Header Content Region

Insert text, image or banner ads here, or just delete this text and leave this area blank!

portfolio1 portfolio2 portfolio3 portfolio4


Enrique, Nabor and Carmen


Jose, Father, 2 daughters of previous marriage, Mercedes and Leonor in white.


Alfred Jordan, Olivia Pacheco, Alfred, Gregory and Jason


Children, Olivia and Rudolph, Tumacacori Church, Richard Pacheco Daughter and Niece.

small portfolio1 small portfolio2 small portfolio3 small portfolio4
themed object
get in touch

Christian Córdoba:
The city and its region in the late Middle Ages

John Edwards

Chapter 5

The nobility in regional politics

[131] It should already have become clear that the difference between theory and practice in the life of the region in this period could be considerable. Nowhere is this more true than in its political affairs. It is undeniable that, apart from the Crown itself, the only significant group in Córdoba's politics in the late Middle Ages was the local nobility, so that events in the area cannot be understood without an awareness of the role of aristocrats in regional society.


In the case of late medieval Castile, the 'pure' concept of rule by the best was of minimal relevance to contemporary qualifications for inclusion in the nobility. By far the most important among these were wealth and breeding. This is not to say, however, that the notion of an aristocracy which earned its privileges had entirely disappeared. It is easy to see that the prolonged crusade for the Reconquest of Spain from the Moors had the effect of raising the military calling in the esteem of society, so that other groups, such as the Christian clergy, burgesses and peasants, were forced to acknowledge their dependence on the soldiers for the ability to live and carry on their own activities. As the Reconquest was still incomplete for most of the fifteenth century, it is natural that the warriors should still have been established at the head of society in this period. Contemporary theorists, such as the chronicler Diego de Valera, complained, as Boethius had done long before, that nobles often obtained their rank on the basis of other people's virtues rather than their own, but the hereditary principle was very far from being threatened under Ferdinand and Isabella. Royal lawyers were indeed dissatisfied with the notion of status being conferred by heredity, but they limited their comments to municipal officeholders, not daring to tackle the nobility as a whole. (1)

[132] If it was accepted without much dispute that nobility might be conferred in perpetuity by the king and that it might properly be granted to those who possessed wealth and breeding and who followed the military calling, it is nonetheless true that many problems of status remained unsolved. It was easy to distinguish the grandes, or títulos, those who were granted titles and lordships by the Crown as dukes, marquises and counts. More problematical was the relationship between nobles, for whom the usual word was hidalgos, and knights, or caballeros. That there was a definite distinction between these two ranks had been noted by Valera, who wrote that, 'caballería, in common law, is not a dignity, nor does it confer nobility, except on the caballeros of the Roman curia'. (2) In Valera's view, this state of affairs was justified by the fact that the main motive in his time for seeking the rank of caballero was to obtain tax exemptions. However, if the status of caballeros was poorly viewed in the late fifteenth century, that of nobility (hidalguía) was being steadily enhanced.

The privileges of a hidalgo were fairly clearly delineated. Hidalgos were less threatened than others by the law and were distinguished from the rest of society. A hidalgo had a special relationship with the king and could only be arrested by his express order. Out of respect for his military calling, a hidalgo's horses and weapons were exempt from seizure for debt or any other cause and because of his supposed virtue and purity of blood he might not be judicially tortured. Affairs of honour between nobles were settled by duel and if a noble had for some reason to suffer the death penalty, he was beheaded and not hanged. These privileges naturally applied to the titled nobility as well.

By the fifteenth century, the possession of a fixed family residence (casa solar) and membership of a kin-group (linaje) were becoming increasingly important. As Valera's work indicates, the concept of blue blood (sangre azul), derived from the heraldic significance of the colour blue, which was variously described as the sky, divinity, loyalty and justice, was still firmly established. As a result, far from there being a movement towards individualism, aristocratic notions of lineage were still the inspiration of much political and social activity. Blue blood could only be preserved by avoiding alliances with unworthy persons and it is easy to see the results of this attitude in the marriages of the Córdoba nobility.

In addition to the possession of a casa solar and a restriction to marriage within the same social group, the noble had to behave [133] in an appropriate manner in his daily life. Official documents, when describing the characteristics of the 'noble life', often reflected the confusion which existed in contemporary society between the noble, or hidalgo, and the knight, or caballero. It was clear enough, in principle, that a caballero, and the requirement included hidalgos, should always keep a horse and weapons, in order to be able to respond to the king's military summons. In practice, this rule was harder to keep, but even more difficulty arose with the other main feature of the noble life, which was that in order to benefit from the privileges of this rank, a man should not live by 'base and vile offices'. A law of John II gave as examples of what was meant by this statement the offices of tailor, leather-dresser, carpenter, stone-cutter, digger, cloth-shearer, barber, spicer, retailer and shoe-maker. (3) Those who failed to fulfil either of these conditions were to lose their privileges and revert to the status of pechero, or tax-payer.


The tension between the military ideal and the practical need to engage in some form of activity for financial gain affected all, from the humble caballero to the exalted grande, but the first task will be to examine the characteristics of the upper noble linajes whose economic and political dominance over the region has already been described. In theory, all nobles were equal before the law, but disparities of wealth were already apparent in the thirteenth century and these gradually created what was in effect a separate class, as the difference of quantity became one of quality. At least until the fourteenth century, the link between wealth and nobility was openly admitted in the title of rico hombre ('rich man'), which was the only way in which the leading magnates of Castile were distinguished. In the late Middle Ages, French titles, such as duke, marquis, count and viscount were introduced and the term rico hombre became less prominent, disappearing after 1516. In order to understand the political activity of the upper nobility, it is necessary first of all to look at the economic basis of the linaje. (4)

Titles of the French type had only begun to appear among the Córdoba aristocracy by 1500. Don Alonso de Aguilar, who dominated the region throughout his political career, was never more than a señor, though the head of the rival house of Baena, Don Diego Fernández de Córdoba, was made count of Cabra by Henry IV in 1455, having held the lordship of the town since 1439. (5) Until Don Alonso de Aguilar's son, [134] Don Pedro, was created marquis of Priego after his father's death in 1501, the only other titled noble in the Córdoba area was the Sotomayor count of Belalcázar. This title was created in 1466. In view of the small number of Castilian grandes in this region, the political role of the nobility has to be approached through the families which possessed lordships. The houses of Aguilar and Baena were indeed as pre-eminent as their social rank and economic strength would suggest and the political conflict between them will be considered in due course, but in economic terms, the upper noble linaje largely shared the characteristics of the other seignorial families in the area.

The vital importance of royal grants of lands, rents and lordships with judicial, administrative and military powers in the creation of the late medieval Cordoban aristocracy has already been stressed. (6) There were, however, other ways in which the Crown helped to ensure the continued supremacy of the nobility in regional society. Grants of señoríos were very rarely revoked and the few contemporary cases did not involve Córdoba. Far more common were additional grants of lordships to existing seignorial families. It was also possible for the king (or the pope) to legitimise the bastard children of the nobility in order to ensure that a suitable heir was available to inherit the family's possessions. However, the most significant contribution which the Crown made to the longevity of aristocratic dynasties was economic.

Often, the Castilian Crown's financial aid to the nobility took the form of transfers of royal revenues to private coffers. These grants, known as juros, consisted of a specified sum in cash, which the recipient was thereby entitled to receive from the proceeds of royal tax-collection. Sometimes a specific rent was named in the grant as a source for the cash, while in other cases the money might be obtained from any available rent. The cash was normally handed over annually and grants might be either for life (de por vida) or hereditary (de heredad). The excessive alienation of royal revenues to private individuals was one of the main weaknesses of medieval monarchs and in Castile the Cortes mounted a campaign against such grants throughout the fifteenth century. These efforts were largely unsuccessful and juros developed, as the sixteenth century went on, into a kind of national debt system, in which those below the ranks of the nobility might invest.

As part of their attempt to put the royal administration on a sounder footing, the Catholic Monarchs began in 1480 to reduce the size and number of juros and convert hereditary into life grants. According to Matilla Tascón's calculations, over fifty-seven million maravedís in [135] hereditary juros were granted in 1480 and five million in life juros. After the reform, the respective totals were twenty-five million and six million. (7) The spectacular reduction by fifty per cent of royal grants of all kinds, including the governorships of castles (tenencias) and feudal retainers in cash (acostamientos), did not however prevent certain individuals, and in particular the upper nobility, from continuing to receive a massive income from this source. Two notable local examples are the count of Cabra and the alcaide de los donceles, whose juro income was halved from 60,000 to 30,000 mrs per annum. These were hereditary grants. Such sums were, however, insignificant in comparison with the enormous grant of 1,750,000 mrs., 'situated' in the almo janfazgo and alcabala of Córdoba and its tierra, which the duke of Medinaceli received in 1493. The date of this grant indicates how far Ferdinand and Isabella had deviated from their earlier policies by the end of the Granada war. The fact that this huge sum went to a magnate with no interests in the Córdoba area acts as a reminder that the recipients of juros did not necessarily collect their cash from local revenues. (8) In her will, Isabella expressed regrets that the financial needs of the Crown during the Granada campaign had caused a reversal of the 1480 reform. Juros de heredad were given to individuals in return for loans in aid of the war effort, but the queen stressed that each grant contained a provision that the Crown could buy the juros back at any time in the future, at a price equal to the sum originally granted. Her hopes that her successors would revoke these grants were not, however, realised. (9)

In addition to new grants of juros, a number of Andalusian nobles received extra lordships in the kingdom of Granada after its conquest. The house of Aguilar gained Almena and El Cerro, the house of Baena Canillas de Aceituna, Archez and Corumbela, and the alcaides de los donceles Sedella and Comares, the latter with the title of marquis. The lord of Palma, Don Luis Portocarrero, received Huéjar la Alta and the lord of El Carpio obtained Sorbas and Lubrín. (10) The most important point to notice is that no new family with existing holdings in the Córdoba area joined the ranks of the señores in Andalusia as a result of the Granada campaign. Royal largesse was employed to strengthen the position of the existing leaders of local society.

Even more fundamental to the strength and permanence of Castilian linajes in this period was the history of the law of inheritance. As in other countries in western Europe, the most important single factor in the creation of huge private estates was the introduction and acceptance [136] of primogeniture as a guiding principle. This was, paradoxically, one of the main results of the reintroduction of law based on the code of Justinian (which in fact assumes partible inheritance) in the thirteenth century. In earlier Castilian law, for example the Fuero Juzgo, it was assumed that the parent would divide his goods among his children. Restrictions were placed on attempts by parents and grandparents to favour particular persons or institutions at the expense of others. No one son or grandson could receive more than a third of his father or grandfather's goods in this way (de mejoría). The Church could not receive more than a fifth of what remained 'without that third'. Goods received from the king or another lord in return for services were even then excluded from these restrictions, which were known as the tercia y quinta de mejoría, and might be disposed of as the testator wished. (11) All this changed with the introduction of Alfonso X's Partidas, which established the rights of the eldest son over the rest. The theory of primogeniture was advanced in the context of the succession to the Crown of Castile, but it was rapidly extended to the nobility. In this way, the establishment of private empires in the kingdom was the paradoxical result of a law which was intended to enforce the royal supremacy over all. Whether foreseen or not, one of the results of the permanent adoption of primogeniture in the royal family, a condition which was not achieved until the fifteenth century, was to spread this custom to the leading families of the kingdom, thus accentuating the very evils which the Partidas were intended to eliminate.

The arguments used in this code to justify the absolute right of the eldest son to the inheritance of his father were taken from nature, law and custom. The so-called 'natural' argument was in fact based once again on the ownership of property. The main desire of parents was said to be to 'have a lineage to inherit their goods'. As the eldest son arrived first to satisfy this desire, he was naturally the favourite of his parents and thus received the appropriate reward of supremacy over his brothers and sisters. The legal argument was based in the first place on the law of Moses, which stated that the eldest son was set aside as holy for God, taking as an example of the supremacy of the eldest son the power given by Isaac to Jacob, believing the latter to be his eldest son Esau, when he gave him his paternal blessing. 'You will be lord (señor) of your brothers and the sons of your mother will bow before you.' The third ground for primogeniture, the appeal to customary law, was more doubtful because, as has already been noted, fuero law did not support this principle. The fact was admitted in the [137] Partidas, which stated that by ancient custom, 'fathers commonly had pity on their other sons [and] did not want the eldest to have everything, but that each of them should have his share'. However, the new code tried to evade this objection by asserting that 'wise men of understanding' realised that, at least in the case of the royal succession, such a partition was not in the interest of the kingdom and had allowed the entire inheritance to pass to the eldest son. (12)

The Partidas were on insecure ground, in the context of Castilian law, when they asserted the supremacy of the eldest son and Gregorio López's commentary makes it clear that such statements were the result of Roman law influence. Nonetheless, the principle did become established in Castile in the fifteenth century and it opened the way for the accumulation of huge private fortunes by the families which produced the future grandes of Spain. The device which ensured that such fortunes passed intact to the eldest son was the entailed estate or mayorazgo. Permission to create such an estate out of the family possessions was granted only by the king, the normal procedure being that the nobleman concerned would obtain a licence to form a mayorazgo out of certain, specified goods and properties, in favour of a named individual, generally his eldest son, and a succession of named substitutes in case of the death of one or more of the named beneficiaries. As the example of Córdoba shows, by the end of the fifteenth century there was no important noble family which did not have a mayorazgo and the practice was spreading downwards through the echelons of urban society. Indeed, such was the interest which the law of inheritance aroused among the leading citizens of the Castilian towns that the procuradores to the Cortes of 1502 demanded new laws on the subject, a request which resulted in the laws of Toro of 1505. (13)

The laws of Toro enforced the fueros in all the towns which possessed them, so that inheritance in Córdoba was governed by the Fuero Juzgo, with its provisions on the tercia and quinta. In general, the 1505 laws extended the principles of the fueros to the kingdom as a whole, but they added certain definitions in the case of illegitimate children. A 'natural son' was legally a child of parents who were, at the time of conception, in a position to marry without dispensation and whose father recognised him as his son. An illegitimate son could always inherit his mother's goods if she had no legitimate children and if he was born of a union which did not carry the death penalty (dañado y punible ayuntamiento). However, a legitimised child did not have precedence if his parents later had a child within wedlock. In such a [138] case, the general rule that an illegitimate child was entitled to a fifth of his father's goods was held to apply.

The most interesting of the laws of Toro, from the noble point of view, were those which referred to the inheritance of mayorazgos. The phraseology of these laws reveals the extent to which they had become embedded in Castilian life by about 1500. The need for a royal licence to create a mayorazgo was confirmed at Toro but the Crown reserved the right, if it so wished, to ratify one which had already been formed. Licences for mayorazgos were held to be valid after the death of the king who had granted them, if they had not by then been used by the beneficiaries. Once a licence had been obtained, the Crown effectively abandoned control of the mayorazgo into the hands of its possessors. A nobleman could freely revoke his will to create a mayorazgo, without regard to the royal licence which he had obtained for it, provided that he had not already handed over the goods concerned to the beneficiary. After a mayorazgo had been created, it passed automatically from one heir to another, according to the terms of the original document and royal licence, without the need for any further intervention by the Crown. A law which was important in certain cases in Andalusia in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella gave the descendants of the eldest son preference, in the inheritance of a mayorazgo, over the younger sons of the founder of the mayorazgo and their descendants. The same rule applied if the inheritance was collateral. All descendants of the second son had precedence over the third son and his descendants, and so on. Another law which greatly helped the nobility was that which allowed improvements made to entailed properties, such as fortresses and towns, to be included automatically in the mayorazgo, although the Crown was careful to add that entirely new fortifications might not be included without a royal licence, in addition to that required for their construction. The overall effect of these measures is clear. They gave wealthy men the power to preserve and hand on their riches, so that their families obtained a more or less permanent place at the head of society. The weakness of the taxation system also helped to prevent the diminution of wealth, once it had been accumulated. There was no alcabala on inherited property and no question of death duties.

As with juros, it is impossible to assess in precise numerical terms the extent of the practice of founding and maintaining mayorazgos among the Cordoban nobility. Information from later documentation in national archives does however indicate that mayorazgos were virtually [139] universal in families whose members held municipal office in the late fifteenth century. Thus in addition to the various branches of the Fernández de Córdoba, families such as the Aguayo, Castillejo, Godoy, Saavedra, Valenzuela and Vargas had mayorazgos by 1500. (14) The concentration, so far, on the privileges of the eldest son does not, however, imply that the rest of the children were unimportant. In the first place, all children of noble parents were noble too and not all noble goods were in entail. Secondly, the importance of the nobility in a regional society such as that of Córdoba depended to a large extent on whole families rather than those families' individual heads. In recent years, it has become fashionable in some circles to stress the social and political role of the noble lineage in late medieval west European history. Work has been done on both urban and rural areas, particularly in Italy, but in view of the contemporary use of the terms linaje and bando, it is clear that such an approach is also relevant to the history of Castile. (15)

Before examining the political role of noble lineages, it is necessary to look at their size and geographical location. For this purpose, a division has been made between families which possessed at least one complete señorío, and whose head was thus entitled to call himself señor, and those noble houses which, despite having extensive possessions in entail and members who held public office, had not attained the seignorial level. On these criteria, the first group of families contains the eight branches of the Fernández de Córdoba, the Mexía lords of Santa Eufemia, the Portocarrero lords, and later counts of Palma, the Méndez de Sotomayor of El Carpio, the Venegas of Luque, the Sotomayor counts of Belalcázar and two branches of the De los Ríos, lords of Fernán Núñez and Las Ascalonias, respectively. As it is hard, on the basis of the available knowledge of the goods of individual families, to draw an accurate line between the non-seignorial 'upper' nobility and the rest of the hidalgos, a fairly arbitrary selection of the former has been made, using as a rough guide the criterion of public office-holding in Córdoba. The second group thus includes the Aguayo, Angulo, Argote, Cabrera, Cárcamo, Cárdenas, Carrillo, Castillejo, Godoy, Góngora, Hoces, De las Infantas and Mesa. About another dozen families might have been included in this category, had sufficient genealogical material been available. (16)

It is particularly hard to provide precise information about the size of noble families. Contemporary genealogies and other documents, such as wills, can rarely be relied on for completeness. Children who died [140] young were often omitted. Illegitimate offspring might well not be recorded and little effort was made, on occasions, to give a precise account of daughters. Thus even if the great age of the falsification of genealogies to prove 'purity of blood' had not yet begun, it is nevertheless unwise to place too much weight on the available figures for noble offspring. In the case of more humble families, the task can scarcely be attempted.

Among the fifteen seignorial families which headed the Cordoban aristocracy, there were few prolific fathers. The largest recorded families are those of Don Alonso de Aguilar, who had five legitimate and four illegitimate children, and the first count of Cabra, Don Diego Fernández de Córdoba, who fathered no fewer than eighteen children, sixteen of them in his two marriages. Most seignorial nuclear families in this period, however, seem to have contained seven or fewer children. The average number for each head of household in this sample was just over four, including illegitimate offspring. Among the thirteen office-holding families included in the second group, there are no recorded families as large as those of the heads of the houses of Aguilar and Baena. The average family size emerges as 3.9, which in view of the dubious nature of the figures used cannot be effectively distinguished from the results for the seignorial houses.

The recorded marriages of Cordoban nobles in the period of the Catholic Monarchs appear to contain few surprises for those who expect little upward or downward mobility and marriage within the existing social group. The heads or heirs of the houses of Aguilar and Baena duly found their spouses in families of national importance. Thus Don Alonso de Aguilar married Doña Catalina Pacheco, daughter of the master of the order of Santiago, while his son, the first marquis of Priego, married Doña Elvira Enríquez, a cousin of the king. In the house of Baena, the second count of Cabra married Doña María, the daughter of Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, first duke of the Infantado, while his son, the third count, was married twice, to women from two leading Castilian families, the Enríquez and the Zúñiga. The seventh alcaide de tos donceles, head of the third most important line of the Fernández de Córdoba, married the sister of Don Alonso de Aguilar's wife, Doña Juana Pacheco. The lesser lords of the Córdoba area generally married members of local families of equivalent rank, though the Fernández de Córdoba lords of Guadalcázar married into other branches of the same original line, the houses of Montemayor and Cabra, respectively. There was some intermarriage between the first [141] and second groups of families, which is not surprising in view of the fact that the division between them is artificial and intended only as an aid to analysis. Thus Fernando Alfonso de Argote married the daughter of the fourth lord of Guadalcázar and Juan Pérez de Godoy, veinticuatro of Córdoba, married a daughter of Fernando Alonso de Montemayor. His nephew married the daughter of a grande, Don Juan Ponce de León, second count of Arcos. There is no case in this group of office-holding families of marriage with individuals of lesser rank. Unfortunately, the fragmentary nature of the sources makes it impossible to examine the ordinary hidalgos in a similar way, but at least it is clear that, while 'good' or 'bad' marriages might be made, in social, economic or political terms, the Cordoban nobles entered the sixteenth century with a determination to seek alliances within their own group.

The distribution of nobles among the parishes of the city is of relevance to an understanding of linajes as social and political entities. This question may be looked at from two points of view. First, it is worth asking whether there was any concentration of nobles in certain parishes and, secondly, it is useful to know if each linaje lived in a particular quarter, which it might be able to dominate, on the pattern found, for example, in Genoa. If the same criteria for inclusion or exclusion are used as have been applied up to now, the result is an average of about ten upper noble, or office-holding families in each parish. At the two extremes, the ten noble houses in St Nicholas 'de la Villa' included two branches of the Fernández de Córdoba -- the house of Aguilar, and the descendants of the former bishop of Córdoba, Don Pedro de Solier -- while St Bartholomew and St James each contained only four important office-holding families. It is not possible to distinguish any aristocratic quarter in the city and it is equally clear that individual families had, by the late fifteenth century, become so complex that they might not be said to dominate particular parishes or parts of parishes, as happened elsewhere. The great majority, if not all, of the families above the rank of simple hidalgo in Córdoba by about 1500 had come to the region, if not to the city itself, as early as the thirteenth century. They had thus had ample time to intermarry and also to divide into various branches. The result was that, of a sample of forty-nine office-holding families, which excludes all the Fernández de Córdoba, only nineteen were confined to one parish. Fifteen families were divided between two parishes and one between three, while six families resided in four parishes and eight in no fewer than five. [142] The effect of this distribution on Córdoba's political life will be examined in due course.

It is impossible to establish precisely the number of citizens who were included in the upper noble category as members of families which regularly held public office, for example as veinticuatros or jurados. However, if the estimates used so far are at all accurate, and the average size of this rank of household was about six, excluding retinues and servants, then Córdoba's leading families may have totalled approximately 350 individuals. In addition, it is possible to make some estimate of the number of citizens with the rank of hidalgo. The fullest account from the period is a list which was produced for the city council in May and June of 1514. (17) At the council-meeting on 5 May 1514, a document (requerimiento) was read in which the hidalgos of the city demanded that the council should investigate the inclusion in the tax lists (padrones) of the parishes of St Marina and St Lawrence of various individuals who, they claimed, were hidalgos and therefore exempt from inclusion. The council duly adopted the course suggested in the requerimiento and called on all hidalgos to prove their title to that rank before the council. This replica of the procedure normally required for proof of hidalguía at the royal chancillería was implemented during the succeeding month and the results were recorded, parish by parish. This was not the only list of hidalgos produced in the period. As a result of a conflict between the hidalgos and the caballeros de premia over their respective duties in the military service of the Crown, a group of hidalgos, eighty-one in number, signed a legal document in Luque on 26 January 1513. (18) Apart from the fact that the i 513 document was not intended as a complete list, the number of names included in it is much smaller than the total of 196 individuals whose titles were accepted by the city council in 1514. Even this larger figure cannot, however, be accepted without modification. Thirty-three names which were included in the I 513 document are not to be found in the I 514 lists. A total of 240 hidalgos in I 5 I4 would not seem unreasonable but would clearly be much larger than the figure of 110 which Marie Claude Gerbet has obtained from Simancas documents. (19) The 1514 lists are incomplete in that there are no names for the parish of St Peter. They also contain the names of twenty-four individuals who were only included after discussion in council and it is matter for speculation whether the doubt was genuine or the result of personal animus. In order to reach some kind of total for the Córdoba nobility in the early sixteenth century it is necessary also to point out that the 1514 lists [143] include many members of the families which have been regarded here as part of the upper or office-holding nobility. It is probable, therefore, that a figure of between 250 and 275 noble heads of household would not be wildly inaccurate.

The only indication of the number of caballeros de premia in late medieval Córdoba is a list of those who took part in a parade (alarde) on the Campo de la Verdad, to the south of Córdoba, on 5 November 1497. There are 195 names on the list, but it appears to be far from complete, as five parishes are missing altogether and some others are represented by very few names. The occupations of the knights are included in a minority of cases and, as might be expected, they cover a wide range. There were caballeros de premia among the cloth-merchants (traperos) and general merchants (both mercaderes and the apparently lesser merchantes). Among industrial workers, the tanners and the dyers seem to have achieved this rank, in some cases, and artisans were represented by silversmiths and furniture-makers, among others. Tenant farmers (labradores), gardeners (hortelanos) and woodmen (silvaneros) also appear in the lists. The dispute over military service, which surfaced in 1496 and culminated in the hidalgo list of 1513, indicates that the distinction between noblemen and caballeros de premia, which was in theory precise, was in practice not always obvious. However, the 1497 list does suggest that the practitioners of 'vile and base offices' were still well represented among the caballeros de premia of Córdoba around the year 1500 and it will become clear in due course that this particular group had a prominent role to play in the city's politics during the early years of the sixteenth century. (20)


If the characteristics of noble families are of interest in the study of the aristocratic contribution to local politics, it is equally clear that a knowledge of the distribution of military power in the region is essential for an understanding of the relative strength of different groups within the city and its tierra. In a society dominated by a crusade against the infidel, which was rapidly approaching its climax, it was inevitable that political power should correspond closely with the ability to garrison castles and put armies in the field. As far as the larger towns, such as Córdoba, were concerned, the legal basis for the raising of troops was the fuero which had been granted in the thirteenth century. The [144] dominant principle was that of the feudal host, whereby the king had the right to summon to his service all men between the ages of twenty-five and fifty who were not excluded for physical reasons or because they were clerics. Those who did not serve had to pay a tribute instead. The militia was paid from council funds and was mustered on the basis of padrones, which, like those for taxation purposes, were compiled and used by the jurados. The urban forces of Andalusia consisted from the start of caballeros and peones, two categories which were often more important in social and financial than in military terms. According to Córdoba's fuero, the caballeros were the most important part of the force. They were only allowed to leave the city outside the campaigning season, that is, between October and May, and if they took their families with them they had to leave a substitute, as a pledge that they would return. The caballero, or his deputy, had to maintain a horse for at least eight months of every year. The peones, or foot-soldiers, on the other hand, were simply summoned by the jurados of their parish, when the order came through from the Crown via the local council, and placed in contingents, each with a certain number of caballeros. The whole force was led by the city's alguacil mayor. (21)

Even in the fuero itself, the caballeros de premia were complicating the issue. From the start, these were the members of the trading community which settled in the newly conquered city, who had the wealth to pay for a horse and for the fairly simple knightly accoutrements of the period. They were treated as equals of the caballeros. After the laws of Alcalá of 1348, those with goods valued at more than a certain fixed sum were obliged to do knight service. In the fifteenth century, the figure in Córdoba diocese was 4,000 mrs. Those with goods worth io ooo mrs had to supply two horses and those with 40,000 mrs three. By a pragmatic of 20 June 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella raised the minimum figure to l00,000 mrs, in Córdoba and the other cities of Andalusia, adjusting the other figures accordingly. According to a Seville ordinance of 1432, caballeros, of whatever kind, had to parade in helmet and coat of mail, with sword, shield and lance. The infantry was divided into crossbowmen (ballesteros) and lancers (lanceros). The latter also had swords, shields and daggers and are not to be confused with the mounted soldiers who were armed with lances. By the time of the Granada campaign, there were also hand-gunners (espingarderos), who wore armour. (22)

Ladero's figures for the forces put in the field during the Granada campaign do not, generally speaking, show the types of infantry [145] involved, but they do indicate that Córdoba was in practice capable of raising up to 750 horsemen and 5,000 infantry, in case of necessity. The more detailed figures for the period after 1495, which are to be found in local records, reveal that the city was asked to provide up to 400 espingarderos and, in one case, 800 ballesteros, but that the bulk of its infantry contribution generally consisted of lanceros. Another fact which emerges from the actas capitulares is that the conquest of Granada was far from being the end of the demands made by the Crown on the city's military resources. Apart from general levies at times of panic, such as the Alpujarras revolt in the kingdom of Granada in 1499, the royal expedition against certain Andalusian magnates in 1513 and the threat of Turkish attacks on the region's coast in 1515, the numbers demanded were lower than they had been during the Granada war, but nonetheless there were few years between 1492 and 1515 in which no troops were required from Córdoba by the Crown. (23)

So far, no mention has been made, in a military context, of the Crown's own 'feudal' vassals, the vasallos del Rey, who in theory composed a force of mounted lancers which could form a reliable nucleus for the royal armies. A vasallo del Rey agreed to serve the Crown whenever required, on specified terms, and might not become the vassal of any other lord without royal permission. Had this been an effective institution in the period of the Catholic Monarchs, it could have given the Crown a valuable basis of political support among the leading citizens of Córdoba. In fact, however, as Ladero has observed, it was declining steadily in importance during the Granada wars and between 1486 and 1491 the city provided no more than eight vasallos del Rey to the royal armies. Marie-Claude Gerbet could find evidence of only eleven in a slightly later period, though her list is admittedly incomplete. (24)

The significance of the Córdoba militia in the region's affairs cannot be assessed only on the basis of numbers. Quality and morale are more important considerations and in these respects the reputation of urban forces in this period was not good. As far as Córdoba is concerned, one guide to the level of military fervour among the citizenry is the effectiveness of the regular parades (alardes) of the caballeros de premia. While the total of nearly two hundred knights who paraded in Córdoba in 1497 contrasts sharply with the single, pathetic caballero who appeared in the only parade summoned in Madrid in that year, Córdoba council seems also to have expected a large-scale failure to meet royal requirements. When ordering an alarde for the last Sunday [146] in May 1500, for example, the council added that all caballeros who had no horses were to parade nonetheless as peones, in accordance with royal instructions. By November 1515, things had deteriorated further. Complaints were made in council that half the caballeros de premia failed to turn out, sending their sons or serving-lads instead, while those who did appear were in a state of disarray. The council decided to call another parade for Christmas 1515. (25)

Another sign that military activity was by no means to the taste of many of Córdoba's citizens is the prevalence in the period of substitution in the performance of military service. It was inevitable that many citizens' concern for their own farms or businesses should have outweighed their feeling of loyalty to the Crown and their desire to complete the Granada 'crusade'. This was particularly so once the direct military threat had receded from the Córdoba area, with the result that by the late fifteenth century it was normal for those liable for military service to pay a deputy to march for them. This practice was particularly common among the caballeros de premia, but cases involving all ranks are to be found in notarial registers. Thirty-nine examples of substitution are recorded between 31 July and 2 August 1490 and another forty-six between 21 and 24. December 1501. The rush to arrange for deputies was accompanied by a series of disputes over exemptions and status, whenever a demand for troops was received by the council.

The figures provided by Ladero for the troops supplied by leading nobles for the Granada wars give a good indication of the forces at the disposal of the leading members of regional society, as the Andalusian magnates were heavily committed throughout. In contrast with the city militia, seignorial contingents consisted mainly of horsemen, either the lightly armed jinetes, who rode in the Moorish style, or the hombres de armas, whose equipment and style of fighting corresponded more closely to those customary elsewhere in western Europe. The two categories are not distinguished in the records concerned. Apart from a freak total of 550 horsemen produced by the count of Cabra in 1483, the largest recorded total for the army of a Cordoban magnate is 400, supplied by Don Alonso de Aguilar in 1483, 270 of them being cavalry. Don Alonso never achieved this total again and the count of Cabra and alcaide de los donceles, like him, normally produced during these campaigns between 200 and 300 men, most of them cavalry. Lesser lords, such as Gonzalo Mexía and Egas Venegas, provided between twenty and fifty horsemen in most years of the war. Military and economic capabilities seem to have been closely matched among the Andalusian upper [147] nobility and the effect of this state of affairs on the political life of Córdoba is made plain in the whole history of the period. (26)


Any investigation of this question must rest on the assumption that the nobility was involved in the region's politics with the legal sanction of the Crown. The leading families of the Córdoba area were all represented on the city council, except for the Sotomayor of Belalcázar. Don Alonso, the head of the house of Aguilar, was alcalde mayor of Córdoba and the count of Cabra, head of the house of Baena, was alguacil mayor. These two magnates were among five who held votos mayores, or predominant votes, in the council. The others were the alcaide de los donceles, Gonzalo Mexía, lord of Santa Eufemia, and Don Luis Portocarrero, lord of Palma. (27) The voto mayor seems not to have given an additional vote, but to have been a formal title of honour, beyond the style 'Don', which was restricted to members of the highest rank of the upper nobility and to senior clerics.

It was not, however, by means of honorific titles that the upper nobility exercised its power in Córdoba. The difficulty is that it is not generally possible to discover the mechanism by which this control was effected, although the results were clear enough. In principle, it might be expected that an obvious way in which a magnate could establish a connection with an individual member of Córdoba council would be by means of a simple feudal link between lord and vassal. A lord would pay a retainer (acostamiento) to his man, in return for which the latter might live in his lord's house, sharing his table, as a comensal or paniaguado, although this was not necessarily the case. The recipient of an acostamiento was, however, required to serve his lord in battle, when summoned, and in this respect the relationship between a nobleman and a lesser man (who might also be a noble) was similar to that between a magnate and the king. The case of an ordinary citizen who attached himself to the household of a holder of an important municipal office -- and in Córdoba all holders of such offices had at least the financial privileges of a noble -- might or might not be of great political significance. It is clear, however, that when a veinticuatro of Córdoba became the vasallo of a local magnate, this was a sign of political alignment. Ladero has noted the growth, after the arrival of the Trastamarans on the Castilian throne in 1369, of the illegal practice of veinticuatros and other council officials receiving acostamientos from [148] nobles. A law of John II, which forbade office-holders in any royal town to live in the house of any other official of that town, on pain of losing their vote and office, was confirmed by Ferdinand and Isabella. However, the continued existence of this practice was tacitly admitted by the Catholic Monarchs, when they allowed the marquis of Cádiz, and his heir the first duke of Arcos, to pay acostamientos to officials in Córdoba, Ecija and Carmona, since they themselves had no offices in these towns. After the admission that nobles might pay acostamientos to officials in neighbouring towns, it was difficult in practice for the Crown to stop such payments in towns such as Córdoba where the nobles did in fact hold office. (28) It is, unfortunately, as hard to work out in detail the political significance of noble use of acostamiento payments as it is to establish the effect of marriage alliances and the action of noble linajes as political entities. The only way in which the attempt may be made is through an examination of the main episodes in the political history of Córdoba and its region from the late 1460s until 1516.


The reign of Henry IV

Political alignments in the whole of western Andalusia in the reign of the Catholic Monarchs were largely determined by the conflicts of Henry IV's period. The significant years came after 1464, when national and local rivalries combined to cause turmoil in the region. When prince Alfonso became the centre of noble resistance to his half-brother, the king, in 1465, the Andalusian upper nobility split into two opposing camps. In Córdoba, Don Alonso de Aguilar became the leader of a party supporting Alfonso, while the count of Cabra led those who remained loyal to Henry. These two bandos were to be the main feature of Córdoba's politics at least until the early years of the sixteenth century. From the start of hostilities, Don Alonso de Aguilar, accompanied by the alcaide de los donceles and Luis Méndez de Sotomayor, lord of El Carpio, was dominant in the city. He held the alcázar of Córdoba and the tower known as the Calahorra, which controlled the southern end of Córdoba's bridge across the Guadalquivir. He also held the castles in the tierra at Santaella, Bujalance, La Rambla, Adamuz, Peñaflor and Puente de Alcolea. The Cabra party, in contrast, normally functioned in the tierra.[149] It was supported by Martín Alonso de Montemayor, lord of Alcaudete, Egas Venegas, lord of Luque, and Luis Portocarrero, lord of Palma. The Cabra side held the castles of Castro del Río, Castro Viejo, Pedro Abad, Aldea (now Villa) del Río and Montoro.

Many skirmishes and raids took place during the next four years, but the most important was the capture of Ecija, in July 1466, by the count of Cabra and his son-in-law, Luis Portocarrero. The Aguilar party continued to control Córdoba, however, and after Don Alonso had granted a truce to his rivals, in November 1467, the next major event on the national stage was the death of prince Alfonso at the end of June in the following year. His demise filled king Henry's supporters with new enthusiasm, and the count of Cabra unsuccessfully attacked Bujalance and Córdoba itself. Initially, the backers of prince Alfonso transferred their allegiance to the king's sister, princess Isabella, but after the agreement between the two sides had been made at Guisando, in September I468, whereby Henry recognised Isabella as heiress to the throne, the king attempted to restore his authority in the rebel areas. As a part of this campaign, he came to Andalusia in May 1469, entering Córdoba at the end of that month. The count of Cabra and his supporters came back to the city with the king, but the settlement treated both sides equally. All the royal castles which had been seized in the fighting were to be restored to the control of the council, but the king also decreed that the two leaders, Don Alonso and the count, were to be compensated by the citizens of Córdoba, through a repartimiento, for the cost of garrisoning the usurped castles and for works carried out within them. Henry seems previously to have promised to the count of Cabra the sum of 1,400,000 mrs in return for his efforts to restore the city to the king's obedience. Numerous members of the two parties signed an agreement in Córdoba on 5 June 1469, to the effect that they would restore the integrity of the city's possessions and never allow any of them to be alienated again. The following day, three veinticuatros of Córdoba were appointed to find out the magnates' expenses and five members of the council offered to mortgage various of their farms if public funds proved insufficient to pay the compensation. (29)

Not surprisingly, the king's visit to Córdoba failed to end the conflict between the two bandos. Henry installed his ally, the count of Cabra, as teniente of the alcázar and the Calahorra tower, but in October 1469, Don Alonso de Aguilar made a surprise attack on the count's son, the mariscal Don Diego and his brother Don Sancho, the former being imprisoned in the castle of Cañete. Don Alonso then besieged the [150] Córdoba alcázar and the Calahorra and succeeded in recapturing them, while his ally, the alcaide de los donceles, was despatched to secure the defences of the castle at Castro del Río, which in theory belonged to Córdoba council. The alcaide had estates nearby, in his town of Espejo. Once Don Alonso had regained control of Córdoba, he graciously agreed to obey the king and release the mariscal Don Diego, but only into the hands of two nobles with whom he had connections and in return for a promise that the king would grant him, by June 1470, the governorship of the important frontier fortress of Alcalá la Real, which was one of the Crown's defences against the Moors of Granada. Once he had regained his freedom, the mariscal challenged Don Alonso to single combat and, although the fight never took place, the chivalric correspondence which survives concerning the affair illustrates one aspect of the aristocratic mentality of the period.

The king's failure to restore order in the Córdoba area was largely the result of political pressures on a national scale. Don Alonso de Aguilar's virtual immunity from attack owed much to the support which he received from the marquis of Villena, Don Juan Pacheco, to whose daughters both he and the alcaide de los donceles were later married. The aim of the marquis of Villena seems to have been to dominate Castilian politics purely on his own behalf, but he was happy to help his future son-in-law govern Córdoba virtually as a seignorial town. King Henry in effect had no supporters in the area, as his superficial ally, the count of Cabra, now supported princess Isabella, and after she had been disinherited once more by her brother, signed, on 22 December 1470, an alliance with the duke of Medina Sidonia, who largely controlled the city and region of Seville. In 1471, Don Alonso expelled from Córdoba its bishop, Don Pedro de Solier, who was a member of the Fernández de Córdoba family but a supporter of the count. With the help of the marquis of Villena and the marquis of Cádiz, the latter the arch-rival of the duke of Medina Sidonia, Don Alonso held on to Córdoba until the early years of the following reign.

In May 1472, king Henry was in Córdoba once more, attempting vainly to make peace between the bandos, and in the following year the political tensions in the city became entangled with the problems of Christians newly converted from Judaism, with the result that riots erupted, both there and elsewhere in the region. The implications of these events will be discussed later, but the next major development was the capture and imprisonment by the mariscal Don Diego of Don [151] Alonso's brother, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, who was later known as the 'Great Captain' for his military exploits in Italy. This less glorious episode, early in his career, took place in September 1474 and resulted in Gonzalo's incarceration in Santaella castle, where he remained until February 1476, together with his wife and some supporters. This was despite the fact that, after the death of Don Alonso's mentor, the marquis of Villena, the two sides signed a peace-treaty, in November 1474, in which they agreed that the garrison in Santaella would be reduced, that Gonzalo Fernández would be released and that Don Alonso de Aguilar would marry Doña Francisca, the daughter of the count of Cabra, as had been arranged some years before. None of the terms of this treaty was carried out and it was at this stage that Don Alonso married Doña Catalina Pacheco, hoping that her brother would secure him the king's favour. (30)

The reign of Ferdinand and Isabella

In the event, Henry died in the following month and was succeeded by his sister Isabella. However, her claim was strongly disputed by his daughter Joanna and her Portuguese allies, and while the outcome remained obscure the politics of the Córdoba area, with the bandos in stalemate, remained virtually frozen. This meant that when Isabella and her husband Ferdinand, having secured their position, eventually arrived in Andalusia in 1477, the balance of power in Córdoba was as it had been in 1474. The Cabra party was exiled to its lordships in the tierra, while Don Alonso occupied Córdoba itself and the castles of Hornachuelos, La Rambla, Santaella, Bujalance, Montoro, Villa Pedroche and Castro del Río. The Catholic Monarchs obtained the restoration to the Crown of all these castles, but like Henry IV they found it necessary to compensate the magnates for their losses. It was by no means a foregone conclusion that the new rulers would be obeyed, especially as one of the queen's tasks when she reached Córdoba was, it is said, to sue for the release of her corregidor, Diego de Merlo, who had been arrested in 1476 by Don Alonso, in his capacity as alcalde mayor of Córdoba. In order that Isabella might save face, Merlo was reinstated, although he was soon replaced. The main achievement of the royal visit, however, was the recovery, apparently by the sovereigns' will-power, of the royal castles and the expulsion from the city of the leaders of the two bandos. Don Alonso remained as alcalde mayor and the count as alguacilmayor, but they were both suspended and their [152] powers were vested in the corregidor, who was henceforth the Crown's chief representative in the area. (31)

Before assessing the effectiveness of the settlement brought about by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1477-8, it is worth looking more closely at the composition of the bandos which had virtually destroyed the authority of the Crown for a number of years. The available information on the residence, marriage policy and political activity of the Cordoban nobility suggests that the unit of political conflict was not the family 'clan', or linaje, but the far more amorphous and complex bando. There were only two such groupings, the Aguilar bando and that which supported the house of Baena. Each was led by a magnate who was also the head of one of these two rival branches of the Fernández de Córdoba family, and the citizens of Córdoba, in the reign of Henry IV, had little choice but to join one of these groups or else keep out of politics. In practice, the latter option probably did not exist, except for the most insignificant members of Cordoban society.

The limited amount of evidence available for the composition of the two bandos indicates that each must have been supported by far more people than could have had feudal or marriage ties with the houses of Aguilar and Baena. It is known that the Cabra party was present in Córdoba for Henry IV's visit in 1469, during which a document of reconciliation was signed. It is also known that the cabristas were expelled three months later, in October, by Don Alonso de Aguilar. Lists of members of Córdoba council during the period of the expulsion survive in the Córdoba Cathedral archive. One is to be found in the excommunication of Don Alonso, together with various members of the council, by the bishop of Córdoba, Don Pedro de Solier, after the latter had been expelled from the city for supporting his cousin, the count of Cabra. This document is dated I July 1472. A document lifting the excommunication, issued by the bishop on 24 September 1475, contains council-lists for 21 June 1473, 6 November 1473 and i8 August 1475. If these later lists are compared with that of the signatories of the 1469 agreement, those who disappear after 1469 include members of the Aguayo, Angulo, Argote, Aranda, Berm·dez, Cabrera, Castro, Figueroa, Godoy, Heredia, Mayorga, Molina, Noguera, Ramírez, De los Ríos, Méndez de Sotomayor, Vargas, Velasco and Venegas families. Those who remained in Córdoba with Don Alonso included members of the Aguayo, Angulo, Argote, Baeza, Berrio, Cabrera, Cárcamo, Cárdenas, Castillejo, Castillo, Cea, Figueroa, Gahete, Godoy, Herrera, Hinestrosa, Hoces, Infantas, Luna, Mesa, Molina, Parias, De los Ríos, [153] Sosa, Méndez de Sotomayor, Tafur, Torreblanca and De la Torre families. It is obvious from these lists that a number of families were apparently involved in the conflict on both sides. (32)

It must be clear from the events between 1464 and 1474 that royal control over Córdoba and its region was no more than theoretical and that the local council and its financial and political structure had been swept aside by the rival factions of the upper nobility and their supporters. In contrast, the period between the restoration of royal authority, in 1478, and the death of Don Alonso de Aguilar, fighting Moorish rebels in the Sierra Bermeja in 1501, reveals a virtually complete absence of activity by the bandos. The leaders of the two sides seem to have accepted, albeit with reluctance, the suspension of their offices in Córdoba and, at least in the years for which records exist, to have taken no part in council affairs. Indeed, the surviving documents suggest that political life, in the sense in which that term had been understood in the previous reign, had ceased. Even if it is necessary to chronicle and try to explain the resurgence of seignorial power after 1500, the subsequent setbacks of royal policy should not detract from Ferdinand and Isabella's earlier achievement. Between 1478 and 1500, Córdoba and its tierra were governed in a manner which was probably more in accordance with royal intentions than had been the case in any previous period under Castilian rule. While it is by no means obvious that the interest of the Crown coincided with that of Córdoba's citizens, it nonetheless appears that the regular succession of corregidores who were sent to the city to represent the Crown after 1478 gave individuals a better chance of escaping, if they so wished, from the tyranny of the bandos than they had had before or were to enjoy again for many years. It was in this period that the governmental structure which was described earlier corresponded most closely to reality. It remains to be seen what tensions survived in the political society of the region and to what extent they undermined or even destroyed the work of the Catholic Monarchs.

The early sixteenth century

The return to prominence of the old leaders of the bandos began with the apparently irrelevant episode of the annexation by the count of Cabra of the lordship of Valenzuela. The Valenzuela family had come to Córdoba at the time of the Reconquest. The exact date of the grant of the señorío to the family is not known, but in the fourth generation after this the line reached an heiress. She married Martín Sánchez de [154] Castro and their descendants bore the name of Valenzuela. The family become closely involved with the house of Baena and in the later fifteenth century Juan Pérez de Valenzuela was household steward (maestresala) to the count of Cabra. However, the rival house of Aguilar was also interested in the lordship and, between them, the two great houses extinguished its independence. (33)

On 5 May 1501, Alfonso Fernández de Valenzuela, lord of Valenzuela, made an agreement with Doña Francisca de Zúñiga, countess of Cabra, to sell her the little town (lugar) of Valenzuela. The price was to be 30,000 mrs per yugada of land, 5,000 mrs per citizen (vecino) and 150,000 mrs for every 1,000 mrs of rent produced by the town. (34) However, he seems to have repented of this transaction, as of 15 June 1501, he made another agreement with Don Pedro Fernández de Córdoba, marquis of Priego and lord of Aguilar, whereby he put all his property, including the castle and town of Valenzuela, under the protection of the marquis and became his vassal, agreeing to serve the marquis with a small band of horsemen, in return for an acostamiento of 40,000 mrs per annum. Alfonso stated in this document that he had made this agreement because he was 'fatigued by the annoyance given him by the count of Cabra over the said lugar of Valenzuela'. As a result of the count's pressure, he had agreed to sell Valenzuela to the house of Cabra, but he now formally withdrew his approval of this agreement, replacing it by his arrangement with the marquis of Priego. (35)

This confused state of affairs was resolved as part of a much more significant event for the history of Córdoba, that is to say, a permanent peace between the two bandos which had fought over the area for so many years and which had been restrained only with great difficulty by Ferdinand and Isabella. Negotiations between the houses of Aguilar and Baena were conducted, on the side of Don Alonso's son the marquis of Priego, by Don Enrique Enríquez, the marquis's father-in-law and uncle of the king, who acted not merely in the interest of family peace but also with the full support of the Crown, which was anxious to secure permanent stability in the Córdoba area. Don Enrique first of all attempted to obtain the implementation of an agreement which had been made at Granada between the young count and the dowager countess of Cabra, on the one hand, and the marquis of Priego on the other. This had included the handing over of Valenzuela to the house of Baena, in return for the demolition of its castle. However, Alfonso Fernández de Valenzuela had proved unwilling to sacrifice his patrimony [155] in the interest of peace between the two great noble houses and although, as has been mentioned, he had duly agreed to sell Valenzuela to the count of Cabra, he had since attempted to extricate himself by concluding the agreement which made him a vassal of the marquis of Priego, no doubt hoping to profit from the marquis's misgivings about the general peace. Don Enrique Enríquez, however, was determined to see the sale and demolition go through and was ordered by Ferdinand and Isabella to hold Valenzuela castle until the agreement between its lord and the countess of Cabra had been implemented. Don Enrique extracted a promise from the young count of Cabra that he would demolish the castle as soon as he had taken possession of the town and told the marquis of this promise by means of a letter from Seville, dated 22 February 1502, in which he stated baldly that the agreement would go through regardless of Alfonso Fernández de Valenzuela's views on the matter. Don Enrique also told the marquis in this letter that he had summoned Alfonso to Seville to resolve the issue, telling him this was a royal command. In addition, he wrote to Fernán Páez de Castillejo, a veinticuatro of Córdoba, asking him to use his good offices to persuade Alfonso to come to Seville and effect the sale of Valenzuela. (36)

Alfonso duly succumbed to the combined pressure of the Monarchs, the king's uncle and the houses of Aguilar and Baena and gave up his señorío. With this obstacle removed, a general peace was made between the marquis of Priego and the count of Cabra, at Seville on 3 March 1502. This fulfilled the second count of Cabra's wish that the rivalry between the two great houses of Córdoba should cease, a wish which he expressed in his will, made at Baena on 4 April 1487. (37) It was perhaps natural that the desire for peace should have been strong on the side which had generally done less well in the struggle, but in any case, at Seville in 1502, the new heads of the two houses publicly buried their predecessors' rivalries. It was agreed that a messenger should be sent to obtain from the Crown a licence for the agreement for the sale of Valenzuela to the house of Cabra to be implemented. On the same day, the marquis and the count agreed a series of articles between themselves. First, in accordance with a general royal directive to the Cordoban nobility, the two lords agreed not to acquire any property within each other's lordships, or less than a league (about 5.5 km) from the territory of the other. They also agreed not to harbour malefactors escaping from each other's lands, not to receive each other's vassals except by mutual consent, and to settle all future disputes by diplomacy and not by force. [156] The agreement hardly reveals a high degree of trust between the old rivals, but it was to have a drastic effect on the strength of royal authority within the area. The Valenzuela affair itself illustrates the continued influence of the upper nobility, which Ferdinand and Isabella could in reality do little to reduce. (38)

Before the reconciliation took place, the marquis of Priego had been offered by the Crown a basis on which he might in the future exercise power in the region. On 7 October 1501, as soon as his father had been killed in the Sierra Bermeja, Don Pedro Fernández was granted Don Alonso's office of alcalde mayor of Córdoba, as well as the title of marquis, an honour which Don Alonso himself had never gained. The new marquis was received as alcalde mayor by a full session of Córdoba council on 27 October 1501. After receiving the staff (varia) of office, Don Pedro went to his lodgings in the bishop's palace, accompanied by the corregidor and council. (39) This implies that at this stage the marquis continued his father's practice of not attending council-meetings and indeed his presence was not recorded at any session until 1504. In the meantime, however, the marquis and other local nobles had placed the city in their debt, both morally and financially, by supplying it with grain and then cash, during the emergency of the years after 1502. The efforts of the local nobility in this connection were to reach a peak in 1506. (40) On 18 November 1504, the marquis of Priego attended a meeting of the council, although there was a corregidor in the city, and this meant that he was suspended from office as his father had been since 1478. It might be thought that Don Pedro was profiting from the demise of the queen, but her death did not occur until 26 November and Córdoba council only received news of the event from Ferdinand on 4 December, when Diego López Dávalos' term as corregidor was extended. The city formally raised Joanna's standard as queen on 8 December, in the presence of the corregidor, the marquis of Priego, the count of Cabra and the alcaide de los donceles, all holders of votos mayores, thirty-three veinticuatros and twenty-nine jurados. (41)

It is impossible to tell, from the available evidence, whether the marquis acted in this way because he had heard of Isabella's ill-health and being aware, as all those concerned with national politics must have been, of the doubts about the future, hoped for a relaxation of royal control. However, leaving aside the possible prophetic powers of the marquis, there is no doubt that he began at this point to attend some council-meetings, but by no means all. He was absent for the rest of [157] 1504, but in 1505 he appeared on 3 February, 20 February, four times in late July, twice in late August and once at the beginning of September. By early 1506, the grain shortage had caused a serious situation in Córdoba and on 18 March, the corregidor told the council that 600 'Swiss' soldiers (çoyços) were available to quell food-riots in the tierra. At this time, a number of veinticuatros left the city, presumably to protect their own property from attack, and on 10 June 1506 they were followed by the corregidor himself.

Thus it was that on 15 June 1506 the royal provision of corregidores or pesquisidores broke down, for the first time since Francisco de Valdés' appointment in 1478. The marquis of Priego, as alcalde mayor, and the count of Cabra, as alguacil mayor, took the varas of office from the corregidor's officials, although the previous alcalde mayor, Lic. Andrés de Palacio, declared that they should not have them without a specific royal command. There was some discussion in the council about the propriety of the nobles' action, a fact which itself indicates the success of the intervening period of stable royal government in erasing the former system of seignorial control. The deputy town clerk (escribano del concejo), Diego Rodríguez, recorded in the actas that Martín Alonso de Montemayor declared himself to be in favour of the new arrangement, unless he saw a royal document which forbade it, and this view prevailed at the meeting. The former officials withdrew, leaving the marquis and count in charge. It is worth remembering that without the reconciliation between the houses of Aguilar and Baena, which had been at least partly engineered by the Crown, a united noble government of Córdoba at this stage would scarcely have been imaginable.

The period of control by the marquis and the count, the latter having appeared in council for the first time to accompany the marquis on this occasion, lasted only until Don Diego Osorio was received as corregidor on 19 August, but its importance lies in the fact that it in some sense broke the spell which had kept the upper nobility from direct involvement in urban politics. The arguments used to justify the takeover were set down in a memorandum which was presented to Córdoba council by Gonzalo de Hoces, the city's procurador mayor. They were twofold. First, the corregidor Dávalos had absented himself from the city secretly, without informing the council as he was required to do, and secondly, in view of his absence, the intervention of the magnates was essential to the preservation of order in the current difficult situation. Such views bear a marked resemblance to those generally held in aristocratic circles in the later years of Henry IV's reign. (42)

[158] The argument about the danger of disorder seems to have been advanced with at least some degree of sincerity, as in March 1507, when plague threatened, a formal requerimiento was issued by the council to corregidor Osorio, that he should remain in the city and not escape like his predecessor. This suggests that, in such an emergency, strong government would be welcomed by the council, from whichever quarter it came. However, the marquis and the count were given occasion to intervene once more when, on 25 August 1507, the corregidor, who had left the area in April after the worst of the plague was past, failed to present himself when a document extending his term of office was read in council. The marquis seems to have intended at this stage to make a political challenge to the authority of Ferdinand as administrator of the Crown of Castile, because, in expelling Osorio's officials from the council-chamber, he stated for the record that he would only accept the corregidor's extension if it was commanded by queen Joanna, 'by her letter patent, signed with her royal name, as is customary with the provision of offices of corregimiento'. (43) This, he must surely have known, was impossible because of her insanity, and the gesture may not have been unconnected with the news of Ferdinand's return to Valencia from Italy, which had been received by the council on 19 August. Whatever the truth of the matter, the marquis ruled the city, with Don Antonio de Córdoba as deputy for his brother the count of Cabra, until, in December 1507, Diego López Dávalos returned to the post which he had deserted in 1506, armed, ironically, with a royal provision given in Joanna's name but signed by Ferdinand. This was accepted without demur by the marquis and Don Antonio. (44)

The third episode in the progressive alienation of the marquis from the authority of the Crown is not recorded in the city's actas capitulares, which, perhaps significantly, do not survive for the years í508ù9. However, the events of the summer of 1508 can be fairly well established from other sources. The chronicles of Bernáldez, Santa Cruz and Alcocer give accounts of varying length, but do not differ in their statement of the basic facts. Bernáldez's account is used here, as it is contemporary, whereas Santa Cruz's chronicle was not completed until í551ù3. Alcocer's version contains nothing which is not to be found in Bernáldez, except for one small incident, mentioned below, which may well be fictitious. Bernáldez is, however, supplemented by the Libro de los escribanos, which is an account of contemporary events by two successive town clerks of Jerez de la Frontera, Juan and Gonzalo Román. (45)

[159] Bernáldez states that trouble arose in Córdoba in 1508 between the supporters of the corregidor, Diego López Dávalos, and members of the household of the bishop, Don Juan Daza. Violent incidents occurred and were investigated by Nuño de Argote, who held the vara of an alcalde mayor for the alcaide de los donceles. However, the marquis of Priego, 'who followed, in friendship and favour, the party (parcialidad) of the bishop', broke Nuño's staff, because he had not received it in the council-chamber. (46) Ferdinand heard of this affront to the dignity of the magistracy and decided, in view of the disorder prevailing in the city, to send an alcalde of the royal household as pesquisidor, to investigate the marquis's behaviour. He formally ordered the marquis to leave Córdoba, but Don Pedro's reply was to arrest the alcalde and imprison him with the alcalde of the Hermandad, Juan Estrada. The marquis then took the royal official to Montilla castle, announcing to the public that he was obeying the king's orders by leaving Córdoba and that the alcalde was accompanying him voluntarily. Despite this, the marquis released the magistrate in Montilla and returned to Córdoba.

Ferdinand decided that this defiance could not be tolerated and informed Córdoba and other Andalusian towns, from Dueñas on 25 July 1508, that he was coming to the area to restore order. The royal towns were told to place their forces in readiness to assist. The king took the royal garrison of Burgos to Andalusia, this consisting of 600 hombresdearmas, 400 jinetes, and 2500-3000 infantry -- hand-gunmen, crossbowmen and lancers. The marquis's brother, the 'Great Captain', Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, attempted a reconciliation, even persuading the marquis to come to Court and ask for Ferdinand's pardon, but the king refused to see him and kept him in captivity two leagues from the Court.

The military expedition was therefore punitive in character and not aimed at restoring order. A contemporary document gives the sentences which were meted out to the marquis's supporters in this venture. He himself was condemned to perpetual banishment from Córdoba and the rest of Andalusia and was deprived of all his royal offices -- the alcaldía mayor and veinticuatría of Córdoba and the governorship of Antequera -- and 300,000 mrs of juros in the rents of Córdoba. His castles were all confiscated by the king and that at Montilla, in which the royal alcalde had been imprisoned, was demolished, despite the pleas of the Great Captain, who was born there. Thirteen men, including Alonso de Cárcamo, Bernaldino de Bocanegra, Juan de Saavedra, two lawyers called Herrera and Mexía, Juan de Luna and two members [160] of the Valenzuela family, were sentenced to death, with the confiscation of their goods and the demolition of their houses. Others, such as the governor of Montilla, who had received the prisoner, the jurado of St James, Alonso Ruiz de Aguayo, who had led him out of town in chains, on a mule, and the alcalde of the Hermandad, who lent the marquis a horse for the occasion, were sentenced to lose limbs. The alférez of Córdoba, Don Diego de Córdoba, four veinticuatros and two jurados and several other members of leading Cordoban families, were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. The marquis was also condemned to pay the entire cost of the military expedition and the subsequent trials, which was estimated at twenty million mrs. (47)

The reasons for the revolt and for the king's savage reaction are complex. Bernáldez's view was that the marquis bore a particular grudge against Ferdinand because he had not adequately punished the Moors who killed his father, Don Alonso de Aguilar. Ferdinand had attempted to secure his loyalty by marrying him to his cousin, Doña Elvira Enríquez, whose father had been responsible for bringing the houses of Aguilar and Baena together. Nonetheless, Bernáldez argued that a concern for the family honour had led to rashness on the part of the young marquis. The earlier acts of defiance, which seemed to prepare for the 1508 revolt, could fit in with this theory, but the issues involved were probably more complex. Alcocer recounts the story that, when resting at the Venta del Puerto del Mulador, on the way to Andalusia, Ferdinand began to feel misgivings about the expedition, fearing that the marquis might humiliate him. However, a courtier, Hernando de Vega, heard what was in the king's mind and said to him, 'My lord, to Córdoba, or to Aragon!' Whether this episode actually took place or not, there is no doubt that many Andalusian magnates, including the marquis of Priego and the count of Cabra, were anxious that Ferdinand should not govern Castile. After Philip I's death in 1506, many of them had signed a document of confederation which on the surface was intended to keep order in the region, but which was in fact directed against Ferdinand. It was not only in Córdoba that the king faced seignorial defiance in 1508. (48)

Recently, Bartolomé Yun has forcefully asserted that the bando politics of Córdoba in these years cannot be properly understood without an awareness of the role of the alcaide de los donceles. He suggests that Ferdinand had endeavoured, since 1502 or earlier, to build up the power of the alcaide in order to balance that of the marquis and count. However, in reality it is hard to see the alcaide delosdonceles [161] as the focus of opposition to the newly combined bandos of Aguilar and Baena, because he played so little part in the events of 1506-8. At a vital stage, in 1506, the alcaide left Córdoba altogether, in order to command the expedition to Mazalquivir, in North Africa, and in view of this fact and of the earlier strenuous efforts of the Catholic Monarchs to bring about the reconciliation of the houses of Aguilar and Baena, it is difficult to accept Yun's analysis. It may well be that archbishop Deza of Seville was right when he referred, in a letter, to the alcaide de los donceles as a faithful servant of Ferdinand, but the boundaries disputes between towns belonging to the alcaide and the marquis of Priego, which Yun notes in support of his view and which are more fully examined by Quintanilla, were typical of relations between the different agricultural communities of the region. It is possible that Ferdinand did realise early on that the new alliance between the Aguilar and Cabra bandos threatened to weaken royal control of the area, and it is also possible that the alcaide de los donceles for some reason resented the rapprochement between his relatives, but until the family papers of that branch of the Fernández de Córdoba, which are in the archive of the dukes of Medinaceli, have been fully investigated, it is unwise to be dogmatic on the subject. (49)

Despite the apparent strength and speed of Ferdinand's expedition in 1508, the Crown did not press home its advantage, as it had done in 1478. It is not known if the sentences summarily passed on the rebels were actually carried out. According to Alcocer, the marquis spent his banishment in Toledo, even appearing at Court at the request of Ferdinand's new queen, Germaine of Foix. This hardly suggests that he was out of favour and so it is perhaps less surprising that, on 21 August 1510, Pedro de Valles arrived in Córdoba with a royal letter restoring the marquis to his offices of alcalde mayor and veinticuatro. On 26 November 1511, the marquis made his first personal appearance at a meeting since 1508, a fact which may have been connected with the demolition of Montilla castle, which according to Alcocer was carried out at this time. The king seems to have been satisfied with symbolic retribution and a limited period of banishment as, in August 1510, ten veinticuatros, including the marquis's son, Don Francisco Pacheco, were restored to their offices by royal command. Six jurados reappeared at the same meeting. (50)

As these events suggest, the Cordoban nobility and its supporters on the city council were not seriously affected in the long run. Indeed, in some ways the nobles were allowed to improve on the position which [162] they had attained by 1500. A growing tendency was the return of royal castles in the area to noble governors, but this time in complete legality and not by usurpation, as under Henry IV. Almodóvar castle had been in the hands of minor members of the Fernández de Córdoba family since 1478, but in 1511 Ferdinand granted it to the count of Palma. The city council's protest was overruled and the count continued to expand his influence in the area by obtaining the governorship (tenencia) of the royal castle of Hornachuelos. This castle was transferred in 1512, first to the 'Great Captain' and then, later in the same year, to the marquis of Priego's son, Don Francisco Pacheco. Bujalance castle was granted by the Crown to another of the Fernández de Córdoba. (51) Tension over boundaries and land-use between the citizens of Palma and those of the neighbouring royal possessions of Hornachuelos and Peñaflor, both under Córdoba's control, erupted in 1513 into an open challenge by the count of Palma to the Crown's authority. On 15 July, the council in Córdoba received a requerimiento from Palma, demanding action in the case of the arrest of a servant of the count of Palma by citizens of Hornachuelos. It transpired that the count's men had illegally occupied some royal land, known as the Haza del Cerro de la Cabeza. After Córdoba council had appointed a commission to defend the royal patrimony, two of its agents reported that, on 26 July, the count's men had marched into the lands of Peñaflor and put up gallows as symbols of seignorial jurisdiction. In a letter sent to Córdoba later on 27 July, the council's men reported that the count of Palma's forces for this operation consisted of a hundred cavalry and four hundred infantry. Eventually, the dispute was settled by the audiencia at Granada through the time-honoured procedure of sending a pesquisidor. The success of the Crown's legal agencies in ending the violence was to be at least as significant for the future as the continued readiness of local magnates, even after 1508, to pursue their interests by military means. In this case, the count was punished for his invasion of royal territory by the loss of the governorship of Almodóvar castle. (52)

That the balance of power in the region still strongly favoured the upper nobility was soon to be confirmed from another source. The actas capitulares for 1515 contain copies of three petitions to the Crown from Antón de la Mesta, on behalf of the caballeros de premia of Córdoba. (53) They amount to a damning indictment of the leaders of local society and suggest that whatever the caballeros de premia had lost in military vigour, they had in effect taken over from the jurados as the guardians of communal tradition. The behaviour of the jurados, 'who will be [163] lords of the people', was the main burden of the second petition, but it was the first which made the most wide-ranging accusations. The veinticuatros and jurados were said to be residing in the houses of the principal caballeros and to be representing their interests. Because council members were avasallados, the citizens dared not complain, and the caballeros de premia were offered the rank of hidalgo notorio, with exemption from direct taxes, if they remained silent. The corregidor and his officials condoned this behaviour. The result was bad government in the city, with the council conniving at crime provided it was in its members' interest. The solution proposed by the petitioners was radical and provides an interesting parallel to the later Comunero movement. Along with other Castilian cities of the period, the people of Córdoba, on this evidence, referred to themselves as the comunidad. Córdoba took no part in the uprisings of 1520-2, but here the caballeros de premia asked the Crown to allow the comunidad to enter the cabildos of the council and also to hold separate assemblies. The comunidad was to join with the magistrates to provide for the government of the city. Some of the present council members might take part in these meetings, apparently as individuals. The third petition urged that the Crown should give more support to the activities of its judges of boundaries in the area.

The fact that the council kept a copy of these petitions may suggest the sublime self-confidence of Córdoba's rulers in 1515. In any case, nothing came of the protests and the nobility continued to dominate the area. The bandos had ended, but this only strengthened seignorial power.

slide up button