How united was Spain by 1516?


In 1516 Ferdinand, King of Aragon, former consort of Isabella Queen of Castile, died. Isabella had died in 1504 leaving Castile their daughter Juana the Mad. Juana had married the Burgundy king Philip the Fair, son of Maxmillian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. Isabella was well aware of the fact that Philip would dominate his wife in the affairs of Castile, particularly in view of Juana\'s mental illness. To try and avoid this, Isabella left in her will the proviso that if Juana was unwilling or unfit to rule then the crown should pass to Ferdinand until Charles reached the age of 20. For two years after Isabella’s death Ferdinand had no influence in Castile, an example of how personal the brief political unity of the two states had been, but in 1506 Philip died forcing Juana into true insanity. Ferdinand became regent for their six-year-old son, Charles, and regained influence in Castile again.



Castile was at least three times the size of Aragon and had a population of about five million, in contrast to Aragon\'s population of about 1 million. Castile was a single state with one main governing body, the ‘Cortes’; this is in contrast to Aragon, which comprised of three states joined together, Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon, itself. Each state in Aragon had it\'s own cortes but the Aragon cortes had a different function to the Castilian cortes.


In Castile, the function of the cortes was to advise the Monarch, not to dictate to them. The Crown was much more powerful than the cortes and didn’t have to take the advice it offered.


In Aragon the crown remained weak, this is best shown in the oath of allegiance given to Ferdinand by the nobles, “we who are as good as you, pledge our acceptance to you who are no better than us, as our Lord and sovereign king, provided you respect our liberties…” In Aragon the function of the 3 cortes was much more active. They would dictate what they wanted, the monarch would do as they said and THEN they would do as the monarch had requested. The three cortes in Aragon were completely independent from one another, seemingly the only thing connecting them was the fact they had the same monarch.


In Castile the cortes didn’t get what it wanted until it had done what the monarch wanted it to do.



The land in Castile was poor agricultural land; consequently it was used for herding sheep, not growing crops. Castile\'s general neglect of crop growing in preference to sheep rearing, though unsurprising considering the quality of the land, had a severe economic-political impact as it forced her to import grain from abroad. In order for her to feed her population she had to have good relations with at least one country which would sell her grain. Her economy rested largely on the export of raw wool to northern European countries such as England and the Netherlands. The wool trade in Castile was controlled and taxed by an organisation called the ‘Mesta’. After 1492, which saw the discovery of the ‘New World’ by Columbus, Castile was able to exploit the goods imported from the newly discovered lands whose imports included gold bullion.


Aragon, due to her location facing the Mediterranean, did most of her trade there and this was a huge influence on her economic and foreign policy. In order to be influential in the Mediterranean, Ferdinand had to be powerful, this was one of the reasons for his invasion of Naples. Gaining Naples meant he could influence the Pope (due to Naples’ close proximity to the Papal lands in Italy).


Castile was enjoying an economic boom, largely due to a rapidly expanding wool trade, while Aragon was suffering from an economic decline, due to a Catalonian revolt that had crippled the textile industry.


Both Castile and Aragon had their own forms of currency with Castile using Ducats, Reals and Maravedis and Aragon using Pounds, Shillings and Pence. There were 11 reals in 1 ducat and 375 maravedis in 11 reals. In the last decade of the fifteenth century the ‘three principle coins of the realm (Valencian, Catalonese and Castilian) were made equal value’, meaning £1 equalled 1 Ducat. This seems to be the only form of economic