Category Archives: Spain

Spain of the Golden Age at a glance

ʻEveryone fought, from the Duke of Alba, a Spanish grandee, to Pizarro, a swineherd. They all fought: noblemen and labourers, shepherds and burghers, scholars and magnates, clergymen and rogues, clerks and knights. Every region of Spain sent its sons to fight. Garcilaso, Ercilla, Cetina, Alcázar, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderón fought. An entire people fought, without differences of class, loyalty, duty, profession or wealth.
‘They fought over the Andes and in the Alpine foothills, on the plains of the Po and on the Mexican plateau; beside the Tiber against the Pope, and beside the Mapocho against Arauco; on the banks of the River Plate and the Danube, the Elbe and the Tagus, the Orinoco and the Escalda; at Pavia and Cuzco, in the Alpujarras and in the Amazon jungles, in Tunisia and in Amberes, in the Gulf of Lepanto and off the English coast, at Navarino and Terceira, in La Goleta and La Habana, in Algeria and in the Philippines, in Lombardy and in Naples; at all four points of the compass in France, from Provence to Brittany, from the banks of the Bidassoa to the banks of the Marne and from Rousillon to Normandy; in the Netherlands, in Portugal, in Africa and in Ireland…’
(Claudio Sánchez Albornoz, ‘España, un enigma histórico’).

Written like a magic spell. But true to the last word.

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Army of Flanders

A moving and accurate description of the Spanish Army of Flanders by Fernando Gonzalez de Leon (from ‘The Road to Rocroi: Class, Culture and Command in the Spanish Army of Flanders, 1567-1659’ 2009):
‘As a royal courtier and chronicler put it, the Army of Flanders was “one of the greatest treasures that any monarchy or empire has ever had in the ancient and modern ages.”. . . The budget of the Army of Flanders amounted to over one half of total Crown expenditures. . . As Geoffrey Parker points out, this was more money than many European kings could spend. . . No other contemporary army had such a deep and well articulated structure of command, nowhere else but in the tercios were each rank’s responsibilities so clearly and permanently defined, no other army counted on such a large group of salaried leading officers serving with permanent patents and no other force had such a comprehensive and professional staff of civil servants in its financial and judicial services. In sharp contrast with contemporary armies, most military functions in the Spanish armed forces were carried out by professional officers commissioned and paid by the King, not private entrepreneurs or foreign mercenaries’.

Oh how I love his focus on command. Personally, I think that evolution of control and command hap far more impact on warfare than purely technical innovations. Can talk about that for hours, but not sure anyone’s interested. Discussion of musket’s penetrating power tends to draw more attention than details of increasing number of NCO’s.

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Filed under 16th century, 17th century, Spain, War & society