Category Archives: Spanish History

The Inquisition

Popular conception of question time in the Spanish Inquisition / newsbiscuit.com

Popular conception of question time in the Spanish Inquisition / newsbiscuit.com

This was a Catholic tribunal founded on a temporary basis in France and Germany. Its purpose was to seek out heresy, prosecute and punish it. In the thirteenth and later centuries how you decided to worship God in Europe was not optional. Heretics were severely punished, often capitally, by burning alive. The latter is probably the most painful way to die, but the Church believed that only by burning could the non-conformist devil in a person be driven out and destroyed.

   The country of Spain, and later its empire, is chiefly associated by historical novelists with the Inquisition, also known as the ‘Holy Office’ or Santo Oficio. A medieval inquisition was set up in the kingdom of Aragon, with headquarters in Tarragona, but this was superceded in the late fifteenth century by the newly invented Castilian or Spanish Inquisition, founded by a papal bull by Sixtus VI in 1478. The branch was devoted first and foremost to investigating how converted Jews and Muslims were behaving now that they were Christian. The Spanish Jews and Muslims of Castilla had been forced to embrace Christianity in the stern form of Catholic Faith in 1492 and 1502 respectively. Continue reading

Discovery (Part II)

Usual weather at Tierra del Fuego (rounding Cape Horn) / cleargreengems.com

Usual weather at Tierra del Fuego (rounding Cape Horn) / cleargreengems.com

Columbus started his working life travelling in his father’s business. The first long trip was to Chios in the eastern Mediterranean, but he also sailed to London. It is not certain if he was simply a member of the crew, or the captain of the ship, but in February, 1477, if we are to believe his own word, he went to Iceland. Most historians do not give this tale much credence, and think he got as far as the Faroes, and why not? In winter the Faroes are as cold as Iceland anyway. What is important is that Columbus met and talked with descendants of the Vikings who had settled in Greenland in the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as the eastern coast of North America – and had tales to tell. Continue reading

Discovery (Part I)

The Cape of Good Hope / theora.com

The Cape of Good Hope / theora.com

The Crusades had not achieved very much, had cost a great deal in money and lives, but had at least one merit: they introduced the idea of travel abroad; the fine feeling of leaving your own shores or borders and visiting other countries. Even so, few were the brave souls who ventured from Britain or France, say, to exotic places of renown like Venice or Copenhagen.

  In the 13th century A.D. two brothers called Polo, who actually came from Venice, had the courage and the resources to wander across the huge Mongol desert, and climb high mountains; at last they found themselves in the Court of the Great Khan at Cathay (which they had thought of as a myth). They even met the Emperor of China without having their hats nailed to their heads. This great adventure was written up by one of their sons, Marco, and it covered a period of around twenty years. Young Marco wrote about a mysterious group of islands on the edge of the world called (by him) Zipangu. We would call this breathlessly beautiful place Japan. But even then, though people wished to Go East, where there are spices and jewels and gold, few made the effort because world travel was dangerous. So they stayed at home, where life was only moderately so. Continue reading

The Eighty years War & the Council of Blood

The Duke of Alba / pinternet.net

The Duke of Alba / pinternet.net

Rebellion, protest and actual war were made against Spain from 1568 to 1648, in seventeen of the provinces in the Low Countries (now Holland and Belgium). The so-called Council of Blood actually started in 1567, and was a component part of the troubles.

  The Spanish Hapsburgs ruled these provinces as part of the great Spanish Empire. They had originally been under the influence, if not the mandate, of Burgundy but were at last united by Charles V (Carlos Quinto) who was king of Spain as well as Holy Roman Emperor (q.v.). His son, King Philip II (Felipe Segundo) governed the region through his own appointees the regents, emphasising points of taxation and above all religion. Philip was a devout Catholic,and believed in the persecution of Protestants wherever he found them. Continue reading

The Condor Squadron

/condorsquadron.org

/condorsquadron.org

This formed part of Adolf Hitler’s contribution to the Nationalist or rebel side during the Spanish Civil War (q.v.). The pilots came mostly from the German middle and upper classes, and their groundcrew, mechanics etc. were boys from the lower classes doing their military service. For both, flying missions in a foreign country whose government (the Second Spanish Republic) had hardly any aircraft to fight them was more like a youthful adventure than real war. The truth is that the young Germans met virtually no opposition during their lethal visits to bomb and strafe Republican Spanish towns, turning the towns into ruins and killing thousands, mostly civilians. Continue reading

Abdication of the Spanish King

Today he becomes King Philip VI of Spain / en.wikipedia.org

Today he becomes King Philip VI of Spain / en.wikipedia.org

Don Juan Carlos was destined by General Franco to become Juan Carlos I, King of Spain, moving aside for political reasons his father, the Count of Barcelona, son of King Alfonso XIII. When Juan Carlos became king cynics called him ‘ElBreve’, or ‘The Brief’ but that was senseless and cruel and inaccurate, because he has just abdicated at the age of seventy-six, after reigning discreetly and well for thirty-nine years. His son The Prince of Asturias, married to the Princess Letizia (they have two fine daughters) will today become Felipe VI.

   Those are the details: but do the Spanish people want a continued monarchy or a third Republic? Some newspapers claim that ‘a huge majority’ of Spaniards prefer a republic. A recently conducted official poll denies this, with a result of less than one percent opting for a republic. We must assume therefore that for official purposes ninety-nine percent of the population wish for a continued monarchy.

   It’s a free country; I do not understand why that one percent should be allowed to cause big trouble – riots, sit-ins, circling the Congress in a menacing manner etc., when all the opponents of monarchy have to do is pack their bags and move into a republic of their own, if they cannot bear the idea of having a king as Head of State. There are two fabulous republics within taxi-ing distance – France and Germany, both with Presidents as Head of State. Why should ninety-nine percent of Spanish people have to put up with the tantrums of a handful of spoiled troublemakers?

   Modern constitutional monarchy means a head of public relations with a crown. The only commitment is to advise ministers. The Queen of Great Britain has managed well enough for more than sixty years. Neither Elizabeth nor Juan Carlos can close Parliament and dismiss the Government, as they once could, even if said government is a sardine can full of corruption. So why the republicanism? Is it in the blood? Were you told by early teachers that kings and queens are not to be tolerated? Are presidents of republics any better? The Second Spanish Republic distinguished itself by giving Russia ALL its gold! A perfect example to follow. Perhaps, if the Spanish monarchy is dissolved by the anarchists they can arrange to give China the whole of Cataluña instead of gold. That would make a wonderful present, and kill two birds with stone, as ‘la inmensa majoría’ of Spanish people are heartily fed up with the continuous machinations of power-mad little men like Art Más y Más who even makes staged entrances to the waiting microphones through double doors opened by flunkeys, as if he were President of the United States instead of a small part of Spain.

What was the CNT?

/ es.wikipedia.org

/ es.wikipedia.org

The Confederación Nacional de Trabajo was a Spanish labour/syndicalist movement, heavily involved in the Civil War of 1936/1939. The arrival of this trade union movement in 1911 helped Spanish union workers to achieve their first truly national network. It was based on existing trade unions, mainly in Cataluña, all sympathetically inclined towards anarchism. Its chief centres were in Barcelona, Saragossa (Zaragoza) and in rural, still feudal Andalucía. Following the Great War, the CNT became the biggest trade union syndicate in Spain during the economic and social crises that inevitably arose. Continue reading

George Washington

/ theguardian.com

/ theguardian.com

George Washington was born in the early part of the eighteenth century (1732), a son of a planter in Virginia, he was a Southerner. At 22 he was fighting for the British in both the French and Indian Wars and was present at the taking of Fort Duquesne (later to become Pittsburgh) in 1758 when he was twenty-six. Having completed his duties as a gentleman he resigned from the army and took to planting tobacco. Continue reading

Carlism

/ cutand parry.com

/ cutand parry.com

Carlism was (and is) a purely Spanish political movement of the Right. The name comes from Carlos-María Isidro de Borbón. With the death of his brother the unlamented Fernando VII in 1833, Carlos disputed the right to the Spanish throne of his own niece Isabel II. Civil wars were the result, from 1833 to 1840, 1846 to 49 and 1872 to 76. The Carlists failed to gain anything during these periods, partly because they chose to protect their own strongholds without necessarily making aggressive advances. Continue reading

The importance of Burgos and the Spanish Democracy

Burgos is one of the principal cities in Spain, it has a large population, a famous cathedral, biting arctic winds that freeze one to the marrow and, at the moment anyway, a town hall where the mayor and his councillors govern with an absolute majority awarded them by the voters of Burgos. Spain has been a democratic country since the death of Franco and the subsequent modelling of the Constitution. It is not a one-party state, nor is it a dictatorship. A democracy requires local or national government given a majority, absolute or minute to keep the peace, obey laws even if they hurt, because the assumption must be that if the people vote overwhelmingly for a party to govern them, they shouldn’t grumble. Continue reading