As consequence of the establishment of the Royal Court in Madrid, the town turned into the politic centre of all the vast empire territory, which was dominated by the Crown, and also in the middle of politic, economic, financial and social life of the peninsular kingdoms.

Due to the king lived here permanently, it had also their seat institutions as important as the Boards, the most distinguished of them were the Royal Council, the Council of Castile, as well as those of Treasury, Inquisition, Military Orders, and so on.

There was also representations from the Archbishopric of Toledo, wich Madrid depended upon ecclesiastically, and the Nuncio, as representative of Pontiff States before the Spanish Crown.

This is to say, the town became Court, and so that, it didn't only have a local and municipal authority, very diminish as we will see, and an organization of equilibrium and compromise, this between the Crown and the Town Council, the City Home Tribunal and the Court, but also it was converted in the center and territory of the high and complex organizations of power.

This transformation into Court, far from being beneficial augmenting the local municipal capacity and power, or that of the Town Council, it doesn't mean nor beneficial impact for the town and its citizens, as a whole, but it did for a few determined individuals and states.

Being representatives of the community, and so that beneficiaries of its interests, they were only loyal and attentive servants of the Royal interests, due to their representation into the frequent Courts celebrated in Madrid, as the representatives of the Town.

With the power of King and that of the Crown, it not only diminished, but also soon eclipsed or degenerated the capacity of the Town Hall, though it were always present in all the ceremonies and diplomatic representations of the Court.

There are many documented and literary references regarding the brilliant and complex ceremonies that the City Hall developed in the abundant celebrations and solemn acts that took place in Madrid, these generally in Mayor Street and Mayor Square, investing in these acts large expenses which it diminished, considerably, the already impoverished municipal coffers.

Far from defending the neighborhood and local interests, the Madrilenian Town Hall was, during the 17th century, a puppet of the Crown's interests, because it couldn't do anything else, when it was formed in the most important positions, through life-long titles and hereditary designations, with people totally loyal to Monarch's wishes or his minions.

Frequently, even the Crown permitted transgressions of all the norms and the rules to place to determined individuals into places of representatively.

Some authors of the 19th century were very critical with this situation, as Fernández de los Rios, who acclaimed that the Madrid Town Council, with the arrival of the Court, was no more than "... a servile corporation, a kind of butler to be on duty of Power", royal power, we add.

As it has been commented previously, into the protocol and diplomatic acts of the Fortress or Royal Residence, the Town Hall was also represented.

It could be said that the Town Council, in the 17th century, was covered of rumours to render it useless, which it is part of the dictatorial logic of the monarchy into the Ancient Regime, overall, into the period of the Austria's.

In the assemblies, that were generally celebrated in Madrid during the century, the Castilians, Andalusians or Aragoneses used to defend their interests, and sometimes even with certain rude.

But the Austrian monarchy couldn't allow nothing similar regarding to the city, which served to seat of the Court, and in addition it had been honourably dignified as Court for the generosity of the Crown. Therefore, it seemed clear that the Crown had a tendency to minimize, from the first time, the action of the Town Council.

This one, as all the other state organisms, which they were placed in the Court, couldn't be an autonomic organism and with matter objective, local or vecinals, but in an administration more emanated from the figure and power of the monarch, a tool at the service of the Crown, important part of the Court and so that, never opposite to that.

The Town Council, as responsible for the urban space and the maintenance of the community, included the aristocrats, developed a town planning and some services directed to guarantee the public supplying.

Madrid and its villages at the end of 16th and beginnings of 17th centuries.

An organization, dependent on the Town Council, in charge of to look after and to correct the excesses of town planning and the buildings was the Board of Police and Ornamentation, created in 1590.

It was composed of the so called stewards, who were the Town Hall technicians and architects and they corrected, reviewed and approved the new constructions, or in another case, they obliged to correct excesses and free expressions in the buildings.

One of the major fulfillments for urban constructions made in Madrid in this period, that is to say one of the more significance, was the building of Mayor Square, lifted up between 1611 and 1620, but even over here, a large part of regulations and permises upon lands, licenses and conflicts, was conceded by the Crown, remaining the Town Council as a mere executor.

It is comprehensible, in part, because the importance and high cost of an attainment such as it was beyond the legal and economic possibilities of the city and the government organization, the Town Council, making needful and appropriate the King's participation, but then without any possible debate and indicative of this subordinate position, that the Town Hall had.

This implication, the submission and null autonomy of the Town Council remaining evidential with a simple example: during decades, the Master Builder of the Town Council was the same architect of his Majesty, Gómez de Mora.

Taking advantage to the disponibility of the Crown for the necessary urban reforms that the city needed, the Town Council dared to request special considerations and agreements to erect its own proper and dignified building, since from its beginnings the Town Council of Madrid had lacked from own building.

The pictures shows:

- The city of Madrid, engraving by J. Hoefnagle in "Civitates orbis terrarum"
National Library, Madrid.

- Mayor Square, built between 1611 and 1620,
was the stage of big military parades,
plenty of celebrations and solemn acts.

Copyright © 2001 by JLL & JRP

All rights reserved.