A History of Aragon and Catalonia. James the Conqueror. Books.book Aragon in English. Spain.

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. James the Conqueror. Books. book History Aragon Aragon

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James the Conqueror

[81] Childhood and accession. Struggles with the nobles. Conquest of the Balearic Islands. Conquest of Valencia. Policy in Southern France. The treaty of Corbeil. Wars with the Moors. Marriage of Pedro with Constance of Sicily. Death of James. His character and literary interests.

Pedro II left as his heir his only son, James, whom he had entrusted to the keeping of De Montfort in 1211 as a guarantee of the promise that the boy should marry the Count's daughter when he came of age. There was no desire to dispute his succession, and the Aragonese at once took steps to release him from the custody of De Montfort; a show of military intervention and the despatch of an embassy to Pope Innocent III were necessary to induce De Montfort to yield. James was handed over to the Aragonese representatives at Narbonne in 1214 when he was nearly six and a half years of age. He was given a splendid reception in Barcelona and Cortes were held at Lérida to provide for the government during his minority. Guillen de Montredo, the Master of the Temple in Spain and Provence, was appointed as tutor to the young King; Count Sancho of Roussillon, a great-uncle of James, was made procurator-general of both states, and four subordinate governors were appointed two for Aragon, one for Catalonia, and one for Montpellier. These arrangements were made by the papal legate in Languedoc, Pedro of Benevento; their continuance was a matter of uncertainty. Sancho, the procurator-general, and Fernando one of the young King's uncles, were plotting to usurp the throne; the Aragonese nobles were traditionally insubordinate and impatient of authority, characteristics which now became more than ever pronounced; the extravagance of Pedro the Catholic had reduced the royal revenues to the verge of bankruptcy. James himself, with unusual precocity, seems to have felt that strong measures were required. In 1217 [82] the loyal party enabled him to escape from the fortress of Monzon where Sancho kept him in practical captivity. Though only nine years of age, he was able to disown the regent and to gain the support of the towns and of a considerable number of the nobility; that of the Church and of the Templars he already enjoyed. The gradual restoration of authority and order seems to have been largely the work of the Templars, and it was probably on the advice of such leaders among them as Ximeno Cornel and Guillen Moncada that a marriage was arranged between himself and Leonor, the daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile, which was celebrated early in 1221 when James was little more than thirteen years of age.

For the next six years James was occupied in struggles with refractory nobles, who sometimes fought among themselves with unconcerned disregard of royal authority, or formed leagues in direct opposition to the crown. Guillem de Moncada, Pedro Ahones, Pedro Fernández of Azagra, Lord of Albarracín, were among the most troublesome of his opponents. James was twice held prisoner by such enemies, but presence of mind bordering upon effrontery enabled him to escape; he also bore in mind the principle of policy which a later Castilian ruler affirmed, to keep on good terms with the towns and the Church. It was probably the towns which brought about the peace of Alcalá, when the rebels agreed on March 31, 1227, to give up a struggle of which all parties had become weary and the disastrous results of which were increased by a famine in the early part of the year. In the following year, however, James was involved in a war with Guerao de Cabrera, who had taken possession of the county of Urgel, an important province which occupied most of the north-west Catalan frontier and separated Barcelona from the northern districts of Aragon. The former Count, Armengol VIII, had died in 1208 leaving one child, a daughter Aurembiax; her cousin, Guerao, claimed the succession on the ground that a female could not inherit. Her mother, Elvira, had applied to Pedro for protection, and had also married a second husband. On her death, in 1220, Guerao was able to overrun the county while James was occupied with the troubles of his minority. He appears to have bought Guerao out, under condition that Aurembiax might redeem her territory [83] from himself, and in 1228 she appeared before the king at Lérida to claim her right. It is pretty clear that Aurembiax was one of the earliest of that impressive list of mistresses with whom James was associated. A kind of mock trial was staged; Aurembiax undertook to hold the county in fief and to surrender Lérida to the Crown, while James was to restore the towns that the cousin had seized. Guerao was driven out and a husband was found for Aurembiax in Pedro of Portugal, who had been obliged to leave his country owing to family dissensions. The marriage took place in 1229; in 1231 Aurembiax died and Pedro was induced to cede the whole province to James, receiving the Balearic Islands in return; these he later exchanged for certain towns in Valencia. Thus James gained possession of the county for a time. The Cabrera family renewed their attempts to recover it and the county was plunged in a series of troubles which were not finally settled until 1278.

James was well aware that an excellent means of restraining the unruly spirit of his nobles was to find them occupation elsewhere, and his thoughts turned to the Balearic Islands, on which his father had also had designs. Accusations of piracy and reprisals for it were of constant occurrence between the Balearic Moors and the Catalans, and an incident of this kind provided James with an excuse for action. The expedition was given a religious character and the Catalan clergy made generous contributions to the cost; it was almost entirely Catalan in origin and character as the Aragonese declined to support it, and suggested another outlet for military enterprise. In 1229 James went to Lérida to meet the papal legate; he wished to divorce Leonor and was allowed to do so by a council held by the legate at Tarazona; Leonor was sent back to Castile, the separation being justified upon the usual excuse of consanguinity; she was given many presents and James legitimized their son Alfonso and declared him heir to Aragon. In the course of this business the Aragonese nobles attempted to persuade him to invade Valencia instead of attacking the Balearic Islands. The King of Valencia, Zeid Abdurrahman, had been driven from his throne upon a charge of favouring Christians and arrived at James' court asking for help at that moment. James agreed that his Aragonese subjects might give Zeid assistance in [84] return for the cession of certain districts, and the Valencian secured the support of Azagra and other nobles. But James was himself too far committed to the maritime expedition to withdraw and spent the next few months in preparation for it, eventually starting early in September 1229.

The expedition consisted of over 150 sail, including vessels from Genoa, Marseilles and Narbonne, and carrying a force which may have amounted to 1500 horse and 15,000 foot. The moment for the attack was opportune. The Almohade King, Abu Yahya, had received news of the impending attack, had raised a force to meet it and had also sent to Africa for help, but a palace conspiracy against him, led by his own uncle, was discovered almost at the moment when the Christian fleet was sighted. Under these circumstances a peace was patched up, and when the Christians landed on the Island of Dragonera, which lay across the bay of Palomera at the southern end of the north-west coast of the island, they found themselves confronted by a considerable force. A landing was forced at the harbour of Santa Ponza, some ten miles to the south-east, before the Moors could offer any serious opposition, but two days later a pitched battle took place with their main body; James defeated the Moors, though with the loss of several knights, among them Guillen and Ramon Moncada, two of his most valued helpers, and was then able to advance to the siege of Mallorca. This operation lasted for three months; overtures for capitulation were declined, and when the walls had been adequately breached, the town was stormed on the last day of 1229. Some 30,000 Moors are said to have escaped to the mountains, but nearly as many were massacred and the city was sacked. Several of the local Moorish chieftains had already made their submission during the siege, and one of them had provided James with a welcome supply of provisions. The task of reducing various scattered bodies of the enemy was then undertaken, the land and booty were divided and one Berenguer de Santa Eugenia was left in command of the island. James was then able to return to Tarragona in October 1230. The next two years were spent in negotiations with the old King Sancho of Navarre, who wanted help against his nephew, Theobald of Champagne, and in two further expeditions to the Balearic Islands, in the course of which [85] Menorca was captured and the islands completely subdued. Ibiza was captured in 1235 by expeditions from the larger islands.

James was thus able to turn his attention elsewhere, and to satisfy the ambitions of his Aragonese subjects who were anxious to advance upon Valencia.

The Cid's conquest had been recovered by the Almorávides in 1102; when the Almohades overcame them, the province became an independent kingdom under Zeid, who had been driven out by Zaen and had attempted to enlist the help of the Aragonese. The beauty and fertility of the province, apart from other reasons, was enough to make it a most desirable possession; the industry and ingenuity of the Moorish population, the remains of whose system of irrigation can be seen even to-day, had raised its productivity to the highest point, and the "garden" of Valencia was famous for its flax, rice, wine, oil and fruit of every kind. Zaen had provided James with an adequate excuse for invasion by the fact that he had raided Christian territory as far as Tortosa and had refused to pay outstanding instalments of tribute. One of the Aragonese nobles, Blasco de Alagon, relying upon the permission given by James before he had started upon his Balearic expedition, had attacked and captured Morella, an important frontier town and stronghold. James hastened to the spot and obliged Blasco to surrender the town to himself, though he allowed him to hold it as a fief. He then prepared for an invasion of Valencia in 1233; a papal bull was secured from Gregory IX, making the war a crusade; money was voted by the Cortes both of Catalonia and Aragon, and Zeid made over all his claims upon Valencia to James, who summoned his nobles to meet him in Teruel early in May. The response was not great, but James was able to overrun the northern part of the province and to capture Burriana, Peñíscola and other places. For the remainder of this and for most of the following year, James was occupied by affairs at home. Early in 1234 he was betrothed to Yolande or Violante, the daughter of Andrew II of Hungary and the granddaughter of Peter Courtenay, Count of Auxerre and Emperor of Constantinople; the marriage took place in September. There were difficulties about the succession of Theobald Count of Champagne to the throne of Navarre and [86] the Pope was obliged to intervene. A misunderstanding arose with France, apparently connected with the claims of James upon Carcassonne while his relations with Castile were not improved by his projected marriage with Violante; there was also a dispute with Pons Cabrera concerning the possession of Urgel. These matters were all settled by the end of 1235 and James was free to continue his Valencian campaign.

He was already master of most of the country up to the Mijares but he required a base of operations nearer to Valencia itself and on the other side of the river; for this purpose he selected the Puig de Cebolla, a height about twelve miles from Valencia and near the sea. The Moors had foreseen the strategical advantages of "Onion Hill" and had dismantled the fortress on its summit. James rebuilt the fort, left Entenza with a hundred knights in command and returned home to collect men and money for the final stroke. The Moors made a vigorous assault upon the Puig in the following year, but were beaten off with much loss; James meanwhile found that enthusiasm for the invasion had died down; but he set out for the Puig with such forces as he could collect. Entenza had died, the garrison was disheartened and the nobles of Ferdinand's party urged the abandonment of the undertaking on the ground of expense. James declined to listen to any proposals of the kind, swore that he would not return north until he had captured Valencia and sent for his queen and daughter whom he lodged in Burriana. By the middle of 1238 he was able to advance to Valencia itself and, when the prospect of a formal siege was opened, reinforcements came to him in large numbers; the Archbishop of Narbonne sent 40 knights and 600 foot, and Henry III of England is also said to have sent a contingent. Valencia surrendered in September 1238, under an agreement which allowed Zaen and all who wished to follow him to leave the town with such articles as they could carry, their security being guaranteed for twenty days. Some 50,000 Moors are said to have thus evacuated Valencia, to the disgust of many in James' army who were anticipating a week of pillage and slaughter; James, however, obliged his followers to observe the terms of the convention in full. The land was divided among the nobles after a good deal of wrangling, as James [87] had previously distributed more than there was to divide; arrangements were made for the government and protection of the town, a cathedral was endowed and a bishop installed.

From this date until 1258 much of the King's attention and energy was occupied by affairs in the South of France and it will be convenient to summarize here the events which ended his prospects of forming an empire extending from the Maritime Alps to the southern border of Valencia. In 1229, Raimon VII of Toulouse had been obliged to accept the Peace of Paris, which practically reduced him to dependence upon Louis VIII, to whom Amauri, the son of Simon de Montfort had transferred rights and claims which he was himself too weak to enforce. James was alarmed by the encroachments of the French Crown and was ready to come to any arrangement with Raimon which might check the progress of Louis; a union of Toulouse and Provence seemed to be the best beginning of this policy. Sancha, the wife of Raimon of Toulouse, was James' aunt; she had ceased to live with her husband and had retired to Provence. The Count of Provence, Raimon Berenger, had a daughter also called Sancha. James proposed that his aunt should be divorced from Raimon of Toulouse who should then marry Sancha of Provence, with the idea that any issue of this marriage would eventually marry a member of his own family. James undertook to secure the necessary papal dispensations, to pension the divorced wife and to gain absolution for Raimon for his share in the Albigensian wars. When these negotiations had been brought to the point of performance, Pope Gregory died and the papacy remained vacant for some eighteen months, in the course of which Sancha of Provence married Richard of Cornwall. In 1241, the Count of Toulouse joined a number of southern lords in revolting against the French rule; exasperation with the cruelties of the Inquisitors was the immediate cause of this movement. Hugo de Lusignan, Count de la Marche and Henry III of England were the chief leaders and were joined by Trencavel of Béziers, who had been living in exile at the court of Aragon and now appeared with a considerable force. The rebels overran the Narbonnais, but were defeated by Louis at Taillebourg in July 1242. Henry III had been drawn into the movement by his mother, Isabella of Angouleme, who had married Hugo de la Marche; [88] after the defeat, Henry returned to England in 1243 and took no further action. Troubadour sirventes of the time couple his name with that of the King of Aragon and there seems to have been a general idea that the Capetian monarchy could only be held in check by their alliance, and if troubadour poetry can be considered to express popular opinion, there is no doubt that general feeling was antagonistic to the Northern French who were regarded as barbarians in comparison with the cultured southerners. There is, however, no evidence to show that James took any part in the revolt.

By 1244 the Count of Toulouse had made his peace with Rome and his submission to Louis; he then conceived the idea of marrying Beatrice, the fourth daughter of Raimon Berenger and heiress of Provence. Unfortunately her father died in 1245, at the moment when all obstacles seemed to have been removed, the French Court intervened and induced the Pope to refuse dispensation for the marriage and in the following year Beatrice married Charles, the brother of St. Louis. Thus another opportunity of uniting Provence and Toulouse was wrecked and the hopes of preserving the independence of the South were further diminished. In 1249 the Count of Toulouse died and his son-in-law, Alphonse of Poitiers, seized his possessions before James could intervene; with this event, the prospect of a united Southern France vanished entirely, and it remained for James to press his personal claims. This matter did not come to a head until 1255, when James had occasion to assert his rights to Montpellier; the French crown put in a counter-claim to Barcelona and its dependencies, a claim which went back to the days of Charlemagne. A commission was appointed to consider the question, which was not settled until 1258 when the treaty of Corbeil was signed by which St. Louis renounced his claims to the territory composing the former county of Barcelona, while James abandoned his rights in the South of France; a contract was signed for a marriage between his daughter Isabella and Philip, the second son of the King of France. The treaty is noteworthy as it was based upon the principle of natural frontiers as opposed to that of feudal claims. James certainly retained the Roussillonais and the Cerdagne. As they approach the Mediterranean the Pyrenees divide into two ranges. The modern frontier lies along the crest of the [89] southernmost range, but in this treaty the northern line of the Pyrenees (which is also, roughly, the linguistic frontier) was adopted. Thus the general principle is clear, that Aragonese influence north of the Pyrenees was to cease. It may be considered that James made a bad bargain; the claim of France to Barcelona, if historically correct, was in practice obsolete; whereas the claims of Aragon to parts of Southern France had been repeatedly acknowledged in recent years and were recognized by the countries concerned. But James was a statesman of some penetration; he realised that he had difficulties enough to occupy the whole of his resources and his attention in the Spanish peninsula, and that to waste his forces and distract his energies in attempts to keep a footing in France could only end in disaster. Spain would have been more powerful and prosperous if later monarchs could have realized this fact.

Home affairs had, in fact, prevented James from giving that attention to France which the prosecution of any imperialist scheme demanded. In 1247, at the Cortes of Huesca, he promulgated his legal code, the Customs of Aragon, part of his much-needed legislative work. He had already conquered the whole province of Valencia as far as the borders of Murcia in 1245; in 1247 a revolt broke out, and after crushing it James proposed to guard against this danger by expelling the Moorish population. This edict stirred the revolt to fresh life and the nobles in occupation of Valencian estates protested vigorously, using the arguments that reappear when Philip II proposed the expulsion of the Moriscos; they and their Christian dependents could not hope to cultivate the land as the Moors had done. A hundred thousand Moors are said to have left the kingdom, but the eviction was not thoroughly carried out; some nobles seem to have secured exemption and in 1610 there were about 200,000 Moors in the province for Philip III to deal with.

The later years of James's reign were largely filled with struggles against the refractory nobility, a trouble endemic in the country. Of other events one of the most important, in view of its future consequences, was the marriage between his son Pedro and Costanza, the daughter of Manfred, King of Sicily. As Manfred was at war with Charles of Anjou and the papal party, the Pope naturally regarded this as a very [90] unholy alliance; he urged St. Louis to break off the proposed match between his son Philip and James's daughter Isabella, and James could overcome the French King's scruples only by giving a definite undertaking not to help Manfred in his struggle with the papacy. The French marriage took place in July 1262; the alliance with Manfred had been celebrated about a month earlier at Montpellier. James appears to have been anxious to conciliate the Pope and made some show of starting upon a crusade, an undertaking which he resumed at a later date. In the same year he received an appeal for help from his son-in-law Alfonso of Castile. In 1260 the Moors of Andalucía had risen against the Castilians and had gained considerable successes; in that year Alfonso had appealed to James, who gave his subjects permission to serve against the Moors, if they wished, on condition that their action did not disturb relations with the King of Tunis, upon whose goodwill an important part of Catalonian commerce depended. Alfonso resented the offer of help under such restrictions, but in 1262 he induced his queen, James's daughter, to plead again for help. There was no love lost between the two kings, but James thought well to help Castile, for the obvious reason that he would himself be next attacked, if the Moors were successful; nor could he well desert his daughter and grandchildren. A frontier commission was appointed to settle the points in dispute between Aragon and Castile and James announced to the Cortes his intention of declaring war upon the Moors; the nobles seized the opportunity to try and extort various concessions and privileges and it was not until 1265 that James was able to invade Murcia. Early in the following year the capital surrendered under an agreement which left the Moors in the enjoyment of their religion and laws, with part of the town as a Moorish quarter. A strong force was left in the country, which submitted without difficulty to the new rule.

Early in 1267 James received an invitation from the Khan of Tartary to undertake a crusade. It was a project which he had long entertained, and he had proposed it to Pope Clement IV while he was occupied with the campaign in Murcia; the Pope informed him that he was too scandalous a character to offer himself as a crusader. Alfonso, his son-in-law, tried to dissuade him, but to no purpose. James made peace with [91] the Moorish King of Granada, went round various parts of his dominions collecting funds, arranged for the conduct of the government during his absence and concentrated a considerable fleet at Barcelona; he set sail in September 1269. James never went to sea without meeting a storm and on this occasion was driven into Aigues Mortes; he then gave up the attempt and returned to Spain by way of Montpellier, "por l'amor de sa dame Berenguiere," according to the continuator of the Chronicle of William of Tyre; but the reason for his return has not been satisfactorily explained; part of the fleet reached Acre and there seems to have been no material reason why James should not have gone after it When his sons Pedro Fernández and Fernán Sánchez, who were in command of this part of the fleet, found that no one at Acre was prepared to give them any assistance, they returned home, touching at Sicily on the way, where Fernán Sánchez was knighted by Charles of Anjou. Pedro was the son-in-law of Manfred, the enemy of Charles, and the result was a bitter quarrel between the two brothers, which was not composed until 1273. James was also involved in further disputes with the Catalan nobles who were stirred up by Fernán; a serious revolt followed, which was not ended until Pedro captured Fernán and killed him, an action which apparently met with his father's approval.

No sooner had the revolt of the nobles been quelled than James was confronted with a series of Moorish aggressions. The King of Morocco, Ibn Yusuff, invaded Andalucía early in 1275, in spite of the fact that he had concluded a treaty with James in the previous year and knew that James was on terms of alliance with Alfonso. Alfonso was absent from the country as he was a candidate for the imperial throne, and in his absence the Castilian forces suffered a series of defeats. James sent a contingent to their aid, but in the following year he had himself to deal with a serious revolt of the Moors in the district of Alicante; they were helped by bands of invaders from overseas and the revolt spread to Xátiva. While James was preparing to attack the rebels, he was taken ill and died at Valencia on July 27, 1276, at the age of sixty-nine, after a reign of sixty-three years.

Upon James and his work historians have passed the most varied judgments; he has been eulogized as the pattern of [92] chivalry; he has been condemned as an illiterate and licentious barbarian. Yet there is no doubt that he was the great figure and mark of his age. His personal character displayed great defects, even when judged by the moral standards of his own time; the list of his illegitimate children is sufficient to explain why his amours became the scandal of Christendom; his infatuation for his queen Violante allowed her to exert a disastrous influence upon his policy, as in the partition of his kingdom by his will; his occasional outbursts of devastating anger led him into excesses which were difficult to excuse; the story that he ordered the Bishop of Gerona's tongue to be torn out for revealing to the Pope a secret of the confessional seems to be well founded. There was also a certain strain of hypocrisy in his character, a strain which was not uncommon in men of his period. He considered that his championship of the Church should condone his shortcomings in morality and that he might excuse or explain acts of cruelty by regarding himself as the instrument of Divine vengeance. A pattern of chivalry he certainly was not; for chivalry implies above all things an unselfish readiness to serve, and with James his own interests and desires were usually the first consideration. Yet with these defects, and, perhaps, in part because of them, he was an attractive human character. Tall above the average and powerfully built, expert in all bodily exercises of peace and war, he seems to have been able to exert that personal magnetism upon invididuals which is one of the attributes of leadership. Like other great men, he was interested in detail as well as in principle; the man with a grievance could always feel that his affairs were of absorbing interest to the King, whether he secured redress or not, with the result that James was undoubtedly popular; "nunqua rey era tant amat per son poble com aquest."

James was a great legislator and a great administrator. These qualities were strained to the uttermost by the task of reducing a turbulent and selfish aristocracy to some kind of obedience and preserving unity between two proud and independent nationalities. His struggles with his nobles continued intermittently throughout his reign; yet if the condition of affairs at the time of his accession be considered, it will seem unlikely that another ruler would have been [93] any more successful in restraining feudal separatism. Loyalty, patriotism and unselfishness are qualities not acquired in a day; James could do little more than provide an occupation for his restless nobility by his attacks upon the Moors, and check their opposition by supporting the Church and the towns. His foreign policy is said to have been a failure; it is true that Aragon had the chance of forming a great southern empire under her rule and that James realized this possibility; but when the chance had gone through no fault of his, he was sensible enough to realize that natural and not political frontiers were the true limits of nationality and that a consolidated kingdom was likely to be more powerful than a loosely-knit empire of states in varied degrees of dependence.

James was a patron of letters and has derived no small reputation in this respect from the Chronicle which bears his name. Whether he wrote this book himself is doubtful; some have denied that he could write at all, as his signature has not been found upon any document of the period; but in any case, it is likely that he would have dictated the book to one of his scribes. James was not the kind of man to keep a private diary with any sort of regularity, and many of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the narrative are best explained by assuming that it was written or dictated some time later than the events which it describes. Traces have been found in it and in Desclot's chronicle of a poem in decasyllabic verse on the conquest of Mallorca, James's own exploit. While it cannot be regarded as reliable history, it remains a very readable narrative, informed by an artless simplicity and a vigorous straightforward style which suggest a definite personal authorship; and there is no sufficient reason for denying that James was that person, nor for refusing to him the honourable position of the first of the Catalan prose writers. His Book of Wisdom (Libre de la Saviesa) is an anthology of maxims and proverbs from various writers, ranging from Solomon down to Albertus Magnus and the Arab moralists; many were taken from the Apophthegmata Philosophorum of the learned Honein ben Ishak (809-873), of which a Hebrew translation was made in the thirteenth century; from this James derived his selections through one of his interpreters, Jehuda, who made other translations into Catalan at the King's orders. There is no evidence that [94] James wrote in verse, though he could appreciate troubadour poetry, to the influence of which Catalan poets were entirely subject. The Albigensian persecution had driven troubadours into other lands, and the court of Aragon had been hospitable to them of old; Alfonso II was a composer himself and was known in consequence as El Trobador. Peire Cardenal, the famous satirist of the Roman Catholic Church, retired to Aragon when the cause of Toulouse was lost; Aimeric de Belenoi ended his life in Catalonia. Of the native poets of the time, the best known to us are Serveri de Gerona and Guillem de Bergedan; Arnaud Catalan, Hugo de Mataplana who fell at Muret, and Guillem de Cervera were also in repute. James, no doubt, was obliged to be cautious in this matter; he did not wish to offend the Church and he could not entirely disregard the representations of Ramon de Penyafort, his confessor and a prominent Dominican, who regarded troubadours and their activities as the prime cause of heresy. He persuaded James to introduce the Inquisition into Aragon and in 1233 to prohibit the circulation of any romance translation of the Scriptures in his dominions. Certainly before that date James was renowned as a patron of poetry; an eloquent tribute to him appears at the outset of the epic poem Jaufre, which was written between 1225 and 1228; the author says that he heard the story told --

En la cort del plus honrat rei,
Que anc fus de neguna lei.
Cho fon lo bon rei d'Aragon
Paire de pretz e filltz de don
E seiner de bonaventura,
Umils e de leial natura,
Qu'el ama Deu e tem e cre
E manten lealtat e fe,
Patz e justicia; per que Deus
L'ama; car si ten ab los sieus,
Qu'el es sos noveltz cavaliers
E de sos enemies guerriers.
Anc Deus non trobet en el faillia,
Aintz fon la primeira batailla
Per el facha, e a vencutz
Cels, per que Deus es mescresutz;
Per que Deus l'a d'aitant honrat,
Que sobre totz l'a essauzat
De pretz e de natural sen,
De gaillart cor e d'ardimen.
[95] Anc en tan jove coronat
Non ac tan bon aib ajustat;
Qu'el dona grantz dons volontiers
A joglars e a chavaliers;
Per que venon en sa cort tut
Acels, que per pros son tengut.

-- "in the court of the most honoured king that ever was of any king. This was the good King of Aragon, father of worth, son of liberality and lord of happiness, of kindly and loyal nature who loves, fears and believes in God and maintains loyalty and faith, peace and justice; wherefore God loves him for such is his conduct with his subjects that he is God's foremost knight and the warrior against His enemies. Never did God find in him defect; indeed the chiefest of battles was wrought by him and he has conquered those by whom God was scorned. Wherefore God has honoured him, to exalt him above all in worth and native sense, gallantry and bravery. Never upon any young crowned king were so many virtues shed; for he readily gives great gifts to jongleurs and to knights, so that all those come to his court who are accounted good." This is in pleasing contrast with the virulent lampoons directed against James by Bernard de Rovenhac and other troubadours who were dissatisfied with his policy in the struggle between Northern and Southern France. Giraut Riquier, "the last of the troubadours," was in Catalonia in 1270 and wrote a cheerful retroencha in praise of the country and its inhabitants; he had suffered disappointments at Narbonne; his lady would show him no favour; he would therefore go to Catalonia --

Quar dompneys, pretz e valore,
Joys e gratz e cortesia,
Sens e sabers et honors,
Bels parlars, bella paria,
E largueza et amors,
Conoyssensa e cundia
Troban manten e secors
En Cataluenha a tria,
Entre.ls Catalas valens
E las donas avirens.

-- " For courtesy, valour and worth, joy, favour, courtliness, sense, learning and honour, fair speaking, fair fellowship, [96] líberality and love, knowledge and refinement, these find abundant support and protection among the valiant Catalonians and their charming women." It was not the first time that troubadours had praised the land and its people. Bertran de Born praises his lady by comparing her with a Catalan: "E de solatz mi semblet Catalana." Raimon de Miraval speaks of a journey "entre.ls Catalas joyos." James, as has been said, made Catalan the official language of his kingdom; in this tongue was written the great legal compilation formed during his reign, the famous Libre del Consulat de Mar, a collection of maritime laws and customs. The Chronicle of Ramon Muntaner and the voluminous writings of Ramon Lull are evidence of the impulse given to the development of prose composition, but these writers really belong to the next generation. James, in pursuance of this policy, was naturally prepared to support education; the University of Montpellier owed much of its development to his support; he founded a studium in Valencia in 1245 and secured privileges for it from Pope Innocent IV; but little is known of this foundation. Nor were architecture and art neglected; the cathedral of Lérida was built and consecrated during his reign. Though now out of use as a cathedral, the building shows that the transition from Romanesque to Gothic was not yet accomplished and that the influence of the Moors upon this kind of architecture was inappreciable.

The death of James marks the end of a period. With the next reign begins a new epoch both of domestic and foreign policy. In the course of the struggles with the nobility, a regular constitution had been developed in its main outlines. Within Spain itself the limits of expansion had been reached, and the wars against the Moors had attained their purpose. The connection with Sicily brought Aragon into the world of European politics, and her influence in the Mediterranean became of increasing importance.

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

A History of Aragon and Catalonia. James the Conqueror. Books.

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