La reconfiguración política de la Monarquía Católica: la actividad de don Juan José de Austria (1642-1679)

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At the beginning of the seventeenth century the way the Hispanic Monarchy which had been structured politically in the times of King Philip II, entered in crisis. During the reign of Philip III the definite articulation of the Monarchy in viceroyal courts took place, but at the same time the first symptoms of imbalance became evident. The balance of power in the viceroyalties was distorted and the political and economic life of the territories started to be concentrated in the courts. At the same time, a religious and ideological transformation with the spread of the discalced religion took place, which had its most evident expression in the introduction of the forty hours’ devotion in the Alcázar de Madrid and, on the other hand, a narrow collaboration between both branches of the Habsburg House in international politics. The raison d’être of the Hispanic Monarchy had changed radically: the so called Catholic Monarchy appeared.The project of the Count-Duke of Olivares (already during the reign of Philip IV) had no other consequence than an aggravation of the contradictions on which the Catholic Monarchy was founded. The favourite had established his government relying on the nobility, which resulted in the absence of the King in the territories of the Monarchy and increased the aspirations of the nobility. The nobility started to question the sovereign’s authority, and some of them turned into kings. The noble conspiracies and not the popular revolts were the movements that could provoke the dismemberment of the Monarchy of Philip IV. The sovereign became aware that this government formula did not solve the problem of the articulation of the monarchy, reason why he removed the Count-Duke of Olivares at the beginning of 1643. The legal experts of the Councils led by Don Juan Chumacero recovered the power base they had lost and established some of the practices, such as the system of countermands, which in later decades were used again, including the valimiento of Don Juan de Austria.It was in this context that the recognition in 1642 of Don Juan José de Austria by the King took place. The internal evolution of the Monarchy and the external balance, that is to say, the conjuncture, influenced the political development of the infant Don Juan during the decades of 1640 and 1650 decisively. Indeed, Don Juan José de Austria was the mean used by the Catholic King to rearticulate or to restructure the political relations of the viceroyal courts (Naples, Sicily, Catalonia, Flanders and Portugal) with Madrid. His level of implication was different in each of these territories. While in! 7!!!Naples and Sicily the restructuration was respectively the work of the Count of Oñate and Cardinal Tribulcio, in the Court of Brussels he was the most important figure of a complete remodelling of the political structures of the Flemish States. For the development of these missions Philip IV surrounded him with a group of councillors who organized his service, adapting the household to the different political military destinies of Don Juan de Austria. The study of the servants of his households and their government, allow formulating the political government of the Monarchy.Every territory required different solutions, but similar lines of action can be distinguished such as the reversion of the instruments of political control to the hands of the King, the reduction of power of his alter ego and the implementation of a policy of reinforcement of the authority of the King and the viceroys (hierarchy).The stay in Flanders (1656-1659) supposed an inflection point in Don Juan de Austria when it came to perceiving reality, his religious mentality and his way of seeing the universal government of the Catholic Monarchy. Starting from astrology and mathematics, the Infante came into contact with the new philosophical currents of Northern Europe, through which the validity of the theological premises were questioned. Don Juan participated in this cultural and political renewal, an evolution perceived by Philip IV and his favourite.The disagreements with Philip IV and Don Luis de Haro resulted in an open rupture during the first half of the decade of 1660, ending with the removal of Don Juan in 1664. The confrontations with Queen Mariana de Austria at the death of the King were not circumscribed to personal disagreements, and to the support given by the Queen to Juan Everardo Nithard, but responded also to the logic of a different conception of the Monarchy and the role occupied by the Infante. In 1669 the Queen named Don Juan viceroy and vicar general of the Crown of Aragon, coming to an end a lustrum of political isolation of the son of Philip IV.During his stay in the Court of Aragon, Don Juan articulated a clear political philosophy whose action framework was global, that is to say, not limited to the Crown of Aragon. Therefore, the step to the Court of Madrid was the logical consequence of his vital trajectory, as is shown in the transformations he carried out in the government of his household. During the valimiento there was a clear and defined programme of action, as the election of the viceroys, the irruption of new elites in the Monarchy’s government and the reduction of powers of the viceroys show. It was about the searching of a new model of Monarchy, which Alonso Núñez de Castro named Spanish! 8!!!Monarchy, recovering the ideological justification belonging to the reign of Philip II. According to this idea, Charles II owed his crown to the Visigoth kings. During the Reconquista a particular religiosity had been developed, different from the religiosity shaped by the papacy. On an international level this supposed the liberation (rupture) of the traditional alliance with the Habsburg House and the recovery of the regalist thesis which rejected the interference of the popes in the Monarchy’s ecclesiastical and religious matters. According to Juan de Austria, the survival of the Monarchy depended on an alliance or at least on a tacit agreement with the court of Paris.The Infante surrounded himself with a group of collaborators who shared his ambition of proceeding with the political restructuration of the Monarchy. The changes were influenced by his personal experiences and had their primal expression in the government and composition of his household. Likewise he perceived the importance of the Indies in the new order of the Monarchy, reason why he started to introduce Americans in his service and to grant offices in these territories to persons he trusted.
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