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A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Alfonso III and James II. book. History Aragon Aragon

Alfonso III and James II

[124] The successors to Pedro's dominions. Quarrels with the nobility. Alfonso and Edward I of England. Breach with Castile. Negotiations on the Sicilian question. The peace of Tarascon. Death of Alfonso. Succeeded by his brother, James II. Peace with Castile. The claims to Sicily. Boniface VIII. James abandons the Sicilians They elect Fadrique as king. War with Castile and Sicily. The peace of Caltabellota. Invasion of Sardinia. The Act of Union. Death of James.

Pedro III left four Sons and two daughters by his wife, Constanza. Alfonso, the eldest, succeeded to the kingdom of Aragon; James, the second son, became King of Sicily. The third son, Frederick, generally known as Fadrique, became King of Sicily when James succeeded to Aragon upon the death of his eldest brother. The fourth son, Pedro, who bore his father's name, married Constanza of Moncada. The elder daughter, Isabella, became Queen of Portugal, while the younger, Violante, married Robert, the King of Naples. At the time of Pedro's death, Alfonso was sailing to Mallorca with Roger de Lauria to reduce the Balearic Islands to subjection. Pedro III had declared upon his death-bed that he was ready to restore the kingdom of Sicily to the Pope, but his sons had no intention of abandoning the new acquisitions, and, when Alfonso had completed the subjugation of the Balearic Islands, he sent the Admiral to Sicily to maintain the rights of his brother, James. The conquest of Mallorca was no difficult task. The inhabitants had suffered under the oppression of the King, James, and his officials, and Alfonso was regarded as a liberator. He was able to return to Valencia early in 1286, and summoned the Estates of the Realm to Zaragoza for the coronation ceremonies. He found the nobles in no amiable spirit. In the despatches in which he had announced the conquest of Mallorca, he had already assumed the royal title, and had made donations and conferred titles before he had received [125] the crown and taken the coronation oaths, all of which was regarded by the nobles as a gross infringement of their rights. They therefore requested him to swear to observe the laws and privileges of Aragon, as his predecessors had done, and to refrain from further exercise of royal rights until his coronation had taken place. Alfonso returned a mild answer to these representations, asserting that he had only used the royal title because the Catalan barons and towns had already addressed him in that style. But this dispute was only the prelude to a lengthy series of discussions and recriminations which it is convenient to recount in connection, although they were spread over a number of years. Some historians stigmatise the Aragonese and, to some extent, the Catalan nobles as selfishly concerned only with the maintenance of their own privileges. On the other hand, the fact seems to be undoubted that many of them were impressed with the dangers to which the realm was exposed by the actions of an absolute monarch. Pedro III had plunged the kingdom into an exhausting and expensive war, had brought down upon his country papal excommunication and had committed it to a policy which was likely to involve much further military effort and expenditure, and the nobles wished to be assured that in such matters as concerned the whole kingdom they should at any rate have the right of representing their views. On the other hand, Pedro III, like James I before him, probably felt that the oligarchic constitution which the Aragonese nobles desired to maintain implied a serious loss of efficiency in the diplomatic and military world of his time. The success of his Sicilian adventure, for instance, was due almost entirely to the secrecy with which it had been conducted, and, in an age when so much depended upon personal relations between individual monarchs, it was unreasonable to ask that every decision should be submitted to the approval of Cortes, which could only be collected with difficulty, were exasperatingly slow in their methods of deliberation, were often ill-informed, and inspired in many cases by individual prejudices and petty partisanship. This was really the contradiction which lay at the root of the subsequent disputes, the question whether an oligarchic or democratic state could hold its own amid a number of kingdoms and principalities governed under an absolutist system.

[126] The nobles began by demanding that the King should take into his royal household a number of councillors nominated by themselves. The King was prepared to agree to this, provided that he had a right of veto, but it then appeared that the Union of the Nobles was by no means unanimous, and that an opposition party in favour of the King was exerting a strong influence. Alfonso's presence was also required upon the northern frontier, as James of Mallorca was preparing forces in Roussillon for an invasion of Catalonia. Negotiations therefore ended until the month of June, when another meeting in Zaragoza was held. The nobles then reaffirmed the objects of the Union, insisting that the King should accept certain councillors, nominated by themselves, as permanent appointments, and should revoke certain donations which he had made since his father's death; in case of refusal, he would receive no help or support from them, either with money or men. They also declared themselves prepared to attack any noble or combination of nobles opposed to their policy. As will be seen, Alfonso was occupied by foreign negotiations of considerable importance, but in October he summoned Cortes at Huesca, and again informed the nobles that, in view of the divisions among themselves, it was impossible for him to arrive at any conclusion. It appeared, in fact, as if the state of Aragon were being divided into a royal and a baronial party, and that civil war would be the outcome. Alfonso, however, in view of the dangers which threatened his kingdom from abroad, was anxious to secure some measure of peace, and proposed to hold a court at regular intervals, to call his councillors together for daily consultation, and to secure a regular administration of justice, but he insisted upon retaining the appointment to the most important offices, and upon this point negotiations again broke down. The Union met once more in Zaragoza in December, and summoned a general meeting to be held in Teruel in the following month, at which pressure would be brought to bear upon those barons and individuals who declined to support them. Alfonso met the Estates once more in May 1287. He was then involved in important negotiations with Edward I of England, and informed the nobles that he could only allow two days for their discussions. This proved to be insufficient, and the Union in exasperation [127] proceeded to send ambassadors to the Pope, and to open negotiations with France and Castile and even with the Moors in Spain, with the object of forming an alliance against their own King. Alfonso, with the knights and barons who supported him, began by attacking the Union in Tarragona, but, after some desultory fighting and the execution of some of the leading citizens, the Prior of the Dominican Monastery in Zaragoza, one Valero, succeeded in bringing the disputants once more together, and eventually an agreement was secured at a meeting in Zaragoza on December 20, when Alfonso conceded two privileges. He promised, in the first place, not to proceed against any baron, knight or other member of the Union until the Justicia had pronounced sentence upon him, with the concurrence of the Cortes. As a guarantee for the fulfilment of this promise, he was prepared to surrender to the Union sixteen castles, the commanders of which were to hold them in the name of the kingdom, but were not to be regarded as guilty of high treason, should they transfer their allegiance elsewhere, in case the King failed to fulfil his side of the agreement. In the second place, Alfonso promised that general Cortes should be held in November every year at Zaragoza, that the Estates should appoint certain councillors whom he and his successors would accept, and whose views should have full consideration in directing the policy of the realm. The councillors upon appointment to office were to swear that they would give the King loyal advice in accordance with the laws of the realm, and would avoid the giving or taking of bribes. They could be removed from office and replaced by others at the will of the Cortes. These were the so-called Privileges of the Union. They were not submitted to the kingdom as a whole, but were extorted from the King by a confederation of powerful barons. They were consequently not confirmed by following kings, and were revoked by Pedro IV as a danger to the good government of the kingdom. At the end of January 1288, the Union made use of these privileges, and appointed various councillors and members of the King's household who were received by him without further demur.

While these wearisome and indeed dangerous negotiations were in progress, Alfonso was also engaged in important matters of foreign policy. During his father's lifetime, he [128] had been betrothed to Eleanor, the daughter of Edward I of England, but the Pope had forbidden the marriage, as Aragon was then excommunicated in consequence of Pedro's quarrel with the Pope. Edward I was anxious to secure a general peace, and was the only mediator in Europe to whom all the parties were prepared to listen. He sent ambassadors to the Pope, and invited the Kings of Aragon and France to send their plenipotentiaries to him at Bordeaux. Pope Martin, the creature of Charles of Anjou, had died in March 1286, and was succeeded by Honorius IV, who was no less anxious than his predecessor to maintain the sovereignty of the papacy, and excommunicated James of Sicily with threats of war, if he continued to remain in occupation of his kingdom. Alfonso was also confronted with the possibility of an attack upon his frontier by James, the King of Mallorca, who had been collecting troops for that purpose in Roussillon, and obliged him to maintain a considerable force in the neighbourhood of the Pyrenees. He undertook to send ambassadors also to Rome as soon as circumstances allowed him to do so. Edward of England had used his position to secure an armistice with France which was concluded in Paris in July, and was accepted also by the King of Mallorca, although Philip hesitated to give his final consent until the Pope's approval had been secured. However, the armistice was observed, Alfonso assured the Pope of his obedience, and the Archbishops of Ravenna and Montreal came to France to begin the final negotiations. Alfonso utilized this interval of peace to subjugate the Island of Menorca. The local chieftain had opened negotiations with the Moors, thrown open his harbours to the French and generally shown himself hostile to Aragon. The appearance of the Catalan fleet put an end to all resistance, and in January 1287 the island capitulated.

While the efforts of Edward I appeared to have opened a reasonable prospect of peace, difficulties arose for Aragon on the side of Castile. In 1275, while Alfonso X of Castile was in the South of France soliciting the support of Pope Gregory to his candidature for election as emperor, his heir, Ferdinand, died, and the problem arose whether the successor and heir to the Crown of Castile should be Ferdinand's son or his younger brother, Sancho. By the King's own code of [129] laws, the Siete Partidas, the claims of the grandson were undoubted. But the provisions of the code were of a permissive character, and the Cortes, acting on the older Germanic elective principle, decided in favour of the son, Sancho, who was proclaimed heir to the throne. Ferdinand had married Blanche, the sister of King Philip of France, who naturally objected to this decision which disinherited his nephews, and declared war upon Castile. The young princes, with their mother and Alfonso's own queen Violante, fled to Aragon, where they were kindly received at the court of Pedro III. Pope Nicholas III threatened to excommunicate Philip of France if he interfered in a family quarrel. When Alfonso died in 1285, Sancho assumed the Crown and was naturally anxious to secure the persons of his nephews, the Infantes de la Cerda, who were then resident in Xtiva, and whose claims might reasonably involve the validity of his own. When Alfonso of Aragon refused this request, Sancho began an alliance with the King of France, and thus disturbed the negotiations that were proceeding under the mediation of Edward of England. It then became clear that there was no prospect of peace until Charles the Lame of Naples, the Prince of Salerno, who had been taken prisoner by the Catalan admiral and was then held in confinement in Catalonia, was set at liberty. The Kings of England and Aragon, therefore, met at Olron in Barn, and agreed that Charles should be set free, after giving his three eldest sons to Alfonso as hostages, and paying a ransom of 80,000 silver marks. Alfonso was also to hold the eldest sons of sixteen Provenal knights as hostages. Charles, in return, had promised the Kings of Aragon and Sicily to secure a three years' armistice with France and the Church, which interval was to be used in the arrangement of a peace satisfactory to all parties. Should he fail to secure this object, he undertook to return to imprisonment and to leave the hostages in Alfonso's power. He had already considered the possibility of some such arrangement. Before he left Sicily he had negotiated with James, the King of the island, the vital point of the discussion being that he would induce the Pope to revoke the donation of Aragon to Charles of Valois which Pope Martin had made. These negotiations had broken down through the refusal of the Pope to continue.

[130] At the present moment the situation had changed for the better, from the Aragonese point of view, thanks to the exploits of the Catalan admiral, Roger de Lauria. In April, Count Robert of Artois, who had been made governor of the kingdom of Naples by the will of Charles I, had fitted out a numerous fleet, made a descent upon Malta, captured Augusta on the Sicilian coast, and retired to Brindisi. James of Sicily then proceeded to besiege the town, while Lauria cut off his communications with Naples. Count Robert, therefore, collected sixty galleys in his capital, which were to unite with the fleet in harbour at Brindisi, and sail with a numerous army to Sicily for the relief of Augusta. In June, however, Lauria appeared off Naples, enticed the inexperienced French barons to attack him, and completely destroyed this part of the fleet. This victory placed Aragon in a stronger position, but the eventual conclusion of the peace was delayed by the death of Honorius IV in April 1287, after which the Papal Chair remained unoccupied for some time. Nicholas IV was not elected until February 1288; as general of the Franciscan order, he had visited Barcelona and was acquainted with the chief men of the district; he was also inclined to favour the Ghibelline cause and had little affection for the French dynasty. He showed, however, no great partiality for the Aragonese. He exhorted the Sicilians to return to their obedience to the Roman Church, ordered James to give up his illegal possession of the island, and Alfonso to set Charles the Lame at liberty without delay. He also flatly refused his consent to the conditions that had been agreed upon at Olron. However, at his request, Edward of England continued his efforts, and, at the end of October, he met Alfonso at Canfranc in Aragon, on the frontiers of Barn. Charles was also present, and swore to observe the compact concluded at Olron. The hostages were handed over, and Alfonso released his prisoner who returned to Italy in 1289 and was crowned as King of Sicily at Rome by the Pope. The Pope had already declared the conditions of the agreement null and void, on the ground that they were extorted by compulsion. He now relieved Charles, the King of England and the Provenal princes of the obligations of their oath, solemnly excommunicated Alfonso, and made a grant to the King of France of the Church tithes for three [131] years, on the understanding that he would put his brother Charles in possession of the Crown of Aragon. Alfonso was shortly afterwards attacked on the frontiers of Navarre, and was also threatened with an invasion by King Sancho of Castile who, as we have said, had secured an alliance with France. Sancho's Castilian subjects were by no means agreed upon this policy, which had been concluded without their consent, and one of them, Diego de Haro, went to Aragon, and induced the King to set the Infantes de la Cerda at liberty, and to permit the eldest of them, Alfonso, to be proclaimed in Jaca in 1288 as King of Castile and Leon. He promised the Infante his help in securing his restoration to the throne, and explained that the internal dissensions in Sancho's kingdom afforded every prospect of success. He was able to conclude an alliance with Alfonso, and to declare war upon the King of Castile. In the spring of 1289 he invaded Castile and besieged the town of Almazan in Soria, while Sancho was obliged to retreat. The Aragonese were obliged to raise the siege, as the King of Mallorca had invaded Catalonia. Sancho then took the opportunity of invading Aragon, and ravaged much of the Province of Tarragona, while Alfonso was busy on his northern frontier.

In the same year King James of Sicily continued his war against the Italian coasts, and attacked Gaeta. A collision between his forces and those of Charles II was prevented by the arrival of an English ambassador, Odo of Grandison, who interviewed the Pope telling him that the war was the scandal of Christendom and that he would incur the anger of all Christian princes if peace were not secured. The Pope arranged an armistice for two years. In the year 1290, Alfonso also sent ambassadors to the Pope, and negotiations with France were reopened. Thanks to the indefatigable offices of the King of England, peace was eventually concluded, after various meetings at Tarascon, in February 1291, under conditions which obliged Alfonso to abandon the cause of his brother in Sicily. The contracting parties were thus, on the one side, the King of Aragon, and, on the other, the Church, the King of France and his brother Charles. It was agreed that Alfonso should offer his obedience to the Pope, that the Pope should return his kingdom and remove the interdict. The King of Castile was to be included in the [132] peace, if he so desired. Charles was to recover his Sons and the other hostages he had given, and there was to be an exchange of conquests and prisoners. The King of Aragon also undertook to withdraw all support from his brother James, to order his subjects to quit the kingdom of Sicily and to prevent any of his family from holding possessions in Sicily without papal permission. The kingdom of Mallorca was to be held as a fief of the Crown of Aragon. Alfonso desired to celebrate the conclusion of this long-desired peace by his marriage with Edward's daughter, Eleanor, and the necessary festivities had been arranged in Barcelona when he died after a sudden illness in June 1291, and peace was once again endangered by this unexpected occurrence. It was a peace for which Alfonso has incurred the reprobation of historians. He undertook to turn his mother and brother out of Sicily, to hand over to their bitter enemies a courageous people who had won their independence, and to abandon that supremacy in the Western Mediterranean which had been gained at the cost of so much blood and treasure. On the other hand Alfonso had to face the hostility of the papacy and the Guelf party with the power of France behind them: he was threatened by a war with Castile and his hands were often tied by internal dissensions in his own kingdom. He was known as "el Liberal," and appears indeed to have been unable to refuse the request of any petitioner if he could possibly grant it. He possessed neither the overbearing personality of James I nor the cool and dogged perseverance of Pedro III, and his extravagance seems to have been one of the causes that aroused the indignation of his nobles.

Immediately after Alfonso's death, a deputation of Catalan nobles went to Sicily and invited James, the King of that island, to assume the Crown of Aragon. James appointed his brother Fadrique as Governor of Sicily, a violation of the treaty of Tarascon, to which, however, he had not been a consenting party. He landed in Barcelona in August and met the Cortes at Zaragoza, when he swore to observe the laws and privileges of the kingdom which his predecessors had conceded, and accepted the crown under the declaration that he took it as the eldest surviving son of King Pedro III, and not as the heir of his deceased brother. Alfonso had nominated Fadrique as the heir to Sicily, but [133] James was apparently anxious to unite Sicily and Aragon under his own government. King Sancho of Castile then came forward with proposals for peace which James was the more inclined to accept, as he had to expect a struggle with France and the papacy sooner or later. Sancho was anxious to secure his own position by inducing Aragon to abandon the cause of the Infantes de la Cerda, and the peace then concluded was confirmed by the betrothal of James to Sancho's daughter Isabella, who was only eight years of age. Sancho also did his best to compose the quarrels of the Aragonese barons, which were then distracting the kingdom, and persuaded them to submit their difficulties to the Justicia, and to swear allegiance to their king. Domestic peace was the more desirable as the Pope had forbidden James to accept the crown of Aragon during the continuance of his interdict, and had ordered the population of the Balearic Islands to refuse obedience to any ruler except their own King, James, who had been driven out. The clergy within the Aragonese territories were also strictly forbidden to recognize James as King. Charles of Valois declared that he had abandoned his rights in favour of Alfonso and not of James, and the brother of Charles, Philip of France, begged the Pope to proclaim a crusade against James, with the object of putting Charles of Valois upon the throne of Aragon. The Pope, however, who was projecting a new crusade in the East, declined to interfere until he had received a definite answer from James. He did, however, urge the King of France to oppose the incessant attacks of the Sicilians. The maritime war in Calabria was continued almost without interruption. Roger de Lauria won further successes and James had deprived Charles of his most powerful maritime supporter by concluding a peace with Genoa. Meanwhile, Sancho of Castile exerted himself to secure a peace between Aragon and France, as he was afraid that King Philip might give his support to the Infantes de la Cerda. In April 1292, the Pope died; in the following year the Sicilians entreated James not to abandon their cause, and if he could do no more, to install Fadrique as king. James shortly afterwards met Charles of Anjou, his former prisoner, and seems to have been convinced that the abandonment of Sicily was inevitable, if any permanent settlement was to be made. Sancho [134] continued his negotiations and in 1294 persuaded James to meet him at Logroo, and extorted from him, under a veiled threat of captivity, an agreement to his conditions. James afterwards declared that he considered himself relieved of any obligation in the matter.

Meanwhile the papal chair had been vacant for two years. The papacy in the pursuit of temporal power and self-interest had become so closely associated with contending factions in Rome that in 1292 the cardinals were equally divided: after many attempts to secure an election, they had agreed to elect a hermit of the Abruzzi, famed for his holiness, who assumed the name of Celestine V, "che fece per viltate il gran rifiuto." But the papal policy required an astute politician and diplomatist. Celestine knew nothing of business or diplomacy and was helpless in the hands of the King of Naples. It was a profound relief to the cardinals and a sorrow to the people when he abdicated after a pontificate of five months. He was succeeded by a statesman, Boniface VIII, who realized the importance of the papacy as a political institution, whatever his estimate of its spiritual significance. Scandal has left a slimy trail across the personal life of Boniface: it is clean that he was a megalomaniac, with a profound contempt for his inferiors which was openly expressed in his dealings with them by a display of bad manners almost communistic in its crudity. The best-hated man in Europe, he regarded himself as the possible president of a great European confederacy, as the guardian of its one religion and as the administrator of its international law. The papacy had defeated the Empire and proposed to exercise imperial power. Such was the policy of Boniface VIII: it was everywhere unsuccessful. Everywhere he interfered and everywhere he met with opposition or disobedience. Charles of Valois at his instigation attempted to restore the unity of the Sicilian kingdom and merely brought upon himself and the papacy the hatred of the Italians: Edward I of England and Philip IV of France refused to recognize any papal supremacy over their temporal affairs and when in 1303 Philip was threatened with a bull of deposition, he commissioned Sciarra Colonna to seize the Pope's sacred person. Boniface was made prisoner at Anagni, the prestige of the papacy was broken and its supremacy over the rising states of Western Europe [135] was no longer recognized. But in June 1294 Boniface was influential enough to conclude a peace at Anagni with Charles of Sicily, with King Philip of France and Charles of Valois. The Pope removed his interdict, and confirmed James II in possession of his territories, to which Charles of Valois resigned his claim. James agreed to divorce his wife Isabella upon the usual medieval excuse of consanguinity, to marry Blanche, the daughter of King Charles of Naples, and to return all the territory that he had taken from France or from the Church. Nothing was said about the position of Mallorca, but the Pope extorted a half-promise from James that the island should be returned to its former ruler. The Pope also promised to give James the islands of Sardinia and Corsica in exchange for Sicily, and James further promised to help Philip in his war with England with a fleet of forty galleys, the expenses of which France was to pay. The terms of the peace were confirmed at Cortes held in Barcelona. James has been bitterly reproached for his abandonment and betrayal of the Sicilians, who were apparently contented under his rule, and were deeply grieved by his desertion of them. It must have been clear to him, even then, that the prospect of a war between himself and his own brother was no remote possibility, and the gift by the Pope of two islands which he did not possess, and which would have to be conquered from their immediate owners at considerable expense and trouble, could hardly be considered a compensation for the loss of Sicily.

Pope Boniface was equally aware of these possibilities. He induced Fadrique to visit him, and though the citizens of Palermo warned their prince to distrust any assurances offered by the Pope, he went to the meeting accompanied by John of Procida, Roger de Lauria and other distinguished Catalans. The Pope then promised that he should marry Catharine, Philip's daughter and the granddaughter of the Emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople, and that the papacy would then support the claim to the Byzantine Empire which he would thus acquire. These plans were shattered by the indignation and grief of the Sicilians at the conclusion of the peace. As soon as the Catalan and Aragonese nobles in Sicily heard the news a general meeting of all the local leaders was held; an embassy was sent to James, which arrived in [136] the midst of the festivities with which his marriage was celebrated in October 1295. As no satisfaction could be gained, the Sicilians chose Fadrique as King of the island and crowned him in March 1296. Though James recalled his subjects, they determined to remain in Sicily, stating that Fadrique was the rightful King of the island, according to his father's testamentary dispositions. The efforts of the Pope to prevent this election were entirely fruitless. His ambassadors were obliged to save their lives by rapid flight, and the Sicilians asked for nothing better than to take the field against Charles and the papal forces. Fadrique did not delay. He collected an army, and soon overran the whole of Calabnia, and Charles could do no more than defend the coastline of Apulia. James of Aragon had been invited to Rome by Boniface in February 1296; the Pope offered him the post of commander-in-chief of the papal forces against the enemies of the Church, but the position of affairs in Castile gave James a reasonable excuse for declining the invitation.

Sancho had died in April 1295, and, though his son, Ferdinand IV, who was only nine years of age, had been recognized as his successor, the kingdom was in a state of considerable confusion. Ferdinand was said to have been born out of wedlock, and his brother Juan therefore assumed the royal title and entered into an alliance with the Kings of Granada and Portugal. At the same time, Alfonso de la Cerda put forward his own claims and agreed to divide the kingdom with Juan, Alfonso taking Castile, Crdoba, Toledo and Murcia, while Juan was to have the remainder. Alfonso secured the support of King James by ceding to him the province of Murcia, and in April 1296 a considerable Aragonese army invaded Castile and was joined by the forces of Juan, who had secured the support of Navarre. They captured the town of Leon without difficulty, and Juan was there crowned. At the same time, James invaded Murcia, the population of which was for the most part Catalan, and gained possession of the province without much difficulty. After this, he returned to Valencia to obey the Pope's repeated summons to Italy. He reached Rome in March 1297, where he was received with great honour by Boniface, and the wedding of his sister Violante with Duke Robert of Calabria was then [137] celebrated. King Charles of Sicily was present, but Fadrique, who declined to come in person, was represented by Juan de Procida and Roger de Lauria. In April the Pope invested the King of Aragon and his descendants with the kingdoms of Sardinia and Corsica, to be held as fiefs of the papacy. James then returned to Catalonia and prepared to send an expedition against his brother, who vainly attempted to dissuade him, and had already made for himself a dangerous enemy by quarrelling with Roger de Lauria who went to the side of King Charles. James was unable to prosecute his designs upon Sicily for some time, as he was deeply involved in the disturbances of Castile, and also in negotiations with the Kings of France and of Mallorca. When peace had been finally concluded with Philip and the King of Mallorca had received his kingdom, to be held as a fief of Aragon, James returned to Rome with eighty galleys, and sailed for Naples where he held a council of war with King Charles. About the end of August 1298 the allies moved against, Sicily. Fadrique was not able to offer any successful resistance at sea, but the invaders were unable to make much progress by land; Syracuse was besieged for several months without result, and the desperate resistance of the Sicilians, together with the demand for his supervision of affairs in Spain, induced James to give up the attempt for the moment. He returned to Barcelona early in 1299 and collected means and men for further operations. The brothers met face to face in the naval battle of Cabo Orlando: after a desperate conflict the Sicilians were defeated: but James, either disheartened by his heavy losses or influenced by the grief of his mother Constanza, abandoned his designs upon Sicily and returned to Barcelona at the end of the year.

Hitherto, James's government in Aragon itself had been continuously peaceful. The King had no occasion to infringe the laws and privileges of the nobles. He had maintained peace and order, and had even inspired some sense of nationality into a considerable number of his subjects. A quarrel, however, arose which came to a head in April 1301, concerning the sums due to particular nobles for military services rendered. Those who considered themselves aggrieved formed a union, and some hostilities began in the neighbourhood of Zaragoza. James, therefore, summoned [138] the Cortes to Zaragoza to discuss these difficulties, and also to secure the recognition of his eldest son James as his successor to the Crown. The King then declared that such combinations of nobles to secure payment of debts, the justice of which he did not acknowledge, were in any case treasonable, and he suggested that the matter should be referred to the decision of the Justicia. This proposal was accepted, and a decision was given in the King's favour. The Cortes also accepted James's eldest son as successor to the Crown. The internal peace of Aragon was thus once more secured.

Domestic peace was the more desirable as Castile was now in a position to threaten Aragon with reprisals. Pope Boniface had declared Ferdinand to be the legal son of Sancho, and the lawful heir to the throne. Juan had resigned his claim, and was prepared to support Ferdinand, and the Queen Mother Maria, to whose energy these combinations were chiefly due, had secured the support of some distinguished Aragonese barons, and was proposing to reconquer the province of Murcia. James offered to give up the province if he could retain the town of Alicante. The Queen hesitated to accept this condition, but Ferdinand proposed to submit the matter to arbitration. The decision gave that part of Murcia to Aragon which was divided from the rest of the province by the River Segura, and peace was thus made between Aragon and Castile. Alfonso's son James was betrothed to Eleanor, Ferdinand's daughter, and Ferdinand suggested that Castile and Aragon should unite for an attack upon the Saracen kingdom of Granada. The Pope gave his blessing to the undertaking, and at the end of July Ferdinand began the siege of Algeciras, while James attacked Ceuta and Almera. The King of Granada, who came to the relief of this town, was beaten in a pitched battle, but James was unable to take Almera, the inhabitants of which defended themselves desperately. Differences broke out between the Castilians and the Aragonese, and the former (with the exception of the famous Alfonso Prez de Guzmn, a constant friend) withdrew from the undertaking, so that James, confronted by the whole of the Moorish power, was obliged to abandon his enterprise in January 1310; in that year his queen, Blanca, died. However, friendly relations between Castile and Aragon were not broken off, and were [139] strengthened by the marriage of Maria, James's daughter, with Pedro, the brother of Ferdinand.

Meanwhile, Sicilian affairs had been settled by the Peace of Caltabellotta, which was concluded in August 1302. The war which had continued with varying successes upon either side was concluded by the mediation of Violante, the Duchess of Calabria and sister of Fadrique. Charles of Valois was tired of the struggle, and the peace provided that Fadrique was to reign over Sicily during his lifetime as independent king, that he should marry Eleanor, the daughter of King Charles of Naples, and that his sons by Eleanor, if no principality could be found for them by the papacy, should be allowed to inherit the kingdom of Sicily, though King Charles and his heirs should have a right of purchase. There was also to be a general amnesty and an interchange of prisoners, and the Church property in Sicily, held before the revolution, was to be restored. The conclusion of this peace set at liberty the numerous mercenary forces which the King of Sicily had at his disposal, and the difficult question of their employment was finally solved by the famous expedition of the Catalans to the East. Shortly after the conclusion of peace, the celebrated admiral, Roger de Lauria, died in Valencia. He was one of the great figures of his age, and made Aragon for a time the chief naval power in the Mediterranean. His victories were often marred by ferocious acts of cruelty to the conquered, a fault due as much to the age in which he lived as to himself. But for his brilliant strategy and tactics, and the energy and rapidity of his movements, Aragon would have been brought at least once to the verge of collapse.

Hitherto James had refrained from asserting his rights to Sardinia. The island had been captured from the Moors in 1050 by the combined forces of Genoa and Pisa, the latter town claiming a general sovereignty; quarrels soon began and the island had for some time been a bone of contention between the two towns. When Boniface gave the islands to James in 1303, he had ordered the inhabitants to submit to the King of Aragon and had sent a similar admonition to Pisa and Genoa. As these commands were not obeyed, James determined to conquer the islands as soon as his quarrel with Castile had been settled, and began to make preparations for this purpose in 1309, inviting Florence, Lucca and other Guelf towns in [140] Tuscany to join him against Pisa. However, nothing was done at the time, as the citizens of Pisa induced him to abandon the enterprise in return for a large sum of money, and the Guelfs in Italy were obliged to combine for their own defence against Henry VII. James was also occupied by the attack upon the Order of the Templars, initiated with the support of the Pope by Philip the Fair of France. The atrocious charges brought against the French Templars were not sustained in Aragon; none the less, the influence of the papacy and the bishops induced the King to suppress the Order and in 1317 most of its possessions in Aragon were taken over by the Order of St. John.

In 1321 James was induced to resume his designs upon Sardinia, by an invitation from Hugo de Sera, the judge of Arborea and a Guelf who was more anxious to exterminate the Ghibellines than to help the claims of Aragon. In 1322 an outbreak between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines in Genoa had thrown the town into such confusion that no resistance was to be expected from that quarter. James, therefore, revised his plan and commissioned his son Alfonso to conquer Sardinia, and to attack the inhabitants of Pisa, who held the best part of the island. His subjects, especially the Barcelonese, readily supported the undertaking, and a great army was prepared. King Robert of Naples, then at war with Fadrique of Sicily, became alarmed for the safety of his own kingdom, and the citizens of Pisa once again attempted to purchase peace by offering to indemnify James for all the costs of the expedition. However, on this occasion the expedition started and James solemnly sent Alfonso forth with the command to conquer or to die. He had already secured the adherence of some of the chief landholders in Sardinia by promises that they should not be disturbed in their tenancy, and Alfonso was able to effect a landing without difficulty, and to besiege Iglesias and Caller (or Cagliari), two of the chief towns. These were captured in 1324 and an attempt from Pisa to raise the siege was completely defeated. In that year a peace was signed, Pisa ceding the sovereignty of the island to Aragon, but continuing to hold in fief the town and territory of Caller. This victory is said to have cost the lives of 1200 Aragonese and Catalan soldiers and for years to come a succession [141] of rebellions and disturbances cost the rulers of Aragon dearly.

Of the legislative acts of James's reign mention should be made of the Act of Union passed in December 1319, by which the kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia, the county of Barcelona and the feudal territories of Mallorca were united under one rule, on condition that these realms should never be divided by testamentary disposition or by donation, though the King reserved the right to himself and his successors to make donations of individual castles and properties. It was resolved that this law should form part of the rights and privileges of the realm to which the Kings swore obedience at their coronation. Apart from the disturbances which we have mentioned, the Aragonese kingdom enjoyed an unusual period of peace and order under the government of James. His careful regard for law and justice secured him from his subjects the name of the Just, to which his foreign policy hardly entitled him; his desertion of Sicily, his war against his brother and his suppression of the Knights Templar do not redound to his credit.

This work was originally published by Methuan Publishing Ltd. in 1933.
Pagination of the original edition is indicated set off in brackets, as in [19].


Ample your information on Aragon

If you want to extend your information on Aragon you can begin crossing another interesting route is the Mudejar, Patrimony of the Humanity, also you can extend your cultural knowledge on Aragon examining its municipal and institutional heraldry without forgetting, of course, some of its emblematics figures as Saint George Pattern of Aragon also book of Aragon.

Also Aragon enjoys a diverse and varied Nature where passing by plants, animals or landscapes we can arrive at a fantastic bestiario that lives in its monuments.

The information will not be complete without a stroll by its three provinces: Zaragoza, Teruel and Huesca and his shines, with shutdown in some of its spectacular landscapes like Ordesa, the Moncayo or by opposition the Ebro.

Also you can dedicarte to the intangible ones: from the legend compilation that also does to universal Aragon you can persecute the presence of del Santo Grial in Aragon.

Huesca | Teruel | Zaragoza | Aragon | Maps |
Fauna | Flora | Geology | Fungi |
Tourism | Mudejar | Goya | Alphabetical Index | Thematic

The pasapues project is an extension of the Aragón project is like that, and tries to collect and relate all possible types of documentary information about Aragon: texts, books, articles, maps, illustrations, photographs, narrations, etc., and proceed to its publication and diffusion.

Aragon is like that. A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Alfonso III and James II, book, History Aragon Provinces of Huesca, Teruel, Zaragoza, Aragon in English. mudejar, Romanico, Nature, maps, Asociacion Cultural Aragon Interactivo Multimedia. Spain. Aragon es asi.

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