Cortes kôr´tĕz, Span. kōr´tās [key], representative assembly in Spain. The institution originated (12th–13th cent.) in various Spanish regions with the Christian reconquest; until the 19th cent. the local cortes of Leon, Castile, Aragón, Catalonia, Navarre, Valencia, and other states met separately. The three estates—clergy, nobility, and burghers—voted the taxes, recognized the kings upon their accession, and indirectly exercised some legislative influence. The cortes of Aragón and Catalonia were particularly powerful. After the consolidation of the royal power (15th cent.) and the unification of Spain, the cortes were seldom convoked except to pay homage, and their powers were curtailed. The first national Cortes of Spain met at Cádiz in 1810 in the Peninsular War, the Spanish war of liberation from Napoleonic rule. They voted (1812) a liberal constitution, later (1814) revoked by Ferdinand VII. Thereafter the status of the Cortes frequently changed in its struggle for power with the king. At the fall of the monarchy in 1931, a constituent Cortes promulgated a republican constitution, and the Cortes was the parliament of Spain until 1939. Under Francisco Franco's dictatorship a Cortes was preserved but stripped of effective legislative power; a revived, bicameral Cortes was established in 1977. Under the Portuguese monarchy various legislative bodies were known as cortes.
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