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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Notwithstanding the grant of 1518


[Sidenote:

Dissatisfaction over foreign favorites and increased taxation.]

Charles had been brought up in Flanders, and, it is said, was unable to speak Spanish when he first entered the peninsula as king of Spain. His official reign began in 1516, but it was not until his arrival in the following year that the full effect of his measures began to be felt. Even before that time there was some inkling of what was to come in the appointments of foreigners, mostly Flemings, to political or ecclesiastical office in Castile. At length Charles reached Spain, surrounded by Flemish courtiers, who proceeded to supplant Spaniards not only in the favor but also in the patronage of the king. The new officials, more eager for personal profit than patriotic, began to sell privileges and the posts of lower grade to the highest bidders. Such practices could not fail to wound the feelings of Spaniards, besides which they contravened the laws, and many protests by individuals and towns were made, to which was joined the complaint of the _Cortes_ of Valladolid in 1518. To make matters worse Chi?vres, the favorite minister of the king, caused taxes to be raised. The amount of the _alcabala_ was increased, and the tax was made applicable to the hitherto privileged nobility, much against their will. In like manner the opposition of the clergy was roused through a bull procured from the pope requiring ecclesiastical estates to pay a tenth of their income to the king during a

period of three years. Furthermore it was commonly believed, no doubt with justice, that the Flemish office-holders were sending gold and other precious metals out of the country, despite the laws forbidding such export. Nevertheless the _Cortes_ of 1518 granted a generous subsidy to the king, but this was followed by new increases in royal taxation. Opposition to these practices now began to crystallize, with the nobles of Toledo taking the lead in remonstrance against them.

[Sidenote: Charles' manipulation of the _Cortes_ in Galicia.]

The situation in Castile was complicated by the question of the imperial election. Between the death of Maximilian in January, 1519, and the election of Charles in June of the same year it was necessary to pay huge bribes to the electoral princes. Once chosen, Charles accepted the imperial honor, and prepared to go to Germany to be crowned, an event which called for yet more expenditures of a substantial nature. So, notwithstanding the grant of 1518, it was decided to call the _Cortes_ early in 1520 with a view to a fresh subsidy. Since all Castile was in a state of tumult it was deemed best that the meeting should take place at some point whence an escape from the country would be easy in case of need. Thus Santiago de Compostela in Galicia was selected, and it was there that the _Cortes_ eventually met, moving to the neighboring port of Coru?a after the first few days' sessions. The call for the _Cortes_ provoked a storm of protest not only by Toledo but also by many other cities with which the first-named was in correspondence. Messengers were sent to the king to beg of him not to leave Spain, or, if he must do so, to place Spaniards in control of the affairs of state, and complaints were made against the practices already recounted and numerous others, such, for example, as the royal use of the title "Majesty," an unwonted term in Spain. From the first, Charles turned a deaf ear, refusing to receive the messengers of the towns, or reproving them when he did give them audience, and he even went so far as to order the arrest of the Toledan leaders. The _Cortes_ at length met, and gave evidence of the widespread discontent in its demands upon the king. In accordance with their instructions most of the deputies were disinclined to take up the matter of a supply for the king until he should accede to their petitions. Under the royal eye, however, they gradually modified their demands, and when Charles took it upon himself to absolve them from the pledges they had given to their constituents they voted the subsidy without obtaining any tangible redress of grievances. The king did promise not to appoint any foreigners to Spanish benefices or political holdings during his absence, but broke his word forthwith when he named Cardinal Adrian, a foreigner, as his representative and governor during his absence. This done, Charles set out in the same year, 1520, for Germany.


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