Las Cortes de León y Castilla, primeros parlamentos representativos

Adefonsus_legio_galleTraté del tema aquí (inglés), al referirme al libro de cierto historiador que pretende que los parlamentos representativos surgieron en León por la influencia del Islam, nada menos.

Leo ahora que un documental trata el asunto. A propósito de ello, republico esto sobre un texto de una cierta “Librería de recursos ibéricos” que, contra lo que su nombre pudiera sugerir, no tiene jamón ni embutidos, sino interesantes textos históricos en inglés. De este, que trata de Las Cortes de León y Castilla, os dejo unos extractos. Primero de la introducción:

Spain holds a special place in the history of medieval representative government because the appearance of urban representatives in the cortes antedated similar developments elsewhere. Townsmen were summoned to the royal council of León as early as 1188, and by the second half of the thirteenth century they were participating actively,along with bishops and nobles, in meetings of the cortes of Castile-León held nearly every two years. In the Crown of Aragón three separate parliamentary assemblies were convened for Catalonia, Aragón, and Valencia, as early as 1225, 1227, and 1283, respectively. Thefirst cortes of Navarre may have taken place in 1253, while the earliest recorded cortes in Portugal was held in 1254. The English parliament, on the other hand, was still in its infancy. The initial admission of the commons to parliament is usually dated from Simon de Montforts summon to the knights of the shire and the burgesses of the towns in 1265. All the estates of the realm took part in Edward Is so-called Model Parliament of 1295, but parliament did not achieve its characteristic organization until the early fourteenth century. Philip IV’s convocation of the Estates in 1302 is traditionally cited as marking the beginning of French representative institutions, but they did not reach maturity until well into the fourteenth century.

Representative assemblies had certain traits in common, but each one also had its distinctive characteristics. Thus, whereas the English parliament, consisting of two houses of lords and commons, was a single assembly for the entire realm, the prelates, nobles, and townsmen in the cortes of Castile-León remained separate entities.

This study begins with a discussion of the formative period from the late twelfth century to the middle of the thirteenth, and then of the century from 1252 to 1350, when the cortes attained the fullness of its development. The beginning of the cortes can be traced to the reigns of Fernando II (1157–1188) and Alfonso IX (1188–1230) of León; Sancho III (1157–1158), Alfonso VIII (1158–1214), and Enrique I (1214– 1217) of Castile; and Fernando III (1217–1252), king first of Castile and, after 1230, of both Castile and León. During these reigns representatives of the towns were summoned to join the bishops and nobles in the royal court. In the succeeding century when Alfonso X (1252– 1284), Sancho IV (1284–1295), Fernando IV (1295–1312), and Alfonso XI (1312–1350) ruled both Castile and León, the cortes assumed a certain regularity as an assembly of prelates, nobles, and urban representatives convened by the king at fairly frequent intervais. By placing the cortes in the perspective of contemporary events, one can better understand the circumstances that brought it into existence and the vicissitudes it endured during successive reigns.

One must begin with the realization that the cortes was the kings court and, as such, subject to his control. Once in session, however, it often displayed a mind of its own and was not always willing to follow the kings lead. The cortes did not possess the great power and authority that Martínez Marina attributed to it, but neither was it always a docile and passive instrument of royal policy.

Y a continuación, un extracto de las conclusiones:

The western parliamentary tradition, as this study of the cortes of Castile-León illustrates, is a rich and varied one. Students of comparative constitutional history will recognize that the cortes shared certain characteristics with the English parliament, the French assemblies of estates, and the German imperial diet, but that like them, it was also endowed with its own unique features.

The cortes enjoyed a distinction of sorts because it emerged sooner than parliaments elsewhere in the peninsula and northern and central Europe. This was not because the people of Castile-León possessed a greater genius than others, but was rather the consequence of two important conjunctions of time and place. First, by the twelfth century the municipalities, unlike many of those in northern Europe, were already self-governing entities, directly dependent on the crown with administrative responsibility for both urban settlements and extensive rural areas. In this respect, they may be compared with the city-states of Lombardy and Tuscany. Besides providing significant military [194]contingents for royal campaigns against the Moors, they also served as a source of essential financial aid for the crown.

Second, Roman law, the subject of intensive study in Italy in the twelfth century, had an early impact on the peninsula. Castile-León belonged to the Mediterranean community and was open to the new juridical ideas and methods originating in Italy.

Two questions persistently arise when the development of the medieval cortes or any other parliamentary assembly is considered: how representative was it, and how democratic was it? In comparison with modern parliaments, the representative nature of the medieval cortes was limited, and it did not meet modern standards for a democratic assembly.

In the period discussed in this book, the cortes ordinarily consisted of the prelates, magnates, and representatives of the towns. Members of the two former estates were traditional counselors of the king and sources of political power and influence, whereas the latter typified the comparatively new force of the municipalities. Bishops and magnates, summoned individually on account of their office or their status as vassals of the crown, acted on their own behalf but also in the name of the estates to which they belonged. In that sense bishops and magnates virtually represented the entire body of the clergy and of the nobility, respectively. As for the third estate, self-governing municipalities directly dependent on the crown were represented, rather than the entire conglomerate of urban dwellers. Not all towns were summoned, for many were held in lordship by secular or ecclesiastical lords.

[196]The cortes was never democratic in the sense that representation was proportional to population size. (…) Although the electoral process in modern-day parliaments is democratic, the fact that the representatives as a rule tend to be wealthy and drawn from the legal profession or the mercantile aristocracy raises the same questions: how representative and how democratic is a modern parliament?

(…) The cortes was indisputably a creature of the crown. It was the kings court, summoned by him, when and where he wished to summon it. Only after a time did the participants begin to realize that these were new developments, modifications of earlier traditions, and that it was their assembly as well as the kings. The cortes might serve the purposes of the king, but it could also be used by those summoned to attend it.

Invariably he described his plans as furthering the service of God, his own well-being, and that of the entire realm. In seeking counsel or consent, the king was well aware that any major policy–such as a military campaign, a new law, or the regulation of the succession–was bound to founder without the active collaboration of the estates of the realm. Unless he wished to play the tyrant, he had to persuade, cajole, and convince, otherwise he could expect little success.

The townsmen, though perhaps hesitant when summoned initially to the cortes, gradually acquired a greater case in the presence of the king and the powerful men of the kingdom. Conscious of the importance of their responsibility for the administration of vast areas, and of the value of their militias in the armies of the reconquest, they began to [198] speak up.

Over the course of many years, the roles of the participants changed. (…) Thus, the threat that the cortes might pose to royal power was gradually perceived.

In some respects, these technical or mechanical weaknesses might have been corrected in time. Far more serious was the lack of any sense of cohesion or common purpose among the estates. Prelates, nobles,and townsmen surely were conscious of their identity as estates, but the first two groups had a stronger sense of unity. Among the towns, regionalism was a potent factor, to the extent that the towns of Extremadura sometimes refused to meet with those of Castile and vice versa. Social change in the towns, marked by a steadily widening gap between caballerosand peones,resulted in factionalism, which only served to undermine municipal autonomy and leave the towns open to greater royal control or the possibility of being given in lordship to a prelate or noble.

Although we may fault the cortes for deficiencies in its composition, organization, and functions, it is nonetheless time that during the years from 1188 to 1350 it became a principal element in the government of the kingdom of Castile-León. The tradition established at that time extended well into the modern era. After tentative beginnings, the cortes assumed an identifiable shape, developed methods of operation, and confronted the great issues affecting the estate of the king and the kingdom, namely, the succession to the throne, war and peace, legislation, taxation, the administration of justice, the maintenance of law and order, the exploitation of natural resources, the regulation of industry and commerce, and relations among the people of the three religions. As time passed, the cortes developed a greater assurance as to its place in the structure of government, and the crown acknowledged that consultation with the estates assembled in the cortes was necessary and useful for the well-being of the kingdom.

No traduzco nada, simplemente quiero dejar constancia de la tradición de las instituciones de control del poder real en la cuna de España. Pero, por supuesto, si alguien quiere hacer un resumen de las principales ideas, adelante.

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