The Revolt of the Comuneros (Spanish: Guerra de las Comunidades de Castilla, "War of the Communities of Castile") was an uprising by citizens of Castile against the rule of Charles V and his administration between 1520 and 1521. At its height, the rebels controlled the heart of Castile, ruling the cities of Valladolid, Tordesillas, and Toledo.
The revolt occurred in the wake of political instability in the Crown of Castile after the death of Queen Isabella I in 1504. Joanna the Mad, Isabella's daughter, inherited the throne with her Burgundian husband King Philip I. However, Philip died two years into their reign, and their son Charles was only six years old. Due to his youth and Joanna's mental instability, Castile was ruled by the nobles and her father, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, as a regency. After Ferdinand's death in 1516, the sixteen-year-old Charles was proclaimed king of both Castile and Aragon. Charles had been raised in the Netherlands with little knowledge of Castilian Spanish. He arrived in Spain in October 1517 accompanied by a large retinue of Flemish nobles and clerics. These factors resulted in mistrust between the new king and the Castilian social elites, who could see the threat to their power and status.
In 1519, Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor. He departed for Germany in 1520, leaving the Dutch cardinal Adrian of Utrecht to rule Castile in his absence. Soon, a series of anti-government riots broke out in the cities, and local city councils (Comunidades) took power. The rebels chose Charles' own mother, Queen Joanna, as an alternative ruler, hoping they could control her madness. The rebel movement took on a radical anti-feudal dimension, supporting peasant rebellions against the landed nobility. On April 23, 1521, after nearly a year of rebellion, the reorganized supporters of the emperor struck a crippling blow to the comuneros at the Battle of Villalar. The following day, rebel leaders Juan de Padilla, Juan Bravo, and Francisco Maldonado were beheaded. The army of the comuneros fell apart. Only the city of Toledo kept alive the rebellion, until its surrender in October 1521.
The character of the revolution is a matter of historiographical debate. According to some scholars, the revolt was one of the first modern revolutions, notably because of the anti-noble sentiment against social injustice and its basis on ideals of democracy and freedom. Others consider it a more typical rebellion against high taxes and perceived foreign control. From the 19th century onwards, the revolt has been mythologized by various Spaniards, generally liberals who drew political inspiration from it. Conservative intellectuals have traditionally adopted more pro-Imperial stances toward the revolt, and have been critical of both the motives and the government of the comuneros. With the end of Franco's dictatorship and the establishment of the autonomous community of Castile and León, positive commemoration of the Comunidades has grown. April 23 is now celebrated as Castile and León Day, and the incident is often referred to in Castilian nationalism.