Posts Tagged ‘Ferdinand II’


Posted in General on January 2nd, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

January 2, 1492:  Alhambra Becomes the Name of Trailer Parks

Muhammed XII Abu Abdullah is better known as Boabdil because he was never worth the effort of a correct pronunciation.  Even his Moorish subjects did not think much of the last Emir of Granada; they kept trying to oust him.  However, one person did appreciate Boabdil’s myopic and incompetent leadership: Ferdinand II of Aragon.  The wily Ferdinand–one of Machiavelli’s pinups–was always willing to encourage civil wars among the Moors and support Boabdil against anyone more capable.

By 1487, Boabdil had been restored to the throne of the emirate, but his Spanish allies kept seizing Moorish cities–no doubt for safekeeping.  Indeed, the armies of Castille and Aragon were so solicitous that they were encroaching ever closer to the walls of Granada.  In 1491, the Spanish asked Boabdil if he would like to express his friendship and gratitude by surrendering his city.  Boabdil tried resisting, at least by looking for someone else to protect him.  He appealed to Morocco, Egypt and and the Ottoman Empire.  However,  Morocco knew he wasn’t worth the effort, Egypt was more worried about the Turks than the Spaniards, and the Ottoman Empire had a surprisingly peaceful sultan (but his son would fully justify Egypt’s fears).  On January 2, 1492 Boabdil surrendered Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella.  The last Emir of Granada was allowed safe passage to North Africa; he certainly proved that he was no danger to the Spanish, and even the Moroccan rulers found him too trivial to fear.  He and his family were relegated to obscurity and destitution in Fez.

Granada had been the last Moslem enclave in Spain, a remnant of a caliphate that once had controlled most of Iberia.  You might imagine that the Reconquista had been a continuous, unrelenting campaign by the Spanish to reclaim their land.  Think of the film “El Cid” lasting 7 centuries; it certainly seemed that long.  In fact, the Spanish had won the war more than 250 years earlier.  In 1212, the armies of Castille, Aragon, Portugal and Navarre had confronted the amassed Moslem forces at Las Navas de Tolosa in central Spain.  The battle was decided when the Christians attacked before the Moslems were ready.  (Chivalry was generally a theory even among Christians, and it was never meant to extend to heathens!)  The Caliph fled to North Africa while the remnants of his realm shattered into petty emirates.  Against the Christian forces, they offered little resistance.

Castille took Cordoba and Seville, Aragon conquered Valencia, while Portugal doubled in size.  (Navarre got moral satisfaction.)  Granada alone survived and it did so by surrendering; in 1238, the Moorish principality had become a vassal state of Castille.  The emirs of Granada now reigned at the sufferance of Castille, but there is steady work in being a toady.  As a center of commerce, industry and learning, Granada had much to exploit.  Castille even promoted Granada as a tourist attraction.  If a noble were obligated to perform some form of penance, killing a Moslem was a popular means of redemption.  But why go all the way to that godforsaken Holy Land, or to Egypt or Turkey–where those Moslems were inconveniently tough–when the aspiring Crusader might enjoy the proximity and weakness of Granada. “Visit Southern Castille:  slaughter and salvation in the morning, sangria for lunch!”

So, while Granada enjoyed this unique status, how did the Christian kingdoms of Spain occupy themselves for the next two centuries?  Castille tried to take Portugal, Aragon plotted against Navarre and fought France for control of Southern Italy, Portugal frustrated Castille while looking for sea routes to India, and Navarre tried surviving–see your atlas of Aragon for further details.  And given the surplus of princes and the scarity of thrones, Castille, Aragon and Portugal each had many civil wars.  The Castillian royal family was so enthusiastic about fraticide that by 1469 the remaining heir was Isabella.  And with a dowry like Castille, how could Ferdinand of Aragon resist her?

Boabdil never guessed what he would be providing as a wedding gift.

A Fool and His Empire

Posted in General, On This Day on August 28th, 2009 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

August 28th On this day in 1619: Ferdinand Hapsburg Gets the Family Job

Charles V (1500-1558) was no fool.  Being King of Spain, Duke of the Low Countries, Holy Roman Emperor, and landlord of Italy obviously had its perks, but the job did come with enemies.  Occupying Hungary in the east and the Balkans in the South, the armies of the Ottoman Empire were nerve-wracking neighbors.  And France seemed always ready for another defeat.  So Charles really did not need the distraction and devastation of a civil war in Germany.  The Emperor never had difficulty ignoring Popes, so he disregarded the fulminating demands to eradicate Protestantism in Northern Europe.  Charles knew that the task was probably impossible and the cost certainly inconceivable.

Yes, when the Protestants princes forgot their deference to their Catholic Emperor, Charles could wage a humbling tutorial.  A recalcitrant Prince of Saxony found himself reduced to a country squire.  But Charles was not prepared to destroy northern Germany simply to reinstate bishoprics there.  Indeed,  in one of the last acts of his reign, Charles consented to the Treaty of Augsburg (1554) which guaranteed the status quo within Germany.   “Cuius regio, eius religio”:  the faith of the sovereign would be the official religion of his realm.  So Northern Germany was conceded as being irretrievably Protestant.

If the Princes of Germany were granted religious freedom, it did not necessarily mean that their subjects would have the same right.  The Catholic in Prussia and the Lutheran in Bavaria were wise to maintain a low profile on Sundays.  But most of the princes did not interpret the Treaty as their right to persecute alternative views of communion.  On the contrary, in the second half of the 16th century, an ecumenical peace prevailed throughout Germany.  This was while Catholics and Protestants were slaughtering each other in France and the Low Countries.

As I said, “most” princes; of course, there was one notable exception:  Ferdinand Hapsburg (1578-1637).  Unfortunately, he was more that just the terror of his archdiocese.  Ferdinand was the heir to Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire.  When all of 18, Ferdinand was entrusted with the rule of most 0f Austria.  Although Austria was predominantly Catholic, it was not homogenously so.  Ferdinand undertook to correct that, subjecting Protestants to the confiscation of their property and banishment.  (Well, he was named for his great-great-grandfather in Spain–although that involved a different minority group.)  Depending on your theology, Ferdinand’s policies were either acclaimed or condemned.  The Emperor Matthias did not actually approve of his cousin’s intolerance, but the laws of heredity can also be dogmatic.  Ferdinand was the indisputable heir, but it was hoped that practical responsibilities might temper the Archduke’s bigotry.  Bohemia was a Protestant enclave within the Hapsburg realm; assigning it to Ferdinand might prove an edifying experience.  After all, it is hard to persecute a majority.

Ferdinand was appointed King of Bohemia in 1617, and he did demonstrate some sense of tolerance by simply avoiding the province.  But he did choose Catholic administrators to rule in his place, and they evidently were not much more endearing than Ferdinand.  In 1618, a Protestant mob in Prague seized the two councilors, hurled them out a window and onto a manure pile.  What might seem a joke was in fact the beginning of a war.  The Bohemians rose against Ferdinand, declaring their independence and inviting a Protestant prince to be their king. Their defiance incited Protestant rebellions in Austria and Hungary.

On this day in 1619, Ferdinand did find a few supporters: the Catholic princes who elected him the Holy Roman Emperor.  The Catholic alliance crushed the Protestant rebellions by the end of 1620.  Alarmed by both Ferdinand’s reputation and the prospect of Hapsburg domination of Germany, the Netherlands and the northern German states formed an alliance.  Of course, the Spanish–good Catholics and Hapsburg cousins–were always happy to fight the Dutch; in fact, they had been doing so since 1568.  So, the Imperial armies concentrated on crushing Northern Germany.  The Hapsburg successes prompted the intervention of the Danes in 1625 and the Swedes in 1630 to  save their fellow Protestants.  The Swedish army was so good that it averted an almost certain Hapsburg victory.  Nonetheless, the Hapsburgs seemed to be ahead on body count, forcing Cardinal Richelieu to make a remarkable decision.  Thinking as a French statesman rather than a Prince of the Church, he had more to fear from victorious Hapsburgs than an irate God.  So in 1636 he had Catholic France intervene on the Protestant side.

Neither Richelieu nor Ferdinand would live to see the end of the war in 1648.  They both succumbed to natural causes; that cannot be said of the millions who died in the Thirty Years War.  An estimated one third of the German population was killed.  That reflected the nature of the war.  Both sides, but especially the Hapsburgs, employed armies of mercenaries whose pay was whatever they could loot. Since it is always easier to rob a corpse, the mercenaries were eager to cause those corpses.  Cities and towns in Germany were put to the sword simply to feed and pay the soldiers.

And after 30 years of slaughter, the Treaty of Westphalia largely repeated what the Treaty of Augsburg had established 94 years earlier.  The Church had gained little, although the Catholics were now the majority in Bohemia. The Protestant states had survived, and two–Sweden and Prussia– had emerged stronger from the war.   The Hapsburgs had lost, destroying any hope of creating a genuine empire in Germany, and they saw their rival France emerge as the greatest power in Europe.

The Thirty Years War was the disaster that Charles V had imagined:  an impossible cause at an inconceivable cost.   Ferdinand II was not so prescient.