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The Germanies War or the Revolt of the Brotherhoods

The Germanies War | Revolt of the Brotherhoods | mallorcaBy the beginning of the 16th Century the finances of Aragon and Castile to their limit and while corruption in high society was rife, the peasants were starving. Famines, floods and plagues only added to their suffering. King Ferdinand II's ambitious foreign policies had led to the Italian Wars and battles with the French in Navarre while relations with North Africa were also still strained. To make matters worse troops had to be deployed to recently conquered Granada and Navarre, leaving the coast of Aragon and the Balearics vulnerable to raids by pirates from the Barbary coast.

Two groups dominated society. The nobles controlled the countryside and income from agriculture, the Craft Guilds, or Germanies , controlled the cities and income from manufacturing and trades. While Ferdinand allowed the Germanies to form paramilitary units to guard against piracy, the nobles were worried that they could rise against them.

Ferdinand died in January 1516 and while his sixteen-year-old grandson Charles became King of Castile and Aragon, all was not well. Charles had been raised in Netherlands by his aunt and he brought his Flemish chief advisor William de Croÿ to court. When de Croÿ started selling government privileges and installed Flemish nobles into government offices, their Spanish counterparts were outraged.

The Germanies War | Revolt of the Brotherhoods | mallorcaMatters took a turn for a worse when the Maximilian I died in 1519 and Charles bribed princes across Europe to elect him Holy Roman Emperor. Although he won the election against King Francis I, it had taken a large amount of money, money that Aragon and Castile could not afford. The 'Revolt of the Comuneros of Castile' was only the start.

While resentment against the taxes seethed, a plague struck Valencia. Thousands of people died and the superstitious population blamed the plague on the Muslims still living in the area; they also blamed homosexuals. When several powerful nobles died of the plague others fled to the countryside, leaving a power vacuum in cities. Riots broke, the government was overthrown and the Germanies stepped in with their new militias. The new governing body was called the 'Council of Thirteen' and it was headed by Joan Llorenç.

The Germanies War | Revolt of the Brotherhoods | mallorcaCharles was furious when he heard of the uprising because it spoilt the arrangements for his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor. The Germanies ignored his order to disband their militias and they even forced Charles' new Viceroy, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza to run fearing for his life. What had been a bloodless coup was in danger of becoming a bloody civil war.

When Joan Llorenç died in 1520 Vicent Peris took over but his position was undermined by a radical faction. Disorder was getting out of hand by summer of 1521 and the militias clashed with Imperial troops when they tried to restore order. After early victories, the Germanies fell into disarray and by November Valencia was in Imperial control again.

Peris tried to revive to revive the Germanies in February 1522 but he was betrayed, arrested and executed. Although another leader called the Hidden One replaced him, he was quickly hunted down and killed. By the end of 1522 the Revolt of the Brotherhoods came to an end.

The Germanies War | Revolt of the Brotherhoods | mallorcaWhile that was the situation on mainland Spain, what was happening on the Balearic Islands? News of the Valencian revolt and the imprisonment of several guild members stirred Mallorca to stage its own rebellion. In November 1521, the rebels gained controlled of Palma while the Governor, Miguel de Gurrea, fled to Ibiza. The nobles who sought refuge in Bellver Castle were massacred when the rebels broke in. Nobles from the north of the island sought protection inside Alcúdia's walls where they soon found themselves trapped inside by 6,000 rebels. Those from the southeast took refuge in Santueri Castle, which also stayed loyal to the Crown.

The Mallorcan Brotherhoods formed their own Council of Thirteen, led by Juan Crespí, but they did not coordinate their activities with Valencia; they were determined to run the island their own way. There was no way the rebels could storm the walls because they had no artillery and the stalemate lasted all winter. When negotiations began in February 1522 a truce was arranged, leaving the rebels free to spend the summer seizing the barons' assets.

The Germanies War | Revolt of the Brotherhoods | mallorcaOnce the rebellion on the mainland was crushed, it was time to deal with the rebels on Mallorca and a fleet with 800 Imperial troops on board set sail. On hearing the news, Alcúdia was once more put under siege, only this time the rebels had an artillery piece taken from Palma. They dug earthworks for their gun and when they began shelling one of the towers, they knew they were going to have to act fast. Meanwhile, the Imperial fleet anchored in Pollença Bay and the King's troops sacked the town. After burning down the church with 200 women and children inside, they dismembered the men and hung their bodies from the trees. It was a brutal example of what happened if you opposed the Crown and 1522 became known as Pollença's 'Year of Destruction'.

The Imperial troops then clashed with 2,000 rebels waiting at Son Sabater Hill, on the Palma to Alcúdia road. The militia were beaten and forced to retire, leaving 300 dead on the battlefield, while the Imperial troops occupied Sa Pobla. The Imperial victory meant that the rebels also had to lift the siege of Alcúdia.

Joanot Colom and the core of Brotherhood army travelled around the villages rallying support but at the same time Governor Miguel Gurrea was doing the same, systematically executing anyone who supported the Brotherhoods.

By November Colom had an army of 3,000 men and he was ready to retake Sa Pobla. Only he did not want to make a head on assault and his troops were led along the edge of the marsh, east of the village on 3 November. They were attacked near Son Fornari and the result was a crushing defeat for the Brotherhood; over a third of their number died in what later known as the Battle of the Marshes.

It was the beginning of the end for the Brotherhoods as Joanot Colom led his shattered army to Montuïri hill. The Imperial army gathered at Sineu to the north and crushed the Brotherhood army as it made its last stand in 8 March 1523 . While Colom was hung drawn and quartered, 200 were executed while many others were imprisoned or fined; only a lucky few escaped the island.

Emperor Carlos I gave Alcúdia the title; 'Fidelísima City' or 'Beautiful City' in 1523, along with others privileges.

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