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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Especially Seville and Valencia


an almost unbelievable extent

among all classes of Madrid society; the vice of gambling converted into a profession by many persons; and, in fine, the censure of our court, by those who formed part of it and by those who did not, for its astonishing abundance and its depraved life of strumpets and wenches.... It is true that there were men of high degree who preferred the coarse sackcloth of the religious to the rich clothing of brocade and gold, and military leaders who exchanged the sword for the monkish girdle, but these were exceptions, which by the very fewness of their numbers stand out the more strongly from the general stock of that society, so accustomed to laziness, hypocrisy, routine, and external practices as it was, removed from the true paths of virtue, wisdom, and progress." If to these characteristics there are added those of the misery and ignorance of the common people, and if an exception is made of the men devoted to intellectual pursuits, the above is fairly representative of Spanish society in this period. Loose practices were prevalent in excessive degree at Madrid, which had become the capital in the time of Philip II. While such a state of affairs is not unusual in all great capitals, immorality infected all classes of society in Madrid, and little if any stigma attached in the matter. Philip IV had thirty-two illegitimate children, and Charles I and even the somewhat sombre Philip II were not without reproach. Much that is unspeakable was prevalent, and gambling was generally indulged
in. Lack of discipline also manifested itself in frequent duelling, despite prohibitive laws, and in the turbulence of the people on different occasions; university students were somewhat notorious in this respect, indulging in riots which were not free from incidents of an unsavory character. Other cities were little better than Madrid, and those of the south and east, where Moslem blood had been most plentiful, especially Seville and Valencia, had a yet worse reputation; Valencia had even a European notoriety for its licentious customs. These practices passed over into the Americas in an exaggerated form. The Andalusian blood of the conquerors and their adventurous life amidst subject races were not conducive to self-restraint. These evils were not to be without effect in the moulding of the Spanish American peoples. In the smaller Spanish towns and villages there was probably less vice, but there was more ignorance and greater lack of public security. Bands of robbers infested the country.

[Sidenote: Royal extravagance.]

In luxury as in immorality the example was set by the kings themselves. Some of its manifestations were meritorious (except that expenditures were out of proportion to the resources and needs of the state), especially the encouragement of art through the purchase of paintings and the construction of palaces. But if Charles I and Philip II were lavish, Philip III and Philip IV were extravagant. Both of these kings, in addition to their fondness for the theatre, bull-fighting, dancing, and hunting, were responsible for the most ostentatious display on occasions of court celebrations. When Philip III went to San Sebasti?n in 1615 to attend the double wedding which was to bind together the houses of Austria and Bourbon, he was accompanied by a train of 74 carriages, 174 litters, 190 state coaches, 2750 saddle mules, 374 beasts of burden (of which 128 had coverings embroidered with the royal coat of arms), 1750 mules with silver bells, and 6500 persons, besides an escort of 4000 Guipuzcoans. Equal pomp and extravagance marked the reception to the Archduchess Mar?a Ana of Austria when she came to Spain as the fianc?e of Philip IV; similarly, the entertainment accorded the Prince of Wales (the later Charles I of England) and the Duke of Buckingham when they visited Spain early in the reign of Philip IV; and likewise the various masquerades during the period of Olivares, one of which is said to have cost over 300,000 ducats (nearly $5,000,000). It would seem that war was not alone responsible for the drains on the Spanish treasury. There was a decline in expenditures in the reign of Charles II, due principally to the fact that there was little left to spend.


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