Rival Monarchies: Old Regime Spain and France. In the memory of

Rival Monarchies: Old Regime Spain and France.
In the memory of the history of Western Europe, the 16th century was Spanish, the 17th
French, and the 18th British. The aim of this seminar is to tell the story of a 200 year
duel between two archenemies: France and Spain from the Late Middle Ages to the eve
of the Enlightenment. Both powers alternatively dominated during these 200 years. At
the end of the period, Spain was still the most powerful European colonial empire and
France the most threatening continental power upon the European soil. This is a story of
wars, conquest and frontiers. During a long 16th century, Spain and its empire
overwhelmed the French Monarchy. A king of France, Francis I, was taken prisoner by
his rival the emperor Charles V. Philip II of Spain dreamed of giving the government of
France to his favorite daughter, and almost succeeded to do so, in the middle of the
horrors of the French Wars of Religion. In the 17th century, the French Prime Minister
Cardinal Richelieu shaped a fantastic international coalition of Catholic and Protestant
powers in order to put an end to the Spanish hegemony in Europe. His resilience and
energy proved to be efficient. During the second half of the century, with the rise of
Louis XIV’s strength, France conquered Spanish provinces in Catalonia and in the Low
Countries. This is also a story of love and crossed marriages between Habsburg and
Bourbon offspring. Two remarkable ceremonies took place in 1615 and in 1659, when
the heirs and the heads of both monarchies married princesses of the rival country.
Three queens of Spain were of French ancestry in the 17th century. The mother and the
wife of Louis XIV were Spanish princesses. As a consequence, the triumph of France
against Spain was not the only move between both enemies. The influence of Spanish
religious style, literature, military organization, court ceremonies, etc., on the French
monarchy and society was very deep. French historians wrote that Louis XIV, the most
powerful king of France, was more likely a Spanish king than a French one!
The shining of the Spanish superpower began with the three “admirable” events of the
year 1492: the final conquest of Granada (the latest Muslim principality in Spain), the
expulsion of the Jews, and the first voyage of Columbus to the Caribbean. The triumph of
the French ambition, almost two centuries later, in 1684-85, concluded with three
important decisions: the bombing of Algiers, the expulsion of French Protestants, and
the publication of the Code Noir (Black Code, i.e. the legal organization of the slave
plantation in the Caribbean). France finally defeated Spain on the battlefield, of course,
but it did so by converting itself into a Spanish-style monarchy.
The seminar will provide students with a dynamic overview of the rivalry of the two
most powerful European monarchies and empires in the Early Modern Times, before the
rising of the British power.
The European Old regime.
The French almost superpower in the Late Middle Ages
Union of crowns and Reconquista in Spain.
Charles V and his empire against France.
Wars of Religion and the down of the French Monarchy
Happy weddings in 1615
Richelieu against Olivares.
The Spanish crisis of the 1640’s and the French intervention.
The Fronde in France.
10. Louis XIV: a Spanish king for France?
11. The Spanish decadence under Charles II and the horizon of a Bourbon Spain.
12. Conculsion1 : two monarchies as empires.
13. Conclusion 2: Catholicism and politics in Early Modern Europe.