Hello. Don't know if this is quite the right place to put it, but I just wanted to introduce you to a very unknown front of the Thirty Years War, one that nonetheless played a big part referring the clash between Spain and France. Sorry for the looong post.
The Reapers War (catalan: Guerra dels Segadors) is the “official” name for the catalan insurrection started in spring 1640 which ended with the Peace of the Pyrinees in 1659. To start, Catalunya is located in the NE part fo the iberian peninsula. Starting with the hispanic mark stablished by carolingians in the 8th century, one hundred or so years later it was swiftly gaining independence until it had got it by the 10th century. The territories were divided into different counties but they shared family ties and the count of Barcelona was recognised as head of them all, like a big brother or a primus inter pares. By 1137 the county of Barcelona (that is, Catalonia) joined with the kingdom of Aragon and both became the Crown of Aragon, a confederal state that was later to include for centuries the kingdoms and territories of Valencia, Mallorca, Sardegna, Malta, Sicily, Naples and the duchies of Athens and Neopàtria in Greece (these just for the whole 14th century) , and hold by the beginnings of the 13th century (just before incorporating Valencia and Mallorca) the whole SE part of France, that is, the Languedoc and Provence (territories lost after the albigensian crusades against the catarism).
By the late 15th century the crowns of Aragon and Castilla were united by marriage. But the result was a composite monarchy: the heirs would become kings of the Spains (in plural, the first goal may have been to separate kingdoms for different heirs but lack of them made that impossible), each of the former states still being sovereign and having its own laws and constitutions, forming a practical confederation with common goals but different administration. But the constant warring and expansionism of the spanish branch of the Habsburgs would work easier with a centralised state; the confederation needed working kings, with a knowledge and interest in politics and administration and with a will to work for the kingdoms, at least as mush as to rule the kingdoms. The first spanish Austrias (their Habsburg branch) were more capable and took time to call for courts and try to rule both Castile and Aragon but the late kings didn’t bother and preferred to let the government in hands of ambitious noblemen with no real capability to rule, but just to look for own aggrandisement or to embark Castile in costly and absurd imperialist wars (that’s why the Quixote is so accurate in reflecting the nobility inability to involve in practical ruling and tendency to get into costly and impractical enterprises). The reluctance shown by the crown of Aragon about intervening in these “exercises” strained its relation with the monarchs, who couldn’t care less about their subjects’ feelings or welfare (go tell the dutch). When that reluctance extended to money, the relationship was inexistent, and Olivares, favorite of the ruling king, thought about a centralisation project that was to reduce the former members of the crown of Aragon to the same state of servitude that Castile endured. To ease it and effectively occupy tha catalan countryside, he transferred there the tercios with the excuse of a possible french invasion (catalans had a long tradition about fighting only defensive, season wars with temporary local armies in own territories). And the ultimate result was revolt and war. It was caused by (briefly):
-Constant abuses, raping and robbering by the spanish tercios stationed in Catalonia (catalan: Catalunya), for many years before the insurrection. The tercios were allocated in farmers’ homes and cities, living in private houses, and were obligated by catalan law to buy their maintenance. This observation of the law was in practice null and void because of the soldiers making their own will, forcing their hosts to provide them with everything they so wanted, robbing them, raping their wives and daughters, bullying them, beating and even killing those who dared to denounce them, sacking churches and public buildings... It may seem too much but it’s well supported by extensive documentation. In response, each year saw an increasing number of commotions, even revolts, engulfing the catalan countryside to the point that spanish troops couldn’t move if they weren’t in enough numbers for fear of the peasants ambushing them. The tercios were stationed in Catalunya officially for the chance of a french invasion but really to act as an occupation army, because of...
-Count Duke of Olivares (catalan: Comteduc d’Olivares) trying for years to overcome catalan constitutions, a series of rights and exemptions gained by contract with the monarchy- not just given by the kings by mercy or own will but negotiated with the catalan institutions. This was because these rights granted Catalunya, for example, didn’t have to raise offensive but just defensive armies and for a determined time (usually just for one campaign so people could get back to work in time). Catalunya didn’t have to give subsidies to the monarchy unless the king called for the Courts (parliamentary ones), and then only if legislative reforms had been resolved before by accord between the royal negotiators and the parliamentary ones. The spanish king called for Courts twice before the insurrection, and twice he left because of the catalans’ negative to augmentation of taxes and Olivares centralist project and their willing for the king fixing abuses by the tercios and the creation of a special court of justice. This unconclusive use of the parliamentary courts brought legislative stagnation and the obvious thought that the spanish king, or better said, the spanish valido (all powerful prime minister in practice) just wanted money, not caring for their subjects’ welfare. Olivares project, the Unión de Armas, overrated Catalunya in demographic and economic terms, demanding the creation of a too big catalan army and the paying of too much money. The royal will to opress catalan freedoms and (over) taxing them provoked at last a rural revolt that sparked an institutional, political and urban one.
-It has to be counted upon that Catalunya was not just another province of the so called spanish empire. It had been a separate realm and still had its own codes, the named constitutions. Catalunya had not been conquered, but had become a part of the Spains (in plural), with Aragon, Valencia and the Illes Balears (the Balearic Islands) in par with Castilla, and keeping its own institutions, legislations and rights. Being the spanish a composite monarchy, this was to be observed always as it was a primary conditoin of the right of the spanish king to rule over Catalunya (and other such territories). The reason other members of the Crown of Aragon not revolting was mainly due to the fact that the tercios weren’t stationed there and that the Unión de Armas was not so harshly obliged to them.
In 1640, the increasing commotions of before had become a full revolt. The tercios were at first cornered by the catalans and had to retreat into fortresses or beyond the catalan borders. The subsequent spanish invasion of Catalunya got under way and the invading tercios won several battles, beating the hurriedly formed catalan army while the catalans looked for french aid (it has to be reminded that Catalunya had not the demographic capability to compete with Castilla, nor the economic power to pay for mercenaries). That help came into being with Louis XIII becoming Count of Barcelona and sovereign of Catalunya. The tercios were stopped and soundly beaten back at their assault of the fortress at Montjuïc, and then were pursued until they got to their point of departure.
The war fully raged on for the next years, with alternatives. Catalan guerrilla forces constantly fell upon spanish forces and convoys and the french-catalan armies fought their spanish enemies in a good number of battles and sieges, until the Fronde wars got french attention anywhere else. The french troops, firstly received as protectors and liberators, in time behaved more or less like the tercios, and sparked a good deal of antifrench revolts.
When in 1652 Barcelona fell to spanish hands, the spanish king had to swear the catalan constitutions and restore catalan institutions, but reserving for himself the right to appoint candidates for them, even respecting the promotions given to catalans by their french king in the war. Catalan and french resistance followed until 1659, with offensives that kept the northern part of Catalunya under french-catalan hands. With the Treaty of the Pyrinees, the french got the whole of the transpyrenean catalan country, that is, the Rosselló (the Roussillon, although it comprised too the Conflent, Vallespir and part of Cerdanya). This territorial gain was conceded by the spanish monarchy in preference over giving territories in Flanders.
This is a significant fact explaining the low prestige of the spanish monarchy in Catalunya, and the lack of caring of the spanish kings over their catalan subjects (as a factor in that catalan revolt and ulterior ones). The Roussillon had always been catalan until then, while Flanders was only won as a burgundian inheritance less than 200 years before, and was populated by people willing for their independence while catalan subjects in Roussillon just wanted to be kept as part of Catalunya. Later french offers to swap the Roussillon for places in Flanders were to be ignored too.This even demonstrates the lack of vision of the spanish monarchy, preferring far away, well protected but hard to defend places to an older domain that could be transformed in an ideal buffer area, suppoted by the natural wall of the Pyrenees. Louis XIV, who had a better understanding, put Vauban to improve the already formidable fortresses in the Roussillon.
Lastly, again I’m sorry for the long post, but I thought this conflict deserves to be explained and known. It is really the first step of the burial of the spanish empire and it has its good share of battles, sieges and skirmishes. OK no Rocroi and so very big battles, but the jacobite wars were in this terms too. The TYW-ECW ranges perfectly adapt to the Guerra dels Segadors, specially as you only need french and (speculative) catalan standards so... Come to the french-catalan side!
And there’s plenty of tercios out there!