Maestranza de caballería
Maestranzas de caballería (literally translated as cavalry armories) were noble guilds created in the modern age by the Spanish Crown, with the aim of giving the nobility practice in horsemanship and the use of weapons. In the sixteenth century, the caballería or cavalry, was the typical military branch for nobles to follow, but the aforementioned skills had become less common as the Spanish aristocracy converted into a class of courtiers. These noble institutions created a dedicated cavalry corps that was directly funded by its members. The participating nobles, or maestrantes, organized themselves under the advocacy of a holy patron and took the internal form of a fraternity.
Philip II of Spain issued a Royal Decree on September 6, in which he encouraged the distinct local nobilities to organize themselves into noble brotherhoods. On August 3, 1573, the nobility of Ronda created the Hermandad del Santo Espíritu under the advocacy of Nuestra Señora de Gracia ('Our Lady of Grace'), which would later become the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Ronda.
Seville created a fraternity in the name of its patron saint, Saint Hermengild, soon thereafter, though it dissolved rapidly. By 1670, a group of nobles took Nuestra Señora del Rosario ('Our Lady of the Rosary') as its patron saint and the following year drew up orders which would give rise to the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla from that time forward.
Nuestra Señora del Triunfo ('Our Lady of the Triumph') became the patron of the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Granada, created in 1686 to imitate its Sevillian counterpart. Eleven years later, the last of the modern-era maestranzas was formed: the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Valencia.
Two altogether separate cases are those of the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Zaragoza, born in 1819 of the old Cofradía de Caballeros Hijosdalgo de San Jorge, and the Maestranza de Caballería de Segovia in 1990.
Historians are certain of the existence of several maestranzas in different Spanish cities. Their decay and disappearance were due to a range of factors, including the prohibition of the use of small firearms, abandonment of old customs and accoutrements consistent with the jineta riding style and the decline of the equine trade in the south of Spain, etc.
In 1728, a petition was sent to the Spanish King by the city of Carmona, which acknowledged the existence of a Maestranza de Carmona. It would be governed from 1732 onwards under the auspices of the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla.
Also in 1728, Philip V of Spain responded affirmatively to a memorial presented by the horsemen Diego Chacón y Rojas and his son Juan with the intention of reorganizing the Maestranza de Antequera. This maestranza was also governed by the rules of the Sevillian group.
Three years later, a series of horsemen asked the Crown to form the Maestranza de Jaén, but the Council of the Kingdom's Cavalry declined the request. The same case occurred with the Maestranza de Utrera in 1732.
Conversely, in 1739, the Council of Caballería ruled in favor of the creation of the Maestranza de Jerez de la Frontera. Finally, in 1758 a request was submitted for a Maestranza de Palma de Mallorca. The request was approved, and the henceforth guild has governed itself with its own bylaws.
Maestranzas in the Americas
Although it is little known, in 1709 King Philip V approved the Real Maestranza de Caballería de La Habana (Havana) with the intention of helping with the ever-challenging defense of Cuba from incessant corsair attacks. The move had a very limited effect, and disappeared after fifty years at most.
In 1789, the festivities surrounding Charles V's initiation inspired a group of Mexican nobles to seek royal authorization to create a Real Maestranza de Caballería de México. Some of the nobles were members of existing maestranzas, and the whole group was undoubtedly inspired by the guild in Cuba. They proposed their idea to the King on 3 February 1790, along with the support of the powerful Viceroy, but the initiative was struck down by the Consejo de Indias due to fears that any kind of autonomous organization among the American nobility could possibly sow the seeds for an independence movement.
- This article draws heavily on the corresponding article in the Spanish-language Wikipedia, which was accessed in the version of 1 May 2006.