The union of the crowns of Castile and Aragón was
a consequence of the pressures of turbulent domestic politics in both kingdoms
as much or more than it was part of a grand diplomatic design. Such a union
had been attempted once before, after the death of Alfonso VI in 1109,
and had failed completely. There were two main factors behind the marriage
of Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragón in 1469: the desperate
need of Juan II to garner Castilian assistance in the Catalan civil war,
protecting against the danger of French intervention, and the need of the
teenaged princess Isabel to have a royal mate on whom she could rely to
strengthen her cause in Castile. Fernando was heir to an important Hispanic
patrimony, but unlike Afonso V of Portugal, was not ruler of a firm, compact
state that would have provided a base for intervention in Castilian affairs.
Isabel, born in 1451, was one year older than Fernando. Her life had been difficult and tempestuous, caught up in the political intrigues of the Castilian aristocracy and the succession to the throne. As the daughter of the second marriage of Juan II of Castile, she was originally far removed from the dynastic succession, ranking behind her half-brother Enrique IV, his daughter Juana, and her own elder brother the Infante Alfonso. Enrique IV was tolerant, easy-going, and peace-loving, and hence not the type of ruler who could most easily dominate the powerful, quarrelsome, and ambitious Castilian aristocracy. Despite lack of pronounced political ability, he strove to maintain  order in the kingdom but after ten years became the victim, in 1464, of a strong aristocratic reaction which forced royal recognition of the predominance of the aristocratic faction and of his young half-brother, Alfonso, as heir to the throne. The propaganda that has blackened Enrique IV's historical reputation originated at this time, for he was labeled by dissident nobles impotent, sexually perverted, achristian, and promuslim. A campaign was waged to have his heiress, Juana, declared illegitimate because of Enrique's supposed impotence, and the unfortunate princess was given the nickname la Beltraneja after one Beltrán de la Cueva, a former court favorite who was without the slightest evidence tagged as her father.
Yet Castilian aristocratic conspiracies were notoriously fissiparous. Young Alfonso suddenly took ill and died, and the king regained the upper hand. Isabel then remained the sole candidate of the dissident aristocracy for the role of a more agreeable and manageable heiress than the legitimate daughter of the ruling king. Isabel's Portuguese mother had gone mad in her later years, and the constant intrigues and harassment by political factions to which Isabel's adolescent years were subject developed distinctly paranoiac tendencies in the princess. Isabel never doubted the justice of her cause and viewed herself the legitimate heiress of Castile, fully accepting all the propaganda about Enrique IV and his daughter Juana. A round-faced, plumpish, green-eyed girl with dark blonde hair in her youth, Isabel had been reared in the rural castles of Castile and did not receive a sophisticated education. She was vigorous and energetic. devoted to the hunt, and had a great sense of dedication to her responsibilities. She was also, as befit a fifteenth-century Castilian princess, extremely pious and committed to the cause of religion in her realm.
Fernando had been born in 1452 and literally grew up in the great Catalan civil war. Healthy and vigorous, he had a somewhat better education than Isabel and received much more practical experience at an early age, commanding military forces at thirteen. His political understanding was conditioned by the constitutional theories and practices of the Aragonese empire. Native instinct and long experience developed in Fernando one of the best European diplomats of his generation, yet despite the praise justly lavished upon him by Machiavelli, he was no unscrupulous Cesare Borgia. Unlike some of his contemporaries, his ideal was not absolute monarchy but political compromise and the constitutional monarchist state of Aragón. Though his religiosity was less obvious than that of Isabel, Fernando was also pious, and was influenced by the mystical strain of much of the religiosity of the fifteenth century, so that together with the prudent and calculating politician there existed a potential crusader.
 The Castilian succession crisis began with the death of Enrique IV in 1474. Much of the aristocracy chose sides between Isabel on the one hand and (the supposedly illegitimate) Juana, backed by Afonso V of Portugal as her suitor, on the other. The succession struggle lasted five years, during which the cause of Doña Juana was supported by the entire southern half of the kingdom, as well as by some of the towns of Old Castile. Isabel herself saw the issue strictly in terms of black and white. The actual leader of the Isabeline party was D. Fernando. who brought in Aragonese military technicians to organize the somewhat backward Castilian levies that eventually brought victory to Isabel at Toro in 1476. Three years later, Juan II of Aragón died at the age of 81, and the Castilian consort ascended the Aragonese throne as Fernando II (1479-1516).
The union of the crowns established a dyarchy, but there was no attempt at constitutional fusion of Castile and the states of the Aragonese empire. Each principality remained autonomous and distinct with its separate administration, united only by the common diplomatic and military policies of the two rulers. There was never any question as to whether Isabel held authority in the constitutional systems of the Aragonese empire; the only point at issue was the influence of Fernando in Castile. It was ultimately decided that Fernando would enjoy kingly status and prerogatives even to the extent of exercising functions of government, but that only Isabel would receive homage as direct ruler and have power to disburse funds or make royal appointments.
The dynastic alliance worked with surprising harmony, and in Castilian affairs the two sovereigns frequently issued common decrees with a joint seal. The effectiveness of their royal administration permitted Castile to realize its size and strength for the first time since the great reconquest and to take the lead from Portugal in overseas expansion. In the Aragonese lands, Fernando's government finally checked the decline of Catalonia and encouraged a new era of modest prosperity.
Isabel could probably never have become queen of Castile (1474-1504)
had it not been for the dissidence of the grandes and other aristocrats,
yet she and Fernando planned to be anything but tools of aristocratic factionalism.
Indeed, the Isabeline cause was able to take advantage of a certain current
of democratic sentiment in Castile during the 1470s, for the petty nobility
and townspeople wearied of the inordinate influence and ambition of the
grandes and looked to a new ruler to provide order and justice.
 Spanish historians often refer to the monarchy of Isabel and Fernando as the first modern state. This is an exaggeration. The distinctly new ideas of the royal couple were few, and the only radically different institution that they created was the Inquisition. Their political vision was to perfect existing monarchist institutions, but this in itself meant drastic change in the functioning of Spanish government. The establishment of genuine law and order, bringing internal peace and stability and the crushing of those divisive forces that had held Castile back for more than a century, marked a turning point from which the Spanish crown would move toward eventual European hegemony. If not the first modern state, the monarchy of Isabel and Fernando was the most effective reformed government in late-fifteenth-century Europe. Its reforms guaranteed the resources for final completion of the reconquest in 1492 and so won from the papacy the title by which the royal couple is known to history--the Catholic Kings.
Isabel and Fernando did not aim at the establishment of absolute monarchy in Castile and Aragón, for this concept was not introduced until the Bourbon dynasty of the eighteenth century. Their political ideal, according to the language of their documents, was the "preeminent monarchy," superior in authority to all other institutions, yet respectful of the laws of the kingdom and the rights of its subjects. The Castilian monarchy of Isabel built upon the traditional Castilian state--a strong royal executive with considerable scope for royal law, but functioning in harmony with a comparatively weak traditional Cortes that held a limited power of the purse and a nominal right to ratify the royal succession. These relations were the easier because most of the third estate looked to the crown to protect its subjects from the ravages of the aristocracy. The Castilian Cortes was summoned sixteen times during the reign of Isabel and Fernando--with one hiatus of fourteen years, between 1483 and 1497--and in almost every case proved quite docile. Unlike the Cortes of the Aragonese empire, those of Castile still made little effort to wring juridical or other concessions from their sovereigns.
The first objective of the new rulers was to assert royal sovereignty, put the aristocracy in its place, and restore public order. During the chaotic reigns of Juan II and Enrique IV, followed by the civil war of 1474-1479, murder and pillage had ravaged much of the kingdom. During the l460s, a number of Castilian towns had revived the earlier tradition of forming a hermandad, a brotherhood for self-protection and the policing of roads. In 1476, this force was ratified by the crown, which authorized formation of a broad Santa Hermandad with crossbowmen and other armed policemen to serve as a rural constabulary. The Hermandad was deprived of any independent jurisdiction and kept subordinate to the crown, but it brought order  to the central and northern parts of Castile. Before it was finally disbanded by the crown in 1498 it had done much to make Castile one of the most orderly kingdoms of western Europe.
The fractious elements of the aristocracy had to be dealt with by more powerful forces, and the royal military, with their new artillery, were used during the early years of the reign to put down disturbances. Subsequently, the building of new castles was prohibited. The monarchy of Isabel and Fernando was by no means an enemy of the aristocracy, but it brooked no challenge to royal authority. Large tracts of land recently alienated from the royal domain were reoccupied, but otherwise the crown ratified the economic jurisdiction of the señoríos and the latifundia that went with them. Grandes were encouraged to attend the royal couple and spend a great deal of time with the peripatetic court, in a policy that later became standard with royal states. Though the joint rulers were reluctant to appoint aristocrats to influential positions of government, there was ample opportunity to employ them more profitably in the foreign wars that filled the era. In 1512, a special Corps of Royal Guards, an early unit of what was becoming a Spanish army, was created exclusively as a place of special military honor in which young noblemen might serve the crown.
Some of the land alienated under Enrique IV was restored to the royal domain, and the territory of certain rebels was also confiscated. The royal patrimony in Castile was further enlarged by providing that D. Fernando would be elected master of each crusading order after the death of its incumbent leader. By 1494, the king had become master of the third and last order. Since the crown was in a position to accomplish those military tasks for which the orders had originally been established, most of their income and eventually their entire properties were incorporated into the royal domain.
In 1480, the Castilian royal council, which had existed since the reign of Fernando III and had held almost exclusive responsibility for affairs of state since 1385, was reorganized. Heretofore it had been a committee of aristocrats and church hierarchs, but under the Catholic Kings it was composed of eight or nine lawyers, only three nobles, and one cleric. The royal legal system was also revamped. There had been a royal audiencia (supreme court) since the reign of Alfonso X, but its jurisdiction was sometimes uncertain. In 1485, the royal audiencia was located permanently at Valladolid, and four regional audiencias were established as well. These measures, together with the reestablishment of order and security, were part of a general program of developing a rule of law in Castile. Compared with other states of that period, the system functioned well, for the extension of royal authority encouraged greater justice for the lower classes, and the  right of appeal to the royal audiencia for certain kinds of cases was guaranteed.
The Catholic Kings followed the policy of intervention in municipal affairs that had become fairly common during the preceding two hundred years, sending out regular corregidores for one year's service in towns to report on local government and tax collection. Other royal agents, pesquisidores and veedores, were sent sometimes to check further on the corregidores. For general military and administrative jurisdiction, the system of frontier adelantamientos (forward border jurisdictions) was expanded into a series of nine to cover the entire kingdom, with one adelantado, or military governor, for each.
One of the great successes of the government of the Catholic Kings was their ability to select talent and employ it in the royal service. New leadership was provided for administrative, ecclesiastical, juridical, and military affairs. The reign saw no political or constitutional development in Castile, but accomplished great administrative improvement and brought into government new elite elements from the third estate. It was also a time of broad codification of laws in Castile, as in the Aragonese lands.
The only major social revolt in Castile during the fifteenth century was the rebellion of the peasant irmandades (brotherhoods) of Galicia, which are not to be confused with the constabulary of the Santa Hermandad of the main part of the kingdom. Formation of irmandades of Galician peasants and townspeople of the third estate had been authorized by Enrique IV in 1465 to check the overweening power of the Galician aristocracy. The irmandades were reasonably well organized by districts, and in some areas into groups of one hundred. They were sometimes led by elements of the petty nobility in opposition to the high aristocracy and church prelates. Their goal was basic social and economic reform, with better terms and an end to feudal residues for the peasants, and reduction of obligations for the towns on seigneurial and church domain. Rising in armed revolt, they took over large areas of Galicia and forced key prelates and aristocrats out of the region or into hiding. In general terms, the revolt of the irmandades, which may at one time have had fifty thousand not fully armed followers, was the Galician equivalent of the Catalan remença uprising and the foráneo revolts in the Balearics, generated by the pressures of feudal survivals in a late medieval period of socia1 and economic change.
The irmandade revolt was put down, well before the general victory of Isabel in Castile, by a reaction of the regional aristocracy of Galicia, which finally concentrated its forces against the ill-armed peasants. In general, reprisals were not severe, and the Gahcian aristocracy split almost immediately into several feuding factions in a  fight that degenerated into all-out civil war. In 1480-1481, the crown finally extended direct royal police authority into the region, broadening the scope of the Santa Hermandad to include all Galicia and sending a special royal commission to restore order and settle quarrels. A decree of 1480 explicitly canceled whatever residues of bondage to the soil existed in Galicia and a few other regions. Peasants in all parts of the kingdom were recognized as free subjects. and some minor reforms in Galicia ensued, but the social authority of the aristocracy and church remained greater there than in other parts of Castile. This reality, combined with population pressure and factors of climate and soil, left the peasantry of Galicia under greater stress than in most of the rest of the kingdom.
The one radical innovation in the state system of Fernando and Isabel, the establishment of the Castilian (or Spanish) Inquisition, was designed to maintain orthodoxy and unity among the Catholic subjects of the crown. Though the Inquisition was an instrument in statebuilding, it was formally a religious tool, and will be discussed in chapter 11. It became the ultimate guarantee of unity and orthodoxy in the realm.
The rule of Fernando in Aragón was one of conservative reform
that did not greatly alter the existing constitutional structure. The king
spent little more than one year in ten in the lands of Aragón during
his reign, for he fully appreciated the greater weight and importance of
Castile in the affairs of the monarchy. From his youth he had been well
versed in the constitutions of the Aragonese principalities, and accepted
without hesitation the existing constitutional structure of Aragón
and Valencia. He reorganized the Aragonese royal council and specifically
ratified constitutional guarantees of safe-conduct and temporary sanctuary
in that state. There was no attempt at new social regulation in Aragón
that compared to what was worked out in Catalonia or Galicia, however.
The Aragonese variant of the Hispanic social revolts of the period--several
small peasant uprisings between 1507 and 1517--were simply suppressed.
The dominance of the Aragonese aristocracy in its realm was even less questioned
than that of the nobility in Castile, so long as no effort was made to
contest specifically royal prerogatives.
The major problem was still Catalonia. During the last six years of the reign of Juan II, the crown had lacked the time or the energy and will to effect a complete settlement of the Catalan civil war. This complex problem was left to Fernando, and by the time he became  king, nearly all factions were so exhausted that the entire principality looked to its able young sovereign for a lasting solution to the constitutional and social questions of the century. He did not disappoint these expectations.
Fernando explicitly reaffirmed Catalan constitutional rights and the limitations on royal power in his Observança of 1481. Many property disputes had been left unresolved at the end of the Catalan civil war, and Fernando finally settled them in 1481, largely on the basis of the status quo ante. Military jurisdiction over the principality was also ended. Fernando's original settlement, however, tended to confirm the rights of the landlords over those of the peasants, provoking a final remença uprising in 1484-1485. This was crushed, but its virulence convinced Fernando that fundamental reforms were needed in the Catalan countryside. His Sentence of Guadalupe in 1486 finally ended the remença controversy once and for all by establishing the juridical freedom of all peasants and abolishing all redemption payments and malos usos. The property rights of landlords were reaffirmed, but so were the usufructuary guarantees of the peasants. The result was a broad establishment of hereditary emphyteutical tenure for the majority of Catalan peasants and an acceptable social equilibrium in the Catalan countryside.
After many complaints about oligarchic domination of the Catalan Generalitat, Fernando decreed in 1488 the suspension of elections for Generalitat deputies and judges, henceforth to be named by royal order. Similarly, in 1490, he suspended further elections to the Barcelona city council and established the procedures of insaculació: the establishment of lists of qualified representatives for each sector of the population, from which councillors were to be selected by lot. Both these measures enjoyed general approval, because of the broadly felt need for royal intervention to break oligarchic and corrupt domination by sectors of the upper classes.
In the 1480s and l490s, Catalonia began to find a new social stability that was to last for a century and a half. It was a stability based upon retrenchment and greater security, and upon a high degree of bureaucratization politically and economically. New arrangements had been worked out that satisfied most groups in the society, and almost every subject had a defined place. The result was a kind of neo-medieval corporatization, not a renewal of the risktaking, expansive Catalan society of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
During the reign of Fernando the economic recovery of Catalonia began, supported by strong protective legislation that restricted foreign imports and guaranteed the market of the Mediterranean possessions of the crown for Catalonia and Valencia. However, Catalan  merchants and financiers were unable to regain the vigor of one hundred and fifty years earlier. The modest prosperity of the sixteenth century did not provide them with the resources which they would have needed to participate in the major expansive ventures of the crown.
By the end of the fifteenth century, Castile had a population approximately
seven times greater than that of all the Aragonese principalities combined.
The predominance of Castile was apparent in the united crown from the very
beginning, for Fernando was obliged by his marriage to spend most of his
time there. The expanded commerce of late medieval Castile far surpassed
even the potential of the smaller Aragonese principalities. Moreover, the
greater authority of the crown in Castile, compared with its circumscribed
position in the Aragonese lands, enabled it to marshal resources more effectively.
No single factor was more important in this than the increase of the royal income in Castile. New taxes were not levied, but the royal patrimony was extended and the tax collection system improved. Without seriously imposing on the domestic economy, the royal income--not allowing for a certain degree of inflation--increased some thirtyfold between 1474 and 1504. This made possible the conquest of Granada and a vigorously expansive policy overseas.
Castile thus became the base of Spanish monarchy, and its strength was gratefully acknowledged by Catalans, who now had less reason to fear French pressure. Catalans themselves sometimes addressed Fernando not as king of Aragón, or king of Aragón and Castile, but as rei d'Espanya-"king of Spain," meaning nearly all the peninsular principalities. At the same time, the institutional influence of Aragón and Catalonia did to some extent make itself felt in Castile. Certain aspects of the Catalan viceregal, consular, guild, and labor regulation systems were adopted by Castilian law in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.
Of all the works of the Catholic Kings, none was more fateful for Spain
than the dynastic marriage alliances arranged for the royal offspring.
There was nothing unique in what Fernando and Isabel did, for such efforts
were as old as international relations. But since no male heir survived
to maturity, the succession passed through their  eldest daughter,
the schizophrenic Juana (later called "the Mad"), who had been wed to the
sole heir of the great Habsburg domains of central Europe. The resulting
inheritance created an imperial complex of extraordinary dimensions, which
raised the Spanish government to unimagined heights of power, complexity,
In the short run, the succession in Castile once more fell into dispute after Isabel's death in 1504. The queen had been perhaps the most popular ruler in Castile's history, but little of this had rubbed off on Fernando, always distrusted as a foreigner and sometimes referred to as "the stingy Catalan." The aristocracy had been quelled but not eliminated as a power. Since Fernando had no personal right of succession, the nobles saw the opportunity for a political comeback during the reign of Isabel's successor, Juana, and her Habsburg husband, Philip the Handsome. The early death of Philip and the obvious incapacity of Juana, however, soon left the more responsible leaders of the Castilian upper classes no alternative but to accept the regency of Fernando once more until Juana's son Carlos came of age.
It is important to understand that by the time of Fernando's death in 1516 only the monarchy, and not the confederate kingdoms of Castile and Aragón (to whom southern cis-Pyrenean Navarre had been added by Fernando on an autonomous constitutional basis in 1512), had been unified. Though there was indeed a certain sense of association, and to some extent of Hispanic brotherhood, the various principalities of Spain remained intensely faithful to local identity and institutions. The appearance of the young king Carlos (1) in 1517 was greeted with distrust. Carlos was vaguely Germanic in appearance, Flemish in education, a rather callow, ungainly, and ungracious youth, ignorant of Castilian, and surrounded by a retinue of Flemish advisors who seemed eager to batten upon the Castilian treasury. The four parliaments of the united monarchy's realms rather unenthusiastically ratified the succession, and, in some cases subject to heavy bribes, voted new financial grants needed to support their ruler's candidacy for election as Holy Roman Emperor in Germany.
After Carlos left to assume that majestic office, resentment in Castile and in parts of the Aragonese territories boiled over into rebellion. None of the oligarchies in any part of the united kingdoms were anxious to be ruled by an essentially Germanic prince who had bought his way to the most prestigious title in Christendom. The most serious aspect of the rebellion was the comunero revolt of more than a score of towns and surrounding districts in the regions of Old and  New Castile and eastern León. The comunidades of Castile had long since ceased to be the representative local communities of the early Middle Ages. Most of their wealth and government was dominated by an urban aristocracy, regulated to some degree by royal appointees. Yet the urban aristocracy, like the titled nobility, wanted to be left in control of its local perquisites and had no interest in seeing the urban economy taxed for the benefit of imperial designs. The rebellion of Castilian towns that began in May 1520 was poorly organized and had no central purpose. It was led in the beginning by the urban oligarchy, with at least some support from the aristocracy. Spokesmen in the various towns presented dissimilar goals, but common to almost every rebel element was the desire for regular Cortes assemblies called by law at the behest of the towns themselves, for the right of the towns and local districts to control their own affairs and choose their own Cortes representatives, and for their right to retain the power of the purse. In general, the comuneros had no specific national constitutional goals, but did want more explicit recognition and development of earlier rights that were no longer being observed. The neologisms patria and nación were employed by some of their spokesmen, who talked of a "republic" or "commonwealth" of Castile, not because they proposed to abolish the monarchy but because they were groping toward a vague concept of institutionalized representative government. The revolt was mainly an urban affair, though supported by part of the peasantry and by a certain number of hidalgos.
After several months, the revolt began to move toward the left, as the middle and lower classes became more prominent and started talk of economic and social reforms. The comuneros were vehemently opposed to the grandes, and apocalyptic and messianic views were voiced by some of the most radical. In areas where the revolt moved toward social revolution it was deserted by the urban upper classes and by rural hidalgos. After eleven months, influential aristocrats combined with the regents in charge of government during the king's absence to put together a military force that had little difficulty in decisively defeating the raw levies of the comuneros, in April 1521.
Meanwhile, an even more radical social revolt had broken out in Valencia, where the crown had authorized formation of a popular "Germania" (militia brotherhood) of lower-class volunteers to help protect the Valencian coast against Muslim pirates. At that time, Valencia was the city in the peninsula most influenced by the political and social ideas of the Italian Renaissance, and vague ideas of forming a representative republic on the Genoese model were in the air. The lower classes were as devout and superstitious as anywhere else  in the peninsula, however, and a recent outbreak of the plague was interpreted as punishment for impiety and immorality. This led to a bloody riot against local homosexuals that spread into a general assault by the Germania against Muslim peasants in the countryside outside Valencia. Thousands were forced to be baptized, homes were ravaged, and some Muslims murdered. When officials tried to intercede, the Germania took over the whole city.
At first the Germania was supported by the Valencian middle classes, who interpreted it as a local reform movement to clean up the city and win greater independence from the rural aristocracy and the crown. The revolt turned into a social-revolutionary movement, however, as plans were made by radical leaders to redistribute property. Several small military forces led by aristocrats and officers of the crown were defeated, but after the local middle classes turned against Germania radicalism, a larger army was collected that suppressed the Germania with considerable bloodshed. The status quo ante was then restored. The rising of the Germania paralleled another revolt of the foráneos of Mallorca in 1520, which met the same dismal fate as its predecessors. All these Hispanic socio-political revolts of 1520-1521 were isolated local affairs, however, without any attempt at cooperation, thus making it easier for the crown and aristocracy to suppress them piecemeal.
In general, the revolts in Castile and Valencia should be understood as part of the general pattern of social, political, and economic unrest among the middle and lower classes that attended the transition from the last phase of the Middle Ages into the sixteenth century. They were one aspect of a broader process that included the irmandade rising in Galicia and the great Catalan and Mallorcan revolts of the second half of the fifteenth century, with European counterparts in the revolts of Bohemia, social risings in the Low Countries and France, upheavals in Switzerland, and the Peasants' War in southwest Germany. They were compounded of resentment against new exactions by the state and the aristocracy and rebellion against traditional inequities which the insurgents hoped to replace with freer opportunities and more moderate obligations. Most of the revolts failed, but some, like the Catalan rebellion, gained a mixed success.
In Castile, the crown was fairly lenient in punishing the comuneros, and only a few of the chief rebel leaders were executed. The eighteen towns previously represented in the Cortes were still seated, but royal intervention in local affairs gradually increased during the century as corregidores were appointed to more and more areas and were given greater authority. By the end of the sixteenth century, Castile was  divided into eighty-six corregimientos, or local administrative districts, and autonomous handling of local affairs, save in a few special regions (especially the Basque country), had been greatly curtailed.
Thus the comunero revolt turned out to be the last gasp of what remained of the medieval system of local autonomy and municipal representation. It had been encouraged by the relative prosperity of the Castilian economy during these years, though this prosperity was one measured by Castilian more than by Flemish or central European standards. Within another generation the Castilian economy showed symptoms of its great decline, and with that decline vanished any capacity of the Castilian urban population, never especially assertive, to show initiative. On subsequent occasions during the sixteenth century, the representatives of the third estate in Cortes did balk at raising new taxes, but that was the extent of their opposition to the crown, whose sovereignty and initiative remained absolutely uncontested.
The nexus of internal affairs between crown and subjects was public finance. A great deal of the royal funds were supplied by the church, primarily through the royal "thirds" of all tithes collected in Castile; the subsidio, a sort of income tax on the church in all Hispanic principalities; and the cruzada, a special contribution from laity and clergy in the form of an indulgence. These monies amounted to about one-fourth--sometimes more--of the royal receipts. Yet this did not constitute an Hispanic equivalent of the confiscation of much of church properties and wealth by sixteenthcentury Protestant rulers to the north and east. Moreover, the territories of the crown of Aragón did not increase their regular grants to the crown in sums proportionate to the inflation and mounting royal obligations of the period. In the mid-sixteenth century, the eastern parliaments were voting no more than at the beginning of the century, which, in view of the price differential, meant that they were contributing a good deal less to the crown in terms of real value.
This meant that the crown had to rely all the more heavily on the central kingdom of Castile, where basic commercial taxes had escaped parliamentary control during the fifteenth century. The customs duties and the alcabala, the 10 percent sales tax, were collected throughout Castile and its overseas dominions directly by royal authority, and were probably the largest single source of revenue for the crown. After 1525, the Castilian Cortes gained the right to approve any further increases in the rate of customs and sales taxes, and the towns substituted payment of annual fixed sums from the Cortes for itemized individual duties, so that the proportionate value of the sales taxes began to fall behind as prices increased.
 Even in its original form, the alcabala did not provide nearly enough money for the extraordinary military expenses of the crown. By the middle of his reign, Fernando had fallen back upon the already established device of requesting a servicio, a special appropriation, from the Castilian Cortes. These were transformed from extraordinary requests to regular demands made by the crown every three years. The royal attempt to exact extraordinary servicios as an ordinary request was one of the points contested by the comuneros. Their defeat meant that the crown would have its way, and by 1525 the principle of the crown's right to periodic extraordinary grants had been fully conceded. In return, the alcabala was consolidated and a permanent Diputación of the Castilian Cortes established on the Aragonese model, enabling the urban aristocracy of Castile to distribute the tax burden according to its own wishes. The defeat of the Cortes on the servicio issue was made possible by the increase of royal power in town politics, where the crown influenced selection of procuradores and their attitudes. It was made possible also by the delegation of authority in assessing the burden, whereby the urban aristocrats shifted the entire burden of servicios onto the middle and lower classes.
The tax shift was not desirable from the crown's point of view. Not merely did it weaken the kingdom's economy--something of which the crown was only vaguely aware -- but it limited taxation to a restricted portion of the kingdom's wealth. For a century it had been customary for only the representatives of the towns to appear in Cortes, but in. 1538 Carlos V explicitly summoned spokesmen for the aristocracy and the church hierarchy in order to attempt agreement on a more complete and equitable system of taxation. This was the last great opportunity after the comunero revolt for the representatives of all classes of Castilian society to establish a degree of political and legislative authority in return for financial cooperation with the monarchy, but the possibility never even entered the thinking of the upper classes. The idea of a binding representative constitution for all three estates was anathema to the aristocracy, interested only in the preservation of its privileges. A general excise on foodstuffs payable by all classes was blocked, after which the nobles and bishops were once more willing to be rid of Cortes, so long as commoners should continue to pay most of the taxes.
The Habsburg crown was successful in Spain during the reign of Carlos V because it accepted the institutional status quo of the Hispanic kingdoms, and because of the increasing Hispanization of the ruler himself, who eventually lost nearly all Flemish identification and came to associate himself more and more with the base of his  empire, Castile. If rebel movements such as the comunero and Germania revolts were thoroughly suppressed, the Habsburg crown in return fully accepted the pluralistic "Aragonese" structure of the realms of the united monarchy, and even extended this system to the new domains conquered in Italy. There were no efforts whatever in the sixteenth century to unify the various Hispanic states; the existing constitutional integrity of the separate principalities was fully respected.
The second Habsburg king, Felipe II (1556-1598), was a Castilian prince born and bred. He represented the complete Hispanization of the new dynasty, as far as personal habits and values were concerned. He also accepted fully the constitutional pluralism of the empire, and projected no major innovations in public institutions. Like his father, Felipe II relied upon the broad royal authority in Castile and the lack of any strong constitutional spirit seriously interested in limiting the royal prerogatives. None of the great Castilian religious and legal theorists of the sixteenth century allowed for a genuine constitutional system of representation and legal limitations on the Catalan (or later, English) model. Francisco Suárez, greatest of the Castilian neo-scholastics, even held that the king could tax without consent, which was actually contrary to Castilian tradition. Thus when the Castilian Cortes persisted in complaining about royal fiscal excesses, Felipe II made no effort to restrict them, knowing full well that since the defeat of the comuneros there was little danger that this underlying resentment would find expression in organized resistance. He also permitted publication, in 1569, of the Nueva recopilación of the constitutional laws of Castile, including a codification of the Cortes's power of the purse. Cortes representatives had made it fully clear that there was no danger of their trying to use such nominal authority to restrict royal initiative, that they would do no more than haggle over the extent of further taxation.
Castilian society largely, though not completely, accepted the burden of imperial responsibility under both Carlos V and Felipe II, though the attitude of the crown's subjects in the Aragonese domains remained more resistant. Thus when in the l570s two main factions developed in the royal council of state--one imperialist-expansionist, led by the Castilian duke of Alba; the other more cautious and less aggressive, led by the prince of Eboli--they came to be known as Castilian and Aragonese factions. This was an oversimplification, since there were aggressive imperialists in the Aragonese domains, and some voices in Castile advocated lower overseas expenditures, but they did represent genuinely contrasting attitudes toward the imperial affairs of the Spanish crown. During the 1570s the Eboli  faction was dominant, until a scandal of 1578 that brought discredit to the "Aragonese" group and finally the arrest of the king's personal secretary, Antonio Pérez, on murky charges of plotting rebellion. During the remainder of his reign, Felipe II relied especially on non-Hispanic imperial advisers.
The crown's only conflict with Catalonia in the sixteenth century occurred in the late 1560s. Alarmed by the spread of Protestantism in the northern Habsburg territories and France and by the degree of French immigration in Catalonia, the crown tightened censorship in 1568 and prohibited French scholars from teaching in Catalan schools. When in the following year the Catalan Corts rejected a new religious tax which had recently been ratified by the Vatican, royal alarm resulted in swift action and the arrest of members of the Catalan Diputació, as well as of several leading Catalan aristocrats. Yet both sides soon had reason to draw back. Catalan society was fully orthodox religiously and had no desire to be confounded with heresy. Felipe II soon learned that his fears were exaggerated. Constitutional protocol was restored and remained unaltered during the rest of D. Felipe's reign.
Much more serious was the Aragonese crisis of 1590-1592. Up to that point the traditional feudal constitution of Aragón had remained virtually unaltered. During the sixteenth century, relations between the peasantry and aristocracy declined further, with new restrictions on peasants' rights to grievance and redress. The judicial sovereignty of the landed aristocracy over most of Aragón was uncontested, and the sphere of royal law still quite limited. During the l580s, the crown attempted to bring the portions of northern Aragón that bordered on France under royal jurisdiction, partly for internal political reasons, partly for external security. This was resisted, but the Aragonese nobility was badly divided by feuds.
A crisis arose when the judicial authorities of Aragón gave sanctuary to an escaped prisoner from Castile, Escobedo, a sometime royal secretary accused of treachery. Uncertain royal efforts to get hold of him by means of the Inquisition sparked a small local rebellion. Neither the majority of the Aragonese nobles nor the majority of the towns in the kingdom supported the revolt of 1591, while the Aragonese peasantry seem to have favored the extension of royal authority as a shield against arbitrary usages of the nobility. The final settlement of 1592 reformed but by no means destroyed the structure of the Aragonese constitution. It was made clear that the crown might appoint a viceroy over Aragón, and the powers of the Diputación of the Aragonese Cortes over tax collection were reduced, but the Cortes retained the power of the purse as far as new taxes were concerned.  The justicia mayor or chief justice of Aragón was placed more directly under royal control, as was the supreme court of the kingdom, but most of the system of local law was left untouched. Representation in Cortes was slightly reduced by royal decree. Decisions in all four estates of the Aragonese Cortes were henceforth to be made on the basis of a mere majority (whereas earlier unanimity had been required among the upper aristocracy), save for financial matters.
The reform in Aragón was not dissimilar to the assertion of royal
authority in Catalonia a century earlier, and established a workable compromise
that made it possible to avoid major disputes during the final century
of life of the separate Aragonese constitutional system. Thus throughout
the sixteenth century the Spanish Habsburg monarchy remained faithful to
the Catholic Kings' policy of pluralistic, preeminent monarchy, asserting
the superior but by no means absolute authority of the crown, while basically
respecting the multiple constitutional systems of the Hispanic principalities.
 The best general accounts of Spain during the apex of its history are J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain 1469-1716 (New York, 1964), and A. Domínguez Ortiz, The Golden Age of Spain 1516-1659 (New York, 1971). As a one  volume account of the sixteenth century, John Lynch, Spain under the Habsburgs, vol. 1, Empire and Absolutism 1516-1598 (New York, 1964), supersedes R. Trevor Davies, The Golden Century of Spain, 1501-1621 (London, 1937). The best synthesis of the period of the Catholic kings is J.H. Mariéjol, The Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella (Rutgers, 1961). On Enrique IV there is Gregorio Marañón's Ensayo biológico sobre Enrique IV y su tiempo (Madrid, 1934). Orestes Ferrara, L'Avénernent d'lsabelle la Catholique (Paris, 1958), is a revisionist study of the fateful contest between the two Castilian princesses. The principal biography of Isabel is Tarsicio de Azcona, Isabel la Católica (Madrid, 1964); see also Manuel Ballesteros Gaibrois, La obra de Isabel la Católica (Segovia, 1953). The key study of the early career of Fernando is Vicens Vives's Historia crítica de la vida y reinado de Fernando II de Aragón (Zaragoza, 1962). Luis Suárez Fernández, Política internacional de Isabel la Catolica, 3 vols. (Valladolid, 1965-69), is not only the basic work on Spanish foreign policy in the late fifteenth century but is an important contribution to the study of the succession struggle. For the conquest of Granada, see M. A. Ladero Quesada, Castilla y la conquista del Reino de Granada (Valladolid, 1967).
Long controversy over the character of the revolt of the Castilian Comunidades has been largely resolved by the brilliant and exhaustive study of Joseph Pérez, La Révolution des Comunidades de Castille 1520-21 (Bordeaux, 1970). Noteworthy works on the domestic social struggles of the period include J. A. Maravall, Las Comunidades de Castilla (Madrid, 1963); José Couselo Bouzas, La guerra hermandina (Santiago, 1926); Vicens Vives's El gran Sinthcato Remensa (1488-1508) (Madrid, 1954); M. Danvila y Collado, La Germanía de Valencia (Madrid, 1884); and L. Piles Ros, "Aspectos sociales de la Germanía de Valencia," Estudios de Historia Social de España 2(1952), pp.431-78.
The most important books on internal politics and administration under Felipe II are A. González Palencia, Gonzalo Pérez, secretario de Felipe II, 2 vols. (Valencia, 1914); Gregorio Marañón, Antonio Pérez, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1958); Joan Reglé, Felip III Catalunya (Barcelona, 1956); and the classic, if not fully useful, study by the Marqués de Pidal, Historia de las alteraciones de Aragón, 3 vols. (Madrid, 1862-63).
1. Carlos I of Castile, but known in Spanish history as Carlos V from the order of his imperial title as head of the Holy Roman Empire.