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Basque Political Unity Crumbles
Basque political unity did not survive the death of Santxo III the Great, king of Navarre. Bizkaia was the first Basque territory to leave Navarre for Castile in 1076. Attracted by the rising power of Castile, the seignor of Bizkaia's son, Lope, gave his allegiance to the Castilian king in return for which he was rewarded the Castilian feud of Haro. Lope adopted the family name Lopez de Haro, whose house became one of the most powerful of the Castilian noble families.
A century later, in 1200, Gipuzkoa joined Castile. At least in two attempts to recover Navarre from Castile in 1522 (the battle of St Marcial in Irun) and in 1524 (the siege of Hondarribia) , the Navarrese were defeated by the Basques of Gipuzkoa who fought side by side with the Spanish troops.
Araba, on the other hand, had numerous villas founded by Navarre principally for military reasons. The most important of these was Gasteiz (Vitoria), which was to become the capital of Araba. In fact, it was the Senior of Bizkaia in the service of the Castilian king who invaded Araba in 1181. Gasteiz, established by the king of Navarre
Santxo VI in 1181, was invaded and conquered by Alfonso VIII of Castile in 1200. Araba was annexed to Castile in 1331. A key force behind this decision taken by the Cofradia - representatives from the the clergy, nobility, and small landholding peasantry - was the Araba nobility who gained the same economic and political privileges as their Castilian aristocratic counterparts.
In summary, the western Basque territories of Araba, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa participated actively in the Spanish economy, royal administration and conquests - even against Navarre. In the 16th century, Spain extended the status of nobility, hidalguia, to all native residents of Bizkaia in 1526 and Gipuzkoa in 1610. The so-called "Basque universal nobility" was an essential first step for achieving military or administrative position in the context of the opportunities offered by the Reconquest and the conquest, exploration and exploitation of the Americas.
The Basques of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, all of whom were equipped with noble status, staffed the Spanish state administration, not only in the Spanish capital, but in the Americas, Flanders and the Austrian Empire. "Their incomes were dependent on maintaining royal favor and the position and influence of Basques at court had important political and economic repercussions inside Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa," writes economic anthropologist Marianne Heiberg. These state officials exerted a powerful influence over their counterparts, to whom they were frequently related by kinship, inside the Basque foral regime - a collection of local laws and customs together with especial economic and political immunities.
Bibliography: Mikel Sorauren, Historia de Navarra, el Estado vasco, Pamiela, 1999; Tomas Urzainki, La Navarra maritima, Pamiela, 1998; Roger Collins, The Basques, Basil Blackwell, 1986; Jean-Louis Davant, Ebauche d'une histoire du peuple Basque, in Euskadi en guerre, Ekin, 1982; Marianne Heiberg, The Making of the Basque Nation, Cambridge University Press, 1989; Luis Nuñez Astrain, La Razón Vasca, Txalaparta, 1995
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