The Revolt of the Comuneros, 1520-1521

A.) Prehistory

In 1516, Charles of Ghent (future Emperor Charles V.) succeeded his grandfather, Ferdinand of Aragon, as King of Castile and Aragon (in Spanish : Carlos I.). His succession, however, was not generally approved. With Charles V. a new era in Spanish history began - the crown of Castile was just one of many worn by Charles V.; he spent much time outside of Spain, much attention on non-Spanish affairs. In addition, Charles (and his successors) treated Castile and Aragon as Spain, rather than as two individual kingdoms; within this unified Spain, Castile, however, was given the Habsburg's prime attention. Here they established their (Spanish) residence. But Castile also had to contribute the lion's share to extraordinary revenue, such as required to finance the frequent external wars.
In 1520, Charles V. left for Brussels and had Castile administrated by Bishop Adrian of Utrecht, the Admiral and the Constable of Castile, the latter Castile's leading nobles. They favoured the economic interests of the nobles over those of the cities.

B.) The Rebellion

In a number of Spanish cities, rebellions began; in 1520, Toledo ousted the royal corregidor (administrator) and established a comunidad (April 1520); Juan de Padilla took the lead of the comunero movement. Other cities followed the example of Toledo. Dissatisfaction with Charles V.' rule went beyond the cities; the Castilian nobility resented the apointment of foreigners to high positions in Castile.
In June 1520, Toledo called for the Cortes (diet) to assemble; the latter referred to herself as the Santa Junta de Comunidad (Holy League of the Community, August 1520). By now, Regent Adrian of Utrecht attempted to use force in order to suppress the rebellion; this lead to the formation of an armed Comunero force, while the regent, unable to enforce his authority, had to disband his force (Sept. 1520). The Junta, meanwhile, gained support. Now the comuneros went so far to openly challenge the legitimacy of Charles V.'s kingship; they insisted that his mother Joan (the mad) were queen instead; she resided in Tordesillas, a city now under the control of the comuneros. Regent Adrian of Utrecht was placed under arrest; the rebellion had grown into a full-scale revolution. The Junta set up a series of demands for Charles V. to meet; he was to return to Castile, appoint Castilians for high offices, was to marry, was to alter his policy of favouring the nobility at the expense of the cities, was to increase the standing and authority of the Cortes (Nov. 1520).
In the countryside the rebellion took another dimension, with peasants turning against the nobility, forcing the nobles to take measures against the rural rebels. As some cities supported the rural rebels, a rift between the nobility and the comuneros began to open up (from Sept. 1520).
By December 1520, a noble force, which declared herself loyal to Charles V., undertook operations against the Comuneros; Valladolid was taken, Queen Joan freed from the hands of the Comuneros. The royalist forces lost the Battle of Torrelobaton in Feb. 1521, but inflicted the decisive defeat on the Comunero forces under Juan de Padilla in April 1521 in the Battle of Villalar; de Padilla was executed.

C.) The Legacy

Charles V. rule over Castile was restored because the Castilian nobility, after being critical of Charles at first, then sided with him against the Comuneros. Since 1521, Charles V. spent more time and attention on Spain (Castile). He did not repeat the mistake of appointing foreigners to high positions within Castile, continued a policy favouring the economic interests of the nobility. He married, had his son Philip II (in Spanish : Felipe II) raised at the Spanish court. When Charles V. pursued military expeditions abroad, such as the Schmalkaldic War, Castilian nobles (Duke of Alva) were involved.
The unlucky Regent, Bishop Adrian of Utrecht, was elected Pope, but died a year later.

La rebelion de los comuneros, 1519-1520, from Emory, in Spanish
Spain 1516-1522 : the Troubled Succession of Charles V., from
Biography of Juan de Padilla, from EB 1911, from Columbia Encyclopedia
Villalar (23th April 1521), from Battles of Castile and Leon
Biography of Pope Adrian VI., from Catholic Encyclopedia
Biography of Joan the Mad, from Web Gallery of Art

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 8th 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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