Lawsuits and Litigants in Castile 1500-1700

Richard L. Kagan

Part II

Devolution in Castile

Chapter 5

The Chancillería of Valladolid

A law court is the strongest column
supporting an empire. It provides for
harmony in government and the origins of
peace and tranquillity, both of which are
essential to the defense of the kingdom
and of the monarchy itself. It is the
treasure of a state, hope for men who
 orphaned poor, medicine for the soul, and
the Queen of all virtues.

Arte real para el buen gobierno
de los reyes, y principes, y de
los vasallos (1623)

[165] In matters of administration, the Spanish Habsburgs were borrowers, not inventors. They preferred to tinker with existing institutions rather than create new ones that, they feared, would have lacked the mantle of legitimacy ordinarily bestowed by time upon organs of government. Accordingly, the basic components of Habsburg justice -- the office of corregidor, the audiencia, and the council -- were holdovers from the late fourteenth century, an epoch of institutional innovation [166] that marks the true beginnings of Castile's Old Regime. (1) Even Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers traditionally associated with the birth of the modern state in Spain, did little more than make minor adjustments in their administrative inheritance, adapting it to the demands posed by rapid growth in the kingdom's economy and population. (2) The Habsburgs did the same. Rather than embark upon wholesale reforms, both Charles and Philip elected to revitalize the existing machinery of royal government, principally by staffing it with men they could trust. University graduates in law were named to positions of corregidor; the audiencias and councils were filled increasingly with magistrates with experience in lesser posts; and gradually the entire judiciary became a highly professionalized, well organized hierarchy in which officials moved regularly from lesser to higher posts.

Outwardly, the royal judiciary in the sixteenth century had many of the bureaucratic trappings characteristic of modern government, including hierarchical organization, the absence of venality, and step-by-step promotions. But the resemblance ends there. It was actually closer to what Max Weber described as a "patrimonial bureaucracy," or a system of government that is bureaucratic only in name. (3) Office in such bureaucracies is not conceived to be a public trust or even belonging to something as abstract and impersonal as the state, but part of the private patrimony of the ruler, who is free to do with it as he sees fit. Office, consequently, is principally thought of as a reward or a gift. Castilians likened it to a merced, an act of royal grace conferred in recognition of an individual's honor or personal merit or in recompense for services rendered previously to the crown. Once granted, it was left to the recipient to do with the office almost as he pleased, leading to continual struggles between the monarch and his officials about what the precise duties and responsibilities of the latter should be. (4)

Another characteristic of Castile's patrimonial bureaucracy was the [167] conception of office as the "natural" reward or premio for those who had taken the time and the trouble to acquire the necessary credentials for service. Most letrados, for example, considered an appointment to the royal judiciary to be their just and due reward after years of study and expense at a university. Typical in this respect was Lic. Luís de Mercado, who, in a letter to Diego de Espinosa, president of the Royal Council, expressed disappointment at having been named corregidor even though he had studied and taught at a university for more than twenty years. (5) He had expected a position on one of the king's audiencias. Similarly, once named to the judiciary, magistrates expected advancement from lower to higher positions as a matter of course. They consequently resisted attempts by the monarchy to link promotion to performance.

Writing in 1576, Lorenzo Priuli, the Venetian ambassador, described yet another feature of this patrimonial bureaucracy. With reference to the "men of the long robe, doctors (i.e. lawyers) and prelates of low birth" who served in the councils of the king, Priuli observed that "in these doctors who have applied themselves to study primarily for the end of gain, there is not to be found that desire for the public weal which is necessary." Admittedly, Priuli's observations were colored by social prejudice; an aristocrat, he considered these "doctors" as "persons of low birth who do not know how to use their authority with moderation." (6) But it is also true that the conception of office as a reward did relatively little to encourage among the king's magistrates selfless dedication to the higher principles for which law and justice stood.

Under these circumstances, a monarch who wished to be served by a responsible judiciary would have to work hard to keep his magistrates in line. Philip II in particular feared that any weakness on his part would give his magistrates free rein, resulting in a loss of royal authority, a rise in corruption, and a collapse of the rule of law that both he and his father had worked diligently to construct. Such fears also explain why Philip made it a point to involve himself personally in appointments to judicial office and to put himself on the lookout for magistrates whose commitment to justice was beyond reproach. Yet Philip was not naive. Convinced that self-interest was endemic to government, he learned how to exploit the private concerns and ambitions [168] of his magistrates and other officials to the full. If Philip was at all responsible for creating a loyal, hardworking judiciary in Castile, he did so not by creating a new breed of self-sacrificing officials but by skillful manipulation of his magistrates. He achieved this by alternating the traditional carrot -- the promise of promotions to higher positions and mercedes in the form of lands and habits in the Military Orders, cash grants, and other rewards -- with the stick -- periodic residencias and visitations. These were specifically designed to root out official misconduct and punish the guilty by means of fines and suspensions and especially by depriving them of the promotions and other mercedes they expected to be their "natural" rewards.

As long as this double-edged policy was effective, the Habsburgs were able to control their growing judiciary, furthering direct, centralized administration and control. But Philip III (1599-1621) demonstrated little of his father's enthusiasm for the routine of administration, preferring instead to delegate most of his responsibilities to others, notably his corrupt favorite, the duke of Lerma. Lerma's actual performance deserves closer study, but he apparently displayed greater ability in furthering the interests of himself and his family than in protecting those of the crown. He frequently intervened, for example, in judicial appointments, recommending his relations, clients, and friends, but he was either unable or unwilling to police those officials whom he had rewarded. (7) Consequently, the practice of regular visitations of the judiciary established by Charles and Philip was allowed to lapse into decay, and, along with it, the idea that advancement within the judiciary ought to be based upon personal merit was all but forgotten. The two decades of Philip III's reign, therefore, were a period during which the whole of the royal judiciary grew accustomed to lax royal leadership and control. In a sense, it grew increasingly independent of the monarchy, and this was a development that Philip IV and his favorite, the count-duke of Olivares, following the failure of a series of reforms designed to [169] strengthen royal authority, were unable to halt. This history, repeated at every level of the royal judiciary, is perhaps best illustrated in the history of the real audiencia y chancillera de Valladolid.


By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the chancillería of Valladolid was the oldest, most respected, and by far most important of Castile's royal courts. Having settled permanently in Valladolid a half century before, the court itself was situated in the parish of San Pedro, which stood at the eastern edge of the old medieval city, well removed from the Plaza Mayor, center of the city's commercial life, the royal apartments, the town hall, the collegiate church, and the palaces of the local nobility. The distance between the chancillería and the town center emphasized the independent course that royal justice was expected to follow.

Although geographically peripheral to life in Valladolid, the chancillería was vital to the city's economy and prestige. The presence of the court assured the city of lasting administrative importance, helping it to maintain close ties to the royal government even after Philip II decided to make Madrid his capital in 1561. Furthermore, the litigants and witnesses who came to the chancillería year in and year out helped to ease the economic troubles that Valladolid suffered after the exodus of the court. It has been estimated that between two and three thousand residents of Valladolid depended, directly or indirectly, on the chancillería for a livelihood. (8) These ranged from the six innkeepers in the parish of San Pedro who provided temporary lodgings for litigants to the hundreds of court officials, lawyers, and other hangers-on for whom the chancillería was a career. (9) In 1561, Valladolid [170] boasted over four hundred "men of law," more than five times that of any other city in Old Castile (10) and this small but relatively prosperous group contributed significantly to the local economy, especially in difficult times. Wealthy advocates and attorneys doubled as moneylenders, invested in commerce and in land, and participated in a wide variety of other commercial pursuits. Lic. Francisco de Butrón, one of the city's most famous advocates, invested widely in local real estate and was personally responsible for the construction of some of the city's finest houses, built in the latest although somewhat severe Renaissance style characteristic of Valladolid. (11) Indeed, thanks to the patronage of Butrón and the city's other men of law, Valladolid was able to maintain a lively construction industry that, together with a number of collateral trades (plasterers, painters, decorators, and the like) guaranteed the city a sound if somewhat localized economic base well into the seventeenth century (12)

The chancillería itself was housed in a fifteenth-century palace that originally belonged to Juan de Vivero, a member of the local nobility. Ferdinand and Isabella were secretly married in this palace in 1469, and shortly thereafter Vivero, a staunch supporter of the Catholic monarchs, donated the building to the crown. By 1489, when its new ordinances were promulgated, the chancillería was already settled in these lush quarters located directly opposite the local parish church. In addition to the law courts, the building housed archives, a small chapel, a prison, and storerooms for the wine, grain, oil, and other commodities the chancillería was entitled to purchase free of tax. These rooms clustered in traditional Castilian style around a central patio that doubled as waiting room for litigants, lawyers, and other interested parties. Often crowded with litigants and their lawyers, [171] the patio was occasionally the scene of fights and other squabbles between contesting parties unable to restrain themselves. Just such an incident occurred in 1609 after Diego de Vallejo, an agent of the marquis of Mondéjar, called Juan López Uruano, a resident of the town of Mondéjar and an individual with whom the marquis had a suit, "a whore, a pig, and a Jew" (puto, puerco, judio). Uruano responded by drawing his sword and wounding Vallejo in the hand. (13)

Inside, in the various chambers or salas that surrounded the patio, most of the ordinary business of the chancillería was conducted. Yet a considerable amount of work also was done in the private residences of court officials, most of whom lived close to the chancillería in rented rooms and other lodgings. Magistrates, for example, commonly worked at home, questioning witnesses and interviewing litigants in private, although this was a practice the monarchy, citing the chance for corruption. attempted unsuccessfully to stop. (14) In practice, therefore, the chancillería was the hub of an intricate network of private residences in which much of the court's business was dispatched. This admixture of public and private, common to much of government and administration in early modern Europe, illustrates the cleavage separating legal proceedings of the sixteenth century from those of today.

Primarily a court of law, the chancillería also performed a number of other, extrajudicial duties, many of which were the responsibility of the titular head of this court, the presidente. Not only did this official take charge of day-to-day administration and supervise the work of each of the various salas, but he was also expected to serve as magistrate. As one visitor reported, the president "reviews lawsuits, studies, and votes upon them like any other magistrate." (15) In this capacity, the president had to cast the deciding vote in cases that were deadlocked, take part in cases that received a second hearing (revista), and also serve as arbitrator (juez de competencias) when conflicts [172] between the civil and criminal magistrates of the chancillería developed as well as in jurisdictional disputes between the chancillería and other courts. The president had also to appoint administrators for the estates and mayorazgos whose possession was under dispute, a task that involved him directly in the affairs of the landed nobility. Every year the president was obliged to recommend promising young letrados suitable for the king's service, and his reports of students, university instructors, advocates, and beginning magistrates were crucial to the process of selection. Finally, the president of the chancillería was expected to serve the king as a kind of regional watchdog, supervising the royal corregidores, making certain that royal edicts and pragmatics were respected and enforced, and asserting whenever possible the royal prerogative at the expense of municipal, seigneurial, and other jurisdictions. The head of the chancillería was thus frequently drawn into the political maelstrom, as in the case of don Diego Ramírez de Villaescusa, president from 1515 to 1525, who got into serious trouble with other royal officials when he attempted to negotiate a compromise settlement during the Comunero revolt. (16)

Writing in 1531 to Diego de Avellaneda, newly elected president of the chancillería of Granada, the famous humanist Fray Antonio de Guevara explained that "a good president must be correct in his judgments, honest in his style of life, prompt in the dispatch of business, patient in negotiations, and prudent in matters of government." (17) It is highly doubtful whether Avellaneda or any of the other presidents of the chancillería of Valladolid who served Charles and Philip possessed all of these qualities. Invariably, however, those appointed to what was once described as "one of the highest offices . . . in the kingdom; . . . the most important of those outside of the royal court" were men of exceptional talent and ability. (18) Charles V in keeping with medieval tradition, nominated bishops to head the chancillería, each of whom served in the double capacity of royal official and ecclesiastical prince. Other than the aforementioned Ramírez de Villaescusa, the most famous of these prelate-presidents was Fernando de Valdés, [173] who was bishop of Oviedo when he came to the chancillería in 1535. Valdés served in this capacity until 1539, when he was appointed president of the Royal Council of Castile. Valdés, one of the towering figures of Charles V's reign, served also as inquisitor general and archbishop of Seville. (19)

Philip II, following his father's example, continued to appoint high-ranking prelates to head the chancillería until the Council of Trent ordered consecrated bishops to reside in their sees. He then broke with tradition and established a precedent that subsequent Castilian rulers respected. (20) Juan Zapata de Cardenas, bishop of Palencia, was the last bishop to be named president of this tribunal, and when he died in 1577, Philip replaced him with Pedro de Deza, a letrado who had spent most of his career in judicial posts. (21) Henceforward, the presidency of the chancillería was regularly awarded to career magistrates, and as such it became another rung on the judicial cursus honorum that the Habsburgs had established. (22)

The ordinary magistrates of the chancillerías also had numerous extrajudicial responsibilities to perform. The examination and licensing of the attorneys, advocates, and other "men of law" attached to the chancillería was one of these obligations; another was the weekly inspection of the royal jail, a task many neglected. (23) In addition, [174] both the civil and criminal magistrates were regularly commissioned to conduct special visitations and other investigations and at other times they were appointed jueces pesquisidores, in which capacity they traveled fo troubled cities to enforce royal justice on the spot. (24) Many of the chancillería's judges were therefore constantly on the go, giving rise to frequent complaints in the Cortes about shortages of manpower in the tribunal and resulting delays in the administration of royal justice. (25) To alleviate such difficulties, Philip resorted to the appointment of supernumerary judges to serve in the places of those absent on royal business, preferring this expedient to the abandonment of the tradition of using judicial officials to perform administrative tasks.

Modern government may be characterized by the separation of administrative and judicial responsibilities, but the Habsburgs saw nothing wrong with asking their magistrates to double as administrators, provincial governors, and the like. Much of the governance of Spain's territories in the New World, for example, was entrusted to audiencias fashioned after the chancillería of Valladolid, and the magistrates in those distant tribunals generally had administrative responsibilities that far exceeded those of their counterparts in Valladolid. (26) Gaspar de Villardel, bishop of Santiago de Chile (1637-51), explained that judges in audiencias on both sides of the Atlantic were accorded such diverse responsibilities because these tribunals were "essential for the common good, to keep men in peace, and to defend the weak from the strong so that justice is never lacking." (27)


[175] The judges charged with these many tasks were known as oidores, a term derived from those who "oir pleitos" and first employed to describe royal magistrates in 1369. (28) In the early years of the chancillería, the number of oidores varied, although the usual complement was four until the Catholic monarchs, in an effort to increase the importance of this tribunal, raised the total to eight. Thereafter, a mounting volume of business and demands from the Cortes for the prompt and efficient administration of royal justice led Charles V to increase the number of oidores to sixteen. (29) The number of auxiliary magistrates attached to the chancillería grew at a corresponding rate, and by the middle of the sixteenth century the total complement of judges attached to the tribunal excluding the president stood at twenty-four, a figure that, except for the appointment of supernumerary officials, remained fixed until the end of the Habsburg rule. (30)

Because they were few in number, positions on the chancillería were rare and valued. Collectively, the oidores, as the personal representatives of the king, enjoyed considerable prestige. In local processions they were entitled to march at the head, in front of officials of the Holy Office, the abbot and chapter of Valladolid's collegiate church, the professors of the university, the royal corregidor, and the subaltern officials of the chancillería. (31) Every individual oidor was also an important personage in his own right and was expected to call attention to himself "with distinctive clothes and costumes so that [176] everyone will recognize and respect him." (32) One visitor to the chancillería explained that distinctive dress for the king's judges was also essential because "the road of Luther and of heresy is to remove external ceremonies and the distinctions between various professions, institutions, and dress." (33) He also believed that "he who has the honor of being a letrado and judge should wear clothing that publicly displays that honor." (34)

Every oidor was thus to wear the long black robe (toga or garnacha) required of royal magistrates, and those who appeared in public dressed otherwise generally received a royal reprimand and occasionally were fined. (35) Distinctive costume in the sixteenth century was a symbol of order and authority and served to reinforce the existing hierarchy of status, power, and wealth. In Castile the toga set the magistrate apart as a man of learning, emphasizing the importance of justice, law, and the authority vested in him as a high-ranking official of the crown. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that a humble peasant near Granada was somewhat confused when he testified in 1540 that he had acquiesced to some illegal land seizures by Dr. Ribera, oidor in the chancillería of Granada, "because everyone told him that an oidor in the chancillería was the same as being the emperor [Charles VI] himself." (36)

But this "preeminent office," as one observer described the position of oidor, was not for everyone. (37) Oidores, together with the other magistrates of the royal audiencias, were required to be letrados. (38) This proviso meant that every oidor had spent at least five or six years at university, studying both canon and civil law, and had graduated [177] with either a licentiate's degree or that of doctor. (39) Graduates of Alcalá de Henares, Salamanca, and Valladolid, the kingdom's leading universities, generally had the best chance of securing a position on the chancillería, although occasionally a graduate of the University of Seville or Granada managed to secure an appointment. Even more in demand were graduates with teaching experience in one of the faculties of law. During the reign of Philip II, a majority of the chancillería's judges were former catedráticos (university professors), and in the seventeenth century nearly all of the places on this and the other royal audiencias were reserved for letrados who had taught at one of the major universities. (40)

This close attachment between the cátedra (university professorship) and the courts of law was one of the unique features of the Castilian judiciary. (41) Yet this policy of recruiting jurisconsults and university instructors to serve on the bench had its opponents. The universities were against it because it cost them many of their best and most qualified teachers, (42) whereas practicing advocates and other "men of law" believed that the law professors, though skilled in Roman law, knew little Castilian law and even less about courtroom procedures. (43) These sentiments were echoed in the Cortes, whose [178] petitions about "young and inexperienced" magistrates "ignorant of law" suggest that the examinations that were supposed to test judges for their knowledge of the "laws and fueros of Castile" were haphazardly administered. (44) Philip II responded to such criticism by bringing to the chancillería only magistrates with experience in lesser offices. Increasingly, therefore, the chancillería's oidores were older, seasoned officials in their late thirties or early forties, who, after a few years of teaching at a university, had spent at least a number of years in a minor judicial post. These appointments fit well with contemporary beliefs that positions of responsibility and particularly judgeships should be entrusted only to men in their "prime." (45)

But age, experience, and an extensive knowledge of law were not the only qualities demanded of a royal judge. Magistrates were expected to lead exemplary lives, both morally and religiously. Those who fell short, as many frequently did, could scarcely hope to be appointed to the chancillería, and those who were already oidores risked fines, suspensions, and, in especially grave cases, dismissal. Lic. Vidania Maldonado, for example, who was generally regarded as one of the chancillería's most learned judges, was sharply criticized by the official visitor in 1589 for having contracted "contagious diseases" from "low women and prostitutes." (46) Others fell into a similar trap. Dr. Felix de Manzanedo was accused of keeping a mistress with whom he was said to have taken a midnight swim in the Pisuerga River while "indecently dressed," (47) and Lic. García de Medrano was reprimanded for not living "naturally" with his wife and for trafficking with "women of ill repute." (48) Even more scandalous was the behavior [179] of Lic. Francisco Orduño, who was charged with having "entered one night the house of a married woman and attempted rape and then telling the woman that he would kill her if she did not keep the incident quiet." (49) But the most notorious of all the magistrates accused of moral and sexual improprieties was Lic. Fernando de Salas, an oidor in Granada. His reputation for extracting sexual favors from female litigants was such that one observer in 1549 stated that "it is thought that no woman would enter into his house." (50) Despite this reputation, Salas, possibly because he was a brother of Fernando de Valdés, the powerful president of the Royal Council, was promoted in 1565 to a place on the Council of the Indies in Madrid. Not so lucky was Dr. Esteban de Santander, oidor in Valladolid, who was said to have caused a "great scandal" after an incident in the parish church of San Sebastián in which he squabbled with some local women over who had the right to sit in a certain pew. Apparently, he insulted the women in question and then "hit them on the heads and shoulders," as a result of which a royal visitor to the chancillería in 1553 recommended that he be summoned to the Royal Council and "there be sharply reprimanded and punished." Three years later, Santander left the chancillería and retired "to his house," his career apparently at an end. (51) A somewhat later example of an oidor who paid dearly for his sexual peccadilloes was Lic. Luís de Villagutiérrez, a magistrate in Granada. Generally noted for his "scandalous" life, he was approached by a butcher named Gómez, who had a case before the chancillería. The butcher offered the judge "a good-looking girl from Malaga," and Villagutiérrez, according to one report, "lived carnally with her for three months." With Villagutiérrez's help, Gómez won his suit, but the judge's behavior was discovered, and he was eventually fined 200,000 mrs., suspended from his office for eight years, and exiled temporarily from both Granada and Madrid. (52)

Involvement in public scandals of any sort could also put a magistrate's [180] career in jeopardy. For this reason, attendance at bullfights and at comedies, gambling, excessive drinking and swearing, or participation in any other activity thought likely to tarnish a magistrate's reputation were strictly proscribed. Visitation records for the sixteenth century, however, reveal that many oidores had a distinct weakness for these forbidden pastimes. One official candidly admitted in 1584 that "we gambled for hours" and acknowledged that on certain days as many as 750,000 mrs. changed hands. (53)

Conspicuous consumption was also frowned upon, presumably because it might give the impression that the king's magistrates were receiving money through illicit means. Such an attitude helps to explain why Lic. Rodrigo de Santillan was upbraided in 1591 for the "great expenses on his household," (54) Lic. Juan de Alderete for owing 286,000 mrs. from the purchase of "silks, velvets, and other fine cloths," (55) and Lic. Diego de la Canal for his desire "to live conspicuously and well." (56)

The proscribed list of activities for the chancillería's judges was extended to forbid active participation in commerce and trade. Merchandising of any sort in sixteenth-century Castile was regarded among the nobility as base and ignoble, and, ideally, judges were expected to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the administration of justice. Such beliefs explain why Dr. Juan Vázquez was reprimanded for his involvement in "trading" (57) and Lic. Hernando de Barrientos for having participated in running a tavern in Medina del Campo, an accusation he vociferously denied. (58) Similarly charged were Dr. Santiago for financial dealings at the trade fair in Medina, (59) Lic. Juan de Vargas, a criminal magistrate, for investing in "trade with [181] France," (60) Lic. Juan Arce de Otalora for property speculation in Valladolid, (61) and Dr. Diego de Mora for his active participation in certain "letters of exchange." (62)

Isolation was yet another price an oidor had to pay for his exalted rank. Fraternization with the local populace was strictly forbidden because this was thought to lead to a web of friendships and personal associations in which the administration of royal justice might become entangled and caught. To avoid possible conflicts of interest, an oidor seeking to marry was required to ask for the monarch's permission to make certain that his future wife's family was not from Valladolid and had no lawsuits pending in his court. (63) Magistrates were also reproached if they bought land in or adjacent to Valladolid, either hosted or attended banquets that included members of local society, or participated in hunts and other outings sponsored by the members of the local nobility. In 1577, for example, judges of the chancillería were criticized for having gone "to amuse themselves and to hunt with local noblemen and to be their guests in their country homes [casas de plaçer]." (64) Similar reasoning led to the criticism of those oidores who allowed their wives to mix freely in local society, and one writer, Salgado Correa, advised that judges' wives should remain altogether out of legal affairs "because, although a wife deserves to be loved, honored, and esteemed by her husband, as both divine and human law and natural reason dictates, and although she is expected to be the head and administrator of her house, family, and estate and guardian of all the things they contain, she must not involve herself [182] in matters of justice and government which do not belong to the office of women." (65)

Because justice in the sixteenth century was generally considered the "highest of all temporal offices," the position of judge was "a sacred trust." (66) Every oidor was expected to live accordingly, or, as Salgado Correa put it, "to live very prudently, warned that if he wishes to fall from divine grace, he not consent to any sin that might be a disservice to God." (67) Rather, a judge was to devote himself fully to his job, studiously avoiding "laziness, the doorway to all evils," refusing bribes, living moderately, and in general making certain "that the great and the powerful do not oppress nor mistreat the weak and the powerless." (68) A judge was therefore expected to be constantly on guard, watching over and protecting justice in the name of the king, and, to do this job right, he was advised to work tirelessly from dawn until well into the night, taking time out only for mass, meals, and a brief siesta in the afternoon.

Not surprisingly, few of the oidores were as diligent and conscientious as this "ideal" judge, but for whatever sacrifices they did make these officials received substantial rewards. Although Valladolid's top advocates often earned more, by the end of the sixteenth century an oidor received a salary of 330,000 mrs., to which was added a living allowance that normally amounted to one-half of the original sum. (69)[183] Service on special Juntas and royal commissions brought in additional income, and, altogether, oidores could easily earn more than 500,000 or 600,000 mrs. a year. Added benefits were derived from special privileges that exempted an oidor's earnings, together with those of members of his immediate household, from royal taxation.(70) In addition, every oidor was entitled to shares of the charcoal, oil, wheat, wine, and goods stocked in the chancillería's storehouse. This privilege led to many abuses, and some officials were known to use the chancillería's tax-exempt status to import into the city large quantities of merchandise and then sell them on the open market at considerable profit for themselves. Two oidores so accused were Lic. Diego de Soto and Lic. Montalvo; according to the visita of 1554, both sold to their friends wheat and wine that legitimately belonged to the chancilleria's stores. (71)

Ideally, an oidor was rich in his own right because, as one consulta warned Philip, "letrados who are in need are likely to exceed the limits of their office and to further the interests of their house and family as much as they can." (72) Every effort, therefore, was made to secure prosperous judges, but this was not always possible. Dr. Bernardino Ruíz, an oidor who served in Granada, claimed in 1561 "not to have a single maravedí in the whole world nor any kind of legacy whatsoever." (73) He was joined by a number of other magistrates who also claimed to be poor, including Lic. Gregorio de Tovar, who wrote that his father, a fiscal on the chancillería, had dedicated himself more to his job than to the establishment of a rich inheritance for his son. (74) Most of these claims were exaggerated because the magistrates in question were probably fishing for mercedes from the king, but, rich or poor, most oidores in the sixteenth century lived comfortably if not extravagantly. In Valladolid all but a few lived in rented lodgings that doubled as offices," (75) but most oidores owned [184] lands and property in other parts of Castile. (76) In Valladolid, only a few oidores seemed fond of high living; most lived somewhat frugally, with only a handful of servants and, occasionally, as in the case of Lic. Diego de Mora, a single black slave. (77) Lic. Alvaro de Valdés lavished his earnings on a rich variety of imported furnishings, silver, paintings, tapestries, and a library of more than five hundred books, (78) but most oidores, owing perhaps to the peripatetic nature of their careers, invested less in arts and objects than in land, houses, censos, and juros (government bonds). (79)

The chief aim of many appears to have been the creation of a mayorazgo for their heirs. Certainly, this was the intention of Lic. Sebastián de Peralta, oidor from 1516 to 1534, who dedicated much of his life to the creation of an important mayorazgo, (80) as well as that of [185] Lic. Juan Manuel, who proudly announced in his will that he was leaving his heirs two sets of houses together with numerous "vineyards, groves, and fields" he had purchased. (81) A gift for posterity also figured in the will of Lic. Luís de Corral, another oidor, who used some of his earnings to build an elaborate family chapel "for the better worship of God and for the burials of himself and his successors" in La Magdalena, one of the more splendid parish churches in Valladolid. (82) Such ambitions suggest that the oidores of the chancillería closely resembled magistrates in the sovereign courts of Old Regime France; both sets of judges invested more in their lineage than in themselves, generally with an eye toward climbing slowly, across several generations, up the social ladder. (83)

Opportunities for the acquisition of wealth and social prestige were not the only benefits that accrued to judges of the royal chancillería. Equally important was the position of this tribunal in the royal judiciary since its judgeships were thought to be seminaries where magistrates had a chance to acquire the age, experience, and maturity necessary to qualify for the highest administrative and judicial offices in the monarchy. This view of the chancillería was probably first expressed by Dr. Lorenzo Galíndez de Carvajal, who advised the young Charles in 1518: "In order to make the best appointments, letrados should not enter the Royal Council on the first pass [boleo], but councillors should be appointed from among the magistrates of the chancillería so that they are already experienced and approved." (84) Several years later, the president of the Royal Council, Juan de Tavera, offered similar advice. Commenting upon possible appointments for the newly created Council of the Indies, he recommended two oidores from Valladolid: "Because the business of the Indies is so important that no single individual is qualified for the task, it is necessary to have councillors of letters and experience such as these two oidores. Moreover, it is best to fill offices in a manner whereby men rise little [186] by little to the high offices rather than in a sudden jump." (85) Although this policy was not always strictly enforced, Philip II's intention was to avoid "sudden jumps." The chancillería thus occupied an essential rung on the monarchy's cursus honorum, midway between the offices of corregidor and the lesser audiencias and the valued counciliar positions at court. Between 1516 and 1599, 160 oidores served on the chancillería, and of these just over half were eventually promoted to one of the king's councils. (86) Indeed, such appointments occurred so frequently that it appears that most oidores considered the chancillería only as a stepping stone to higher office.

Although personal testimony is lacking -- few letters belonging to the judges of this era have been found -- there is little doubt that most oidores looked forward to eventual promotion. Admittedly, as trained, professional jurists, their first responsibility was to administer the king's justice. Many did. In 1589, the visitor to the chancillería of Granada reported that among the fifteen oidores then in residence, only six lacked the abilities and talent that a good oidor should possess. Another six were of such excellence as to be recommended for promotion to higher posts, while the remainder fell somewhere in between. (87) That same year two oidores in Valladolid, Lic. Vidania Maldonado and Lic. Castro, were singled out by the visitador to that chancillería as "the best judges and greatest letrados in the kingdom." (88) Other oidores who earned similar accolades were Juan Arce de Otalora, Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva, Diego Bretón de Simancas, and Gregorio López Tovar, each of whom was a distinguished jurisconsult in his own right. Throughout the century, visitors to both of the king's chancillerías singled out judges known for their "letters," "understanding," and "integrity."

Yet these visitations also tell a different story. Lic. Vidania, one of "the best judges and greatest letrados in the kingdom," was accused of extorting money from litigants, failing to pay for the services of a woodcarver, and other abuses related to his conduct as a judge. Nor was he alone. (89) Each of the royal visitors discovered oidores who had [187] received bribes, intimidated and mistreated the lawyers and litigants who appeared before them, extorted money and other gifts from litigants and their agents, and otherwise exploited their offices for personal gain. One of the worst offenders was Lic. Antonio Bonal, who had a reputation for being "very prejudiced" and for "having received many presents and gifts from litigants." The visitor to the chancillería in 1589 reported that "I am certain that his annual ordinary expenses alone cannot be met by salary because these are very great and excessive as a result of the many dinners, banquets, and comedies he hosts and other expenditures on his house and servants." (90) Bonal was subsequently summoned to Madrid, reprimanded personally by Philip, and then transferred to the chancillería of Granada with the warning that unless he mended his ways, he would be permanently dismissed from the king's service. (91)

Bonal was possibly an exception; the record of most of his colleagues on the chancillería was not nearly so corrupt. Yet it also appears that most judges in the sixteenth century did what they could to stretch the prerogatives of their offices to the limit. Most sought to increase their wealth by engaging in numerous extracurricular activities, frequently ignoring rules and ordinances to the contrary. This attitude, which stemmed from the widely held notion of office as a merced, was a source of continuing friction between the crown and its judges. The oidores, for example, demanded that they should be allowed to work as advocates, bringing cases to the chancillería and other tribunals in their spare time. But the crown demurred, alleging that any judge who did so would "cause suspicion" and "restrict the liberty" of the other judges involved in the case. (92) The monarchy was particularly troubled by those oidores who worked as advocate for the "great lords," although it never went so far as to dismiss a judge for having served in this capacity. (93) Money was also a bone of contention, [188] and the oidores were especially upset that whereas the criminal magistrates of the chancillería were entitled to a percentage of the penas de cámara (court costs), they were not. (94)

Also in dispute was the Habsburgs' policy of rotating judges on a regular basis, a practice designed to limit the opportunities of judges to establish ties and dependencies that might compromise the administration of royal justice. Magistrates were thus moved about like chessmen, regardless of their personal interests and wants. The average tenure of an oidor at the chancillería was approximately five years even though some left after only a year. (95) An exception was Lic. Alvaro Figueroa Maldonado, an oidor once described as "not having as much talent as he should," who stayed on for thirty-three years. (96) If appointed to a new position, oidores expected that they would be promoted to one of the councils in Madrid; any other position was considered a blow to their dignity and prestige. Lic. Gregorio de Tovar, a native of Valladolid who occupied the important post of fiscal civil on the chancillería, felt cheated when he was appointed oidor in Galicia instead of Valladolid. And a few years later, when the king appointed him oidor in Granada, he complained about being "exiled one hundred leagues from his home" and far from the city he considered better for his "life, health, and finances." (97) Equally disappointed was Lic. Gudiel y Peralta, an oidor in Granada who had hopes of an important position at court. When he learned in 1624 that he had been transferred to the chancillería of Valladolid, he expressed [189]both his anger and disappointment in a long letter to the president of the Royal Council:

Expecting that you would grant me the merced of a place on one of the councils at court for which I have been considered so many times, I see this appointment neither a reward nor a promotion but only as a transfer that will cause me much discomfort and expense; the city of Valladolid is not nearly as good for my health as Granada; moreover, to be transferred there after the nine years that I have served in this chancillería is a great runaround, and in some respects I am going backward. . . I especially feel that this appointment is a loss of reputation that will necessarily cause me to lose face when everybody sees me go from this chancillería to that in Valladolid without my having asked or requested it from His Majesty; because they will not only understand that a person with my services deserves a better appointment than this but they will also suspect that it has come about as a result of my own faults. (98)
Gudiel eventually accepted his transfer, and in less than four years he was appointed fiscal of the Royal Council in Castile. Nevertheless, his history, and that of Tovar, demonstrate the constant struggle between a monarchy dedicated to the development of a loyal judiciary ready to sacrifice for the good of the king and a judiciary equally dedicated to the belief that automatic promotion to higher office was their privilege and right.


Little is known about the origins and background of the oidores who served on the chancillería, and therefore it is almost impossible to elaborate much about their attitudes toward office, let alone their [190] personal aspirations and ideals. Among the oidores appointed by Charles and Philip, only a few could be considered important personages in their own right. Lic. don Pedro Girón, appointed in 1528, was a younger son of the count of Ureña; the count of Oñate was the father of  Lic. don Pedro Guevara, who was named oidor in 1572; and a handful of others were the nephews and cousins of important titled families, but these men were exceptions. (99) Sons of grandees and títulos frequently studied law, but few followed it as a career. Those who did had to contend with a monarchy that was reluctant to appoint members of important aristocratic houses to judicial office. (100) Shortly before Pedro Girón was named to the chancillería, for example, a consulta to Charles V stated that Girón would make a good judge except for the fact that, "because he is a relative of a grandee, he is corrupted." (101)

In general, Charles V and Philip II preferred magistrates of more modest origins, although this does not mean that any of the 160 oidores who served on the chancillería in the course of the sixteenth century were the sons of artisans, labradores, or other humble families. A few such letrados, including Dr. Oropesa and Toribio Gómez de Santiago, had served as magistrates during the reign of the Catholic kings, (102) but most of the oidores subsequently named to the chancillería were men of the "middling sort," letrados described by Diego Hurtado de Mendoza "as midway between the great and the small." (103) One of these oidores was Jerónimo de Espinosa, son of Francisco de Espinosa, jurisconsult and regidor (town councillor) of Valladolid, who belonged to a family with extensive interests in commerce and trade. His grandfather, Juan de Espinosa, was an important merchant who established a family business in Valladolid that soon reached to Seville and the New World. (104) Ordinarily, however, [191] judges who stemmed from mercantile families were suspect. Commerce in the sixteenth century was closely associated with New Christian families, and by the reign of Charles V, an epoch of growing religious and racial intolerance in Spain, it was generally conceded that conversos "would not give good counsel." (105)

Somewhat related was the stigma attached to those letrados who had worked previously as lawyers. This profession, too, was considered "tainted," but advocates were needed to serve in the important position of fiscal, and by this route a small number of talented advocates attained royal judgeships. (106) Lic. Ramírez, for example, worked as an advocate until he was named fiscal in 1575. Three years later he was appointed oidor, but his career ended there, possibly because the royal secretary, Mateo Vázquez, advised Philip: "I believe he is not an Old Christian." (107) Lic. Pedro López de Alcocer, another advocate whose lineage was "suspect," had no such difficulty. First appointed oidor in Granada and then in Valladolid, his career in the royal judiciary culminated when he was named to the Royal Council of Castile in 1549. He was also noted for his preliminary work on the Nueva Recopilación. (108) Equally successful was Cristóbal Vaca de Castro. Like Alcocer, he worked his way up from an advocate in the chancillería to become an oidor, and, finally, after a number of years in the Indies, where he served as president of the audiencia in Panama, he was appointed councillor of Castile in 1539. Vaca de Castro also had the satisfaction of seeing his son Pedro appointed oidor in Valladolid although he died before Pedro was the named president of that same tribunal.

[192] But these advocates were the lucky ones. On the whole, the preferred choice for an oidor was the letrado who was also a hidalgo. These lesser nobles, many of whom came from the north of the kingdom, particularly the Basque country, la Rioja, and other parts of Old Castile, were generally thought of as Old Christians. And, whereas important nobles were considered too independent and headstrong to become good royal judges, hidalgos had a reputation for faithful service to the monarchy. It was also members of the hidalguía who sought out university training in preparation for a legal career, and many of these students were eager to make names for themselves in the royal government. Hard evidence is lacking, but there is little doubt that most of the oidores appointed to this chancillería came from this petty noble class.

Their backgrounds varied. Some were the sons of señores de vasallos (seigneurial lords), such as Lic. Juan Zapata de Cardenas (appointed 1551), whose older brother inherited the señorio of Robas and who eventually became the first count of Barajas. Another was Lic. Alonso Fernández de Córdoba (appointed in 1586), son of señor of Guadalcázar. Others were sons of local notables: Lic. Hernando de Girón (appointed oidor in Granada in 1517), whose father was the warden at the Mota castle in Medina del Campo; Lic. Fernando González de Contreras (appointed before 1520), son of a regidor in Segovia; and Lic. Antonio Suárez de Toledo (appointed in 1550), whose family had occupied a place on the town council of Talavera de la Reina since the late fourteenth century. Also in this category was Dr. Martín Vázquez (appointed in 1517), who was the son of a certain Vázquez de Arce, town councillor in Toledo. Two of Martin's sons also served as royal magistrates, and another was the famed jurisconsult, Francisco de Vázquez Menchaca. (109)

Other hidalgos appointed to the chancillería belonged to families who had served the monarchy for generations. One of these "service" dynasties was the Corral. Luis served Charles V as magistrate on the chancillería and later as a member of the Royal Council; his father, Juan, was ambassador for the Catholic monarchs in France; his grandfather, García, was alcalde in Valladolid in 1427; and his great-grandfather, [193] Diego, had been one of the seven oidores originally named to the chancillería in 1378. Subsequently, one of his sons, Diego de Corral y Valdes, served as corregidor in Toro, and his grandson, Diego de Corral y Arellano, and great-grandson, Cristóbal de Corral Ipeñarrieta, were judges who rose through the royal judiciary to become councillors of Castile. By the end of the seventeenth century, the Corral family carried the newly created title of duke of Granada de Ega, a reward for their generations of service to the crown. (110)

Another dynasty of letrados were the Tapia, originally from the town of Arevalo (Segovia). Pedro was a royal councillor in the reign of Henry IV; Juan occupied the same position under Ferdinand and Isabella; Francisco was first a fiscal and then an alcalde de crimen on the chancillería; and Pedro, named oidor in Valladolid in 1593, was subsequently promoted to a place on the Royal Council. (111) Similarly, the father of Diego de Tovar Palacios, an oidor at the chancillera in 1517, was the grandson of Lic. Pedro Sanz or Sánchez de Valladolid, a royal councillor during the reign of John II. His son, Tomás, was a fiscal in the chancillería who refused other posts, and his grandson, Lic. Gregorio de Tovar, occupied magistracies in the two chancillerías as well as the audiencia of Galicia before receiving an appointment to the Council of Military Orders in 1626. Two generations later, this family carried the titles of marquis of Castro and count of Canelada and by that time followed military rather than letrado careers. (112) Almost as successful were the Arce y Otalora, a hidalgo family from the Rioja. Juan, appointed oidor in 1554, the son of Pedro de Arce, pageboy (mozo de cámara) to Queen Isabella, was famous for his eloquence in Castilian. His son became corregidor in Olmedo and in Soria, and his grandson, another Lic. Juan de Arce y Otalora, was an oidor in Valladolid before reaching the Royal Council of Castile. His great-grandson, Lic. Manuel de Arce y Astete, was a criminal judge at the chancillería before he, too, was appointed to the Royal Council. (113)

[194] Whether these oidores are typical of the magistrates appointed to the chancillería is difficult to determine, but the histories of the Arce y Otalora, Corral, Tapia, and Tovar are representative of the upwardly mobile group of letrados who, during the Habsburg era, could be found in positions of prominence throughout the royal judiciary. Often maligned by aristocratic observers such as Jerónimo de Barríonuevo, a seventeenth-century critic who objected to the "notable ambition" of these señores togados, the original intentions of these letrados were to serve the king and in doing so achieve a modicum of wealth and social respectability. (114) Many no doubt resembled Lic. Sebastián de Peralta, a member of a noted Segovian family, who was appointed to the chancillería in 1517. In his will, Peralta established a mayorazgo so that his name "would not perish until the end of the world," and he stated expressly that his heirs were "always and forever more to follow and serve . . . the legitimate kings of Spain and attempt to live with them in the royal household and to have positions and offices within it . . . and to be their loyal vassals and servants." (115) Peralta, admittedly, is a perfect caricature of the ambitious letrado, requiring his heirs to employ his surname "alone, without a trace of any other name," but his desire to establish a lineage that would achieve prominence through royal service is exactly the credo many hidalgos observed. (116)

But personal and family interests and royal interest did not necessarily coincide. Just as the magistrates expected that advancement ought to be based upon seniority rather than merit, they also believed that the monarchy, in recognition of their services, ought to provide jobs for their sons. At issue was the traditional aristocratic notion of inherited worth. Castilians throughout the early modern era put little emphasis upon individualism. Although some humanist thinkers, notably Juan Luís Vives (1492-1540), acknowledged the importance of education in helping to mold a man's character and wit, most Castilians believed otherwise; nature, not nurture, was the key to character, intelligence, and personality. (117) Blood determined a man's [195] good qualities as well as his bad ones, and whereas education was essential to keep a child's natural, animal instincts at bay, merit was only secondarily a matter of individual accomplishment. Lineage counted as much, if not more. One of the best qualifications for office was therefore to have had a father, brother, uncle, or some other relative in the king's service, and this argument was continually put forward by those who advised the king on matters of royal appointments as well as by magistrates seeking to persuade the monarchy to appoint their sons in their place. Not atypical, for example, was the request of the royal councillor, Cristóbal Vaca de Castro, for a merced of office for his son Pedro, stating that "it is just and customary to reward the sons and sons-in-law of royal councillors." (118)

Although the Habsburgs never denied the merit or validity of such requests -- the institution of monarchy itself depended upon the notion of inherited worth -- both Charles and Philip professed humanist ideas that emphasized the importance of appointing officials upon the basis of individual merit. Ideally, office was to be earned, not inherited, and in consideration of the importance of the administration of justice to royal authority, Charles V not only prohibited the sale of royal judgeships but also denied requests from magistrates seeking to pass their offices on to their sons. Possibly in recognition of Comunero demands not to allow royal magistrates to become "seigneurs" of their offices, Charles ordered that "no judicial office should be awarded to the son of a royal councillor." (119) This policy was put to the test in 1548 when Luís de Corral, a member of the Royal Council of Castile, requested an office of corregidor for his son. The president of the council, Fernando de Valdés, advised Charles that on this occasion his majesty "might dispense with the principle because of Corral's merits and seniority as well as the excellence of the son," but the emperor held firm: "Although we are of the will to grant him a merced, other members of the council are also seeking the same and this would open the door to everyone; for this reason we have decided to defer this request." (120)

Philip II reacted similarly to requests of this kind. Lic. Tomás de Tovar, a fiscal attached to the chancillería of Valladolid, repeatedly [196] asked the monarch to appoint his son, Lic. Gregorio de Tovar, in his place, but Philip adamantly refused. Tovar died in 1581, and Lic. Juan García was offered the vacant office of fiscal, but turned it down. It was only then that Gregorio was appointed to the position formerly held by his father. In his autobiography, Gregorio admitted that such an appointment was a "novelty" and "a difficult thing to achieve." (121) Tovar's appointment was not as unique as he would have us believe, but the tone of his comments (probably written shortly before his death in 1636) underscores Philip's determination not to give in every time the son of a royal magistrate asked for an appointment to the royal bench. Philip was equally suspicious of those who put forward arguments to explain why graduates of the Colegios Mayores should also be favored by the king. By the mid-sixteenth century, these six colleges had become privileged enclaves reserved for the sons of the nobility and especially for the sons of royal officials. But they also had a reputation for excellence, and during the course of Philip's reign their graduates, with the help and support of former graduates high in the administration, found their way in increasing numbers to positions on the chancillería and the king's other courts. Philip II was wary of such favoritism, but supporters of the colleges, who included such powerful figures as Diego de Espinosa and Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva, both of whom were presidents of the Royal Council, maintained that members of these colleges were outstanding letrados. They also emphasized that graduates of these communities, thanks to the college's strict limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) statutes, were free of any traces of converso blood. When responsibility for the recruitment of judges passed to the Cámara de Castilla, the influence of the Colegios Mayores increased. This council, which was chiefly composed of former graduates of these colleges, made it a point to recommend fellow graduates, many of whom also happened to be their sons, nephews, cousins, and friends. Thus through a web of friendship, marriage, family alliances, and common allegiance -- "hermandad," as one seventeenth-century observer called it (122) -- to [197] one of the Colegios Mayores, the royal judiciary became something of a clique, dominated by established letrado families and others who had managed to secure a place in one of the Colegios Mayores. (123)

Philip II opposed this development, fearful that such nepotism would weaken his hold upon the judiciary and allow corruption to flourish. In contrast, Philip III (1599-1621) allowed his ministers virtual freedom to select whomever they pleased for positions on the royal bench. His reign coincided with a time when graduates of the Colegios Mayores exercised increasing influence over the distribution of royal office, and the result was a judiciary increasingly crammed with former colegiales and others related to important ministers by virtue of marriage and blood. Early in his reign, Philip IV, with the support of the count-duke of Olivares, attempted to curb the growing influence of the Colegios Mayores in the distribution of judicial office, but his efforts were effectively blocked by a coalition of former members of these colleges and other ministers seeking to assure their offspring of a place in royal government. The first half of the seventeenth century thus marks the emergence of what might be described as a letrado elite, dominated by such families as the Alderete, Arce y Otalora, Contreras, Marquéz de Prado, Pedrosa, Ramos del Manzano, Ronquillo y Briceño, Santos de San Pedro, Vázquez de Arce, and others, each of whom managed to gain a permanent foothold in the royal judiciary. And the recurrence of such families in the audiencias and councils of the crown suggests the degree to which a relatively small number of families -- perhaps eighty to one hundred in all -- almost managed to make these institutions their own. (124) By the end of the century, for example, the crown made available approximately 160 important judgeships to letrados. Of these over 6o percent were held by graduates of the Colegios Mayores, the majority of whom were related to the letrado elite. (125) In the case of the chancillería, this figure was even higher. By all appearances, therefore, Philip II's fears that family influence would wrest effective control of judicial appointments away from the monarch had been realized.


[198] The rise of the letrado elite in the course of the seventeenth century was related to and in some ways promoted by the growing independence of the royal judiciary from close monarchical supervision and control. In the previous century, both Charles V and Philip II had attempted to keep a tight reign on their officials, using for this purpose the visita or extraordinary judicial inquest or review. Designed to "honor the good and punish the bad," the visita was a rigorous and frequently prolonged inspection of the record of every official attached to the chancillería, from the lowly porteros to the president himself. (126) In recognition of this tribunal's importance, the visitor, who was in charge of the interrogation of witnesses, the collection of secret testimonials, and the final preparation of the list of formal cargos or charges against those found guilty of wrongdoing, was either a high-ranking prelate or a royal councillor. (127) Their findings, which were passed on to the Royal Council for final action, could result in fines, suspensions, or, in extreme cases of wrongdoing, permanent dismissal. On the other hand, a clean record in a visita was almost certain to guarantee a magistrate in the chancillería promotion to one of the royal councils.

The importance the monarchy attached to both the chancillería and the visita is amply demonstrated by the frequency of these special reviews. The chancillería had been "visited" in 1503 and again in 1515, but the Comuneros specifically asked Charles that the "president, councils, oidores, alcaldes, and officials of the audiencias and chancillería be 'visited' every four years." (128) Charles responded by ordering a visitation to the chancillería in 1523 and then once a decade [199] thereafter (1534, 1542, and 1554). (129) Philip followed suit. The first of his reign, which was entrusted to Pedro Ponce de León, bishop of Plasencia, took place in 1566 and resulted in numerous penalties, including fines for the oidor Lic. Juan de Vargas, who complained that the charges against him were detrimental to his "honor and good reputation." (130) Lic. Alonso Suárez Sedeño, another oidor, reacted in a similar fashion to the next visitation in 1577. He claimed that the visitor, Diego de Castillo, was an "enemy" of his family, who, with "false charges," had "dishonored him without cause." (131) The last visitation ordered by Philip came in 1589 and was headed by Jerónimo Manrique, bishop of Cartagena. This inspection proved exceptionally rigorous, and the reaction among the magistrates, most of whom considered these visitations unwarranted royal interference into their private affairs, was predictable. The fiscal Gregorio de Tovar described Manrique as "a courteous man but very badly intentioned; . . . a friend of finding faults among the 'visited' and an enemy of those who attempt to exonerate themselves." (132) Tovar also alleged that Manrique was a converso and spread rumors that he had secretly fathered three illegitimate children, but for this and other shortcomings Tovar, along with two of the chancillería's oidores, was suspended from office. (133)

Once this visitation was completed, however, nearly thirty years passed before another was begun, a lapse best explained by Philip III's lack of interest in judicial affairs. (134) Then, in 1618, amid increasing [200] pressure from the Cortes for reforms to reduce corruption in government, the Junta de Reformación instructed Fernando Ramírez Fariñas, a royal councillor, to begin a new visitation. (135) Fariñas dutifully went off to Valladolid, but, without the active support of the monarch, he was unable to accomplish anything until Philip IV became king in 1621. This monarch, aided by the energetic count-duke of Olivares, began his reign with a reform program designed to reduce corruption in government and to make the royal administration more responsive to the king's will. (136) Suddenly, the visita initiated by Fariñas acquired some teeth. In less than a year, three of the chancillería's sixteen oidores had been dismissed and two others temporarily suspended, tough measures, but ones that were meant to serve as a sign to the whole of the royal bureaucracy that the new regime would not tolerate the corruption and laxity characteristic of the previous reign. (137)

But the crackdown on ministerial corruption initiated by Philip and Olivares proved ephemeral. Almost immediately, the suspended officials, apparently with the support of influential royal councillors and other ministers wary of the new monarch's intentions, appealed to Philip, asking him to annul the judgment of Fariñas's visita. Technically, the recommendations of visitations were to be appealed to the Royal Council, not to the king, and this may explain why the president of the Royal Council, Francisco de Contreras, directed the following complaint to the king in July 1624: "I understand that some [of the guilty oidores] have approached Your Majesty asking to excuse them by an act of royal grace." (138) The suspended magistrates had argued against the legitimacy of the visita, maintaining that, unlike [201] ordinary civil and criminal procedures, they were not entitled to know the names of the witnesses who had denounced them or appeal the findings of the visita to a higher court. Contreras responded in a long memorandum, justifying the extraordinary procedures employed by the visita in terms of tradition and "the express or at least tacit consent of the ministers Your Majesty has appointed . . . that they are to be 'visited' in the accepted manner." (139) Reasons of state, he wrote, also justified the use of such extraordinary procedures: "It is in the state's interest to punish the crimes committed by those in office because it is from their conduct that peace, tranquility, good government, and equal justice result." (140) Contreras further maintained that the only way to punish the crimes of "persons as powerful as those with public offices is to use a special jurisdiction against them," adding that if the king agreed to the petitions that the guilty magistrates had filed, "it would totally undermine the effectiveness of future visitas and the benefits that are ordinarily derived from them." (141)

Francisco de Contreras -- hidalgo, Segovian, graduate of Salamanca, and lifelong servant of the king in various judicial posts was appointed by Philip to head the Royal Council in 1621, a position he retained until his retirement in 1626. (142) A regalist, Contreras was staunchly opposed to any measure that might weaken the visita and with it royal absolutism. But most of the king's magistrates thought differently. Lic. García de Salazar, one of the suspended oidores, petitioned the king "to nullify his sentence," and in October 1624, Philip, ignoring Contreras's advice, appointed Salazar corregidor in Cuenca, a lesser position than the one he had previously occupied but an important one nevertheless. (143) Also successful in altering the original punishments ordered by the visita were Lic. Martín de Egues, who was returned to his former place, Lic. Andrés de las Infantas, and Lic. Cristóbal de Paz. Lic. Gil de Albornoz, who had been suspended from the chancillería, fined 750,000 mrs., and exiled permanently from Madrid and Valladolid, was the last to benefit from what [202] Contreras described as the king's "magnanimity and clemency," but by 1625 his penalty had also been substantially reduced. (144)

The reasons why Philip IV reversed the Judgments of this important visitation remain obscure, but his intervention established a precedent that, as Contreras had warned, proved "very unwise." (145) A visita ordered to review the record of the chancillería of Granada in 1628 resulted in the suspension of two oidores and the transfer of three others to Valladolid, but subsequent visitations accomplished very little. (146) In 1630, for example, the kingdom of Galicia petitioned the king to visit the audiencia located in La Coruña, but his review barely got off the ground owing to a number of administrative disputes. When it was finally completed in 1637, only a few fines were levied even though the archbishop of Santiago had insisted that "the excesses of the tribunal demanded stiffer penalties." (147) Equally haphazard was a visita sent to the audiencia of the Canary Islands in 1633. In a letter to the king, the fiscal of the Royal Council, Diego de Riaño y Gamboa, complained that oidores in Las Palmas had successfully "impeded the visita," and he acknowledged that "the judges have spies to find out what they have to say and who warn them when the visitor is coming and what they have to watch for." (148)

The chancillería of Valladolid escaped visitations entirely until 1662. (149) The records of this inquiry have been lost, but it appears to have lacked force and resulted only in the transfer to the chancillería of Granada of one oidor who had supposedly married a local girl without the king's permission. (150) During the reign of Charles II (1665-1700), the only visita sent to this tribunal was little more than a commission that was ordered in 1684 to investigate alledged irregularities in the way certain judges had decided the outcome of an important [203] lawsuit between the dukes of Infantado and Medinaceli. (151) No general review of the chancillería's record was even contemplated.

Why the Spanish crown abandoned the use of the visita remains a mystery. Ostensibly, the monarchy, in keeping with tradition, maintained an interest in seeing that the justice delivered in the king's name was properly administered and the rules governing its tribunals obeyed. Nor does it appear that the king's magistrates in the seventeenth century were less prone to corruption and misconduct than their predecessors. If anything, the opposite was true. Writing in 1621, Lic. Verdejo, comparing judges to the pecho or chest of the kingdom, complained that corruption had given Castile an "asthmatic chest." (152) A similar view was expressed by the noted arbitrista, Jerónimo de Cevallos, who called judges "meat-eating wolves, living off the blood of lambs."(153) Meanwhile, complaints about the greed and corruption of judges proliferated. In 1624, the jurados of Seville told the king: "There is a general complaint about the improper dispatch and administration of justice in the audiencia and especially about the lack of secrecy before the decisions are announced; this comes from administering justice by favors, pleas, and intercessions of private individuals of all offices and estates who know the judges. It is common knowledge that nothing in the audiencia is done without the help of these impertinent intercessions." (154) Lic. Sancho Hurtado de la Puente, an oidor in this audiencia, exemplified the corruption about which Seville's officials complained. Known for his trafficking "in wheat, oil, and other things," Hurtado had close relations with "merchants, tax farmers, and traders," using one of his relatives, a physician, as a go-between. According to the royal visitor, this judge was no better than "a public thief. . . who sells justice" by means of "many illicit pacts and contracts." (155)

Admittedly, the audiencia in Seville had a long history of corruption and poor administration, but the standard of discipline at the [204] king's other tribunals was not much better. In 1632, for example, oidores in Valladolid were caught living rent-free in the homes of "caballeros and títulos" in exchange for looking after their lawsuits. (156) And by the end of Philip IV's reign, the crown was obliged to request the magistrates in this tribunal to promise "to dispatch lawsuits promptly and efficiently" and not leave Valladolid without the express permission of the president of the Royal Council. (157) Conditions at the king's other chancillería in Granada were much the same, and at one point its president candidly admitted to Philip "that many [of its governing ordinances] have not been observed for years, with great harm to the litigants and the proper administration of justice." (158) In subsequent years, however, discipline in each of these tribunals deteriorated even further, and by 1677 the crown was having to plead with its oidores, asking them to avoid "public sins" and to be more "inclined to help the poor . . . than the rich in order to solicit the beneficial effects of divine mercy." (159)

In light of such complaints, the need for frequent visitations might easily have been justified, yet the crown, ignoring the advice of those who argued that the visita was the only means of keeping the "private interests" of its officials in check, visited its tribunals only occasionally and then so haphazardly that virtually nothing was accomplished. This change in policy may be partly explained by the nature of the visita itself. (160) These inquests were costly -- Ramírez Fariñas was said to have spent over 11 million mrs. during his visita to the chancillería of Valladolid -- and time-consuming; most lasted at least two to three years, required the full-time services of an important prelate or royal official together with several notaries, and generated thousands of pages in costly paperwork. (161) They had the added disadvantage of reviewing the records of judges and other officials, who, by the time of the visita, had already moved on to other positions. This short-coming [205] was recognized by one sixteenth-century visitor who argued that continuous surveillance would be far more effective than periodic visitations, which, as the viceroy of Peru, the marquis of Montesclaros once said, "were like a whirlwind -- raises dust and rubbish -- then subsides."(162) By this time, moreover, the royal government was so large and complex that the visita, a procedure instituted in the Middle Ages when royal administration was still in its infancy, had probably outlived its usefulness.

But the decline of the visita in the seventeenth century represents far more than the end of a chapter in the administrative history of Castile. The visita, as Contreras had pointed out, was an extraordinary judicial procedure that was bitterly resented by the magistrates who served on the royal bench. As in the cases of Lic. Gregorio de Tovar, Lic. Juan de Vargas, Lic. Alonso Suárez Sedeño, and others, many magistrates and other court officials considered these investigations unwarranted, unjustified, and illegal. The visita was a symbol of strong royal authority, and Philip IV's support for this procedure at the outset of his reign signaled his determination to assert the royal prerogative, oust corruption from the judiciary, and demonstrate to his magistrates that their careers rested solely on his will. But the magistrates, accustomed to the benign authority of Philip III, fought back. By this date, many of the king's magistrates belonged to influential dynasties of letrados whose members occupied numerous positions in royal government and who had a powerful say in government affairs. (163) Others, including Lic. García de Haro y Avellañeda, son of the marquis of Carpio, and Lic. Pedro de Guzmán, son of the marquis of Camarasa, had close relations with the high aristocracy, giving them additional leverage with the king. But the locus of the magistrates' power was their control of the Royal Council of Castile and especially of the cámara, the council in charge of the distribution of offices, mercedes, and other forms of royal largesse. As professional jurists, these officials considered the appointment and promotion of royal magistrates matters best left to themselves, and they resisted any attempt by the monarch to act arbitrarily and without having first checked with the cámara and reviewed its recommendations. (164) This highly professional, almost proprietary attitude among [206] the crown's letrados also explains the resentment of established members of the council and cámara when Olivares persuaded Philip to appoint one of his own favontes -- Lic. José González, a former advocate whose nobility was in doubt -- to the Royal Council in 1628. (165) It is another reason why in the seventeenth century members of the royal judiciary refused to submit to a visita ordered by the king.

Considered in the crucible of power, the visita represented a test of wills, with the monarch, his favorite, and their friends and allies struggling against the magistrates over who had the right to direct the administration of royal justice and to determine the standards by which the king's magistrates would be recruited and judged. Early in his reign, Philip IV seized the initiative: visitas were ordered; new men such as González appointed to important judicial posts; and each of his officials required to submit detailed financial statements of what they were worth, a measure designed to determine who had abused their offices and who had not. (166) Olivares undoubtedly had masterminded these schemes, and, in his Gran Memorial of 1624, he suggested to Philip that misconduct on the part of his judicial officials had to be punished if the reputation of the royal judiciary for "justice" was to be maintained. (167) But five years later, owing primarily to the refusal of the king's magistrates to submit to the monarch's will, very little along these lines had been accomplished. In 1629, Olivares wrote secretly to Philip to tell him that "the ambition of the ministers is without measure." He added that as a result of the crown's failure to punish corruption within the judiciary, justice was "in almost total abandon." (168)

By this date, however, Olivares's ambitious plans to reform Habsburg government and reassert royal authority were almost in ruins. [207] The beginning of the Thirty Years' War in 1618, the renewal of the war against the Dutch in 1623, the beginning of the Mantuan War in 1627, the outbreak of direct fighting with the French in 1635, and then, beginning in 1640, the revolt of the Catalans followed immediately by that of the Portuguese meant that neither Philip nor Olivares had much time to devote to routine matters of government and administration. Financial and military matters absorbed more and more of their energies, matters of justice less and less. In essence, the rey justiciero of the sixteenth century was forced, by necessity, to become the rey financiero, a monarch preoccupied with providing the wherewithal to sustain Castile's vast military effort. Thus, the letrados won the struggle for the control of the royal judiciary by default. Henceforward, potentially disruptive visitas would be held to a minimum, appointments to the magistracy would depend primarily upon the cámara's judgment and review, and, ultimately, it would be left to the judges themselves to determine who was or was not deserving to serve as a royal judge. In 1651, moreover, the judges succeeded in persuading Philip IV to issue a decree revoking an old order that royal councillors and other magistrates not serve as judges in lawsuits in which one of their close relatives had a stake. (169) The king's magistrates had won yet another victory in their struggle to wrest effective control of their actions and behavior away from the king.

In perspective, therefore, Philip IV's short-lived attempt to reassert the royal prerogative in judicial matters did little more than foment a self-serving professional spirit among the letrados in the royal judiciary. The magnanimity and clemency exercised by Philip IV in the wake of the Fariñas visita may in this respect be interpreted as recognition by the monarch that the administration of royal justice was best left to the judges themselves.

The growing freedom of the chancillería from close monarchical supervision and control belongs to a general trend in the administrative history of early modem Spain. As institutions became larger, more complex, and more specialized, the officials who manned them sought ways to set the standards by which they would be recruited and judged so as to safeguard their own interests and to protect the careers of their offspring. The expansion of royal government and the [208] rationalization of procedure and recruitment occurred first in the royal judiciary; other sectors of government, the military excepted, lagged behind. But whereas procedures and patterns of advancement were gradually "bureaucratized" in the modern sense of the word, the king's magistrates continued to look upon their offices as personal gifts from the monarch that they were free to exploit. In the absence, therefore, of effective checks upon their behavior and guaranteed, automatic promotion to higher place by virtue of seniority, these officials were able to use their offices as they saw fit. Freedom from accountability need not automatically lead to a decline in standards of conduct among officials, but in the case of Castile's "patrimonial" bureaucracy, professionalization seemed to encourage among the king's magistrates the pursuit of private ambitions and selfish aims. In turn, this development served to tarnish the reputation of the institutions to which these magistrates belonged.

In the sixteenth century, much of the litigation directed to the royal judiciary depended upon a climate of opinion favorably disposed toward the king's magistrates. To be sure, there were some, mainly officials of the Inquisition, who criticized the royal judiciary for its apathy, indifference, and corruption, but they did so largely in an effort to gain additional jurisdictional powers for themselves. (170) In contrast, the president of the chancillería of Granada in a report of 1579 informed Philip II that cases at his tribunal were "dispatched carefully and efficiently because all of the magistrates are worthy men; . . . there isn't anybody who complains." (171) It also seems that many contemporaries agreed with García Loaisa Girón, canon of Toledo, who advised Philip II in 1580 that he should dismiss reports that his judges were thieves. "Many of these reports," he wrote, "are without substance, written with zeal but without science, with the result that a blanket condemnation is made out of a single offense." In reference to the king's corregidores, for example, Loaisa admitted to certain shortcomings, particularly in large cities such as Toledo, but he emphasized that "ordinarily they administer justice and keep the [209] cities in peace and tranquility." (172) Residencia reports dating from this epoch tend to confirm Loaisa's optimistic assessment of the royal judiciary, as do most travelers' reports, a number of which paint a glowing portrait of the royal judiciary at this time. (173) Pierre de Segusson, the French ambassador, in an apparent reference to the efficacy of the king's magistrates, noted that "it was possible to go from one end of Spain to the other with one's purse in one's hand and no one will molest you. (174) And in 1586, two Flemings, Henri Cock and Jean l'Hermite wrote that the Santa Hermandad, an institution responsible for the administration of justice in the rural areas of New Castile, delivered "such prompt and resolute justice that no one is able to escape their hands." (175)

In actuality, royal justice was somewhat less efficient and Castile somewhat less tranquil than contemporary observers would have us believe, but their positive assessment of the king's justice helps us to understand why so many Castilians in the course of the sixteenth century elected to settle their disputes in a royal court. A century later, the royal judiciary had changed, and so had its reputation. In many ways, this now approximated the description of the anonymous author who, in the early years of the reign of Charles II, wrote of the king's justice in the following terms: "tribunals ailing; justice with bias; judges without fear of their reputation; offices as if those who occupy them had bought them; dignities made into inheritances or sales, and honors so widely sold in public for money that the only thing lacking is the towncrier's announcement." (176) This new image, so bleak when compared to that of Loaisa and his contemporaries, helps to explain why in the course of the seventeenth century litigation in courts such as the chancillería began to decline and, correspondingly, why the king''s justice gradually counted for less and less.

Notes for Chapter 5

1. For the origins of these institutions, see Miguel Angel Pérez de la Canal, "La Justicia en la corte de Castilla durante los siglos XIII al XV" Historia instituciones documentos 2 (1975):383-482.

2. See Angus Mackay, Spain in the Middle Ages (London, 1977), pp. 143-64.

3. From Max Weber, Essays in Sociology, trans. and ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (London, 1967), pp. 159-266.

4. I. A. A. Thompson, War and Government in Habsburg Spain, 1560-1620 (London, 1976), p 58, makes a similar point.

5. See BL: Add. 28, 334, fol. 320, letter dated 21 June 1566.

6. Cited in Helmut Koenigsberger, The Practice of Empire (Ithaca, 1969), p. 69.

7. Evidence of Lerma's influence in matters of patronage is illustrated in the billetes or memos in which he recommended certain individuals to the Cámara de Castilla. See AHN Cons., legs 13490, 13494, 13500, 13515, and 13529, esp consultas in the years between 1611 and 1618. The cámara was often reluctant to go along with his recommendations. Lerma, for example, had to submit at least two billetes on behalf of Lic. Pedro de Herrera before the cámara agreed to recommend him for a position on the chancillería of Valladolid. See AHN: Cons., leg. 13529. no 82. consulta, 26 Aug. 1617.

8. Bartolomé Bennassar, Valladolid au siècle d'or (Paris, 1967), p. 124. In 1591, Valladolid's population was forty thousand.

9. Alone, the salaries paid to the officials of the chancilleria -- 225 in all -- amounted to approximately four million maravedís annually. See Bennassar, p. 130.

10. Ibid , p 118. By way of comparison, Burgos, primarily a mercantile city, had fifty-two "men of law," Segovia, a textile center, approximately eighty-five.

11. For more on Butrón's houses and those of other letrados, see Juan José Martín González, La arquitectura doméstica del renacimiento en Valladolid (Valladolid, 1948), p 93. Butrón's house, constructed in 1568 at the cost of 28,000 ducats, was described by a chronicler as one of the most sumptuous hidalgo residences in all Castile.

12. The extent to which Valladolid profited from the presence of the chancillería was well known to other cities. La Coruña, for example, as part of its effort to become the permanent home of the audiencia of Galicia, told Philip II in 1563 that the tribunal would attract nobles, stimulate new construction, bring in new merchants, and increase the city's total population. "Experience has shown," wrote the city, "that the chancillerías in Granada and Valladolid have been the cause of considerable growth, the same will take place in La Coruña." See BL: Add. 28, 352, tots. 23-35.

13. ARCV. Libros de Gobierno, 30, consulta, 4 July 1609 In 1578, a similar incident occurred in the patio and resulted in the arrest of a vizcaino from the town of Lequietio. See AHN: Cons., lib 1419, Consultas de Viernes, 7 Mar. 1578.

14. In 1554, for example, judge Dr. Esteban de Santander was reprimanded by the Visitor to the chancillería for having received in his house litigants "from his tierra." See AGS: CC, leg. 2715. Visita to the chancillería of Valladolid.

15. BNP: 261, fol. 3. Other aspects of the president's job are spelled out in Tomás de Santander, Recopilación de las ordenanzas de la real audiencia y chancillería de Valladolid (Valladolid, 1765), título I.

16. See Joseph Pérez, La révolution des "Comunidades" en Castille (Bordeaux. 1970). p. 256. For a biography of this controversial prelate, see Felix G. Olmedo, Diego Ramírez de Villaescusa (1459-1539) (Madrid, 1944).

17. Antonio de Guevara, Epistolas familiares (Madrid. 1950), 1:123 Letter dated 12 May 1531.

18. IVdeDJ: Envio 21, fol. 237, consulta, Feb. 1576.

19. For a recent collection of studies on Valdés, see Don Fernando de Valdés (1483-1568) Su personalidad Su obra. Su tiempo (Oviedo, 1970).

20. In February 1576, Covarrubias, president of the Royal Council, advised Philip that "the office of bishop and that of the president of the chancillería are incompatible." See IVdeDJ. Envio 21, fol 237.

21. Nephew of the famous Fray Diego de Deza, Pedro began his judicial career as a judge at the chancillería of Valladolid in 1556. He was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Council of the Inquisition and then, in 1566, president of the chancillería of Granada, where he participated in the campaign against the revolt of the Granadine moriscos He was appointed to the presidency of Valladolid in 1578 even though Covarrubias told Philip that "he is not a great letrado and I believe that he knows even less than before since he has spent so much time in battle." See IVdeDJ. Envio 21. For more on the Deza family, see Armano Cotarelo y Valledor, Fray Diego de Deza (Madrid, 1902).

22. There is no published listing of the presidents of the chancillería. Deza's immediate successors were Dr. Jerónimo de Roda, former oidor at the chancillería and member of the Council of Flanders; Dr. Francisco Fernández de Liebana, a letrado, who began his career as fiscal of the chancillería at Granada; and Lic. Pedro Vaca de Castro y Quiñones, a magistrate, who, prior to being named president of the chancillería of Valladolid, had served in a similar capacity in Granada. For a complete listing of the presidents see ARCV. Libros de Acuerdo.

23. The duties and responsibilities of the judges are outlined in Santander, título II.

24. According to one visitor, many vistas de ojos were unnecessarily engineered by the judges "in order to earn a little more salary." Some used them as excuses to visit their "relatives and friends." See BNP: 261, fols. 13-13v, and ACC, vol. 2. Cortes de Madrid, 1566, pet 46, p. 451.

25. ACC, vol. z: Cortes de Madrid, 1566, pet. 46, p. 451.

26. The classic study of a New World audiencia is that of J. H. Parry, The Audiencia of New Galicia in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 1948) See also John L Phelan, The Kingdom of Quito in the Seventeenth Century (Madison, 1967).

27. AHN: Códices 1437 B, "Gobierno eclesiástico pacífico," fol. 3v.

28. Pérez de la Canal, pp 420-30.

29. Charles added four oidores by establishing a third sala for pleitos civiles and then, after complaints from the Cortes that even twelve judges were not enough to review all of the lawsuits, another sala of four. The Cortes, however, pressed for additional judges, requests Charles and then Philip both denied. See CLC, vol. 5: Cortes de 1538, pet 12, p 112; de 1542, pets. 24, 25, pp. 234, 251, de 1551, pet 9, p. 501; de 1555, pet. 114,11 692.

30. During the reign of Philip II, the complement of magistrates at the chancillería of Valladolid was as follows: oidores, 16 (divided into salas of four); alcaldes de crimen, 4; alcaldes de hijosdalgo, 3; juez mayor de Vizcaya, 1. Except for the juez mayor of Vizcaya, the complement of magistrates at the chancillería of Granada was the same.

31. See Bennassar, p 357.

32. BNM. 19344, "Vida y memorias . . ." fol. 53V.

33. BNP: 261, fol. 106V.

34. Ibid , fol. 105.

35. In 1554, for example, Dr Felix de Manzanedo was charged with having "walked about with a woman clad only in his shirt." The fiscal of the chancillería, Dr Tovar, was singled out for "going about by night and by day dressed indecently and different from that of his profession, thus presenting a bad example" See AGS: CC, leg 2714 and leg 2717, Visita to the chancillería of Valladolid (1554).

36. Ibid., leg 2932, report of 20 Mar. 1540. The labrador in question was Juan González Reboado, vecino of Abra. The original text reads: "Porque todos le decian que era oyder de la chancilleria de Granada que era el mismo emperador."

37. The phrase is that of the Juan Bueno, an advocate at the chancillería. See Ibid., leg. 2714, Visita to the chancillería of Valladolid (1540-44).

38. The new law requiring such credentials was promulgated in 1480. See Recopilación de las leyes de estos reinos (Alcalá de Henares, 1569), Libro III, titulo ix, ley 2.

39. The law of 1480 stipulated that judges study law for a minimum of ten years at a recognized university, but this clause proved difficult to enforce. In practice, judges were required to be licenciados en derecho, a title that normally required five to six years of university study to complete.

40. For more on the qualifications of these magistrates, see Kagan, Students and Society in Early Modern Spain (Baltimore, 1974), pp. 91-92, 97-98.

41. Royal justices in sixteenth-century England were customarily recruited from the corps of barristers and sergents-at-law, whereas in France appointments as magistrates in the sovereign courts were reserved for individuals with the money needed to purchase these important posts. Most were either nobles or annoblis, and their academic qualifications were minimal. In contrast, the Portuguese judiciary was staffed with letrados, and in eighteenth-century Prussia imperial magistrates were generally recruited from the professorate.

42. In 1527, for example, Dr. Juan de Valencia, a catedrático at the University of Valladolid. was recommended for the position of oidor, but Charles V was also advised that "it would be a blow to the students to remove him from that post." See AGS. E, leg 15-2, fol 35.

43. As one advocate at the chancillería saw it. "Some of the oidores come to this audiencia from the university without having any practical experience whatsoever, as a result . . . they do not dispatch the lawsuits quickly nor as they should, for offices as preeminent as these, it is absolutely necessary to appoint persons who have age, letters, and practical experience." Lic. Diego de la Concha, another advocate, agreed: "I say that some of the oidores who come directly from the colleges . . . do not have the practical experience that is necessary; but that after some time has elapsed and having learned from the older colleagues and from the advocates, they do their job better." See AGS: CC, leg. 2714, Visita to the chancillería of Valladolid (1540-44).

44. CLC. vol, 4: Cortes de 1528, pet. 50, p. 471, vol. 5: cortes de 1542, pet. 20, p 234, de 1551, pet. 2, p. 498, and de 1559, pet ,10, p 813. See also ACC, vol. 1: Cortes de 1576, pet. 8, p. 541.

45. Descriptions of the "perfect" judge were many. See Alfonso de Heredía, Dechado de jueces (Valencia, 1566); Juan de Mariana, Del rey y de la institución real (cd. Madrid, 1854), libro III, chap 1; Alejo Salgado Correa, Libro nombrado regimento de Jueces (Seville, 1556); and Jerónimo Castilla de Bobadilla, Política para corregidores (Madrid. 1597). Later works include Juan Enríquez de Zúñiga, Consejos políticos y morales (Cuenca, 1634), and Gaspar de Seixas y Vasconcelos, Trofeos de la paciencia christiana y reglas que deben observar los ministros supremos en las audiencias (Madrid, 1645).

46. AGS: CC, leg. 2717, cargos v. Dr. Vidania Maldonado.

47. Ibid , leg. 2714, cargos v. Dr. Felix de Manzanedo.

48. See ibid., leg. 2722, cargos y. Medrano, and IVdeDJ: Envio 21, no. 331. Medrano, however, was later promoted to higher office, probably because of his close ties with the president of the Royal Council, Francisco Zapata de Cisneros.

49. Ibid., leg 2715, cargos v. Orduño.

50. Ibid., cargos v. Salas The text reads: "Se tiene creido que no entra muger en su casa."

51. Ibid., leg. 2712, cargos v. Santander.

52. AHN: Cons., leg. 51443, Visita to the chancillería of Granada (1629).

53. BNM: 19344, "Vida y memorias . . .," fol. 56. Apparently, much of the gambling at the chancillería was organized by the relatores. Bachiller Alonso Pérez operated a "public gaming table" in his house, and Lic. Paredes, another relator, was said "to gamble continuously, day and night." Yet another relator, Lic. Atienza, having been accused of gambling, replied that he had not gambled or played cards for more than six years although he admitted to having played chess "for recreation on holidays and after work" (AGS: CC, leg 2711 and leg. 2714).

54. AGS: CC, leg 2717, cargos v. Santillan (1591).

55. Ibid., cargos v. Alderete.

56. Ibid , cargos v. de la Canal. It was also said that Canal, "being poor, spent considerably on the expenses of his household."

57. Ibid., leg 2711, cargos v.. Vázquez (1550).

58. Ibid., leg. 2717, cargos v. Barrientos (1591).

59. Ibid., leg. 2716, cargos v. Santiago.

60. Ibid., cargos v. Vargas (1561).

61. Ibid., leg 2712, cargos v. Arce de Otalora (1561).

62. Ibid., leg 2713, cargos v. Mora (1543)

63. Examples of requests from judges seeking to marry may be found in AGS. GJ, leg 889. All date from the 1620s. Typical is the request of 18 Jan 1622 from Lic don Juan de Villavicencio, oider in Valladolid, seeking permission to marry doña Teresa de Villavicencio, his cousin. A royal license was granted. More complicated was the request (dated ,8 Oct 1622) of Dr. Juan del Castilla Sotomayor, oidor of Granada, who sought to marry doña Claudia Verdugo de la Cueva. The sticking point was that Claudia's sister Juana was already married to Lic. Pedro Maldonado, one of the chancillería's other oidores. The desirabilty of having two brothers-in-law on the same tribunal was raised by the president of the Royal Council, but dismissed when it was learned that the two judges would be in different salas.

64. AGS: CC, leg. 2715, Cargos Generales (1577). One oidor singled out for such behavior was Dr. Antonio de Bonal, who apparently attended banquets hosted by the count of Aguilar when he was a litigant at the chancillería. See AGS: CC, leg. 2717, cargos v. Bonal.

65. Salgado Correa, p 23v. Dr. Antonio Bonal was one oidor who got into trouble of precisely this sort. Simon Ruíz, the famous merchant from Medina del Campo, had his wife, doña Mariana de Paz, give Beatríz de Altamirano, Bonal's wife, 200 gold escudos (= 8o,ooo mrs.) and other gifts in an effort to influence the outcome of a particular case. The decision, however, went against Ruíz, who tried but failed to recover his gifts. In the end, Bonal was recused by Ruíz and the entire episode brought to light. See AGS: CC, leg 2717, cargos v. Bonal. The wife of Diego de la Canal, another oidor, also meddled in court business. She was charged with having received 75,000 mrs. from doña Jerónima de Santa Cruz, a litigant at the chancillería.

66. Salgado Correa, p. 5

67. Ibid., p. 4. The author was probably influenced by Antonio de Guevara, who had previously written, "Judges must not be avaricious, for greed and justice are hardly compatible. Those whose task it is to rule peoples or judge lawsuits must take care not to be corrupted by gifts." Cited in J. A Fernández-Santamaria, The State, War and Peace. Political Thought in the Renaissance, 1516-1559 (Cambridge, 1977), p. 269.

68. Salgado Correa, p. 29v.

69. Bennassar, p. 366. At the end of the fifteenth century, oidores earned a salary of 50,000 mrs., but Charles V raised this first to 80, then 100, 120, and finally 150,000 mrs. It reached 300,000 mrs. under Phihp II, but in terms of real purchasing power these salaries had increased by only 50 percent. In the course of the century, prices rose by about 400 percent, the oidores' salaries by about 600 percent.

70. Bennassar, p 366.

71. AGS CC, leg 2714, cargos y Montalvo and Soto. In addition, Soto, in collaboration with the depositario general of the chancillería, was accused of having used money on deposit at the tribunal for speculative purposes.

72. IVdeDJ: Envio 21, consulta, Feb. 1576.

73. AGS CC. leg 2715. súplica. 30 Mar 1566.

74. BNM. 19344 "Vida y Memorias . . .," fols 15-15v, 45, 51v, 61-62. In actual fact, Tovar inherited over 3 million mrs.from his father's estate. Another judge said to have died as a pobre was Lic Cristóbal de Toro, oidor in Granada See AGS: E. leg. 24, fol 240, chancillería de Granada al rey, 15 Nov. 1532.

75. Lic Ruíz, for example, rented a house for 18,750 mrs. a year, whereas Lic. Gaspar de Escudero, an alcalde de crimen, obtained lodging for only 9,750 mrs annually. Frequently, however, judges did not live where they should. Dr Felix de Manzanedo, for example, was rebuked for having rented a room in the house of one of the chancillería's advocates; Lic. Vidania Maldonado rented a house belonging to the marquis of Poza and was consequently charged with having helped this nobleman with his lawsuits. See AGS CC, legs 2714, 2715, 2717.

76. Much is yet to be learned about the finances and property holdings of Valladolid's judges. Lic. Botello Maldonado owned extensive property ("houses, olive groves, wine cellars") in the Andalusian town of Ecija (see AHPV: Prots.. leg 150, fol. 1374); the holdings of Lic Gregorio López were in his native Guadalupe. Oidores with property in Valladolid included Lic. Arce de Otalora, who appears to have taken advantage of the decline in property values following the exodus of the royal court to Madrid in 1562 by speculating in houses located on the calle de Francos (see AGS. CC, leg 2712, cargos y. Arce de Otalora).

77. AGS: CC, leg. 2712, cargos y Mora. Lic Gregorio de Tovar, when he was fiscal of the chancillería, maintained two horses, two lackeys, three pages, and two servants, but it is clear that he lived more extravagantly than most of the chancillería's personnel. See BNM: 29344, "Vida y memorias ..," fol. 57

78. A post-mortem inventory of Valdés's possessions is available in AHPV: Prots leg. 440, fol. 1106.

79. In 1583, for example, Lic. Tovar bought a censo worth 375,000 mrs, Lic. Hernando de Villafane received 200,000 mrs. annually from the royal alcabalas collected in Santiago de Compostela, and Lic. Cristóbal Vaca de Castro collected 500,000 mrs a year from asientos he possessed on the alcabalas of Seville. See AHPV: Prots , lib. 149, fol. 662, lib 158, fol. 592. Another oidor who invested in royal taxes was Lic Alonso Núñez de Bohorques, oidor in Granada. In 1591 he bought a lien upon alcabalas worth 910,000 mrs a year. See AGS. CC, leg. 2722, Visita to the chancillería of Granada (1591). Lic. Juan Manuel, alcalde de hijosdalgo in Valladolid, invested heavily in censos, vineyards, and other lands near Valladolid. See AHPV: Prots., lib 149, fol. 1508 The important role played by letrados in the financial life of Valladolid is discussed in Bennassar, pp. 264-72.

80. Carlos de Lécea y García, El Licenciado Sebastián de Peralta (Segovia, 1893). p 136.

81. AHPV Prots., lib 149 (1569), fol 1508.

82. Cited by L. de Corral, Don Diego de Corral y Arellano y los Corrales de Valladolid (Madrid, 1905), p. 76.

83. Ralph E. Geisey. "Rules of Inheritance and Strategies of Mobility in Pre-Revolutionary France," American Historical Review 82 (April 1972):271-89.

84. "Informe que Lorenzo Galíndez de Carvajal dio al Emperador Carlos V sobre los que componían el Consejo Real de S.M.," in Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España (Madrid, 1842), 1:126.

85. AGS. E, leg. 13, fol 42.

86. There is no published listing of the oidores who served on the chancillería. Their names and dates of appointment are available, however, in ARCV Libros de Acuerdo. See also AGS. Contaduría Mayor de Cuentas, 1a época, leg. 1587.

87. BL: Add. 28, 349, fol 178; IVdeDJ: Envio 21, fol. 237.

88. AGS: CC. leg 2719, Visita to the chancillería of Valladolid (1589).

89. Ibid , leg. 2717, cargos v. Vidania Maldonado.

90. See ibid., cargos v. Bonal.

91. IVdeDJ Envio 21, consulta, 9 Nov. 1589.

92. On 31 May 1563, the crown issued a cédula prohibiting its magistrates from serving as advocates The decree also stated that no further licenses allowing oidores "to plead" would be granted since it was said the "oidores who received such licenses talk and communicate with their colleagues who are the presiding judges in the case, this restricts their freedom of action and causes suspicion." See ARCV: Libros de Acuerdo, vol. 4, fol 67. This policy of preventing judges from doubling as advocates was relaxed during the reign of Philip IV.

93. AGS: CC, leg. 2713, Visita to the chancillería of Valladolid (1540). One oidor reprimanded for his close ties with the nobility was Dr. Montoya. He was alleged to help "all the caballeros from Salamanca who bring cases to the chancillería." Lic. Lope de León, oidor in Granada, was the personal advocate of the duke of Escalona, Lic. Botello Maldonado, oidor in Valladolid, was reputed to wear the livery of the count of Frias. See AGS: CC, leg. 2729, fol. 2176.

94. The request was dated 1536. See Corpus documental de Carlos V, ed. M Fernández Alvarez, 1:511.

95. Dr. Juan de Ovando, for example, who was appointed to the chancillería in 1548, hut left in a little over a year for a position on the Council of  Military Orders, Dr Julián de Castrejon, appointed on 12 April 1560, left within fifteen months to serve as fiscal on the Royal Council.

96. See IVdeDJ: Envio 21, fol. 237, and consulta of 9 Nov. 1589. Figueroa served on the chancillería from 1566 until his retirement in 1599. The Cortes in 1566 asked Philip II to limit the stay of each oidor on the chancillería to a maximum of eight years. See ACC, vol. 2: pet. 14, p. 455.

97. BNM: 19344, "Vida y memorias . . ." fol. ,66v.

98. AHN. Estado, leg. 719, letter to the president of the Royal Council, 19 July 1624.I am grateful to J H. Elliott for this reference

99. Other oidores closely related to important noblemen included Lic Gil Ramírez de Arrellano, a relative of the count of Aguilar, Lic Diego de Cordoba. first cousin of the count of Cabra, Lic. Mendo de Benavides, son of the count of Santisteban, and Lic. Diego de Cardenas, son of the first count of Castrillo.

100. On the education of the nobility in the sixteenth century, see Kagan, pp. 36-40, 128, 182-86.

101. AGS. E, leg 15-2. fol 19.

102. "Informe que Lorenzo Galíndez de Carvajal dio al Emperador Carlos V," pp. 122-27.

103. Guerra de Granada, ed. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles (Madrid, 1852), 21 70.

104. See Guillermo Lohmann Villena, Les Espinosa, une famille d'hommes d'affaires en Espagne et aux Indes á la époque de la colonisation (Paris, 1968). Jerónimo's father, Francisco, was the author of Sobre las leyes y los fueros de España (ed. Barcelona, 1927).

105. AGS F. leg. 13. fol 43, Juan de Tavera to Emperor.

106. In 1527, the president of the Royal Council suggested to Charles that the leading advocates of the chancillería of Granada might be appointed to judgeships at Valladolid "because they are known to be great letrados and persons of experience, such appointments would meet with the kingdom's approval." In particular, he recommended Dr. de la Torre and Lic. Pisa. The former was eventually named to the Royal Council and the latter oidor in Valladolid. See AGS. E, leg 15-2, fol. 12. For similar recommendations, see BNP: 261, fol. 105.

107. IVdeDJ: Envio 21, fol. 237 The consulta, dated Feb. 1576, reads: " creo que no es limpio."

108. See AGS E, leg. 15-2, fol. 25, a consulta in which Alcocer was referred to as a confeso. Another oidor with doubtful "purity of blood" was Lic. Diego de Zúñiga Ribadeneira, oidor in Granada, 1567-76. See IVdeDJ: Envio 21, fol. 237.

109. The biographical information in this paragraph has been extracted from the short biographies in the consultas de oficios submitted to Charles V and Philip II, from the visitas to the two chancillerías, and from Janine Fayard, Les membres do conseul de Castulle á l'époque moderne (1621-1746) (Geneva, 1979).

110. See Corral, passim.

111. For the Tapia genealogy see Juan Jos de Montalvo, De la historia de Arevalo y sus sexmos (Valladolid, 1928).

112. See José Martínez Cardos, Gregorio López, Consejero de Indias, Glosador de los Partidas, 1496 -1650 (Madrid, 1960), and BNM. 19344, "Vida y memorias . . ."

113. Fayard, p 274.

114. Avisos de Jerónimo de Barrioneuvo, ed. A. Paz y Meha (Madrid, 1892), 1.269.

115. Lécea y García, pp. 122, 145.

116. Ibid., p. 152.

117. See Foster Watson, Vives: On Education (Cambridge, 1913), and Carlo G Noreña, Juan Luís Vives (The Hague, 1970). Juan Huarte de San Juan, one of Vives's followers, held similar views. See especially his Examen de ingenios para las ciencias, ed. Biblioteca de Filósofos Españoles (Madrid, 1930).

118. BL: Add. 28, 334 ,fol 36, Vaca de Castro to Espinosa, 26 July 1566.

119. AGS: E, leg 26, fol. 55, consulta, 5 Aug. 1548.

120. Ibid., consulta, 19 Oct. 1548.

121. BNM: 19344, "Vida y memorias . .. ," fol. 48v.

122. AHN: Cons., leg. 7154. This comment was made in reaction to a suggestion that a graduate of one of these colleges be appointed as visitador of the audiencia of Galicia. Since three of the six judges on that tribunal were also colegiales mayores, the president of the Royal Council, Juan de Carvajal y Sande, noted that "the sworn brotherhood among the members of one college ... is such a formidable obstacle that it cannot be ignored."

123. See Kagan, chap. 6.

124. The figure is a rough estimate. For more on these families, see Fayard, passim.

125. See Kagan, p. 93.

126. Cardinal Ximénez de Cisneros used this phrase in reference to residencia, but it applies equally well to visitas. See Corpus documental de Carlos V, 1.17

127. I have published a list of "visitors" to the chancillería in "Pleitos y poder real. La Chancillería de Valladolid, 1500-1700," Cuadernos de investigación hstorica 2 (1978):296.

128. Juan Maldonado, La revolución comunera (Madrid, 1975), p. 317.

129. Visitas to the chancillería of Granada occurred in 1514, 1523, 1536, 1542, and 1559. See Ordenanzas de la real audiencia y chancillería de Granada (Granada, 1601).

130. BL: Add 28, 338, fol 483 This same Juan de Vargas went on to become a member of the duke of Alba's government in the Netherlands, where he acquired a reputation for brutality. See John L Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, ed. Everyman's Library (London, 1906), 2:114.

131. BL: Add 28, 338, fol 450.

132. BNM;. 19344, "Vida y memorias ," fols 66v, 74v, 77.

133. Tovar was subsequently transferred to the audiencia of Galicia, where he served as alcalde mayor, the equivalent of an oidor in Valladolid.

134. The only visitations ordered by Philip III took place in the New World when in 1602 the audiencias of Santo Domingo and Mexico received a visitador real. Philip, however, did suspend Lic. Lorenzo de Texada, an alcalde de hijosdalgo at the chancillería of Valladolid for "favoritism." Apparently, Texada had served as judge in a suit concerning the nobility of his own family. In 1614, he was suspended from office for six years, but by 1616, with Philip's help, he was back on the job. See AHN: consulta, leg. 13529, no 75.

135. For a sampling of the complaints circulating about the administration of royal justice in the early seventeenth century, see Manuel Danvila y Collado, El poder civil en España (Madrid, 1885), 6:82-87, and La Junta de Reformación, ed. Angel González Palencia (Valladolid, 1932), pp. 191-201. The first reference to the Ramírez Fariña's visitation is that of Gregorio de Tovar (then oidor in Valladolid), who noted in June 1618 the arrival of this official in Valladolid. In his opinion, Fariñas's "appearance was like his deeds; he was suspicious-looking, squinty-eyed, and badly proportioned and with entrails possessed by the devil, a troublemaker of evil inclination; he was not a colegial but one of the many cantariberiansos ordinarily at court." See BNM: 19344, fol. 175V.

136. Olivares's plans for administrative reforms are briefly discussed in John H. Elliott and José F. de la Peña, Memoriales y cartas del conde duque de Olivares (Madrid, 1978), 1:66.

137. BNM: 19144, fol. 184v. See also ARCV: RC, leg. 5, no. 432.

138. AGS: GJ, leg. 889, Contreras to King, 19 July 1624.

139. Ibid., 30 Oct. 1624.

140. Ibid.

141. Ibid.

142. He died in 1630. For a brief biographical sketch of Contreras, see Elliott and de la Peña. 1:79fl.

143. AGS: GJ, leg. 889. Contreras to King, 20 Oct. 1624.

144. Ibid , petitions ot Gil de Albornoz, 2, 30 Oct. 1624.

145. Ibid., Contreras to King, 19 Aug. 1624.

146. Results of the visita of 1628 can be found in AHN Cons., legs 12443 and 51443.

147. AHN: Cons., leg. 7155, no 2. See also leg 7154. letter of 2 May 1631.

148. ACB: lib. 110, Visita to the audiencia of Las Canarias.

149. In the interim, supervision of magistrates and other officials of the chancillería was sporadic although one oidor, Lic. Antonio Vidania, was suspended in 1651 because he married without prior permission of the president of the Royal Council. See AHN: Cons , leg. 13529, consulta, 16 Mar. 1656.

150. This visitation was proposed by Diego de Riaño y Gamboa, president of the Royal Council, who also ordered a visitation to the chancillería of Granada for the first time in thirty years. See ACB: lib. 62.

151. AHN: Cons., leg. 7254

152. Ibid., lib 1431, fol. 339.

153. Arte real para el buen gobierno de los reyes y principes y de sus vasallos (Toledo, 1623), p. 141.

154. AHN: Cons., lib. 1431, Jurados of Seville to King, 30 Dec 1624. The text of this memorial is available in La Junta de Reformación, pp. 179-90.

155. AGS: CC, legs. 2805-6, cargos v. Hurtado de la Puente. This visitation was also the work of Lic. Fernando Ramírez Fariñas.

156. ARCV: RC, leg. 5, no 432, 4 Dec 1632.

157. Ibid., no. 677, 9 Mar., 11 Sept. 1675.

158. ACB: lib. 72; ARCG: Cabina 321, leg. 4426, fol. 50, 26 April 1672.

159. ARCV: RC, leg. 7, no. 702, 20 April 1677.

160. BNM: 8226, "Discurso sobre el gobierno que ha de tener V.M. en su monarquia para conservala," fol 18. The author of this document, an official at the court of Philip III, also warned that "some offices are only visited once every twenty years, and there are others that have not been visited in more than sixty years."

161. The figure is that of the president of the Royal Council. See AHN: leg 7154, consulta, 2 May 1631.

162. BNP: 261, capitulo 1. Montesciaros is cited in Thompson, p. 58.

163. For this development, see Fayard, passim.

164. For a discussion of attempts by the cámara to maintain its independence in matters of patronage, see Richard L. Kagan, "Education and the State in Habsburg Spain," (Ph.D. dissertation, Cambridge University, 1968), pp. 99-106.

165. Later president of the Royal Council of Finance, González was one of the most important figures of Philip IV's reign. For more on González, see Fayard, pp 90, 222, 279.

166. These inventories were ordered in a royal decreto of 14 Jan. 1622. A reply was expected of all persons who had occupied royal offices since 1592. Unfortunately, few of these inventones have been found although those submitted by officials in Mexico have been examined in José F. de la Peña, "Oligarquía y propriedad en Nueva España" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Madrid, 1978).

167. Elliott and de la Peña, 1:65.

168. AHN: Estado, lib 869, "Papel del conde-duque de Olivares," fols. 99-100.

169. HSA: MS. 747, fol 128. The decreto is dated 30 Aug. 1651.

170. See, for example, the remarks of Gaspar de Quiroga, the inquisitor general, who, in a consulta directed to Philip II. complained about the "negligence" of the king's judges (BI:. E, 1506, fol. 27, consulta, 13 Mar 1576) This document is also cited in Maurice Boyd, Cardinal Quiroga, Inquisitor General of Spain (Dubuque, Iowa, 1954), p.77.

171. IVdeDJ: Envio 8, fol. 147, letter of 11 July 1579.

172. IVdeDJ: Envio 90, no 51, letter dated 23 Oct. 1580.

173. A contemporary document outlining the structure of the royal judiciary in 1577 also noted that "the corregidores and their lieutenants are everywhere esteemed and respected." See BL: MS Cotton Vespasian, c. VI., "España 1577." fol. 15.

174. Cited in Geoffrey Parker, Philip II (Boston, 1978), p. 58.

175. Description de l'Espagne, ed. J. P. Davos (Pans, 1969), p. 133.

176. Cited in Danvila y Collado, 3:262.