Apartat històric - [[Què era què al 1700|Qué era qué en 1700|What was what in 1700]] - Conceptes
Barcelona Cultura
What was what in 1700


These were people who wished to see Archduke Charles of Austria succeed Charles II and, therefore, the House of Austria to continue at the head of the Spanish monarchy. The Austriacists were more influential in the Crown of Aragon than in Castile, forming an ideologically and socially heterogeneous group (nobles, merchants, clergy and sectors of the lower classes) that included those who defended Catalan constitutionalism and the survival of the Catalan institutions. The plural nature of Austriacism led to many disagreements over the political model for Catalonia under Charles III: whilst some preferred a model that strengthened the monarch’s prerogatives so that the decision taking process could be simplified during war time, others preferred to support the modernisation of the Catalan political system in order to adapt the consensus model to the new times, with a view to increasing participation in the governing bodies of Catalonia and guaranteeing the defence of the key interests of well-off Catalan sectors.



Supporters of Philip V during the War of Succession. The Bourbon dynasty was more popular in Castile than in the Crown of Aragon, even though, in 1701, Philip was warmly received when he convened the Courts in Catalonia. Once the war had begun, Catalan Filipism was restricted to a sector of the nobility, the high clergy and a large proportion of the doctors in law at the Royal Tribunal of Catalonia. The lower classes, on the other hand, were swift to make Philip pay for the traditional hatred of France and the breach of Catalan laws and rights signified by the imposition of an absolutist model. In Catalonia, Filipists were insultingly known as “botiflers”, traitors. There are various hypotheses regarding the origin of this offensive name: some sources consider that it is a reference to the French expression beauté fleur, referring to the Bourbon coat of arms, a fleur-de-lis against a blue background; whilst others suggest that it derives from the word botiró, in its meaning of “arrogant”, used in the Centelles area where, during the Revolt of the Barretines (1687-1689), Royalist army soldiers were referred to in this derogatory manner. Whilst, at first, the Filipists were not considered opponents of Catalonia’s system of government and constitutions, as the war advanced, they ended up supporting Philip V in his obstinate crusade against the Catalan constitutions. Nonetheless, even at the end of the war, there were still Filipists, such as Llorenç Mateu de Villamayor, who defended the Catalan system of government from the Council of Castile. These were, however, the exception.


The war caused the displacement of some 25,000-30,000 Austriacists, who fled from the Iberian territories of the Spanish monarchy. The exodus of Catalans took place, in the main, at two points in time: in 1713, when Empress Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and her court left Barcelona for Vienna; and after the defeats at Barcelona and Cardona, which led to a sustained flow of exiles that lasted over a decade. These displaced peoples took refuge, above all, in the Italian territories of Emperor Charles VI and at the Viennese court and, to a lesser extent, in Flanders and Hungary. The best-known case is the Spanish colony in Banat of Temeswar, which founded the city of “New Barcelona” (1735-1738) —the present Zrenjanin, in the autonomous region of Vojvodina (Serbia)— when the emperor called for the repopulation of the territories that he had conquered from the Ottoman Empire (1716-1718). More than 800 Catalan exiles took up residence in New Barcelona, but the colony failed, due to epidemics, the Turkish threat and lack of imperial resources. After the Treaty of Vienna (1725) some exiles returned to their places of origin: nonetheless, in 1735, between 8,000 and 13,000 were still left in the territories of the Empire, although many had been displaced once more when the territories in southern Italy, where most had settled, passed into Bourbon hands. The main focus of this exodus was Vienna, where 1,500 exiles established their own meeting places, such as the Monastery of Montserrat and the Church of La Mercè, adjoining the Spanish Hospital (1717), which attended 2,400 patients between 1718 and 1732, and palaces such as those of Maria Anna Josepa Pignatelli i d’Aymerich, who had married Count Althan, one of Charles VI’s closest confidants. After her husband’s death (1722), the palace became a meeting place for the exiles, and Maria Anna Josepa frequently provided help for members of the community living in reduced circumstances. Austriacist exiles in Vienna were members of the “Spanish party” at court, led by Ramon de Vilana-Perlas. However, the exile community was altogether a much more plural, reformist and modern group than the Viennese  “Spanish party”.


These were militia bodies made up of volunteers from the lower classes in both towns and the countryside to form an irregular paramilitary force. The first such bodies were formed in the 17th century, at the beginning of the War of the Reapers (1640-1652). They were known at this time as "Almogàvers", evoking the mythical name of their medieval ancestors. However, the name that lasted was that of Miquelets, probably due to the popular veneration of Saint Michael (“Miquel” in Catalan), the warrior archangel. The constitutions of the Principality guaranteed the right of the Catalan people to carry arms, and recognised these types of paramilitary units. In the 17th century, Catalonia was a territory in permanent war against Castile or France or simply against bandits, and local institutions and authorities often hired the services of Miquelet bodies to repel their assailants. The Miquelets were not regular fighting units, but took advantage the characteristics of the terrain to lay ambushes and mount surprise attacks on the enemy. They had learned to live off the land with whatever resources they could obtain from the woods and fields and from plundering farmers. The Miquelets were considered elite units due to their ferocity and combat capacity, which was greater than that of conventional infantry units. During the War of Succession, both sides financed the formation of Miquelet companies, but only the Austriacists integrated them into their armies, adopting them as a regimental structure under the title of “Mountain Rifle Regiments”. The best-known commanders of these units were coronels Ermengol Amill, Manuel Moliner i Rau, Francesc Macià Bac de Roda and Pere Joan Barceló, better known as el Carrasclet.

Decree of Nova Planta

This decree formed part of a number passed by Philip V to establish the new political system that would be implemented in the territories of the Crown of Aragon. This new model was based on the centralisation and militarisation of the royal administration. The new system made Castile the centre of power and devalued all other legal and political orders. On 16 January 1716, the Royal Decree of Nova Planta was published by which the Royal Tribunal of Catalonia adopted the Castilian model and was presided over by the Captain General, appointed as the highest civil and military authority in the Principality. The decree abolished public law and therefore, the Catalan institutions and constitutions, but did not pronounce on Catalan civil, penal and processual law, and these were therefore re-established. The fact that this legislation was maintained has been seen as a victory for the Catalans who took part in the process of implementing the Decree, persuading the king that, in order to guarantee his sovereignty, it was sufficient to abolish Catalan public law. The Castilian legal order was also imposed in local government:  the vegueries were replaced by twelve corregiments, controlled by corregidors —magistrates appointed by the king and often soldiers— and councillors controlled by higher authorities were established in local authorities; these councils were less representative than the municipal bodies that had preceded them, because artists and artisans were barred from sitting on them. From 1739, a corrupt local model based on the sale of municipal posts spread generally around local authorities. Broad mechanisms to ensure political participation and representation were replaced by highly hierarchical oligarchies. From then on, Spanish became the only official language, its use obligatory in the administration and the judiciary. In this way, the uses of Spanish and Catalan were segregated, a fact that gradually eroded the value of using Catalan amongst the elite classes.

The case of the Catalans

This was the phrase used by European chancelleries in the countries that took part in the War of Succession to designate the debates and agreements on Catalonia that emerged during the last two years of the conflict. The aim behind these debates was to ensure that Catalan freedoms and constitutions would be conserved should Philip V emerge as the victor, as had been agreed in the Treaty of Genoa (1705). In January 1712, the designation of Archduke Charles as successor to his brother at the head of the Holy Roman Empire led these chancelleries to meet at a congress to negotiate a peace between England, France and Spain. Soon after this, the representative of the Empire joined these negotiations, proposing that the territories of the Crown of Aragon should remain under its rule. The chancelleries rejected this proposal, and Philip V refused to conserve the Catalan political structure. The response of the imperial ambassador was to propose the establishment of a Catalan republic under British protection, but both England and Spain opposed this plan. The emperor’s refusal to allow the Catalan ambassador, Francesc Berardo, Marquis of Montnegre, to attend the negotiations as a representative of the nations at war shows how unlikely the proposal for a Catalan republic was to succeed.

On 19 March 1713, Archduke Charles, by now proclaimed as Emperor Charles VI, signed the agreement to withdraw the imperial armies from Catalonia, but kept this in secret, delaying its implementation. Meanwhile, he ordered Empress Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttelto leave Barcelona and return to Vienna with her retinue, and the Catalan authorities did nothing to prevent this. Three months later, Count Guido of Starhemberg, Viceroy of Spain, brought the agreement into effect by signing the Convention of L’Hospitalet (22 June 1713). Negotiations between the British and Philip V continued until Viscount Bolingbroke’s moderate government gave in and accepted the agreement to respect the lives and goods of the Catalan people, but not their privileges.

"The case of the Catalans" resurfaced in the English House of Lords when the Whig opposition used the issue to discredit the Tory government. Despite the efforts of the Catalan ambassador Felip de Ferran i de Sacirera to influence the new English monarch, George I, the fall of Barcelona ended all possibilities of reopening the case. It was not until 1719, following the Anglo-French invasion of northern Catalonia, that the French minister Guillaume Dubois urged his English counterpart, Lord James Stanhope, to restore the Catalan constitutional structure. The course of the war led to the suspension of interest in the Catalan question once more, and the issue was finally closed in the Treaty of Vienna (30 April 1725), signed by two former adversaries, Philip V and Emperor Charles VI, under which the latter renounced his rights over the succession of Charles II of Castile, the dispute that had caused the War of Succession.