The Basque Revolt

By the 1630's, Spain had a fair share of territories all over the world. But its possession of them was so fragile, so problematic, that it ultimately relied on Castile to carry the lion's share of paying for everything. As an official record of the time showed, Castile was paying for 73% of the king's income, while the rest was unevenly distributed among the rest.

Bilbao S.XVI

This is partly because of every kings' historical preference of Castile, a sentiment that dates back to Isabella the Catholic. And partly because its geography made international commerce much easier in the area. In fact, the much forgotten north was key to Spain's economy - it had the Port of Bilbao in the Basque country, an essential connection to France and other countries. The kings realized this. In fact, they granted special privileges on trade while tons and tons of wool was shipped to Flanders and other much-needed materials were received.

Also, Basque history has proved that its population was something different; a braver, more battle-hardened type of people who were also capable of amazing feats. Since they felt the Europeans that settled in Newfoundland posed a problem for them, they made them disappear. Since the North Atlantic Right Whales were popular among the fishermen, the Basque did away with the entire population. Since shipping brought good money, they had the biggest fleet in Spain. These people meant business and that soon the crown would learn that it was foolhardy to square up to them.

And King Philip IV didn't have a good punch line. In 1630, a plague had erupted specially hard in Catalonia and its capital Barcelona and, in turn, brought famine to the rest of the Spanish territory. The Count Duke of Olivares proposed to rise the taxes on 1631. That was not well-received.

The Basque Revolt

Phillip IV's

The rebellion broke out soon enough. It was one of the biggest in Basque history. As soon as the violence hit the streets, the people’s discontent was clear – they were rallying against the rule of Castile, against economical inequities, against the Count-Duke of Olivares himself, claiming a communal distribution of the area. It is a telling sign of how the Spanish lower classes were getting tired of supporting wars and projects that had nothing to do with them. Since the upper classes were not about to tolerate such nonconformities, they stroke back themselves.

The Duke of Ciudad Real, a favorite of King Philip IV's, personally commanded an armed force into Bilbao to quell the Basque revolt. By April 1634, he had arrested and executed six of the rebel leaders. As it happened, the salt tax was removed shortly afterwards, and everything went back to basically the way it was before, although the rebellion will always be remembered as one of the most important in Basque history.

It was, however, the first time a region rebelled against a specific policy from the Royal Palace and it would not be last, becoming a Spanish bookcase study.