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Captaincy General of Chile: Wikis


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Capitanía General de Chile
Spanish colony

Flag Coat of arms
Map of the Kingdom of Chile
Capital Santiago, Chile
Language(s) Official: Spanish (de facto); common: Mapudungun.
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Monarchy
 - 1541 - 1566 Charles I
 - 1813 - 1821 Ferdinand VII
Royal Governor
 - 1541 - 1556 Pedro de Valdivia
 - 1815 - 1818 Casimiro Marcó del Pont
Historical era Spanish Empire
 - Established 1541
 - Chilean Independence February 12, 1818
Currency Peso

The General Captaincy of Chile (Capitanía General de Chile) or Gobernacion de Chile, was an administrative territory of the Viceroyalty of Peru in the Spanish Empire from 1541 to 1818, the year in which it declared itself independent, becoming the Republic of Chile. It had a number of governors over its long history and technically one king, Philip II, who was not the reigning Spanish king.



The General Captaincy of Chile was a personal possession of the King of Castile as were all the other Spanish possessions in the New World. Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sicily, on the other hand, were possessions of the King of Aragon, who happened to be the same person, since 1516.

The General Captaincy of Chile was first known as New Extremadura (a name which was subsequently given to a part of Mexico) and then as Indian Flanders (Indian as in Indies, here meaning Americas; Flanders was a Spanish possession, cf. Spanish Flanders).

The administrative apparatus of the General Captaincy of Chile was subordinate to the Council of the Indies and the Laws of the Indies, like the other Spanish colonial possessions. The day-to-day work was handled mostly by viceroys and governors, who represented the king's will, e.g., in Aragon, Sicily, Mexico or Peru. The areas of the Americas, which had been the site of complex civilizations or became rich societies were usually referred to by the Spanish as "kingdoms," such as the "New Kingdom of Granada," the "Kingdom of Mexico," the "Kingdom of Quito," or the "Kingdom of Guatemala."

Chile never reached the status of a viceroyalty, and was instead classified as a captaincy general, dependent on the Peruvian Viceroyalty.

The denomination had, nevertheless, a symbolic basis in the historic fact that Philip II was once General Captaincy of Chile, years before becoming King of Spain[1]

Exploration and conquest

In 1536 Diego de Almagro formed the first expedition to explore the territories to the south of the Inca Empire, which had been granted to him as the Governorship of New Toledo. After Almargo's death, Pedro de Valdivia solicited and was granted in 1539 the right to explore and conquer the area with Francisco Pizarro's approval. Valdivia founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo and a few months later its cabildo (municipal council) appointed him governor and Captain General of New Extremadura on June 11, 1541. Other cities founded during Valdivia's administration were Concepción in 1550, La Imperial in 1551, Santa María Magdalena de Villa Rica and Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia in 1552, and the following year Los Confines and Santiago del Estero on the eastern side of the Andes. In 1553 Valdivia also founded a series of forts for protection of the settled areas: San Felipe de Araucan, San Juan Bautista de Purén and San Diego de Tucapel. After Valdivia's death that same year, these last forts, Villarica and Concepcion were lost. they were recovered following the war with Lautaro and Caupolicán. Following the defeat of the Mapuche by García Hurtado de Mendoza, settlements continued to grow and more cities were founded: Cañete de la Frontera on the site of the former Fort San Diego de Tucapel and Villa de San Mateo de Osorno in 1558, San Andrés de Angol in 1560, Ciudad de Mendoza del Nuevo Valle de La Rioja in 1561, San Luis de Loyola Nueva Medina de Rioseco and San Juan de la Frontera in 1562, and Santiago de Castro in 1567. Martín García Óñez de Loyola founded a last city south of the Bio Bio River, Santa Cruz de Coya, in 1595.


Collapse of southern Chile

A Mapuche revolt was triggered following the news of the battle of Curalaba in on the 23rd of December 1598, where the vice toqui Pelantaru and his lieutenants Anganamon and Guaiquimilla with three hundred men ambushed and killed the Spanish governor Martín García Óñez de Loyola and nearly all his companions.

Over the next few years the Mapuche were able to destroy or force the abandonment of seven Spanish cities in Mapuche territory: Santa Cruz de Coya (1599), Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia (1599), San Andrés de Los Infantes (1599), La Imperial (1600), Santa María Magdalena de Villa Rica (1602), San Mateo de Osorno (1602), and San Felipe de Araucan (1604).

Political history

History of Chile
Coat of Arms of Chile
This article is part of a series
Early History
Monte Verde
Inca Empire
Colonial times
Conquest of Chile
Spanish Empire
Captaincy General
Arauco War
Building a nation
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Patria Vieja
1829 Civil War
War of the Confederation
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Transition to democracy
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Chile Portal
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As noted, the area had been designated a governorship (gobernación) during the initial exploration and settlement of the area, but because the local Amerindian peoples demonstrated fierce resistance, a more autonomous, military-based governmental authority was needed. Thus, the governor was given command of the local military and the title of captain general. This arrangement was seen in many places of the Spanish Empire.

Chile also has the curious distinction of being the one region of the Spanish Empire that technically had a king, Philip II who was not the reigning Spanish king. In 1554 the Infante Philip married Queen Mary I of England, when he was still just the heir to the Spanish throne. In order to bring him up to an equal rank with the Queen, he was named the "King of Chile" by his father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Additionally he received the Kingdom of Naples, a possession of the Crown of Aragon and which came with a claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Thus the marriage treaty could jointly style the couple as King and Queen in a formula that reflected not only Mary's but also Philip's dominions and claims:

Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, Chile and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.

For all practical purposes, the title had no effect on Chile's administration, continuing its practical identity as a gobernación and reino in the Spanish Empire. After Philip became King of Spain in 1556, the title simply merged back to the many held by the Spanish king.

The greatest set back the Spanish settlements suffered was the Disaster of Curalaba in 1598, which nearly wiped them out. All cities south of the Biobío River with the exception of Castro were destroyed. The river became La Frontera the de facto border between Spanish and Native areas for the next century. (See Arauco War.)


  1. ^ La Aurora de Chile (in Spanish)


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