The Failure of the Laws and the Last Habsburg

  • Richard J. Pym


Philip V’s commission took the view in 1723 that the Spanish Church had for two centuries, through its insistence on the inviolability of ecclesiastical sanctuary, acted as the principal protector of the gypsies. Lacking any specific religious or liturgical tradition of their own, some gypsies, especially those who had been granted vecindades, had nominally accepted the Church’s teachings, even if only to the extent of baptizing their children. Spurred on by such small successes, the Church’s attempts to shelter these wayward people from the civil authorities doubtless reflected a parallel urge, as infantilizing and sanguine as it was didactic, to save them from themselves, too. It is true that the Inquisition did summon gypsies before it on charges ranging from blasphemy and superstition to sorcery, and quite often as a result of denunciations by non-gypsy neighbours with whom the accused had been in dispute. But it tended for the most part to hand down sentences that were less—sometimes much less—draconian than those routinely imposed by the civil authorities, even for similar offences. On occasion, the inquisitors would merely require the accused to attend a mass or two to atone for what were more often than not misdemeanours fuelled by abuse by non-gypsies, alcohol, or simply the need to make enough money, albeit via deception, in order to subsist.


Seventeenth Century Mixed Marriage Civil Authority Local Justice Modus Vivendi 
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  1. 35.
    J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain 1469–1716 (London: Edward Arnold, 1963), p. 295.Google Scholar

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© Richard J. Pym 2007

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  • Richard J. Pym

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