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Cortes(kôr`tĕz, Span. kōr`tās), 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.
(Spanish, from corte, “royal court”), assemblies with representation by estates in Spain and Portugal in the Middle Ages (the first such assemblies in Western Europe); in modem times, parliaments in Spain and Portugal (in Portugal, until 1911).
The name “cortes” is first encountered in Castile in 1137. The cortes developed from the royal curia and originally included only representatives of the nobility and clergy. Cities obtained the right of representation later: in León, in 1188; in Catalonia, in 1218; in Castile, in 1250; in Portugal, in 1254; in Aragon, in 1274; and in Navarre, in 1300. The cortes played an important role in the 13th and 14th centuries, promoting the influence of the cities and limiting the arbitrary power of the feudal lords. Their significance declined with the establishment of absolutism. Revived during the Spanish revolutions of the 19th century, they acquired a new significance as bourgeois parliaments.