Philip V of Spain

The establishment of a Bourbon prince on the throne of Spain was regarded as the great and final achievement of the reign of Louis XIV. The critics of the regent denounced his failure to act in harmony with that sovereign as the unpardonable error of his administration. It is well, therefore, to consider the character and the policy of the grandson of Louis XIV., who for forty-six years reigned in Spain, exercising an authority uncontrolled either by popular or by aristocratic institutions.

Philip was a youth of seventeen when he was chosen as king of that country by the will of Charles II. Intellectually, he was less developed than befitted his years; of education he had not so much as most boys of ten possess now; in will, in the power to impress himself on men, to control the policy of the great people whom he was called upon to rule, he was deficient to an extraordinary degree; and in all these respects he was much the same when he died, an old man of sixty-three, as when he mounted the throne, a lad of seventeen.

Such a youth was necessarily controlled by those by whom he was surrounded, and Louis XIV. was obliged to give careful attention to their choice, in order to exercise any influence on the affairs of Spain. It was in vain that he wrote his grandson that he must learn to exert his own volition, to be able to say, “I will.” The letters of Louis XIV. to the young king were as judicious as they were kindly, but they were without effect upon the prince to whom they were addressed. Philip continued, however, submissive to the orders which he received. Sometimes he was sullen in his obedience, but he never ventured to disobey his grandfather when the commands were peremptory. He retained also an affection for France and the French, but such a feeling was of small importance in so weak a person. The confidential adviser of his early career wrote: “One could make him sign a league against France with the same facility that he would sign a passport.”

In this feeble character there was one strong passion, but it served only to render the sovereign still more dependent and despicable. He was the most uxorious of men. The most ingenious of comic writers have been unable to portray a condition of marital dependence equal to that of the monarch of the most widely extended empire in the world. The henpecked husband whom we find in fiction appears a man of independent will and fearless character when compared with Philip V. of Spain. His first wife was a woman of sprightliness and capacity. In ruling the kingdom, she found some consolation for a life every moment of which, by day and night, was spent in the society of a taciturn and stupid man. Philip was weak enough to be governed by his wife, and weak enough to be coaxed by others into trying to escape from this subjection. One of the French ambassadors conceived the idea of establishing relations with the Spanish king, of which his female rulers should have no knowledge. Philip sent communications to his grandfather, which were prepared by him and the minister. In these he expressed what he thought were his actual desires. He also sent the ordinary formal letters, which were dictated by his wife, or by Mme. des Ursins when she was in Spain. “Do not put any confidence in the official letters which I shall be obliged to send you, in order not to disturb the peace,” wrote this most weakly of princes.

Louis XIV. had the feelings of a king and of a gentleman, and the spectacle of his grandson confessing that he dared not express his real sentiments, because he was afraid of a disturbance with his wife, was in the highest degree distateful to him. He knew Philip’s character well enough, also, to be sure that this feeble attempt at independence would be short-lived. So it proved. The surreptitious correspondence was discovered. The penalties imposed upon the erring husband are a secret of state, but they were doubtless severe. During the forty years that Philip remained a king, he never again ventured to rebel against the authority of his wives. He now sent a formal recantation of all that he had said in his personal letters, and was forgiven. The correspondence is a curious illustration of the character of those whom the fortune of birth sometimes puts in great places.

In tracing the policy of Philip V. as a ruler, we are naturally obliged to consider the sequence of his wives. His first wife, who was a princess of Savoy, died in February, 1714. In June, he was affianced to a princess of Parma. In September, he was married to her by proxy, and he was greatly distressed at the delays in her journey to Spain. On December 24, she at last reached her impatient spouse. A week later the French chargé d’affaires could truly write, “The queen governs the king despotically.” The authority which she acquired in the honeymoon she never allowed to relax. Her arrival was accompanied by an entire change in the government. She dismissed Mme. des Ursins, without even consulting Philip, and the king dared show no resentment. He earned her favor by implicit obedience to her commands. His life with the new queen was spent in the same manner as with the former one. An existence more monotonous, and apparently more wearisome, could hardly be conceived. It was a perpetual tête-à-tête by day and night, with no variation from the 1st of January to the 31st of December. Sickness of whatever nature was not allowed to be an excuse for separation. Their Catholic majesties rose together, dressed together, rode together, ate their meals together, went to mass together, said their prayers together. The queen was allowed a few moments to herself during her toilet and for her confession. Even that must be brief. The king waited in the next room, and, if he thought that she was occupying too much time in the confession of her sins, he opened the door and called to her. Almost every day the king played at the mall. Three times he went down the long mall in his game, and three times he returned, never more and never less. Though the queen took no part in the sport, she was required to follow him and keep constantly at his left hand. If, in talking with some one, she fell behind even four or five paces, Philip at once turned round and looked at her, and she hastened to resume her place.

Every day, also, the king and queen participated in what was most improperly styled the chase. Hunting, when it requires exercise and skill, and still more when there exists an element of danger for the hunter as well as the hunted, is a sport the manliness of which atones for any appearance of cruelty. It was far otherwise with the butchery which furnished the daily amusement of Philip V. He and his wife were driven to the rendezvous. In the mean time three or four hundred peasants scoured the woods, and drove before them the game of every kind with which these were filled. In due time animals of various sorts began to pass before the inclosure where the king and queen were stationed, and they fired at them as they went by. Nothing came amiss, – boars, wolves, deer, bares, foxes, martins. Some were killed; many more were wounded, and crept off in the woods to die. An hour spent in butchering barnyard fowl would have been quite as enlivening and manly sport, but, such as this was, it furnished endless delight to the Spanish king.  Philip’s religious nature was as narrow and superstitious as we might expect. His confessor was his constant confidant: to him he disclosed the petty doubts and fears which disturbed him; how should he say his prayers on St. Elizabeth’s Day; what ceremonial must he follow on the octave of the dedication of the Holy Trinity; at what moment should he begin fasting; at what moment should he cease praying? Such questions, solemnly reduced to writing, were daily presented to his confessor, and have been preserved for posterity. The confessor, who was a sensible man, told him that it was not alone prayers and penitence which made a saintly king; that, if he would occupy himself with the duties of royalty, he could accomplish more for God’s glory than did many preachers and missionaries. Such advice was unheeded. Philip was in constant fear of dying, and often he insisted on keeping his confessor by him all the night. Frequently he awoke, and at once demanded ghostly counsel on some doubt that had traversed his feeble brain. At one time he was so apprehensive of the administration of a secret charm or poison, that his attendants had endless trouble to induce him to change his clothes or his linen. The description which St. Simon gives of Philip in 1721 does not seem strange, when we consider the life which he had led for twenty years. He was bent and shrunken; his chin projected, his gait was a shuffle, his speech was a drawl, and his appearance imbecile.  Such was the prince to place whom on the throne of Spain half a million Frenchmen perished. The treasury was bankrupt, the fields lay untilled, trade was stagnant, misery was widespread; and all this that a grandson of Louis XIV. might reign at Madrid with as little profit to Spain as to France. What an enormous price to pay, and what a beggarly reward to receive!

Philip’s second wife possessed a character as vigorous as his was weak. She was a woman without experience in affairs of state, her mind was narrow and suspicious; but she had an active intelligence, untiring energy, and unusual power of will. Two sons by Philip’s first wife were living. The second wife also had children. There seemed slight probability that they would inherit the Spanish crown, and her energies were occupied in finding thrones and principalities for them elsewhere. For that end she had no more hesitation in involving Spain and all Europe in war than has a tigress in killing a fawn for her cubs. The establishment of the sons of Elizabeth of Parma controlled the politics of Spain for quarter of a century; it wasted many lives, and produced endless disturbance in Europe.

Elizabeth may have been entitled to demand advantages for her offspring as compensation for the existence which she was forced to lead. A lifelong tête-à- tête with such a man as Philip must have been misery equal to that caused by the most refined and ingenious tortures of the Inquisition. In company Philip rarely opened his mouth, and with his wife he would sit for hours in silence. When he did talk, it was of the chase, of his clothes and those of his children. And yet, in order to hold her ascendency, the queen was obliged to keep him always in her view. Sometimes she would not even let him confess in secret. He loved flattery, and she praised him constantly. She lauded his skill at the mall, his presence, his dress; she even told him how intelligent he was, and how great a king. A resolute woman hesitates at nothing. Though Philip’s character was feeble, it was not difficult to induce him to plunge his country into war. He had a certain vague ambition, a desire to be regarded as a powerful king, and he was as unscrupulous as monarchs who possessed greater ability. While he waked his confessor at night to get instructions as to the order of his devotions, he had no regard for the treaties he signed, or the oaths he swore; and he pursued with a stubborn pertinacity his plans for obtaining anything which he desired. His readiness to plunge Spain and France in war to accomplish his purposes, if he had been an able man, would have made him a dangerous man.

In order to conclude the peace of Utrecht, Louis had compelled his grandson to execute a renunciation of his rights as a possible heir to the French throne. It was asserted by those who opposed the treaty then, and by those who have condemned it since, that this renunciation was invalid. When the English ministers demanded it as a condition of peace, Torcy had replied that in France it was a fundamental law that the nearest heir received the throne, not from the preceding king, but directly from God, and that this divine ordi vance no renunciation could affect, and only God could alter. This position was nonsensical, and Torcy knew it quite as well as Bolingbroke. The argument was advanced to make the English desist from a demand to which Louis was reluctant to accede. There was no such law in France. Even if there had been, Bolingbroke’s answer was complete, that, though God gave a prince the right to inherit, there was no law that prevented his surrender of the right; even the most strenuous advocates did not claim that the law of God forbade a king to abdicate. But in France there had never been any positive enactment such as Torcy claimed, nor had there been an immemorial usage which should take the place of written law. If the throne of France by God’s decree must always descend in a direct line, Louis XIV. was an usurper. Carlovingian and Merovingian sovereigns had been dethroned; they had partitioned the territory of France among themselves to suit their own tastes; the Bourbons were not the lawful heirs of those who had once ruled in that land. Even if Louis XIV. was a lawful sovereign, it was certain that Philip V. was not. He was king of Spain by virtue of the renunciation of his father and his older brother. If Torcy was correct, that a prince could not deprive his offspring of their rights by birth, then the infant Louis XV. was manifestly entitled to the throne of Spain as well as of France, and the renunciations by which Philip had been placed on it were contrary to the law of God, and void. Philip had secured his rights in Spain as a compensation for yielding his possible rights in France.

Though the renunciation of the Duke of Anjou was valid by the laws of France, as well as by the laws of common sense and common honesty, yet it was very doubtful whether it would be observed. A similar doubt enveloped every treaty that was made. The fact that sovereigns violated their agreements with facility could be obviated by no skill in the framers of treaties. A humorous diplomat had suggested that to each of the elaborate phrases, in which the renunciation of Philip was couched, should be added the words, “In the same manner as was expressed in the renunciation of Maria Theresa,” in violation of which Philip was now on the Spanish throne.

Louis XIV. regarded the instrument executed by the king of Spain as in all respects valid, and he was distressed when Philip, notwithstanding his scruples of conscience as to fasts and formulas, declared that he would not respect his oaths or his agreements. “I am sure that you regret giving occasion to the charges that you are seeking pretexts to avoid the renunciation to which you have solemnly sworn,” he wrote his grandson.

The only check upon Philip was removed when his grandfather died. He had long regarded the Duke of Orleans with animosity. During the war of the Succession, Orleans for some years commanded the armies in Spain. When Louis XIV. believed that it was impossible that Philip could retain the Spanish throne, Orleans became involved in some indiscreet intrigues, founded on his own contingent rights if Philip were compelled to abdicate. There was nothing in what he did contrary to his obligations to that sovereign, but his conduct was injudicious. Mme. des Ursins conceived a strong dislike for Orleans, and Philip disliked what she disliked. Subsequent events had only strengthened his aversion. At last Orleans obtained the regency, which Philip wanted for himself. He entertained for the regent both hatred and fear. His terrors were increased by the reports of Orleans’s crimes which were sent from Paris. Philip was easily led to believe that the wicked cousin, who had already poisoned his brother, was now seeking an opportunity to poison him.

A new favorite had attained to power in Spain, and for four years controlled the destinies of that country. Giulio Alberoni, like so many of those who have reached the highest dignities of the church, was of very humble extraction. He was an Italian, born near Piacenza, and was the son of a gardener. He took orders, obtained the good-will of the Duke of Vendôme, and in 1711, as his secretary, first visited Spain. Two years later he was appointed consular agent for the Duke of Parma, whose subject he was. He used his influence to induce Mme. des Ursins to choose the niece of that duke as Philip’s second wife; and when Elizabeth Farnese had arrived in Spain, and established her wifely authority over her husband, the road lay clear for Alberoni’s advancement. He was of the same nationality as the queen; he had helped her to the position which she held; he enjoyed her entire confidence. He soon became the prime minister of Spain, and exercised in that country a despotic authority. To the rule of a French princess succeeded the rule of an Italian priest. Spain seemed to be unable to supply men from her own soil who could play any part in the state. Alberoni desired to be made a cardinal, and the influence of Spain was exercised to procure him this honor. Clement XI. hesitated. So unfit did he regard Alberoni for the purple, that he said he should undoubtedly burn in hell if he made him a cardinal. Even if the Pope entertained such gloomy apprehensions, he decided to run the risk. In July, 1717, Alberoni was declared a cardinal, and this dignity increased the influence which he already possessed.

Alberoni has often been likened to Dubois. Both had risen from a very humble social position, both were violent and vulgar in their speech and manner, both were eager and unscrupulous in pursuing their own advancement, and both attained the highest dignities of the church and state. The analogy cannot be carried further. Dubois was a man of sagacity; no one considered more carefully than he the condition of the states and the character of the men with whom he had to deal; no one was more adroit in persuading others to adopt his own conclusions. Alberoni possessed the reverse of these qualities.

He has been compared with statesmen like Richelieu and Mazarin; it has been said that under favorable circumstances he might have rebuilt the power of Spain, and accomplished results as brilliant as those effected by the great French cardinals. No comparison could be more inaccurate. The essential quality of a statesman is to recognize what is possible, to abide the fitting hour, to seize the opportunity of to-day and watch for the opportunity of the morrow. But Alberoni was a dreamer. His political schemes were as impracticable as those of his royal master. Like a petulant child, he refused the advantages which he could obtain, because they were not all that he desired. He was always hoping for some mysterious turn of affairs. He devised vast political combinations, which came to naught; he hoped to conquer England with a few thousand ill-equipped troops, to overthrow the authority of the regent by means of a handful of discontented intriguers. He failed in everything that he undertook, becaase he would never recognize that the world was what it was, and not what he wished it to be. Alberoni claimed great credit for himself because he organized in Spain a considerable navy and army, because he did something to rouse that country from its lethargy. But all that he accomplished by his energy he destroyed by his folly.

The cardinal stimulated all the vague, ambitious hopes which agitated Philip’s brain. The plans of the feeble king and his chimerical minister would have required the power of Louis XIV. in his palmiest days to have any chance of accomplishment. All the provisions of the treaty of Utrecht were odious to them, and they were eager to overthrow the arrangement by which, only three years before, the peace of Europe had been made and the crown of Philip assured. Spain must recover her lost possessions in Italy; Gibraltar must be restored; Parma and Tus cany must be secured for the son of Elizabeth Farnese. It would have been impossible for the most powerful state in Europe to obtain such advantages, and they were not likely to be accorded to one of the weakest.

An unfriendly policy towards the regent accorded with the prejudices of Philip and the plans of Alberoni. A new treaty was made with England, by which she secured great commercial advantages. On the other hand, French trade and French merchants were harassed. They were subjected to heavier impositions than when Spain was governed by kings of the house of Austria. The French ambassador remonstrated, but without success. At the same time, engineers were employed to repair the fortifications on the line of the Pyrenees towards France, which had been suffered to fall into decay. Such was the spectacle presented within three months of the death of Louis XIV. to those who believed that ties of blood governed the policy of princes, and that the Pyrenees no longer existed. Orleans sent to Madrid the Marquis of Louville, who had formerly been an intimate associate of the Duke of Anjou, but Alberoni was too wary to allow the king to be exposed to the blandishments of a friend of his youth. Louville was met with letters, purporting to be by Philip’s order, but of the existence of which the sovereign was perhaps unaware, which directed him to return forthwith to France. It was with difficulty that he found a physician to attend him in an illness, such was the apprehension of any relations with a man who was distasteful to the queen and her minister.  Baffled in his attempts to remain on good terms with Philip, the regent joined the Triple Alliance. The assertion in the treaty that this alliance was made to secure the tranquillity of Europe was no idle boast. “Your voyage to the Hague, Monsieur l’Abbé,” said Stanhope to Dubois, when the instrument was signed, “has saved the waste of human life. There are nations who will be indebted to you for their tranquillity, though they do not know it.” In pursuance of a policy that was alike judicious and humane, tho endeavor was now made to adjust the points of contention between Austria and Spain, and to prevent the recklessness of Philip and Alberoni from kindling a European war.

Spain had already taken the first step towards an appeal to the sword. Alberoni constantly declared that the Austrians must be driven from Italy. Such a purpose would have been deserving of sympathy, if the object of freeing Italy from the burden of Austrian occupation had not been to subject her to the incubus of Spanish occupation. Any consideration for national interests, or affinities, or sympathies was unknown to the politics of this period. Such ideas were so foreign to political conceptions that they were not even advanced as pretexts. “They cut and pare states and kingdoms as if they were Dutch cheeses,” wrote Alberoni of the statesmen of the day. “After all,” said the regent to Stair, “what does the nation amount to?” “Very little,” replied the ambassador, “until a standard is raised.” The standard was not raised until late in the century. The Spanish had long been preparing a naval force of considerable strength. It was certain that an expedition was contemplated in some direction, but the real object was concealed, for Alberoni had the faculty of keeping his own counsel. To the Pope he intimated that the fleet would sail against the Turks, so soon as a cardinal’s hat was bestowed on a minister who had it in his power to do good work for the cause of Christ. In August, 1717, the fleet set sail. It did not proceed against the infidels, but nine thousand men landed on the island of Sardinia, which had been ceded to Austria by the treaty of Utrecht. The Emperor was engaged in a war with the Turks, his Italian possessions were scantily garrisoned, and the Spanish captured the island without difficulty.

Thus the war between Spain and the empire was again kindled, and it seemed probable that all the parties to the contest of the Spanish Succession would soon find themselves in arms. The admirers of Alberoni have claimed that he was opposed to commencing hostilities, but was forced to begin war at the express command of the Spanish king. The cardinal’s letters and conversations support this claim. But those who suppose that Philip V. was capable of insisting upon so important a measure, contrary to the wishes of his minister, are ignorant of his physical and mental condition. His health at this period was more infirm than usual, and during the autumn his life was in danger. Alberoni had long been strengthening the Spanish army and preparing a fleet; he was not a man who, like the father of Frederick II., equipped soldiers for the pleasure of looking at them. In June, Alberoni wrote a strong letter declaring that Spain was not ready for war. In this he was sincere. He had not yet been elevated to the cardinalate, and he knew that the Pope would be mortally offended when he discovered that the Spanish expedition was intended for Italian invasion. On July 12, Alberoni was made a cardinal, and early in August the fleet sailed for Sardinia.

The hostile measures taken by Spain increased the desire of England and France to secure the continuance of peace. In September, 1717, Dubois was sent as ambassador to London. His mission was accompanied with important political results; his letters illustrate, also, many of his own peculiarities. He was charmed with England. “There is no other country in the world,” he writes, “where one can see so many pretty women.” He was equally impressed by the populousness of London. The Pont-Neuf, he said, seemed like a solitude in comparison. The abbé was always eager to make friends, and he scorned no means of obtaining their favor. He ordered dresses for many of the ladies of the court. He describes the complexion, the height, the figure, even the color of the hair, of those for whom they were intended; he directs, with anxious attention, the manner in which the trains should be finished. Nor did he give less attention to his larder, that he might furnish pleasure to the husbands as well as to the wives. Perigord truffles were ordered, cheeses from Brie, and marmalades of extraordinary delicacy. His cook fell sick, and he was in despair. The names were sent of candidates for the office, and he criticises them with a severity befitting the gravity of the situation. “You speak of the cook of M. d’Armenonville, but M. d’Armenonville did not understand good living. His brother, the Bishop of Orleans, lived on salsify. It is impossible that a good officer should be turned out from that school.”

A minister who was diligent in small matters did not neglect those of more importance. The regent was earnest in demanding for Spain the advantages which might reasonably content its sovereign. The English sought to reconcile the Emperor to the treaty of Utrecht, against which he had so bitterly protested. The negotiation was long protracted, but at last it was agreed between France and England that the Emperor must acknowledge Philip as king of Spain, and Philip must surrender any claim upon the possessions ceded to Austria; in consideration for this, Don Carlos, Philip’s son by Elizabeth Farnese, should be recognized as heir to the duchies of Tuscany and Parma, and Sicily should be ceded to Austria by the Duke of Savoy, who was to receive Sardinia in exchange. The Spanish must, of course, withdraw their troops from Sardinia and agree to keep the peace.

These terms were reasonable. England and France asked no advantages for themselves; they sought only to preserve the tranquillity of Europe. But an arrangement that was fair to each party was distaste ful to Spain and to Austria. The Emperor proposed an alliance with France, to be purchased by the surrender of Alsace to Germany; he was willing to treat with England, if Majorca and Sicily could be secured for him, without allowing Tuscany to fall to the lot of a Bourbon prince. It was with reluctance that he would agree to renounce the title of king of Spain, though it was as visionary as if he had called himself the king of Jerusalem. Dealing with these unreasonable demands was not an easy task, but it was successfully accomplished.

The secret council at Vienna displayed an unusual amount of sagacity. The minutes of its proceedings recite that, in the hope of getting more by waiting longer, Austria had suffered serious disadvantages at the successive treaties of Nimeguen, Ryswick, and Utrecht. It was thought wise, therefore, not to delay in entering an alliance which secured the fertile island of Sicily in exchange for the barren island of Sardinia. In July, 1718, an agreement was signed between France and England. Austria became a party to it in August, Holland subsequently joined; and it thus became the Quadruple Alliance.

Spain was asked to accede to the terms agreed upon by the four great powers. Even if they had been less favorable, it was useless for her to oppose them. Spain could not have resisted such a combination in the days of Philip II., and it was folly to suppose that she could do so in the condition to which she had fallen under Philip V. But the terms of the treaty were such as could properly have been accepted. The inheritance of the duchies of Tuscany and Parma was secured to a Bourbon prince, the son of the Spanish queen. In their eagerness to avoid war, George I. and his ministers were willing to surrender Gibraltar, which had been captured fourteen years before. Spain could have escaped the humiliation of seeing the English flag over the stronghold where it still floats, almost two centuries later. That country could have pursued her course of material improvement, could have continued to strengthen her army and her navy, until she might have assumed a position in Europe not in all respects inferior to that which she formerly occupied. It was necessary to abandon the dream of reconquering the possessions surrendered by the treaty of Utrecht. But that was only a dream. The increased prosperity of Spain was largely due to the fact that she was relieved from the care of distant provinces which had cost her much and yielded little. It is the conclusive proof of Alberoni’s incompetency that he let this opportunity go by, and wasted the resources which the country had acquired in a hopeless struggle after impossible chimeras.


Siege of St Sebastian, 1719

PLAN De la VILLE et du Chateau / et PORT du St: SEBASTIAN / Ataqué par les Anglois dan les du Moy Maÿ / l’Anné 1719
Milazzo, 1718

PLAN / de la ville & chateau de / MELAZZO / avec le Camp des Imperiaux, les ouvrages / & Retranchements des Assiegés. Et le / Camp des Espagnols, leurs attaques & / Trenchées 1718
Siege of Messina, 1718


The offers of the allied powers were met with the gasconade which was so common in Spanish diplomacy. His master, said Alberoni, would lose forty crowns before he would agree to terms so humiliating: rather than consent to them, he would die fighting, sword in hand. Nancré, the French ambassador, urged the acceptance of conditions which were for the true interests of Spain. “Nancré has vomited out his proposals,” wrote Alberoni. “They were scandalous enough to be worthy of an Englishman.”

Undisturbed by the combination already formed against him, the cardinal now attacked, without notice or provocation, a nation with which Spain was at peace. The Spanish proceeded, with utter unconcern as to consequences, to seize anything they wanted, no matter to whom it belonged. Sicily had been ceded to Savoy by the treaty of Utrecht. In August, 1718, a Spanish fleet sailed to that island, 30,000 soldiers landed, and the principal towns were easily captured. Such an invasion seemed so extraordinary that it was universally believed that a secret alliance had been made between Philip and the king of Sicily. It was not the fact. When Victor Amadeus found himself deserted by his former allies, he sought to form a combination with Spain, but the plans of Alberoni were too chimerical to attract him. The invasion of Sicily now drove him into the Quadruple Alliance. It was rarely that the house of Savoy made a treaty by which it lost. To exchange fertile and populous Sicily for rocky and barren Sardinia was a bad bargain, but Victor Amadeus saw that resistance was impossible. He never forgave those who had framed the alliance, and found his only consolation subsequently, when the three men most responsible for it – Stanhope, Dubois, and Orleans – died suddenly, and without opportunity to save themselves from perdition by obtaining absolution for their sins.

The invasion of Sicily compelled the allies to resort to force. An English fleet sailed under Admiral Byng, with orders to resist any infraction of the neutrality of Italy and the provisions of the treaty of Utrecht. His instructions were communicated to Alberoni. The cardinal treated the English fleet as he treated everything that conflicted with his desires: he paid no attention to it. With true Spanish hauteur, the Enlish minister was informed that the Chevalier Byng might execute the orders that he had received from his master. He proceeded to do so without delay. On the 11th of August, Byng attacked the Spanish off Cape Passaro. A few hours were sufficient to destroy the fleet with which Alberoni had expected to rule the Mediterranean. The visions of Italian conquest were dissolved as soon as the were brought in contact with realities.

Alberoni still persisted in a desperate struggle, trusting to fortune to come to his aid. He had hoped that Charles XII. of Sweden would invade England in behalf of the Stuart cause. The death of that erratic sovereign put an end to such plans, and the cardinal decided to revive the projects of Philip II. and undertake the conquest of England himself. In 1719, a fleet of twenty-four sail, mostly transports, was dispatched to conquer the greatest maritime power of Europe. A storm off Finisterre dispersed the new Armada, and saved it from the defeat which awaited it.

In December, 1718, England formally declared war upon Spain, and Stanhope demanded of the regent to do the same. Orleans had bound himself to this by the provisions of the Quadruple Alliance, but he was loath to take the step. He desired the regency to be a period of peace, and a contest with Spain was in the highest degree unpopular in France. The coterie which cherished the traditions of Louis XIV. regarded a war against his grandson as an impious and a fratricidal measure. Orleans had already lost the popularity which had attended the beginning of the regency, and he did not wish to increase the illfavor with which his administration was regarded.

The measures adopted by Philip and Alberoni removed all difficulties from his path. Though the hopes which greeted the reforms promised by the regent had been disappointed, the thought of any revolt against his authority could only be entertained by discontented visionaries. Orleans’s power was as firmly established as if he had been king instead of regent, and, after sixty years of implicit obedience to the sovereign, the idea of open resistance was foreign to the community. The great body of the population desired peace and tranquillity, and cared little whether the regent made an alliance with England or with Spain, whether he chose Dubois or Maine as his adviser.

The discontents of a little clique were enough, however, to excite the hopes of Alberoni, and some harmless vaporing was dignified with the importance of a dangerous conspiracy. The Duke of Maine had been deprived of the rank bestowed on him by the fondness of Louis XIV. A very small portion of the community took any interest in his fortunes, and he was the last man to become the leader of an insurrection. Not only was he dull and inert, but he was suspected, and not unjustly, of a lack of physical courage. Among a nation where courage was highly esteemed, and was almost universally possessed, there could be no more fatal defect in a man who aspired to become a leader. To do Maine justice, he had not the least aspiration for such a rôle.

His wife was a more energetic character. Their chateau at Sceaux had long been a centre for society and literature. Its mistress amused herself with a constant succession of fêtes. Plays were acted, poets recited verses, courtiers turned compliments, ladies exercised their charms. The duchess founded an order called the Honey Bees, to which those distinguished by fashion or by wit were delighted to be admitted. Fontenelle was one of the ornaments of her little court. The first president of the Parliament there displayed his talents as a courtier, which. atoned for his lack of any talent as a judge. This charmed existence was broken in upon by the political misfortunes of the Duke of Maine. His wife abandoned the part of a delightful hostess for the more serious one of a political conspirator. She was better fitted for the former rôle than the latter. A few nobles of small importance joined in conferences where little was done except to abuse the regent. The Prince of Cellamare was then Spanish ambassador at Paris. The relations of his master and of the Duke of Orleans were unfriendly, and those who were offended with the regent naturally sought the counsels of the ambassador. The Duchess of Maine and some of her associates conferred with Cellamare. He seems to have estimated the conspirators at their just weight, but he reported their plans to his government. Alberoni attached to them an undue importance, and he directed the minister to continue the consultations. The cardinal hoped that a few uninfluential intriguers, without definite plans, and without means of executing what plans they had, could overthrow the regent and bring France again into close alliance with Philip.

These intrigues continued for some months. A few persons signed papers assuring Philip of their devotion and of their willingness to serve him. The young Duke of Richelieu agreed to betray the town where he was stationed to the Spanish king. He began his long and disgraceful career by conduct, the baseness of which was equaled by the folly. The conspirators had little idea of what they wanted to do, and no idea whatever of how they were to do it. Proclamations were indited, in Philip’s name, demanding a session of the States General of France. That body, it was believed, would depose Orleans from the regency, would renew the alliance between France and Spain, restore to Maine his forfeited rank, and assure to Philip his rights to the French throne. The only thing in which the plotters showed any real zeal was in discussing the verbiage of Philip’s proclamations. The habitués of Sceaux, who were pretending to be conspirators, were only fitted to debate questions of grammar, and to amplify the resonance of a phrase. On these idle schemes Alberoni continued to build his hopes. “Do not leave Paris,” he wrote Cellamare, “without having set fire to all the mines.” “They are mines without powder,” replied the ambassador.

These intrigues did not escape the vigilance of Dubois. He was warned of their existence in the summer of 1718, but he was in no haste to expose them. Copies of many of the papers were furnished him by an unfaithful employee of Cellamare. In December, two gentlemen were sent to Spain with various documents of the conspirators. At Poitiers they were arrested and the papers seized. Immediately after this the official residence of Cellamare was entered; his letters were taken possession of by the French government; he was himself arrested, and was afterwards sent out of France under a strong guard. He protested against this invasion of his sacred character, but the letters which had passed between him and Alberoni, and which proved that the Spanish minister and ambassador were encouraging plots against the head of the French government, showed that Cellamare had forfeited the immunities to which his office entitled him.

The arrest of those who were involved in these transactions soon followed. The Duke of Maine had no part in the intrigues of his wife, and knew nothing of them. He was, however, taken into custody, and he displayed the greatest pusillanimity. He was arrested at Sceaux and carried to Dourlens. During the long journey he hardly spoke, but uttered frequent sighs and sobs. At each church which was passed, he bowed profoundly, crossed himself, and muttered his prayers. At his prison at Dourlens he occupied him- self in praying for deliverance, and when he heard any sudden noise his face became of a deathly pallor. After a time he was released, but it was long before he would have anything to do with his wife, for fear that her unquiet disposition would again involve him in similar peril. She was also arrested, as were many of her confederates. All, with one accord, sought to obtain forgiveness by turning state’s evidence, and endeavoring to implicate others.

“I would have given my blood to save you,” wrote the Abbé Brigault to some of his associates whom his confessions involved, “but you know the obligations of religion. . . . I cannot hope for absolution unless I tell the whole truth. I must follow the lights of my faith.” All were, perhaps, influenced by the same motives. The Duchess of Maine wrote Orleans that even liberty would be insupportable, unless she could be assured of again enjoying his friendship. Orleans contented himself with the terror and humiliation of the unfortunate intriguers. After a few months’ imprisonment, all were released without further punishment.

The exposure of the conspiracy satisfied the purposes of Dubois. The French people were justly indignant that the Spanish prime minister had encouraged plots against the head of the government. The party of the old court and the advocates of Philip V. were plunged in confusion. In January, 1719, war was declared against Spain. In answer to this, proclamations in the name of the Spanish king were published in France, exhorting the people and the Parliaments to resist the tyranny of the Duke of Orleans, to summon the States General, and to check a fratricidal war. They produced no effect. The French army was placed under the command of the Marshal of Berwick, the bastard son of James II. He was a man who recognized no obligations but those of a soldier. He conducted the campaign against Philip with the same ability that he had formerly displayed in behalf of that monarch.

Philip still cherished the delusion that the hearts of the French people were unalterably attached to the grandson of Louis XIV. The fleurs de lis were painted on the Spanish banners. A proclamation invited the French soldiers to join the Spanish army, and assured them that Louis XV. would approve their conduct when he should attain his majority. Neither officer nor soldier in the French ranks heeded this appeal. Philip seems really to have supposed that his appearance would dissolve the French army; when he discovered his illusion, he fell into a deep melancholy, and left the queen to excite the ardor of the Spanish troops.

The advance of the French met with few obstacles. They overran Spain with little more resistance, wrote one of their officers, than the Spanish themselves had met with in the conquest of Mexico two hundred years before. In the mean time the Austrians with superior forces encountered the troops that had been landed in Sicily, and the English ships cruised along the defenseless shores of Spain. Even Philip and his wife began to realize the folly of the contest which they had excited. A final endeavor was made to draw Orleans from the alliance. Philip suggested a scheme by which, while his own son should succeed to the French throne if Louis died, Orleans should be consoled with the formation of a new kingdom for himself, to be taken from France, and to consist of Burgundy, Alsace, and French Flanders. Great Britain was to be parceled in like manner; the Pretender would have Scotland and Ireland, while George must be content with England. This proposition was one of the last schemes devised while Alberoni remained prime minister. Certainly a man who could invent and propose plans so chimerical had no claim to be called a statesman.

The disasters which had attended Alberoni’s measures weakened the influence which he had once possessed. The allies declared that his dismissal must be the price of peace. His unbounded ambition had been the sole cause of the war, wrote Stanhope, and unless he was removed there could be no certainty of permanent tranquillity. The Duke of Parma advised his niece to dismiss the cardinal, and Philip yielded to these suggestions. Alberoni had been a visionary, but only a visionary could please such masters. He had at least been zealous in their service, and he was now treated with harshness. He was ordered to leave Madrid in eight days, and Spain within three weeks. He never again returned, and in his wanderings in Italy he was long pursued by the animosity of his former masters. He revenged himself by telling the truth about them. Philip, he said, was an uxorious bigot, and the queen was a firebrand who would kindle the flames of war through the civilized world. Both the Pope and the Spanish king were eager to deprive Alberoni of his cardinalate, but the common interest of the cardinals always prevented the degradation of any one who had been clothed with that dignity. Alberoni even contemplated the possibility of being a candidate for the papacy. “There are two obstacles,” he said; “I am only fifty-five, and I have not the reputation of being a fool.” At one conclave he received ten votes, but, whether he was too young or too wise, he failed of an election.

Though Alberoni had been dismissed, Philip still persisted in his extravagant claims. He was informed that he must take what was secured to him by the treaty of the Quadruple Alliance, and he decided to accept. Once again he swore to the renunciation of his possible rights to the French throne. As he never for a moment intended to observe his oath, this did not disturb him. He was, however, strenuous in his demands for Gibraltar. The English replied that they had offered Gibraltar to obtain peace, but the offer was no longer in force after Philip had gone to war and been defeated. It was at last agreed that this and other debated questions should be referred to a congress of the various powers to be held at Cambray. “The congress,” said Dubois, “will occupy half its session in regulating questions of etiquette, and the other half in doing nothing, and then some unforeseen event will bring it to an end.” That was precisely its history. The various plenipotentiaries wasted several years doing nothing, and in 1725 Spain and Austria made a treaty of alliance, and arranged between themselves the unsettled questions of the Spanish Succession.

While Spain was forced to remain at peace, much to the advantage of the country, and much to the discontent of its sovereign, France witnessed the development of new commercial and financial systems, which attracted the attention of the world, and which have still a curious interest for posterity.

ALARCOS, 19 July 1195

Lying between Christian Toledo and Muslim Cordoba, the plains around Calatrava were strategically crucial during the decades on either side of 1200. That is why the Knights of Calatrava had fortified the site and constructed other castles in the region. In 1195, caliph al-Mansur won a victory at Alarcos, and seized the fortresses; but in 121 2 the combined forces of Christian Spain turned the tables at Las Navas de Tolosa. This was to prove a decisive point in the progress of the Reconquista. From now on the Muslim states were militarily outmatched.


The arrival of the Almohads in the 1140s had thrown the Christians back on the defensive. In these circumstances, their kings were quite happy to sponsor Muslim buffer states. Sayf ad Dawla, the independent king of Saragossa, took Murcia and Valencia in 1146, but died soon afterwards. His successor in the region was Ibn Mardanish – ‘king Wolf – who although a Muslim spoke Spanish and used Christian troops and equipment. He survived until 1172 at Murcia, dying deserted by his Christian allies. The Military Orders now played the greatest role in frontier warfare, as the Knights of Calatrava illustrate.

They had been established in 1156 to protect Toledo and guard the route south. Alfonso VIII of Castile (1158-1214) recognized the strategic importance of the ‘Campo de Calatrava’ and was an enthusiastic patron. By 1174, he had granted them rights to every castle captured from the enemy, one-fifth of his future conquests, and one-tenth of royal revenues. The king of Aragon also rewarded them for the capture of Cuenca in 1177, with Alcañiz castle, to help advance his borders further south of the Ebro. In 1182, the Order was further strengthened by a pact with the rival Knights of Santiago, reinforced in 1188.

In 1190, the Almohad caliph, al-Mansur, responded to truce-breaking Castilian raids by bringing a large invasion force from Africa to Cordoba. In June, Alfonso VIII mustered at Toledo and then advanced to Alarcos, where he was constructing a town. In early July, his reconnaissance force was annihilated at Salvatierra. Al-Mansur then outmaneuvered the Christians and inflicted a heavy defeat upon them at Alarcos. As a result, the Knights lost Calatrava and many other castles. When the Almohads followed up by attacking in the Tagus valley, the Order’s Master made the daring decision to occupy Salvatierra, now deep in Muslim territory (1196). While Alfonso VIII made a truce with the Ahmohads, Peter II of Aragon (1196-1213) went on the offensive, and gave the Knights strong support in the Ebro valley area.

The battle

A large force of Almohades under Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur defeated a much smaller Castilian army under Alfonso Vlll. The Moslems drew up with their first line made up of Andalusian cavalry on the right and Almohades . on the left and centre (the latter comprising the army’s veterans), with a second line of African troops arrayed in close order, mostly bow-and javelin-armed. ln addition there was a reserve division several thousand-strong which included Negro guardsmen.

Alfonso’s 8,000 cavalry broke through the centre of the Moslem front line at their third charge, but the gap thus created was dosed behind them and, disorganised and unsupported by infantry, they were surrounded by the Almohade archers and cavalry of the second line and decimated by volleys of arrows and javelins. Even Alfonso’s rearguard, which he led into the fray in a last desperate effort, was unable to retrieve the situation. After this the Moslems’ front line rallied and made a general advance against the Castilian infantry who, without the support of their cavalry, were rapidly routed with heavy losses. Some made a stand in a pass between La Zarzuela and Darazutan but were killed or taken captive. Others, including Alfonso himself and the Master of Calatrava, escaped to the castle of Guadalherza, while yet others took refuge in Alarcos, which the Almohades subsequently captured.

20-25,000 Castilians were reputedly killed or taken captive in the battle, the Master of Santiago being amongst the dead, while legend has it that the Moslems lost only 500 men.


The major victory in a pitched battle against the army of Alfonso VIII of Castile at Alarcos was followed by a series of highly profitable raids on Christian territory, as at Trujillo and even before the walls of Toledo and, less successfully, at Madrid and Guadalaljara. Muslim allies were also present when a Christian coalition invaded Castile. Taken together, these sorties, in their effect and in geographical scope, were the high-water mark of Almohad power.

By 1198 al-Mansur clearly felt it was time to return to Marrakesh and see to the less exciting aspects of running his empire. Upon returning, however, he suddenly took ill and, in 1199, died. Al-Mansur had been a more serious military man than his father, and his successes against his foes in al-Andalus (and elsewhere) reflect that. But for him as for all the Almohads, it is worth putting all this military activity in context. As with the Saljuqs and Ayyubids in the east, jihad was just one aspect of a broader attempt on the part of the Almohads to reform society and legitimize their state. Al-Mansur’s campaigns thus went hand in hand with the administrative reforms he enacted from Marrakesh and pious gestures such as building programs, fortification of cities, and, most notably, putting on trial in Cordoba the famous (or perhaps infamous) philosopher Averroes (Ibn Rushd), whose teachings had led to accusations of heterodoxy on the part of some of the Andalusi religious classes. Who could reject a caliph who policed orthodoxy, buttressed justice in his kingdom, and kept the predations of the infidels at bay?

Al-Mansur was succeeded by his son al-Nasir, who, aside from successfully capturing Majorca from its Muslim lords, was not the warrior his father was. Although he came to power in 1199, al-Nasir engaged in no activity against the Franks of al-Andalus until 1211. That at least was a small success at Calatrava in retaliation for Christian raids over the previous years in the Levante. But this triumph was overshadowed by a defeat-perhaps the most significant of all-in 1212. It was in that year that King Alfonso VIII of Castile, assisted by a coalition of Christians from Spain and beyond, marched south to revenge himself against al-Nasir and to reclaim lands and strongholds that had been lost to the Almohads in previous years. Al-Nasir preferred to wait and see, perhaps hoping that scarce supplies would force the Christians to withdraw, as had happened so often in the past. While the Almohad army encamped in waiting at a place called al-‘Iqab, Alfonso marched on them by an unexpected route and, on July 16, caught them unawares. Confounded, it seems, by divisions within the Muslim forces, the caliph fled almost as soon as Alfonso arrived, and the Almohad army was routed. As the chronicler al-Marrakushi (d. 1270) put it, “The main reason for this defeat was the divisions in the hearts of the Almohads. In the time of [the caliph al-Mansur] they drew their pay every four months without fail. But in the time of this [caliph, al-Nasir], and especially during this particular campaign, their payment was in arrears. They attributed this to the viziers, and marched to battle bearing this grudge. I have heard from several of them that they did not draw their swords nor train their spears, nor did they take any part in the preparations for battle. They fled at the first assault of the Franks, having intended to do so from the start.” As it happened, supply problems did vex Alfonso, and he was not able to build upon this victory; the major Muslim cities of the area, Cordoba, Granada, and Jaen, remained safe. But the damage was done. Al-Nasir shipped back to Marrakesh, where, in 1213, he was killed by one of his own men. The Battle of al-‘Iqab, or, as it is known in the West, of Las Navas de Tolosa, would emerge as one of the most decisive engagements ever fought on the Iberian Peninsula and marked the end of Almohad power.

After al-‘Iqab, Almohad collapse came swiftly.

Almohades’ Christian mercenaries

The Murabits’ briefera ofsupremacy ended with the fall of Marrakesh in 1145 and the death of their last amir, Tashulin ibn Ali (1143-45), at the hands of a new Berber religious sect, the Almohades (ai-Muwahhidun, ‘unitarians’). This movement bad been founded by a chieftain’s son named Ibn Tuman who, claiming in 1121 to be the Mahdi prophesied by Mohammed, succeeded in uniting the Masmuda Berbers of the Atlas Mountains against the puritanical and (he argued) heretical Murabits, who were anyway the traditional enemies of the Masmudis. They commenced guerilla actions against the Murabits in 1121 and, although these initially met with only limited success, they were nevertheless able to undermine the structure of the Murabit state and increase the disaffection felt by the over-taxed and poorly governed Moroccan populace. Under Ibn Tuman’s successor Abd al-Mu’min (1130-63, proclaimed Caliph in 1133), Almohade control was established throughout North Africa by 1147 and extended to Moslem Spain in 1149, most of which was soon subdued by an army of just 30,000 men.

The composition of the Almohade army fundamentally differed little from that of the Murabits, consisting of Masmudis and other Berbers (the Zanata and Marinids being specifically mentioned on many occasions) plus Arabs, Ghuzz, Sudanese and the inevitable corps of Christian mercenaries, the so-called ‘Militia Christiana’.

The Almohades’ first Christian mercenaries were probably inherited from the Murabits, appearing in Abd al -Mu’min’s army by 1147 (in fact, it may even have been Christian mercenaries who actually admitted the Almohades into Marrakesh in 1145). Referred to as the Banu Farkhan or Ifarkhan, they were soon regarded with the same respect as they had enjoyed under the Murabits, ironically being held in higher regard and paid at considerably higher rates than were the mercenaries in Christian Spanish armies. Under Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur (1184-99) a Castilian knight, Pedro Fernwdez de Castro, commander of 100 mercenary cavalry, even became ‘Captain-General’ of the Almobade forces in Spain and was in the army that defeated the Christians at Alarcos. After 1169, however, Christian mercenaries are not recorded in the Maghreb itself until 1228, when Caliph Abu’l Ula al-Ma’mun, in exchange for the surrender of territory in Spain, was allowed to hire allegedly 12,000 Castilian cavalry (or, more credibly, 500 according to a Moslem source) from King Ferdinand Ill for use against the pretender Yahya. These provided the core of the Almobade army until at least 1236, and the Christian mercenary who killed the Marinid amir Mohammed Abu Marraf in battle in 1244 was perhaps one of their number. The last mention of Christian mercenaries in Almobade employ, by now predominantly Castilians and Catalans, dates to 1248 when, following the death of Abu Sa’id during his attack on Zayanid-held Tlemcen, some defected to the Zayanids while others went over to the up-and-coming Marinids. The Zayanids of Tlemcen, in fact, had been hiring Christian troops since c. 1236, when they reputedly numbered 2,000 men. Others probably switched their allegiance to the Zayanids’ overlords, the Hafsids of Tunis, who are known to have been employing Christian mercenaries by c. 1249. In Hafsid employ they were chiefly Catalans, part of their salary being paid directly to the Aragonese royal treasury while the King of Aragon actually had the right to appoint and dismiss their commander (called the alcayt, from Arabic al-qa’id). In both Zayanid and Hafsid employ it was these Christian mercenary cavalry, along with Negro infantry, who provided the royal bodyguard.

Warfare in the Spanish Reconquista Era I

During the age of the crusades the organization and operations of Christian armies engaged in the reconquest developed significantly. Not only was the formation of armies improved, but there were frequent opportunities to consider strategic issues of defense and offense, including the relative wisdom of undertaking raids, sieges, or pitched battles. Whereas the focus of this chapter is on peninsular warfare, many will observe that its methods and operations were often typical of medieval warfare in general. Any attempt to distinguish between reconquest and crusade in this regard is meaningless. Whether an expedition had the formal character of a crusade or not, the military organization, strategy and tactics were the same. The ultimate military objective was the reconquest of lands once held by Christians and occupied, unjustly it was believed, by the Muslims, who, in the end, would be expelled from Spain.

Strategic planning to achieve that goal was usually determined by the king and his council. In the Curia of León in 1188 Alfonso IX voiced a principle reflecting ongoing practice: “I promised that I would not make war or peace or treaty without the counsel of the bishops, nobles, and good men by whose counsel I ought to rule.” Strategic discussions surely took place during the Council of León in 1135, when Alfonso VII ordered his frontiersmen “to wage war assiduously against the Saracen infidels every year.” Alfonso VIII, in consultation with his court, developed the plan for the Crusade of Las Navas, and Fernando III, prior to embarking on his initial campaign, took counsel with his mother, his nobles, the Military Orders, and others. Jaime I, who recorded numerous instances when he took counsel, planned the Crusades of Mallorca and Valencia after consulting military experts.

The first line of defense was castles and towns strategically situated along the frontier to provide maximum protection and to delay, if not to prevent, enemy penetration into the heart of the realm. About 1,500 to 2,000 castles in various states of repair still exist. Most were erected on promontories enabling the garrison to see for miles in every direction and to prepare for an approaching enemy. At times a moat was dug as a further protection. Many castles originated as a simple tower around which towns gradually developed. The walls of Ávila, still intact, were likely typical of most frontier towns. Maintenance of the walls was a continuing responsibility. The alcaide (Ar., al-qāʾid) or castellan, who rendered homage to the king, assumed the obligation “to make peace and war” at the king’s command and received a certain sum to provide castle guard, as well as sufficient food, water, and arms. Castles had to be given up to the king on demand, but could not be surrendered to the enemy without his consent.

The Formation of Armies

As there was no standing army, all military operations were essentially ad hoc, usually planned in the winter or early spring to be executed in the late spring, summer, and early fall. If the prince alerted his people by letter, messenger, or lighted fires, according to the Usatges of Barcelona, all men of appropriate age and capacity had to go his aid. A time (about three to four weeks) and a place was usually fixed when the army would assemble with suitable equipment and supplies. The principal ecclesiastical and secular lords were likely summoned individually and in writing. Royal messengers also publicly proclaimed the summons. Everyone summoned had to appear or give a suitable excuse. Failure to respond could result in fines, confiscation, and excommunication. Nobles usually had to serve for three months, in return for a monetary stipend, or tenancy. Towns had a similar obligation. After the expiration of that term troops might be persuaded to remain if their expenses were paid or they were assured of substantial booty. The Muslims of Córdoba, for example, were about to surrender in 1236, but on learning that the Christians were short of food and that the Leonese militias did not wish to remain beyond their three months, they opted to hold out longer.

The Latin sources usually employed the word exercitus for an army, but fonsado and hueste were also used to refer to any military expedition. As a medieval king was expected to lead troops in battle, princes of the royal family were trained to the military life from an early age. Besides his brothers and sons, the king was accompanied by his mesnada, an elite corps of knights acting as his bodyguard. Reilly estimated that about fifty mounted warriors, each supported by a squire and a groom, or about 150 men, attended Alfonso VII. Thirty-five caualleros de mesnada of Fernando III and thirty-three of Alfonso X received land in Seville after its conquest. Jaime I remarked at one point that he was escorted by fifty knights of his maynada.

Prelates and other clerics were often an integral part of the army. While the primary role of the nearly fifty bishops was to provide spiritual sustenance, they were also expected to provide a certain number of troops. Some, such as Jerome, bishop of Valencia, whom the Poem of the Cid depicted as equally adept at liturgical celebration and the use of a lance, may be described as warrior bishops. Both Martín of Pisuerga and Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, archbishops of Toledo, led armies against the Muslims. Gregory IX acknowledged that Rodrigo raised 1,000 men-at-arms and 400 jinetes or light cavalry, and fortified thirty-five castles at his own expense. Bishops Gutierre of Córdoba and Sancho of Coria participated in the siege of Seville “with their company of horse and foot.”

Other clerics and monks promised undetermined numbers of knights, sergeants, and food supplies. The clerical contribution of 269 knights and 2,500 sergeants (servientes, sirvens)—2,769 men in all—was quite substantial. The proportion of sergeants to knights appears to be ten to one, or in the case of the archdeacon of Barcelona twenty to one.

During the Crusade of Lisbon Bishop Pedro of Porto and Archbishop João of Braga played prominent roles as preachers and negotiators. Sancho I subsequently exempted the Portuguese clergy from military service except when the Muslims “invade our kingdom.” Although Bishops Sueiro of Lisbon and Sueiro of Évora took an active role in the Crusade of Alcácer, evidence concerning later participation by Portuguese prelates in the reconquest is minimal. The bishop of Porto, who held the city in lordship, strongly objected when Sancho II demanded military service from the clergy and laity of the city; Gregory IX twice ordered the king to desist.

As royal vassals receiving estates in full ownership from the king or else as benefices, the magnates (ricos hombres, barones) were a major component of the army. From the eleventh century onward as the flow of tribute from the petty Muslim kings increased, kings were able to pay their vassals a cash stipend (stipendium, soldadas). Many a noble enriched himself by plunder and was rewarded for faithful service to the king by the concession of additional estates. As feudalism was more fully developed in Catalonia, nobles retained their fiefs and castles so long as they remained loyal and fulfilled their feudal obligations.

The nobility gradually developed an awareness of their distinctive character formed by the common bond of knighthood or chivalry. Young nobles were trained to war from childhood under the direction of a master soldier and served their elders as squires. A young man who distinguished himself on the battlefield might be knighted at once, though it became customary for an aspirant to undertake the vigil of arms and to receive the accolade the next day from an older knight or from the king. Kings such as Afonso I, who, at fourteen, took his arms from the altar on Pentecost Sunday, knighted themselves. Knights were expected to be courageous, experienced in military matters, endowed with good judgment and a sense of loyalty, and capable of evaluating horses and arms. The number of magnates probably was no more than a dozen or two at any given time. Each one was usually accompanied by his own retinue of vassals, responding to a similar obligation to serve. González suggested that the minimum number of knights in the mesnada of a Castilian magnate was 100, but some were able to maintain 200 or 300. At least fifteen magnates and 200 knights received a share in the partition of Seville.

Various magnates pledged a certain number of knights to the Mallorcan Crusade, as well as an indefinite number of archers, and sergeants, and agreed to provide them with food, drink, arms, armor, and horses.

Nobles  Knights

Nunyo Sanç, count of Roselló 100 knights

Hug, count of Empúries 70 knights

Guillem de Montcada, viscount of Béarn 100 knights

Ferran de San Martín 100 knights

Guerau de Cervelló 100 knights

Ramon de Montcada, lord of Tortosa 25 knights

Ramon Berenguer d’Ager 25 knights

Bernat de Santa Eugénia  30 knights

Gilabert de Croyles 30 knights

 Total 580 knights

If a ratio of sergeants to knights similar to that of the prelates is assumed, that is, ten or twenty to one, then the number of sergeants might approach 5,800 or 11,600. That would give a total of either 6,380 or 12,180 men, but it is impossible to say whether these figures are reasonably accurate or not.

The Military Orders comprised the first line of defense, but the number of friars ready for battle at any given moment is difficult to determine. There were perhaps no more than fifty to a hundred, depending on the Order. The Templar commander of Miravet, for example, pledged thirty knights, twenty mounted crossbowmen, and other troops for the Mallorcan Crusade. When Pelay Pérez Correa, master of Santiago, agreed in 1246 to provide Baldwin II of Constantinople with 1,500 men, that included 300 knights, but not all were members of the Order. Nor is it likely that the 200 archers (100 horse and 100 foot), and 1,000 sergeants or footsoldiers belonged to the Order.

Perhaps aware that rivalry between the Templars and Hospitallers had contributed to the downfall of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, the peninsular Orders several times promised mutual support and collaboration. In 1221 the masters of Calatrava and Santiago concluded a pact of brotherhood, stipulating that their knights would march together, fight side by side under one commander, and share booty equally. Three years later, the masters of Calatrava, Santiago, the Temple, and the Hospital in León and Castile pledged concerted action in battle. In 1239 the masters of Calatrava and Santiago confirmed all previous agreements between their Orders, and four years later they again emphased the need for cooperation under a single commander.

The municipalities also were required to respond to the summons to war. As the population of most Christian towns probably ranged between 1,500 to 3,000 persons, the number of adult males eligible for military service likely was no more than 600 to 1,200. Sentinels or lookouts were posted to warn of an approaching enemy so that the summons to defend the town could be given. The walls provided a secure haven for both urban residents and those living within the district. Towns also raided enemy territory in the hope of bringing back booty. Indeed, Dufourcq and Gautier-Dalché spoke of “war as an industry” during this era.

The nature and extent of municipal military obligations were spelled out in royal charters, such as the Fueros of Jaca, Teruel, Cuenca, and Coria. While in theory all able-bodied men, organized by districts or parishes, were required to serve, only a limited number might have to do so. Kings often granted exemption from military service in exchange for a tax called fonsadera. Before setting out, a muster (alarde, Ar., al-ʿarḍ) was held in the town square to determine whether the soldiers were properly equipped. Knights, who were a prominent element in the municipal militia, came to enjoy both political and social ascendancy in their towns. After the conquest of Seville, as the towns allowed their military skills and equipment to deteriorate, Alfonso X in 1256 and 1264 assured municipal mounted warriors of significant tax advantages, provided that they were suitably equipped for war. The urban militias were commanded by the juez or chief administrator of the town, but the alcaldes or magistrates organized the troops from each district. Scouts, lookouts, a chaplain, a surgeon, and notaries or scribes responsible for supplies and the distribution of booty, accompanied the militia.

Almogávers or almogávares (Ar., al-maghāwīr, raiders), men wearing rough garments, armed with daggers, short lances, and darts, and often living in forests, engaged in daily raids against the Muslims. In Catalonia they were usually footsoldiers, but in Castile they might also be horsemen. Light infantry carrying lances, knives, and daggers, perhaps the most numerous element of the army, included archers (arqueros) and crossbowmen (ballesteros); some ninety-five ballesteros received lands in the partition of Seville. While the cavalry was more mobile, the infantry was valued because it could go where cavalry could not.

Once an army was organized obedience and prompt execution of orders were essential for discipline. Disobedience, fomenting discord, quarreling, wounding, killing, stealing, desertion, and aiding and abetting the enemy were punished severely. Penalties included fines, exile, shaving the head and face, mutilation of the ears or hands, and execution. Trading with the enemy during wartime, especially in wheat, horses, weapons, iron, and wood, was condemned as treason, although the popes occasionally permitted people on the frontier to purchase necessities from neighboring Muslims.

Arms and Armor

In order to acquit themselves effectively soldiers were required to bring a sword, a lance, a javelin, a bow and arrows, or a crossbow and darts. Knights ordinarily carried an iron sword, usually about three feet long, doublesided and with a hilt. The sword was primarily used for striking an enemy in the hope of cutting through his coat of mail, rather than piercing his body. Both knights and footsoldiers used wooden or iron lances about six or seven feet long, and tipped with a long iron point. Footsoldiers also wielded a shorter javelin. Although the bow and arrow enjoyed some popularity, the crossbow became the most important projectile weapon, employed by both knights and footsoldiers.

Protective armor included the coat of mail, worn over a quilted jacket, and reaching the knees or even below; the helmet or iron cap, sometimes fitted with a nose guard, and worn over a cloth cap; and metal or leather braces protecting the arms and thighs. Shields or bucklers made of wood covered with leather or iron bands, were either round, or triangular, similar to a kite. The coats of arms of kings and knights were painted on their shields. Almoravid shields were made from hippopotamus hides. Body armor and arms varied greatly depending on the warrior’s status. Magnates may have adorned their helmets with precious stones, as visual testimony of their triumphs.

Several codices illustrate various types of weapons and protective gear. A twelfth-century miniature in Beatus’s Commentary depicts soldiers on horseback and on foot, wearing conical iron caps and chain mail covering the body including the head and reaching to the knees; they carried swords, lances, and round shields. A battle scene in Cantiga 63 displays Christian knights wearing chain mail covered with surcoats, gloves, and bowled or square helmets shielding the entire face; their kite shields have distinctive markings such as a zig-zag pattern in black and white (a Muslim shield has gold half-moons on red); they carry lances with triangular pennons, and a red flag. Around 1300 murals in the royal palace of Barcelona portrayed knights in chain mail with pot helmets, footsoldiers bearing lances and swords, and archers equipped with swords, as well as crossbows and darts in quivers.

Knights sometimes imitated the Muslim riding style, known as a la jineta; with a short stirrup strap and bended knees the knight was able to control his horse and to move swiftly. The French practice, known as a la brida, also gained popularity. A long stirrup strap extended the warrior’s legs giving him greater security, though somewhat sacrificing maneuverability. Horses were sometimes protected by a coat of mail. Given their great cost and the expense of maintaining them, the number of mounted warriors likely was small in comparison with infantrymen. Thirteenth-century laws prohibiting the export of horses attested to their scarcity. After losing eighty-six horses, Jaime I purchased replacements but admitted that he probably paid more than they were worth. The Almoravids brought camels to Spain, causing consternation among the Christians, but neither Muslims nor Christians used them regularly.

Armies probably employed trumpets or other horns to summon one another. The sound of Almoravid war drums covered with elephant hides reportedly terrified the Christians who had never heard them before. Cantiga 165 illustrates a Muslim army equipped with standards, trumpets, and drums.

Supply was a major concern of any army. It has been estimated that each man required about two and a half pounds of grain and two quarts of water per day; horses needed eight gallons of water and twenty-eight pounds of fodder. Beasts of burden, rather than wheeled carts, ordinarily were used to transport supplies. Mules, needing less food and water and able to cover as many as twenty-five miles a day with loads of 200 pounds or more, were preferred to horses. Municipal fueros often specified the obligation to provide beasts of burden. Jaime I employed 2,000 pack animals capable of carrying 400,000 pounds of supplies to relieve Puig, while the king of Granada sent 1,500 animals to Fernando III’s siege of Jaén. An army on the move usually followed river routes and marched through areas that might yield forage and plunder.

Warfare in the Spanish Reconquista Era II

Military Standards and Leadership

The military standard was a sign whereby kings, magnates, Military Orders, and town militias identified themselves; it also acted as a rallying point. Guillem de Montcada, who led the van in the battle of Portopí, commanded his men: “let no one separate himself from my standard” and Alfonso VIII ordered his standardbearer to advance into the midst of the battle of Las Navas to hearten his troops. Standards varied in size and shape in accordance with a person’s rank. Royal standards more than likely were similar to royal seals. Castles were probably depicted on the Castilian standard and lions on the Leonese; after the union of the realms, the two were combined. Innocent III permitted Pedro II and his successors to use a banner bearing their arms, four red stripes on a yellow shield. The royal murals of Barcelona show knights carrying standards with distinctive arms and some have similar identifying signs on their helmets.

Town militias gathered for prayer and for the blessing of their standards before setting out on campaign. In the Cortes of Seville in 1250 Fernando III stipulated that a town’s standard must be borne not by an artisan, but by the juez or judge, a person of knightly rank, who would not bring shame on the town in time of danger, presumably by fleeing. Standards given to towns by the king were destroyed after his death and replaced by others presented by his successor. Soldiers were expected to defend the standard, and suffered dire punishments if they fled with it, thereby disrupting the army, or abandoned it, an act tantamount to treason. Rewards were given to those who defended the standard or recovered one taken by the enemy, or raised up one that had fallen, or captured an enemy standard.

The success of any military undertaking depended largely on the quality of leadership. Although the king was the natural commander, he was not necessarily a good general, and so relied on the counsel of his vassals, who brought their own experience into play. Afonso I and Sancho I of Portugal and Alfonso I and Jaime I of Aragón appear to have been more than competent commanders, while the Cid and Pelay Pérez Correa, master of Santiago, stand out as notable generals. The alférez (Ar., al-fāris, knight) or signifer, a prominent noble who bore the royal standard, commanded the army during the king’s absence. The Cid, named as alférez by Sancho II of Castile, was the most famous person to hold that position.

Below the magnates, each of whom commanded his own vassals, there were many other commanders and the law prescribed harsh penalties for those who killed, wounded, or dishonored them. In its most limited sense adalid (Ar., al-dalīl, guide) meant one whose knowledge of roads and passages was such that he could lead troops safely through difficult terrain, and knew where to place lookouts. Sponsored by twelve of his fellows, he was appointed by the king to command a mounted troop; after swearing an oath to defend the realm, he received a standard from the king as a sign of his office. At least twenty adalides shared in the partition of Seville. If someone were to be promoted to the post of almocadén (Ar., al-muqaddam, commander) or infantry commander, twelve others had to swear that he was brave and loyal, knowledgeable in war, capable of command and of protecting his men. The king conferred on him a lance with a small pennant by which he could be recognized. His twelve sponsors then raised him high four times on two lances; pointing his lance toward each of the four corners of the world, he swore the same oath as the adalid. Fifty-one almocadenes, each with a company of foot, were given property in the partition of Seville.

Wars of Pillage and Devastation

Offensive warfare most often took the form of cavalcades or raids of shorter or longer duration into enemy territory. Both Christian and Muslim raiding parties of lightly armed cavalry tried to profit by a rapid strike, seizing livestock and whatever other booty they could in a day or two. Perhaps numbering only 50 to 300 men, raiders usually were familiar with the land and tried to conceal their movements as long as possible. They had to move swiftly so the enemy would not have time to retaliate and so that they could regain the safety of their town. The best guarantee of that was surprise. When Jaime I carried out a raid with 130 knights, 150 almogàvers, and 700 footsoldiers, they traveled by night, but the Muslims of Valencia alerted their people by bonfires.

Raids lasting several weeks or even months and reaching deep into enemy territory often involved thousands of knights and footsoldiers and had to be planned well in advance. They were usually undertaken during the summer and fall when the harvest was ripe for destruction or could provide sustenance for the raiders. The purpose of these raids was devastation: to destroy the enemy’s crops; trees and vineyards were burned and cut down; livestock was seized; villages were pillaged; fortifications were wrecked; and persons having the misfortune of being in the way were captured. The raiders hoped to undermine the enemy’s morale and his will to resist. Once an enemy had been softened up in this way, it was possible to besiege a stronghold in the expectation that the defenders would have insufficient supplies and manpower to maintain themselves for any length of time.

As the element of surprise was missing in a large cavalcade acting in broad daylight, the army had to be well organized and disciplined, moving in a column, ready to defend itself at any moment. The army ordinarily was divided into a vanguard, a rearguard, and flanking detachments. Defensible places adjacent to water and food supplies were chosen for encampments. Tents were set in a circle or a square with the king’s tent in the center. Sometimes defensive barriers were established. In 1231 Jaime I ordered 300 campfires lit so the Muslims would conclude that his army was much larger than in actuality. From a base camp smaller raiding parties were detached to plunder the surrounding area. Alfonso I, departing from Zaragoza in September 1125 and ending about a year later, carried out a notable cavalcade through Andalucía. Once the decision was taken to return home, the army was vulnerable to reprisals because of the burden of captives and livestock seized as booty.

Siege Warfare

Sooner or later, if the king wished to take possession of any area, he had to seize the enemy’s strongholds and the territory dependent on them. Some fortresses were taken by surprise, usually because the garrison was small and unprepared. Taking advantage of the dark of night, the twelfth-century Portuguese adventurer Geraldo the Fearless scaled the walls of several towns but few of his conquests were permanent. Other places were captured when the attackers overwhelmed the defenders. When the crusaders enroute to Las Navas seized Malagón in a few hours, other nearby fortresses, after offering minimal resistance, soon capitulated. After breaking into the suburbs of Córdoba by surprise, the Castilians soon established a full-blown siege.

A siege was a long and costly operation of uncertain outcome (see Figure 6). The approaches to a fortress were often difficult to traverse, especially if it stood on a mountain, or if it were protected by a moat or a palisade. The Genoese closed the moat of Tortosa, reportedly about 126 feet wide by 96 deep, by filling it with stones. The Muslims defending Calatrava la vieja in 1212 set iron spikes in the Guadiana River to impede the crusaders. Stone walls several feet thick protected the defenders while holding off the enemy; sometimes an outer wall encircling the original walls presented an additional barrier. The last bastion of defense was the citadel within the walls and often on a height overlooking a town. Sieges such as those of Toledo (1085), Zaragoza (1118), Lisbon (1147), Almería (1147), Tortosa (1148), Silves (1189), Alcácer do Sal (1217), Mallorca (1229), Córdoba (1236), Valencia (1238), Jaén (1245), and Seville (1248) occupy a significant place in contemporary narratives. The besieging army attempted to sever the enemy’s lines of communication and to deprive the defenders of sustenance by ravaging the surrounding countryside. Care had to be taken, however, not to destroy the army’s own food supply. While the work of pillage continued, the defenders often made sorties, skirmishing with their opponents, and then retreating hastily to safety.

Arms and armor as well as water, wheat, and other food supplies were stockpiled in preparation for a siege. The defenders of Lisbon eventually were reduced to eating cats and dogs—to the horror of the crusaders—as well as garbage thrown from crusader ships and washed up under the walls. Although the food supply supposedly had rotted, when the crusaders occupied the city they discovered 8,000 seams of wheat and 12,000 sextars of oil, which they found quite acceptable. Failure to cut off the food supply or to reduce the defenders to starvation often forced a siege to be abandoned. Limitations on military service also hampered besieging armies, as knights or townsmen opted to depart once their term was up.

A blockade was established so supplies and reinforcements could not be introduced and the defenders could not escape. Attempts were made to breach the walls by sapping or battering them. Mantlets made of hides and osier protected sappers trying to dig under the walls and others using a battering ram from being pummeled from above by stones. If a castle were built on rock, mining would be time-consuming and costly and ultimately unsuccessful. Within a month the crusaders at Lisbon dug a mine with five entrances, extending about sixty feet; when inflammable material was placed in the mine about forty-five feet of the wall fell down. Crusaders mining the walls of Alcácer do Sal caused one tower to collapse. The Muslims thwarted an attempt during the siege of Seville to undermine Triana.

While mining was in progress, wooden towers were constructed and moved up against the walls, sometimes on wheels, sometimes over greased wooden rollers. Standing on top of the towers, archers and crossbowmen shot arrows and other missiles down on the defenders; eventually an assault might be launched across a bridge from the tower to the walls. Two movable towers, one eighty-three feet high and another ninety-five feet, were built during the siege of Lisbon. Mats, penthouses, and mantlets made of interwoven branches protected the towers against fire and stones; however, the defenders dumped burning oil on one tower, reducing it to ashes. During the siege of Almería the Muslims used Greek fire to burn wooden castles built by the Christians.

Siege engines previously used were sometimes transported to the current site, while at other times they were built on the spot. While bombardment might continue by day and night, walls were not easily destroyed. The defenders often had siege engines of their own to hurl missiles at their tormentors. Chevedden argued that all siege machines were essentially variations of the trebuchet, a wooden beam on a rotating axle fixed on a single pole or on a trestle. Attached to the long narrow end of the beam was a sling containing a projectile; ropes tied to the other, wider end, when pulled by a crew, propelled the projectile through the air. Three types were used: the traction trebuchet driven by a crew pulling ropes; the counterweight trebuchet powered by a counterweight placed opposite the sling; and the hybrid trebuchet employing both the counterweight and the pulling crew.

Among the siege engines in which the beam was fixed on a single pole were the mangonel, probably a traction trebuchet; the fundibulum; and the algarrade (Ar. ʿarrādah). Heavier machines set on a trestle included the al-manjanech (Ar. al-manjanīq), probably a hybrid trebuchet; and the brigola, a counterweight trebuchet. Stones were often transported to the siege, but at other times were gathered on site. The maximum size that could be fired by a traction trebuchet was 200 pounds for a maximum distance of about 120 meters or 390 feet. A counterweight trebuchet could launch even heavier missiles. Two Balearic mangonels, hybrid trebuchets used by the crusaders at Lisbon with alternating crews of 100 men, were able to fire 5,000 stones in ten hours, or 250 an hour, or approximately four every minute. One can imagine the destruction that might be done and the fear raised among the population.

Both sides also practiced a form of pscyhological warfare. Jaime I, for example, shot the head of a Muslim captive over the walls of Palma. While the crusaders at Lisbon impaled the heads of eighty Muslim captives so the defenders could see them, the Muslims taunted them, objecting to their worship of Jesus, abusing the cross, and suggesting that their wives were producing bastards at home. When the Almoravids threatened Toledo in 1148, Queen Berenguela called their manhood into question for attacking a woman and told them to seek out her husband, Alfonso VII, who would readily take them on. Shamed, they withdrew.

Persistence eventually brought the besieged to their knees. As supplies were exhausted, starvation loomed; people died; rotting corpses raised a stench, and disease began to spread. In the circumstances the defenders might appeal to their coreligionists for help, promising that if that proved fruitless within a specified period they would surrender. After an army coming to relieve Alcácer do Sal was defeated, the defenders capitulated a month later. When Alfonso IX routed Ibn Hūd at Alange, Mérida surrendered; nearby Badajoz apparently put up little resistance, and the Muslims abandoned Elvas. Fernando III allowed Carmona to seek help in 1247, but when it was not forthcoming, the town yielded.

Although no surrender pacts for Castile-León and Portugal are extant, the chroniclers often reported the terms of surrender. Some Aragonese pacts do survive and are likely representative of the genre. Alfonso VI allowed the Muslims of Toledo to remain, retaining their property, worshipping freely, and living in accordance with Islamic law; those who wished to depart with their movable goods could do so, but they could return later if they wished. Alfonso I gave similar guarantees to the Muslims of Zaragoza. Although the Muslims of Lisbon were permitted to leave, provided that they gave up their arms, money, animals, and clothing, the crusaders sacked the city, killing many. Sancho I agreed to allow the Muslims of Silves to depart with their movable goods, but his crusading allies insisted on their right to plunder the city, even though he offered them 10,000 maravedís as compensation.

Fernando III’s general policy in Andalucía was to require the Muslims to evacuate the principal urban centers capitulating after a siege. Thus the Muslims of Capilla, Baeza, Úbeda, Córdoba, Jaén, and Seville were allowed to depart, taking their movable goods under safe-conduct to Muslim territory. The Muslims similarly evacuated Palma, Borriana, and Valencia, but a significant number remained in Jaime I’s dominions, assured of religious liberty and the observance of Islamic law. The fall of a city usually resulted in the capitulation of smaller towns in the vicinity. Thus when Toledo surrendered, other towns in the Tagus valley acknowledged Alfonso VI’s sovereignty. After the surrender of Córdoba, several adjacent towns offered tribute to Fernando III. Many towns in the countryside surrounding Seville, including Jerez and Medina Sidonia, acknowledged his suzerainty, while retaining their property, law, and religion.

While many sieges ended with capitulation, some towns were taken by assault. This was the bloodiest outcome of a siege and in some respects the least desirable. Men, women, and children were slaughtered indiscriminately, and survivors were reduced to slavery. Although the defenders at Almería offered Alfonso VII 100,000 maravedís if he would lift the siege, the Genoese refused to agree and took the city by assault. Some 20,000 Muslims were said to have been killed and another 30,000 taken captive; 10,000 women and children were transported to Genoa, where they were likely sold as slaves or ransomed. Following Las Navas the Muslims of Úbeda offered Alfonso VIII 1,000,000 maravedís to pass them by, but he refused and assaulted the city, enslaving the survivors. Jaime I reported that 24,000 inhabitants were massacred during the assault of Palma.


Numerous battles resulted when a relieving army attempted to drive off besiegers or to intercept a raiding expedition, but only rarely did kings risk the possibility of a great victory or a terrible defeat by deliberately engaging in a pitched battle. The Cid, besieged in Valencia, repulsed the Almoravids at Cuart de Poblet in 1094, and two years later Pedro I triumphed at Alcoraz over the Muslims coming to relieve Huesca. The Almoravids, in turn, overwhelmed a Christian army trying to succor Uclés in 1108. Alfonso I gained three notable victories on the battlefield, first over the king of Zaragoza who made a sortie from his beleaguered city in 1118; then at Cutanda in 1120 over the Almoravids; and at Lucena in 1126 during his march through Andalucía. He was not so fortunate, however, at Fraga in 1134, when he was defeated and killed by the Almoravids. There is little information about it, but at Ourique in 1139 Afonso I defeated the Muslims attempting to halt incursions into the Alentejo. A century later, as noted above, at Alange in 1230 Alfonso IX bested Ibn Hūd attempting to relieve Mérida. Muslim troops stationed on a height at Portopí overlooking the shore attempted to halt Jaime I’s invasion of Mallorca in 1229, but the Christians forced them to flee. When Zayyān, the king of Valencia, attacked Jaime I’s base at Puig de la Cebolla in 1237, he was driven off. The victory undermined the morale of the Valencian Muslims and stiffened the king’s determination to have the city.

The classic battles of the reconquest, however, were Zallāqa, Alarcos, and Las Navas de Tolosa. Alfonso VI and Yūsuf ibn Tashufīn fought the battle of Zallāqa on 23 October 1086, on a broad plain in a place now called Sagrajas, near the juncture of the Guadiana and the Gevora Rivers, about eight to ten miles north of Badajoz. A description by a contemporary author, Abū Bakr al-Turṭūshī, probably reflects the tactics employed by the Almoravids at Zallāqa:

This is the battle order that we use . . . and which seems most efficacious in our battles with our enemies. The infantry with their shields, lances, and iron-tipped and penetrating javelins are formed in several ranks. Their lances rest obliquely on their shoulders, the shaft touching the ground, the point aimed at the enemy. Each one kneels . . . on his left knee and holds his shield in the air. Behind the infantry are the elite archers, whose arrows can pierce coats of mail. Behind the archers are the cavalry. . . . When the enemy comes near, the archers let fly against them a shower of arrows, while the infantry throw their javelins and receive the charge on the points of their lances. Then infantry and archers . . . open their ranks to right and left and the Muslim cavalry, charging through the open space, routs the enemy, if Allāh so decides.

Alfonso VI, possibly expecting a quick victory over forces assumed to be as ineffective as the reyes de taifas, charged and drove back the taifa contingents, but superior Almoravid numbers halted his advance. Their first line of defense consisted of soldiers equipped with long lances, and the second line threw javelins at the enemy. At this point Yūsuf carried out a flanking movement and surrounded the Christians; many were killed as they attempted to escape, but some apparently died from the labors of the day. Though wounded, Alfonso VI escaped under cover of night. Despite his victory, Yūsuf advanced no further, perhaps reasoning that it was late in the year and that greater success could be achieved in the spring. Thus he gained no significant territory at Christian expense, though the subjugation of Andalucía to Almoravid rule put the Christians on the defensive for many years to come. Another consequence was to attract French knights to the war against Islam in Spain.

Warfare in the Spanish Reconquista Era III

A century later Alfonso VIII chanced the future of his kingdom on a pitched battle at Alarcos on 19 July 1195. There, a few miles south of Toledo, a castle, still unfinished, was situated on a small hill adjacent to the Guadiana River and overlooked a broad plain. Thinking that the Almohads were weakened by rebellions in Morocco and elsewhere, he evidently concluded that he could defeat them on the battlefield and refused to await reinforcements from Alfonso IX. The Caliph al-Manṣūr had the advantage in numbers and also opted to give his men a day of rest rather than accept the challenge offered by the Christians. On the following morning the Almohads, well-rested and organized in tribal groups each with its own standard, initiated the combat. The Christians, disconcerted, charged in a disorderly manner, dispersing some of the volunteers who had come to participate in the holy war; but the main Almohad lines held firm and executed a flanking movement that encircled the Christians. To rescue the situation Alfonso VIII brought up his reserves, but the caliph responded with the full force of his army. In the ensuing mêlée the Christians were driven back and the king had to flee. Those seeking refuge in the castle of Alarcos were shortly forced to surrender. The battle had raged from early morning until sundown. Many other nearby castles surrendered or were abandoned by the Christians, but the caliph did not press his advantage, returning instead to Seville. In the next two years, however, Almohad forces ravaged the Tagus River valley.

The battle of Alarcos was an ignominious defeat for Alfonso VIII, but on 16 July 1212 at Las Navas de Tolosa he redeemed himself with a glorious triumph. Marching southward from Toledo the crusaders seized most of the fortresses lost as a result of Alarcos. As they passed through the Puerto del Muradal they encountered the Almohad army. The battle likely occurred about seven or eight miles north of Las Navas between Santa Elena and Miranda del Rey. The Christians were grouped in three ranks, each organized in a vanguard and a rearguard. Alfonso VIII held the center, while Pedro II occupied the left and Sancho VII of Navarre the right. Lightly armed cavalry, including volunteers dedicated to the holy war, formed the first rank of the Almohad army. The main force consisted of troops from both Morocco and Andalucía. Combat commenced when the crusader vanguard broke through the first enemy lines but the Almohad van stiffened, prompting some of the urban militiamen to flee. Fearing disaster, Alfonso VIII moved up with his rearguard while Pedro II and Sancho VII also joined the attack. At that point the Caliph al-Nāṣir fled, leaving his army to be cut to pieces. In the ensuing days Alfonso VIII temporarily occupied Baeza and Úbeda, but exhaustion and fear of famine forced him to return to Toledo. Although it was not apparent at the time, his victory at Las Navas de Tolosa opened the entire Guadalquivir valley to Christian conquest.

In the three battles just described several factors had a paramouint influence on the outcome. The Muslims appear to have had numerical superiority at Zallāqa and Alarcos, whereas at Las Navas the forces seem to have been evenly matched. Secondly, Yūsuf ibn Tashufīn and al-Manṣūr, the victors at Zallāqa and Alarcos, exercised more effective generalship. Both Alfonso VI and Alfonso VIII underestimated their opponents, and overconfidence probably led them into battles that they should have avoided. The Muslim tactic of giving way and feigning retreat evidently fooled the Christians at Zallāqa and Alarcos, who were then surrounded as the enemy swept around their flanks. Alfonso VIII probably learned something from his experience at Alarcos and put it to good use at Las Navas; the caliph, however, seems to have remained passive during the battle until he fled in disgrace. The terrain at Zallāqa and Alarcos apparently did not favor one side over the other, though at Zallāqa the Almoravids had the river Guadiana at their back; that could have slowed their retreat to Badajoz, if that had been necessary. The battlefield of Las Navas was much hillier than at either of the other sites but the Christians were able to overcome the obstacles posed. Although the chroniclers tend to emphasize the action of the cavalry in all these battles, infantry forces were present as well.

The Question of Numbers

Any attempt to determine the number of troops engaged in any given campaign is a frustrating task. Documents recording numbers are generally lacking, and chroniclers’ statements are often exaggerated and must be viewed with great scepticism. Numbers varied considerably depending on whether the military action was a raid, a seige, or a battle. Some raiding parties probably counted no more than 50 to 100 or 200 to 300, while others were substantially larger, approaching the size of armies. The number of soldiers involved in a siege probably changed over the course of the operation. Some contingents likely did not arrive at the outset, perhaps in accordance with a preconceived plan, while others left early, citing foral limitations on their service. During the several months of the siege of Seville Fernando III commanded perhaps 5,000 to 7,000 men.

Numbers given by the sources of soldiers engaged in pitched battles are generally unacceptable. Muslim authors related that at Zallāqa the Almoravids had 500, or 12,000, or 20,000 light cavalry, and estimated the Christians at 40,000, 60,000, or 80,000 horse and 200,000 foot; the number killed ranged from 10,000 to 54,000, or 300,000. Reilly, however, estimated the Christian army at about 2,500 men, consisting of perhaps 750 heavily armed and 750 lightly armed knights, and about 1,000 squires and footsoldiers. Muslim sources, all of a later date, recorded the death of 30,000 Christians at Alarcos, and the capture of 5,000, while only 500 Muslims were killed; according to al-Maqqarī there were 146,000 dead Christians, and 30,000 prisoners; the booty consisted of 150,000 tents, 80,000 horses, 100,000 mules, and 400,000 asses. Prior to Las Navas, Alfonso VIII estimated that 2,000 knights with their squires, 10,000 sergeants on horseback and up to 50,000 sergeants on foot came to Toledo. Archbishop Rodrigo stated that the Almohads had 185,000 knights and an incalculable number of infantry, and that their losses amounted to 200,000 men. Muslim sources related that only 600 out of 600,000 Almohad soldiers survived the battle. Such figures are wholly unreliable.

The numbers for Jaime I’s crusades are also difficult to calculate because of discrepancies in the sources. According to the number of knights and sergeants pledged by prelates and nobles for the Mallorcan Crusade, cited above, the king may have had anywhere from 9,000 to 13,000 men. While he noted that he embarked 1,000 men in his ships, the Latin Chronicle reported that his letters stated that he had scarcely seventy knights and 13,000 foot when he took Mallorca. At Portopí, according to the king, 2,000 Muslims attempted to prevent the landing of 4,000 to 5,000 men, and the Muslims trying to dislodge the Christians from Puig de la Cebolla numbered 600 knights and 11,000 foot. Whether the size of the Muslim army was as great as reported cannot be ascertained.

Without detailed records it is impossible to determine the size of armies clashing in pitched battles. The number on each side might fall between 1,000 and 10,000 men, and perhaps no more than 3,000 to 5,000 were involved in any one of the battles mentioned. Exaggerating the number of enemy soldiers or those killed, of course, was one way of exalting the triumph of one’s coreligionists or explaining away a terrible defeat.

The Distribution of the Spoils

Booty taken in the innumerable raids typical of frontier warfare was a means of enriching oneself or of attaining higher status. A footsoldier who captured a horse and became a mounted warrior, for example, altered his situation permanently. The capture of enemy arms also replenished the store of weapons. The spoils of war contributed mightily to the economic growth of frontier towns. Nevertheless, the evidence can hardly be quantified, as the chronicles speak in general terms of booty taken. The Toledan militia, after routing the kings of Córdoba and Seville, “took a lot of gold and silver, royal standards, precious vestments, excellent arms, chain mail, helmets, shields, excellent horses with their saddles, and mules and camels laden with great riches.” The day before Las Navas Archbishop Rodrigo threatened with excommunication anyone who abandoned pursuit of the enemy to gather booty. The Almohads left behind “gold, silver, precious garments, silk hangings, and many other precious ornaments, as well as a lot of money and precious vases,” besides camels and other animals, and tents; Alfonso VIII sent the caliph’s tent to the pope and the tent flap to Las Huelgas de Burgos.

Quarrels inevitably erupted concerning the disposal of booty. The municipal fueros, however, stipulated that booty was communal property and prescribed an elaborate process for distribution. Everything was gathered and recorded under the supervision of quadrilleros representing municipal parishes. An auction was held, usually in the town square, under the presidency of the principal magistrate, and the money realized was apportioned among the victors. First, however, families were compensated for the loss of a relative, a horse, another animal, or equipment. Next, muncipal officials who had served with the militia were paid, and those who had distinguished themselves in combat were rewarded. A fifth of all booty, owed to the king as a sign of sovereignty, was in effect a form of taxation that enabled him to execute his functions. At times he consigned a portion to the Military Orders. Once these claims were satisfied the remainder was distributed among the rank and file. People who provided animals or equipment, archers, commanders, surgeons, chaplains, and clerks received additional shares because of their special contributions. The mayordomo mayor had the responsibility for supervising the distribution of booty taken by a royal army; each man was compensated according to the number of men, arms, and animals that he brought to the campaign.

The greatest form of booty was plunder seized when a fortress surrendered. Aside from people, animals, and movable goods, there was also real estate to be distributed. In the twelfth century quadrilleros or municipal company commanders apportioned land among the soldiers planning to settle in the new community. In the thirteenth century royal partitioners assigned houses, shops, farmland, vineyards, and orchards to the conquerors in accordance with their status and contribution to victory. The most comprehensive repartimientos or books recording this distribution of property are those for Mallorca, Valencia, and Seville.

Casualties and Ransoming Captives

Casualties were a consequence of all military actions. Numbers were sometimes reasonably stated, but Alfonso VIII’s assertion that 100,000 Muslims died at Las Navas was a gross exaggeration; equally absurd is his statement that only twenty-five or thirty Christians were killed. Physicians and surgeons often accompanied militia forces and were paid specific fees for treating the wounded. The latter were compensated for injuries and were often cared for in hospitals. In 1225 Jaime I placed all the hospitals in his realms under royal protection. The Military Orders maintained hospitals to care for their wounded. Calatrava, for example, had hospitals at Guadalerzas, Évora, Cogolludo, El Collado de Berninches, and Santa Olalla. The commander of Santa Olalla was obliged to accompany royal armies “to provide for knights and footsoldiers, both the wounded and the poor, the ill and the sick, and to take a chaplain with him to offer viaticum to the wounded, if necessary, and a master of surgery to give medicine to the wounded.” The hospitals of the Order of Santiago were situated at Toledo, Cuenca, Alarcón, Moya, Huete, Talavera, Uclés, Castrotoraf, and Salamanca.

The king and the most powerful magnates had their own physicians, but only three kings seem to have been injured or wounded: Alfonso VI was wounded at Zallāqa; Afonso I broke his leg attempting to escape from Badajoz; and during the siege of Valencia, a bolt from a crossbow creased Jaime I’s forehead. The primitive character of medieval surgery is illustrated in Cantiga 126. A bolt fired from a crossbow lodged in a Christian’s neck, but the surgeon’s initial attempt to extract it was unsuccessful; he then vainly attached the bolt to a crossbow, hoping to fire it. Happily for the wounded man the Virgin Mary, so we are told, was able to pull it out.

One of the hazards of war, both for soldiers and civilians, was the possibility of being captured. The loss of “liberty which is the most precious thing that people can have in this world” was sufficient cause for grief, especially because captivity, aside from the separation from family and friends, was usually quite harsh. Some captives never returned home and others were subjected to torture to force their conversion to Islam. Dominican and Franciscan friars were sent to attend to the spiritual needs of captives in Morocco so they would not apostasize. Sometimes prisoners escaped or were liberated by victorious armies. Both Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Santo Domingo de Silos came to be known as wonderworkers who could break chains and set captives free.

Family members often sought to ransom captured relatives but not every family could raise the money. Catalan confraternities received bequests for that purpose, and municipal fueros regularized the redemption of captives, allowing families to purchase Muslim slaves to be exchanged for Christian captives. Merchants functioning as professional ransomers often turned over ransom money or executed the exchange. The ransomer, called an exea (Ar., shīʾa, guide), or later, alfaqueque (Ar., al-fakkāk, redeemer) was paid a commission of 10 percent for each captive ransomed or a gold maravedí for every prisoner exchanged. The alfaqueque, appointed by a municipality or the king, was expected to be honest and to know Arabic. The hospitals of the Military Orders, such as the Holy Redeemer at Teruel in Aragón, not only cared for the wounded, but also coordinated the process of raising ransom money, and welcomed captives after their release. The hospitals maintained by Calatrava and Santiago, mentioned above, also ransomed captives, but as the need declined by the middle of the thirteenth century, they began to disappear.

The French Order of the Trinity and the Order of La Merced were specifically dedicated to the redemption of captives. St. Jean de Mathe (d. 1213), a Provençal, the founder of the Trinitarians, received Innocent III’s approbation and planned to devote a third of the Order’s revenues to ransom. Trinitarian hospitals were situated at Toledo, Valencia, and other towns. The Order also benefited from the partition of Seville. The origins of the Order of La Merced can be traced to 1230 when a citizen of Barcelona made a bequest to St. Pere Nolasc for ransoming captives. Within a few years the house of Santa Eulalia of Barcelona and others in Mallorca and Girona were established; Gregory IX confirmed the Order in 1235. Ten years later Innocent IV cited the Order’s sixteen houses in the Crown of Aragón and three in Castile. The Mercedarians began by collecting alms to pay ransom but in time they journeyed to Muslim lands to attempt to secure the liberation of captives.

Naval Forces

Naval forces facilitated the capture of some of the most important Muslim ports. Fleets of sailing ships, or naves, and galleys transported troops, horses, and supplies, broke up naval defenses, and blockaded towns under siege. A triangular lateen sail, fixed on a long yard extending down almost to the forward deck and reaching high above the masthead, enabled a sailing ship to maneuver more skillfully. Round ships with high prows and even higher sterns, and a castle or superstructure for cabins set in the stern, are illustrated in the Cantigas de Santa Maria; there were two masts with lateen sails with a crow’s nest atop each mast, and a side paddle rudder for steering. A row boat seems to have been essential for getting to land or rescuing the crew if the ship began to sink. Many of the other sailing ships mentioned in the sources are likely variations of this basic model. The galley, lightly built and propelled by oarsmen, was also equipped with a mast and sail to take advantage of the wind. Noted for its speed and maneuverability, it was preferred for naval warfare. The Cantigas depicts several galleys with one tier of oarsmen, usually twelve on each side.

Although Bishop Diego Gelmírez recruited Genoese and Pisan shipbuilders who built at least two galleys to repel Saracen pirates, the consistent use of naval power on the Galician coast was in the future. The first Christian naval forces deployed against the Muslims came not from the peninsula, but from Italy. In 1113 the Pisans provided most, if not all, of the 200 to 300 ships used in the Mallorcan Crusade. A Genoese fleet of sixty-three galleys and 163 other ships collaborated in the siege of Almería (the count of Barcelona contributed one ship) and later in conquering Tortosa. About 164 to 200 crusading ships participated in the conquest of Lisbon, while some fifty-five to seventy-four northern ships aided the capture of Silves; about 180 northern ships joined in the siege of Alcácer do Sal.

Only in the thirteenth century did the Christian rulers develop their own naval power. The necessity to defend the Catalan coast against pirates encouraged shipbuilding, and during the reign of Jaime I shipyards were constructed at Barcelona. Two years before setting out for Mallorca, he prohibited the use of foreign ships to carry goods from Barcelona when Catalan ships were available. In 1229 he could rely almost entirely on ships from Barcelona, Tarragona, and Tortosa, and an armed galley provided by the abbot of San Feliu de Guixols. All told there were, by his reckoning, “150 capital ships” and many smaller boats, including twenty-five naus, eighteen tarides, twelve galleys, and 100 others. After the conquest of Mallorca he appointed an admiral named Carroz. During the Valencian Crusade ships transported supplies and siege engines along the coast. When the emir of Tunis in 1238 dispatched a relieving fleet of eighteen ships the king assembled three armed galleys and seven other vessels to repel them.

A Castilian fleet of about thirteen naves and galleys from the Bay of Biscay, organized by Ramón Bonifaz of Burgos, collaborated in the siege of Seville. Near the mouth of the Guadalquivir they defeated thirty Muslim vessels. The Muslims vainly attempted to block the river by means of a large raft, full of jars loaded with Greek fire. As the Christians moved up river they broke the chain linking a bridge of boats stretching from the city to the suburb of Triana on the west bank. After the fall of Seville Alfonso X, taking up the project for an African Crusade, reconstructed the old Muslim shipyards, and contracted with twenty-one ship captains, each of whom pledged to maintain a galley manned by 100 armed men. Afonso III also employed a Portuguese fleet to thwart any attempt by Muslim galleys to relieve Faro.

In conclusion, the general strategy of reconquest, now overlaid with the crusading indulgence, aimed first at the devastation of enemy territory by raids carried out by small or large forces. Next, castles, cities, and towns were taken through sieges, or after victory on the battlefield. Although truces were often set, the Christians had to be ready to resume hostilities at any moment. Castles had to be garrisoned and supplied; troops had to be alert to the summons to war and prepared to pass muster with appropriate arms and armor. Warfare involved everyone: kings, nobles, clerics, Military Orders, and town militias, though it is almost impossible to estimate the size of any given army. Fines or other heavy punishments helped to maintain military discipline and both kings and popes enacted laws prohibiting the sale of goods that Muslims might eventually use against Christians. The outcome of war might be victory or defeat, and surely resulted in death, wounding, or capture for many, whose number cannot be calculated. Booty, one of the rewards of victory and a means of personal enrichment, was closely regulated by royal and municipal law. Care of the wounded and redemption of captives were characteristic functions of hospitals established for that purpose. Crusading fleets played a significant role in the capture of coastal towns, but in the thirteenth century the peninsular rulers were able to organize their own fleets.


The taifa kingdoms in 1031 immediately after the fracturing of the caliphate.

The Party Kingdoms, or Taifa Kingdoms, emerged out of the anarchy that followed the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate of Córdoba in 1009 CE and the ensuing period of civil war (fitna) that lasted until 1031. The Arabic term muluk al-tawa’if (factional kings) was applied to the rulers of these petty states, because their existence defied the Islamic ideal of political unity under the authority of a single caliph. The era of the Party Kingdoms, which lasted until 1110 CE, was one of great cultural florescence in al- Andalus, particularly among Muslims and Jews. It was also the period in which native Iberian Muslims lost control of their political destiny; from this time forward they would dominated by Iberian Christian and North African Muslim powers.

The Umayyad caliphate had been run, in fact, if not in name, by the ‘Amirid dynasty of ‘‘chamberlains’’ (hajib) since Muhammad ibn Abi ‘Amir al- Mansur (976–1002) seized power during the reign of Hisham II (976–1009/1010–1113). On his death, al- Mansur was succeeded by two sons, ‘Abd al-Malik (r. 1002–1008), and ‘Abd al-Rahman (or ‘‘Sanjul’’), who took power in 1008. Unable to maintain the delicate and volatile balance of factions within the government and Andalusi society, or to counter popular resentment of the growing prestige of Berber groups who had been invited to al-Andalus as part of caliphal military policy, Sanjul provoked the outrage of the Umayyad aristocracy, the religious elite (‘ulama’), and the populace by pressuring the aging and childless Hisham to name him as successor in 1008. Sanjul was deposed by elements of the military, and the people of Co´rdoba rampaged against local Berbers. As civil war erupted in the capital, power was seized in the various provincial cities by local governors, members of the palace slave (saqaliba) contingent, the ‘ulama’, and Berber clans, which had come to dominate the army. The variety of political leadership reflected the divisions that had emerged in Andalusi politics and society since the time of ‘Abd al-Rahman III (r. 912–961). Until the death of Hisham III in 1031, each of the rulers maintained a patina of legitimacy by styling himself as the hajib ruling in the name of the Umayyad caliph, while struggling against neighboring Party Kingdoms both for survival and a greater share of Andalusi territory.

By the 1040s, most of the smaller states had been swallowed up, leaving several major players, which included: Badajoz, ruled by the Aftasids, an Andalusi dynasty; Toledo, ruled by the Dhi’l-Nun, of Berber origin; Zaragoza, ruled by the Banu Hud, of Arab origin; Seville, ruled by the Andalusi ‘Abbasids; Granada, ruled by the Berber Zirid clan; Valencia, ruled by ‘Amirids; and Almerý´a, ruled by a succession of factions. By this point the slave regimes were no more; lacking a broader constituency they fell victim to Andalusi and Berber cliques who had a wider popular base or a more cohesive military core. Among the great rivalries that emerged were those of Seville and Granada (which also faced the hostility of Almería), and Toledo and Zaragoza. Zaragoza was further plagued by internal divisions thanks to the custom of Hudid rulers of dividing their patrimony among their heirs.

These rivalries were capitalized on by the Christian kingdoms of the peninsula, particularly Castile and Leo´ n, which were united under the strong leadership of Fernando I of Castile (r. 1035–1065) and his successor Alfonso VI (r. 1065–1109). Fernando, who exploited Andalusi weakness by pushing far south of the Duero and taking Coímbra in 1064, initiated a policy in which military pressure was used to convert the Party Kingdoms into tributary states. As a consequence, Badajoz, Seville, Toledo, Zaragoza, and Granada were forced to pay large indemnities (parias) of gold and silver in exchange for military support and protection from attack. Other Christian principalities, notably Aragon and Barcelona, quickly imitated this. As a result, Christian powers became increasingly embroiled in Andalusi affairs, supporting their taifa clients against rival kingdoms and using them in their own internecine struggles. Hence, Castile-supported Toledo fought Aragon-supported Zaragoza, and Zaragoza faced a rebellious Lérida aided by Barcelona. It was in this context that the famous Rodrigo Diaz del Vivar, ‘‘El Cid,’’ an exile from Castile, found himself commanding the military forces of Zaragoza against the troops of Aragon and Barcelona. Indeed, ‘‘El Cid’’ had earned his moniker from Sevillan troops in 1064 after he led them to victory against the forces of taifa Granada, when they referred to him gratefully as ‘‘my lord’’ (sidi). Such interventions were symptomatic of a general dependence of the taifa kingdoms on Christian military strength, which further undermined their autonomy.

The taifa kingdoms were able to support the paria regime because of the fact that their economic infrastructure had remained largely undamaged by the unrest of the fitna. These were economies based on intensive agriculture and market gardening, manufacture and craft and, particularly in the case of the Mediterranean coast, trade. The trans-Saharan gold trade that had fueled the incredible prosperity of the caliphate also continued, providing the taifa kings with the funds they needed to meet their tributary obligations. The vibrant Andalusi economy also sustained a cultural renaissance, encouraged by the new political plurality in which rival courts vied as patrons of Arabic letters, science, and theology; the great poet Ibn Hazm (b. Córdoba, 993) is the best-known figure of this age. Jewish culture and letters, including both Arabic- and Hebrew-language literature, also throve, producing remarkable figures such as the poet Isma’il ibn Naghrilla (b. Córdoba, 991), who exercised power as effective head of state of the taifa of Granada from 1027 to 1056. This cultural diversity reflected the ethno-religious composition of the kingdoms, most of which had significant Jewish and Mozarab Christian minorities, members of which not infrequently enjoyed great prestige and wielded considerable political power. For example, Isma’il ibn Naghrilla, wazir and military commander of Granada, was succeeded by his son Yusuf. Sisnando Davídez, a Mozarab who later served as Alfonso VI’s envoy, had been an administrator in Muslim Badajoz, and a number of dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects) served in the government of Zaragoza.

For the most part this diversity was tolerated by the Muslim majority, including the ‘ulama’, although some of the latter were outraged by the prospect that dhimmis should hold formal office under a Muslim regime. Their ire, however, came to be directed increasingly at the taifa kings themselves, many of whom were Berbers who shared no ethno-cultural affiliation with the Andalusi population and who ruled as a foreign military elite. Popular dissatisfaction was aggravated by the increasing burden of taxation, which the ‘ulama’ (who tended to come from the commercial class) and the common people were expected to bear as a result of the paria system. The taifa kings’ imposition of uncanonical taxes and their submission as tributaries to Christian powers served as an ideological rallying point for popular revolt. The situation of the ‘ulama’ was further exacerbated by the disruption of long-distance trade networks, thanks to incursions of the Normans in the Mediterranean and the Banu Hilal in Tunisia, and by the growing unrest in the Andalusi countryside, where the inter-taifa warfare and banditry led to general disorder. In 1085, the populace of Toledo led by the religious elite ejected the taifa king al-Qadir from the city. Turning to his patron, Alfonso VI, al-Qadir agreed that if reinstated he would hand the city over to the Castilian king, on the promise of later being installed as king in Valencia. Thus, in that same year, after negotiating a treaty with the local ‘ulama’, Alfonso entered Toledo as king.

This event made evident the corruption and debility of the taifa kings, who were derided in learned and pious Andalusi circles as decadent and effete. A well-known contemporary satirical verse mocked them: ‘‘They give themselves grandiose names like ‘The Powerful,’ and ‘The Invincible,’ but these are empty titles; they are like little pussycats who, puffing themselves up, imagine they can roar like lions.’’ It also demonstrated to the taifa kings that Alfonso’s aim was conquest; indeed, following up his seizure of Toledo, Alfonso laid siege to the other powerful northern taifa, Zaragoza (as a means of blocking the expansion on his Christian rival, the Kingdom of Aragón). By now both the ‘ulama’ and the taifa rulers agreed outside help was desperately required. The only group to which they could turn was the Almoravids, a dynamic Berber faction that had coalesced on the southern reaches of the African gold routes and had managed to impose their political will on the region of Morocco, having taken Marrakech in 1061 and Fez in 1069. Self-styled champions of a Sunni Islam revival (which resonated with that of the Seljuks in the East), they saw their mission not only as halting the Christian advance in al-Andalus but also of deposing the illegitimate taifa rulers.

In 1086, the Almoravid Yusuf ibn Tashfin led a sizeable army to al-Andalus at the invitation of al- Mu‘tamid of Seville. With the half-hearted help of the Andalusi troops the Almoravid faced Alfonso VI and his loyal Muslim clients in battle at Zallaqa (or Sagrajas) and issued them a major defeat. He did not follow this up, returning instead to Morocco. For the next two years the taifa kings were confident enough to defy Alfonso VI, but when he began to attack them again, they were forced to call on the Almoravids for help once more. Ibn Tashfin waited until 1089 when, having obtained juridical opinions from the ‘ulama’ of the East authorizing him to take power in al-Andalus, he returned and set about deposing the remaining taifa rulers one by one. By 1094, virtually all of the kingdoms had fallen, their rulers having been either killed or shipped off as prisoners to Almoravid Morocco.

Valencia did not fall until 1102. By 1087, ‘‘El Cid,’’ against the opposition of Zaragoza and the various Christian kings, had determined to take the city for himself and was provided with a pretext when an ‘ulama’-led uprising deposed and executed al-Qadir in 1092. Rodrigo besieged the city, which, forsaken by the Almoravids, surrendered in 1093. Having negotiated a treaty with the Muslim population, Rodrigo ruled the city and surrounding territory until his death in 1099—a Christian taifa king. Three years later, unable to resist the growing pressure of the Almoravids, Rodrigo’s wife and successor, Jimena, and her troops abandoned the city to its inhabitants, setting it ablaze as they left. The remaining Party Kingdom, Zaragoza, remained independent partly because the Almoravids were content to use it as a buffer state and partly because its rulers became so adept at playing off their Christian rivals against each other. As in the case of Toledo, however, the populace and the religious elite became increasingly frustrated by a leadership that was so deeply embroiled with the very Christian powers who seemed determined to defeat them. In 1110, a popular uprising banished the last Hudid king from power, and the city submitted to Almoravid rule. Zaragoza would ultimately fall to Alfonso I of Aragon in 1118, surrendering after a lengthy siege, after the surviving members of the Banu Hud struggled vainly with Alfonso VI’s help to regain their patrimony.

The period of the Party Kingdoms marks a turning point in the history of medieval Iberia, when the balance of political and economic initiative shifted from the Muslim-dominated South to the Christian dominated North. Whether as a consequence of a crisis of ‘asabiyya (group identity) on the part of the Andalusis, or as the result of larger political and economic trends, the destiny of the Muslims of Spain would henceforth be in the hands of foreigners. The politics of the taifa period, however, defy the notion that this process or the so-called Christian Reconquest that looms so largely in it was the result of an epic civilizational struggle between Islam and Christendom; the most striking aspect of taifa era al- Andalus was the relative absence of religious sectarianism and the profound enmeshment of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish individuals and political factions.

Benaboud, M’hammad. ‘‘ ‘Asabiyya and Social Relations in Al-Andalus During the Period of the Taifa States.’’

Hesperis-Tamuda 19 (1980–1981): 5–45.

Cle´ment, Franc¸ois. Pouvoir et Le´gitimite´ en Espagne Musulmane a` l’E´ poque des Taifas (Ve-XIe sie`cle): L’Imam Fictif. Paris, 1997.

Wasserstein, David. The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings:

Politics and Society in Islamic Spain 1002–1086. Princeton, NJ, 1985.

Disintegration of the Caliphate : the Taifa Kingdoms

Spanish Colonies in South America

The final century and a half of Spanish colonial rule brought additional changes to the Andean political, social, and economic systems that had emerged during the age of Viceroy Toledo. From 1650 to 1750, the South American empire experienced declining mining production and tax revenues, which, from the perspective of the government in Spain, resulted in a century of depression and decline. At the same time, because the weaker imperial government intruded less on the lives of Andeans, the same century brought prosperity to local elites, who retained more resources to maintain a gracious lifestyle. Less exploitation also brought relief to indigenous populations, whose numbers finally began to recover in the 1700s. Only during the last decades of the eighteenth century did a new royal dynasty, the Bourbons, attempt to redress the empire’s loss of authority and revenue. By creating a more modern, activist state, the Bourbon monarchs, especially Charles III, hoped to reform Spain’s administrative, economic, and social policies toward the colonies and restore Spain’s grandeur.

The arrival of these ideas about a more authoritarian and secular state created serious stress fractures as the Bourbon revival challenged Andean customs. While the reforms did accomplish some of the Bourbon objectives, they also enraged various groups throughout the region, leading to a series of rebellions that challenged the establishment. The violent course of these rebellions, at least in Peru and Bolivia, in some ways was a recapitulation of Pizarro’s march through the Andes in the sixteenth century, when large numbers of poorly armed indigenous people were outmatched by Spanish military might. The late-eighteenth-century Andean rebellions have been interpreted in many ways: as a precursor movement to the criollo (Spaniards born in the New World) independence movement of the 1820s; as an instance of Inka revivalism to create a new pachacuti; or as an attempt to negotiate and soften the excesses of the Bourbon reforms. Although early historians focused on the Tupac Amaru II rebellion that threatened Cuzco and its surrounding areas, more recent work has provided balance by analyzing the revolts that occurred throughout the Andean region in the 1780s. A consideration of these and other events will provide readers with a sense of the state of the colonial Andean world in the years just prior to the wars of independence. In addition, these Bourbon ideas and values laid the groundwork for the fractious political debates that would occur during the nineteenth century.

Changes in the Empire: 1650–1750

Colonial life during the years between 1650 and 1750 looked remarkably different from the earlier golden age of consolidation begun under Viceroy Toledo’s administrative leadership. From the Spanish imperial perspective, as the flow of treasure from Potosí diminished, so did the value of the Andean region as a whole. A number of factors signaled the decline of the imperial state. Observers at the Spanish court saw the descendants of Philip II, the latter Hapsburg kings, for what they were, Emperors of the Emerald City, all glitter and no substance, making change nearly impossible to implement. The final Hapsburg, Charles II, was a pathetic individual: illiterate, ill tempered, allegedly bewitched, and, fortunately, impotent. The limited abilities of the latter Hapsburgs had important ramifications for the empire as it drifted through the seventeenth century, unable to cope with crises. Charles II’s death led to a lengthy European war that resulted in a member of the French Bourbon family taking the Spanish throne in 1713, although until the arrival of Charles III (1759–1788), the third Bourbon king, the monarchs were too preoccupied with domestic matters and European conflicts to concern themselves much with their Andean possessions.

Even the dullest of the Hapsburg Spanish monarchs had noticed the diminution of Andean tax revenues in the decades after 1660. Although the silver of Potosí still aroused the cupidity of European rivals, the rich veins of the Cerro Rico had played out, leaving miners to work the tailings, the leftover ore once considered too low-grade to bother to refine. Labor supplies diminished as well, as the Indian population continued to decline numerically until 1720. Many mita draftees took advantage of the law that allowed them to make cash payments rather than fulfill their labor obligations, a system that proved profitable for the mine owners as well. Whereas in 1600 over 50 percent of the taxes collected in the Andes flowed back to Spain, a century later that figure was a mere 5 percent. As a consequence of the mining recession, more of the economy diversified into agriculture and local industries; both were more difficult to tax than silver produced at a mine. Although the government occasionally attempted to introduce new taxes, the colonial elite and their allies in the local bureaucracy successfully lobbied against them. Hence, the Andean elite probably lived as well or better in 1700 than they had a century earlier, even though Spain’s treasury experienced a decline in income during that time. The new dynasty could not immediately reverse the economic slide. In fact, some of their policies loosening trade restrictions made matters worse for areas like Quito, whose textiles could not compete in Lima either in price or in quality with imported European manufactured fabrics.

In addition, gross receipts from the Peruvian viceroyalty fell because of the corruption of the imperial system, particularly of local officials. One way to compensate for declining mining revenues—the Crown had decided after 1650—was to sell public offices, a practice that escalated until the ascension to the throne of King Charles III in 1759. At first, such sales seemed innocuous, confined to relatively honorific positions such as membership in the cabildo. But by the 1680s, the government sold treasury offices, judicial posts, and even seats on audiencias. Even worse, the Crown sold these offices to local criollos in their home districts, which angered rival members of the elite, who correctly recognized that their family and friends would be disadvantaged. Those who purchased offices naturally viewed them as investments and cashed in on them.

Equally detrimental to the system, seventeenth- and early-eighteenth-century bureaucrats routinely flouted the rules designed to keep government honest. For example, Antonio de Morga, president of the audiencia in Quito from 1615 to 1636, ignored regulations that required officials to refrain from engaging in commerce or establishing personal relationships with community members. Not only did he sell smuggled Asian silks and operate a casino in the government palace, he also married both of his daughters to local aristocrats, slept with several local women, and became the compadre (godfather) to innumerable children from Quito—hardly setting the proper moral tone for the royal bureaucracy. Such violations should have been caught during the routine inspections (residencias and visitas) that Crown officials made, but in Morga’s case, and presumably many others, punishments were mild. Low salaries encouraged corruption, particularly among those at the bottom of the administrative hierarchy, as even the best-intentioned bureaucrat found it impossible to support a family or maintain a respectable social position on the paltry wages offered. Corregidores who had borrowed money to purchase these offices simply could not live on five hundred pesos a year, and so engaged in practices like the repartimiento de mercancías (also called the reparto) to supplement their incomes. Designed originally to introduce native Andeans to the miracles of capitalism, the repartimiento de mercancías evolved into an exploitative practice that most despised. Corregidores bought goods like textiles and mules at modest prices and then sold them to the Indians at a profit, using their authority to compel reluctant consumers to buy. Sometimes Indians ended up with completely useless products such as razors, quill pens, and writing paper. In addition, indigenous peoples fell victim to greedy friars, who charged steep fees for religious services like marriages, baptisms, and funerals.

Finally, foreign interlopers of two varieties challenged Spanish hegemony during the colonial period. Even during Viceroy Toledo’s time, pirates and privateers like Sir Francis Drake raided coastal Peru and captured vessels laden with silver and other wealth, exposing the weakness of the Pacific coastal defenses. Dutch pirates, who hated the Spanish for both political (the Netherlands had once been a Spanish possession) and religious reasons (the Dutch were mainly Protestants), blockaded Callao, Peru, and burned Guayaquil, Ecuador, early in the seventeenth century. During the 1680s, English buccaneers on several occasions plundered Guayaquil, an unfortified city, holding leading citizens for ransom and beheading them if relatives or the government failed to pay. Likewise, Cartagena, Colombia, the so-called Pearl of the Indies, proved an inviting target as late as the eighteenth century because the Spanish silver fleet gathered there to convoy back to Spain. Although the pirates’ random attacks netted them only modest amounts of wealth compared to the riches flowing back to Spain, their exploits terrorized coastal dwellers, diminished coastal trade, and diverted resources from the Spanish treasury to fortify important cities like Callao and Cartagena and staff them with militia and coast guard.

Far more detrimental to Spain’s interests, however, were the smugglers who profited from illegal trade with the Andeans. Miners bribed treasury officials to avoid minting silver and paying the quinto, instead trading it with French merchants poised off the coast of Peru who offered in exchange cheap, high-quality textiles. More seepage occurred at Buenos Aires, where silver from Potosí illicitly flowed to British and Portuguese merchants. Consumers living in the fringe areas of the viceroyalty naturally turned to smugglers, given the costs and irregular supply of goods associated with legitimate commerce. Theoretically, the cumbersome legal route required all goods destined for South America to be shipped through Cartagena, sold at the Portobello trade fair in Panama where sales taxes could be levied, and then transported by merchants to distant markets. Even in Colombia, close to the center of legitimate trade, the legal commercial system broke down in the seventeenth century. Both merchants and consumers found the temptation of lower-priced contraband (smuggled goods) too tempting to resist. As a result, smugglers carried away a huge percentage, perhaps as much as 75 percent, of Colombia’s emeralds and gold without paying taxes. Spain’s concession of an asiento, or trading privilege, to the British to bring slaves into Cartagena in 1713 only exacerbated the problem. With the connivance of local officials, British merchants sold vast quantities of manufactured goods as well as slaves. The new Bourbon kings correctly suspected that great cracks had emerged in the Andean economic system. As a result, King Philip V (1700–1746) sent two young engineers, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, to accompany a group of French scientists on a decade-long expedition to the Andes in 1735. In addition to their famed travel narrative, which opened European eyes to the secretive Spanish colonial world, they also compiled a report for His Majesty cataloguing corruption and contraband. This report and other eyewitness accounts encouraged a more active monarch to reform the system.

The Bourbon Reforms of Charles III (1759–1788)

The first two Bourbon kings, despite their European preoccupations, did not entirely ignore their Andean possessions. Seeking to strengthen Spain’s control over its portion of South America, these monarchs recognized that the enormity of the viceroyalty of Peru made it ungovernable by a single individual. Hence, in 1739 Philip V divided it in half in the belief that administration would now become more efficient, creating the new viceroyalty of New Granada, which included Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. The first Bourbon kings also introduced economic reforms designed to increase the tax revenues coming back to Spain. As a result, they reduced the tax on mining production (the quinto) from 20 percent to 10 percent and abolished some elements of the Hapsburgs’ highly regulated commercial system as partial solutions for the ills that had emerged in the seventeenth century.

Charles III viewed the Americas as subservient colonies (they had previously been designated as “kingdoms” like the regions of Spain) that would provide the resources to restore Spain to its former glory. Embarrassed by the temporary loss of Havana during the Seven Years’ War and the fact that at midcentury little Haiti generated more revenue for the French Crown than the vast expanse of the Americas did for Spain, Charles determined to reform the moribund Hapsburg system in three ways. First, he intended to extract greater revenues from the Americas by stimulating commerce and by collecting taxes more efficiently and in greater quantities. Second, he determined to eliminate corruption and waste through administrative reforms, which would also enable him to protect the Andean region from foreign interlopers by improving its military defenses. Finally, as one of the new “enlightened” monarchs, Charles intended to strengthen the state by intervening in social matters that were previously the exclusive purview of the Catholic Church. Although in many respects it is difficult to separate these three programs, this section will attempt to do so by first examining the economic reforms, because revenue enhancement lay at the heart of Spain’s interest in the colonies.

Charles III and his reformist ministers identified the excessively regulatory nature of the Hapsburg economic system as one of its major drawbacks. Cumbersome rules required goods to leave Spain from a particular port, arrive in Cartagena, thence transfer to a fair in Panama, and travel by coastal schooner or mule for destinations throughout the Andes. With middlemen taking profits at each step along the way, Spanish imports were not competitively priced, which explained the success of the smugglers. As a result, Charles III’s advisers attempted to more sensibly regulate the economy in order to competitively price Spanish goods to consumers. Thus, King Charles in 1778 declared comercio libre (free trade) within the empire, thereby eliminating some of the cumbersome regulations that had hindered the free flow of commerce yet essentially retaining the mercantilist philosophy. Ships could now leave at any time from any place in Spain and discharge their goods at any South American port.

Spain lowered the rate of both the import duties (tariffs) consumers paid and export taxes merchants paid, while foreign competitors were taxed at a higher rate. Because lower taxes on Spanish products would increase the volume of sales by whetting consumers’ appetite for cheaper goods, total tax revenues would actually increase and the subjects would be happier because of their increased material wealth, or so the theory went. As a result of these lower taxes, the Andean region did experience some modest economic growth during the late colonial period. While the Crown lowered tariffs, it increased the rate of the alcabala, or sales tax, that retail customers paid, first from 2 percent to 4 percent in 1774, and then to 6 percent in 1779, and made basic necessities like corn, coca, potato seeds, soap, and clothing subject to this tax. The government also opened new aduanas, or customhouses, in interior cities like Cuzco and at smaller ports to collect taxes. In addition, new sin taxes burdened consumers. Beginning with Charles III, the state created monopolies for the sale of tobacco and aguardiente, the cheap sugarcane liquor so popular among the poor because its alcoholic content is significantly greater than that of chicha, and increased taxes on brandy. In Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, both producers and consumers of these products grumbled mightily about these new burdens.

As in the seventeenth century, Andean economies tended to be regional and agricultural rather than the more integrated silver exporting economy of the post-Toledo years. For example, southern Ecuador developed a regional trade in cascarilla, a tree bark from which quinine is derived, while coastal Ecuador exported cacao, the source of chocolate. In Colombia, cattle ranching and sugar production prevailed in different regions, as did brandy production in southern Peru. As the economy shifted from mineral to agricultural commodity production, Charles and his administrators astutely deemphasized the quinto in favor of export duties and sales taxes that captured revenue from agricultural products. Colonial revenues further increased because as the indigenous people gained immunities to European diseases, their numbers began to rise steadily throughout the eighteenth century, thereby providing more tribute payers. Tribute collection improved, as indigenous people who had slipped from the tax rolls under lax and corrupt bureaucrats were caught by more diligent peninsular (Spaniards born in Spain and preferred by Charles III because of their supposed greater loyalty) administrators taking new censuses in the 1770s. Not only were more laborers available, but because of the reduction of the quinto tax rate, mining entrepreneurs invested in Potosí, where production nearly doubled over the course of the century, and in the newer mining center of Oruro, Peru, where production grew more slowly. Hence, Spain significantly increased colonial revenues as a result of the economic reforms.

Charles III’s philosophy of government envisioned an enlightened, wise king presiding over a rational, efficient, and authoritarian government spreading happiness among his subjects, who would benefit from increased material wealth. To realize this ideal, Charles opined, the colonies needed a less corrupt administration that would also better defend the coast against pirates and smugglers. Thus, the Bourbon administrative reforms favored a near monopoly of trustworthy peninsular officeholders. In the name of efficiency, Charles further dismantled the viceroyalty of Peru; in 1776 he severed Upper Peru (Bolivia) and hence Potosí from Peru and attached the former to the new viceroyalty of La Plata at Buenos Aires. The diversion of Upper Peru’s silver treasure to Buenos Aires and the opening of comercio libre greatly lessened the importance of Lima’s officials and merchants. In addition, Charles and his chief adviser, José de Gálvez, designed a comprehensive plan of governance and assigned special agents called visitadores to all regions of the Andes to implement these changes. The government hoped that their administrative reforms would bring greater efficiency and eliminate government corruption. No longer would untrustworthy and corrupt criollos be able to purchase offices, even in local government. Naturally, criollos resented their loss of political influence.

Reform-minded visitadores like Juan Francisco Gutiérrez de Piñeres (New Granada) and Antonio de Areche (Peru) were charged to introduce a new rank of official called an intendant, a midlevel bureaucrat, to serve a territorial subdivision of the audiencias called intendancies, resulting in the elimination of the often venal corregidores. With no ties to the local community and a decent salary, the intendants, so Gálvez hoped, would not be tempted to violate regulations, abuse Indians, or skim taxes into their own pockets, as many corregidores had done. The visitadores immediately took a new census in each colony, uncovering the names of Indians who had previously avoided the tribute rolls. As a result, when the intendants began collecting tribute in the 1780s, Crown revenues nearly quadrupled from this source, especially after the intendants hired additional tax collectors. With more indigenous people identified, the number of mita Indians available for public service increased as well. No wonder the indigenous people in Otavalo, Ecuador, rioted in 1777, beating the official in charge of the census and then disemboweling him. By the late 1780s, however, the Crown understood that an intendancy also included too much territory for a single person to administer efficiently; hence they divided each intendancy into partidos governed by subdelegates who earned small salaries. Essentially, the subdelegates were the old corregidores with a new title. Given the low salaries paid to subdelegates, the Crown had to permit corruption, specifically a restoration of the repartimiento de mercancías, to fill these positions. All in all, the Bourbon administrative reforms only added a new, expensive layer of bureaucracy without resolving the long-standing problems of corruption and abuse of the indigenous people.

The Bourbon administrative reforms also sought to tighten the leaks in the empire, which meant improving the defenses of vulnerable ports like Cartagena and Callao. The Seven Years’ War (1755–1763), in which Great Britain decisively defeated France and Spain, underscored the need for Spain to protect its colonies. Viceroys spent some of the new tax revenues rebuilding coastal forts and paying for professional soldiers called “regulars” from Spain to stand watch. In addition, in the 1770s, colonial administrators created a volunteer militia, most prominently along the coast, to supplement the numbers of the “regular” troops. Militia regiments in larger cities like Cartagena were segregated by race, but usually even pardo (black or mulatto) regiments had white officers. In smaller cities in Colombia, however, pardos became officers and, because of this prestigious role, improved their status in the colonial world. Historians have questioned whether the development of local militias in the eighteenth century contributed to Latin America’s militaristic tradition after independence. But because of the small size of the militia in South America (in contrast to Mexico, where the case is stronger), no relationship between the militia and postindependence militarism seems to exist. The militia did manage to contain the various crises that emerged in the late 1770s and early 1780s when the entire Andean region responded negatively to the Bourbon reforms. By the 1790s, however, the viceroys had reduced the size of the militia to save money.

Like the Bourbons’ economic and administrative reforms, royal intrusions into social policy, once the purview of the Church and the family, seemed at times contradictory. Most prominently, Charles III diminished the temporal power of the Church as he attempted to make the clergy subject to the state instead of the Vatican. To accomplish this objective, in 1767 Charles expelled the Jesuits, who answered directly to the pope, from his colonies despite the negative effect on education and the abandonment of the frontier missions along the Amazon River in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. When the state took over the Jesuit schools, it professed an ideal not yet realized in the colonial period: to broaden access to education so that citizens from all classes could participate. Next, the government tried to replace friars acting as parish priests with secular clergy—the latter easier to subject to administrative control—but with less success.

The state also took over the Church’s traditional work with the socially downtrodden. For example, state poorhouses replaced Church-run charitable organizations in many cities. Initially, the Bourbons provided assistance to the “socially poor,” downwardly mobile whites who lacked the financial resources to maintain social respectability. By the end of the colonial period, however, the “economically poor” from all social classes filled the rooms in the poorhouses, blurring distinctions of race and class. These circumstances made it impossible for the socially poor to reside in poorhouses because of the challenge to their honor. Charles’s Royal Pragmatic of 1776 intruded into the domestic sphere by granting fathers the legal right to veto their daughters’ “unsuitable” marital choices, often a racial determination, a privilege once limited to Church courts. The king also enjoyed the power of curing the “defect” of race, granting certificates of gracias al sacar (permission to change status) to worthy mestizos and mulattos who applied. Race mattered to the well-to-do in late Bourbon society because only whites could be lawyers, serve as military officers, staff the church, or enter the university. By the end of the colonial period, however, the Crown had become extremely wary of petitions for gracias al sacar, granting fewer and fewer of them in order to avoid upsetting the colonial system of castas. Race mattered, too, for mestizos, who also applied for recognition of their racial status so that they could avoid classification as Indians subject to tribute and mita. The Bourbon social reforms exemplified another attempt of the Crown to strengthen itself at the expense of the Church and local traditions.