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The ‘Nova Planta’ or Reorganisation system

The Royal Decrees configured the Nueva Planta ('new structure') of the Royal Audience of Catalonia to reduce it to absolutism

The Royal Decrees configured the Nueva Planta ('new structure') of the Royal Audience of Catalonia to reduce it to absolutism

As a result of Phillip V’s military victory over the Catalan troops and the surrender of the city of Barcelona, the Generalitat was abolished the next day, together with the Barcelona Council of One Hundred and the Braç of the Nobility, and their goods were confiscated. The fact of having sworn in the constitutions of Catalonia in the Corts of 1701-1702, a short time before the indigenous authorities changed side once the War of Succession had begun, allowed Phillip V to claim the right of conquest and break once and for all the obstacles which had until then been to a degree successful in preventing the full imposition of the Caesarist and absolutist trends that had become increasingly widespread in European monarchic circles since the 15th century.

By means of the Reorganisation Decree, published in Catalonia on January 16th 1716, Phillip V set up a political system that excluded the representation of Catalan society and reinforced the pre-eminence (already a characteristic of the functioning of royal institutions in the Principality throughout the 17th century) of the military authorities over civil ones, and an almost systematic assigning of the administration of the ‘corregimientos’ (new boundary divisions to replace the regions known as ‘vegueries’) to officers of the king’s army. The provincial government was based on the dualism between the Captain General and the Royal Tribunal (which was given the Hall of the Generalitat as its headquarters), however the military head was at the same time the president of the civil tribunal, and together they constituted the Royal Accord, and in administrative practice, the captain generals tended to reduce the Tribunal to the status of a consultative body. The marked tensions between these two authorities, resolved before the Council of Castille with varying results, did not change the eminently exogenous character and the ever-repressive tone of the Principality’s governmental apparatus until the end of the period when absolute monarchy was in force (ending off and on between 1808 and 1833).

Despite all of this, the discretional character of the policy of captain generals sought the co-operation of the civil society and this gave rise to timid and sporadic recognitions of the representative principle. In moments of crisis, such as the Squillace mutiny in 1766, Barcelona City Council, by coordinating the councils of the principal cities of the corregimientos, took on the functions of political representation of the Principality, in direct relationship with the Captain general, or even with the Council of Castille and the king. In 1773, the rebellion of Barcelona society against conscription, to a background of general support from the Principality’s own institutions, gave rise to a situation of double power which was to last over a year, in which the General Council of Colleges and Guilds, with the tacit or explicit support of the privileged classes, organised itself as a Generalitat and performed fiscal and political functions. Once the crisis was over, by January 1775, it was necessary to reaffirm the institutions of the Nueva Planta and to re-establish the balance of power between the captain general and the Tribunal.

Furthermore, Spain’s new unified Courts, called for the sole purpose of ratifying dynastic successions, kept the status of cities with a vote in favour of Barcelona, among other cities, and when Charles III came to the throne in 1760, the capital of Catalonia presented the sovereign with a petition that had also been signed by the other capitals of the old Crown of Aragon – Saragossa, Valencia and Palma – which demanded the reform of the Nueva Planta system and a partial return to the situation prior to the War of Succession.

Update:  23.06.2014