Warfare culture

Finally, what extent warfare culture slowed down military change remains to be evaluated. That is, what were the consequences of the well-established martial culture, personified by the chivalric ethos, to the progressive attempts of improving warfare? This question is not new: the deepening incompatibility between the service of nobles’ seeking the king’s patronage and the modernization of warfare in the overseas outposts has already been stressed by other authors.46 Many nobles showed their contempt for the new tactics and order of battle (ordenanfa). The idea of having to fight unmounted, side by side with others considered to be inferior, completely overturned deeply embedded values.

Nobles were expected to serve the king whenever they were most needed, much in the same way of the auxilium et consilium of medieval times. Yet practice did not always support the theory. The military service in India became progressively more popular than service in North Africa, as the chances for attaining wealth were higher in India.47 In both - just as in the mainland - requests for more men were trivial throughout the entire period. However, in times of extreme need, there were men who contested the obligation to serve overseas, especially in India -for instance, the noble firstborns (imorgados) in their responding to the kings request for them to join the Indian armada of 1537. During the subsequent litigation (which they eventually won), the nobles said in their defence that they would fight only for what they considered to be the “border” of the kingdom (i.e., the Moroccan outposts).4if Economic motivations were clearly at stake, because in theory the noble rank and status ensured them the means to live comfortably, not having to risk their lives abroad. Most remarkable was the open departure from the monarch’s orders.

There were divergences regarding the service in Africa as well. In a critical moment of heavy Moorish attacks on the North African outposts (in 1541, by the Saadian army), King Joao III decided on conducting a general inquiry into every Portuguese village and town. The inquiry aimed to determine whether each royal or seigniorial officer (depending on who had jurisdiction) could enlist all able men for service to the king in battle, along with horses and arms. Unsurprisingly, there was resistance to this. Perhaps the most relevant evidence is the small number of inquiries that are known today. Out of more than eight hundred villages and towns in Portugal in 1541, only twenty to thirty inquiries were returned to the king, most of them from locations controlled by the Crown directly, by a royal family member, or by a member of the nobility close to the monarch. Therefore, many of the jurisdictional lords likely chose to ignore the action. As Romero de Magalhaes put it, “the [early] modern state in Portugal took its time until manage to assemble a military organization without having nobles and jurisdictional lords as mediators.”49

Moreover, the king was perfectly aware of the resistance that the local nobles might put up. The regiment to be followed by the royal officers ordered them to leave the (potentially problematic) nobility until last: “you will place the fid algos last in the inquiry. And you will make it with so much dissimulation that it has to appear as a pure coincidence.”50 Although openly provoking the nobility was not convenient, measures had to be taken so that the nobles did not cause unnecessary complications. Also, control over them had to be increased, because noble resources would probably enable at least some of them to muster more men, mounts, and arms.

The implications of warfare culture were also considerable regarding the several attempts to implement innovative tactics through a new order of battle. Scholarship has mostly explored two situations: an early attempt of military change during the 1520s and its definite implementation in 1570, during the rule of King

Sebastiao. On both occasions, resistance from different social strata was visible. From commoners to nobles, the population saw the new order of battle (ordenanpts) as oppressive. The nobility expressed the same contempt as did their counterparts in the North African outposts. Joao Rodrigues de Sa e Meneses, the city governor (alcaide-mot) of Porto at that time, is known to have made his divergence public, having served among the commoners (gente baixa).7'' Nobles from other locations around the kingdom did the same.

The problem, though, was not merely the inherent hierarchical conflict enshrined in the ordenanfa. Again, the greatest challenge for the Crown was to prevent nobles from withdrawing resources, especially their own servants, from the enlarged recruitment basis. Evidence from the 1520s indicates that in Evora, after the recruitment of the vassals (criados) of local nobles, the latter not only refused participation but also barred those affiliated to them from participating.’2 In Tavira and Faro (in the province of Algarve), the nobles went even further, by threatening the royal officer (and the commoners) with death if he dared to proceed with the ordenattfa,53

Lastly, the nobility’s reaction to the implementing of the ordenanfas in 1570 should be highlighted. This time, the juridical framework was more defined, with some of the mustering powers’ being attributed to the municipalities (cantatas). More specifically, in the absence of the governor (alcaide) - who was often the jurisdictional lord - the municipalities had the right to elect a captain to carry out the recruitment.54 Facing a new attempt to constrain their military prerogatives, the nobles were quick to contest this royal intention. The high nobility, among them the Duke of Braganza and the Count of Tentugal, protested vehemently, mentioning that taking away from them the nomination of officials responsible for recruiting troops in their jurisdictions was something they would not accept.” Given the moderate success of its late sixteenth-century implementation, the recruitment on behalf of the nobles continued and cooperation had to be achieved among powers. Perhaps the greatest proof of the continuous influence of the nobility in warfare lies on the origin of the bulk of militias led by King Sebastiao to North Africa in 1578 (from the centre and south of the realm), as this was traditionally an area of royal influence, as opposed to the seigniorial north.

Warfare culture was clearly an obstacle to military change, both overseas and on the mainland. In Portugal, the chivalric ethos was incompatible with the recent tactics being transferred from other European warfare scenarios. The nobility openly confronted innovations in tactics and the order of battle, and it was reluctant, to say the least, to cooperate with the monarchy. Therefore, we can conclude that military change was unwelcome to large portions of the society, starting with the nobles, who were interested in conserving their martial model.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >