Many causes had conspired to give her this pre-eminence. About one hundred years before, the two principal provinces, Castile and Aragon, were united by the marriage of their sovereigns, Isabella and Ferdinand.
In 1492 the Aloors were subjugated, uniting the whole peninsula under one government. In the same year, under the auspices of the Spanish sovereigns, Columbus discovered the New World, giving additional luster to the Spanish name and a new impulse to Spanish adventure.
Thirty years later, Mexico and Peru had been overrun and plundered by Cortes and Pizarro, and the treasures of millions of people, accumulated through many centuries, became a possession of the Spanish people; raising them to a degree of opulence unknown since the time of the most illustrious of the Roman emperors. In consequence of this wealth, commerce expanded, large cities grew up along the courses of the navigable rivers, and all branches of industry were aroused to a state of great activity.
In 1516 Spain and Austria were united under the Emperor Charles V, grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella; and, during his reign, the united kingdoms arose to a height of power almost equal to that of the empire of Charlemagne. The dominion of Charles extended from the Atlantic to the steppes of Poland, and from the Mediterranean to the Baltic. It included all of Western Continental Europe, except France and Southern Italy. In 1556 Charles abdicated his throne, and divided his empire, giving Austria and Germany to his brother Ferdinand, and Spain and the Low Countries of Holland and Belgium to his son Philip II.
Spain was now rich and powerful. Her armies were large, and were commanded by the most experienced military officers of Europe. Material progress showed itself on every side. The richest commerce of the world poured its wealth into her ports. A new intellectual life was aroused, which found expression in literature and schools. All the conditions seemed to indicate that the Spanish people were about to lead Europe in the direction of a higher civilization.
Interesting Facts and Information about
the Elizabethan Age and The Spanish Armada