Innovation and Change during Carlos IIís Minority: Mariana of Austriaís Legacy

Friday, January 3, 2014: 10:50 AM
Holmead Room (Washington Hilton)
Silvia Z. Mitchell, Purdue University
Although the notion that the Spain of Carlos II as a monarchy in the midst of stagnation and decline cannot longer be sustained in light of new investigations and analytical frameworks, his minority has been largely left out of these important debates. Led by the king’s mother, Queen Mariana of Austria (1634-1696), who ruled as regent from 1665 to 1676, the monarchy faced a series of power struggles, which came close to civil war and eventually resulted in her exile from 1677 to 1679. An overemphasis on court politics, however, has obscured the dynamism of the period and its political and diplomatic accomplishments. As scholars continue to examine the reign of the last Habsburg to rule Spain, it is particularly critical to look at his minority with fresh perspectives. Based on extensive archival research, my paper identifies three areas of government that experienced significant innovation and change: the royal households went through a number of important reforms, the conciliar system of government saw a revival after decades of diminishing influence due to the conspicuous presence of favorite-ministers, and there were a number of important shifts in foreign policy. This last area was particularly important because it helped preserve the Empire virtually intact and had European-wide repercussions. Mariana’s decision to recognize Portugal’s independence in 1668 was surely controversial; yet, it effectively curtailed France’s expansionist policies, facilitated tremendous gains in the realm of diplomacy, and motivated a realignment of the military blocks in Europe. All of these developments highlight the need to incorporate Carlos II’s minority in the overall discussions of his reign and to recognize Mariana of Austria’s contributions.