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

General Courts

An assembly of the king and the three braços or estates (ecclesiastical, military and royal) representing the majority of the Catalan people. Although the Courts had met in extraordinary circumstances since 1217, it was not until after 1283 that this body began to approve and consent to the formulation of laws. Each Braç met separately, appointing two tractadors, representatives, who negotiated with the king’s representatives. At sessions, the braços presented their complaints and, once issues had been resolved, approved the funding that the monarch was to receive. Laws enacted by the Courts were based on agreements between the king and the braços and received the name of General Constitutions of Catalonia. They included the constitutions (laws proposed by the king), the chapters of the Court (proposed by the braços) and the acts of court (acts agreed by consensus). When the sessions of the Courts ended, the agreements were made public and published, and took on the status of laws that the king could not revoke.

Assembly of Braços 1713-1714

Meeting of the three braços or estates (royal, military and ecclesiastical) like that of the Courts, but without the king. The royal braç was formed by representatives of the cities and towns, the military braç by members of the lay nobility, and the ecclesiastical braç was formed by representatives of the clergy.   Due to the siege, only members of the braços that were in the city were able to attend this assembly. The Generalitat deputies called the Assembly in order to decide whether Barcelona should surrender or resist after Archduke Charles’s troops had left the city. Although the Assembly had no legislative powers, it became the main Catalan political institution in the absence of royal authority, and led the move towards a more republican and parliamentarian stance taken by the Catalan political system during the siege of 1713-1714.

Diputació del General or Generalitat

The governing body formed by a commission delegated by the Courts. Its origins go back to the Courts of 1289, and its function was to collect taxes during periods when the Courts did not meet. In 1359, the Generalitat became a permanent body, with powers over fiscal affairs, defence and the government of the Principality. The body was formed by three deputies and three oïdors (“listeners”) representing each of the braços or estates, and was chaired by the ecclesiastical representative. After the end of the War of the Reapers (1640-1652), the crown claimed the right to intervene in the election of different posts within the institution, and lists of candidates had to be sent to Madrid before the final selection was made. This interference continued until the Courts of 1705-1706, convened by Archduke Charles to swear the Catalan constitutions and obtain recognition as the sovereign. During the siege of 1713-1714, the Council of One Hundred took advantage of the institution’s weakness, caused by the occupation of Catalonia by Bourbon troops, to take over some of its functions. Nevertheless, the Generalitat continued to symbolise Catalan freedoms until 1714, and this explains why Catalan republicans chose the name of “Generalitat” when self-government was restored in 1931.

Council of One Hundred

Governing body of the city of Barcelona, formed by more than one hundred people representing the different estates (honourable citizens and aristocratic patricians, merchants, artists and craftsmen), who met in the Saló de Cent. Six councillors presided over this body. The chief councillor was chosen from amongst the honourable citizens. The posts of second and third councillor were occupied, respectively, by the military (knights and squires) and gaudints (doctors in law and medicine). The fourth councillor was a merchant, the fifth an artist (notaries, grocers, surgeons, etc.) and the sixth an artisan. The significant participation of commoners and the weight of the guilds in the city assembly were the main differences between the Council of One Hundred and the Diputació del General, which was more oligarchic in nature. The chief councillor during the 1713-1714 siege was Rafael Casanova i Comes. In February 1714, Casanova became the main political authority in the besieged city, leading the resistance against the Bourbon forces.

Military Braç

Although the military braç represented the military estate in the Courts, formed by knights and titled nobility, there was also another military braç that met outside the Courts, with the participation of honourable citizens both from Barcelona and other Catalan towns. This braç, which met in the Sala de Contrafaccions in the Palau de la Generalitat, was formed by two management bodies: the Assembly of Officials and the General Assembly or Council. The first, which was the true governing body, was composed of nine members, including representatives of honourable citizens and non-noble members of the military. The secret way in which members of this body were elected prevented the royal authority from exercising control of the ballot, as it did in the case of the Generalitat and the Council of One Hundred and, as a result, its meetings became more relevant and dynamic, enjoying extraordinary freedom. Little by little, the military braç began to attract members of a bourgeois nobility in which commercial and professional interests were given more importance than those of the fiefs. Gradually, moreover, the body redefined its goals to become a key reference point in the defence of the Catalan constitutions.

Assembly of the Three Commons

Meeting of representatives from the Diputació del General, the Barcelona Council of One Hundred and the military braç in which there was an equal number of honourable citizens and nobles. The Assembly was not a permanent body, but met whenever political, economic or legal conflicts arose that the commons considered important enough to merit combined action by the three institutions. The purpose of these meetings was to formulate a common response to such situations. There were equal numbers of representatives from each common, as all three enjoyed similar status. In the immense majority of cases, the Assembly’s decision was accepted by the commons, without amendment of any kind. From 1697 until 1713, the Assembly was a driving force behind the renewal of Catalan constitutionalism. The notable presence of the merchant classes and honourable citizens turned the Assembly into the most permeable of Catalan institutions, enabling the base of the political system to be broadened. The body operated in accordance with a republican concept of politics, based on consensus through dialogue and the representation of all sectors involved.

Royal Audience of Catalonia

The Audience was like a supreme court of justice of Catalonia, that is to say, the highest body of civil and penal justice, and exercised its power in the name of the king. Indeed, the Audience also served as a consultative body to the royal authority. Its members, unlike the viceroy or lieutenant, were Catalans, and were familiar with political and legal circumstances in the Principality. The viceroy used this institution to settle matters concerning Catalan government and institutions. The Audience, which was established by Ferran II at the Courts of 1493, was presided over by the viceroy and was formed by three courts: two devoted to civil affairs, the third to criminal justice. The doctors that served as member of the body were Catalan jurists of the highest prestige, and the viceroy used their sentences and interpretations of the Catalan constitutions to justify his actions, which, at times met opposition from the jurists of the Diputació del General. The Audience also performed the duties of a court of contrafaction, as it was furnished with the legal powers to resolve any complaint that the Diputació might lodge against actions by the royal authorities that were in breach of the Catalan constitutions. The Courts of 1705-1706, called by Archduke Charles, approved the establishment of a joint body to resolve disputes of competences between the institutions: the Court of Contrafactions.

Viceroy or Lieutenant

The viceroy or lieutenant was the highest representative of the royal administration in Catalonia, with residence, from the mid-17th century, in the Palau del Virrei or Palau Reial in Pla de Palau, except when engaged in military campaigns. As the king’s representative, the viceroy enjoyed wide-ranging powers, but did not have the authority to call the Courts. The viceroy or lieutenant of Catalonia was nearly always a member of the Spanish aristocracy who had made a career in the royal administration of the court or had considerable military experience. His mandate was usually for three years, though this might vary according to his health, his political and military successes or failures and/or the will of the monarch. Whilst, prior to the War of the Reapers (1640-1652), the fiscal capacity of the royal administration was low compared to that of other institutions in Catalonia, in 1652 the Capitania General’s importance in the economic and fiscal spheres began to increase due to the fact that the Principality was in a permanent state of war, allowing it to systematically breach the rights of the General to the advantage of the royal administration and the army. The last viceroy of Austriacist Catalonia was the Count of Starhemberg, who replaced Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Queen of Aragon and Empress of the Holy German Empire, when she left for Vienna in 1713.