Ferdinand and Isabella - Dual Monarchy


Dual Monarchy and Personal Rule

Wouldn't tolerate any limitations to their rule - able to ignore the law

Leaders 'at the summit of a mountain shaped society'  - Pope also had considerable influence, 'natural lords'

Monarchs clear Popes power was limited to matters of faith - although pious didnt want 3rd party in their partnership and didnt tolerate papal interference in political position

No need for Isabella to marry in order to rule if she didn't wish to do so (Queen perfectly acceptable in Spain) but strong need for heir

Concept of dual monarchy = decline of feudal ties - 'strengthening of a centralised royal authoirty, at the expense of tradiotional social groups' - focused on monarchs rather than shared

Focus on monarchy and officers became more noticeable after I death e.g. Council of Catile authority - nobles allowed to attend but permitted from voting

Buisness of realm = Caballeros, higher clergy and letrados rather than aristocrats - 10 years of legal training to participate in govermental activities at a high level 

Problems with nobles.Although monarchs forbade building of fortification, 1504 only 84 castles destroyed and 265 rebuilt (gain noble support or royalo weakness?)

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Extent of Partnership

Common aims

Restoring law and order

A - move to abolish feudal dues, allocate posts in gov by lottery and establish system where royal power=limited

C - order reimposed through Hermandad (no similar body in A)

Judicial system - attempt to make laws common throughout C, establishment of permenant law courts in Madrid, Seville, Santiago and Valladolid, Granada (still different laws in CandA)

Administrative body - Council of Aragon set up to govern in F's absences. However, nothing to oversee foreign policies McClive 'given on an ad hoc basis' e.g. Indies given to Castile and Naples given to Aragon

A seen as junior partnre to C - where F spent his time post 1504

Religion - wanted an unchallengable Catholic faith

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Extent of Partnership - Royal Justice

Kamen - F&I were 'at the heart of the policy of pacification'

Permenant courts established - Santiago de Compostela (1504) and Granada (1505) to deal with disputes

Royal Council met regularly - twice a week

Cortes usd to regulate very specific issues e.g. Cortes of Toro F dealth with disputed succession to noble lands. From this point nobles encouraged to prevent division of their lands to heirs and prohibited sale of land

Codified laws 1503 and 1505

Hunt: F's costly wars meant gretaer reliance on nobles therefore less likelihood of nobles who did ignore rules being severly punished e.g. crown unable to prevent free villages (north of Spain) being taken over by predatory nables - later led to Comuneros

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Extent of Partnership - Financial Union

Traditional view: refilled the royal coffers

Financial affairs largely kept seperate, similarities in financial supervision - Gonzalo Chacon (conversos)

Coinage although different in name, was worth the same

Elliot: income from 900,000 reales to 26 million (1474-1504)

Difference in currencies didnt make financial control and implemention of policies easy

Elliot: 'Economically, as much as politically, Spain existed only in embryo'

Maintain influence abroad, 75million maravedis spent on ambassadors

Neither F or I in debt at end of reign and treauries were more efficent - stil restrictions e.g. Catalan merchants limited trade concessions in Castile and couldn't trade with Americas

From 1501 rise in prices (moderate way) - Hamilton's theory of silver from NW. 1551-55

Industry still agriculturally based, sheep at forefront (Mesta effects) - emphasis = positive as freed Castilian manpower fo rmilitary and colonialisation purposes (negative = short term instead of long term)

Agriculture after 1500 became 'the Cinderella of the economy' - limtied by natural factors & heavy taxation

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Extent of Partnership - Financial Union


Population growth

  • Burgos 8000-21000 in first half of century 
  • High demand for goods

Failing harvests (1502-9) increase price of grain

  • 1502-1509 especially
  • Increased price in grain
  • Elliott: gov dealt with it by importing vast amounts and setting max price (didn't benefit economy nor encouraged greter production internally)
  • Power of Mesta - seemed wouldn't improve

High spending among Spanish aristocracy

Crown's borrowing

  • Not aided by Charles

Extent reflected in C's rising revenue: 315million maravedis to 320million (1504-1510)

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Extent of Partnership - Policy Making and Fueros

Foreign policy

  • F's main responsibilities and not joint activity
  • F successful - masterminded Canary cature, worked effectively with HRE in Italy and gained Naples, Navarre also acquired 1512

Royal authority - New or medieval

  • 'New Monarchy' - creating more bureaucratic gov run by appointees of Crown (members church and nobility, many secretaries). Their influence reduced council's authority
  • Pendrill - not new methods by commitment of F and I whihc was different
  • Edwards - centre of gov remained (royal household and court)

Overall unity in early stages

  • Traditionally C and A hostile
  • F's states rarely treated as political whole - own Cortes and time spent seperatly 
  • However, use of corregidors operated in both C and A
  • Because evolved seperatly had own distinct fueros (laws) - C larger and had more resources so more influential
  • However strong similarities - populations growing, run by monarchs whos 'powers were wide but not tyrannical (McClive)
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Common Foreign Policies

F&I thought it important to extend their policy where possible - prestige, religious, economic 

A priorities limited - concern safeguard A within the Northern mediterranean area

Southern Spain and A left exposed when Turks esablished bases along North African coast

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Common Foreign Policies - New World

Discovery of the caribbean islands 1492

1500 Spanish settlers (1,000) occupying Hispaniola. Acquisition of Puerto rixo (1508), Cuba (1500)

Initial contact = relatively positive, Columbus appeared genuinely interested but aware of value of lands for Spain 'the men I left there could destroy the entire land'

Papal bulls - issued Spanish rights to new lands e.g. Inter Caetera 1493. Argreement with Portugal 1494 to redraw boundaries of Spanish territory so Portugese could claim Brazil

1503 tading office in Seville to control trade between Americas and Europe

1511 Royal High Court established in Santa Domingo (Hispaniola)

Settlers attracted to wealth - through bullion or slavery

Morality in question - representatives to convert natives, conquistadores (not nobles but lawless and ruthless), best settlers unwilling to accept boundaries. Hernan Cortes motive 'ro get gold not to till the soil like a peasant'

1512 Laws of Burgos introduced to establish appropriate regulations e.g. treated as 'free subjects of the King'. Also required to work for the colonists, become Chrisians and swear allegiance to the Castilian monarch - made little difference to staus

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Common Foreign Policies - North Africa

Early as C14th interested as area for expansion - 'acquisition of the kingdoms of Africa belongs to us and our royal right'

Attack on Gran Canaria 1478. Motives commercial (gain money) and strategic (gain influence)

Gold, slaves and land = useful commodities (e.g. sugar, corn and linkage with spice trade)

Stem influence with Islam (conquest or conversion) seen as crucial

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Common Foreign Policies - Europe


  • One of the most populated and wealthy European states
  • I: 'people abhorrent to our Castilian nation'
  • Years before 1500 clashed in Italy over Naples (close neighbours with ambitiuos rulers). Eventually aggreed to divide but war renewed. 2 major battles 1503 (Cerignola and Garigliano) enabld Spanish army to drive French - growing reorganisation gave greater strength despite I death
  • F's ingenious diplomacy meant Louis XII passed rights to Naples to Germaine de Foix (F married her 1505)
  • 1512 conflict over Navarre and Milan - succeeded remval with help from Germans. Milan kept changing hands but eventually remained with Spain


  • Proud of FP achievements - 'the crown has not.. been as great or resplendent as it now is'
  • Kamen: improved security on northern border and greater influence over Mediterranean
  • Foreign nations recognised Spanish imperial expansion
  • Weaknesses - A poorly represented in diplomatic world and C had bettwe resources (e.g. manpower, money) so effective unification of Spain (potential for real empire) not yet acheived
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Effects of I death 1504


  • Lengthy document which concerns over future of her kingdom and Spain
  • Wished F to take on her role in C and its territories - however not automatically successor (heir was Joanna - unstable). F accepted as regent until she proved ept (Cortes of Toro 1505)
  • Philip of Burgundy resentful of will


  • Felt I death was 'greatest hardship'
  • Need support if continued ruling C
  • Nobles quickily seized oppurtunity to make capital - took over land without royal permission (e.g. Marquis of Maya = Sergovia)
  • Made peace wuth France once declared regent (married Germaine de Foix - hoped of heir didnt materialise, Charles became heir to C and A)
  • Surrendered claim to throne in Treaty of Villafafila - only kept mastership of 3 military orders, still plotted to regain
  • Philip died and Joanna became increasingly unstable - F remained regent and regained control of C from predatory nobility
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Extent of Unification by 1516

F's death

  • C and A seperate states (further raised by plans to split states between 2 grandsons)
  • C accepteed as king by Cortes of C in 1517 (sig support for F therefore despatched to HRE). C became HRE and this was a 'body blow' as absentee king

Partnership or Unification

  • Followed similar policies but not always identiacal - F foreign and I religion and finance (played to own personal strengths)
  • 'Embryonic political unity' (McClive) but concept of 'working together'
  • F tended to deal with C and A seperatly (Council of A set up 1494 to help deal). Also had to deal with Cortes of Catalonia and Cortes of Valenica as seperae entities
  • Great differences = different demands. E.g. C=73% of population and A=12%. No less effective gov, just differences 
  • Elliott 'a plural, not a unitary state' - political entity but group of different states
  • Partnership - both their images appeared on seals and coins, jointly signed royal decrees, both involved in making important appointments, cooperation encourages (e.g. marriages)
  • No attempt to join states together on death of I - J to rule C
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Historians on Unification

Contemporaries - I left behing a much improved state however wont often speak ill of monarch

McClive: 'Embryonic political unity' 

Elliott: 'a plural, not a unitary state'

Spain more united by 1516 than 1492 - Hernando del Pulgar (conversos secretary): 'the citizens and farmers... were very happy'

Woodward: clear differences between two kingdoms, A and C seperate legal system, own audiencias, harder to introduce reforms in C. Policies towards nobility weak (they had control over regions)

Pedrill: Granada=partlicular triumph (greater unity), emphasis on exploration= status, wealth and diverted gentry

Kamen: 'never again would Castlians be so directly and therefore so well governed, religious unity strength but 'at they expense of nurturing beneath the surface tensions and divisions which created within Spain a society of conflict'

Most historians tend to agree there was real unity 

Hunt: 'the uncertainty at the end of the reign confirms there had not been any real unification... intrinsic differences remained.. little indication that F&I had any desire to turn their kingdom into a single unit'

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