty soldiers by taxing tobacco and
eau-de-vie {aguardiente), in addition to wine.
Carmona, just east of Seville, famous today for its beautiful Roman gate, held an
open meeting to determine which sisas it would levy in order to pay 1,039 ducats for
its twenty soldiers. Corregidor Don Francisco de Herrera Valenzuela on 12
November 1631 ordered that a meeting be held "where all the vecinos, having
understood the benefit they receive from the payment of the said twenty soldiers,
(will) vote before the town clerks and in the presence of [the corregidor]" He
directed the town crier to go to all the town squares to announce the meeting,
convoking "all the vecinos of this city who reside here in their homes or settlements,
of all stations and conditions," for the following Sunday at two o'clock. There were
rather stiff fines for not attending - ten days in jail, plus 1,000 maravedis, which
would go toward the garrisons - taking a bit of the luster off the participatory nature
of the gathering, though it must be said that nearly all ayuntamientos also charged
their members fines for failing to attend meetings.
On the afternoon of 16 November, as the bells of the Church of San Salvador
rang, the town crier announced that Don Francisco was inside the church, on the
town's main square, along with the town clerks, and that he would now receive
(recibir) the votes of his vecinos. One by one, 108 men made their views known.
They included peasants, a tavernkeeper, bricklayers, lawyers, carpenters, a muleteer, shoemakers, doctors, at least one hidalgo, and several men identified as
"citizens" (ciudadanos).100 There was near unanimity to place sisas on meat and fish,

Sebastian de Covarrubias Orozco's 1611 dictionary, Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana 0 Espaiiola,

defines ciudadano as "he who lives in the city and lives off his fortune, rents, or inheritance. It is an
estate between caballeros or hidalgos and journeymen (oficiales mecdnicos). Among the ciudadanos one
finds letrados and those who have letters and liberal arts".


The Limits of Royal Authority

or just on meat, with a few suggestions in favor of taxes on oil or lard. The most
longwinded vote, not surprisingly, came from the town's lawyer, Licenciado
Fernando Jimenez Lozana. He may well also have been the best informed. He told
the gathering that the town was already obliged to pay certain arbitrios for sixteen
years for a donativo. If there was anything left over from those impositions, perhaps
it could be used for the soldiers; any other fundraising method "would be a great
burden on the poor and on the common good and on the vecinos of this city." The
corregidor and his clerks waited until the evening bells (campana de la oracion) had
rung, and as there were no more speakers, the meeting was adjourned. One month
later, Antonio de Contreras, in the name of the Council of Castile, issued a decree to
Carmona authorizing a six-year sisa on meat.101


Cities, towns, and villages, then, could shape the outcome of military recruitment.
Through their representatives, they lobbied before courts of law, higher municipal instances, and the Crown itself to limit its damaging effects, devise ways of
paying its costs, and protect their historic rights. As the case of Carmona shows,
military demands could also provide an opportunity for a portion of the male
population to collectively choose a strategy with which to respond to the Crown.
Some towns had concejos abiertos or included petitions from common villagers in
their judicial appeals, others did not; much probably depended upon individuals,
on who the corregidor was, or on the particular balance of power in a given
municipality. The choice of which sisa to levy might involve favoritism or fraud,
but there also might be a genuine effort to attain u the mildest and least injurious"
means of raising money, a frequent formula in towns' petitions for permission to
levy taxes. We can attribute a city's or town's willingness to engage in years of
lawsuits, despite the economic cost, to local peculiarities or interests, ambitious
lawyers, or simply to a longstanding tradition of litigation. The point is that all
municipal powers had the opportunity to speak and to act; they might occasionally, or even often, lose their battles, but nowhere was their right to challenge
their superiors ever questioned.
It seems appropriate to close this chapter about municipal responses to military
recruitment by setting the discussion alongside the work of Helen Nader, whose
Liberty in Absolutist Spain called attention to the dynamic and omnipresent towns of
Habsburg-era Castile. Far from being a landscape dominated by a few cities that
dictated the conditions of mute, powerless villages and their inhabitants, the Castile
that Nader describes is one in which political liberty cohabits with absolutism and

Given that Carmona had to pay for twenty soldiers, one could assume it had approximately 2,000
vecinos. That, however, makes the turnout at the open meeting very small, which may indicate a
problem with the numbers.


Making soldiers of townsmen

where towns have bought their independence from the Crown and therefore look
directly to the king, not to the cities, for protection and authority. Thus, Nader
argued, "Liberty from the rule of another municipality fulfilled the highest aspirations of Castilian political life."102 That liberty was embodied in the town council,
or concejo, and, especially, by open town meetings.
Yet the evidence we have presented about resistance to military recruitment
casts some doubt on Nader's conclusions. First, regarding the cities, she implicitly
differentiates their independence from that of the towns:
Urban historians today study only the cities - the upper extreme of the continuum of
municipalities - as instruments of the monarchy's local administration. This distorts our
understanding of Castilian political norms, because cities were too large to maintain the
democratic town meeting or even the annually elected town council.103
But, as we have seen, cities were not precisely instruments of the monarchy.
Furthermore, city neighborhoods did, indeed, hold open meetings, among other
reasons for recruitment lotteries. The outcome of these gatherings, and the everpresent threat of violence - which could be triggered by lotteries, militia drills,
billetting, or simply by poverty and taxes - surely contributed to the frequently
critical attitude of ayuntamientos toward military obligations. The presence of
common city dwellers can be detected behind the memoriales and the curt letters
and the legal stand-offs, and it would be wrong to ignore them. They had a voice.
Nor does it appear true that municipal autonomy necessarily brought selfadministration. In the matter of raising soldiers, autonomous towns, or villas, did
not answer directly to the king; they remained answerable to a city. Alcala de
Henares, Pozuelo, Leganes, Las Rozas, and Mostoles, to name a few towns in the
Madrid-Toledo area, were all autonomous, yet all had to deliver their men to one of
the two cities as well as suffer harassment, fines, threats, and unwelcome visits by
city officials. Their relationship to the Crown was not direct, as Nader says, but was
mediated by both the city's ayuntamiento and the corregidor. In part, this continued
dependency stemmed from the nature of the garrison levies, which were tied to the
millones and therefore, by definition, fell within the realm of city-Cortes relations.
But despite this obligation to negotiate with the cities, towns still had a great deal
of latitude and eventually could, if they wished, correspond directly with the king
or his councils. And so could dependent villages. There is nothing to indicate that
towns' and villages' dependent status rendered ineffective their inhabitants' protests and litigation even in the senorio, as we shall see in chapter 3 or that it
prevented them from reaching collective political decisions.
The existence of a polity was not contingent upon a community having an
unmediated relationship to the king. The political principles discussed in chapter 1
- the mutual obligation between ruler and vassal, the defense of the common good,
and the identification of good government with justice - were played out in the

Nader, Liberty, 8.



Ibid, 12.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

arena of the municipality. They transcended legal status. Thus the existence of a
town charter does not seem to be an accurate measure by which to judge a
municipality's aptness for independent thinking. Political liberty, as Nader defines
it, was of extraordinary importance, but it neither enabled nor impeded Castilians'
willingness or capacity to resist authority - which is itself a crucial definition of

War, lords, and vassals

For the hundreds of thousands of male villagers and townspeople in Castile who
lived under seigneurial jurisdiction in the senorio, military levies had a similar
significance as they did for dwellers in the royal domain (realengo). Local officials
would be ordered to raise a certain number of men, there was usually a lottery to
determine who would go, and the town council would use its discretion to round up
vagabonds and malcontents. Appeals against conscription were heard by firstinstance seigneurial justice officials but generally would follow the same pattern and
involve the same arguments as in the rest of Castile. Along with these similarities,
however, there were at least two ways in which seigneurial levies could be less
harsh: Recruiters working for lords outside their estates often offered higher
salaries to the men than did their royal counterparts, and frequent allusions by
corregidores to mass flight across the realengo-senorio frontier indicates that men
thought they could get more favorable treatment on the lord's side of the border.1
If the immediate experience of recruitment was similar for all men, regardless of
where they lived, seigneurial levies are distinctly instructive for understanding
more about the location of power and authority during this period. The introduction of another layer between the men and the king could be good or bad for
recruits: They had someone else to appeal to, someone who might be as unenthusiastic about the levy as they were, but at the same time they were subject to
another potential source of oppression. Which option the lord took was indicative
of his relationship to the king.
One of the objects of this study is to understand obedience in early modern
Castile. The mutual obligations that bound king and lord contributed to the
political stability that made it possible for resistance to be manifested not as open
revolt but as a wide variety of jurisdictional and legal maneuverings. But just as the

For a comprehensive contemporary overview of seigneurial jurisdiction see Castillo de Bovadilla,

Politica, 2, ch. 16. Seigneurial jurisdiction was of two general types. One was based largely on tax
revenues and other jurisdictional rights and alienated royal income; the other was land-based, deriving
income from rent or harvest sales. The senorio north of the Tagus River was more likely to be of the
former type, and south of the Tagus it was probably land-based. See Richard Herr, Rural Change and
Royal Finances in Spain (University of California Press, 1989), 826-7, and the sources listed below in
the discussion of the mayorazgo. Feudal dues usually amounted to land rent, because landlord and
seigneur were one and the same. By the seventeenth century peasants were paying virtually no other
dues of consequence. See Vassberg, Land and Society, 91-7.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

rationalizing efforts of Philip's government could have arbitrary effects because
they relied so much upon the decisions, favors, and debts of individuals, so too
could the tacit pact between the king and the aristocracy, based on a system of
obligation and favors, act to unravel or at least threaten the established order.
Contingency, regional disparity among nobles, and vassals' obstinacy could and did
intervene to ensure that stability would have to be fought for. These tensions,
obligations, and favors come to light in an examination of military levies on
seigneurial lands.
Historians of early modern Europe have long been concerned with the fact that
monarchs needed the aristocracy, yet treated it with fear or scorn. Sometime in the
seventeenth century, it is usually said, absolutist rulers resolved this alleged
contradiction, coming out firmly on top, albeit with a lingering, contradictory
dependence upon the nobles, who were all, apparently, of one mind. Seventeenthcentury Castile presents a different problem. As it is clear Philip IV never resolved
absolutism's internal contradiction, the question becomes, Who was using and
abusing whom? Depending upon one's version, either the aristocracy had been
plunged into a crisis and was being strangled by the king, or it had managed to
occupy so many key positions in the power structure that rational government by
the Crown was impossible. In the context of war and recruitment, either the lords'
enhanced authority over recruitment during the 1630s and 1640s added to their
power and influence or it was a new form of royal taxation. But this is a problem
only if one concludes at the outset that the coexistence of these situations is
somehow an aberration and that, in the spirit of resolving contradictions, one or the
other must inevitably triumph. The anxiety to identify the ultimate beneficiary of
the king-aristocracy dyad does not seem very useful. Clearly, in the last analysis,
the king had the advantage - that is what being a king is all about - but far more
important than the final balance sheet is the volatile, sometimes capricious and
always revealing nature of their relationship.2
Castile is generally considered to have been more inimical to the development of
bourgeois values than any other region in western Europe. Its great noble families
who spent fortunes on dowries and invested fruitlessly in state bonds while their
estates sank into ruin, and the apocryphal hidalgos who would beg alms rather than
do an honest day's work, make Castile an appropriate setting for a theorist such as

Benjamin Gonzalez Alonso, "Notas sobre las relaciones del Estado con la administration senorial en la
Castilla moderna," Anuario de historia del derecho espanol, vol. 52 (1983), is an example of such an
attempt to determine who was in charge; in this case, Gonzalez Alonso concludes that because
seigneurial justice was ultimately subject to royal authority, through the juicios de residencia, the two
jurisdictions were, in essence, the same, and therefore there was no contradiction between them; see
also Atienza Hernandez, Aristocracia, poder and, by the same author, "La 'quiebra' de la nobleza
castellana en el siglo xvn: Autoridad real y poder senorial: El secuestro de los bienes de la Casa de
Osuna," in Hispania, 44, 156 (1984), which similarly emphasize the senorio\ jurisdictional subservience to royal law.

War, lords, and vassals

Perry Anderson, who understands absolutism to have been "the new political
carapace of a threatened nobility" and who sees the decline of the estates systems
(including the seventeenth-century Cortes) as having occurred "as the class power
of the nobility assumed the form of a centripetal dictatorship exercised under the
royal ensign."3 While disagreeing with Anderson's sweeping language, which he
says muddles regional disparities and ignores other members of the power elite,
Francisco Tomas y Valiente, in his study of the validos, used Anderson's thesis as
the basis for his own, which posits that the Spanish nobility had a "hunger for
offices" and held onto its dominant class position during this period by capturing
municipal offices and ministerial positions and creating the unofficial post of
valido.4 In a similar vein, Jose Antonio Mara vail depicted a reconstituted nobility
adapting itself to new circumstances by moving out of the castles and into the king's
meeting rooms. In so doing, he says, the nobility became a power elite, and the
monarchy became a socio-political oligarchy that comprised nobles, the Church,
and financiers, what he calls a "monarchical-seigneurial complex." Mara vail relates
this phenomenon to the resolution of the "seventeenth-century crisis" by suggesting that the "gap" between monarch and vassals (including titled vassals) which led
to the mid-century conflicts was effectively filled by the new noble-administrative
elite.5 Writing about seventeenth-century France, Sharon Kettering links the
practice of patronage to the consolidation of an incompletely centralized state,
drawing attention to the flexible and contingent nature of these patron-brokerclient ties, which is instructive, too, for understanding the underlying structure of
authority in early modern Castile. But in the latter case one can draw almost the
opposite conclusion: Instead of binding the nobility together and to the Crown, as it
did in France, patronage in Castile, inseparable from the lords' base in their estates,
could be a disaggregating force. Patronage did not necessarily bind one to one's
king; it might infuse the relationship with unpaid obligations or disturbing peripheral threats. At the same time, disaggregation, or devolution, could provide the
same stability in Castile that Kettering attributes to centralization in France,
proving once again that the workings of political authority in this period rarely
conform to preconceived notions.6
Even were it true that it was primarily the nobles who were being named to or
buying high offices (in fact, non-nobles and nobles without titles were also moving
into the state administration), it would not necessarily follow that they had a grip on
state power. During the Olivares administration, the king's councils may have been
packed with titled nobles - ninety percent of the Council of State's members in

Anderson, Lineages, 18, 53.

Francisco Tomas y Valiente, Los validos en la monarquia espanola del sigh xvn (Madrid: Siglo
Veintiuno, 1982), 55-62.
Jose Antonio Maravall, Poder, honor y elites en el siglo xvn (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1979), 184-96,
Sharon Kettering, Patrons, Brokers, and Clients in Seventeenth-Century France (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1986), esp. ch. 5.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

1643 had titles - but most were essentially powerless.7 One could make the inverse
argument: that Olivares placed his high-ranking cousins and their cousins in those
positions so as to better keep an eye on them and neutralize their initiatives, should
they show any. At the same time, a noble without office - for example, the duke of
Alba, who during this period was exiled to his estates by Olivares - was hardly a
man without power.8 Indeed, unlike their French counterparts, Castilian nobles
seem to have spent much of their time on their estates, and their absence from the
capital can be seen neither as an act of defiance nor of defeat.
Likewise, theories of aristocratic powerlessness that rest on the identification of
one overriding cause, usually debt, are also too simple. Such generalizations fail to
account for the contradictory and varied ways in which power could manifest itself.
They presume that authority in Madrid automatically meant authority in the
regions, or even the provinces of Castile. They identify fragmentation as weakness
and office-holding as strength, and ignore the enormous non-economic value of
even loss-making senorios. An account of the Castilian nobles' participation in
Philip IV's war effort will show that notions of power, or the lack thereof, that rely
on one-dimensional explanations are bound to fail. They cannot explain the
apparent contradictions in the relationship between the king and the aristocracy,
which was not a zero-sum game but rather a delicate balance that involved mutual
legitimation and material interdependence as well as money and men.9

The Castilian nobility, with its financial needs on the one hand, and with its vassals,
its name, and its wealth on the other, was of considerable political and material use
to the Count-Duke, or so he thought. But along with so much else of his reform
program, Olivares' desire to re-educate the young lords and prod them into
becoming a service nobility was not well-received on the senorios or at court, and
though he had a few loyal nobles at his side, relations between the valido and the
nobility were mistrustful and hostile.
The animosity was due in part to clan politics among the Castilian nobility,
which intensifed the jealous atmosphere of a world that relied on favors and
privilege. Nor were the nobles pleased at being asked to support a foreign policy

The figure comes from Ignacio Atienza Hernandez, " 'Refeudalizacion' en Castilla durante el siglo
xvn: Un topico?" Anuario de historia del derecho espanol, vol. 56 (1986), 898; he cites Charles Jago,
"Aristocracy, War and Finance in Castile 1621-1665" (Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 1969), 32.
Fernando Alvarez de Toledo led members of his clan in refusing to provide the king with men and
military service during the 1630s. See Elliott, Count-Duke, 479; and Memorial historic0, vol. 13, 69, for
the 1634 expulsion. Alba took over as captain-general of the army on the Portuguese frontier in the
1640s; see ibid, vol. 16, 447-9 for the angry 1642 correspondence between Alba and Olivares.
I am indebted to Bartolome Yun Casalilla for his insight into this question. See also Ignacio Atienza
Hernandez, "El senor avisado: Programas paternalistas y control social en la Castilla del siglo xvn,"
Manuscrits, 9, (1991); and James Casey, The Kingdom of Valencia in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1979).

War, lords, and vassals

some considered disastrous. The requests for aid were ceaseless. Matias de Novoa,
an enemy of Olivares, wrote in his chronicle of Philip IV's reign that: "Neither [the
grandees] nor the others were allowed to rest. Every day at home they found
immense packages of requests, and even close relatives who had been favored with
honors and privileges could not bear it."10 The nobles also objected to Olivares'
reliance upon hand-picked juntas firmly controlled by him rather than by the king.
Yet the aristocratic opposition to the Count-Duke did not coalesce into a coherent
challenge, until he was finally toppled in early 1643.11
Olivares, in turn, looked upon the nobility as a selfish and disobedient group of
men who had forgotten what it meant to serve one's king. He fully intended to
teach them, but his plans for forcible administrative reform when he assumed
power in 1622 ensured a tense relationship from the start.12 But it would be an error
to give too much credence to contemporary allegations that Olivares was intent on
strangling the nobility in order to increase its dependency on the Crown. He
certainly favored some at the expense of others, rewarding kinsmen such as the
count of Monterrey, the marquis of Leganes, and the count of Castrillo instead of
far greater names such as the dukes of Bejar and Alba, the count of Oropesa, or the
Admiral of Castile. The wars pushed him to make demands on the nobility that, no
doubt, ruined their mutual relationship and made reconciliation impossible. But
that is not the same as saying Olivares was an enemy of the aristocracy.
As he had no choice but to work with the nobles, Olivares set about to instill in
them a sense of vocation. He proposed a plan for educating the young and, in 1634,
established a Junta de Obediencia, aimed not only at enforcing discipline in the
already troublesome Catalonia but also among the Castilian nobility, many of
whose members were ignoring his and the king's calls for assistance. They consented to serve only when they were given what they asked for, Olivares complained, and were otherwise ambitious, lazy, and extravagant. Of particular concern
to Olivares and Philip was the nobility's obvious reluctance to fulfill its traditional
military obligations. Lack of proper education had led the nobles to u[forget] how
to ride horseback, along with other military actions and exercises," the king
lamented to the archbishop of Granada, president of the Council of Castile, a
situation which still prevailed three years later when Olivares, in an addendum to
Matias de Novoa, Historia de Felipe IV, Rey de Espana, Coleccion de documentos ineditospara la historia

de Espana, vol. 80 (Madrid, 1883), 191.

Charles Jago, "La Corona y la aristocracia durante el regimen de Olivares: Un representante de la
aristocracia en la corte," in Elliott and Garcia Sanz, eds., La Espana, 375-6; Elliott, Count-Duke,
478-9; Elliott and de la Pefia (eds.), Memoriales, 8. The only true challenge from the aristocracy
before 1643 came in the summer of 1641 when a group led by the duke of Medina Sidonia, a relative
of Olivares, colluded with the Portuguese enemy in a plot to topple the valido. The conspiracy, which
was discovered, cost Medina Sidonia the captaincy general of Andalusia and the senorio of Sanlucar de
Barrameda. His cousin, the marquis de Ayamonte, paid with his life.
For a comparative study of the duke of Lerma's and Olivares' relationship with the nobility, see
Francesco Benigno, La Sombra del Rey (Madrid: Alianza, 1994).

The Limits of Royal Authority

his 1632 proposal on education, observed that not one noble had offered to
accompany the king's brother to Flanders.13
Nobles' participation in war and recruitment could take various forms. All
entailed a struggle. First, they gave or loaned money to the Crown - an endless
succession ofdonativos and other grants, in addition to impositions such as payment
for the salaries of garrison soldiers, discussed in chapter 1. They could also
intervene personally in military affairs - they occupied high military posts, they
were, in theory, obliged to accompany the king when he went to battle, and they
were supposed to raise and command their own regiments (coronelias). And third,
they contributed thousands of their vassals to the large levies. The financial
obligations of warfare tested the relationship between king and lord; the manpower
obligations tested the relationship between lord and vassal.
Awarding a high military post to a titled member of the nobility could be a way of
ensuring loyalty; it could also be a way of stirring up rivalries, as occurred when the
dukes of Alba, Medina Sidonia, Medinaceli, Bejar, and Arcos all refused to serve in
the Army of Portugal under the count of Monterrey, Olivares' brother-in-law.14
Inexperience and youth were no deterrents if a noble was considered useful to the
cause because he had many vassals or good connections with other houses. The
young Constable of Castile, for example, was named captain general of the Guipuzcoan frontier on the grounds that "his house has a great following in that province
and many vassals, and his presence there could be of considerable advantage;" the
duke of Bejar was captain general of Extremadura at the age of seventeen; and the
"grossly inadequate" marquis of Los Velez had the crucial job of commanding the
royal army in Catalonia in October 1640 because of his family's connections in the
rebellious region.15
Nobles had traditionally been expected to accompany the king on his visits to the
front. Since the second half of the sixteenth century, however, they had ignored the
custom, and by the reign of Philip IV they were not only unwilling but also largely
incompetent. The king began talking about such a visit (a Jornada real) in 1634, and
from then on lists were repeatedly drawn up to work out how many men each titled
noble and each city should contribute. Despite Olivares' gloomy assessment of the
nobles' devotion to the cause, he was surprisingly cheerful about what they would
contribute to the army that would accompany the king. Five titled nobles were to
raise 5,000 or 6,000 infantry among them which, combined with other regiments
raised by nobles, would bring the total to 10,000 infantry, He then added in 6,000


Elliott and La Pefia, eds. Memoriales, vol. 2, 85, 95. See Maravall, Poder, honor, 201-14, for a general
discussion of the abandonment of the nobility's military role. For a comparison with the military
obligations of the French grands in the seventeenth century see Parrott, "Richelieu, the Grands, and
the French army," in Bergin and Bockliss, eds., Richelieu and His Age, according to which the French
nobles were just as put upon as their Spanish counterparts but reaped considerable advantage
through advancing the interests of their clienteles.
Elliott, Count-Duke, 610.
Thompson, War and Government, 149-50. The quote on the Constable is from the Council of State
(British Museum Egerton 2053, fol. 164) cited by Thompson.

War, lords, and vassals

from Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia, which would not be difficult, he reasoned,
since Catalonia alone would supply "at least" 5,000. Other nobles were to raise
1,500 cavalry. Altogether, including men from outside the peninsula, there were to
be "more or less" 40,000 men with the king. The estimates, of course, were wildly
optimistic, and the Jornada did not take place.16
But even if the king did not visit the front, there was an urgent need for soldiers.
The coronelias were the first place the king turned in 1635 when war broke out with
France. The coronelias had been instituted in 1632 when eleven grandees, including
Olivares, were each put in charge of their own regiment. In 1634, Olivares had
written a long memorandum on national defense urging, among other things, that
they be revived. It was expected that they would provide between 100 men, in the
case of the poorest nobles, and 3,000 men, in the case of the count of Fuensalida,
"because he is rich and it is said he has lots of cash."17
Again, the Count-Duke miscalculated. The nobles regarded the honorific rank
less an honor than an imposition. The most obvious and frequent excuse for not
raising a coronelia or accompanying the king was debt, of which the nobles had
plenty. The duke of Pastrana responded to the first such call, in his case for 1,500
men, by telling the king the Crown owed his house money for its donations to past
wars, he had outstanding loans to pay off, he faced lawsuits from creditors, and his
sister's dowry had recently cost him 40,000 ducats. Pastrana was not alone in his
protests; so many nobles offered financial excuses for staying home that the
corresponding junta suggested to the king that only those with the fewest economic
problems be chosen, and that even they should be financially compensated.18 The
duke of the Infantado, Rodrigo Diaz del Vivar Sandoval Hurtado de Mendoza la
Vega y Luna, explained he could not raise his 1,500 men because he had 100,000
ducats of debts and 800,000 in mortgages, having suffered as a result of the
expulsion of the Moriscos (twenty-four years earlier), and he could not find anyone
to lend him money. He had reduced the number of his servants, his health was bad,
and he had retired to the Madrid village of Buitrago where he hoped his hardships
would be less visible. A group of titled nobles including the Admiral of Castile, the
count of Oropesa, and the Constable of Castile were banished to their estates in


AGS E, leg. 2656, "El Conde Duque sobre lo que se debe disponer para ejecutar la Jornada de VM,"
14 June 1635.
Elliott and La Pefia, eds, Memoriales, 124-5. The first eleven grandees who had coronelias were the
Count-Duke, the Admiral of Castile, the constables of Castile and Navarre, the dukes of Medinaceli,
Infantado, Najera, Osuna, Escalona, and Medina de las Torres, and the count of Niebla. They were
joined in 1634 by the dukes of Alburquerque, Sesa, and Pastrana and the counts of Lemos and
Oropesa: Count of Clonard, Historia orgdnica de las armas de infanteriay caballeria espanolas (Madrid,
1853), 408-10. Jago says the initial plan was to send the soldiers of these coronelias to Flanders; "La
Corona," 382.
AGS GA, 1361, consulta Junta de la Prevention y de Defensa de estos Reinos, 17 September 1634;
Pastrana to junta, 4 August 1634. Roderigo de Silva y Mendoza, the 4th duke of Pastrana, became
viceroy of Aragon in 1639 and later refused a military post in Badajoz (Memorial Historico, vol. 15,
222; vol. 16,189). By 1650, the house of Pastrana owed 400,000 ducats and was being administered by
the Council of Castile.

The Limits ofRoy al Authority

October 1634 as punishment for having failed to raise their coronelias.19 The duke of
Alburquerque managed to evade raising a regiment by instead paying 6,000
ducats.20 Even so, the regiments of thirteen titled nobles reached the Army of
Catalonia three years later. Among those serving were (after all) Oropesa, Pastrana,
and Infantado.21
The Count-Duke had his own coronelia, which, not surprisingly, was also serving
in the Army of Catalonia. He had recruiting devices not at the disposal of other
nobles, however, such as a royal proclamation announcing that captains for his
regiment, which was to have between 2,000 and 3,000 men, would be seeking
soldiers in Madrid, Burgos, Toledo, Seville, Granada, Cuenca, Caceres, and
Trujillo, and that membership would have its privileges.22 City council minutes of
Burgos, Leon, Valladolid, Avila, and Madrid for 1638, 1639, and 1640 all contain
appeals from the Count-Duke for men, usually for twenty or thirty, and the alacrity
with which city councils responded to his requests for paid, uniformed soldiers
contrasts markedly with their procrastination in the face of other levies.
Another test of the nobility's willingness to make personal sacrifices came in 1640
when an attempt was made to mobilize members of the military orders of Santiago,
Calatrava, and Alcantara. It is safe to say that all nobles were members of an order,
although the reverse was not necessarily true. Membership in the land-rich orders,
which had been founded in the twelfth century, was a crucial measure of status, as
evidenced by the frequency with which hdbitos appeared on the lists of conditions
put forth by nobles and private recruiters in exchange for raising troops. Hidalgos
were particularly desirous of an hdbito because it was proof that they had no Jewish
blood, an essential first step up the ladder of the Castilian hierarchy. But by the
sixteenth century, the orders had ceased to be viable military resources, and by the
time of Philip IV's reign widespread sale of hdbitos had stripped membership of its
original meaning.23
Disappointed and angry that the nobility had not responded to his repeated calls



Elliott and La Pena, Memoriales, 125 n.
Memorial Historic0, vol. 13, 139.
AGS GA, leg. 1196, relation September 1637. Only four of the nobles finally complied with the full
1,500 men, according to Thompson: see "The Government of Spain in the Reign of Philip IV," Crown
and Cortes: Government, Institutions and Representation in Early-Modern Castile (Variorum, 1993)
BN, MS 2365, f. 201, 1634; AGS GA 1099, consulta 2.2. August 1634. An earlier consulta from the
Council of War, in AGS GA, leg. 1050, dated 7 June 1632, indicates his coronelia had been established
two years prior to those of the nobility.
Between 1631 and 1640, 772 memberships were sold or awarded, as compared to an average of 169
per decade during the reign of Philip II. See L. P. Wright, "The military orders in sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century Spanish society. The institutional embodiment of a historical tradition," in Past
and Present, no. 43, 1969, p. 55. Postigo Castellanos, Honory privilegio, 119-33, J 98-9, gives even
higher figures; according to her, the Council of Orders issued 1,170 memberships between 1631 and
1640. Postigo notes that the reign of Philip IV is remarkable not only for the huge increase in hdbitos
but for the fact that they were considered payment for services rather than recognition of status,
which provoked soul searching debates among contemporary political theorists. On Olivares' opposition to the cult of limpieza and his defense of awarding hdbitos for merit see Juan Ignacio Gutierrez
Nieto, "El reformismo social de Olivares: El problema de la limpieza de sangre y la creation de una
nobleza de merito," in Elliott and Garcia Sanz, eds., La Espana, 41941.


War, lords, and vassals

to arms, the king in January 1640 announced a Jornada real to Catalonia and ordered
all members of the orders to report for duty by 8 March.24 Olivares set up a special
Junta de Ordenes to coordinate the effort, under the leadership of his trustworthy
brother-in-law, the count of Monterrey, who also was president of the Council of
Orders. (Members of military orders fell under the jurisdiction of the Council of
Orders, for judicial as well as for military matters, but ordinary soldiers who
happened to live on the orders' estates {encomiendas) came under the jurisdiction of
the Council of War.) The Levy of the Orders, as it was known, was a dismal failure.
Corregidores reported to the junta that local nobles, with whom they probably
sympathized, were alleging poverty, illness, conflicting military duties, or old age anything to avoid service. The Andalusian nobles were especially hostile to the idea;
members of the Seville city council dug up a thirteenth-century privilege they said
exempted them from the Jornada, and sixteen aristocrats in Jerez preferred jail to
military service.25 According to Novoa, some thought the king had no intention of
going anywhere and that the Jornada real was just a trick to get them to serve.
Only 150 members of military orders (or their paid substitutes) showed up for a
troop review by the king in September 1640, by which time Catalonia had rebelled,
and somewhere between 800 and 1,400 men, most of whom were probably paid
substitutes, finally left for the front in October. The king, however, did not leave, as
this was yet another Jornada real that did not happen. He would not make the
journey until May 1642, and despite repeated entreaties, orders, and threats that
hidalgos would lose their privileges if they did not accompany him, even then he did
not travel with as many nobles as he would have wished.26 After Olivares' fall from
power the following year, there were no more such efforts.

If the lords themselves would not go to war or commit themselves, they overcame
their distaste when it came to sending their vassals, primarily because they could
win concessions from the king in return. Their role as recruiters, in fact, far
outweighed their own scanty contributions. The senorio was an immense military
resource, a base of social power, and often the center of an intricate web of family
relationships that was of far more use to the king than the nobles' own inadequate
The approximately 235 titled nobles and grandees in Castille during the reign of
Philip IV were living in times of changing fortunes, though whether or not the
times rank as a "crisis" is a matter for debate. An intense cash-flow problem and the
burden of the mayorazgo weighed heavily, and both were to come into play as the

This discussion is drawn from Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, "Mobilizacion de la nobleza castellana en
1640," in Anuario de historia del derecho espanol, vol. 25, 1955; and from N o v o a , Historia, 1 8 7 - 9 1 .
Antonio Canovas del Castillo, Estudios del reinado de Felipe IV (Madrid, 1888), 400.
Jose Pellicer, Avisos. Semanario erudito (Madrid, 1790), vol. 32, 252.

The Limits of Royal Authority

king turned to the nobility for troops.27 The mayorazgo, the Castilian system of
seigneurial entailed property, signified both a type of ownership and a type of
succession.28 The owner could freely dispose of the income produced by the
entailed property, but in theory could neither sell nor mortgage the property itself,
which was to be passed on to his or her heir. All senorios were mayorazgos, but the
reverse was not always true. Traditionally, historians have agreed that the mayorazgos were at the heart of the economic crisis - Antonio Dominguez Ortiz once
commented that it was just as well they were entailed because the deplorable
management of the noble houses would otherwise have led to their disappearance.29
Contemporary economic critics, the arbitristas, were also of that opinion: Martin
Gonzalez de Cellorigo, for example, wrote that u our commonwealth is very out of
proportion because of the establishment every day of so many mayorazgos" adding
that in the future it would be a good idea to eliminate entailment altogether. Others,
such as Mateo Lopez Bravo, blamed not the mayorazgos as an institution but their
excessive proliferation. Yet most contemporary writers believed that even though
the land could certainly have been worked more efficiently, nonetheless a strong
nobility and the senorio served a purpose.30
The mayorazgo certainly served a crucial purpose with regard to the political and
economic crisis of the 1630s and 1640s. It provided the means for the acquisition of
loans, guaranteed the survival of the noble families on which the king depended, and
gave the lords a relatively stable social base from which to offer the king military and
financial services. And the Crown's practice of conceding special licenses to nobles
so they could take out mortgages on their mayorazgo and then raise men or money, a
practice that violated the very spirit of the institution but which fulfilled urgent
economic and military needs, further cemented the mutual dependence of the king
and his titled vassals. These mortgages, called censos consignativos, often taken out in
order to pay high-interest loans from bankers, were placed not on the entailed
properties^/- se but on the product of those properties, so that if the lord could not
make his interest payments the property would not revert to his creditors. Instead,
the Crown stepped in and administered the noble house.31
Censos on mayorazgos had been adopted already in the sixteenth century to give
the aristocracy easier access to credit, and "by the seventeenth century the mayorazgo had become the principal surety for censos held against the aristocracy, the
means by which an immense landed wealth could be converted into liquid



The estimate of 235 titles comes from Dominguez Ortiz, Las clases privilegiadas, 71, based on figures
from AHN Consejos, leg. 5250. When calculating the titled nobles' contribution to the garrisons levy
in 1631, however, the Council of Castile had counted 241.
See Bartolome Clavero, Mayorazgo: Propiedad feudal en Castilla IJ6Q-I8J6 (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1974) and Alfonso Maria Guilarte, El regimen senorial en el siglo xvi (Madrid: Instituto de
Estudios Politicos, 1962).
Dominguez Ortiz, Clases privilegiadas, 97.
Cellorigo quote from his Memorial de la politica necesaria, cited by Atienza, Aristocracia, poder, 33;
Gutierrez Nieto, "El pensamiento economico," Menendez Pidal, Historia de Espana, 338.
See Atienza, "La 'quiebra'" for an example of royal intervention.

War, lords, and vassals

assets."32 In principle, mortgaged estates benefitted all concerned: Creditors received interest (though often less than the official rate, thanks to special rates set by
the king) and were protected by the Crown's ability to embargo seigneurial
properties in case of non-payment; nobles had access to cash; and the king was able
to make financial demands on his nobles. Requests for licenses to take out censos
were debated in the Chamber of Castile, which then made recommendations to the
king. (During the period under analysis, however, the Colonels Junta seems to have
taken over this function.) The chamber usually advised against granting licenses,
arguing that they weakened the entail system, but the king generally granted them
anyway. Buyers of censos were most often individuals connected with the Church,
religious institutions, justice officials and administrators (including the nobles'
colleagues in juntas and councils), and members of the urban elite. Widows and
daughters of urban notables also were frequent lenders.33
In addition to taking out mortgages on their estates, the nobles often requested
permission to sell, temporarily or permanently, portions of their property in order
to raise the cash to recruit and outfit troops. The properties of the Osuna family, for
example, were being administered by the Crown as early as the 1590s, but the
family's indebtedness in no way meant the king would fail to request its help in
times of war. In June 1635, in return for raising a coronelia, Don Juan Tellez Giron
Enriquez de Ribera, the 4th duke of Osuna, asked for a license to sell two parcels of
land. The king granted the license for two lifetimes, the duke's and that of
whomever else the duke named, "and to the abovementioned effect, and none
other, I segregate, separate, and divide from the said state and mayorazgo and from
the clauses, entails, and conditions the said parcels and I make them free without
obligation nor subject to entail nor any restitution for the said two lives." After the
two lives had expired, the parcels would be reincorporated into the mayorazgo.,34
Another frequent recourse when nobles presented their conditions for raising
troops was to request permission to enclose lands, a barely disguised way of passing
the costs of war onto seigneurial towns and vassals. In fact, it was a measure that
violated legal precedent: Castillo de Bovadilla had specifically ruled it out, allowing
that a portion (un pedazo) of common land could be enclosed only by the lord


Charles Jago, "The Influence of Debt on the Relations between Crown and Aristocracy in Seventeenth-Century Castile," Economic History Review, vol. 26, 2 (May 1973), 223-4.
See Bartolome Bennassar, Valladolid en elsiglo de oro: Una ciudadde Castillo, y su entorno agrario en el
siglo xvi (Universidad de Valladolid, 1983), 248-50, for a chart of where the debt of fifteen titled
nobles was placed in the late sixteenth century in Valladolid. Creditors included magistrates,
professors, widows, a great many men with the title Licenciado - and the arbitrista Martin Gonzalez
de Cellorigo, a Chancilleria lawyer, who loaned money to the count of Benavente.
AHN Osuna, 1471.2, facultad real, 10 June 1635. See Atienza, Aristocracia, poder, for a history of the
Osuna family and estate. In 1639 the duke was allowed to sell off an additional two parcels: see
Atienza, "Quiebra," 65 n. For similar accounts of the counts of Benavente and the Pimentel family,
see Bartolome Yun Casalilla, "Aristocracia, senorio y crecimiento economico en Castilla: Algunas
reflexiones a partir de los Pimentel y los Enriquez (siglos xvi y xvn)," Revista de historia economica, no.
3 (Autumn 1985).

The Limits of Royal Authority

himself, and only after an open town meeting had been held to approve such a
transaction.35 Perhaps for that reason, nobles had to demonstrate to the satisfaction
of the Colonels Junta that third parties would not be harmed by enclosure.
One such case was that of the duke of Escalona, who in February 1635 asked for
license to create up to twelve new grazing enclosures (dehesas) for sixteen years in
exchange for raising a coronelia of 1,200 men.36 The junta granted six, pending
approval of documentation to be supplied by the duke, and during the interim the
levy was to continue. In addition, the duke asked that he be allowed to use
seventeen existing dehesas on his estates; there was a certain amount of discussion
over which parcels of land would be included, after which the junta agreed, on
condition that "they must be ones which at some time, somewhere, have been
already enclosed in the past, and all this without injury to third parties."37
There is only implied mention of protest by third parties against the duke of
Escalona's enclosures, but another of his conditions for raising the 1,200 troops was
too risky for the junta to accept: He wanted the right to take one-eighth the content
of the public granaries (positos) in his estates of Moya (Cuenca) and Jorquera
(Albacete), a request to which the junta originally agreed in March. The positos
were towns' guarantees that they would have a sufficient amount of grain at an
acceptable price. During famines, they might sell grain below the purchase price,
and during periods of abundance town councils might speculate with their stocks;
they would sometimes pay for military levies in this manner. Granaries were, in
short, a crucial part of the wealth of a town, whether realengo or seigneurial.
As it turned out, the granaries had held very little, so the duke in April asked
permission to take one-fourth of the stocks, or at least 20,000 ducats worth, to be
paid back in four years, u so it is no burden whatsoever."38 Writing from his estates
in La Mancha, the duke told the archbishop of Granada that in trying to get the
levy under way he had encountered stiff opposition ("grandisimos impedientes y
tantas oposiciones") from his vassals. Therefore, he said, exhibiting a logic hard to
figure out, in addition to the positos of Jonquera and Moya he also wanted those of
Balmonte and Alarcon. But, he warned, "with the easy time [my vassals] have of it
in the Council. . . opposing the lords . . . [they] will put up barriers that make this
matter entirely impossible."39 Neither the junta nor the king was convinced, and
they turned down the request. The request became a demand, however, in the



Castillo de Bovadilla, Politico,, 2, ch. 16, 574-5.

The duke of Escalona, Don Diego Roque Lopez Pacheco Cabrera y Bobadilla, also the 7th marquis de
Villena, was one offivenobles assigned by the king to split a 6,000man levy approved by the Cortes.
The others were the counts of Aranda, Fuensalida, Onate, and Oropesa. The Escalona title was one of
the four oldest in Spain, having been created by Carlos V at the start of his reign.
AGS GA, leg. 1274, "Decretos de las dehesas del Senor Duque de Escalona," 19 November 1635.
AGS GA, leg. 1140, memorial from the duke, quoted in consulta Colonels Junta, 5 July 1635.
AGS GA, leg. 1134, duke of Escalona to archbishop of Granada, 21 April 1635. It is not clear to which
council the duke is referring, though presumably it is the archbishop's own Council of Castile.

War, lords, and vassals

duke's next appeal: If he did not get the grain, he would neither raise the troops nor
would he go to Madrid to finalize the conditions of the levy.
The matter remained at a stalemate for several months. Escalona refused to go to
Madrid, and the junta refused to grant his request. In the meantime, the duke said
he was trying to raise his regiment but had encountered serious obstacles. There
had been other levies recently, the militia companies were forming, and there had
been few men to begin with, all of which made his task impossible. Why didn't the
king just order his districts to comply? he asked in a memorial. The reply was a terse
"out of the question" ( u no ha lugar").40
The members of the junta by October felt obliged to inform the king of the state
of affairs and reiterate the drawbacks of the proposal. It would be "unjust," they
said, if the duke were to traffic with the grain, "and make a considerable amount,
benefitting from Your Majesty's Royal hand and causing much harm to the concejos
and vassals." Reports were reaching the Sala de Gobierno (of the Council of Castile)
that many lords, especially Escalona, were using rents or taxes granted by the king
(arbitrios) to the detriment of their vassals and in violation of the conditions under
which they had been awarded. The list of arbitrios already given to the duke was
enough to raise not one but two coronelias, the junta remarked. He had received far
more concessions than other lords, and each time he received one he immediately
requested another.41 The junta, obviously furious at the duke's affront "to your
service and the good of your vassals," suggested to the king (apparently not for the
first time) that Escalona be told that he would lose the arbitrios he already had if he
did not forget about the granaries.
The king replied:
My aim is never to abandon justice, even if all is lost. The junta should finalize this business
and make the duke comply, because undoubtedly everything, reputation and estates, is being
lost with this delay.42
It would appear Escalona never got his way, but nor did he raise the i ,200 men. The
junta continued to hound him for nearly five years, and in March 1639, as he was
getting ready to take up a post in New Spain (he finally left in early 1640), he wrote
an exasperated letter to the archbishop of Granada:
His Majesty has no more obedient vassal than I . . . Butfindingmyself in the impossible
circumstances I have described and having been unable to raise the one thousand [sic] men in
my coronelia, which is what I was ordered to do (although I never offered), because certain


AGS GA, leg. 1134, memorial duke of Escalona 16 July 1635.

In addition to the dehesas and the positosy the duke had received four hdbitos; a guarantee that none of
the arbitrios could be embargoed by his creditors; permission to run cattle and wheat for ten years over
the Jucar River; permission to deliver his men to Valencia rather than Cartagena; and license to take
out mortgages.
AGS GA, leg. 1140, consulta Colonels Junta, 11 October 1635.

The Limits of Royal Authority

arbitrios I was granted never came through ... I can hardly complete this levy if His Majesty
does not see fit to grant me what I have requested . . ,43
Despite the disagreements between the duke of Escalona and the Crown, their
arrangement regarding the dehesas would become the model upon which all such
future negotiations were based. One of the longest and most contentious of cases
was that of the count of Oropesa, whose effort to enclose part of his land illustrates
not only the long-term effects of such demands but also the ways in which raising
an army could be constrained by a lord's relationship with his vassals.
The fourteenth-century castle of Oropesa is today a National Parador, the site of
small company retreats and expensive weekend trysts. It was once home to the
counts of Oropesa, a family whose noble lineage went back to 1366 and whose
surname, Alvarez de Toledo, was the same as that of the dukes of Alba, to whom
they were related and who eventually inherited the estate. The family's most
illustrious servant of the Crown had been the famed Don Francisco de Toledo, fifth
Viceroy of Peru under Philip II. His son, Juan Alvarez de Toledo, had been singled
out for praise by Castillo de Bovadilla for residing on his estate, as a nobleman
should, and for being a just ruler.44 The town of Oropesa is 150 kilometers
southwest of Madrid, in the present-day province of Toledo. It was the seat of the
Oropesa estate, which comprised five towns, and of the entire noble house, which
by the late eighteenth century (after considerable family consolidation) included
some eighty-six towns sprawled over Extremadura, Toledo, Cuenca, and Avila, the
second-largest seigneurial house in those provinces after that of the duke of
The 7th count of Oropesa was Duarte Fernando Garcia Alvarez de Toledo, who
took over the house in 1621 when he was a child. In 1636 Don Duarte married the
countess of Alcaudete and Villar, whose titles he added to his own.45 His mother,
who acted as his guardian, was a Pimentel, part of the count of Benavente's family.
His father was a nephew of the duke of Alba and had followed Alba into exile in
1634. Don Duarte would eventually do quite well for himself: He was appointed
captain general of the Kingdom of Valencia in 1642, later became viceroy of
Navarre, and when he died in 1671 he was serving as president of the Council of
Orders. His son, Don Manuel Joaquin Garcia Alvarez de Toledo, did even better as
president of the Council of Castile and, later, valido to Charles II, guiding the
fortunes of Spain's last Habsburg from the family palace on Madrid's Plaza de
Santo Domingo.


AGS GA, leg. 1365, duke of Escalona to archbishop of Granada, 16 March 1639. Don Diego went on
to serve as captain general and viceroy in New Spain. He returned to Spain in 1642, married Juana
Maria de Zuniga, daughter of the dukes of Bejar, and was appointed captain general of New Castile
and Navarre in 1649. See Gregorio de Andres, "La biblioteca del Marques de Villena, Don Juan
Manual Fernandez de Pacheco, fundador de la Real Academia Espafiola," in Hispania, 48/168
(1988), 169-200.1 am grateful to Sarah Nalle for this information.
Castillo de Bovadilla, Politico,, 2, ch. 16, 529.
There is a detailed description of the wedding party in Memorial historic0, vol. 13, 417.

War, lords, and vassals

The family's problems, like those of the rest of the Castilian aristocracy, had
intensified during the early years of the reign of Philip IV. Roughly one-third of the
house's expenditure by 1640 was going to pay off censos, with another third
earmarked for family stipends. To make things worse, a 1638 inquest revealed that
the family's accountants had been swindling the estate for years.46 Perhaps because
the Oropesa finances were indeed worse than those of other aristocratic families, the
count was asked to make only two troop contributions during this period: a
detachment of thirty soldiers for the 1640 one-percent levy, which was relatively
uneventful,47 and a coronelia of 1,500 men, which became a never-ending saga.
When she received the request for the coronelia in 1634, the countess of Oropesa,
writing on behalf of her son, already had a battery of financial impediments to
allege. In the past six years alone, she wrote, the family had served the king with a
first donativo of 16,000 ducats, a second of 6,000 ducats in silver, and a third of
1,000 ducats in silver; it had cost them 80,000 ducats in plata doble to pay off some
alcabalas which had been in the family "since time immemorial," and that was not
counting a great many censos and the expenses of a Crown lawsuit against them
claiming the tercias (the royal share of the tithes) from several of their towns, which
the family also had had "since time immemorial."48 Her appeals fell on deaf ears,
however, and recruitment for the coronelia went ahead.
The 80,000 ducats the count later argued it had cost him to raise this regiment49
would be offset in part by a variety of censos and by a dehesas operation that had
repercussions into the twentieth century. Throughout the spring of 1635, the
Colonels Junta met with the count's negotiator, Father Francisco Pimentel, his
uncle, to work out an acceptable list of royal favors (mercedes).50 The model for the
agreement was that drawn up in March with the duke of Escalona. Father Pimentel
asked for wheat from the Oropesa towns' granaries and was granted "the same as
the marquis de Villena [the duke of Escalona]." The junta also agreed, as it did in
most similar negotiations, that the mercedes could not be claimed or embargoed by
the count's creditors, "which is the same as what was granted to the duke of
Escalona." Young Don Duarte could legally come of age when he was seventeen
years old, a year early, the junta said, but it refused Father Pimentel's request for a
permit to operate a market in Oropesa which "under no circumstances is appropri46

Jago, "The Crisis," 76, 78.

AV, 3-4201, relation attached to letter from Pedro de Villanueva to Madrid corregidor Juan Ramirez
de Freyle y Arellano, March 1640; correspondence between Plasencia corregidor Geronimo del Vaysa
and Pedro de Villanueva in AGS GA, leg. 1248, 3 August 1640; AGS GA, leg. 1358, 16 June 1640;
and scattered, damaged documents in legs. 1354, 1365, and 1371.
See Salvador de Moxo, La alcabala (Madrid: CSIC, 1963), 67-75; and La incorporation de senorios en
la Espana delantiguo regimen (Valladolid: CSIC, 1959), 17-8, for discussions of "time immemorial' as
a criterion for acquisition.
Dominguez Ortiz, Politicafiscal, i n .
Father Pimentel was a high-ranking Jesuit and a member of a powerful family. One of his brothers
was in Rome, another was a count, and he himself said he would accompany Olivares in the 1640
Jornada real; that trip never took place, but he must have had a reason for thinking he would be
assigned such an honor. See Memorial Historic0, vol. 16, 76.



The Limits of Royal Authority

ate," not least because every lord in Castile would be demanding the same if the
request were granted.51
The stickiest points of the negotiations were the censos and the dehesas. On 21 April
it was agreed that a censo of 30,000 ducats could be taken out to pay for the coronelia; a
second censo was established in June, allowing the count to take out a mortgage of
20,000 ducats in silver "in order to raise the regiment;" and an additional ten-year,
20,000-ducat censo was authorized later, in July 1638, to offset the 80,000 ducats the
count had supposedly spent on raising the regiment of 2,000 men.52
To enable him to pay off this debt, the king on 13 March 1636 issued a royal
warrant permitting the count to enclose part of his land. Again in conformity with
what had been granted to the duke of Escalona, he was allowed to take one-quarter
(Pimentel had originally requested one-third) of the Crown-held baldios of the
towns of Oropesa and Mejorada and their jurisdiction and create six enclosed
parcels of land. These parcels could be leased or administered as long as they had
already been enclosed sometime in the past. Strictly speaking, the baldios were
Crown lands to which the commons had access; the transfer of the land to the
count's jurisdiction therefore can be seen as part of the Crown's longstanding effort
to raise revenue, in the course of which the communal system was being undermined.53 The junta, as always, underlined that no damage to third parties could be
incurred: "It is understood that in each village the majority of vecinos must agree [to
the enclosure] and in each district (partido) a majority of the villages." The count
was given jurisdiction over five additional dehesas under the same conditions.
By May 1636 Father Pimentel was in arrears both in payments and in his
shipment of men to Perpignan. He told the Crown he could not raise one real if it
did not step in to resolve the contradiccion of the count's vassals, who were
protesting the enclosures. The junta heard from the plaintiffs' lawyers and decided
an investigation was called for. In its report, the junta stated that the villa of
Oropesa and its villages had 1,735 vecinos and 38,758 head of livestock. There were
just over thirty-five leagues of common land, not counting the dehesa de la villa and
the count's five dehesas. The count and the town each presented witnesses, who
described how the land was used and argued in favor of or against the enclosure.
On 18 August 1636 the junta announced it had deliberated upon the arguments
of both sides and was in a position to advise the king to go ahead with the mercedes
regardless of any appeals. In return, Father Pimentel was expected to fulfill all his
financial obligations to the Council of War regarding the regiment. A judge from
Madrid was to visit Oropesa, at the family's expense, to oversee the enclosure:

AGS GA, leg. 1274. Unless otherwise noted, all documentation of the negotiations referred to in this
discussion is in this legajo. Nearly all the papers are consultas from the Colonels Junta.
AHN Frias Oropesa, leg. 523.2 "Testimonio a la letra," 13 July 1638. The figure of 2,000 men is
included in the censo, though there is no proof that that many troops were actually raised. The
documents used throughout this section speak of licenses for censos totaling both 80,000 and 70,000
ducats. It is not clear if some of the various correspondents were in error, or if the amounts were
altered as time went by.
Vassberg, Land and Society, 172-6.

War, lords, and vassals

He is to carry instructions that the one-quarter of the common lands is to be taken equally
from the good land and the bad, that the one-quarter and the other three parts that remain
for the villages be equal for good and for bad, fertile and infertile, so that it is distributed
equally, and he should also take care that the good land for the villages be the best, and that
the bad land be the least bad.

Once the censos were paid off, the payments the count would now charge for the use
of the land would cease. Given that if the count did not pay off the mortgage these
arbitrios would effectively become perpetual, the junta ordered that a time limit be
set, after which "things would go back to the state they are in now."
As was to be expected, the count's vassals were not happy with the junta's
decision. Evidence of their displeasure and disobedience came from Antonio
Guerrero, the judge dispatched to the town to oversee the transfer of the common
land to the count. Guerrero arrived in Oropesa on 12 September 1636 and
presented his credentials to the local judicial official, who acknowledged them
("que la obedecio"). He also notified Martin de Arroyo, a surveyer (medidor)
certified by the Council of Finance, that measuring and marking of the commons
would take place the following day and that both parties could be present if they
wished. Arroyo, however, was off in Talavera surveying another of the count's
dehesas (also for the purposes of offsetting the cost of the corone Ha), so the
measuring and marking had to be postponed.
The count's people then proposed that the town and its adjunct villages be asked
to describe the land in question, distinguishing the good from the bad and the
fertile from the infertile, and that the division take place based on their testimony.
Guerrero agreed with this proposal and asked the town and its villages to appoint
respected representatives within a given time period, beyond which they would
face penalties. He ordered town council members and other officials of the town
and all fifteen villages to meet that same day in the Oropesa town hall to discuss the
matter. But the villages did not want to attend this meeting and refused to accept
the autos ordering them to do so. Days went by, and still the villages refused to
appoint representatives. On 19 September the party of the town and villages said
that by rights another surveyor besides Arroyo, who had been appointed by the
count's party, should be in charge of the measuring and marking of the land, and
they asked Guerrero to postpone the measuring until they could come up with a
new surveyor. Guerrero turned down the proposal, which was met with a formal
protest by the town ("apelaba para ante Vuestra Majestad y Su Real Junta de
Coronelias y lo pidio por testimonio").
Guerrero now decided to go ahead with the measuring. He and Arroyo would
start working at 7 AM on Sunday, 21 September. If the two parties wanted to be
present, fine; if not, the measuring would take place anyway. The count's party was
notified of this plan on 20 September and reminded Guerrero that the town and
villages had been ordered to appoint representatives to testify as to the distribution
of good and bad, and fertile and infertile land, and that they had refused to do this.

The Limits of Royal Authority

The count's party reiterated the request. So on 21 September, instead of rising
early to measure the dehesa, Guerrero met with "the most experienced people I
could find in the said town and its land" ("las personas mas practicas") and with the
guards of the baldios to find out where the oak groves began and ended and where
the good land was situated. Based on their testimony, Guerrero ordered three of the
guards to accompany Arroyo the next day as he measured out two parcels of
mountain land with oak trees; under oath, they were to point out the boundaries of
the two parcels. The measuring was taking place even as Guerrero wrote his report
to the Colonels Junta.
But in the meantime, he wrote, he had been informed on 17 September that
many residents of the town and villages, "maliciously and to do harm to the said
count and frustrate the merced Your Majesty granted him," had begun shaking
down acorns from the oak trees, knocking most of the acorns to the ground. In the
week prior to this discovery, he wrote, many trees had been flailed and were now
bare. Acorns were a vital crop, providing feed for swine and flour in times of
famine, and therefore the count's vassals were none too anxious to lose theirs. For
the same reason, towns often strictly controlled flailing and harvesting.54 The
count's party asked that serious penalties be imposed for shaking trees before the
measuring had been completed; obligingly, Guerrero issued a public notice warning that tree-shaking would be punished with fines and that violators would also be
liable for costs and damages and would serve thirty days in jail. The threats had not
been very effective, however, for Guerrero closed his report by admitting that the
tree-shaking was still going on.
The dehesas, of course, were eventually measured and separated from the towns'
commons, and the descendants of the tree-shakers would spend much time and ink
trying to undo the damage. A brief detour into the eighteenth century is in order to
see how the legacy of the count of Oropesa's coronelia lived on years after the
peasants, the livestock, the crops, and even the House of Oropesa had turned to
dust. By 1776, despite the terms agreed to by the Colonels Junta and Father
Pimentel, which specifically had set limits on how long the townspeople would have
to pay the count to offset his censo, the inhabitants of Oropesa and the surrounding
towns and villages had been paying for 140 years to use land that had once been
their common grazing area. In the spring of that year the town filed suit to recover
two dehesas in the towns of Oropesa and Mejorada. They lost the suit.55
A local history remarks that the people of Oropesa were pleased in 1802 when
the estate passed to the Crown (the last countess having died without heirs),
because they were tired of paying rent "as a result of the famous dehesas lawsuit."
But the House of Frias filed suit, claiming the estate as its own, and in 1806 the
town once again became a senorio. Soon after, the towns were disentailed, and the
two dehesas are today under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, to be

See Vassberg, Land and Society, 37-8, on acorn harvesting.


AHN Frias Oropesa, leg. 523.2.

War, lords, and vassals

used jointly by the towns and villages of the former Oropesa Estate.56
The Escalona and Oropesa dehesas were among many such cases throughout
Castile; nearly all lists of mercedes included licenses to take out mortgages and
enclose land in exchange for raising troops. Military recruitment, as we have seen,
was often translated into opportunities for social classes or groups to define and
exercise their power. With regard to the Oropesa dehesas, Salvador Moxo writes,
the lawsuit
made evident the absence of the lord's absolute dominion and free use over the communal
property and waste lands of the towns on his estate . . . (and reflected) how the lord's rights
were intertwined with the concejo\ most ancient possession to form a unique joint dominion,

The lords' ability to turn to their mayorazgos for liquidity and royal favors, as
exemplified by the conditions they put to the king in exchange for raising troops,
made that ancient institution of considerable economic and political use in the
seventeenth century. The censos "were a mechanism able to absorb the deep
contradiction between the not strictly economic sphere of the senorio . . . and the
financial aspect of seigneurial income."58 They bridged the gap between the
economic and manpower services the lord was expected to provide the king and the
social function of the mayorazgo as a guarantor of order and tradition. Indebtedness, therefore, cannot be understood as an indication solely of noble wastefulness
or conspicuous consumption but rather as the inevitable result of this contradiction
between the senorio''s economic and social roles.
The king may have been trying to bleed the nobles dry, as they claimed and as
some historians argue, but the arrangement allowed the king to raise an army, albeit
not very efficiently, and ensured the nobles' survival. Seventeenth-century Castilian nobles, in general, obtained short-term relief from their sometimes staggering
debts not by squeezing their vassals - seigneurial towns, in fact, were sometimes in
far better financial shape than their lords - but by turning to the king.

Military recruitment made the borders between royal and seigneurial lands stand
out, though perhaps not always with much clarity, and it was only natural that the
authorities over these two jurisdictions, the royal corregidores and the lords, would


The dehesas are administered by the Institute of Agrarian Reform and Development. Jose Manuel
Gutierrez Rodriguez, et ah, Oropesa y los Alvarez de Toledo (Toledo: Diputacion Provincial, 1985),
27-8. Documents pertaining to the 1806 reversion of the estate to the Frias family are contained in
Moxo, Incorporation, 161-7.
Salvador Moxo, LosAntiguos Senorios de Toledo (Toledo, 1973), 62. There also is a reference here to a
1791 lawsuit over the same dehesas.
Bartolome Yun Casalilla, "Consideraciones para el estudio de la renta y las economias sefioriales en el
reino de Castilla," in Esteban Sarasa Sanchez and Eliseo Serrano Martin (eds.), Senorio y feudalismo
en la peninsula iberica (Diputacion de Zaragoza, 1994), vol. 2, 24.

The Limits of Royal Authority

confront one another over men, money, and orders. Unwilling conscripts would
seek refuge on the other side; corregidores received the king's permission to enter
seigneurial lands with full jurisdiction; and agents for the Crown and the lords
fought over the same conscript pool, for which each also fought to avoid paying. At
the same time, the authority of the lord could seriously be diminished in the eyes of
his vassals if he failed to protect them from the long reach of the Council of War or
from the violence of billeted troops. Towns and villages could lodge petitions
directly with the king or appeal to the Chancilleria against decisions of seigneurial
justice officials, and it was to the king that towns had to look for permission to
impose special taxes to pay for raising troops. So even as military burdens in some
ways strengthened the senorio as a site of economic and social power, they also could
strain the ties that bound lord and vassal, making them seem increasingly irrelevant.
Cities and lords, beseiged with levy orders from the Crown after 1635, often were
competing for the same men. In the fall of 1635, during the Levy of the Cities, many
corregidores wrote that their efforts were being stymied by agents of local nobles.
Valladolid complained about the duke of Bejar, who was offering "excellent pay"
and also had his recruiters working in Salamanca.59 The Constable of Castile
complained tirelessly that Diego de Riafio's reorganization of the militia was
impeding his levy of 1,000 men (though his own agents were robbing the city of
Palencia of its men).60 The marquis of Astorga grumbled that the corregidor of Leon
had raised 166 men who really belonged to his estate, making it impossible for him
to raise a levy of 400, and later he alleged that the count of Benavente was also
encroaching on his recruiting territory.61 Corregidores, too, could squabble over
inhabitants of the senorio, as when those of San Clemente and Cuenca both laid
claim to vassals of the duke of Escalona, who was doing his best to keep them for
Cities and towns, whose human resources everyone suddenly wanted, could try
to use this situation to their best advantage. But in general they were at a
disadvantage with regard to the nobles, who not only were tapping their recruit pool
but usually offering better wages. It would appear that nobles, in general, offered
four re ales as compared to two re ales from the Crown. There must have been some
increase of the average Crown wage, however, because an alarmed king decided in
March 1639 that the upward pressure was "making levies impossible," and he
instructed the archbishop of Granada to make sure the daily stipend was pushed


AGS GA, leg. 1149, Valladolid city council to king, 15 December 1635, and AGS GA, leg. 1172,
Queipo de Llano to king, 27 February 1636; AGS GA, leg. 1207, correspondence between Pedro
Villanueva and Salamanca corregidorPedro Suarez, October 1636 to February 1636.
AGS GA, leg. 1185, correspondence throughout; AGS GA, leg. 1202, Palencia city council to king, 29
May 1637.
AGS GA, leg. 1337, Astorga to the count of Castrillo, 21 November 1640; AGS GA, leg. 1393,
Astorga to Castrillo, 2 February 1641.
AGS GA, leg. 1354, series of letters to Villanueva from Pedro de Henao y de Aguila and Antonio
Sevillano, May-June 1640.

War, lords, and vassals

back down to two and a half reales. Don Alonso de Obando, who raised hundreds of
men for the Crown throughout this period and was at that time recruiting in
Madrid, responded to this turn of events by saying he would, naturally, comply, but
that the king should know that the counts of Aguilar and Molina and Don Cristobal
de Guardiola were all offering four reales.63 (In the past, the count of Aguilar, the
marquis de la Hinojosa, had been such a successful recruiter that when Madrid
needed 704 men for the garrisons, the corregidor, the count of Re villa, proposed that
the city simply take them from Aguilar's men and pay him.) 64
The Madrid city council, overwhelmed by incessant calls to replace troops in the
garrisons, pleaded in 1639 for relief, arguing that the capital had borne more than its
share of banderas, and it specifically pointed to the drain of men to the coronelias:
There have been many more [levies here] by coroneles ordered by Your Majesty and they have
taken many more soldiers: the count of Aguilar, duke of Pastrana, Don Alonso de Obando,
Don Cristobal de Guardiola, the count of Molina, Don Juan Francisco Cordero
. . . , all coroneles who have had and have two or three or four recruitingflagsin this city and
they have taken an enormous number of men who must be considered part of the garrison
distribution because there have been more than eight thousand of them . . . 6 s
Nobles were also allowed to take men from militias of their seigneurial towns,
which not only abrogated militiamen's usual exemption from levies but also,
naturally, put an additional strain on the towns. T h e duke of Pastrana, for example,
received this cedula from the king:
Whereas I have resolved that the men whom the grandees and titled nobles have offered for
the army I have ordered raised in Zaragoza for the defense of these kingdoms be taken from
militias in villages on their estates, or that [the nobles] be allowed to forcibly conscript, and
because the duke of Pastrana has offered to serve me with 300 men, it is my will that for the
said purpose he may use this one time and no other the said militias or forced conscripts from
his villages up to the number of the said 300 infantry . . . 6 6
Even though the towns belonged to the duke of Pastrana, the example nonetheless points to jurisdictional ambiguity. There is no indication if the duke was pleased
about taking 300 of his own vassals; he may have preferred to pay a recruiter to raise
them elsewhere on realengo lands. As in the case of royal licenses for censos, the king
here had to intervene to sanction what was obviously not in concordance with usual
seigneurial procedure, and the warrant implicitly recognizes the subservience of
seigneurial law to the needs of the Crown. Seigneurial town militias were in the
hands of local officials appointed by the lord, but royal officials increasingly were
ordering them to contribute to Crown levies.


AGS GS, leg. 1278, king to archbishop, 10 March 1639; AGS GA, leg. 1286, Obando to Villanueva,
16 March 1639.
AV 1-16054, Revilla to Olivares, 4 June 1636; AV 3-4186, archbishop of Granada, undated.
AV 3-418-7, ayuntamiento 26 July 1639.
AGS GA, libro 181, cedula 4 October 1639. As pointed out in chapter 2, this measure deprived Gaspar
de Bracamonte, who was overseeing the militia with Riafio, of the men he needed.

The Limits ofRoyal Authority

The way in which the overriding need to raise an army essentially denied the
existence or meaning of seigneurial boundaries can best be seen through the
one-percent levies beginning in 1639, in which towns were supposed to mobilize
one percent of their eligible men. In autumn 1639, some royal corregidores received
permission to recruit men throughout their entire corregimiento, including on the
senorios, while in other cases it was the lords who were to deliver the soldiers to the
nearest corregidor. Already with the first one-percent levy a similar order had been
The cost of transporting [the men] will be assumed by His Majesty, but it is his wish that the
corregidores... also take charge of transporting the levies of lords who are neighbors, and thus
I have ordered [the lords to] hand over their men to the corregidores nearest to their estates.67
This order was repeated verbatim in a circular from Colonels Junta secretary Pedro
de Villanueva to all corregidores on 4 March 1640, when he also specified that
account sheets of how many men were delivered by each noble to each corregidor
were to be passed on to the Colonels Junta for payment.68 But the junta's insistent
appeals to the corregidores for men were invariably countered with tales of recalcitrant nobles. The duke of Medinaceli, for example, refused to hand over fifty men to
the corregidor of Soria, perhaps as a way of protesting the latter's authority in the
matter.69 But in the inverse situation, the marquis de Malpica complained that
neither Talavera nor Toledo would accept his men until he promised to pay for the
troops' upkeep, which he was not bound to do.70
The confusion was especially great in Madrid, where the corregidor, Juan
Ramirez Freyle de Arellano, demanded "distinction and clarity" of Pedro de
Villanueva. The previous year, he said, the orders had been equally muddled. He
had sent recruitment orders to all the towns in his district, but the Crown had
ordered him to cease his efforts on the senorios, meaning he had lost some 100
potential recruits. Villanueva replied with a list of the thirty-four nobles who had
been included in the one-percent levy, who together were to raise 1,940 soldiers, and
he told Ramirez, u In the towns of lords included in this levy... you are not to order
anyone to raise men for this one-percent levy, and the king has ordered it thus." The
idea was that the nobles would hand over the men without the corregidor having to
do the recruiting himself. However, as Ramirez told Villanueva the following day,
there was no way of knowing for certain how many men would result from such a
plan because "the lords give the men to the corregimiento they please."71
The system did not work, which surely came as no surprise to the corregidores. In

AGS GA, leg. 136,5, 9 January 1639 statement by Plasencia town clerk, quoting an order given
sometime in late 1638.
AV 34201, 4 March 1640 letter from Villanueva to corregidores.
AGS GA, leg. 1371, Corregidor Francisco Aldrete y Quiroga to archbishop of Granada, 14 March
AGS GA, leg. 1365, marquis of Malpica to king, 11 March 1639.
AGS GA, leg. 1363,7 March 1640; AV 3-4201, relation 8 March 1640; AGS GA, leg. 1355, Ramirez
to Villanueva, 9 March 1640.

War, lords, and vassals

May they received a cedula real that made it clear that realengo authorities would
prevail over the senorio:
My Corregidor of, when I ordered the realengo corregidores to undertake the one-percent
levy in their districts and exempt towns, some titled nobles were also ordered ... to undertake
this same type of levy in their towns and deliver the men to the nearest realengo corregidor, and
because some of the said titled nobles have not delivered all their men and others have
delivered none, / have decided that in order to execute this levy the realengo corregidores will enter

onto their lands and estates and thus I order you ... to enter to execute [the levy] in the towns
included in the list you have of the titled nobles who must raise men and who should have
given them to you and I grant you the necessary powers and faculties to do this ... and I order
the corregidores, alcaldes mayores and other alcaldes and justice officials of the said towns to
give you the assistance you require to execute this.72
The indignity for the lords must have been considerable, although having to
surrender men did not mean they necessarily would pay what the corregidores said
they owed. Pedro de Henao y de Aguila, corregidor of Cuenca, finally got his hands
on the duke of Escalona's men after the May order, but money was a different
matter: "I have been ordered to pay for the expenses incurred by the duke of
Escalona's soldiers from the duke's rents . .. and in reply I tell you, sir, I will do the
best I can to embargo the duke of Escalona's rents, although I believe he has them
placed in such a way that none are recoverable . . . "73 The duke at that point was in
America. But the image of his agents having to outwit the corregidor was an
indication that five years of haggling over his regiment of 1,200 men had not
enhanced his cachet with the Crown.
The one-percent levy of 1640 was the occasion for events on the estate of the duke
of Bejar that deserve to be recounted in detail, as they elucidate the fragile mesh of
relationships on which military recruitment depended. Don Alonso Lopez de
Zuniga, to whose grandfather Cervantes had dedicated Don Quixote, inherited the
house of Bejar in November 1636. At the age of sixteen he was a grandee twice over
and had seigneurial rights over more than seventy-five towns and villages. The town
of Bejar, then as now a center for the making of linen and wool, is in the southern
part of the present-day province of Salamanca, where that province meets Caceres
and Avila. The House of Bejar also included towns as far north as the province of
Burgos, and as far south as Burguillos, in Badajoz, and Gibraleon, in Huelva.74
Along with the seventy-five towns, Don Alonso inherited from his father a relatively
well-managed estate worth over 2.5 million ducats and a tradition of supplying the
king with massive numbers of soldiers. A decade later he would have little to show

AGS GA, leg. 1372, cedula real, 4 May 1640. My emphasis. The discussion below of the duke of
Bejar's one-percent levy explores in more detail the ramifications of this order.
AGS GA, leg. 1363, Pedro de Henao y de Aguila to Villanueva, 8 August 1640.
For a map of the estate, see Charles Jago, "The 'Crisis of the Aristocracy' in Seventeenth-Century
Castile," in Past and Present, 84 (1979), which also includes a detailed analysis of the Bejar accounts.
The house was absorbed into the immense House of Osuna in the late eighteenth century; see
Atienza, Aristocracia, poder.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

for the former except for enormous debts; the latter, however, was a legacy that
would not go away.
His father, Don Francisco Lopez de Zufliga, the 7th duke of Bejar, had in 1632
been requested to raise 3,000 men on his estates at his own expense. Later that year
the figure was expanded to 4,ooo.75 It was an effort both fruitless and expensive. In
response to ceaseless demands from the Crown, Don Francisco sent the king an
equally ceaseless barrage of petitions and complaints, both indignant and deferential. In 1632 he asked for a series of mercedes; along with the senorio, his son would
also inherit the task of fighting the king's ministers to get those favors realized. The
list included a variety of dehesas and habit os and a canonry in the cathedral of Toledo
for his third son, Don Diego. By early 1639 only the dehesas had been granted,
because the levies had never been completed, and even the dehesas had not been
realized because of his vassals' complaints.76
Sometime in 1636, Don Francisco was named captain general of Extremadura, an
appointment which, though more honorary than military, he evidently did not
relish.77 Once again, he countered the unwelcome burden with a proposal: He
wanted to sell all the regidores* offices on his estates as a way of raising money and at
the same time abolish the post of alcalde ordinario, whose duties as magistrate would
be transferred to the alcalde mayor. Dr D. Cristobal de Leon Santos de Ayala,
Bejar's agent in Madrid, submitted to the Crown a printed series of arguments
proving without a doubt that such a move was within the king's powers (potestad)
and had distinct advantages (conveniencias).78 That petition, too, languished in
palace offices for months.
By November 1636 Don Francisco was dead, and the teenage Alonso was left to
deal with the unfinished levies, new levies, growing debts, the unanswered petitions
for mercedes, the estate, and even the captaincy-general in Extremadura. Urged on
by Santos Ayala, who instructed him that uwar justifies all mercedes" the young
duke picked up where his father had left off.79
While some of his father's financial laments may have been specious, those of
Don Alonso were more justifiable, though most peasants or infantrymen in Castile
surely would have been puzzled to learn that a grandee twice over was pleading
poverty. Short-term leases combined with devaluation, regional depopulation, and
deflation meant that less and less was coming in. Revenue in the town of Bejar had


Dominguez Ortiz, Las clases privilegiadas, 93; Jago, "The Influence of Debt," 234; Jago, "La
corona," 382.
AHN Osuna, leg. 382.28, "Memoria de las mercedes que se hicieron al Duque mi senor . . ., " 26
March 1639.
See Jago, "Aristocracy, War," 104-7, f r a discussion of the constraints of the post.
AGS GA, leg. 1165, "Por el Duque de Bejar," undated. The petition was turned down by the Council
of Castile, AHN CS, leg. 4427, 70; but was finally accepted in 1657 when Don Alonso moved from
Bejar to Madrid: AHN Osuna, 241.3.39, cedula 29 May 1657; Jago, "Crisis," 79, 88. See Jago, "La
corona" for a discussion of the role of Santos de Ayala.
AHN Osuna, 382.28, 26 March 1639, "Memoria de las mercedes . . . ;" AHN Osuna, 246.7.3, cited
by Jago, "La corona," 389

War, lords, and vassals

fallen eighteen percent between 1628 and 1635, while family expenses and obligations to the Crown had soared. By 1640, the young duke would claim he had paid the
king 800,000 ducats in war-related expenses.80 Meanwhile, the levies continued,
compounding like interest.
On 4 March 1640 the king ordered a new one-percent levy, following a similar
one in 1638.81 The duke was to ensure that 100 of his male vassals were delivered by
1 April to the nearest realengo corregidor, who would have the authority to enter his
estates and seize men if the deadline were passed. The duke protested to the king
that the number was too high, but he nonetheless divided up the burden among his


No. of men

Marquesado de Gibraleon
Condado de Belalcazar
Vizcondado de la Puebla
Estado de Capilla
Estado de Burguillos
Condado de Vanaves
Partido de Curiel


The corregidor of Plasencia (Caceres), Geronimo del Vaysa Mesia, was in charge
of making sure many of these men were rounded up. Throughout June, past the 1
April deadline, he reported to the Colonels Junta about his difficulties, not only
with the duke of Bejar but with other leading Extremaduran nobles such as the
duke of Alba (one of whose towns sued him over the levy) and the count of Oropesa.
Every few weeks he sent off a shipment of men from the various senorios and royal
towns to Tortosa (Tarragona). By September, the dukes of Bejar and Alba each still
owed nine men.83
Bejar's missing nine came from Burguillos (Badajoz), a linen-making town that
for the purposes of this levy fell under the jurisdiction of the corregidor of Badajoz,
some seventy kilometers to the north. The story of these nine men strikingly
illustrates how towns tried to use the levies to their own advantage, how levies
became a high-stakes point of contention among several jurisdictions, and what the
criteria were for determining who should fight and who should remain home.
Conflicts like that of Burguillos often took place in realengo towns; there was

Jago, "The Crisis," 6975.

For the 1638 levy see AGS GA, leg. 1365, letters 22 November 1638 to 14 March 1639.
AHN Osuna, leg. 246.7.3. Though the total is 102 rather than 100, each town's allocation shown here
is correct.
AGS GA, leg. 1359, del Vaysa to Pedro de Villanueva, 16 June 1640; AGS GA, leg. 1367, del Vaysa to
Villanueva, September 1640.

The Limits of Royal Authority

nothing particularly seigneurial about them. But the fact that it occurred on Bejar's
estate meant that he, too, played a part and the aggrieved townspeople appealed to
him for a resolution.84
The saga began with the king's 4 March 1640 levy order, which specifically
suggested that corregidores round up good-for-nothings, a method both of avoiding
potentially disruptive lotteries and of cleansing towns of malcontents and troublemakers. "It is imposible that even in the smallest village there is no ocioso y
malentretenido" eligible for military service, the king wrote, wording that appears
also in his orders to realengo towns. The effort was to be supervised by the duke
himself "to make sure no one else enters your estates to undertake this levy, which
would bother and vex your vassals more." Upon receiving the order, the duke on 12
March forwarded it to his corregidor in Burguillos, Dr. Simon Gutierrez Arteaga y
Rua, telling him he had six days in which to come up with fourteen men, whom he
should then turn over to the corregidor of Badajoz. The duke gave Gutierrez full
powers over the levy and told him to keep him informed, so he, in turn, could
inform the king.85
Gutierrez had only recently been appointed corregidor, having replaced Pedro de
Trujillo Pedraza, a clerk whom the duke had improperly promoted to corregidor and
whose incompetence and vile nature had prompted twenty-four priests and vecinos
to plead for a replacement.86 Gutierrez carried out the levy orders conscientiously,
according to later testimony from the town, and within six days had his fourteen
men, who were taken to Badajoz and deposited in the city's royal jail until they
could be transported to their final destination. But a few days later, the Badajoz
corregidor, Don Mendo de Contreras Benavides, said nine of them were unsuitable;
he set them free and demanded Burguillos come up with nine new recruits.
Contreras was an ambitious man. In addition to being corregidor of Badajoz he
was a city councilman (veinticuatro) and Cortes procurador for Jaen. During the
1638-1643 Cortes session, during which more mercedes than ever before were
granted to procuradores and regidores, he asked to be named corregidor of Granada
and requested a post at the royal accounts office, hdbitos of Santiago for his son and
future son-in-law, the alcalde^ post in Cambril (Jaen), and an encomienda.*7
Contreras explained his sudden action in an auto, or legal writ. Of the disputed
nine men, one was actually thirteen years old, another was sixteen, and five were
married and had two or three children, all of which violated the king's orders, he


AGS GA, leg. 1337, letters throughout legajo. Unless otherwise noted, all discussion of this levy is
based on these papers.
There is no clue to what Gutierrez was a doctor of. Seigneurial and royal corregidores had similar
judicial functions. Their decisions could be appealed to the lord, and then to the Council of Castile or
the Alcaldes de Casa y Corte. See one such example in Guilarte, El regimen senorial, 456-9. I am
grateful to I. A. A. Thompson for this reference.
AHN Osuna, leg., petition 17 September 1637.
Danvila y Collado, Manuel, "Nuevos datos para escribir la historia de las Cortes de Castilla durante el
reinado de Felipe IV," in Boletin de la Real Academia de Historia, vol. 16 (1890).

War, lords, and vassals

said. (In fact, the 4 March order said nothing about married men; previous levy
orders had, although they were often disobeyed.) Furthermore, the corregidor said,
he was concerned about the wives the men had left behind:
Their wives were wailing behind them and one of them has offered information saying [the
corregidor of Burguillos] fancied her and therefore he sent her husband and the rest of them
away because they had no money, and it was all against the orders of His Excellency the duke
of Bejar . . . 88
A list of the nine men that appears to have been drawn up in Badajoz, based on the
testimony of the women, details the collection of useless soldiers: Manuel Gordillo,
thirteen years old; Luis Hernandez, sick and lame, with a doctor's certificate; Pedro
Pasqual, married with two children; Juan Perez Morejon, married with two
children; Juan de Toro, married with three children, a member of the militia
(therefore exempt from levies) and furthermore exempt from the levy because he
was the defendant in a pending murder case and the duke had ordered that he not
be bothered; Manuel Lopez Madera, married; Francisco Hernandez, a militia
member who was lying on his death bed in a hospital; Andres Vazquez, married
with two children; and Juan Alonso de Sancho, who had a terrible, smelly wound
on his left leg.
Contreras ordered Burguillos to come up with nine more men. 89 The town
responded that Don Mendo's allegations were false and that the Badajoz corregidor
had had no business releasing the men. Furthermore, it said, he should reimburse
the town for what it had spent on salaries and uniforms. Burguillos made no effort
to deny the nine were good-for-nothings. From its point of view, it had been
instructed specifically to include trouble-makers in the levy:
[The town] raised the fourteen soldiers it was assigned and they were taken to Badajoz, all
over twenty years old and among them good-for-nothings, villains, of wicked life and habits,
who were included in Your Majesty's orders, and they were delivered to Don Mendo de
Contreras, corregidor of the said city of Badajoz, and he received them and put them in the
said city's jail, with which the said town [Burguillos] and the person who accompanied them
fulfilled their duty, and things being thus the said corregidor, exceeding his powers, which
were only to send the men to their destinations, freed nine, the most villainous and lazy and
good for nothing... and the reasons he gave for freeing them are not true nor did he have the
power to free them and he has sent sheriffs and officials to this town to take nine more
men . . .
The town's characterization of the nine men differed somewhat from the corregidor\. T o begin with, Manuel Gordillo was eighteen, and the town proffered a
baptismal certificate to prove it. Pedro Pasqual had been in jail for stealing four
pigs; Juan Perez Morejon was in jail for having stolen wine, and later it turned out

Auto, 18 April 1640.

In the 18 April auto Contreras refers to ten men. One may have been switched at some point, because
there is a discrepancy in one name between his list of nine and that of Burguillos.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

he had also stolen cheese; Juan de Toro was in jail for having robbed clothes and
other things from someone's home, and he had also killed someone in another
village (here the two versions agree, though the town makes no mention of the
duke's alleged protection of Toro); Manuel Lopez Madera had committed a string
of crimes going back to 1633 including wife-beating, deceiving a neighbor's wife
with the enticing promise of a journey to Portugal on a rented mule, stabbing a
craftsman from another village, and the usual drunken insults against town authorities; Francisco Hernandez was a drifter, not a member of the militia, and also had a
record of deceiving innocent women; Andres Vazquez was another good-fornothing, who did not live with his wife and considered himself a free man ("no
habita ni trata con su mujer . . . y se trata como hombre libre"); and Juan Alonso de
Sancho was a bum and a gambler who may indeed have had a bad leg but it did not
stop him from running and walking.
Some of these men were already in the Burguillos jail when the levy order
arrived. But at least three - Juan Alonso de Sancho, Francisco Hernandez, and
Andres Vazquez - were rounded up after the order arrived. In later testimony, the
town clerk explained what had happened:
I swear that the said corregidor, having received the order . . . for the levy . . . ordered the
town councilmen to gather that evening in the town hall, and there together . . . everyone said
they were prepared to do him the favor and give him the necessary help to capture the said
soldiers and in the said night they all, with me, the clerk, captured those whom they could
find, helping the said corregidor because he arrived only recently and did not know the

The duke, who was in Bejar, received a letter from Don Mendo de Contreras on 19
April in which the irate corregidor of Badajoz informed him what his vassals were up
to. Don Alonso replied with effusive praise for Don Mendo and warm congratulations for his recent appointment as corregidor. As for Burguillos, he said, he was not
surprised that there were no good men left to choose from, given the constant levies
that had plagued his estates in recent years. But, he admitted, a few of the nine
certainly seemed inappropriate for His Majesty's service, a matter he had already
heard about from the Colonels Junta' secretary, Pedro de Villanueva. The duke was
shocked that Gutierrez should not obey his orders, and he authorized Contreras, a
Crown official, to enter his (the duke's) estate and assume jurisdiction over the
officials of his senorio.
It does not appear that Contreras actually ventured onto the duke's estate,
though during the month of May he continued to bombard Burguillos with orders
and threats. On 18 May he sent the town an auto accompanied by a copy of a royal
warrant showing the king had given realengo corregidores all necessary authority to
enter onto seigneurial estates to enforce the levy and had ordered seigneurial
officials to aid the corregidores in their task. Contreras gave Burguillos two days to
come up with the men and the money he said the town owed or else face a fine of

War, lords, and vassals

50,000 maravedis. In response, Burguillos sent notarized copies of all its proceedings including the descriptions of the nine men and their criminal past. On behalf
of the town, a group of notables insisted the town had done its duty and they
"appealed and protested" the auto and the "unjust vexations" to which they were
being subjected.
To further confuse things, Pedro Amezqueta, the corregidor of Salamanca (which
spoke for Badajoz in the Cortes), now appeared on the scene to argue Burguillos'
case. He wrote the duke that, as the town had said, Contreras had far exceeded his
duties. If in fact the nine men were objectionable, then Contreras should have
returned them to the Burguillos authorities, not turned them loose. Given the
scarcity of men, to demand nine new soldiers now was "intolerable." "You would
do well to take this cause on as your own," Amezqueta advised Bejar, "and the
corregidor of Badajoz should realize he does not have his post in order to commit
such blunders."90
Amezqueta and Luis Ramirez de Arellano (an alcalde de casay corte), who were in
the area on military duty, agreed with local lawyers that Burguillos had no further
obligation, which was naturally good news for Burguillos. Encouraged, the town
council wrote to the duke with the latest news. Contreras had given the latest of the
town's emissaries to Badajoz one hour to leave the city or he would be hanged by
one foot. With that line of communication cut off, the council had no choice but to
turn to the distinguished visitors. "Your Excellency, whom we love so, must take
our side in this, allowing us to send no more soldiers," it pleaded.91
The town's appeal was followed by a letter to the duke from Gutierrez, who
launched a series of well-aimed inferences surely designed to prod Don Alonso
into action. The town corregidor reiterated the letrados' opinion and Contreras'
excesses, which "violated the jurisdiction of Your Excellency, because [Contreras]
is in charge only of gathering the men whom Your Excellency and other lords
send to him, and it is Your Excellency's task to raise men on your estates."92
Contreras' behavior was as bad as his language and he spoke in public as he did at
home, Gutierrez said. His autos caused laughter and ridicule in Badajoz and
reflected "little respect for Your Excellency's vassals." But there was not much
laughter in Burguillos, he reported sadly. Contreras' threats had filled the village
with such terror that no one was leaving home to attend to business, news that
could only presage further declines in revenue, particularly as it was followed by
the alarming report that the town treasurer was unable to collect taxes and the
corregidor was powerless to enforce his rule. And in case the duke had any further
doubts as to the Badajoz corregidor's reliability, Gutierrez brought him up to date
on the status of the nine men: Francisco Hernandez, who according to Contreras
was on his death bed, had just the other day thrown stones at the corregidor and a

AGS GA, leg. 1355, Amezqueta to Bejar, 26 May 1640.

AHN Osuna, leg., concejo to duke of Bejar, 31 May 1640. The letter has seven signatures.
AHN Osuna, leg., Gutierrez de Arteaga to Bejar, 1 June 1640.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

group of councilmen and it was a miracle they all had not been killed. The rest of
the men, along with their wives, had never reappeared in town, although they sent
frequent threats and the townspeople were sure they were going to steal their
cattle. Sending them off to war would have been a blessing, the corregidor concluded.
The duke came round. On 8 June 1640 he notified the king that he had turned
over a total of 102 men to the royal corregidores of Plasencia, Trujillo, Cordoba,
Jerez de la Frontera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Rioja), Becerril de Campos
(Palencia), and Badajoz (the fourteen from Burguillos). He attached copies of
letters and statements concerning the Burguillos conflict, asking that Philip
understand his town's position "because its cause is so justified, and cleansing the
commonwealths of good-for nothings (as they did) conforms with Your Majesty's
royal warrant."93 A week later, Don Mendo de Contreras wrote to the Colonels
Junta admitting defeat. Unfortunately, he said, his assistant was out of town and
he himself was far too busy to go to Burguillos and punish the townspeople, he
said. Too busy, perhaps, or too afraid.94
The story of Burguillos elucidates the ways in which various jurisdictions could
simultaneously stake out positions and exercise authority. If Burguillos was telling
the truth about the nine men, which the documents suggest it was, then the nine
men were lying and the corregidor of Badajoz for some reason chose to believe
them. Why he would do this is hard to discern because, despite the duke of Bejar's
initial effusiveness with him, Contreras' position would almost inevitably lead to a
clash with one of the most powerful lords in the region. Perhaps he thought taking
a hard line would attract favorable attention from Madrid. Perhaps he gambled
that the duke would rather please a Crown official than fight for his vassals, and
that the Colonels Junta and the king would take his part over the duke's. But
Contreras was a poor gambler, a bad corregidor, and a worse politician. He angered
everybody by releasing the nine men instead of returning them to Burguillos,
which everyone agreed was overstepping the bounds of his job, interfering with the
town's jurisdiction over its own people, and simply unjust, given the shortage of
men. The town appealed this injustice to the duke and to the king, showing it knew
it existed simultaneously in two worlds and could gain advantages from both. It
was a tactic that served it well in the end, for Amezqueta's visit to Burguillos and
his subsequent pressure on the duke was probably prompted from messages from
Logically, Be jar tried to achieve the maximum advantage from his dependent
relationship to the Crown and reap the benefits of obedience. In this he was helped
by excellent connections in the capital. His family was linked to the Guzman clan,
of which Olivares was the leading member, and his chief intermediaries at court
were first Juan de Chaves and later Jose Gonzalez, two of the Count-Duke's most

AGS GA, leg. 1355, letter Bejar to king, "Memoria de los soldados que se han entregado .. .," 8 June
AGS GA, leg. 1137, Contreras to Villanueva, 15 June 1640.

War, lords, and vassals

powerful creatures. And just as he had to trust others to manage his Madrid affairs
and lobby for the badly needed mercedes, his geographic distance from his towns
made him dependent on his local officials, corrupt or otherwise. He relied upon his
own corregidor for information, tax collection, and enforcement of his dictates and
was by no means guaranteed the support of the town elite, as the earlier successful
opposition to the Bejar dehesas operation showed. Given the alarming depopulation
and the erosion of seigneurial revenue, Bejar, like all aristocrats, would have wanted
to harm his vassals as little as possible, knowing they were already bearing a heavy
Thus the duke of Bejar had to be careful. Throughout the Burguillos incident he
received correspondence on the matter from the king, the Colonels Junta, Contreras, Gutierrez, the town council, Amezqueta, and possibly more. He was at the
center of a very complicated web, every part of which could simultaneously impose
obstacles and owe him favors or obedience. The duke had to placate as he extracted,
submit as he proclaimed his name and his privilege, accept hardships as he exerted
his authority. Though the Crown had the capacity to assume judicial functions on
seigneurial lands, the duke also retained considerable powers over his own estates,
as Gutierrez astutely reminded him. Exactly how much power depended upon the
situation, the correlation of forces, and the personalities of those who had something to win or something to lose.


The duke of Bejar's confrontation with the corregidor of Badajoz as a result of his
obligation to raise troops was a manifestation of seventeenth-century Castile's
jurisdictional mesh of impediments and possibilities. The count of Oropesa's
difficulties and their resolution point to the importance of access to land as a source
of power, both in the relationship between the king and the lord and beween the
lord and his vassals. These two titled members of the aristocracy, along with all
their brethren, the king and his ministers, lower Crown officials, and hundreds of
thousands of seigneurial vassals, all participated in the disputes surrounding
military recruitment, though it must be said that they had vastly different futures at
stake. The senorio system, whose resources and limitations were brought into relief
by the demands of war, was simultaneously weakened and strengthened, used and
ignored. It should be clear, therefore, to return to the question posed at the start of
this chapter, that there were no absolute winners or losers, at least not in the short
run. There was, instead, a lot of bargaining.
The needs of war tested and made prominent the mutually beneficial relationship between king and lord and the mutual obligations of lord and vassal. Nobles
neither threatened royal authority, as their ancestors had done, nor were they
merely passive; royal patronage bound the king and the nobles together, but it was

The Limits of Roy al Authority

not a relationship of absolute dependence. The senorio, both as a source of soldiers
and honorific coroneles, and as a power structure that held administrative sway over
much of Castile, assumed new importance in an age when its economic resources
had never been so ill-fitted to the needs of the Crown.
This revival of the senorio was just one of many paradoxical consequences of the
crisis of the 1630s and 1640s: The Crown was both the benefactor and the potential
downfall of the nobility; the mayorazgo was both an economic ball and chain and
the instrument with which nobles exacted compensation for their services; debts
could both ruin a noble and give him enormous leverage; the lord might lose his
vassals and be given posts he did not want, but he was also an essential part of the
apparatus of royal authority, especially on the local level; the ascent of the titled
aristocracy in government coincided with what was perceived to be an assault on
them by Olivares; as the mayorazgo was in part being freed from its fetters,
common lands were reclaimed by the lord, only to then be at least temporarily
disentailed and subject to the market; creditors could benefit from the nobles'
troubles but also could see their earnings eliminated with one royal edict.
While nobles found they had the means with which to oppose the king's
incessant demands for men, money, and services, the thousands of seigneurial
villages whose men were being sent to fight also had resources at their disposal,
though clearly they had less power than their lord. Like men everywhere else in
Spain, they could and did hide from impressment or later desert. They could
appeal to the king against their lord and to their lord against the realengo corregidor
or the militia sergeant major. Like all Castilians, they knew how to litigate. As
military levies drove nobles to assume jurisdiction over common lands, municipal
offices, the judiciary, and tax monies, vassals were increasingly inclined to protest,
and the jurisdictional complexities of their day gave them plenty of avenues
through which to do so.
The situation lends itself to an interpretation now somewhat discredited, to wit,
that the contradictions were heightening as society was wracked by the convulsions
of a messy transition from one age to another. And whereas it is not my intent to
posit a collision of modes of production, it is nonetheless true that the censos, the
mayorazgo, the appeals by vassals to their lord or their king for exemption, and the
very means with which an army was being raised were all phenomena that seemed
to straddle two eras. To some degree, the many conflicts that arose from the
interruption of military levies in the social, economic, and political pursuits of
Castilians can be explained by the historical moment in which they occurred, a long
moment of transition in which seigneurial and royal authority reigned simultaneously, albeit not equally. As if it were a mixed economy, with different sectors
responding to opposing rules and even to opposing ideologies, Castile's social
structure in the mid-seventeenth-century combined elements that were in apparent
opposition: A lord could be given jurisdiction of judicial proceedings over which he
had a dubious claim; a villager could appeal at once to authorities in different

War, lords, and vassals

spheres; a town's autonomy could suddenly be nullified; land tenure and taxes
could be transferred from one jurisdiction to another. One could argue that this was
not the appropriate structure for a government in desperate need of men and
money. But this "inappropriateness" could be and was turned to the Crown's
advantage, resulting in an ambiguity that could benefit lords and vassals alike.

Common claims
This study has proceeded from the top down: from the king, his closest ministers,
and the Cortes; to large municipal and seigneurial jurisdictions; to towns and
villages; and, finally, to the common people of Castile. It might appear that such a
route would be one of diminishing power and resources. But the top-down model is
not quite accurate, as the experience of Toribio de Cifuentes shows: Cifuentes lived
in Getafe, outside Madrid, where he was a member of the militia. In 1641 he wrote
to the Council of War to tell the ministers of his many illnesses, including a bad (or
missing) right arm. His father was a widower and very old, and he needed his son's
help. Therefore, Cifuentes said, he could not possibly serve as a soldier, and he
begged the council to intercede. The council did so. After it had confirmed with the
district sergeant major that Cifuentes' story was true, it advised the king to grant
his request.1
Toribio de Cifuentes had a direct relationship to his king. He was not rendered
impotent by the many jurisdictional layers between himself and Philip IV. On the
contrary; he used them. The men who devised military recruitment policy for the
king, cognizant of the potential stirrings by men such as Cifuentes, must have been
conditioned by that knowledge. It would be a mistake to exaggerate common
people's recourses for responding to the military and fiscal demands of the midseventeenth century. But, as individuals and as communities, they were not silent.
People's daily lives were transformed by the mid-seventeenth-century crisis. This
final chapter describes some of the ways in which this happened. It is an attempt to
assign names and faces to the men and women of Castile, recount what they actually
did, and, in some cases, pay tribute to their resilience. It argues that that resilience
was made possible by the very structures of the state. Hierarchy, paradoxically,
enabled people to formulate their rights.
In his study of seventeenth-century Valencia, James Casey comments:
If documents rather than armed force ruled the relationship between lord and peasant. . .
this was perhaps to a large extent because the peasant communities had a legal existence of
their own; this was not the situation in parts of western France, for example, where the
parish priest seems to have been the only spokesman for the peasants to the outside world.2

AGS GA, leg. 1380, consulta Council of War, 20 February 1641.

Casey, The Kingdom of Valencia, 117.

Common claims
Castilian peasants and their communities could and did speak for themselves. They
did so as equal vassals of the same king. The fact that all people, no matter what
their station, shared the status of vassal provided a rhetoric with which to formulate
requests and demands, a thread that bound together communities, and a sense of
legitimacy. Being a vassal of the king was an empowering thing. It made people
actors as well as subjects, and it gave them equality before the law. This was true for
the humble and for the brash, for those in need of rescue and those seeking favors,
for the deeply impoverished and for swaggering types such as Estebanillo Gonzalez
and his comrades, who addressed a series of petitions to the king and the Council of
War after having spent years making a mockery of the king's army.3
Castilians spoke as vassals of the king; they also spoke as members of a community. Jose Antonio Maravall detected a potential threat to freedom in this dual
bond, which shifted gradually in favor of a one-on-one relationship between ruler
and vassal, eventually leaving the latter "defenseless," with no protective institutional layers between himself and the king.4 In the mid-seventeenth century,
however, judging from the way in which plaintiffs situated themselves as they
formulated complaints and appeals, both bonds existed, and both were used to
justify action aimed at redress. Appeals against recruitment invoked the writer's or
plaintiffs dual status as the king's vassal and a member of a community.
The community was represented through its political institution, the concejo,
which oversaw such matters as food supply, collective labor, planting and grazing,
and the use of communal lands. The community also was embodied in a series of
physical attributes, all of which had a role in a town's response to recruitment and
war: the city walls, beyond which recruitment obligations were not the city's; the
bells, which called people to meetings; the main square or the main church, where
lotteries took place; the tavern, where recruitment occurred; the town jail, where
soldiers were held until they were transported; the public granary, whose holdings
could be speculated with and whose prices could ensure social peace; the borders
between towns, which were often illicitly crossed in the search for soldiers; and the
common lands, a guarantee of villagers' livelihood and a potential source of
The community, then, was a corporate vassal whose will was manifested through
the concejo. But like the Cortes, the concejo was more than the sum of its members.

Gonzalez asked the king for permission to open a card parlor in Naples, which was granted. One of his
comrades asked for a post as engineer, though he admitted he had no experience; the outcome is
unknown. A third comrade asked for an honorable discharge while explaining that he had been
wearing a French uniform when he had been wounded "because it was looser and more comfortable
for making love and riding horseback." The Council of War suggested he write to the Parlement of
Paris. Esteban Gonzalez, Estebanillo Gonzalez, Hombre de Buen Humor (1652) (Paris: Louis Michand,

Maravall, Estado moderno, vol. 1, 420-1. See also chapter 8 of MaravalPs La teoria espanola del estado.
Religion, too, was an obvious and powerful force binding community members to each other and to
the king. Local religious practices and calendars defined communities and cemented loyalties; see
William Christian, Jr., Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton University Press, 1981).



The Limits of Royal Authority

Though one must remember that only a small minority of town residents participated in meetings of the concejo - even the concejos abiertos - it nonetheless had a
moral and political force of its own. Echoing the expression "the kingdom assembled in the Cortes" ("el Reino junto en Cortes"), the name given to a village acting
as a party to a suit was that of concejo y vecinos. In the words of Ruth Behar, "the
concejo was a thing apart from the vecinos who made it up, while together the two
formed a single unit." 6 1 would add a third component - the physical landmarks which, together with the concejo and the vecinos, gave definition and meaning to a
community's relationship to royal authority. As individuals, as a political entity,
and as a physical settlement, Castilian villagers rarely emerged unscathed from
their encounter with military recruitment. They fought back. They variously
exhibited procedural wiliness, total indifference toward their more disagreable or
vulnerable neighbors, and disregard for orders along with virtually unswerving
faith in the king's justice. Their responses to some degree reveal what was
important to them and who could be sacrificed.

In the summer of 1637, Don Diego de Riano y Gamboa, whom the king had put in
charge of raising the new militia in eastern Castile, notified the corregidor of Toledo
that he, in turn, should notify all the towns and villages under his jurisdiction that
they and the city must raise a militia force of 479 men. Each town and each city
parish was to draw up a list of all eligible able-bodied men and then hold a lottery (a
quinta, or suertes) to see who would be called up. The method would be much the
same as it had been for the 1625 militia, when the Toledo town clerk had been
to draw up a list of all the men in the San Salvador parish between the ages of eighteen and
fifty, listing all with no exceptions, and home owners and residents are to declare under oath
all the males in their house of the said age, both present and absent, declaring their
occupation and the means of support that each one has.7
But it seemed that not everyone had been honest. Riano told the Toledo city
council's soldiers commission that this time the lists should be read aloud in an
open town meeting "so that if anyone is not included, the rest can testify thus, and
anyone who avoids [being on the list] or covers up for someone will be taken as a
soldier just as if he had been picked himself."
The village of Los Yebenes, in the eastern part of the Montes de Toledo, held its
town meeting on 31 October 1637. In the presence of the local sergeant major, town
officials and inhabitants gathered at the town hall, where the list was read, approved, and signed by the town clerk. It was determined that 187 men were eligible,

Ruth Behar, The Presence of the Past in a Spanish Village (Princeton University Press, 1986), 132.
AMT Milicias, caja 9.

Common claims
and the town therefore had the obligation to provide nineteen men, or ten percent.
Six men, however, were still serving from the old 1625 militia, which left thirteen
to choose. So 181 slips of paper, each with the name of an eligible townsman, were
put into one jar, and in another jar there were also 181 slips, 168 of them blank,
thirteen of them marked. Then a child, u up to nine years old, more or less," picked
until thirteen marked slips had been paired with thirteen names. Los Yebenes town
official Juan Lopez Galindez then reported back to Toledo that the town had
complied with its orders.8
There were apparently no problems with the quinta, which made Los Yebenes
unusual. For the picking of the names was often an invitation to social conflict.
Quintas were an opportunity for townspeople to settle scores among themselves, for
cities to burden their subject towns with unreasonable demands, and for town
officials to use their privilege to make sure neither they nor their friends and family
were sent off to war. Those with money could often pay their way out, and those
with no money at all could sometimes plead their way out. If those who were chosen
later deserted, the town was responsible for replacing them, and the burden usually
fell on the deserter's male relatives. By delaying the quintas, towns and villages
could vex cities, and by not complying at all they could push the burden of raising
men back onto the cities or onto neighboring towns. From all the quarreling, the
miscarriage of justice, the complaints, and the subterfuge, there emerges a vision of
a complex society which at every level used the tools and arguments of jurisdiction,
privilege, and office to define and redefine the limits and nature of royal authority.
Using an idiom of justice, arguing that the king's duty to protect was equal to the
vassal's duty to obey, individuals and corporations fought for what they understood
to be their rights. Their appeals for exemption from military service are testimony
to the fluid, negotiated, and even democratic nature of Castilian absolutism.
Historians of military organization under Philip II emphasize the growing
recruitment problems during that period and point to the vanishing pool of
volunteers.9 Yet, throughout the 1630s and 1640s, the Crown still seemed to be
working under the assumption that volunteers were a viable alternative, and
lotteries were usually referred to as the last option to be taken for raising men for
the garrisons. Whereas there certainly were volunteers, correspondence from the
cities emphasizes again and again that they were so scarce as to be negligible and
that lotteries or outright impressment were the only ways in which they could
possibly raise an army. There is a sense that the Crown had little grasp of the
difficulties it faced.
In March 1634, during the campaign to supply the garrisons with 18,000 men,
the Cortes issued instructions to its member-cities and their subject towns and
AMT Milicias, caja 16, cuaderno 2. Yebenes in 1646 had 325 vecinos, down from 953 in 1590; see
Michael R. Weisser, The Peasants of the Montes (University of Chicago Press, 1976), 60.
See especially Thompson, War and Government and Parker, Army of Flanders.


The Limits of Royal Authority

villages on how to attract recruits.10 It was a thirty-one-step procedure. After
informing the towns in writing of the Crown's needs, a commissioner would gather
the people together and deliver a speech in which he would describe the pay and
privileges awaiting soldiers, outline the hospital care available to them in case of
mishap, tell them they would receive retirement pay after thirty years, and promise
them the opportunity for promotion. The twelfth step allowed for failure, however:
In the case that, having explained the importance of this matter [and] their obligation to
comply . . . the number of soldiers corresponding to each city, town or village do not enlist,
the commissioner will make it clear . . . that it will be necessary to fall back on the idle and
those who are up to no good [gente ociosa y malentretenida] in the commonwealth, pardoning
no one, until the number of soldiers is fulfilled. Either the objective will be met in this
manner or men will be compelled to volunteer.
But even that might not work:
And if neither the idle and those who are up to no good, nor the volunteers, fulfill the
number of soldiers corresponding to each city, town, or village, the parishes will be gathered
again, and whatever method seems best and most persuasive can be used . . . And if all else
fails, it will be necessary to hold a lottery among bachelors and widowers without children,
from the ages of seventeen to fifty.
If by chance a very poor or handicapped man, or contradicting the instructions
one with u so many children that he cannot leave them" were chosen, then the
quinta should be held a second time. The instructions also stated that one could
escape service by providing a substitute, which gave rise to a sort of black market in
soldiers. Crown officials with the unlucky task of ordering the lottery "must discuss
and converse in each place as has been done in the past, with no innovations," a
phrase that appears again and again in orders to Crown and military officials.
By 1636, the Crown had to recognize that the traditional levy system, including
the lotteries to man the garrisons, had led to serious problems. An unsigned,
undated report, probably from the Council of War or a junta, admitted that some
sergeant majors, "moved by self-interest or by passion, put the commonwealth's
most worthless men in the lottery, miserable people who are useless in war" and
who deserted as often as not to return to their wives and children (so much for
bachelors and childless widowers), and otherwise simply ended up occupying
hospital beds.11 Others, precisely to avoid the lotteries, escaped to the mountains,
"not daring to return home to face punishment and the intrigues of their villages,"
which in turn led to depopulation, the scourge on which so many of Castile's ills
were blamed. Throughout the land, the report went on,


A G S GA, leg. 1095, also A M T Milicias, caja 10: "Forma que han de guardar las Ciudades y Villa de
voto en Cortes y lugares de sus jurisdiciones . . . "
A G S GA, leg. 1195, BCM Coleccion Aparici, roll 14, vol. 52, sig. 1-2-3, fl s - 3341, "Papel sobre la
formation de los tercios provinciales." Also in AV 3-419-1, indicating it was probably sent to the city
council or corregidor.


Common claims
one hears nothing but protests [violencias] and cries of the oppression they suffer, and this
manner of raising men is of use only for destroying the Kingdoms through the bad
administration of justice officials who have personal interests in the quintas, which should be
conducted in accordance with Your Majesty's orders, with equality, excepting no one but
those whose impediments are so evident that they entirely prevent them from using
weapons. [In the lotteries, justice officials] include poor useless men who have never done
anything other than tend their fields, and they leave out the magnates of the commonwealths,
their relatives and their friends, and if someplace they do fulfill their duty and one of them is
chosen, they accept substitutes, either from the villages themselves or from paper soldiers
[tornilleros] whose occupation it is to sell themselves and then flee.

Desertion and fraud were built into the recruitment system; that is why Diego de
Riano had specifically instructed towns to read out loud the list of eligible men. But
at the same time, forcing towns to hold honest lotteries implied even more coercion
by Crown officials, and the report cited above observed that the sight of groups of
handcuffed men being led to war only incited more mistrust, terror, and, ultimately, depopulation.
The solution was to revive and expand the dormant 1625 militia, placing the
responsibility on local authorities. Each town and city would maintain a certain
number of men, and there would be no need for the constant levies and quintas that,
according to officials, were destroying the fabric of Castilian society. But as was
seen in chapter 2, the militia did not end up being much of a military improvement;
local obstructionism, favoritism, and reluctance to enlist were old problems that did
not disappear, and towns often held as many lotteries for the militia as they had for
the garrisons.
Once a town had been ordered to hold a lottery, it had to determine whose names
would be placed in the jars. In theory a certain age group or occupation could be
exempt, but in fact the lists of soldiers bear little relation to normative instructions.
The 1634 Cortes instructions above, for example, said men from the age of
seventeen to fifty were eligible for the lotteries, but most instructions put the lower
limit at eighteen, though by the late 1640s the army was accepting sixteen-yearolds. In 1630, for a levy in Salamanca, the upper age limit had been forty, but as the
years passed the orders usually set limits higher than fifty, and men as old as
seventy were in fact called up.12
The 1634 Cortes instructions had said lotteries were to include only bachelors or
widowers without children. Yet by the following year, towns were told to hold
lotteries "with the greatest delicacy and convenience possible . . . placing special
attention on relieving married men and poor men with children."13 The order had
become a recommendation. Though there were instances in which the number of


AHMS, leg. 904, no. 3, order from Corregidor Garcia Ramirez de Arellano, 29 December 1630.
Sevillian men in their 60s and 70s had to present medical proof of their incapacities; 76-year-old
Sebastian Correa had sciatica, and others of his cohort had an equally forseeable collection of
ailments. See Martinez Ruiz, Finanzas municipales, 282.
AGS GA, leg. 1120, consulta Council of War, 14 November 1635.

The Limits of Royal Authority

children one had was taken into consideration, that was not always true, as
illustrated by the case of a dozen soldiers being held prisoner in Requena (Valencia)
who pleaded for release, not only for their own sake but for that of their families: "It
is not just us twelve who suffer, but thirty-six or thirty-seven (of us), because we are
loaded down with children," they wrote.14 Militiamen from Valladolid and Salamanca fighting in the war against Portugal were exempt if they had three or more
children under their protection; judging from their appeals to the captain general,
the marquis of Tavora, many of them did not start the war with such familial
obligations but acquired them along the way. Investigating the case of supplicant
Juan Garcia, who was from San Felices de los Gallegos (Salamanca) and who had
four children and a pregnant wife, a lower military official remarked to Tavora that
"although there are drawbacks to reserving married men and sending bachelors,"
there was no problem in this case because Garcia would continue serving in his
local militia. So it appears the military command recognized the dangers of
establishing exemption precedents but realized there was little alternative.15
Militia members were exempt from garrison levies. Town officials, students, tax
collectors, Inquisition familiars, shepherds, workers in the mint and in the silk and
wool industries, hidalgos, doctors, bleeders, and butchers all variously appear as
being automatically exempt, but in each case there was disagreement over the
exception in general and over the particular case. The corregidor of Leon repeatedly
suggested making use of "students who are students in name only," meaning they
had enrolled to avoid the army, yet there is also a report of contingents of students
from the universities of Valladolid and Salamanca being sent to the Portuguese
front in 1642.16 There were incessant disputes between the Inquisition tribunal and
Crown officials over the military obligations of familiars, and in more than one case
the Inquisition resorted to blanket excommunication of those who crossed its
As for butchers, it is hard to determine their exact status. Castillo de Bovadilla
cited old laws singling out butchers as good soldiers "because they are used to
killing live things and scattering their blood," yet there is also evidence that
butchers traditionally were shunned in parts of Spain, and they were considered
ineligible to serve in the eighteenth-century militia because they were unclean.18



AGS GA, 1360, letter from a group of soldiers to Chancilleria oidor Luis de Villagutierrez, 1639.
AGS CS(2), leg. 108,27 October 1648. Tavora's title was capitdn general de las tres fronteras de Castilla
la Vieja.
AGS GA, leg. 1371, Fernando de Valdes to king, 26 January 1639; leg. 1290, Fernando de Valdes to
Ruiz de Contreras, 3 February 1639; leg. 1354, Fernando de Valdes to Villanueva, 16 May 1640; leg.
1421, consulta Junta de Ejecucion to king, 26 September 1642.
See, for example, ARCV, Libros de Acuerdo, 9, for a case in 1640; and AHN Osuna, 384.1.23 and
384.1.45 for a case in 1649. In March 1636 the Inquisition excommunicated all Madrid's alcaldes de
casay corte for forcing a familiar to pay a tax for the Buen Retiro palace: Rodriguez Villa, ed. La cortey
monarquia, 1617.
Castillo de Bovadilla, Politica, ch. 2, 404; Susan Tax Freeman, The Pasiegos: Spaniards in No Man's
Land (University of Chicago, 1979), 243-4.


Common claims
The evidence is contradictory; the city of Avila requested that Alonso Ximenez
Quintanilla be exempt from a levy of former soldiers in February 1639 because he
was in charge of the city's butchers and the municipal meat tax.19 In this case, it
appears the city wanted to exempt him as an individual whom they relied upon,
rather than make a disparaging claim about his trade. Yet Juan Martin, who lived in
the village of Almonacid (Toledo), in 1644 appealed to the corregidor after having
been picked in a lottery because "according to the Toledo sergeant major's orders,
they could not include me in the lottery because I have worked as a skinner in the
village butcher shop and have publicly weighed (meat) at the chopping block of the
said butcher shop."20 If being a butcher carried a stigma, Juan Martin clearly
intended to take full advantage of it.
The only two groups on which there seems to have been agreement was the
clergy - although the Church was required to make up for its failure to provide men
by making cash donations for the war effort - and gypsies, whom nobody wanted.
Gypsies were good enough for duty in the galleys; at least twice in 1639 the king
issued orders to that end, provoking one of the royal court's chroniclers to
comment, "There is a great need for galleymen and rowers, and everywhere there is
an excess of this odious race, who are all spies, thieves, and liars."21 Madrid's
alcaldes de casay corte even set up a special junta to round up slaves and gypsies for
the galleys.22 However, gypsies were not considered appropriate for the infantry.
Gaspar de Bracamonte told the Junta de Ejecucion he knew a gypsy who could raise
soldiers, and, despite "the indecency of admitting such discredited people into His
Majesty's armies," he thought the acute shortage of men warranted such a step.
The count of Salvatierra, too, told the Colonels Junta of a gypsy, Sebastian del
Soto, who had served in the Army of Flanders and was now offering to raise 200
"men of his nation." Soto was a careful, intelligent man, the count said, adding that
"there are many who are called gypsies who in fact are not, who live with them to
live in freedom." In both cases the juntas suggested the king accept the offer; in
both cases, the king refused.23
Twice in 1639 Madrid (unsuccessfully) appealed a one-percent garrison levy of
1,100 men as exorbitant on the grounds that the pool of men on which it could draw
was less than it appeared, and the city enumerated several groups that were a priori


AGS GA, leg. 1290, city council to Ruiz de Contreras, 23 February 1639.
AMT Milicias, caja 12, "Information hecha a pedimiento de Juan Martin."
Pellicer, Avisos (Madrid, 1790). vols 30-2, items of 27 May and 27 December 1639.
Antonio Martinez Salazar, Coleccion de memorias y noticias del gobierno. (Madrid, 1764), f. 356.
Bancroft fx DP88M3.
AGS GA, leg. 1256, consulta Junta de Ejecucion, 23 March 1639; AGS GA, leg. 1261, consulta
Colonels Junta, 10 April 1639. The gypsies had suffered persecution since their arrival in Spain in the
mid-fifteenth century, including banishment, forced residency in ghettos, and prohibition from
practicing certain trades. They are still outcasts.


The Limits ofRoyal Authority

From parish papers it appears there are 74,000 people of all sexes and ages, most of whom are
women, and another not negligible or even greater part are exempt for being members of so
many high tribunals, gentlemen of military orders, hidalgos, servants of the royal houses,
their guards, mint employees, huntsmen, soldiers, and militiamen ready for when they are
called to service, and others who for many reasons have their own exemptions, and most of
the rest are either too young or too old and not fit to serve His Majesty. [So] there are no
more than 2,000 men and, according to the orders, this city and the towns of its jurisdiction
should thus serve with 200 . . . 2 4

The king, the Council of War, the juntas, and the corregidores received an endless
number of appeals for exemption after quintas had been held. Some were based on
status or occupation, others on personal circumstances. None appears to have been
too insignificant to be read. Their wide range indicates that the lotteries were
sweeping up vast numbers of men who believed themselves to be exempt, with or
without reason. The regulations were so ambiguous, and applied on such a
case-by-case basis, that getting out of serving had more to do with where one was
and whom one knew than it did with one's age, status, or occupation.
As the men actually raising the militia knew, there may not have been any real
apriori exemptions but that did not stop men from trying to leave the army by
acting as if there were. Riano wrote the king from Aragon in June 1637, furious
because the Council of War had accepted appeals from some of his men who had
gotten out because they were supporting their parents: "There is no more reason to
excuse them than to excuse the infinite number of married men who are enlisted,
supporting their wives and children and other obligations," he wrote. "If these
appeals are accepted, of the 1,000 men [I have], very few would remain, because
those who do not support their parents are supporting their children and wives."25
(Those with elderly parents sometimes tried to benefit from their burden by having
the parents themselves write the letters of appeal; such was the case of 80-year-old
Sebastian Perez, who somehow managed to write a letter from his sickbed to plead
that he needed his 37-year-old son to support him. The Council of War, and then
the king, excused the son.)26
Riano also complained that all his men, after being chosen in the lottery, tried to
get married as a matter of course.27 The corregidor of Salamanca, Pedro de Amezqueta, complained as well that because his levy order for the garrisons exempted
married men,
some good-for-nothings have married after being released from jail and they seek loose
women [mujercillas] who then make claims on them before the Church tribunal . . . Some

AV, 3-4187, memorial from city council, 26 July 1639.

AGS GA, leg. 1185, Riano to king, quoted in consulta Council of War, 6 June 1637.
AGS GA, leg. 1380, consulta Council of War, 29 May 1641.
AGS GA, leg. 1202, Riano to king, 17 June 1637. If, as is logical, the threat of recruitment provoked
early marriages, which could be confirmed through parish records, then recruitment's demographic
impact would have to be reevaluated.

Common claims
make arrangements with their villages and later, in the garrisons, they present their marriage
papers so they are not accepted, but they keep their uniform, weapons, and payment . . .
Today I have two or three who have cases before the tribunal based on demands by the
women [las picarillas]. One is a very shiftless man who for that very reason was sent to the
garrisons, and hefledand was put in jail. Now a young girl has appeared, telling the Church
that he gave his word of marriage to her. The Church is trying to stop me but I say that if we
let [them] get away with it, everyone will get married and there will be no men to send to the
garrisons. Two have already imitated this one.28

But as time went on, there was little point in hasty marriages, sincere or not,
because it no longer mattered. The many appeals of abandoned wives and complaints from military commanders that women were following their husbands,
carrying their children with them and causing discipline problems, attest to the new
status of married men and fathers. Being married and having children added
considerable punch to a plea, however. In other words, whereas at first married men
were not to be included, but in fact they were, later they were afforded no privilege,
but in fact, as was seen earlier in the case of the men fighting in Portugal, it was
easier for them than for bachelors to be excused or discharged.
Physical disabilities could get one excused, but, here again, as the scarcity of men
increased, disabilities had to be pretty dire. Allegations of illness abound in the
records. If someone had not previously been excluded from the quinta for obvious
disabilities, he had to present written proof of his health problems in order to avoid
service; at least in the case of Madrid, it appears there was a doctor (Dr. Andosilla)
whose specific job it was to examine men trying to get excused from military
service.29 Juan Chacon Ponce de Leon, the Chancilleria magistrate in charge of
raising hidalgos in Segovia, reported one individual could not serve because he
needed to take sweat baths;30 appeals from veteran soldiers called up in October
1640 in Salamanca included allegations of bad teeth, short-sightedness, gout, and
bad or missing limbs;31 militiaman Manuel Alcalde, from the Madrid town of Parla,
alleged "illness of the urine and other secret illnesses" for which he was released;32
40-year old Felipe de Mena, from Borox (Madrid) had a tumor the size of a hand
on his buttocks which prevented him from being able to sit down, plus he had to
support his three orphaned nieces;33 Francisco de Madrid Davila, from Vicalvaro
(Madrid) had asthma;34 Francisco Redondo, from Madrid, had injured his hand ten
years earlier, "and I have no control over my fingers," for which reason he could no
longer work as a smith;35 militiaman Santiago Alfonso, who was missing his left
arm, had a bad left foot and could not see very well, argued he needed to stay home


AGS GA, leg. 1207, Amezqueta to the archbishop of Granada, 28 April 1637.
AV 3-420-1, AV 3-419-2.
AGS GA, leg. 1200, Juan Chacon to king, 24 March 1637.
AHMS, leg. 904, 29, appeals for exemption, October 1640.
AGS GA, leg. 1380, consulta Council of War, 4 January 1641. The same description appears in
appeals from elderly Sevillian men; see Martinez Ruiz, Finanzas municipales, 282.
AV 4-33645, August 1634.
AV 3-420-2, 1641 memorial.
AV 3-4192, 1640 memorial.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

and support his pregnant wife and their children. It was unclear what kind of work
he could possibly do in his condition, but he obtained his release.36 Martin Gomez
de Villasenor, who was 66, was called up for a levy of hidalgos despite the fact that
he was in bed with gout and, according to witnesses, suffered from what sounds like
epilepsy: "The witness has seen many times how [Villasenor], while in church,
suffers from el mal and lies on the floor unconscious and makes no sense when he
speaks."37 There are also references to cancer,38 insanity (locura),39 and, particularly
in the early 1640 levy of veterans, to achaques, or general aches and pains. This last
levy ordered all former soldiers up to the age ofseventy to enlist under pain of death.
No exceptions were to be admitted. In fact, however, men were excused for a
variety of illnesses and even for reasons of age, which implicitly had been ruled out
in the king's order.40
The most common appeals used arguments of poverty. Some levy orders
explicitly did excuse pobres de solemnidad, but, of course, there was no consensus on
what that meant, and instructions were as often as not disregarded anyway. The
vast majority of supplicants recited a litany of misfortunes, failing businesses,
pregnant wives, sick parents, and bad harvests. They were personal appeals, usually
directed to the king, begging for his intercession. To some degree they echo town
and city councils' appeals when levies were first ordered, which alleged such a
scarcity of manpower that the fields could not be tilled properly, but those claims
by institutions do not seem to have been heeded often, probably because every
council was making similar claims. Individual pleas were, somehow, more persuasive. Juan de Juarroz, of Covarrubias, in Burgos, submitted a nine-page appeal of a
1636 quinta because he had five children under the age of seven.41 Juan Alonso de
Naxera, who lived in Palenzuela (Valladolid), declared before a local judge in May
1642 that he had entered the militia in 1637. He was married, had a small daughter,
his wife was pregnant, and he was supporting his sister and his old, disabled
mother. If he could not work, he said, his family would surely die of hunger. The
judge then took statements from four male inhabitants of the same village, who all
swore Alonso's story was true; one added that there was also a younger brother to
support, and another explained he knew the story was true "because he knows them
well and it is public knowledge" (uojo publico, voz e fama"). For whatever reason,
Naxera had a powerful ally in Francisco de Valcarcel, an oidor at the Chancilleria,
member of the Council of Castile and at the time in charge of raising the militia in
that part of Castile. Valcarcel wrote a note to the king confirming Naxera was telling


AGS GA, leg. 1380, consulta Council of War, 15 March 1641.
AV 3-420-2, April 1641.
ARCV DM, leg. 297, no. 127.19. The appellants referred to cancer.
AGS CS(2), leg. 108, no. 58, September 1653. Amador Cantero had already served for twelve years
and was trying to be discharged. His captain specified the appellant was "not entirely mad, but has
lucid intervals," but agreed he should be discharged. According to Cantero's father, his madness
befell him after he witnessed his company pillaging a village.
See AGS GA, legs. 1365 and 1366 for correspondence on this levy, which was ordered on 24 January
AMB, Sec. Hist., carpeta 2, doc. 8.15.


Common claims
the truth and suggesting another man go in his place.42 The Council of War
considered hundreds of similar requests. One, in April 1641, requested that
Manuel de Vergara Azcarate, who lived in Getafe (Madrid), be exempted from a
levy of hidalgos being undertaken by the marquis of Xodar because he was the town
clerk, he had no other job, he had to support his wife, four children, his mother and
two brothers, and furthermore had many aches and pains and illnesses. The council
consulted with Xodar, who confirmed Vergara's claims were true, whereupon the
council recommended he be left alone.43 One did not even have to have this many
excuses: Sebastian de Vargas, another poor hidalgo from Getafe, told the council he
was married, had two children, a pregnant wife, an old mother and a sister to
support, all of whom would die of hunger without him. He, too, was excused.44
There were probably few men in Castile at this time who could not make similar
arguments. Perhaps they all tried. The amount of time the king, his ministers, the
councils, and the Chancilleria spent on these letters, often dictated by the simplest
and poorest subjects in the most remote villages, must have been immense. They
not only read them, they checked them, instructing local officials to confirm the
veracity of the authors' claims and the identity of the witnesses.45 Why the Council
of War responded to some appeals and not others is not clear. Virtually no appeal
based on reasons of poverty was turned down. The council's generosity in this
regard naturally led to complaints from officers in the field; as Diego de Riano had
complained, consistent compliance with requests to be excused from service would
soon put an end to the army. In 1642, therefore, the king ordered an end to
exemption warrants, though the order seems to have been essentially meaningless.46
Many of the appeals, both from individuals and from city and town councils,
allege that the quintas were conducted fraudulently, which led to the author or
authors being unfairly included, or included when others were unjustly excluded.
On 19 May 1634, the corregidor of Madrid announced that the city and its villages
had to raise 1,112 men for the latest garrison levy; soon after, in the village of
Alhondiga, which had to supply three men, fraud was alleged. Diego Martinez de
Molino, the guardian of Diego Garcia, who had been picked in the lottery, wrote
that village officials had not informed anyone the lottery was to take place: "They
were to call a council meeting and summon all those who would enter the lottery,
which they did not do, but instead they secretly held the lottery and did not include
their dependants and relatives nor, generally, all the neighbors who were eligible to


AGS GA, leg. 1450, pedimiento and other papers, 4 May 1642.
AGS GA, leg. 1380, consulta Council of War, 4 April 1641.
AGS GA, leg. 1380, 27 March 1641.
In a different, but relevant context, James Casey remarks that the recourse to witnesses {informacion
de testigos) was a means by which one would broadcast to the community one's rights: "Household
disputes and the law in early modern Andalusia," in Disputes and Settlements: Law and Human
Relations in the West, ed. John Bossy (Cambridge University Press, 1983), 212. Goodman, in Spanish
Naval Power, ch. 6, recounts similar exemption appeals by sailors.
AGS GA, leg. 1461, king to Ruiz de Contreras, 24 November 1642.


The Limits of Royal Authority

enter," he wrote.47 A priest, too, protested the alleged fraud, writing that "it was
unjust, for the alcaldes of this village want to put him in this bind and not comply
with the corregidor of the court. Either there was no lottery or, if there was, it was in
secret and in the dark." The Madrid city council decided to investigate. The village
alcaldes submitted a statement on 6 September insisting "there was no fraud or
collusion" and that Diego Garcia was most appropriate for military service as he
was not working and had no property. As for summoning all the eligible men, they
said, that had never been done before, and it would only encourage men to leave. A
similar opinion was held by another witness (possibly a local military official) who
confirmed that as far as anyone in the village could remember, lotteries there had
never been held in the presence of the men, "but rather always entrusted to village
officials and the clerk, because they have the right of law [siempre el derecho presume
en su favor] and it would be a discredit to officials and clerks to order the lottery to
take place in the presence of the entrants." Furthermore, he added, the royal
instructions had said nothing about holding the lottery in public, and, in the end, it
had yielded the most appropriate young men for His Majesty's service. Both parties
appealed to tradition and past orders to defend their cause: Martinez and the priest
in favor of public lotteries, the alcaldes in favor of closed-door lotteries, and it was
this sort of ambiguity which may have led to the more precise lottery orders of 1636
and 1637, when the militia was reorganized.
While it is not known if the lottery was repeated in Alhondiga, it was a frequent
occurrence elsewhere once fraud had been detected. In Canillas de Abajo (Salamanca), six vecinos had managed to exclude themselves from the lists: alcalde
Domingo Arias had said he had three children, which he did not; his servant,
Domingo Hernandez, had claimed to be a shepherd; Sebastian Hernandez had said
he was pobre de solemnidad, which he was not; Pedro Bias and Francisco Sanchez
said they lived somewhere else; and Antonio Garcia insisted he was fourteen years
old, when he was really twenty. All six, in addition to a town councilman who had
colluded in the fraud, were packed off to the army, along with an unfortunate youth
chosen to replace the whistle-blower.48
Hidalgos had at one time been exempt from levies, though later they were not,
and there were also levies specifically for hidalgos; in Lope de Vega's Peribdnez, for
example, the comendador orders:
Proclaim this publicly,
And sign up all the valiant lads we have
To make two hundred men, divided up
In twofinecompanies, a hundred lads
of peasant stock, a hundred gentlemen.49
AV 4-336-4548
AGS CS(2), leg. 108, cases no. 71 and 93, Ciudad Rodrigo, 1653.
Lope de Vega, Peribdnez and the Comendador of Ocana, tr. and ed. James Lloyd (Warminster,
England: Aris and Phillips, 1990), 11. 5, 162. This levy was for a 1406 campaign to Granada.


Common claims
Such parallel recruiting was yet another invitation to confusion and fraud. In
October 1640, for example, a member of the Avila city council noted with concern
that taxpayers, or pecheros, were being included in an hidalgos levy either as paid
substitutes or as a way of claiming they were hidalgos, both of which meant the city
would collect fewer taxes.50 (Although, being an hidalgo in Avila was not saying
much, judging by the experience of magistrate Juan Chacon, who three years earlier
reported that he had found thirty-two hidalgos in the city, only three of whom could
afford even to outfit a horse. It would be understandable, in these straits, that the
hidalgos would not want to be conscripted, though how they would have paid off the
pechews is unclear.)51 The hidalgo levies were, on the one hand, a leveling device
aimed at making sure nobody escaped military service; on the other hand, they
underlined how important the distinction of order was, or how important it was
supposed to be. Separate-but-equal regiments made little sense when, as in the case
of Avila, many hidalgos were too poor to subsist and their absence from the city was
of less importance than the absence of commoners. Hidalgos with means either paid
for substitutes or were military officers anyway; in Madrid, those who were not
excused for poverty or illness were required to pay between 300 and 500 reales for
the merced of being allowed to stay home.52
Drafting hidalgos not only magnified the possibilities for fraud and pointed out
how meaningless the social distinction had become, but it also introduced new
schisms into communities. The Chancilleria heard several cases filed on behalf of
towns' pecheros against the hidalgos, or vice versa, claiming either that the latter's
privileges had not been respected or that the hidalgos had been granted privileges
not rightfully theirs. The hidalgos complained that they were being taken as
soldiers, assigned monetary impositions, and forced to have soldiers billetted in
their homes, while the hombres buenos complained of exactly the opposite.
An unsigned report drawn up in 1642, probably to prepare the way for yet another
reorganization of the militia, offered a scathing indictment of the militia's overall
recruitment operations. Sergeant majors added the dead to lottery rolls and excluded
those "who could appeal to [their]... love of money," it said. Because of corruption
and the high desertion rate, the number of men eligible for lotteries had to be
augmented, meaning that peasants who were needed in thefieldswere sent off while
landowners, "who could far more comfortably go," were left alone.53 Philip, having
seen a multitude of reports describing these injustices, issued a stern fourteen-point
order on 31 May 1642 promising that military officials who cooperated with or
turned a blind eye to fraud would be severely punished, while volunteers who
deserted would be put to death. But the very length and detail of his exposition of the
punishments and the crimes reveal an impotence to do much about them.54

AHPA, Libro de Actas 39, 16 October 1640.

AGS GA, leg. 1202, Chacon to king, 30 April 1637.
AV 3-4202, April-May 1641.
KGSGk, leg. 1441.
BN, MS 2374, also in AGS GA, leg. 1425, memorial from king, 31 May 1642.


The Limits ofRoyal Authority

The king knew that recruitment was not running as it should in part from
correspondence with his officials but also from correspondence from those people
who believed themselves to have been wronged by corrupt and unfair practices that
contravened royal orders. He personally considered the merits of their petitions.
Taken together, these appeals for redress, from individuals and town councils,
directed to the king and his ministers, reveal a direct and real relationship between
ruler and vassal. They wrote to Philip and expected a reply, and, at least judging by
the archives, they were often rewarded with one. Their relationship was one of
mutual obligation. They had the obligation to serve; that general duty was never
explicitly challenged. What was questioned was an individual's specific duty to serve
in certain circumstances. Complaints of fraud were not objections to the lotteries
per se, only that the rules had not been applied properly. While the process was
clearly rife with corruption and was an opportunity like no other for picaresca, it
also shows a people conscious of their rights and not hesitant about protesting when
they thought they were being trampled upon. There is even a sense of duty
involved in denouncing injustice, of pointing to the improper execution of the
king's orders. The arbitrary and capricious nature of the levies could often result in
injustices, but, likewise, that very nature permitted the victims of such injustices to
try to do something about them, and they expected (or at least their language
indicates this) that something could indeed be done. Their language of mutual
obligation was perhaps a tactic of persuasion, but it could also be based on
reasonable expectations that had been fulfilled in the past.
The king, for his part, had an obligation to protect his vassals and make sure no
unreasonable demands were placed on them. His frequent admonishments to
corregidores and other officials not to bother townspeople, his insistence that
recruiters not use impressment, and his favorable replies to personal appeals from
the poor and the sick all indicate he wished to uphold his end of the relationship
with his vassals but had far less grasp of the mechanics of raising an army than did
his ministers. Chief among those ministers was the Count-Duke of Olivares, who
was ultimately unsuccessful in his efforts to rationalize military recruitment and
impose fiscal uniformity throughout the Iberian Peninsula. Localism and corporatism are usually blamed for this failure. But the evidence from these appeals
indicates that the language of rights and resistance could be formulated not only in
corporatist discourse but also in that of individuals - vassals whose direct connection to their king was mediated by a sense of fairness and reciprocity.

Towns were held collectively responsible for fulfilling a recruitment quota. If one
man managed to dodge the lottery, another usually paid the price, and if men
deserted or hid, their villages had to come up with replacements. So, in many ways
a military levy put a community to test. On the one hand, the concejo y vecinos

Common claims
might stand united against their city or the sergeant major; but villagers might also
be pitted against one another, as fraud, violence, privilege, and favoritism decided
who would go to war and who would stay. Those who were resourceful or clever or
lucky enough to win a letter of exemption were undoubtedly envied at home,
regardless of how poor they had to be to get that letter. When levies were
commuted to financial assessments, disputes broke out between the poor and the
poorer regarding the regressive nature of what was essentially a soldiers tax.
Military recruitment was an occasion for paying off old debts, for getting rid of
unwanted neighbors, and for making one's money or power or connections count
for something.
The substitute system was an obvious source of rifts within a community. If a
man's arguments of poverty, illness, status, or fraud failed to release him from a
quinta or from impressment, he was usually allowed to try to find a substitute. Or,
sometimes he was allowed to provide a substitute only if he satisfied some other
reason for exemption - in other words, he was allowed a substitute precisely
because he was poor or sick. Some men could pay, but others could not, and the
king's advisers were well aware that such an arrangement favored the rich. The
poor ended up literally selling themselves as a way of earning money (and many
sold themselves again and again) or going into debt for years so as to be able to pay a
substitute. Yet despite reports that substitutes often did not report for duty - and
that the militia would have been better off without those who did - the Council of
War reiterated in 1641 that a man who offered a substitute had fulfilled his duty,
regardless of whether or not the substitute actually showed up or was qualified to
serve. Such a policy, Gaspar de Bracamonte warned, was an encouragement to
desert. It also must have emphasized whatever class differences existed in a given
Men who wanted someone else to go in their place first had to find someone. In
the case of Madrid guild members, unwilling soldiers signed an obligation with the
ayuntamiento (which was responsible for the levy), had two witnesses affirm the
identities of those concerned, submitted a memorial explaining the reasons for the
substitution, and, finally, obtained permission from the city's junta de soldados.
When the substitute arrived at his company, his captain signed a small, 4-by-6inch chit confirming his identity and physical description, and he sent the paper
back to the city council.
There does not seem to have been any set criteria for establishing who was an
appropriate substitute and who was not, though many of them obviously fell into
the latter category. Some were probably the more unskilled members of the guilds,
which certainly could not have endeared apprentices to their masters. Master
glassworker Pedro Soley, for example, whose name was picked in his guild's

AGS GA, leg. 1402, Gaspar de Bracamonte to Fernando de Contreras, 23 April 1641. In imperial
Russia, communities pooled their resources to buy substitutes in a complicated, but apparently more
equitable system: Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, 147.


The Limits ofRoyal Authority

lottery, simply packed off his apprentice, Antonio Fernandez, who managed to get
the attention of the Madrid city council because he was underage. Some guilds said
they had so few members they could not afford to lose their skilled craftsmen or
laborers; in those cases, it may have been the guild that sought the substitute, while
in other cases it may have been the prospective soldier himself, who often pointed
out that if he were to go to war the Crown would earn that much less aleabalas. Men
were sometimes, though not always, held responsible for their substitutes. Miguel
de Alba, who had a haberdashery on the Plaza Mayor, told the city council that
he has offered in his place Pedro del Corral, son of the same-named, born in Villamontafia,
thirty years old, tall with a bulky build, brown hair and a beard that is a little lighter, with a
slightly crooked right leg, to go in place of the said Miguel de Alba, who was picked by his
guild to serve . .. [Corral] will not be paid by this city but by the said Miguel de Alba, who is
obliged to take his place if the said Pedro del Corral deserts . . . s6
Frequently young men took the place of old, ailing fathers or older brothers,
willingly or not. Sometimes these arrangements were voluntary, such as a case in
Fuentesauco, near Toro (Zamora). There, Alonso Gabilan wrote to the Council of
War that his hidalgo son, Pedro, had been called to serve with the count of Alba de
Aliste. Pedro was u of an advanced age," married to a fifteen-year old, his motherin-law had been sick in bed for more than ten years, and it was economically
essential that he remain at home. Alonso therefore requested that another son,
Fernando, be accepted in Pedro's place. The town clerk certified that Fernando was
willing, and four vecinos testified that Alonso's tale was true. The corregidor of Toro,
Juan de Vega, confirmed the veracity of all the attached documents, and sent the
report back to the Council of War for a final decision.57
There were also many cases of men being held ransom by the authorities after a
male relative had skipped out. In one such instance, in which a father was made to
pay for the sins of his son, Pedro Guerra, who was 54 years old, sick, and lame, was
taken from his home in Pedraza (Segovia) and imprisoned after his son deserted.
Though authorities had searched for the son "in many places," he had not
appeared. In response to Pedro's plea, the local authorities, realizing the son was
gone for good, decided Pedraza would have to hold another lottery to replace the
son. It cannot have been good news for Pedraza.58
The collective responsibility to fulfill quotas could be onerous, and it was not just
male relatives who were the victims. When Burgos fell short of its garrison levy in
1640, the city council decided that village officials {proem-adores de las vecindades)
would have four days in which to come up with a list of shiftless candidates; failure
to do so would mean the officials themselves would be taken.59 In the town of

AV, 3-4192, 30 August 1640. The previous examples are from the same legajo.
AGS GA, leg. 1461, correspondence 22 August-13 September 1641.
ARCV DM, SG, leg. 297, caja 127.19, "Memorias y ajustamientos para la formation del tercio . . .,"
1646, fol. 62.
AMB, Libros de Actas, 16 February 1640.


Common claims
Yudego (Burgos), which, like Pedraza, had been forced to hold a second lottery
after members of its first batch of soldiers had fled, authorities were holding not
only the replacement soldiers but the original ones as well, who had all been
recaptured.60 Some towns routinely jailed men whose substitutes had vanished,
because, regardless of the Council of War's insistence that by merely finding a
substitute a man fulfilled his duty, towns knew that they still would have to come
up with a replacement.
For that reason, as the recruit pool shrank and demand grew, townspeople were
naturally anxious to recover their fugitive soldiers. Starting in 1640, there was a
concerted effort by the Crown to round up deserters, an effort whose periodic
revival pointed to its faint success. The king appointed Chancilleria magistrates to
take charge, and specifically told one, Geronimo de Fuenmayor, to cover his
expenses by taking funds from village properties and granaries - another reason
why villages surely preferred finding their own fugitives, as it cost them less.
Fuenmayor was also instructed to take villagers as soldiers if he was unable to locate
the deserters.61
The anti-fugitive campaign took a particularly virulent turn under the direction
of Don Rodrigo de Santelices, an Inquisition official and "honorary chaplain of His
Majesty" who had been named superintendent of the militia in Cuenca. If local
town authorities could not find their deserters, Santelices said, then they should
capture the missing men's guarantors, their fathers, their brothers, or their relatives
up to the fourth degree, and send them to the front instead. The expense for this
operation would be paid by the fugitive, to which end authorities were empowered
to seize any property he had left behind. Anyone who collaborated in concealing a
deserter's whereabouts, and any village official who failed to go after deserters with
the appropriate zeal, would be punished. The old-fashioned practice of gathering
testimony from several vecinos, which, as we have seen, was used to verify exemption appeals and substitution arrangements, was jettisoned in favor of relying upon
just one denunciation from one vecino, who did not even have to be from the same
town as the alleged culprit. Even Jose Gonzalez, of the Junta de Ejecucion, had
doubts about the wisdom of such an approach. Although he had to admire the good
chaplain's enthusiasm, he said, "some of his orders are most irregular and rigorous.
In particular, I cannot agree that local judicial officials should have a free hand in
sentencing, because there could be great injustices and they could act out of passion
and revenge against their neighbors."62
Pedro Pacheco, a member of the councils of Castile and the Inquisition, who had
been named superintendent of the militia in Toledo, decided in 1643 that any man
who had been chosen in a lottery could evade military service if he came up with a

AMB, Sec. Hist. 2.8.15, 23 March 1646.

AGS GA, libro 183, ce'dula 4 November 1640.
AGS GA, leg. 1416, consulta Junta de Ejecucion and orders from Don Rodrigo de Santelices, May


The Limits of Royal Authority

fugitive, whether a local man or not. Turning in a passer-by had the advantage that
one would not stir up local tensions and rivalries, and one can imagine villagers
lining the roads, waiting for bedraggled deserters, or people they claimed were
deserters, to appear. That is exactly what happened after Pacheco issued his order.
In Cabanas de la Sagra, a militia lottery in November 1643 yielded the name of
Antonio del Peral. Antonio's father, Miguel, and his mother were both ill, he had
five small siblings, and he was none too anxious to go to war. So father and son
decided to find themselves a fugitive. According to testimony taken later from three
vecinos, Miguel stopped a young man, Francisco Salcedo, who was passing through
town, and asked him where he was from. Salcedo replied he had been a soldier in
France, whereupon Miguel pulled out Pacheco's order and announced he had the
right to capture any fugitive soldier. A crowd gathered in the town square and
watched Miguel and Antonio drag Salcedo off to jail. The local judge heard
testimony from witnesses and sent all the documents to Pacheco, who confirmed
two months later that Antonio had fulfilled his duty and would not have to join the
militia. A man involved in a similar case in nearby Sonseca eloquently summed up
the new situation: He and his fellow villagers must "take it upon themselves to seek
fugitive soldiers [so] they will not dare to return to their lands out of fear that there
are as many prosecutors as there are neighbors."63
So the search for fugitives relied upon the cooperation of vecinos. By capturing
someone, they might obtain the release of a male relative from jail, evade service
themselves, satisfy the village's recruitment obligation without holding additional
lotteries, and save money. But turning in one's neighbors also could have serious
repercussions on the daily life of a town or village. There was a price to pay, which
is why it is logical to believe that people would turn in outsiders before they would
betray people they knew. Better yet, towns and cities would literally buy men from
neighboring towns or pay private contractors to find the right number of bodies.
Though some levy orders specifically excluded outsiders (forasteros) from militia
lotteries, the number of appeals submitted by men claiming to have been included
in the wrong quinta indicate such instructions were rarely abided by.
If towns and villages had to weigh the advantages of impressing men who were
no great loss against the disadvantages of the ensuing divisiveness, guilds had to
make the same sort of calculation. Robbing each other of recruits or including the
names of obviously inept or inappropriate men in their lotteries, guilds often ended
up in court, probably a very expensive thing to do if one is to believe their constant
protestations that membership had plummeted and their wealth had disappeared.
Men seized for levies, usually writing their memoriales from the city jail, insisted
that they were not the type of artisan the guild alleged, or they were not artisans at

Both the Cabanas and the Sonseca cases date from 1644 and are from AMT Milicias, caja 12,
cuaderno 2. Sonseca had bought its own freedom from Toledo in 1629, but in 1640, unable to pay off
what it owed the city, sold itself to a Portuguese financier. A subsequent lawsuit over conditions of the
sale lasted decades. See Moxo, Los antiguos senorios.

Common claims
all, or they were members of another guild, or their master had illegally impressed
One of the more prolific of such petitioners was Cosme Sanchez, whose treatment at the hands of his guild brethren makes it clear he was thought highly
expendable.64 Sanchez, who had an oil and vinegar shop, began his epistolary
relationship with the Madrid authorities three days after his guild had "maliciously" captured him and he was "dying of hunger" in jail. Other quintados had
received money from the guild, while he had received nothing, he said. He claimed
his name had not even been among those put into the urn, though it is unclear why
that would be so. In any case, his name was miraculously picked. He asked that the
lottery be held again and promised that if he were chosen this time he would
willingly serve and would pay his assessment of ioo reales "like all the rest, even if I
have to beg alms." The lottery was not held again. Twenty days into his jail stay,
Sanchez wrote that he was selling his belongings so his wife and children could
survive, and he added that he was fifty years old and very poor: "No other member
of the guild except me is being held prisoner, and in all this time no one has helped
me, and I beg for justice," he wrote. A month later, it was more of the same:
"Everyone who was being held prisoner has been freed and I have no remedy, nor
help from anyone." His wife would make bail, he said, if they would only let him
go. Three months after his capture, he took a different approach: Although the
guild and the authorities were saying he was a shopkeeper (tendero), he was no such
thing, he said; it was his wife who had had a little store on Calle de Atocha, which
had hardly brought in anything, so little, in fact, that after his three months of
imprisonment she had closed the store and had become a servant. If it weren't for
the alms he received in prison, he said, he would have died. One month later he was
still there, insisting he was not a tendero but rather "a poor worker." Sanchez's next
letters concern his inability to pay 150 reales for his militia uniform; he proposed
that he be allowed to leave Madrid and prove within twenty days that he had passed
muster with his company. If he failed to appear, he promised, he would pay 800
reales, though he gave no indication how he could possibly do such a thing. In
September 1640 we find the Madrid militia junta finally ordering the guild to give
him the 150 reales for his uniform, followed by a similar order in November.
Sanchez, whom we lose track of after the junta's orders, may not have been
considered a valuable enough member of the community oi tenderos to worry about;
he apparently had no friends. The guild may even have wanted to get rid of him
(and his wife). However, this poor, neglected man wrote at least eight memoriales to
the corregidor in the space of four months. They were all considered, and they seem
to eventually have had some effect. To some degree, he could seek the justice from
the authorities that he had been denied by his peers. He and his cellmates were
helped in this quest by the pro curador de los pobres presos, a Madrid official whose job

AV 3-420-1, AV 3-419-2, memoriales 1640.

The Limits of Royal Authority

it was to look out for their welfare. Lorenzo de Pinto, who held the post in 1640, at
one point reported there were forty-nine artisans languishing in jail, usually
because their guilds had falsely claimed their names had been chosen in lotteries,
and he begged the corregidor to sort out the legitimate recruits from the victims of
Informing on shirkers was rewarded, sometimes with money, sometimes with
the promise of immunity from service. On the whole, the offers do not seem to have
paid off. Early in the war against France, the marquis de Montesclaros, who had to
raise 200 men over the summer of 1635, reported from Palma (Cordoba) that the
men were deserting before they could be shipped out, and that financial rewards to
encourage denunciations had had virtually no effect.66 Aristocrats may have resorted to this sort of offer often, but the first such policy from the Crown during
this period came in 1639 with the drive to register and remobilize veterans. Judging
from the insistent and increasingly shrill orders the registration campaign produced, the effort was a failure, and perhaps for that reason the king decided to try
using informers. On 17 February 1639 he ordered all soldiers in Madrid to register
immediately, "and any man who denounces [another] will be given freedom from
the obligations of military service, billetting, and lawsuits for the next ten years, or
whatever equivalent favor he requests." The "defense of Spain," he said, took
precedence over all other considerations.67 Exactly a year later the king promised
that anyone who handed over an evader would be pardoned of any crime he had
committed or, if there were no crimes to pardon, he would receive 200 ducats.68
One can only assume that the lures dangled in 1639 had not enticed a sufficient
number of informers.
Acts of betrayal and the draconian methods proposed by Santelices could be
dangerous. They had the potential to undermine community solidarity, essential
for the economic survival of most small settlements, and, by placing police and
judicial responsibility solely on local authorities they opened the way for arbitrary,
petty, and vengeful administration, as Jose Gonzalez had warned. Opportunities
for appeal, preceded by painstaking information-gathering to confirm claims,
would no longer exist. But beyond being dangerous, these methods were probably
inoperative. The scarce evidence in the archives of betrayals and the unlikeliness
that Castilian vecinos would alter their behavior much in the later 1640s and beyond
indicate that, aside from the inevitable occasional act of revenge, envy, or greed,
people generally stuck together. Permanent schisms and disputes within communities facing multiple economic and social demands simply did not make much sense.
In many ways, refusing to be informers was a remarkable act of defiance.
Recruitment subjected towns to another sort of divisive pressure: The physical

AV, 3-420-1, undated.

AGS GA, leg. 1124, marquis de Montesclaros to king, 6 November 1635.
AGS GA, leg. 1276, 17 February 1639.
AGS GA, leg. 1334, bando 11 February 1640.

Common claims
presence of recruiters, soldiers, and camp followers. Local authorities hated lotteries, whether for militias or garrisons, because of the disruption they caused. One
particularly unsettling aspect of the recruiting process was gambling, a virtual
military monopoly that was permitted as an enticement to enlist and as a time-killer
once men had signed up or been picked. Captain Alonso de Contreras, for example,
recounts in his memoirs that when he was recruiting in Ecija in 1603, "[the men]
immediately picked up the military habit of gambling. It was a custom in the army
that the drummer boy keep a terra cotta jar for the pool, and, in the evening, he
would break the jar open, and with the proceeds the soldiers would buy dinner."
The oldest established permanent floating craps game in Castile (actually, they
were games of cards, dice, and bolillas, or small balls) was a magnet for trouble.69
Billetted troops were a traditional scourge in Castile (as they were throughout
Europe), and the alcaldes de casa y corte and corregidores in Madrid seem to have
spent much of their time controlling unruly soldiers and preventing them from
harassing locals such as Sebastian de Cabrejas, a poor man who ran a pension and
who was being persecuted by drunken soldiers who routinely stole his beds.70
Lotteries were somewhat less catastrophic, as at least one did not have rude
outsiders camped out eternally in one's home, but the ceremony of the quintas, the
subsequent appeals, and then the expense of holding men for weeks in jail - and the
jail was usually on the town square, and thus very visible - was a drain and a risk. In
a city such as Madrid, where there were no fewer than thirty-two recruiting flags
hoisted in April 1639, it must have been a logistical nightmare. In Benavente
(Zamora), which between March 1659 and May 1665 held at least twenty-five
lotteries (with as many as four in one week, after each successive one was challenged), it was surely a continual source of disruption, jealousy, and fear.71
Towns and cities could try to ward off recruiters and levies, but they were not
always successful. They could, however, evade lotteries by impressing wanderers,
good-for-nothings, and idlers, in addition to recovering fugitives. In other words,
town authorities took advantage of the lottery to conduct some social cleansing;
such was the case in the duke of Bejar's town of Burguillos, as we saw, where
authorities rounded up petty criminals, wife-beaters, drunkards, and derelicts.
Leaving aside the drawbacks offillingan army with such men, it had obvious social
and political advantages. Castillo de Bovadilla could not have been more clear:



Philip Dallas, ed. The Adventures of Captain Alonso de Contreras (New York: Paragon House, 1989),
65. Jose Javier Ruiz Ibafiez, "Las dos caras de Jano: Monarquia, ciudad e individuo en Murcia
15881648" (Ph.D. diss., Universidad de Murcia, 1994), 721-4, provides details of such gambling
operations in Murcia. (The University of Murcia published Ruiz's dissertation, under the same title,
in 1995.) The corregidor of Zamora commented during the Levy of the Corregidores that the only way
he was holding on to recruits was by letting them gamble; AGS GA, leg. 1207, Vicencio Vecaria to
archbishop of Castile, 19 February and 12 March 1637.
AV, 3-419-2, autos 18 May 1640, 24 June 1641.
AGS GA, leg. 1276, consulta archbishop of Granada, 9 April 1639; AMBe, leg. 1.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

[War] is also useful because, with it, many men who are the feces and excrement of the
Commonwealth are expelled and cast out as soldiers. If they were tolerated, they would
corrupt, like the body's ill humors whose expulsion improves the good humors.72
Implicit in such an operation were considerations about who was worthy and who
was not, about the likely response to shipping off a local man (even if he was a
troublemaker), about the victim's possibilities for appeal, and about crimes worthy
of punishment.
In the summer of 1641, Alonso Nieto, the assistant corregidor of the town of
Bejar, wrote the duke to let him know how the latest garrison levy was coming
along. Among the seventeen men he was holding in jail, he said, only three were
local; the villages had bought the other fourteen. He described a few of them:
One is from Solana, and the council asked me to take him. He is troublesome and rowdy, he
is drunk every day and for that reason his wife is suing for divorce in Plasencia . . . Another,
from Garganta, is married, and the council captured him as a troublemaker, and in order to
confirm this I informed myself in the village of the life and habits of this man. I asked upright
people, and they assured me it was appropriate that he serve His Majesty, and I requested
written information, which I am sending to Your Excellency, that the council received from
six witnesses, which demonstrates that this man causes problems and great harm in the
village with his livestock, allowing it to graze in his neighbors' fields, and if they complain he
threatens their lives, and cattle that had been missing has been found among his livestock.73
The duke, who perhaps recalled the incident in Burguillos, instructed Nieto that
neither the man from Solana nor the man from Garganta should be included in the
levy and that both should be released. Village authorities knew that conscripting
men like these made little sense in the long run because they inevitably deserted or
were rejected, burdening the town with finding replacements. But their desire to
get rid of them made them willing to run that risk.
The man from Garganta stole cattle; the men from Burguillos had stolen pigs,
wine, and cheese; others stole women. The alcalde ordinario of Quixorna (Madrid)
initiated proceedings in May 1639 against Juan de Cruces, a single man who, a with
no fear of God and in violation of the laws of the kingdom," had been living in sin
with Maria Gomez for around a year. She was the widow of the town crier in
Brunete, and when Cruces arrived there, as he wandered from village to village,
never holding down a job, "he persuaded her with lying, diabolical words to go with
him," which she did, and the two of them became vagabonds. For the next eight
months they survived by begging, according to witnesses. When they arrived in
Quixorna, they were subject to fierce questioning by local authorities regarding
their occupation and marital status, and, as they did not have satisfactory replies, he
was seized as levy fodder, probably for the ongoing one-percent levy. He escaped
from jail ("thus verifying his great evil") and was recaptured, but as he was about to

Castillo de Bovadilla (1759), Politica, vol. 2, libro 4, ch. II.7, 388.

AHN Osuna, 234.2.5, Alonso Nieto to duke of Bejar, June or July 1641.

Common claims
be sent to Madrid, he barricaded himself in, threatening to kill the alcalde and
promising that if they took him to Madrid, Quixorna would remember him.74
His fate is, regrettably, unknown, but stories of such sexual impropriety appear
again and again among the justifications for impressment. Charges of adultery,
wife-beating, abandonment, and licentiousness were often leveled on top of the
more mundane allegations of theft and drunkenness, as if to ensure that the
impressment would stick. Often they were the only charges made.
Several residents of Toledo's towns and villages ran into such accusations in
1639-40 when the entire province was trying to raise 1,113 m e n f r t n e fifth round
of the garrison levy. The town of Herencia was still short three men in February
1640. Not surprisingly, it resorted to capture. First it went after Martin Garcia, a
vecino, who successfully persuaded the Toledo city council that he was physically
unfit. Trying a second time, it captured Pedro Aragones, who previously had been
excused from a lottery in Herencia due to illness and was reaping hay at his new
home in the village of Arenas when he was captured. Aragones was an upright man,
his brother-in-law testified, who lived, worked, and paid taxes in Arenas. He was u a
good, God-fearing Christian (who has) led and leads a married life with his wife."
The young, pregnant wife, Maria, presented five witnesses on her husband's
behalf, and the Arenas clerk testified that Aragones' name appeared on Arenas tax
records from 1635, a s wen< a s o n x^37 a n d 1638 militia lists. Undeterred, the
Herencia town council argued that Aragones was a "good-for-nothing, and although he has been married more than three years, he does not live with his wife,
and he is accustomed to taking what is not his against the will of the owners . . .
[and] therefore he is among those included in His Majesty's edict."75 The town
provided no evidence to back its claims. In his own defense, Aragones accused the
town of capturing him so as to relieve others of the burden, others such as "Juan
Paulete, a servant of Don Juan de la Veldad, who is a rich and powerful man, and to
please the said master the town released [Paulete]." Aragones also protested the
harassment his wife had been subject to while he was in the Toledo jail:
The authorities' passion has reached such a point that when my wife, Maria Lopez, and her
brother, Juan Sanchez [sic], were on their way to Toledo to aid in my defense, they seized her
baggage and threatened the said Juan Sanchez that if he came to this city they would capture
him as a soldier, too.
Strange behavior for authorities who professed concern over the welfare of the
young wife, who was busy trying to free her husband.
Manuel Gomez Mostoles, whose lawyer described him unconvincingly as a
"poor working man," did not have such a devoted wife, which was not surprising.
Although he argued he was from Madridejos, not Consuegra, where he was
captured, Consuegra did not care. According to the town, he was

AV 3418-7.


AMT Milicias, caja 17, June-July 1640.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

an idler and good-for-nothing who has caused and causes troubles and sorrows and he does
not lead a married life with his wife nor does he support her or feed her and he has had a
mistress and lives dishonestly and lazily.76

This portrait was backed up by five vecinos, whose accounts were at times verbatim
repetitions of the town's assessment. Two of them added the news that once, when
he got angry, Gomez had set his wife's bed on fire; both recounted the tale in
virtually the same words. No other crimes were attributed to Gomez other than
marital abandonment and causing the oft-mentioned "troubles and sorrows"
{inquietudes y pesadumbres).

Juan Romero, also from Madridejos, was an even worse specimen. He was
arrested one night in a local inn with his lover, a married woman who, the
proceedings say repeatedly, "because she is married is not named here." Four
vecinos confirmed the town council's version - that Romero was a gambler, had a
mistress, and mistreated not only his wife but also his mother-in-law and his
children. Acting in his own defense, Romero accused the town of disobeying the
king's orders and acting out of "hatred and bad will." He had four children, the
oldest of whom was six, and he was not a malentretenido - "on the contrary," he
said, without elaborating. He had learned that the authorities were accusing him of
living in sin with his sister-in-law, which was untrue. No one was living in sin, and
the woman in question was his wife ys sister-in-law, he clarified, removing all doubt
that he should have hired a lawyer.77
Through these examples it can be seen that military recruitment used and
touched women's lives beyond the obvious, though no less terrible, one of leaving
them without their sons, husbands, brothers, and lovers. Women could neither
vote nor hold office in the c once jo, and therefore their role in this story is not a
political one.78 But nor is it a marginal one, as some historians would have us
believe. The records tell of wives who were angry, abandoned, or wronged; of
defenseless potential victims of sexual abuse; and, also, of adulterers and whores.
Some may have "floated along the margins of respectability," but the vast majority
raised families, worked, and put up a good fight.79 There are contradictions in the
portraits, indicating disagreement over or unease with what women were supposed
to do or be. Men's appeals for exemption, for example, consistently pointed out
that their women relied on them for sustenance, a reason often considered sufficient
to excuse them from service, yet presumably all women were in a similar situation.
Some men adduced that without their presence their wives would be taken
advantage of; again, this could be true for everyone. And the same authorities who


AMT Milicias, caja 17, April 1640. Consuegra was headquarters to the priory of the Order of San
Juan, Toledo's most powerful military order. Madridejos had also pertained to the order, but became
an autonomous town in the late 1550s.
AMT Milicias, caja 17, April 1640.
Widows paid taxes and were vecinas but voted only by proxy. See Nader, Liberty, 32-3.
Mary Elizabeth Perry, Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville (Princeton University Press,
1990), 9.


Common claims
expressed concern for the welfare of women whose husbands mistreated them were
not at all hesitant about snatching perfectly faithful bread-winners away from
thousands of other women.
What was it like for those women? Probably unbearably difficult, for a variety of
reasons. By the 1630s, fear of desertion on land meant some infantry no longer
received an advance, getting paid only once they arrived at the garrison, which left
the wives empty-handed. The king in 1640, having had it brought to his attention
that many Madrid militiamen had left needy wives and children behind, issued an
edict that they go to Don Antonio de Valdes u to inform him of their needs and
family obligations, and, in accordance, they will receive whatever is just for as long
as the militia soldiers are gone."80 Similar orders were to be issued wherever
militiamen were being sent out of their districts. Nothing of the sort was done,
however. Six months later the Junta de Ejecucion told the king that militiamen's
wives had petitioned the junta about the dire straits they were in, saying the
promised aid had never materialized. It is unlikely it ever did, considering that the
Crown's financial situation only got worse. Widows and orphans were allotted
pensions according to the rank of the deceased: five re ales per day for survivors of
maestres de campo, four reales for sergeant majors and cavalry captains, three for
infantry captains, two for lieutenants, and one for sergeants and soldiers.81
Women, then, could be expected to do everything possible to either prevent their
men from being taken or get them back once they were gone, even if they had not
been the most faithful of husbands. Many of the appeals for exemption come from
wives and mothers, women such as the young Maria Lopez, who organized her
husband Pedro's defense, or 80-year-old Maria Perez, who took the town of
Villaseca de la Sagra to court to recover her son.82 More than one rattled authority
reported being acosted by wailing women. In one such case the marquis de
Valparaiso wrote from La Coruna that a group of women had brought their
children to him and threatened to throw them in the sea if their men were taken.83
Not only did the women lose their principal source of income; many were
saddled with newfinancialobligations in their husbands' absence. Such was the tale
of dozens of Madrid wives and widows who described harassment by a variety of
tax collectors and guild officials who claimed they were liable for their husbands'
alleged debts. Unable to pay, their belongings sometimes were seized by the
alguaciles, leaving them with truly nothing except hungry children and a few coins
with which to pay a clerk to write a memorial: Polonia de Losada u is so poor that in



AGS GA, leg. 1334, draft of edict sent to the corregidor of Madrid, 30 August 1640. Valdes was a
member of the Council of Castile and militia superintendent in part of New Castile and Extremadura.
For seamen's wives see Goodman, Spanish Naval Power, 191-2.
AGS GA, leg. 1380, consulta Junta de Ejecucion, 21 January 1641; AGS CS(2), legs. 319 and 331. The
figures here refer to a specific group of casualties, and I cannot say to what degree they can be
generalized for all widows.
AMT Milicias, caja 10, cuaderno i,pleito, 1634.
AGS GA, leg. 1326, marquis of Valparaiso to king, 25 December 1639. The marquis, Francisco de
Irarrazabal y Andia, was captain general of Galicia.


The Limits of Royal Authority

order to feed her children she must serve or wash clothes in the river, and now . . .
an alguacil is trying to collect a ducat and a half of the consumo;" Gregorio Salgado's
guild brothers lost no time trying to squeeze seventy reales of alcabalas out of his
wife, who was doing what she could to manage his store; Catalina Martinez
somehow obtained a certificate from the appropriate captain to prove her husband
really was serving with the militia, the only way she could recover all her belongings
from the alguaciles.84 Many guild wives obviously kept their husbands' business
alive, possibly because they already had been working in the tavern or the workshop, performing tasks they had learned years earlier from their artisan fathers.
But it was not just economic hardship that awaited soldiers' wives; there were
moral hazards as well, though the women themselves never mention this in their
appeals. It was the authorities who appeared interested in lost honor; one suspects
the women were thinking more of food and children. A lottery of married men in
Murcia, where there were no bachelors or widowers left, had to be cut short in 1640
because of the women's protests; according to the corregidor, the problem was "the
great harm that could come about by leaving the poor women and children alone
and exposed to a thousand offenses against Divine Majesty .. . and honor."85 When
a village priest in Becerril de Campos wrote to the duke of Bejar to ask that a young
man be allowed to leave the army he mentioned the man's wife, "whose honesty
may be in clear danger. She is young and poor and not bad-looking, and if she is not
in her husband's shadow, everyone will make a pass at her."86 The shoemakers of
Madrid's Plaza de Santa Cruz argued that previous levies had taken so many men
that only a few guild members and the old and disabled were left, and if any more
were to leave the women could be taken advantage of.87 Of course, many women
were indeed in danger; one of the women of Burguillos had accused the local
corregidor of shipping off her husband precisely because he himself wanted her.
Much of the talk of endangerment was well-founded, though at times it appears as
if honor were in greater danger than the women themselves.
Some, those with no recourse, followed their husbands. Luis de Castilla complained from the port of Cartagena that the cities were sending him entirely
unsuitable men, many of whom were married:
And behind them come their wives and their children, some of them nursing, crying that
their husbands were stolen from them while they were tilling theirfieldsor walking with
theirflocksfrom one place to another, because the local officials consider all who pass by to
be malentretenidos, even if they carry documents and letters.88
Counting women is, of course, even more difficult than counting soldiers, but there
were so many at the battle of Leucate in 1637 that a Spanish Capuchin could

AV 3-420-1
A G S GA, leg. 1363, Corregidor Pedro de Cordoba to Pedro Villanueva, 26 June 1640.
A H N Osuna 242.1.9, Geronimo de Valera to duke of Bejar, 25 April 1634.
AV 3-420-1.
A G S GA, leg. \i\\, oidor Luis de Castilla to king, 19 March 1638.


Common claims
attribute Spain's defeat to their presence, which, he surmised, had incurred the
anger and judgment of heaven. A troupe of wives and children following in the
soldiers' footsteps had to have been a considerable incentive to desert. Equally
damaging, from the commanders' point of view, the families augmented the
companies' food bill, encumbered transport, and, it was said, encouraged mutinies
on account of their suffering, though they also performed essential tasks such as
sewing, cooking, fetching, and tending to the sick and the wounded. Prostitutes
(between four and eight per company of 200 men) brought venereal disease and
discipline problems with them, but their presence also may have defused other
sorts of discipline problems. Philip suggested in August 1638 that the Council of
War investigate reports that a company that had just left Madrid was accompanied
by "many women of ill repute" ("mujeres de mal vivir"). Presumably, the council
had more pressing tasks.89
Left on their own, women could go hungry, they were in danger, they were a
temptation, and they could be tempted. It was an unappealing fate. But the courts
were not kind to those who found comfort with someone else. A woman in the
village of Ventas (Toledo), for example, whose husband was on the galleys, was
"running around and doing many scandalous things," and she was banished with
the admonition that she should "go and find her husband and live with him
again."90 How was she to find her husband? How did she even know he was still
alive? It could take years for a war casualty to be confirmed, and in the meantime a
woman could not remarry. Michael Weisser, who looked at many of the Toledo
towns included in this study and uncovered the Ventas case, remarks that "there
was a real fear of single persons in the community, which manifested itself in
frequent harassments of men and women who were not members of a family
group."91 Thus it was not only loneliness, poverty, and lechery they might have to
face, but suspicion as well, and a legal and moral context that made it virtually
impossible to do anything to change their situation.
The absurdity of the king, the councils, or the corregidores excusing a man from
military service because he had a wife and children while at the same time shipping
off thousands more makes one wonder why the language of military recruitment
placed so much emphasis on sex and family. Gender could get a man excused if he
argued the importance of fulfilling his proper role; it also could get him impressed if
he violated the confines of that role. Along with honesty and poverty, sexual fidelity
was the measure by which men were judged, for better or for worse, though the
wars largely prevented them from engaging in anything other than celibacy or the
very licentiousness for which captives were punished.


AGS GA, leg. 1226, king to Fernando de Contreras, 6 August 1638. On the presence of women in the
army, see Tallett, War and Society, 1324; and Parker, Army of Flanders, 175-6. The Leucate
anecdote is from Tallett, 274 n.
AMT Causas criminales, no. 767, October 1622, cited by Weisser, The Peasants of the Montes, 79.
Ibid, Si.


The Limits of Royal Authority

Indeed, there is a striking gap between the language of the state and what was
actually taking place. Families, marriages, and relationships were being torn apart
by the wars, but by plucking out the occasional sinner and fornicator the authorities
tried to give the impression they were working to defend these institutions and,
naturally, preserve women's honor. But though honor was of concern, it is not
enough to simply attribute officials' behavior to an alleged fear of potentially
disruptive women left on their own. Men, too, had their proper stations, which
were equally vulnerable in these times of social upheaval. Marriage was, to some
extent, a partnership, though not of equals, and families had been the building
block of the commonwealth since the Reconquest. As James Casey has written, "a
man's reputation in the market-place could be undermined by failure to control and
run his household." Political and economic health depended on properly run
households. If familial ties were broken, the common good would suffer. "The
kingdoms," wrote arbitrista Pedro Fernandez Navarrete, "are nothing but a large
and extended family" with the king as the head of the household. Absent husbands
and fathers left women without protectors and rulers, it is true, but they also left
communities out of order. Much more was at stake than the supervision of
The likelihood that village women feared the ostracism that might accompany
suddenly being single points to the importance of conformity. Castilian towns and
villages were small places, famously xenophobic and proud, with strict rules
governing work, neighborliness, and marriage. Much of a community's economy
depended on the collective management and use of land, so misbehavior could hurt
everyone. As we have seen, violation of these rules was almost invariably, rightly or
wrongly, the justification for capturing a man for the army. Once one broke the
rules, one was not deserving of the same rights as one's vecinos. One became an
outsider, which was a terrible thing. It was also an expendable thing, which is why
vagabonds - men with "no fixed dwelling who, with neither fortune nor trade,
neither working nor serving a master, wander idly and suspiciously" - were an
obvious target for private contractors and towns looking to supplement their recruit
pool. The Castilian Cortes had long persecuted wanderers, who had plagued the
commonwealth for centuries, but the gravity of the economic crisis of the seventeenth century had both augmented their numbers and intensified the vilification to
which they were subject.93


Casey, "Household disputes," 196; Fernandez Navarrete, Conservation de monarquias, 184-5. Very
little research has been done on the early modern Spanish family. See James Casey, et al., Lafamilia
en la Espana mediterrdnea (siglos x\-xix). (Barcelona, 1987), which emphasizes demography and
inheritance; Heath Dillard, Daughters of the Reconquest: Women in Castilian Town Society, 1100-1300
(Cambridge University Press, 1984); Perry, Gender; and Augustin Redondo, ed. Relations entre
hommes et femmes en Espagne aux xvi et xvn siecles. (Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1995).
Among contemporary marriage manuals are Fray Luis de Leon, La perfecta casada (1583; Madrid:
Ediciones Rialp, S. A., 1968), and Fray Vicente Mexia, Saludable instruction del estado del matrimonio
(Cordoba, 1562).
Castillo de Bovadilla, Politica, vol. 2, ch. 13, 452; see also Jose Antonio Mara vail, La literatura

Common claims
To the degree that people were set apart from their neighbors, then, they were
more likely to be victims of impressment - indeed, Castillo de Bovadilla found
legitimation for such social cleansing in Christ's Sermon on the Mount.94 And, by
the same token, insofar as the opinion of one's neighbors could prove to be the
decisive factor in determining whether one went to war or stayed home, it is
probable that the threat of military recruitment inclined men to conform to the
prevailing rules of social behavior, and even defused antagonisms among townspeople.

All the men who tried to get excused from military service or find a substitute, all
the towns that filed appeals to reduce their quota of men or sued to protest their
obligation altogether, and all the municipal councils that delayed and diverted
and distracted in order to gain time, were essentially playing according to the
rules. They were obeying but not complying. They did not question the right of
the Crown to issue orders; they merely took issue with the orders' relevance to
But there were some who opted not to play. Rather than filing an appeal, they
simply left. They hid to avoid lotteries, deserted once they were in the army, and
reached for their guns to dispose of unwelcome recruiters or constables. They did
not wait for their c once jo to decide; they decided on their own. Such individual
decisions rested on some sort of social assent. Evasion and desertion indicated a
degree of community solidarity; presumably, these men received help, though it is
difficult to ascertain how much or from whom. So, too, did outbreaks of violence
indicate a certain organizational capacity on the part of vecinos, possible tacit
consent by town officials, and, obviously, a breakdown in the Crown's legitimacy.
In Richard Cobb's words, desertion was a "popular movement by default."95
As soon as levy orders were even hinted at, men vanished. The fishermen of
Santander, "with their livelihood in their nets, took it with them to Vizcaya."96
Those inland took to the hills, or moved to another village, or joined the growing
ranks of vagabonds. They moved from one place to another, crossing jurisdictions.
"We've had to seek them day and night throughout the countryside," the corregidor
of San Clemente wrote; "With the recent levies for the garrisons, everyone is so


picaresca desde la historia social (siglos xviy xvn) (Madrid, 1986), 24651. Susan Tax Freeman has
written of the contempt in which all itinerants were held, which made them good fodder - except for
gypsies, who were despised too much even for that, as was seen earlier. See Neighbors: The Social
Contract in a Castilian Hamlet (University of Chicago Press, 1970), 179. The reason why gypsies are
hated so much, a character in a modern Basque novel explains, is because all the shepherds' misdeeds
are blamed on them; Bernardo Atxaga, Obabakoak (London, Huchinson, 1992), 104.
Castillo de Bovadilla, Politica, 453.
Richard Cobb, The Police and the People (Oxford University Press, 1970), 103.
AGS GA, leg. 1152, memorial, 8 November 1636.

The Limits of Royal Authority

agitated that all the young men in the city and countryside have gone to Portugal,"
complained the assistant corregidor of Zamora.97 Enormous pains were taken to
locate the men, particularly in 1639 and 1640 when discharged soldiers were being
called up again. As there existed a military record of these men, towns could simply
go down their respective list and seek them, one by one. But the lists sent back to
Madrid indicated failure much of the time; they also indicated an extraordinary
amount of paperwork and leg work by town officials.
Nowhere was it easier for men to hide than in Madrid, and nowhere were there
more constables and judges out looking for them. The edicts ordering men to
register, or re-register, were nearly impossible to enforce in a chaotic city that had
gone from being a small town of some 2,500 dwellings in 1561 to a large town of
65,000 inhabitants in 1606, to a sprawling capital of around 175,000 in 1630.98 The
latter number included the vast population of young men who had come to Madrid
in search of work, but did not include the thousands of soldiers who were coming,
going, waiting, or hiding. Pablos, the anti-hero of Quevedo's El Buscon (1627),
encouraged one such soldier, who had nothing good to say about the capital:
"By God, I'd rather be in a seige with snow up to my waist, armed to the teeth and on a diet
of wood than suffer the wiles they practice on honest men." I told him that he should realize
that there were all kinds of people in the capital and that a man of fortune was always
"What respect," he said angrily, "for someone like me who has been waiting six months
for a commission?"99
Together this population was making the city an uninhabitable place where there
were several murders every night and no woman could leave her home safely, if the
chroniclers are to be believed. The late nineteenth-century writer Martin Hume
believed them:
The streets of Madrid became more scandalous even than before. Bravos and assassins
almost openly stood for hire; murder and robbery were so common in broad daylight as to
attract only passing notice, and in one fortnight at this period [in 1641] there were no
murders in Madrid alone, many of them of persons of position.100
Magistrates and constables regularly visited barracks, inns, gambling dens,
brothels, and anywhere else they thought they might find soldiers who had failed to
register. (The Registration Junta, established to oversee the registration campaign,




A G S GA, leg. 1364, Francisco Feran de Rioja to king, 5 May 1640; AGS GA, leg. 1371, Andres
Flores de la Parra to archbishop of Granada, 3 February 1639. With regard to Zamora, it is important
to note that men deserted when they faced shipment to Catalonia; generally, they did not desert if
they were called to fight against Portugal, which they regarded as self-defense.
Jonathan Brown and J. H. Elliott, A Palace for a King: The Buen Retiro and the Court of Philip 7F(Yale
University Press, 1980), 2 - 3 ; Ringrose, Madrid and the Spanish Economy, 313.
Francisco de Quevedo, The Scavenger, tr. Hugh A. Harter (New York: Las Americas Publishing
Company, 1962), 74-5.

Martin Hume, The Court of Philip IV. Spain in Decadence (2nd edn; New York: Brentano's, 1927),

Common claims
noted that some recalcitrant soldiers were even receiving the protection of certain
ambassadors.)101 They made their rounds armed with royal warrants that granted
them full jurisdiction over military personnel (causing problems with the Council
of War, as was seen in chapter i), staging simultaneous sweeps in different parts of
the city so fugitives would have a harder time escaping. But the insistent issuance of
identical registration orders shows how futile it was. Men hid in their homes,
moved from safe house to safe house, bribed the alguaciles, or otherwise managed to
survive amid the noise and notorious filth of the crowded Madrid streets.
The guilds, once again, were a world apart. Just as they held their own lotteries
and negotiated their own substitutes, so too they were responsible for their own
fugitives, though the latter were turned over to the alguaciles. Each guild had a
repartidor (from repartir, to distribute) whose job was to draw up a list of men
eligible for the army and make sure the guild delivered its assigned number of
soldiers. If it did not, he had to pay the cost of hiring an alguacil to round up
shirkers. As a result, the repartidores made every effort to fulfill their quotas, which
meant the nastier ones often snatched up poor, defenseless apprentices, shop clerks,
and laborers.
One man who managed to evade the militia for a while was Juan de Larrea, a
shoemaker, whose name had been picked in his guild's lottery to join the militia
company of Gabriel Lopez de la Torra. Despite the many edicts ordering militiamen to join their companies,
under pain of death and loss of property, the abovementioned did not fulfill his obligation,
and although the saidflagand company left this court in the service of His Majesty the said
Juan de Larrea remained in the said city, hiding and concealed . . . with which he has
committed a crime worthy of punishment.102
Another unwilling player was Geronimo Salmeron, an embroiderer and a former
militiaman. He, too, had ignored the incessant edicts. It was true, he admitted in
court, that he was a soldier in the company of Don Francisco de Enriquez de
Villacorta, a Madrid regidor. But Enriquez had told him to "do nothing until His
Majesty ordered him to leave . . . and he has been waiting until the said captain
raises hisflagso as to serve His Majesty." He was asked if he knew about the edicts,
and if so, why had he not registered. None of the other soldiers in his company had
registered, he said, and they were all in Madrid. When asked for the names of the
other soldiers he said he knew just two, and offered these to the court. He was then
taken off to jail, and his property was seized. But there was something odd about
Salmeron's case; in the interim between the edicts and his arrest, he had been living
in the home of Enriquez. According to the regidor, Salmeron "would come by now
and then to see if I needed anything," and if anyone was to blame it was he,

AGS GA, leg. 1334, consulta, 31 January 1640.

AV 3-420-1, formal accusation by alguacil'Pedro de Guete, in the court of Corregidor Sr Don Juan
Ramirez Freyle y Arellano, 21 September 1640.


The Limits of Roy al Authority

Enriquez. Was the regidor protecting the embroiderer? Perhaps, but the embroiderer served six months in jail.103
Those whose hiding places were discovered or whose letters of appeal fell on
unsympathetic ears eventually were sent off to the garrisons or the front. But
thousands never arrived. Indeed, one of the major challenges facing Castilian
authorities was how to get inland conscripts to their destinations in La Coruna,
Fuenterrabia, Cartagena, Cadiz, or Lisbon without losing them along the way. If
the men arrived, it was an equal challenge to keep them there. Desertion was a
permanent obsession for the Crown. One could get a fair idea of the numbers by
tracing the fortunes of companies from towns that kept good lists to their final
destination, where their arrival was recorded and they received their first salary. It
is beyond the scope of this study to provide such comprehensive figures on
desertion, though the occasional consulta offers evidence. Of 1,300 Andalusians sent
to Cadiz in 1635, 1,087 deserted, and of a shipment of 1,300 former soldiers from
Madrid in 1639, 513 deserted before they reached Fuenterrabia, figures that
explain the efforts by the councils, the Cortes, and nobles to ensure that troops took
the shortest route possible. Of the total of 7,129 men who had arrived at all
garrisons by 30 April 1635, 1,543 "absented themselves," according to the Cortes,
due to "ill treatment and bad pay." And it was not just the army: According to R.
A. Stradling, the navy so feared desertion that ships often would not tie up at port
to get repairs, meaning they fell apart more quickly.104
Given the nature of the recruitment system, however, it was an impossible task
to stem the flow. Captains were often willing to accept cash in exchange for looking
the other way as soldiers disappeared. Relying on a network oftornillos who spread
the word as levies were announced, men such as Estabanillo Gonzalez made an
accomplished career of traveling throughout Spain and the rest of Europe, enlisting
here and there, collecting advances, eating and drinking well for a few weeks,
perhaps seeing a bit of action, and then moving on. It was thanks precisely to men
like himself that Gonzalez could remark, "It is very easy to find a captain, but very
difficult to gather together fifty soldiers."105
Punishment for desertion varied widely, depending upon the date, the unit, and,
perhaps, the king's mood, so coherent enforcement of orders to round up fugitives
was nearly impossible. At one point the king ordered execution for cavalrymen who
deserted with their horses; six years on the galleys (with salary) for nobles who
deserted without their horses; six years on the galleys (without salary) for commoners who deserted without their horses; and no punishment at all for absent
militiamen who reported for duty within twenty days.106 With this sort of penal


AV 3-419-2, proceedings March-November 1640.

AGS GA, leg. 1124, consultas Junta de Levas, July-September 1635; AGS GA, leg. 1257, consulta
Junta de Ejecucion, 3 July 1639; AGS GA, leg. 1124, consulta Council of War, 18 May 1635;
Stradling, The Armada of Flanders, 154. See also Goodman, Spanish Naval Power, 211-15.
Gonzalez, Estebanillo Gonzalez, 85.
BN, MS 2374, memorial on desertion and fraud, 31 May 1642.


Common claims
leeway, in addition to frequent judicial squabbles about who had jurisdiction over
soldiers, a proven reluctance on the part of townspeople to turn in their respectable
neighbors, and the ease with which one could lose oneself among the crowds of
Madrid or the hamlets of Castile, desertion appears to have been a fairly safe risk to
Let us now turn to a few of the men who took that risk.107 In March 1635 the king
issued a warrant to the corregidor of Zamora warning that many deserters were
leaving Flanders and then returning to Spain through Guipuzcoa or Navarre. If
any should make their way to Zamora, Philip said, the corregidor should capture
them. On 3 May the corregidor reported success. There had been news that four
strangers (forasteros) were begging for alms in the city, and they were taken in for
questioning. One of them, a 26-year old stone worker from Salamanca, had proper
discharge papers from the company of the king's brother in Flanders and was
released after questioning. But the other three were not as fortunate. Alonso
Rodriguez Morales, a silk worker from Zafra (Badajoz), who said he was over
eighteen, had, "through a misfortune," enlisted two and a half years earlier in
Seville. He had served in Italy, Germany, and Flanders, and had been on his way
home when he was robbed of his discharge papers in France. Francisco Alonso, a
peasant from Torrecilla de la Orden (Valladolid), had enlisted eleven years ago
when he was around seventeen, had served in Lombardy and Valencia, and had also
been robbed of his papers in France, near Montpellier. He had been travelling in
Spain with a companero whose name he said he did not know. That man was
Bernabe Perez, who, as befits a vecino of San Lucar de Barrameda (Cadiz), was a
sailor. Perez said he had fallen ill in Dunkirk and had been on his way from
Valladolid with Francisco Alonso to take the waters at Banos de Ledesma (Salamanca) when they were all captured.108
In another case, Sergeant Diego Diez de Arrieta, who belonged to a company
pertaining to the coronelia of the duke of Bejar, fled with two or three soldiers after
trying to induce the entire company to desert on its way from Burgos to La Corufia.
He made the mistake of returning to Burgos, where he was caught. Corregidor
Pedro Guerrero prosecuted the case, whose gravity he said was augmented by the
fact that Diez had also attempted to "disturb and entice a young lady, the daughter
of an upright vecino of this city, and the case is extremely serious."109
One of Guerrero's successors, Don Francisco de Bazan - who was also a
procurador for Jaen and a member of the Council of Castile - in 1642 received
orders from the king to seize all fugitive cavalrymen in his jurisdiction and turn
their horses over to the pertinent authorities. The horses, not the men, were the


There are very few documentary traces of deserters, whose cases would have been heard by
corregidores or the Council of War. The papers of the former appear mostly to have been destroyed
after they left office, and I found very few; all the judicial papers of the latter have disappeared. The
cases discussed below are based on the preliminary questions put to suspects by the corregidores.
AGS GA, leg. 1148, ce'dula, autos, and questioning; May 1635.
AGS GA, leg. 1178, Pedro Guerrero to king, 24 March 1636.


The Limits of Royal Authority

objective here. At 11 PM one night, having received a tip, the corregidor ordered a
lieutenant, a constable, and six others to go the village of Castillo del Val, where
they captured seven men and five horses. The horses were stabled, and the men
were jailed, to be questioned two days later. According to their testimony, five of
the seven were indeed soldiers. They ranged from twenty-one to thirty years old;
three were unable to sign their names. Three of them said their horses were their
own; Domingo Diez Quijano angrily added that all he had gotten from His Majesty
was a flintlock. They all had been serving in the cavalry in Catalonia, which they
had left without being discharged, they said, because they had no food and were
hungry. One of them alleged that he had not been paid. Each was asked if he had
received food and lodging from villages along the way; all confessed that they had.
Along with the five fugitives were two other men who described each other as
companero. They had met up with the five soldiers a couple of days earlier and, as
they discovered they were all from the mountains and therefore countrymen {de
una patria), they decided to travel together, "lodging, as soldiers do, in all the
villages." The horses were sent to Medina de Rioseco, the testimony was forwarded
to the Council of War, and presumably the two travelers were released while the
five soldiers awaited sentencing.110
Authorities in Toledo also were prosecuting soldiers who had fled with their
horses. Among them were Valerio de Paredes and Pedro de Ariaga, who said they
belonged to a heavy cavalry unit from Granada. Their horses were immediately
seized. When they were asked for their discharge papers, Ariaga immediately
confessed he had none. The more experienced Paredes, however, who had been
forcibly enrolled in the army in La Coruna as a punishment for having committed
certain unnamed crimes, produced papers, which, when compared to authentic
documents, turned out to bear a false signature. Soon after, three more deserters
appeared in Toledo, these from the Army of Merida. Baltasar Alvarez, Joseph
Perez, and Felipe Ibafiez had joined the cavalry in Valencia. From there they had
been sent to Madrid, where they passed review, got paid, and were issued pistols,
boots, and spurs. They had then been sent on to Badajoz to fight the Portuguese.
Once there, the trio had left their unit because, they said, their captain had said he
did not want them in his company. They left their equipment and their horses
behind them and made their way to Toledo, where they were captured. As their
alleged discharge papers did not look right to the corregidor, he sent them on to
Madrid; they appeared to be false, he said, "both in their style and because it seems
impossible to grant [discharges] when we are so invaded."111
Many of these men's itineraries make little sense. One gets the impression there


AGS GA, leg. 1454, cedula, autos, and questioning; February 1642. On the Crown's dire need for
horses during this period see R. A. Stradling, "Spain's Military Failure and the Supply of Horses,
1600-1660" in his Spain's Struggle for Europe, 235-50.
AGS GA, leg. 1405, Alcalde Mayor Mateo de la Rasa to king, 17 September 1641; count of Torralba
to Ruiz de Contreras, 3 December 1641.


Common claims
were thousands of such men criss-crossing the Iberian Peninsula, with or without
papers, on their way to a front or a garrison or on their way home, meeting up with
countrymen, staying in villages, occasionally getting caught, and probably escaping
again. Once captured, they were carefully questioned and then spent weeks in jail
while the corregidor awaited word from the Council of War on what to do with
them. Constables, town clerks, jailers, corregidores, the Council of War, and even
the king himself devoted considerable time to men who had made a great effort to
leave the army and were therefore unlikely to return without a fuss. It was not very
Men deserted for the same reasons men always desert: They were hungry, they
were unhappy, they had not been paid, they missed home. The miserable conditions under which most common Castilians lived are described in nearly every
letter of appeal and every request for delay. Some men probably went to the army
figuring it could be no worse than living at home; they may have been right. But
many others obviously preferred known suffering to the unknown and were willing
to take risks to stay or return home. They eked out a living, tried to keep the
recruiters at bay, moved around when they had to, occasionally lied. It was a society
that bore immense hardships while appearing calm and orderly. Rarely were there
signs of unbearable stress. Rarely did people resort to violence to ensure they would
be left alone. Generally, they had no need of such measures. It was a sign not of
complaisance but of resources. It would be foolish to rebel if one could attain the
same end with less trouble.
Occasionally, however, there were fissures in this delicate balance, bursts of rage
and disobedience. Even allowing for exaggeration on the part of petitioners and
town officials, it would indeed be surprising if the hunger and poverty they
described did not win out, now and then, over loyalty and resourcefulness. A Jesuit
in 1638, for example, reported a "big disturbance" in Toledo:
A great many common people, such as weavers and others, gathered together saying they
wanted to kill city authorities because they could not find bread. Great effort was taken to
pacify them, they calmed down, they were given bread.112
One of the remarkable things about seventeenth-century Castilian history, of
course, is that such incidents were not more frequent. Violent expressions of
popular discontent were rare. The imposition of the salt tax had set off rioting in
Vizcaya in 1632; Evora (Portugal) erupted in 1637 when Philip tried to introduce
new taxes; and a wave of public disturbances swept through Andalusian cities from
1647 to 1652, the result of food shortages and the tax burden. There were also
smaller tax riots in Toledo, Valladolid, Burgos, Segovia, Murcia, and Seville. The
dukes of Bejar faced peasant riots at least five times between 1628 and 1648. To
some degree, noble resentment of Olivares and his foreign and fiscal policies was

Memorial historic0, vol. 14, 431, entry of 19 June 1638.


The Limits of Royal Authority

being translated into popular resentment. The critical economic tracts of the
arbitristas were circulated, and the clergy, righting to protect itself from the
Crown's treasurers, delivered sermons increasingly aimed at Olivares' fiscal policies and the alleged extravagance and corruption of the royal court. The victory
over the French at Fuenterrabia in September 1638, therefore, came at an opportune moment. The excuse for enormous and lavish festivities in most Castilian
towns and cities, the event was, in I. A. A. Thompson's words, "perhaps as
important as anything else in saving Castile from widespread civil disorder."113
People appeared less willing to riot over conscription than over taxes, probably
because there were fewer ways of resisting taxes than there were of resisting the
military, and because everyone could always hope that someone else's name would
be drawn from the urn.114 Put simply, tax resisters could pay, not pay, or riot; draft
resisters had more options. Even when they had exhausted all institutional channels, they had non-institutional alternatives that fell short of rioting. There are
reports of townspeople, aided by their constables or clergy, surrounding recruits
and separating them from visiting military officials in order to impede their passage.
They also harassed the military, and even their own militia, resentful of the abuses
of billetted recruiters and militia officers. Towns that had won exemption from
billetting, usually as a reward for service to the Crown, fought hard to retain that
Organized town rebellions, however, were rare. This was due to a combination of
factors: the institutional and legal avenues available to town councils; the use of
outcasts and outsiders as conscripts; and the proven, maddening effectiveness of
such passive-aggressive techniques by individuals and corporations as delay, not
responding, hiding, and desertion. But there were times when responses did take a
collective, radical turn. That is what happened in Villafranca, near Seville, part of
the estate of Don Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, the fourth duke of Arcos.116
Like most Andalusian nobles, the duke was called upon during the summer of
1635 to provide men; his quota was initially 200, though it was eventually raised to
500. Villafranca was supposed to send thirty soldiers to Cadiz. But when the duke
ordered his town authorities to deliver the men, "the vecinos rioted and rebelled and



Thompson, "The Government of Spain in the Reign of Philip IV" in his Crown and Cortes, 46-8.
The Basque town of Fuenterrabia was under siege by the army of Conde from July to September.
The sites of tax riots are taken from Thompson, who provides no source. On the Andalusian riots,
see Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, Alteraciones andaluzas (Madrid: Narcea, S.A., 1973). On Bejar, see
Jago, "The 'Crisis of the Aristocracy'," in Past and Present, no. 84 (1979), 79.
Charles Tilly might disagree. According to him, European states gradually moved away from seizure
of the means of war (including men) and toward their purchase (i.e. taxes) because "the mass of the
subject population resisted direct seizure of men, food, weapons, transport, and other means of war
much more vigorously and effectively than they fought against paying for them." Charles Tilly,
Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD ggo-iggo (Cambridge, Mass.: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 84.
For a general study of the impact of billetting in rural areas see Myron P. Gutmann, War and Rural
Life in the Early Modern Low Countries (Princeton University Press, 1980), ch. 2.
The town referred to in the documents as Villafranca was Villafranca y los Palacios, also known as
Villafranca de la Marisma; today it is called Palacios y Villafranca.


Common claims
lost respect for the alcalde mayor and were intent upon killing him," according to a
report by the Council of War. The council decided to prosecute several townsmen
for having prevented the alcalde mayor from unfurling his recruitment flag:
They organized to resist the order to raise thirty soldiers, saying they did not want to
comply, and they threatened to kill the alcalde mayor and other judicial officials if they
insisted. They met for many nights in the home of Juan Esteban Madrono who, as a rich and
well-connected man, accustomed to committing serious offenses, accompanied them. The
alcalde mayor, seeing it was impossible to capture them, announced he had divided the
vecinos into groups of eight men and that each group should raise a soldier. Not only did they
not obey, but they had collected gunpowder and bullets, arquebuses and other weapons to
stop execution of the levy.117

Worried that such subversion would set a bad example for other towns, the Council
of War undertook an investigation of the events in order to punish those responsible. It sent a judge, a constable, and a clerk, all at the town's expense, who were to
spend a maximum of forty days in the town, not counting the journey there and
Villafranca's violent outburst should not have come as a surprise. In the summer
of 1634, one year before the riot, it had harassed and jailed a militia lieutenant
instead of treating him with the proper respect and ceremony. The reason was that
the town had a lawsuit pending in the Council of Castile alleging it was exempt
from militia obligations because it had two companies prepared to serve in Gibraltar and was obliged to serve with no more than fifteen soldiers. Even when the king
sent a warrant directly ordering the town to behave, it refused: "Having heard and
understood [the warrant, the alcaldes] said they obeyed . . . and as for compliance
they beg His Majesty to hear them because this town belongs to His Excellency the
duke of Arcos and it has a suit pending . . . " Il8 The alcaldes then hired Don
Feliciano de Silva, who lived in Madrid, to appear on their behalf before the king
and the Council of War to ask that the militia lieutenant's appointment be
revoked.119 So, the town had had some sort of altercation which led it tofilethe suit
in the first place. It then suffered the indignity of having the militia lieutenant
thrust upon it. It was also, according to its power of attorney to Silva, "wanting and
poor, and many companies of soldiers pass through here and are billetted with the
poor." The demand for thirty soldiers in 1635, then, obviously was the last straw.
Corregidores in their reports to Madrid often referred to alborotos, or public
disturbances, in the cities. It usually is hard to say if these were organized riots,
threats of riots, or just scattered acts of violence. But the danger that angry vecinos
would turn violent was always there. In Murcia, where the one-percent levy had
been under way since November 1638 and had been met with every legal obstacle
the city could think of, the storm seemed on the verge of breaking. Corregidor

AGS GA, leg. 1124, consulta Council of War, 30 September 1635.

AHN Osuna 242.2.19, town's response to cedula of 13 July 1634.



AHN Osuna 142.2.18.

The Limits of Royal Authority

Pedro de Cordoba in June 1640 had tried to hold a lottery of married men, which he
had had to cut short:
There was such an outcry, curses and tears from the poor women, children, dependants, and
relatives, and threats, meetings, and weaponry that everyone aimed at the judges, regidores
and other officials who wanted to capture them, that I thought it best to put a stop to it and
release the few men I had in jail.120

The corregidor himself had had to visit the various neighborhoods of the city and
speak to the crowds "with very soft and loving words, telling them that they and the
others could remain calm in their homes and jobs because neither His Majesty nor
[the corregidor] in his name will try to capture married men for this service."121
Worse, he told the king, reliable sources had told him that groups of men
(quadrillas) had been organizing and arming themselves, ready to attack the judges
and city councilmen. Whereas in the interior of Castile there had been orders to
turn over weapons for the war effort, it is unlikely that occurred in towns near or on
the coast, such as Murcia (or Villafranca), where the need to defend themselves
against frequent attacks by corsairs meant men had to keep their guns. Selfdefense, then, was another reason men in coastal towns resisted conscription; they
were needed at home, they argued.
The vecinos of Murcia were restless ("inquietos") and mistrustful, and they
refused to gather in their churches to hold their one-percent lotteries. By August,
Pedro de Cordoba had made no progress. There were no volunteers, no troublemakers to capture, no men at all, since anyone not yet conscripted had escaped to
the mountains or to Valencia. Meanwhile, the region's silk industry was collapsing
because nearly all the artisans had fled; only a few remained, working secretly in
churches or in other hiding places to avoid being sent to the army. The city
councilmen were sitting in jail, rather than comply, but it was "more than
impossible" that such a measure would have any effect, the corregidor wrote. He
pleaded with the king to allow the city to convert its obligation to money, paying
forty ducats per soldier. His request was turned down, although as the months went
by and it was clear Murcia was not going to surrender a single soldier, negotiations
with the Cortes began in order to offset the city's one-percent levy with its garrison
quota.122 The vecinosy threats of violence, backed up by firepower, combined with
the massive withdrawal by men from the city, won Murcia some relief.
On occasion, acts of resistance were seemingly prompted by aims reaching
beyond the participants' own community. Armed men occasionally swooped down
on recruits being taken away; usually townspeople would simply be recovering their
own men. But Alburquerque (Badajoz) reported such an instance in 1634 that was
quite different. For the purposes of the garrison levy, Alburquerque was subject to

AGS GA, leg. 1363, Pedro de Cordoba to king, 21 August 1640.
AGS GA, leg. 1372, autos.
AGS GA, leg. 1363, consulta Junta de Ejecucion, 15 September 1640; AGS GA, leg. 1337, consulta
Council of War, 9 October 1640.


Common claims
Salamanca, which told it to raise twenty-six men and ship them to Lisbon. On their
way in early August, the recruits were resting in a Portuguese hospice when
suddenly they were intercepted by some 200 armed men:
With great uproar and against the will of the corporal and the guards, they took the soldiers
and removed their handcuffs and chains and freed them and told them to leave, which they
did . .. .And they threatened to kill the corporal and guards if they said a word, calling them
ugly and insulting names, and the whole town gathered with various weapons to kill them . . .
saying they would free all the soldiers who passed by there and that they had killed many
captains and corporals who were taking soldiers to port. . . I23

So, Alburquerque lost its twenty-six soldiers. In September it sent "the rest" of its
men, and the story sounded familiar. Three days into Portugal, in an abandoned
village called La Charneca, six masked men carrying shotguns, accompanied by
many more men not wearing masks, appeared on the scene:
They aimed at the corporals' and guards' chests to kill them, saying very brazen things of a
greatly insolent and audacious nature. One of the corporals said it was not right to speak that
way, and they wounded him five or six times in the head and arms, leaving him on the
ground for dead. The other corporal would have suffered the same fate had he not escaped
with his horse. They took the soldiers to the hills, where they removed their chains and
handcuffs and released them separately so they could not join together, and they wanted to
kill those who had been volunteers.124

The two encounters, if true, were remarkable. Even if they were not true, and were
just an elaborate lie by Alburquerque to get out of supplying soldiers, they were still
extremely revealing stories. These bandits were freeing soldiers out of principle,
not because they were local men. Significantly, they were especially virulent toward
volunteers and officers. They freed soldiers one by one, scattering them to prevent
them from regrouping, a measure which could either be motivated by pure
animosity or, more likely, a tactic to destroy military units. A group of men might
eventually make its way to Lisbon; individual men would probably go home. The
possibility that the bandits were Portuguese patriots who attacked Castilian troops
out of nationalist fervor can probably be discounted because it was not considered
by the Council of War or its sources in Alburquerque.
There were other acts of violence that also spoke to motives not merely parochial,
though they seem to have occurred rarely. Troops being moved from Madrid to
Catalonia, for example, generally passed through the town of Vicalvaro, today a
working-class suburb of the capital; Captain Gaspar de Voider reported in June
1635 that townspeople there had killed one of his men and had broken theflagmast

AGS GA, leg. 1124, consulta Consejo de Guerra de Justicia, 27 October 1634.
Ibid. The incident came to the attention of the Council of War because Alburquerque refused to
supply Salamanca with another twenty-six men. Bandits were also known to attack convoys of troops
and then make use of their captives to reinforce their own numbers. See Parker, Army ofFlanders, 47.

The Limits of Royal Authority

and the jineta, the insignia lance carried by the infantry captain. Rather than protect
recruits from the military, the people of Vicalvaro saw the company as the enemy,
killed one of its members, and destroyed its two most visible symbols.125
Violence might break out because a town had unremittingly endured violations
of its rights by the Crown, or because its inhabitants were especially vociferous, or
because there were simply no men left whom the town felt it could spare. These
rare outbursts occurred when other methods had failed and only because the issue
at stake - men, privilege, self-defense, precedent, litigation - was of exceptional
importance. Castilians did not squander violent means by excessive use. They
saved it for special occasions, aiming it efficiently against a few individuals or a few

These accounts of lotteries, exemptions, evasions, desertion, and defiance illuminate common people's relationship to the structures of royal authority in seventeenth-century Castile and their understanding of their role, their place, and their
possibilities. To the degree that they considered the system theirs, they worked
with it, adapted it, pushed it as far as it would go. By separating those who belonged
from those who did not, they underscored the boundaries of their society, implicitly affirming the legitimacy of the social order within those boundaries. If previous
chapters demonstrated how the language of jurisdiction and the weight of legal
precedent enabled institutions to challenge the Crown, or enabled individuals to
use those institutions to challenge the Crown, this last chapter has shown that
individuals on their own also were capable of such action. In that sense, they were
participants and creators.
Under certain circumstances, however, because they had exhausted the alternatives or had nothing to lose, they renounced their loyalty and their allegiance; they
neither obeyed nor complied. The rhetoric of vassalage either had ceased being
effective or had never been so for them; as they so often said, the orders u do not
speak to us." Their wish that the monarchy "last for infinite years and for ever and
ever," if ever it had been sincere, faded as their taxes increased and the male
population diminished. In the mind of some Castilians, the contract between ruler
and vassal at some point had been violated, and it no longer bound them.126

AGS GA, leg. 1124, consulta Council of War, 25 June 1635.

AV, 433645, town council of Moratilla (Madrid) to corregidor, 19 June 1634.


The mayor of the town of Etxarri Aranatz, in Navarre . . . has been sentenced by the
Pamplona superior court to six years of disqualification for public office and to a fine
of 100,000 pesetas for the crime of disobeying higher authority. [He] refused, in
accordance with the unanimous vote of the town council, to uphold two court rulings
that abrogated municipal decisions opposing cooperation with the Army in . . .
posting the lists of the town's eligible recruits. [He] is the first mayor to be sentenced
in Spain for refusing to cooperate in recruiting soldiers.
El Pais, Madrid, 5 May 1993
Alarmed that nearly half of all young men in Spain who are eligible for the draft claim
to be conscientious objectors, the government has come up with a [new] policy . . .
When on duty, [soldiers] now have a right to disobey orders that violate the law . . . If
they feel they have been abused, they can circumvent military authorities and
complain directly to Spain's ombudsman . . . For Spain's top brass, these are hardly
changes designed to create a tough citizens army. But if trends continue, they also
know they may soon be without soldiers.
New York Times, 6 August 1994

Political life in seventeenth-century Castile was distinctly unsettled: Allegiance,

hierarchy, authority, and administration were subject to interpretation and contingency resulting from, on the one hand, a series of deep political and financial crises
and, on the other hand, a system of rule based on the defense of certain fundamental rights. The chart in the Introduction, which represents the various sites from
which authority emanated, should now appear more three-dimensional than it did
when first seen, for there was an unexpected quality to the processes by which the
king's interests were transformed into commands and then acted upon. The shape
of political relations was always changing. This vibrancy was more than just the
result of popular resistance to royal orders; it was the manifestation of a generalized
belief that rights were shared by all and that no authority, not even the king's, was
Political structures and institutions must be placed alongside political practice,
and in the space of their contradictions we can often detect how people understand
their place in society, which rules they are willing to break, and how high a price
they will pay for remaining loyal. Institutions - whether pertaining to the Crown or

The Limits of Royal Authority

to a village - exist as a process, as a relationship to real people who live and struggle
within their confines. They may reflect beliefs and practices, or they may not. In
any case, this correlation will always be changing. In addition, institutions may
contradict one another, embodying different notions of authority and responsibility
because they correspond to different eras. Municipal fueros and absolute monarchy
do not belong on the same stage, but there they are. The disjunctions, rather than
cause us to regret Spain's incurable anachronism, should serve as a confirmation
that practice, belief, language, and institutions rarely fall in line. They are created
and used and transformed by people. Such disjunctions can sometimes lead to
crisis; in mid-seventeenth-century Castile, however, they did not, because there
was enough slippage and because the shared language of obedience allowed people
to be political actors.
Of course, war transforms social and political relations, and, obviously, we
cannot know what the 1640s would have been like without the wars. But never is
there so much urgency, so little money, and so many orders as during wartime, and
therefore it is a period that makes especially manifest what a society's structures of
power really are. Military recruitment, because it placed so much at stake jurisdictional advantage, status, and power, in addition to human lives forced to
the surface practices, tensions, and expedients that revealed certain essential
qualities about the society that otherwise might have been more difficult to
perceive. The king and Olivares immediately looked to the nobility for aid and used
the time-honored benefits of the mayorazgo; cities and towns asserted the rights and
privileges they had won or been granted centuries earlier; communities explicitly or
implicitly reserved those men they considered worthy neighbors and cleansed the
rest. Individuals and corporations turned to the means that made the most sense
and that had proven the most reliable in the past, the ones that best served their
ideological and practical purposes. In a sense, recruitment compressed time; it
obliged people and institutions to take a stand.
In such a situation, loyalty acquires particular importance, for it determines with
whom one throws in one's lot. This study has described the degree to which the
king's vassals were moved by loyalty and how loyalty could be used to justify both
obedience and disobedience. The fact that the king's common vassals apparently
did not hesitate to write to him indicates it was not an unusual practice, but it is also
logical to think that this correspondence picked up notably during wartime. And if
there were more instances of commoners turning to their king for protection, then
these personal bonds were growing stronger and more direct precisely at a time
characterized by the gradual emergence of more depersonalized systems of rule.
This is but one of the paradoxical consequences of the crisis of the 1630s and
1640s that has implications for our understanding of the relationship between the
king and his kingdom and the shape of the early modern Castilian state. The mutual
obligations between the king and the lords also grew in significance during the
mid-seventeenth-century as the king turned to the men he called his cousins and

they, in exchange, received privileges and favors that ended up perpetuating the
mayorazgo system. The response of the aristocracy should, one hopes, end speculation regarding the fatal nature of its crisis.
And just as the Castilian nobility survived despite its staggering debts, the
Spanish military endured in the face of repeated defeats. It remained on its feet
thanks to the Crown's ability to persuade bankers to lend money, merchants to
advance provisions, and cities and lords to turn over recruits - but always at a price.
This search for resources and the financial or political price the Crown had to pay
reflected (or resulted in) a decentralized, disaggregated, often ad hoc form of rule.
This systemic flexibility, the unsettled, ill-defined lines of command - along with
undeniable personal sacrifice and talent - enabled Spain to raise an army. As
Geoffrey Parker remarked about an earlier period, it was the chaotic character of
the Crown's finances that prevented a universal revolt.
The fact that Spanish administration during the seventeenth century was so
marked by improvisation traditionally has fit in nicely with the "decline" narrative.
But, whereas it is true that the monarchy had to scramble for resources, and
planning was conspicuously absent or successfully thwarted, this study has shown
that apparent weaknesses could conceal important strengths. Raising an army was
clearly not an easy task. Resistance could be found in nearly all quarters. Even
though there may have been no intent to challenge royal authority, the proliferation
of jurisdictions seemed designed to have just that effect. With members of competing royal councils and juntas all qualified to speak on behalf of the king but often
representing different or even opposing interests, disputes were inevitable. Disagreements were frequent between officials in charge of raising men and those in
charge of raising money, just as there were contradictions between the aims of the
men commanding the army and the priorities of those whose task it was to recruit
soldiers; the former were set upon building an efficient fighting force while the
latter, including city officials and corregidores, had to attend to the wide range of
social and political consequences of recruitment. Charging the Cortes with raising
18,000 men for the garrisons and explicitly linking that recruitment effort to a fiscal
subsidy, the millones, was an act bound to bring the cities, the Cortes, and the
Crown into conflict with one another. Granting full judicial powers to royal
ministers appointed to organize the militia or capture deserters was a measure that
angered the corregidores, who were also royally appointed judges.
Such tension and inexact delegation of authority illustrates the ambiguous
nature of what it meant to speak in the king's name. It also underlines the difficulty
of devising good models of state-building. Given Spain's proven capacity for
waging war, it should have had a large, centralized bureaucracy dedicated to
administering its military adventures. The fact that it did not, or at least that it did
not have one that worked according to what are usually considered rational criteria,
shows either that the "military revolution" in some respects passed Spain by and
that Spain was an exception to the rule, or that the rule needs to be reconsidered.

The Limits of Roy al Authority

Because commands carrying royal authority could originate in so many locations,
orders were of supreme importance: how they were worded, what they looked like,
who issued them, and through which channels. Both authors and recipients of
orders were preoccupied with understanding precisely what the king's desire was
and how best to serve his interest. Concern with orders also provided almost
limitless opportunities for ensuring, for as long as possible, that no action at all
would be taken. Many of the confrontations resulting from recruitment, particularly involving town councils, ended up being litigated, and much of the discussion
surrounding those lawsuits concerned the exact nature of recruitment orders and
whether or not they were in violation of previous orders or royal privileges. One
could interpret this tendency as a clever means for avoiding an unwelcome burden,
but it also should be seen as an authentic reflection of how meaningful the rhetoric
of rights and privileges really was for individuals and corporations. Litigation was
one way they could show that.
Neither litigation nor other, less institutional methods of resisting recruitment,
such as losing, misinterpreting, or ignoring orders, or outright harassment of the
military, were undertaken as acts of defiance against the Crown. Rather, as we have
seen, they were accompanied by declarations of loyalty to the king and explanations
of why his best interests would not be served by compliance with a particular order.
The men and women in this study are the grandchildren of the late-sixteenthcentury mutineers of the Army of Flanders who defied the king in his own name,
elected councils to replace the military hierarchy, presented lists of grievances and
demands, and negotiated with their superiors as equals. Beneath the tactics to avoid
military service, which usually gave plaintiffs a short-term gain, though perhaps
not all they wanted, lay an emphatic insistence on people's obligation to do virtually
anything necessary to establish and ensure their rights, for in so doing they were
also reaffirming the king's power, which could be realized only through a contract
with them. Nowhere was this notion of a contract so clearly set out as in the millones
agreements between the king and the Cortes. Raising an army was explicitly placed
in the realm of a true written contract, a series of conditions that both parties had to
Reciprocity was not just a theory but a series of requirements that had to be
satisfied, and cities and the Cortes did everything they could to hold the king to his
word. In large part, Castilians' "failure to rebel" can be explained in the context of
this relationship between the king and his kingdom. Legal and procedural recourses
took up a great deal of time and thought. They were not retreats from more costly
or violent confrontations with authority but, rather, means by which Castilians
could challenge the Crown and at the same time powerfully affirm their own,
legitimate place on the political map.
The portrait that emerges is not the usual one of a submissive populace and a
docile Cortes whose member cities' spirit had been sapped in the early sixteenth
century. Castile's people and institutions have been gravely underestimated by

generations of historians who have mistaken absence of rebellion for acquiescence.
To some degree, the self-assured actors in this study made and shaped and set the
limits to absolutism. The monarchy did not always serve their purpose; they did
not always win their fights with magistrates or recruiting sergeants or city councils,
and many of them did, indeed, go to war. But along the way they made it
unequivocally clear that they were vassals whose loyalty was not unconditional, that
their duty was derived from a pact, and that such a pact ennobled them all.


alarde militia drill or review
alcabala sales tax, nominally ten percent though usually less
alcaldes de casa y corte royal magistrates with jurisdiction over the capital city;
their chambers were part of the Council of Castile
alcalde de crimen criminal judge
alcalde mayor local appelate judge
alcalde ordinario first-instance judge
alguacil municipal constable or sheriff
arbitrio local tax, enclosure, or other expedient, subject to royal approval, for the
purpose of paying Crown impositions
arbitrista writer of treatises on economic and fiscal reform
arroba measure of weight, 11.5 kg
asiento a contract with the crown to provide a service, goods, or money
auto a legal judgment or sentence
ayuntamiento city or town council
azumbre liquid measure, a little over 2 liters
baldio crown lands generally available for public use, usually for pasture
bandera flag; military or city officials would raise aflagto signal a recruiting site
bando public edict
behetria towns that in medieval times freely selected their lord; by the seventeenth
century, and even earlier, they were barely distinguishable from other towns
cabo corporal; used to accompany soldiers to the garrisons
cajas boxes or crates; along with the flag, a necessary component of a recruiting
cantara liquid measure, around 16 liters (8 azumbres)
carga measure of grain or land (4 fanegas)
cedula royal warrant
celemin measure of grain or land (j^fanega)
censo private or municipal mortgage serviced from local rents and excises or from
entailed estate revenues
Chancilleria royal appelate courts in Valladolid and Granada, subordinate only to
the Council of Castile
ciudad city; only cities (and Madrid, a villa) sent representatives to the Cortes

composicion agreement with the crown whereby cities or towns provided money
instead of soldiers
concejo town or village council
consejo royal council
consulta recommendation to the king from one of his councils
coronelia military detachment whose honorary head was a nobleman
corregidor chief royal agent in the cities; he presided over city council meetings
and acted as appeals judge
corregimiento the district of the corregidor
Cortes Castilian Assembly
dehesa enclosed land
despoblado deserted village
donativo nominally voluntary royal tax
ducado ducat, coin of account (375 maravedis)
encabezamiento lump-sum tax payment
encomienda town forming part of a military order
escribano town clerk or notary
escudo gold coin worth 10 reales, or between 340 and 440 maravedis
facultad permission, usually from the king
fanega measure of land (2,236 square meters) or the amount of grain required to
sow that area; the latter varies by crop
habito habit, or membership, in a military order
hidalguia status exempting one from paying taxes
Jornada royal journey to the front
junta board or council; ad hoc policy groups established by Olivares
juro negotiable annuity or bond issued by the crown
juro al quitar redeemable bond, usually short-term
lanzas tax on lords in commutation of obligation to serve with mounted lancers
legua Castilian league, around three miles.
leva recruitment levy, both of volunteers and of conscripts
linaje clan of municipal elites
lugar dependent village
maestre de campo commander of a tercio
malentretenido good-for-nothing
maravedi coin of account
mayorazgo entailed estate
mayordomo de propios steward in charge of municipal properties
media anata tax introduced in 1631 on the first year's income from offices and
memorial petition
merced royal grant or favor, usually as a reward
millones subsidy first made by the Cortes in 1589 and renewed thereafter

ocioso idler
oidor judge who would hear (oir) cases
papel sellado stamp duty on documents, introduced in 1637
partido district
patente license to recruit soldiers
plata silver
poder consultivo limited power to Cortes representatives, who were unable to
vote without first consulting with their cities
poder decisivo full power to Cortes representatives to decide matters without first
consulting with their cities
posito municipal granary
presidio garrison
procurador del comun representative of the commons on the city council
procurador de las Cortes city's representative to the Cortes
propios municipal lands or buildings which could be rented out
quinta recruitment call-up or lottery
real silver coin (34 maravedis)
realengo territory in the royal jurisdictional domain
receptor treasurer of certain municipal funds
regidor municipal councilman
regimiento municipal corporation
repartimiento assessment of soldiers or money
sargento mayor sergeant major, regional militia officer
senorio territory under seigneurial jurisdictional domain
servicio grant by the Cortes to the crown
sisa local excise tax, usually on foodstuffs
socorro advance payment to soldiers
suertes lottery
tercio infantry unit of about 2,500 men
tercio provincial militia companies
tesorero treasurer, local finance official
valido royal favorite and chief minister
vecino head of household
Note: Population is generally estimated by multiplying the number ofvecinos by 4.5
or 5, a problematic equation. Towns could either underestimate or exaggerate
the number of vecinos, depending upon the purpose of the survey. Some groups,
such as the clergy and hidalgos, were sometimes, but not always, excluded, and
servants, slaves, prisoners, soldiers, and vagabonds are difficult to account for.
vellon alloy coinage
villa autonomous town; Madrid was also called a villa
visita judicial investigation of public officials


ACD Archivo del Congreso de los Diputados

AGMS Archivo General Militar de Segovia
AGS Archivo General de Simancas
CC Camara de Castilla
CJH Consejos y Juntas de Hacienda
CS(2) Contaduria del Sueldo, 2nd series
E Estado
GA Guerra Antigua
AHMP Archivo Historico Municipal de Palencia
AHMS Archivo Historico Municipal de Salamanca
AHN Archivo Historico Nacional
CS Consejos Suprimidos
Frias (Oropesa)
Frias (Velasco)
AHPA Archivo Historico Provincial de Avila
AHPZ Archivo Historico Provincial de Zamora
AMB Archivo Municipal de Burgos
AMBC Archivo Municipal de Becerril de Campos
AMBe Archivo Municipal de Benavente
AMS Archivo Municipal de Segovia
AMV Archivo Municipal de Valladolid
ARCV Archivo de la Real Chancilleria de Valladolid
DM SG Documentation Municipal, Secretaria General
AV Archivo de Villa, Madrid
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
BCM Biblioteca Central Militar, Madrid, Coleccion Aparici
BN Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid


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absolutism, theories of, 2-3, 1011, 96-7,
1001, 173-7
Admiral of Castile, Juan Alonso Enriquez de
Cabrera, 6, 103, 105
age (of soldiers), 1245, 136, 137, 142, 144
Alba de Aliste, count of, 36-7, 148, 291
Alba, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 6th duke of,
102, 103, 104, 112, 123
Alburquerque (Badajoz), 1701
alcaldes de casay corte (Madrid magistrates), 33,
40-2, 127, 138 n., 139
Amezqueta, Pedro de, corregidor and magistrate,
38,41, 127, 128, 129, 140
appeals and petitions, 132, 133, 135, 140-6, 150,
151-2,156, 1578, 167
arbitristas, seventeenth-century tract writers, 12,
16, 27, 61, 108, 160, 168
Arcos, Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, 4th duke of, 104,
Arce, Pedro de, council secretary, 28
Arevalo de Zuazo, Francisco, corregidor, 65, 85
army, size of, 67
Avila, city of, 30, 68-9, 75, 77, 82, 83, 88, 106,
139, 145
Becerril de Campos (Palencia), 70, 75, 128, 158
Bejar, estate of, 103, 121-3, 154, 167
Bejar, Alonso Lopez de Zuniga, 8th duke of,
104, 1219

Bejar, Francisco Lopez de Zuniga, 7th duke of

(d. November 1636), 49, 76, 77, 118, 122,
Benavente (Zamora), 153
billetting, 50, 52, 97, 118, 145, 153, 168
Burgos, city of, 30, 61, 65, 71, 75, 76, 789, 82,
84, 88, 89-92, 106, 148, 165-6, 167
Burguillos (Badajoz), 123-9, J53> J54
butchers, 1389

Cartagena (Murcia), 38, 158, 164

Castillo de Bovadilla, Geronimo, 24, 32, 41, 65,
99n., 109, 112, 138, 153-4, I ^ 1
Castrillo, Garcia de Haro y Avellaneda, count of,
32,49,51,52,53,67, 103
Castrofuerte, Pedro Pacheco, Marquis of, 28, 41,
74, 149-50
Catalonia, 6, 13, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 166, 171
Cellorigo, Martin Gonzalez de, arbitrista, 12, 108

municipal mortgages, 71-2

on seigneurial estates, 1089, II 3~ I 4? lll->
119, 130
Cervera y Lasarte, Bernardo de, magistrate,
35-6, 39
Chacon Ponce de Leon, Juan de, magistrate, 141,
Chamber of Castile, 57, 109
Chancilleria of Valladolid, 33-40, 56, 63, 66, 76,
118, 141, 142, 143, 145, 149
Charles II, king of Spain (1665-1700), 17, 32, 112
Charles V, emperor and king of Spain
(1516-1556), 11, 43, n o n .
Chaves, Juan de (Olivares creature), 128
church, 10, 46, 48, 66, 75, 78, 79, 80, 101, 109,
122, 139, 1401, 168

Cid, Nicolas, royal councilor, 28

city councils, 62-7, 82-3, 88, 106
Coloma, Carlos, ambassador and royal councilor,
Colonels Junta, 29-31, 37, 39, 7680, 109, n o ,
i n , 113, 116, 120, 123, 128, 129, 139

common good, 1, 24, 67, 85, 89, 96, 97, 160

Comunero Revolt, 14, 24, 43, 62
concejo abierto, open village council meeting, 67,
conciliar system, 25-6, 175
Constable of Castile, Bernardino Fernandez de
Velasco, 7th, 54, 79, 88, 104, 105, 118
Contreras, Antonio de, royal councilor, 49, 93-4
Contreras Benavides, Mendo, corregidor, 1249
coronelias, noble regiments, 29, 54, 104-6,

Cadiz, 164, 168

cajasy banderas, recruiting stations, 84-6, 88,

Camporredondo, Antonio de, royal councilor, 49

iio-n, 113, 118-19


coronelia of the Count-Duke, 35, 69, 70, 84, 106
corregidores, 33, 37, 40, 45, 52, 62, 64-7, 72-3,
78-80, 89, 117-18, 120-1, 146, 165 n., 167,
169, 175
Cortes of Castile, 3, 14, 17, 23, 42-7, 49-54,
57-60, 89, 124, 133-4, i37> 160, 164, 170,
175, 176
Council of Castile, 2, 33, 38, 41, 47, 48, 49, 57,
Council of Finance, 9, 28 n., 2931, 45, 49, 115
Council of Orders, 106 n., 107, 112
Council of State, 27, 33, 41, 47, 101
Council of War, 269, 33, 39-40, 41, 47, 49, 78,
84, 92, 93, 107, 114, 118, 132, 133, 140,
143, 147-9, 159, 163, 165 n., 167, 169, 171

Herencia (Toledo), 155

hidalgos, 34, 95, 138, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144-5
Hinojosa, marquis of and count of Aguilar, 54,
illness and disabilities, 125, 136, 141-2, 147
impressment, 8, 77, 99, 124-6, 130, 136, 146,
Infantado, Juan Hurtado de Mendoza de la Vega
y Luna, 6th duke of, 49, 54
Infantado, Rodrigo Diaz del Vivar y Mendoza,
7th duke of, 105, 106
Inquisition, 33, 66, 138, 149
Italy, 28, 47, 69

"decline of Spain," debate of, 12-3, 175

dehesas, enclosed lands, 67-8, 94-5, 109-10, 112,
113-17, 122, 129
desertion, 8, 34-5, 46, 53, 55, 75, 77, 79-80, 87,
88, 130, 1367, 145,146-50, 152, 157, 159,
161-7, 170
donativos, grants to the Crown, 34, 64, 68, 72, 74,
78, 79, 91, 96, 104, 113
Enriquez de Sotomayor, Alonso, magistrate,
Escalona, Diego Roque Lopez Pacheco Cabrera y
Bobadilla, duke of, 110-12, 113, 114, 118,

exemptions (to conscription), 137-43, J47

Ferdinand, Cardinal-Infante, 52, 104, 165
Fernandez Navarrete, Pedro, arbitrista, 160
Flanders, 4, 5, 6, 7, 47, 52, 104, 139, 165,
France, 5-7, 9n., 29, 37, 54, 57, 72, 73, 75, 81,
101, iO4n., 105
Fuenmayor, Geronimo, magistrate, 34, 149
Fuenterrabia (Guipuzcoa), 6, 11 n., 57, 164, 168
galleys, 29, 37-8, 47, 139, 164
gambling, 84, 153
garrisons, levies for, 29, 35, 4660 passim, 80, 93,
97, 104, 175
Giron, Antonio, captain, 54-5
Giron, Diego de, corregidor, 78
Gonzalez, Jose (Olivares creature), 28, 49, 74,
128, 149
granaries, 71, 73, 110-11, 113, 133, 149
Gudiel, Luis, minister, 74
Guerrero, Pedro, corregidor, 40, 165
guilds, 1478, 150-2, 157-8, 163
Guzman, Fernando de, sergeant major, 85-6, 92
Gypsies, 139, 160 n.

Juarros (Burgos), 90-2

junta system, 17, 269, 32, 103, 175
Junta de Coroneles, see Colonels Junta
Junta de Ejecucion, 28-9, 30, 31, 39, 41, 139,
149, 157
Junta de Obediencia, 103
Leon, city of, 35-6, 57, 67, 75, 82, 106, 118, 138
Levy of the Cities, 29, 64, 75-8, 79, 80, 89, 90,
Levy of the Corregidores, 29, 35, 64, 78-80
Lezama, Antonio de, magistrate, 35
lotteries, quintas (for conscription), 8, 18, 81, 83,
85, 87, 97, 99, 134-161 passim
Louis XIII, King of France, 5
Madrid, city of, 40-1, 53, 58, 63, 64 n., 65, 69,
82, 97, 106, 119, 120, 13940, 143, 145, 147,
151-2, 153, 158, 162-4, 165, 171
Madridejos (Toledo), 155-6
Mantuan succession, war of, 5
Mariana, Juan de, 23
marriage, married men, 81, 82 n., 124-5, J 3^,
137-8, 140-1, 159-60, 170
mayorazgo (entailed estates), 107-10, 117,
Medina del Campo (Valladolid), 63
Medina de Rioseco (Valladolid), 72, 166
Medina Sidonia, Gaspar Perez de Guzman, 9th
duke of, 49, 104
Mesta, 16, 48
military orders and hdbitos, 75, 76, 106-7, 122,
124, 140
"military revolution," theory of, ion., 175
militia, 17, 35-6, 47, 50, 54, 64, 68, 80-8, 118,
119, 137, 138, 140, 168, 169
millones, 10, 17, 301, 43-7, 49-60 passim, 65, 68,
69,72,78,79,80,93,97, 175
Monasterio, Octavio Centurion, marquis of, 51,


Riafio de Gamboa, Diego de, magistrate, in
charge of the militia, 34, 74, 82, 85, 86, 88,
118, 134, 137, 140,143
Richelieu, Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal of, 7
riots and social violence, 54, 167-72
Ruiz de Contreras, Fernando de Fonseca,
council secretary, 28, 35

Monterrey, Manuel de Acevedo y Zuniga, 6th

count of, 103, 104, 107
Mufio (Burgos), 90
Murcia, city of, 158, 167, 169-70
Nader, Helen, 96-8
nobility, 17-18, 37, 48-9, 99-131 passim, 174-5;
recruitment by, 76, 77, 80, 118-21, 1239
levies of, 107

Salamanca, city of, 75, 79, 82, 87, 118, 138, 170
Segovia, city of, 70, 75, 78, 82, 167
senorio, jurisdiction of, 18, 99-100, n 7-31 passim
silk industry, 138, 170
sisas (excise taxes), 10, 44, 45, 50, 58, 66, 69-70,
72-3, 83, 84, 85, 94-6
state, theories and nature of, 10-11, 20-5, 1002,
substitutes (for conscription), 136, 145, 147-9
Suarez, Francisco, political theorist, 23

obedience, obedecery no cumplir, 1-2, 24-5, 54,

5960,80, 161, 174, 1767
Olias (Toledo), 92-3
Olivares, Gaspar de Guzman, Count-Duke of, 5,
6, 9, 13, 17, 20-2, 27-8, 32, 33, 46, 49, 51,
53, 63, 65 n., 101-7, 128, 130, 146, 167-8
one-percent levy (garrisons levy), 35, 58, 64,
72-3, 120, 123-8, 139, 169-70, 174
Oropesa, town and estate of, 112, 114-17
Oropesa, Duarte Fernando Garcia Alvarez de
Toledo, 7th count of, 49, 103, 105, 106,
u o n . , 112-17, 123, 129
Osuna, Juan Tellez Giron, 4th duke of, 49, 109
Otalora Guevara, Juan, council secretary, 31

taxes, 10, 20, 30, 49, 66-73 passim, 167, 168

salt tax, 46, 167
Thirty Years War, 5
Toledo, city and kingdom of, 33, 53, 61, 63, 65,
70, 74, 82, 85-6, 92-3, 97, 134, 149, 155-6,
159, 166, 167
Torrejon de Velasco (Madrid, 69-70
tyranny, 22-5

Palencia, city of, 54-5, 70, 74, 75, 76, 80, 118
Pastrana, Rodrigo de Silva y Mendoza, 4th duke
of, 105, 106, 119
Pefiaranda, Gaspar de Bracamonte, count of, in
charge of militia, 35, 74, 82, 84, 85, 87, 139,
Philip II, king of Spain (155698), 1,6, 11, 44,
Philip III, king of Spain (1598-1621), 4, 23, 44,
Philip IV, king of Spain (1621-65), 5-7, 17, 26,
31, 37, 42, 52, 67, 81, 82, 89, 100, 107, 109,
118, 132, 140, 142, 143, 145-6, 152, 159,
164, 174
Pizarro, Fernando, royal councilor, 68, 74, 83
Plasencia, city of, 74, 75, 82, 128
population, 16, 49, 53, 61, 73-4, 82, 84, 89, 94,
136, 142
Portugal, 6, 11 n., 13, 35, 36, 46, 56, 57, 87, 88,
104, 138, 161, 166, 167, 171
poverty, 81, 89, 94, 97, 142-3, 147
propios (municipal properties), 667, 85

Union of Arms, 7, 46
vagabonds, 77, 79, 84, 99, 154, 160
Valcarcel, Francisco de, magistrate and royal
councilor, 142
Valdes, Fernando de, corregidor, 35
Valladolid, city of, 30, 39, 63 n., 65, 70, 71, 72,
73, 74-5, 76-8, 82, 83, 87, 88, 106, 118,
138, 167
vassalage, 2-4, 60, 97, 132-4, 146, 172, 174-6
Vecario, Vicencio, corregidor, 55-6, 79
Villafranca (Seville), 168-9
village councils, 8998 passim, 133, 156
Villahermosa, Carlos de Borja y Aragon, 7th
duke of, 28
Villanueva, Geronimo, Protonotario, 28
Villanueva, Pedro, junta secretary, 30, 76, 120,
Vitoria, Francisco de, political theorist, 22, 25

Queipo de Llano, Juan, magistrate, 38, 74, 768,


women, 125, 141, 154-60

wool industry, 16, 48, 71, 138

recruitment and conscription, methods of, 8-10,

24, 47, 54, 76-7, 80, 84, 136-7, 145, 174
repartimientos de dinero (monetary assessments),
86-7, 92

Yebenes, Los (Toledo), 134-5

Zamora, city of, 36, 55-7, 59, 65, 75, 79, 82,
84-5, 88, 153 n., 162, 165



The Old World and the New*
The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road, 1567165g: The Logistics of Spanish Victory and
Defeat in the Low Countries Wars*
Richelieu and Olivares*
Absolutism and Society in Seventeenth-Century France: State Power and Provincial Aristocracy
in Languedoc*
The Princes of Orange: The Stadholders in the Dutch Republic*
The Nobility of Holland: From Knights to Regents, 1500-1650
Classes, Estates and Order in Early Modern Brittany
Early Modern Democracy in the Grisons: Social Order and Political Language in a Swiss
Mountain Canton, 14/0-1620
War, State and Society in Wurttemberg, i6/ /- i/ gj*
From Madrid to Purgatory: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth-Century Spain
The Reformation and Rural Society: The Parishes of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Kulmbach, 15281603
Labour, Science and Technology in France, 1500-1620
The King's Army: Warfare, Soldiers, and Society During the Wars of Religion in France,
Spanish Naval Power, 1580-1665: Reconstruction and Defeat
State and Nobility in Early Modern Germany: The Knightly Feud in Franconia, 1440-156/
The Quest for Compromise: Peace-Makers in Counter-Reformation Vienna
Charles XI and Swedish Absolutism,
Noble Power During the French Wars of Religion: The Guise Affinity and the Catholic Cause in

The Reformation of Community: Social Welfare and Calvinist Charity in Holland, 1572-1620

Henry IV and the Towns: The Pursuit ofLegitimacy in French Urban Society, i$8g-i6io

The Limits of Royal Authority: Resistance and Obedience in Seventeenth-Century Castile


Titles available in paperback marked with an asterisk*

The following titles are now out of print:
French Finances, ijjoiygs: From Business to Bureaucracy

Chronicle into History: An Essay in the Interpretation of History in Florentine FourteenthCentury Chronicles

France and the Estates General of 1614


Reform and Revolution in Mainz, 17431803


Altopascio: A Study in Tuscan Society 1587-1784


Gunpowder and Galleys: Changing Technology and Mediterranean Warfare at Sea in the
Sixteenth Century

The State, War and Peace: Spanish Political Thought in the Renaissance I5i6-i55g

Calvinist Preaching and Iconoclasm in the Netherlands, 1544-16g


The Kingdom of Valencia in the Seventeenth Century


Filippo Strozzi and the Medici: Favor and Finance in Sixteenth-Century Florence and Rome

Rouen During the Wars ofReligion


The Emperor and His Chancellor: A Study of the Imperial Chancellery Under Gattinara

The Military Organisation ofa Renaissance State: Venice c. 1400-1617


Neostoicism and the Early Modern State


Prussian Society and the German Order: An Aristocratic Corporation in Crisis c. 1410-1466

The Changing Face of Empire: Charles V, Philip II and Habsburg Authority, i SS2~J SS9

Turning Swiss: Cities and Empire 1450-1550

Neighbourhood and Community in Paris
The Duke ofAnjou and the Politique Struggle During the Wars of Religion
Society and Religious Toleration in Hamburg
Frontiers of Heresy: The Spanish Inquisition from the Basque Lands to Sicily
Rome in the Age of Enlightenment: The Post-Tridentine Syndrome and the Ancien Regime
Renaissance and Revolt: Essays in the Intellectual and Social History of Modern France
Louis XIV and the Origins of the Dutch War
The Cost of Empire: The Finances of the Kingdom of Naples During the Period of Spanish Rule
Lille and the Dutch Revolt: Urban Stability in an Era of Revolution
The Armada of Flanders: Spanish Maritime Policy and European War, 1568-1668
The Continuity of Feudal Power: The Caracciolo di Brienza in Spanish Naples
After the Deluge: Poland and the Second Northern War 1655-1660