"For the modern court, see
Audiencia Nacional of Spain."
The Royal "Audiencia" and Chancellery (Spanish: "Real audiencia y chancillería", and Catalan: "Reial audiència") was a court that functioned as an
appellate courtin Spain and its empire. The name of the institution has been sometimes translated as Royal Audience. Each "audiencia" had "oidores" (Spanish: "hearers", judges). The first "audiencia" was founded at Valladolidin the kingdom of Castile in 1371. The Valladolid "Audiencia" functioned as the highest court in Castile for the next two centuries. After the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon to form the crown of Spainand the Spanish conquest of Granadain 1492, the "audiencia" was divided in two, with the "Audiencia" of Valladolid taking cases from north of the River Tagus(Tajo), and the "Audiencia" of Granada (1494) taking cases from south of the river.
Under Charles V and Philip II, the "audiencia" system was extended first to
Aragon(1528) and then to the rest of the Spanish Empire. "Audiencias" in cities that belong to Spain today included Seville(1566), Las Palmas(1568), Majorca(1571), Asturias(1717), and Extremadura(1790).
Audiencias outside Spain
"Audiencias" in Spanish possessions in Europe included
Sardinia(1564-1714) and Kingdom of Sicily(1569-1707). In Italy, the Castilian institution of the "audiencia" was united with the Aragonese institution of the viceroy. The Aragonese viceroys were literally "vice-kings," and as such, had the power to administer justice and issue laws; therefore they were integrally involved in the judicial proceedings of the Italian "audiencias". In 1555 a Council of Italy was created to oversee the viceroys and "audiencias" in Italy.
In the Indies, the two institutions were also united, but with a different power relationship. The
Crown of Castileearly on introduced the "audiencia" into the Americas as part of its campaign to bring the area and its Spanish settlers and conquerors under royal control. With the vast conquests on the American mainland, which began in the 1520s, it became clear that the "audiencias" would not be enough to effectively run the overseas government. Viceroys were therefore introduced, but without the judicial powers the institution had enjoyed under the Aragonese Crown. In the New World, instead, the "audiencias" were given a consultative and quasi-legislative role in the administration of the territories. Both viceroys and "audiencias" were ultimately overseen by a Council of the Indies.
The first "audiencia" in the Americas was established at
Santo Domingo(modern Dominican Republic) in 1511 with jurisdiction over the Caribbean islands and the adjacent mainland. It was quickly suppressed due to opposition by the Spanish settlers, but was re-established permanently in 1526. As the Spanish conquest of the continent continued, more "audiencias" were founded in the new areas of settlement. The first mainland "audiencia" was set up in Mexico Cityin 1527, just six years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, which had jurisdiction over most of what is now Mexicoand Central America. This audiencia was followed by the one in Panama, 1538, overseeing Central America and the littoral regions of northern South America until its abolishment in 1543. It later was reestablshed with jurisdiction only over Panamaproper in 1564. In 1543 two more audiencias were established, one in Guatemala with jurisdiction over Central America, and another in Lima( Peru) with jurisdiction over the settled areas of South America, which had been greatly expanded by the conquest of Peru and surrounding regions. By the end of the 16th century six more audiencias had been established in Guadalajara ( Nueva Galicia), 1548, covering what is now northern Mexico; Santa Fe de Bogotá(Nueva Granada), 1548, overseeing most of modern Colombia; Charcas ( Bolivia), 1559; Quito, 1565, with jurisdiction over most of modern Ecuadorand southern Colombia; Concepción de Chile, 1565, but abolished in 1575; and finally Manilain 1583 overseeing the Philippines. Venezuelaremained under the jurisdiction of the Santo Domingo "audiencia" until the establishment of the Viceroyalty of New Granadain the early 18th century.
In the 17th century two new "audiencias" were created in Santiago de Chile, 1609, replacing the one in Concepción; and in
Buenos Aires, which only operated from 1661 to 1672. (Most of the laws dealing with the establishment of the 16th- and 17th-century audiencias can be found in Book II, Title XV of the "Recopilación de Leyes de los Reynos de las Indias" issued in 1680.) The last colonial audiencias were created under the Bourbon kings as part part of their administrative reforms, which also involved setting up new viceroyalties. The new dynasty found no need for the Panama "audiencia" and abolished it in 1751, transferring its jurisdiction to the one in Bogotá. Both Caracasand Cuzco (Peru) received an audiencia in 1786 and 1787, respectively, and the one at Buenos Aires was re-established in 1783. This meant that at the moment of Spanish American independence in the early 19th century, the overseas possessions of the Spanish Monarchy were overseen by twelve "audiencias." After the loss of Santo Domingo to the French in 1795, the Santo Domingo "Audiencia" was transferred to Camagüey, Cubaand renamed the "Audiencia" of Puerto Príncipe. In 1838 a second Cuban "audiencia" was established in Havana, and from 1831 to 1853 Puerto Rico had its own "audiencia".
Unlike their peninsular counterparts, the overseas "audiencias" had legislative and executive functions in addition to their judicial ones, and thus as a chancellery represented the king in his law-making role, as evidenced by the fact that they alone had the royal seal. Their importance in handling the affairs of state is reflected in the fact that many of the modern countries of Spanish-speaking South America and Panama have boundaries that are roughly the same as those of the former "audiencias". "Audiencias" shared many government duties with the
viceroys and governors-captains generals of the regions they oversaw, and so they served as a check on the authority of the latter. An "audiencia" could issue local and served as a " privy council" to the viceroy or governor-captain general. In this function it often met weekly and was called by the term "real acuerdo". An "audiencia" also oversaw the royal treasury, and when meeting in this capacity with the royal treasurer, it was referred to as a "junta de hacienda". The "fiscal" also had the right to correspond directly with the crown, especially on treasury issues and "acuerdo" decisions. [ Fisher, Lillian Estelle. "Viceregal Administration", 29.] In turn, in the viceregal capitals of Spanish America, such as Mexico and Lima, the viceroy himself served as a "presidente" (president) of the audiencia. Likewise the governor-captain general served in this function in the various audiencias located in the capital of a captaincy general. In both cases the president had no vote in judicial matters, unless he was a trained lawyer, and only oversaw the administration of the court. [Haring, C.H. "The Spanish Empire in America", 124] These "audiencias" with a viceroy or captain general in charge were referred to as "audiencias pretoriales", or occasionally "audiencias virreinales", in the case of the former. In the remaining audiencias, such as in Quito, where there was no viceroy or captain general, the head governor of the province, in which the "audiencia" was located, was the president of the "audiencia", with the viceroy retaining the right to oversee administrative matters in the district, though not judicial ones. These were referred to as "audiencias subordinadas". "Audiencia" officials, especially the president, were subject to two forms of review. At the end of the president's term, a " juicio de residencia" was carried out, which reviewed the president's performance on the job and collected interviews many people affected by the "audiencia's" performance. Unscheduled inspections, called "visitas", were also carried out if the crown felt it was needed. As part of the Bourbon Reforms, further limits were placed on viceroys and captains general. The office of "regente", a type of chief justice was created, which removed most of the administrative functions from the viceroy or captain general. Their role as "audiencia" president became more honorary. [Fisher, Lillian Estelle. "Viceregal Administration", 33.] A viceroy or captain general, as the president of the "audiencia", was charged by law with corresponding with the "audiencia" in writing, not in verbal commands. This created a record that could be checked later. "Audiencias" were styled, as a body, "vuestra merced" ("your grace", in the singular) and addressed directly as "señores"." [Fisher, Lillian Estelle. "Viceregal Administration", 142-143.]
The size and composition of an "audiencia" varied over time and place. For example, the first "audiencia" of Mexico had four "oidores", one president and a "fiscal", or crown attorney, meeting as only one chamber overseeing both civil and criminal cases. By the 17th century it had grown to two chambers handling civil and criminal cases separately. The civil chamber had eight "oidores" and one "fiscal". The criminal chamber had four "alcaldes del crimen" (the chamber's equivalent of an "oidor") and its own "fiscal". In addition the "audiencia" had sundry other officers such as notaries, bailiffs, and the equivalent of modern
public defenders. The smallest overseas "audiencias" had a composition similar to the early Mexican one. In their judicial function, an "audiencia" heard appeals from cases initially handled by justices of first instance, which could be guild courts, corregidores, and "alcaldes orinarios", among others. ("See Fuero".) The "audiencia" also served as the court of first instance for crimes committed in the immediate jurisdiction of the city that served as the "audiencia"'s seat and any case involving crown officials. In criminal cases the "audiencia" was the court of final appeal. Only civil cases involving more than 10,000 silver pesos could be appealed to the Council of the Indies, and only then within a statute of limitation of one year. [Haring, "The Spanish Empire in America", 120-122]
* Artola, Miguel (1991) "Enciclopedia de Historia de España. (V. Diccionario Temático)". Madrid, Alianza Editorial ISBN 84-206-5294-6
* Coronas Gonzalez, S.M. (1981), "La Audiencia y Chancilleria de Ciudad Real (1494-1505)" en "Cuadernos de Estudios Manchegos", 11, pp. 47 - 139.
* Dougnac Rodríguez, Antonio (1994), "Manual de Historia del Derecho Indiano", México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. ISBN 9683641474.
* Eliott, J. H. "A Provincial Aristocracy: The Catalan Ruling Class in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" in "Spain and its World, 1500-1700". New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-300-04217-5
* Fisher, Lillian Estelle. "Viceregal Administration in the Spanish American Colonies". Berkeley, University of California Press, 1926.
* Harding, C. H., "The Spanish Empire in America". New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.
* Sánchez Bella, Ismael; De la Hera, Alberto; y Díaz Rementeria, Carlos (1992), "Historia del Derecho Indiano", Madrid: MAPFRE. ISBN 8471005123.
* Burkholder, Mark A. and D. S. Chandler. "Biographical Dictionary of Audiencia Ministers in the Americas". Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982. ISBN 0313220387
* Burkholder, Mark A. and D. S. Chandler. "From Impotence to Authority: The Spanish Crown and the American Audiencias, 1687-1808". Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1977. ISBN 0826202195.
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