The period treated in chapter XII of the last volume comprised the main movement in Spanish history from the early part of the eleventh century to the middle of the thirteenth, that is to say the reconquest from the Muslims of the greater part of southern and eastern Spain. The men who carried through the decisive efforts were Ferdinand III of Castile, who died in 1252, and James I of Aragon, who survived until 1276. Accordingly in that chapter the story was carried somewhat later than 1248, the date of the capture of Seville. The period now to be treated begins, in Castile, with Alfonso X, under whose sceptre the ancient kingdoms of Asturias, Leon, and Castile were now united, together with the conquests south of the Tagus as far as the Guadalquivir. The new period in Aragon starts with Peter III.
Logically, Alfonso X and his successors in Castile should have continued the peninsular policy of Ferdinand III, by mastering the Moorish kingdom of Granada and thus completing the reconquest, and by confirming it afterwards by dominating the coast of Morocco in order to check any fresh offensive on the part of the Muslims. Aragon could do no more in this direction, since the treaties with Castile, ratified in 1244, had closed the south to her, leaving the future conquests of the small territory which remained in the hands of the Muslims exclusively to the care and to the advantage of Castile. But the kings of Castile did not pursue continuously or decisively the policy laid down by their forerunners, nor did the opinion of their subjects urge them to do so. They considered that, after the great victories of the thirteenth century, the military power of the enemy was no longer formidable or able to take the offensive. Moreover, a struggle now so remote from their homes no longer interested the inhabitants of Leon and Castile, and was consequently reduced for the most part to frontier strife, chiefly carried on by the people of Andalusia—a circumstance which gives a special character to the expeditions against the Moors in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries till the reign of Isabella. Only kings such as Sancho IV and Alfonso XI showed that they had not forgotten the fundamental importance of completing the reconquest and, perhaps even more clearly, the question of neutralising the African peril by the conquest, not only of the Andalusian coast at the Straits, but also of the coast of Morocco. On their side the Moors of Granada, changing the old policy of the kings of the Taifas, who had sought direct aid from the Moroccan kingdoms and had thereby brought about the invasions of the Almohades and Almoravides, restricted themselves to making an entente with the Banu-Marin, the then masters of the region of Maghrib, and to strengthening the armies of the kingdom of Granada with African elements, the Zeneteh, which enabled them to resist for a long time the occasional attacks of the Christians.
The progress of the reconquest was checked by these causes, but still more by two crucial questions which preoccupied the Castilian monarchy, dynastic struggles and the anarchy of the nobles, who resisted the efforts of the Crown for discipline, order, and centralisation of power. During the second half of the thirteenth century and the whole of the fourteenth, these two questions distracted and absorbed the strength of the community, and had the disastrous effect of driving the contending parties into frequent alliances with the Moors of Granada—a fact which prolonged the existence of that kingdom. This provides an additional explanation for the intermittent character of the reconquest and the rarity of any decisive advance southward.
Meantime the Aragonese monarchy, no longer concerned with war against the Moors, directed its military energies and ambitions towards other lands. Expansion to the north of the Pyrenees having been checked by the victory of Simon de Montfort, the Aragonese kings turned again towards that Mediterranean movement which had been pursued by the independent Counts of Barcelona and had received a great impulse from the conquests of James I and the Aragonese occupation of all the eastern coast as far as Gandia together with the Balearic Islands. It was natural that this eastward movement should extend to the other Mediterranean islands and to Italy, where it was sure to clash once again with the ambitions of the French kings.
Such is the purely political outline of the period. The cultural background is supplied by the steady extension of the Castilian element over the rest of Spain, and by the prevalence of the culture already developed through the contributions of Moorish and Jewish influence and the penetration throughout the peninsula of the literary, artistic, and juridical renaissance. This followed Spanish lines and encouraged the development of the Spanish character in its distinct regional traits and its various spiritual expressions.
The reign of Alfonso X of Leon and Castile (1252-84) is characterised in the political sphere by two features. One of these is the struggle carried on between the king and the ever rebellious nobility; the other his aspiration to the imperial crown. Success in the latter, which was almost attained, would have anticipated by three centuries, though it is impossible to say whether with similar consequences, the achievement of Charles V. Many and various circumstances produced these two movements, circumstances which interacted upon one another. The consequent complexity was increased by a strong personal element, the principal cause of the misfortunes which embittered the life of the king and which rendered unfruitful for the time his political work. In theory this work was sound, as is shown by the king’s juridical labours, especially in his great book, Las Partidas. His failing was indecision in the question of succession to the crown and in dealing with the ambitions and wilful character of his second son, Sancho.
Alfonso X, largely brought up on the books of the contemporary writers of Roman Law, believed in absolute monarchy and the subordination to it of the power then enjoyed by the nobles. This brought him face to face with the aristocracy, rebellious, proud, and unscrupulous in its public conduct, ever ready for revolt, and a natural enemy to the authority of the monarch. In the struggle he found himself weakened by two factors of great influence upon public opinion, namely, the exhaustion of the treasury greatly impoverished by the previous wars, and his own wasteful, careless, and somewhat ostentatious character. The opponents of the king took full advantage of these two causes of unpopularity. Reduction of the tribute paid by the King of Granada, debasement, on two occasions, of the coinage, a measure which always disturbs the economic life of a country, and other ineffective fiscal measures aroused protests and disapproval, all the more alarming as the king increased his expenditure upon servants and courtiers and spent enormous sums on entertainments and presents. To these causes of discontent were added others of a strictly political nature, which clearly shewed Alfonso’s conception of the royal authority. These were the cession of the Algarves to the King of Portugal (1254), the renunciation of the feudal tie which bound that monarch to the King of Castile, and the abandonment of the claims of the Crown of Castile to the duchy of Gascony (1254), which had been the dowry of the wife of Alfonso VIII, Alfonso X’s great-grandfather.
The nobility considered these acts as an abuse of the royal authority and as a sign of a tendency towards absolutism, and made this a pretext for repeated rebellions, which usually took the unpatriotic form of aiding the Moors of Granada against the Christian king, or forsaking the service of the latter by denaturalising themselves—that is to say “changing their nationality,” as one would say nowadays, and offering their services to the Kings of Navarre and Aragon. These disturbances were promoted principally by the house of Haro, whose head was lord of Biscay, and by the king’s brothers Don Henry and Don Frederick. Alfonso attempted to avert civil war, by granting extensive privileges to the nobles in the Cortes of Burgos in 1271, or again by the execution of some rebel leader; but the efficacy of both measures was slight and merely temporary.
He was not more fortunate in his efforts to acquire the imperial crown, which was his main political ambition. Besides other factors of an international nature, the king’s indecision was as usual most damaging to his cause. The military reputation of certain of the Kings of Leon and Castile in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries had opened up direct relations with the Emperors, and alliances by marriage were formed between the two reigning houses. The decisive event in these relations was the marriage of Ferdinand III with Beatrix the Younger, daughter of King Philip, Duke of Swabia (1199-1208). Alfonso X, as their son, claimed the duchy of Swabia. During the Great Interregnum, after the deaths of Conrad IV in 1254 and William of Holland in 1256, the opportunity arose for Alfonso X to become a candidate for the Empire. The republic of Pisa took the initiative by sending an embassy to the King of Castile in 1256 with the object of recognising him as Emperor and of negotiating a military and commercial treaty with him. Alfonso accepted the offer, and in spite of the fact that Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III of England, presented himself as a rival candidate, the King of Castile soon obtained by means of bribes the support of four of the Electors to the imperial crown. The majority having been thus obtained, the election took place on 1 April 1257, in spite of the active opposition of Richard’s partisans. A few months later a German embassy arrived at Burgos to offer the imperial crown to Alfonso, who accepted it; but Spanish opinion, far from rejoicing at this high honour, which might have greatly enhanced the political position of a Spanish kingdom in Europe, shewed itself hostile. The obvious reason for this hostility was the great expenditure of the king, not only on the election but also on the presents to the ambassadors. Very probably the spontaneous aversion of certain important elements in Castilian politics to any adventures abroad influenced this attitude, coupled perhaps with a lack of clear conception on the part of the Castilian people of the position in Europe which the Empire represented and which at a later date Charles V and Philip II were to understand, each in his own way. In any case, the election to the Empire was unpopular in Castile, and this unpopularity produced a series of vacillations and subterfuges on the part of the weak-willed king which gravely compromised his position with regard to the Empire.
It should be added that the opposition of Pope Alexander IV and his three successors was as potent a factor in the final failure of Alfonso. The Popes, for various reasons connected with their Italian policy, inclined to Richard of Cornwall, and then supported Rudolf of Habsburg, who was elected on Richard’s death (1272). The culminating point was reached in the interview between Pope Gregory X and Alfonso at Beaucaire (June, July 1275). The King of Castile left this interview a beaten man, and was obliged to renounce the Empire, first verbally and later (October 1275) in a formal and decisive document. It is true that in the last stage of the struggle for the imperial crown the situation of the king was most unfavourable, for to his enemies abroad, who were both numerous and powerful, were soon added his domestic foes. The fresh rising of the nobles in 1272, an invasion of the Banu-Marin from Morocco in conjunction with the Moors of Granada (1275), and the death of Ferdinand de la Cerda (1275), Alfonso’s eldest son, profoundly affected both the spirit and the public position of the king.
The unexpected death of the heir brought yet another conflict upon him. The Crown of Castile had succeeded in obtaining the legalisation of the hereditary principle, which had been in practice since the beginning of the eleventh century. Alfonso, so careful in converting juridical principles into legal rules, had established as one of his laws in Las Partidas an older of succession upon the basis of the Roman law of representation, by virtue of which the eldest son transmitted the right of inheritance to his children. By this law, when the Infante de la Cerda died, his firstborn, Ferdinand, should have been recognised as heir to the throne; but Don Sancho, Alfonso’s second son, refused to abide by the law and insisted upon being recognised as heir to the throne, relying upon the nobility, who were hostile to the king. The latter, on his return from Beaucaire, instead of maintaining the law which he himself had formulated, gave way to the demands of Don Sancho. The Infantes de la Cerda fled to Aragon with their mother Blanche, a French princess, daughter of St Louis and sister of Philip III of France.
Shortly afterwards Alfonso repented under strong pressure from the King of France, who urged him to remedy the illegality committed. Alfonso now proposed to create for the Infante Ferdinand de la Cerda a new kingdom, feudatory to Castile, out of the territories of the old Moorish kingdom of Jaen. Don Sancho would not agree to this, and when Alfonso persisted in his scheme, civil war broke out between father and son (1281). In this war we have again the spectacle of the contending parties allying themselves with Moorish kings, a situation which recurs in Spanish history, as we have already seen, and which shews how the reconquest was not mainly religious but rather a political war on the part of the ruling classes in Spain. Alfonso allied himself with the Banu-Marin, Sancho with the Moors of Granada and with the majority of the nobility, who in this way sought to satisfy their resentment against the king. The Cortes which were assembled at Valladolid (1282) by the partisans of Sancho deposed Alfonso. The Pope intervened this time on the side of the legitimate king, who, however, was not able to continue the struggle long, as he died in 1285. He left a will in which he disinherited Sancho, bestowing the throne of Castile upon Don Ferdinand de la Cerda. Out of the territories of Seville and Badajoz on one side and Murcia on the other he formed two new kingdoms, one for the Infante Don John and the other for the Infante Don James, his younger sons; but Sancho was strong enough to prevent the execution of the will, and the civil war dragged on for many years, as we shall see, with the usual complications in respect of relations with the Moors of Granada and Morocco. The only positive advantages gained by Alfonso for the reconquest were the occupation of the district round Cadiz, from Moron to Medina Sidonia and Rota, Niebla and part of the Algarves (1262), and Cartagena (1263). By these conquests the coast of the kingdom of Granada was further restricted. Alfonso fortified afresh both of these districts, and moreover encouraged the settlement in Cadiz of Christians, especially Cantabrian sailors. The unfortunate picture which, apart from these military advantages, is presented in the political sphere by the reign of Alfonso the Learned, is only counterbalanced by his contribution to learning and his considerable influence on Spanish culture, especially with regard to jurisprudence and the introduction of theories of Roman Law, the protection of Moorish and Jewish culture, the production of lyrical poetry in the Galician idiom, and the writing of national history.
The eleven years’ reign of Sancho IV, who was recognised as king by the majority of the nobles and the towns, was very turbulent. On the one hand, those who remained loyal to the Infantes de la Cerda and to the testament of Alfonso X did not resign themselves to the violation of the will and continued in rebellion against the new king. As usual, some nobles took advantage of the situation, and once again we have the case of one of the pretenders, the Infante John, Sancho1s brother, seeking the aid of the Banu-Marin, as Alfonso X had done, and of Don Alfonso de le Cerda seeking aid from the Moors of Granada and from the King of Aragon. Consequently Sancho was obliged to fight at the same time against rebellious subjects, who were, however, supporting a better legal claim, and against the Moors of Africa. Sancho defeated the latter, dispersing the fleet which they had prepared at Tangier in order to invade Spain, and thus prevented the stronghold Tarifa, conquered some years earlier from the Banu-Marin, from falling into the hands of Don John and his Moorish auxiliaries. In the defence of this stronghold occurred the heroic deed of the Governor Guzman el Bueno, who refused to purchase the life of his son, a prisoner in the hands of Don John, by an act of infidelity towards his king and country.
A most important episode in this reign in respect of international politics was the change of attitude on the part of the new King of Aragon, James II, towards Castile. Alfonso III, the late King of Aragon, had helped, as we have said, the Infante de la Cerda, Don Alfonso, who was proclaimed King of Castile at Jaca in 1288, whence followed a short war between Alfonso III of Aragon and Sancho IV of Castile. The latter, ever intent on diminishing the number of his enemies, now succeeded in obtaining an alliance with James II, the successor of Alfonso III, and made a pact with him whereby the territories of North Africa were divided between the two kingdoms, Castile reserving for herself the eastern part from Melilla as far as Bougie and Tunis. This agreement, which shews clearly the determination to secure the African coast, was initiated by the afore-mentioned capture of Tarifa, an enterprise in which Sancho IV received military aid from James II.
The premature death of Sancho IV entailed on Castile the difficulties of a minority, since the heir, Ferdinand IV, was a child nine years old. The crisis which had occurred during the minority of Alfonso VIII was now to be repeated. In those days a king’s word and a king’s friendship counted for little. The King of Aragon, James II, turned once again to the side of Don Alfonso de la Cerda, who was receiving aid from the King of Granada, Muhammad II, and from many Castilian nobles. For his part, the Infante Don John reasserted his claims, supported by King Denis of Portugal. The situation would have been hopeless for Ferdinand IV had it not been for the great qualities of his mother, Doha Maria de Molina, granddaughter of Ferdinand III, queen-regent for the young king. She was a woman of courage, endowed with presence of mind in the face of dangers and with ready skill in dealing with the ambitious politicians of the time. In the midst of the war, not only civil but international, with Aragon, Portugal, Granada, and France, whose king seized the opportunity to gain advantages in Navarre, Doña María contrived gradually to detach the towns from their support of the Infante de la Cerda or of Don John by means of donations and promises of fresh fueros and privileges and by a policy of mildness and the great prestige of her word and presence. At the same time she strove to win over the Castilian nobles by granting them concessions, and by other modes of enlisting them on the king’s side. She also worked to win the Kings of Aragon and Portugal to her cause. No less arduous was her struggle to obtain from the Cortes and the towns funds with which to prosecute the war. For this end, she herself sold her jewels and continually sacrificed herself for her son. The position held by the queen-mother in the court resembled that held by Guzman el Bueno in the army. He continued to defend bravely and loyally the stronghold of Tarifa and the surrounding territory against all attacks, especially on the part of the Moors of Granada aided by the Banu-Marin, and he resisted all the proposals of treason against the king which were made to him. So the ground was held until the king, now sixteen, was declared of age in 1303; and shortly afterwards peace was made with the Kings of Portugal and Aragon. With the latter Ferdinand IV concerted a campaign against Granada and the possessions of the Banu-Marin in the south-east of Andalusia (1309). In this campaign, which was favoured by a political revolt in Granada, James II laid siege to the fortified city of Almeria, and Ferdinand IV to that of Algeciras, but the only result achieved was the capture of Gibraltar, effected by the initiative of Guzman el Bueno with the help of an Aragonese squadron. The defeat of a Castilian expedition against Granada led by Guzman, in which he lost his life, compelled James II to raise the siege of Almeria, and shortly afterwards Ferdinand was obliged to abandon the siege of Algeciras and arrange a peace and alliance with Nasr, the new King of Granada. This peace was short-lived. But Aragon afterwards took little part in the reconquest of Andalusia.
Alfonso XI and the Moors
On the death of Ferdinand IV in 1312, another minority occurred; for his son Alfonso XI was only one year old. This minority was even more serious and disturbing than that of the previous reign, since various members of the royal family, supported respectively by the nobles and by the towns, disputed the regency. This situation lasted until 1325, when the Cortes, meeting at Valladolid, declared the king of age, but it became singularly grave when a fresh war broke out with the Moors of Granada, in which the Christians suffered various defeats (1319-25) and lost several strongholds in the south, amongst others Baza (1324). When Alfonso XI assumed the government, he showed himself to be endowed with great military and political ability. He soon overcame the internal anarchy, reducing the nobles to order; he favoured the municipalities, protecting them against the nobles; he reformed the public finances and succeeded in imposing the principle of equality in the eyes of the law. But he also longed to complete the reconquest, and vigorously attacked the Moors as soon as he took the reins of power. The struggle was again complicated by the help which the Banu-Marin, desirous of regaining Gibraltar, gave to the Moors of Granada. At first the Moors gained advantages, recapturing Gibraltar (1333) and defeating the Christians at Algeciras (1340), but Alfonso XI was not discouraged by these defeats and in the same year, 1340, going to the relief of Tarifa which was again besieged by the Banu-Marin and Moors of Granada, gained a brilliant victory in the battle of the Salado, followed by another in 1343 in the battle of the river Palmones. The consequence was the capture of Algeciras, which the king entered in March 1344. In this second enterprise he was aided by various English, German, and Gascon knights and by the King of Navarre, Philip of Evreux. To complete these victories, Alfonso XI laid siege to Gibraltar in 1349, and died in his camp a victim of the Black Death, which was then desolating Spain. If this misfortune delayed the reconquest of that stronghold, the preceding victories on the other hand averted the possibility of any further invasions from Morocco. Another advantage gained by Alfonso XI was the final incorporation of the Biscayan province of Alava under the crown of Castile in 1332, the king undertaking to respect the fueros or special laws of that district.
Alfonso XI at his death left one legitimate son, Peter, issue of his marriage with Doña Maía of Portugal, and five bastards by a lady of Seville, Doña Leonor de Guzman, who had been his mistress for twenty years. The bastard sons of Alfonso XI were Don Henry, Count of Trastamara, Don Frederick, Master of the Order of Santiago, Don Ferdinand, Don Tello, and Don John. The mere existence of this double line in the royal house was conducive to internal strife. The widowed queen, as soon as her husband was buried, imprisoned Doña Leonor and the struggle began, though at first not openly. Indeed the bastards and their half-brother Peter were apparently reconciled, though with intermittent revolts on one side and persecution on the other. At this time none of the bastards put forward any pretension to the throne, nor in spite of their wealth and their many powerful friends did anyone consider them in that light. This was clearly shown by the fact that when Peter fell so gravely ill that his life was despaired of, two parties of nobles were formed with a view to the succession. While one of these supported the candidature of the Marquess of Tortosa, nephew of Alfonso XI, the other supported Don Juan Nuñez de Lara, lord of Biscay and a descendant of one of the Infantes de la Cerda. The king recovered and matters returned to their normal course, which meant a constant struggle on the part of the Crown against the nobles and the prelates, who continued their lawless and deplorable custom of oppressing the weak and of taking justice into their own hands whenever it suited them. Things being thus, Dona Leonor was murdered by order of the widowed queen— whether with Peter’s consent is unknown, as he was still almost a boy, but certainly with the complicity of the king’s favourite, Don Juan Alfonso de Albuquerque, a noble of Portuguese origin. In spite of this heinous deed, the sons of Doña Leonor did not revolt immediately. However, it was to be expected that some, if not all of them, would finally revolt, although others, for instance the second, Don Frederick, were almost constantly loyal to Peter. The occasion came a little later when one of the frequent episodes of anarchy produced the customary repression on the part of the king. In the first place certain citizens of Burgos, stirred up by a noble of that city, Garcilaso de la Vega, revolted and killed one of the king’s tax-collectors; shortly afterwards the lord of Aguilar, Don Alfonso Fernández de Coronel, also revolted, seeking alliance with other nobles and with the Moors of Granada and Africa. Peter put down the revolt at Burgos and put to death Garcilaso and other people of the city. He then attacked and took the town of Aguilar, put Coronel to death together with his principal followers, and declared the town to be the property of the Crown in perpetuity. Thereupon the bastards Don Henry and Don Tello attempted to stir up a rebellion; the former was obliged to flee |o Aragon and the latter, defeated at Gijon by Peter, was pardoned by the king and reinstated in all his castles and lands in Asturias.
A fresh occurrence added to the motives for the struggle thus begun. In 1353 Peter married Blanche de Bourbon of the royal house of France, a marriage negotiated by the queen-mother and by the favourite, Albuquerque. Peter, who was then only seventeen years old, had previously had relations with a lady of good family, Doña Maria de Padilla. So great was the love which the king had for her that he accompanied her everywhere, much as his father had done previously with Dona Leonor. Three days after the celebration of his ma rriage with Blanche de Bourbon the king abandoned her, leaving the palace and rejoining Doña María. The reasons for this step are unknown. It has been supposed that it was on account of his passion for Dona Maria; also that the king suspected some previous intrigue between Blanche and the bastard Don Frederick. It has also been suggested that the main reason was the non-payment of the dowry of Blanche which had been promised by the King of France. In any case, the event caused great scandal in the Court and amongst the nobles: it also aroused the apprehensions of Albuquerque, who feared that the relatives of Doña Maria would supplant him in the king’s favour. On the other hand, other nobles and among them the bastard brothers of the king took Peter’s side, thinking thereby perhaps to compass the fall of Albuquerque. The situation grew worse when Peter had Blanche imprisoned in the castle of Arevalo and changed all the officials of the Court. Some disaffected nobles whom the king had meant to execute owed their lives to the intercession of Maria de Padilla. Albuquerque had taken refuge in the fortress of Carvajales near the Portuguese frontier. Peter, regarding him as a rebel, marched against him. Thereupon Albuquerque planned a rising, with the connivance of the bastards Henry and Frederick, intending to dethrone Peter and offer the crown to a Portuguese prince. This rising gathered strength, being supported by various nobles in Galicia and in other districts, and also by the city of Toledo and by the queen-mother herself. They all demanded that Peter should give up Maria de Padilla. Some alleged feelings of pity for Blanche; but the majority were merely intent upon supplanting the relatives of Doña María in the king’s favour. Inveigled by his mother, Peter went to Toro to confer with her and certain of the nobles. They promptly seized him and treated him with scant respect (1354); but the king succeeded in escaping, got together some troops, and attacked the rebels, who were clearly guilty of treason. He defeated them; many were executed, and the civil war was ended for the time. Don Frederick and Don Tello submitted, and Don Henry fled to France. Peter pardoned his mother, who retired to Portugal.
The peace was of but short duration. It was broken by the personal rivalry between Peter and the King of Aragon, Peter IV, who had succeeded to the throne in 1336. Both kings were wilful, short-tempered, and but little disposed to abandon their whims. War broke out in 1356 concerning a discourtesy towards the King of Castile on the part of a captain of the Catalan squadron at Sanlucar. The importance of this war, stopped soon after it had started by a truce arranged by the legate of Pope Innocent VI (1357), lay in the fact that Henry of Trastamara immediately went over to the side of Peter IV and that several Castilian nobles who had been loyal to Peter went with him. From that time Trastamara always found support in the King of Aragon; but six years were yet to elapse before he could openly aim at the throne of Castile. The truce of 1357 lasted but a little while. Both the King of Castile and the King of Aragon were aware of their perpetual and irremediable enmity and sought alliances with a view to future warfare. Peter I succeeded in obtaining the support of King Edward III of England. Peter IV, in addition to the aid of Trastamara and his party, got help from the Kings of Granada and Morocco. The King of Castile, suspicious of everybody, not without reason in view of the constant disloyalty, had been deserted by some of his partisans, among them his bastard brother Frederick. Peter had him executed in the royal palace at Seville, believing him to be in league with Trastamara, although he had just conquered for Castile the town of Jumilla in Murcian territory (1358). Peter’s cousin Don Juan, and many other nobles and knights of Cordova, Salamanca, and other cities were also alienated from him. The murder of Don Frederick angered Trastamara so much that he broke the truce and invaded Castile. The Pope intervened again, and Peter was ready to give way, but not so Peter of Aragon. This so much irritated the King of Castile that he ordered fresh assassinations, that of his aunt Doha Leonor, of Don Tello’s wife and her sister, of the bastards Don John and Don Tello, and of various castellans and others. The defeat of Trastamara at Najera caused the Aragonese King to sue for peace, but the struggle was not ended until May 1361. This peace also was of short duration. During this time Peter intervened in the dynastic struggle in Granada between the King Muhammad V and a pretender who had dethroned him in 1359, called Abu-Sa‘id or Bermejo. Peter aided Muhammad V, and attacking the territory of Granada took possession of Iznajar, Cerna, Sagra, and Benameji. These victories forced Abu-Sa‘id to come and sue for peace in person. Peter killed the suppliant with his own hand in revenge for the help given to the King of Aragon in the late war.
Peter I and Henry of Trastamara
Once again war broke out between the two Christian kings and once again Trastamara fought on the side of Peter IV. These two now signed the pact of 1363 in which Trastamara appears as pretender to the throne of Castile. In a later agreement Trastamara undertook to hand over to the King of Aragon the kingdom of Murcia and various important Castilian strongholds near the Aragonese frontier. Trastamara started the struggle with the aid of the celebrated bands of German, Gascon, English, and Spanish adventurers, so well-known by the name of the White Companies, whose outrages at that time filled the south of France with terror. These were under the command of the French knight Bertrand du Guesclin; and in order to get rid of them, not only the King of France but also the Pope, then residing at Avignon, encouraged them to pass into Spain. The latter gave them 100,000 gold florins; the King of Aragon also gave them 100,000 gold florins and bestowed the title of Count of Borja upon du Guesclin. With these troops Trastamara first of all entered Calahorra (March 1366) and then Burgos, Toledo, and Seville. At Burgos he had himself proclaimed King of Castile.
Peter, without sufficient means to defend himself, fled to Bayonne and negotiated there for help from the King of England, to whom he promised the cession of various ports, castles, and lands along the Cantabrian coast. He also sought the aid of the King of Navarre. From the King of England he obtained an army under the command of the Black Prince, by whom Trastamara was again defeated at the battle of Najera (1367). In spite of the chivalrous protection which the Black Prince wished to accord to the prisoners taken in this battle, Peter had a number of them executed and insisted that others should be handed over to him. This disgusted the Black Prince. In Toledo, Cordova, and Seville the king also put to death a number of his enemies. These fresh cruelties, in addition to the fact that Peter had not given the pay promised to the English troops nor handed over the promised towns to the Black Prince, caused the English to abandon him and withdraw to France. Various cities of Castile at once rose in favour of Trastamara; he again took the field, and gained the crowning victory of Montiel over the troops which remained loyal to Peter. The latter took refuge in the castle, where he was besieged by Trastamara. Peter proposed to du Guesclin that he should be allowed to escape; du Guesclin refused out of loyalty to Trastamara, but then pretending to agree he induced Peter with several followers to visit him in his tent. They were all made prisoners. Trastamara came to see the prisoners, and the two brothers joined in a hand to hand struggle. Trastamara fell beneath his adversary but one of his followers, whether the Count of Rocaberti or another is uncertain, helped him to get on top; and Trastamara, thus getting the advantage, killed his brother (23 March 1369). Such was the end of the king whom historians and tradition have called alternately Peter the Cruel and Peter el Justiciero. The recent examination of Peter’s skull has given rise to the opinion that he was abnormal, and certainly most of his punishments and acts of vengeance have the appearance of insanity; many of his executions, however, which shock our present conceptions, were only the application of the contemporary penal code and an example of the cruelty and violence of public morality at that time. We find numerous similar examples in the political history of all medieval kings and of many nobles. The struggle between the nobility and the monarchy was violent and presupposed the destruction of one or the other.
Don Henry of Trastamara, who became king as Henry II after the defeat and murder of Peter and was not less cruel than he, at once showed the truth of what has already been stated. Although after the victory of Montiel the majority of the nobles, cities, and towns of Castile and Leon recognised Peter’s bastard brother as king, certain important cities, such as Zamora, Ciudad Rodrigo, Carmona, Morlina, Vitoria, Salvatierra, Cañete, Requena, and others remained loyal to the memory of Peter I and continued the civil war for some time. But this resistance was useless against the superiority of the new king’s military forces. On the surrender of Carmona Henry II promised to respect the life of the governor, Martin Lopez de Cordoba, who was the guardian of Peter’s two daughters, but after the custom of the time he broke his word and had him executed; the daughters of Peter I were imprisoned. Henry was soon involved in war with the King of Aragon, who had now turned against him, also with the Kings of Portugal, Navarre, Granada, and even England. The Portuguese King, as protector of Peter’s daughters, invaded Galicia, where partisans hostile to Henry were gathered. The King of Navarre, Charles II, attacked the frontiers of Castile and took Logrono and other places in the Rioja.
With regard to England a serious dynastic question arose. The Dukes of Lancaster and York, sons of Edward III of England, had married respectively Dona Constance and Dona Isabella, daughters of Peter the Cruel by Dona Maria de Padilla. At the Cortes held in Seville in the year 1362 Peter had declared that before his marriage to Blanche of Bourbon he had married Dona Maria de Padilla and that consequently his issue by her was legitimate; thus their claims had some legal basis. This right in the first place descended to Don Alfonso, Dona Maria’s son, but he died in 1367 and consequently his rights went to his sisters, who had in fact been recognised as heiresses to the throne by the Cortes of Briviesca in 1363. This was the basis of the Plantagenet claims to the throne of Castile, legally vacant on the death of Peter, and they were championed by the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, who assumed the title of King of Castile. For Henry it was important not only to repel these claims but also to weaken the power of England as much as possible. For this purpose his friendship with Charles V of France, a constant enemy of the English King, supplied a pretext. Accordingly, while Henry himself invaded Portugal, besieged Lisbon, and forced the Portuguese King to sue for peace, he also sent to the coast of Guienne a Castilian fleet which defeated the English fleet, under the Earl of Pembroke, off La Rochelle (23 June 1372); the earl, with seventy knights, was made prisoner and brought to Spain. On land Henry crossed the Bidasoa and laid siege to the fortress of Bayonne, but without success. However, he thereby succeeded in averting the invasion of Spain which was being prepared by the Duke of Lancaster. Henry also held in check the attacks made by the Kings of Navarre and Aragon. With the latter he formed an alliance by means of marriages between Don John, the heir of Castile, and a daughter of Peter IV of Aragon, and between Charles (III) the heir of Navarre and one of his own daughters. Peace with England followed as a consequence of the truce arranged by the mediation of the Pope between the Kings of England and France (Bruges, 27 June 1375), to which Castile was also a party. This truce and the peace also renewed with the Moors of Granada initiated a period of calm such as had not been known for many years in Castile, and which was only broken for a short time at the end of Henry’s reign by a brief war with Navarre.
Henry spent the last four years of his life (1375-79) in strengthening his dynasty by a policy of amity, even towards his former enemies. To this end he showered honours and gifts of lands and lordships, a type of favour which, from its abundance and the name of him who bestowed it, became known as mercedes enriqueñas. Henry himself was called El de las mercedes (gifts). His son John I succeeded him at the age of twenty. John’s reign is marked by two important political events: the alliances with Portugal and with England. The former might have brought about the union of the two crowns of Castile and Portugal in one sovereign, the latter effected the legitimisation of the illegitimate dynasty of Trastamara through the union with the legitimate branch of Peter. Alliance with Portugal came as a consequence of a fresh war in which Castile had the advantage and negotiated a treaty of peace; one condition of this was the marriage of the Infanta Doha Beatriz, heiress to the Portuguese crown, with the second son of John I, but the king having become a widower in the meantime married Doña Beatriz himself. It was agreed that on the death of the Portuguese King, Ferdinand I, the Kings of Castile should assume the title of “King of Portugal,” but that they should not become so in fact except in the person of the son or daughter who should attain fourteen years of age. This condition was never fulfilled, since at the death of Ferdinand I in 1383 the Portuguese people, and particularly the nobility, refused to recognise the validity of his promise and elected for their king the Master of the Military Order of Avis founded in the thirteenth century. The King of Castile determined to assert his treaty rights by force, but the war thus begun, although at first favourable to the Castilians, ended with the decisive Portuguese victory of Aljubarrota (15 August 1385). Thus the proposed union of the two crowns came to nothing, and the Master of Avis reigned as John I of Portugal. The alliance between Castile and England came about from the renewal of the pretensions of the Duke of Lancaster, who invaded Galicia with the help of the King of Portugal and took possession of several strongholds. John I of Castile, instead of venturing on a doubtful war, preferred to negotiate with Lancaster, and finally concluded in 1387 the Treaty of Troncoso, which arranged for the marriage of Henry, heir to the Castilian throne, with Catherine, daughter of the Duke of Lancaster and granddaughter of Peter I. The newly-married couple thenceforward assumed the title of Princes of Asturias (1388), which was used by the heirs to the throne of Leon and Castile and later of Spain. Thus the two rival branches, that of Peter and that of Henry II, were united, and the memory of the fratricide of 1369 was wiped out.
On the death of John I in 1388 Henry III, who was still a minor, succeeded to the throne. During his minority the political upheavals of the time of Ferdinand IV and Alfonso XI were repeated, a proof that neither Henry II’s gifts nor those afterwards granted by John I had solved the problems of strife between royal discipline and the anarchical ways of the nobles. The regents governed rather to their personal advantage than in the interests of the State. The nobles, divided into factions as usual, fought amongst themselves, filling the cities and countryside with sanguinary strife as, for example, in Seville, where the Count of Niebla and the Ponce family fought for mastery, and in Murcia where the Fajardos and Manuales did likewise. Moreover, assaults on the ghettos and massacres of Jews, which had been occasional episodes in the time of Alfonso VIII and of Peter the Cruel, now, as in other parts of Europe, became regular proceedings, beginning in Seville and spreading thence over most of Andalusia and Castile. The king, although of a weak constitution, as is evident from his nickname “el doliente” (the invalid), had great force of character. Hardly had he been declared of age in his fifteenth year than he began to remedy the evils introduced by the regents and nobles. To this end he revoked many of the gifts which the regents had granted to the detriment of the royal treasury. He insisted on the return of rents and lands usurped from the Crown and chastised the factions of nobles. The ever-latent strife with Portugal broke out again through an unexpected act of aggression without previous declaration of war on the part of the Portuguese King, whose forces took possession of Badajoz, but the Castilian troops soon recovered the stronghold (1397). The African Moors still disturbed the coasts of Andalusia by their piratical expeditions. To put an end to these Henry III ordered a naval expedition against Tetuan. The Castilian navy forced the bar of the river Martin and destroyed the city (1400), which had been the lair of the pirates. He attempted to make a truce with the Moors of Granada, but without success, and consequently in 1405 prepared to undertake a war against them.
Henry also turned his attention to international relations, aiming at a peaceful understanding with the most powerful and influential kings of the time. This policy, very probably connected with the importance of commercial relations with the East, induced him to send embassies to the celebrated conqueror, Tamerlane, ruler of Persia and Turkestan (13761405), and to the Sultan of the Ottoman Turks, Bayazid I (1360-1403). In these embassies there were among others two Castilian nobles and a monk. One of the Castilian ambassadors, Ruy González de Clavijo, wrote a curious account of the visit to Tamerlane, entitled Historia del Gran Tamerlan. Tamerlane sent to Henry among other presents two maidens mentioned in poems collected fifty years later and published in the Cancionero de Baena (compiled about 1445). Henry also encouraged the capture and colonisation of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic, already known and a matter of dispute in the time of Alfonso XI, but not yet taken by any European power. In 1402 the conquest was undertaken by the Spaniard Rubin de Bracamonte and the French adventurer Jean de Bethencourt, who had sworn fealty to the King of Castile. The islands conquered, not without great resistance on the part of the inhabitants, were then named Hierro, Fuerteventura, Gomera, and Lanzarote. But their definite possession and incorporation with the Crown of Castile did not take place until the end of the fifteenth century.
Henry died prematurely in 1407. All his efforts on behalf of internal peace, social order, and the aggrandisement of Castile were insufficient to solve the political problems of the period. And indeed the difficulties were insuperable. This was to be shewn by the wars during the fifteenth century, at the end of which the firm hand of Isabella, as we shall see later, and other favourable factors, were at last able to change the face of things.
While the history of the Castilian part of the Peninsula was developing along these lines, on the eastern side, in the united realms of Aragon and Catalonia, events were taking place which partly corresponded to the same social and political problems as in Castile and in some measure opened the way to Spanish expansion beyond the Peninsula. Seven kings occupy' the period under discussion, four of whom are of capital importance in the history of Aragon and Catalonia.
The Crown of Aragon
The partition by James I of his dominions into the kingdoms of Aragon and Majorca, inherited by his sons Peter and James respectively, brought about the political independence of the Balearic Islands for a number of years, but the bonds between the kingdoms of Majorca and Aragon were not completely severed, especially when James of Majorca declared himself a feudatory of the Crown of Aragon (1278). If the policy of James I in this direction does not appear very wise, since it weakened the power of the monarchy which he had increased by the conquest of Valencia and the Balearic Islands, yet he deserves credit for his diplomatic aggrandisement of Aragon by the marriage of his son Peter to Constance, daughter of Manfred, King of Sicily. The rights of the Aragonese kings to parts of Italy were derived from this marriage. James I proposed at the same time to counteract in this way the alliance advantageous to France brought about by the marriage of the Countess of Provence with Charles of Anjou, the perpetual rival of the Catalans and Aragonese in the south of France.
The first act of the new king, Peter III, was to affirm his political independence with regard to the Papacy, thus denying the validity of the vassalage contracted by his grandfather Peter II. Peter III expressed this doctrine in the declaration which he made at his coronation at Saragossa that he was not receiving the crown from the hands of the archbishop in the name of the Church, and was neither for her nor against her (16 November 1276). James I had been the ally of Mustansir, King of Tunis, who paid tribute to Aragon. On the death of Mustansir the throne was usurped by one of his sons, and Peter III seized the opportunity to intervene in Tunisian affairs. To this end he sent an expedition in 1280 under the command of a Sicilian captain, Coral or Corrado Lancia, with the result that a sort of Aragonese protectorate was established over Tunis, which comprised the right of levying direct tribute and half of the taxation imposed on the country, the establishment of consuls in Bougie and Tunis, and a governor for the Christian residents in the district. This governor, who was to be an Aragonese or Catalan, enjoyed the privilege of flying the Aragonese flag, to which equal honours were to be paid as to the Tunisian flag. This important diplomatic success, which laid the foundation of Aragonese influence in the north of Africa, was the forerunner of new events of which the kingdom of Sicily was the scene and in prevision of which Peter III probably undertook the expedition to Tunis.
The kingdom of Sicily was composed of the island of that name and of the territory of Naples on the mainland. It was then ruled by the Hohenstaufen in the person of Manfred, father-in-law of Peter III and son of the Emperor Frederick II. The long struggle between the Papacy and the Hohenstaufen was drawing to its close, and the Pope was resolved to wrest the kingdom, of which he was the lawful suzerain, from the enemy house. For this end, the Pope enfeoffed Charles of Anjou with the kingdom of Sicily on condition that he should conquer it as papal vassal and champion. Charles invaded the kingdom (1264), and Manfred perished at the battle of Benevento. A similar fate befell Manfred’s nephew Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen. Overcome by Charles of Anjou, Conradin was taken prisoner and beheaded at Naples. Thus Peter III remained the legitimate representative of the rights of the house of Swabia in Sicily and the last hope of the Ghibelline party, persecuted by the Guelf or papal party. The most important members of the Ghibelline party in Sicily fled from the cruel persecutions of Charles of Anjou, now master of Sicily, and sought refuge with Peter III. It is not known for certain whether the King of Aragon planned the conquest of Sicily independently at this time or whether he made an agreement with the Sicilians to that end. It may, however, be affirmed that Peter conducted negotiations through the Sicilian John of Procida to concert a league against Charles of Anjou into which the Kings of Aragon and Castile were to enter, together with the Emperor of Constantinople, many of the Sicilian nobles, and even Pope Nicholas III himself. The Pope appears to have designed the establishment of two kingdoms in Italy, one in Lombardy and the other in Tuscany, for two of his nephews and to have found that Charles of Anjou was an obstacle to this plan.
The death of Nicholas III and the election in 1281 of the Frenchman Martin IV, who immediately shewed opposition to Peter III, caused the projected alliance to fail. But the King of Aragon did not abandon his scheme. He made sure of peace at home by an alliance with Sancho IV of Castile, and coming to an agreement with the Count of Pallars and the Viscount of Cardona who might have caused disturbances in Catalonia, he made Constance queen-regent of the kingdom in case of his own absence. At the same time he made great preparations for war, assembling on the coast of Catalonia and Valencia a fleet which counted as many as 140 ships and 15,000 men. The King of France in alarm sent ambassadors to Peter to learn what the reason of these preparations might be. But the King of Aragon gave an evasive answer. The ostensible motive was to make a crusade to Constantine in Africa, where the governor had sought help from Peter against the King of Tunis, promising to hand over the city and to become a Christian. The fleet put to sea with the troops in June 1282 and made towards Collo on the Barbary coast. The Aragonese took the city, where they fortified themselves and continued for some time the war against the natives of the country.
Shortly before, there had taken place in Sicily the rising against the French known as the Sicilian Vespers (31 March 1282); and an embassy from the Sicilians now offered to Peter, as representative of the house of Swabia, the crown which Charles of Anjou had wrested from Manfred. Peter III accepted, fully convinced of his rights. Notwithstanding the opposition of many of the nobles in his host, he ordered Collo to be burnt as well as other towns in the district, and embarked his army for Sicily. On 30 August he arrived at Trapani, and soon afterwards defeated the French fleet and made himself master of the whole island. Charles of Anjou, who was then engaged in besieging Messina, abandoned that enterprise and withdrew towards the north of Calabria, whose coasts however fell into Peter’s hands in February 1283. Charles, in despair at these defeats, had recourse to a measure frequent at that time and challenged the King of Aragon to a duel. The challenge was accepted, and the combat was arranged to take place at Bordeaux on 1 June 1283. When the time came, Peter learnt that the King of France, in agreement with the King of England to whom Bordeaux belonged, was preparing an ambush for him and for the nobles who were to accompany him. To avoid this danger and to keep his word, Peter went to Bordeaux in disguise and learnt that the plot was a fact, and that the governor could give no guarantee for the person of the king and his company. Peter thereupon made himself known at the place appointed for the combat and had it certified that he had been there. He then immediately rode back to Spain, not without grave peril of capture by the partisans of the King of France. He entered Spain by way of Guipuzcoa and proceeded to Tarragona.
In the meanwhile the war continued in Italy with favourable results for the King of Aragon, whose admiral Roger Loria gained a great reputation as a sailor and warrior. He defeated the French fleet twice off Malta and off Naples, taking prisoner Charles the Lame son of Charles of Anjou (1284). In the January of the following year Charles of Anjou died, leaving the Angevin cause in the kingdom of Sicily without a leader; but Pope Martin IV on the other hand, who did not forgive the King of Aragon for having conquered the island of Sicily and who maintained his claims to the feudal rights over Aragon repudiated by Peter III, excommunicated the latter and, declaring him to be deprived of his possessions, absolved his subjects from their oaths of fealty, and granted his dominions to Charles of Valois, third son of Philip III of France (May 1284). King Philip III invaded Catalonia at the head of an army of 1800 horse and countless foot. The Holy See declared this war to be a crusade and gathered contributions to support it, while the invaders found support in James II, King of Majorca, the brother of Peter III and also lord of Roussillon, who allowed passage through that territory. Accordingly the French penetrated through Ampurias (Ampurdan), notwithstanding the fact that some fortresses in Roussillon such as Salces and Coplliure held out for Peter. The French took possession of places in Ampurias and then laid siege to Gerona. Charles of Valois was crowned king in the castle of Lleis with the support of certain Catalan nobles and ecclesiastics and of various towns of Ampurdan.
Peter III was hard pressed. His preparations to beat back the invasion, which had obliged him to temporise with some political claims of the nobles and of the city of Barcelona, were insufficient. Fortunately the fortress of Gerona held out long enough to allow Roger Loria, who had been summoned by Peter, to arrive with his ships. He defeated the French fleet at the battle of the Islas Hormigas. This victory, which stopped the provisioning of the French army by sea, together with an epidemic which broke out amongst the troops through lack of food and excessive crowding in the camp, forced the French King, Philip the Bold, to retire. His retreat was disastrous. The Aragonese and Catalan forces posted on the pass of Panisars allowed Philip to go by, but fell upon the rest of the troops and slaughtered them. The war went on for some time in Roussillon, but the towns which had been taken by the French soon surrendered to Peter III. Shortly afterwards (2 November 1285) Peter died, at the moment when his son Alfonso was leading an expedition against Majorca to punish the disloyalty of King James II. Before his death Peter III had asked the Archbishop of Tarragona to remove the excommunication which the Pope had laid upon him, declaring at the same time that he was willing to hand over the kingdom of Sicily to the Holy See. But Peter’s successor Alfonso III did not carry out his father’s intentions. Having gained possession of Majorca he retained it during the whole of his reign, as a punishment for the conduct of his uncle at the time of the French invasion, and soon afterwards he took Minorca, which from the time of James I had been only a vassal-State. Peter’s second son James, who during the life-time of his father had been accepted as the heir to Sicily, kept the island with the connivance of his brother Alfonso and was crowned its king in 1286. Consequently the war continued between the Sicilians and the French in Italy; but Aragon was not directly concerned in it, since Sicily was now a separate kingdom. This fact aided Alfonso III in composing his differences with France and with the Papacy, under pressure from other European States, especially England.
Peace was finally made at Canfranc in 1288, the principal conditions of which with regard to Aragon were: the revocation of the investiture of the kingdom of Aragon made by the Pope in favour of Charles of Valois in 1284; the recognition of the sovereignty of the Crown of Aragon over Majorca and Roussillon; and the liberation of Charles the Lame, a prisoner since June 1284, in exchange for indemnities and fresh securities and the possession of the island of Sicily for James the brother of Alfonso III. When Charles the Lame was set at liberty, neither the King of France nor the Pope fulfilled the pact, the former renewing his menaces with the connivance of the dethroned King of Majorca; and the struggle went on both in Sicily and Calabria. A new peace signed at Tarascon in 1291 put an end to the struggle, but greatly to the prejudice of Aragon, seeing that Alfonso now undertook to pay to the Holy See the tribute promised by Peter II with all arrears in return for the Pope’s renewed withdrawal of his grant of the kingdom to Charles of Valois; this is very clear evidence of the moral force which the Papacy still exercised upon secular politics. By the Treaty of Tarascon Alfonso undertook to prevent Aragonese and Catalans from serving under James of Sicily, to require of the latter the surrender of Sicily to the Pope, and in the case of his refusal to declare war upon him. Shortly afterwards Alfonso III died without issue and the throne passed to his brother James, who had been deprived of his rights over Sicily by the terms of the Treaty of Tarascon. Events showed that, in spite of everything, the aims of France and the Papacy could not be realised. James II left Sicily in order to be crowned King of Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia, but he appointed his brother Frederick governor in Sicily. This open violation of the Treaty of Tarascon, to which James had never consented when reigning in Sicily, provoked a fresh war with France. But James desired peace, and now accepted the terms of Pope Boniface VIII. Accordingly a third treaty was soon made at Anagni in 1295, in which once again the King of Aragon renounced his claims to Sicily, as Alfonso III had done in 1291, and undertook to make war upon the Sicilians and upon Frederick, should they not agree to restore the island to the Pope. On his side the Pope raised all sentences of excommunication from the Aragonese sovereigns. The King of France also renounced for himself and Charles of Valois their claims on Aragon, and the marriage was arranged of Blanche, daughter of Charles the Lame, to the King of Aragon. Finally, two years later, by way of compensation for the loss of Sicily, James obtained from the Papacy the grant of dominion over the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, provided that he should conquer them and pay a tribute to the Pope.
Alfonso, heir to the Aragonese throne, undertook (1323-24) the conquest of Sardinia, but met with great resistance on the part of the islanders, and failed to effect complete occupation. The dispute with France over the Pyrenean Val d’Aran was settled by arbitration in favour of the Aragonese King, who adduced documentary proof of his rights. But the Treaty of Anagni did not solve the question of Sicily. Neither Frederick nor—what was more important—the people of Sicily would surrender their independence. The war was reopened, and James fought against his brother, now Frederick II of Sicily, with varying fortunes, although brilliant naval victories were won by the famous admiral Roger Loria, now in James’ service. Finally, however, all being weary of such a prolonged struggle and the great invasion of Sicily by Charles of Valois having failed, peace was made in 1302, by which Boniface VIII and Charles the Lame recognised Frederick as King of island Sicily (Trinacria), but on the condition that the latter should marry Eleonor Charles’ daughter and that on Frederick’s death the island should be reunited with Naples, which had been all the time Angevin. In compensation for this promised concession, the King of Naples undertook to pay Frederick’s children 100,000 ounces of gold and to induce the King of Aragon to allow them to conquer a kingdom, either Cyprus or else Sardinia, which he had not yet attacked. In spite of this new treaty, Sicily remained in the power of the house of Aragon even after Frederick’s death.
While James was thus intervening in Sicily in a way so contrary to the political interests of Aragon, he aimed at extending his dynastic influence by marriages. He himself married Blanche of Anjou, and, after her death, Mary, daughter of the King of Cyprus. Their daughter Isabella married Frederick the Handsome, Duke of Austria, later the rival of Lewis IV for the Empire, a union of far-reaching consequences in the struggle with the Papacy. His second son Alfonso married a niece of the Count of Urgel and inherited his estates. His third son Peter inherited the counties of Ribagorza and Ampurias. Finally, a granddaughter of James was married to his cousin James III, King of Majorca; Majorca had been restored in 1295 to James III’s grandfather James II, who had betrayed Peter III, but on condition that it was a fief of the Crown of Aragon. James also acquired the northern part of the kingdom of Murcia in return for his intervention in the war of succession between Sancho IV and the Infante de la Cerda in Castile. Thus James II of Aragon can be considered as a king solicitous for the aggrandisement of his possessions in spite of his weakness with regard to Sicily.
The Catalan Company in the East
Before beginning the account of the reign of Alfonso IV who succeeded to the throne on the death of James in 1327, it is necessary to mention an episode of great importance in the history of south-east Europe which resulted from the termination of the war in Sicily in 1302, an exploit which can be considered glorious amongst the military achievements and adventures of that time, and which is known to history as the “Catalan Expedition to the East”, although, as we shall see, there were recruits from Navarre and from other countries as well. Owing to the lack of regular armies paid by the State or maintained by compulsory military service as at the present day, it happened that when some war was finished for which thousands of men had been got together in a certain district, a great number of them were left without occupation. This became a veritable menace to the country, particularly if they were not natives, as was frequently the case. These unemployed troops often formed themselves into companies of robbers or conquerors who fought on their own account or sold their services to the highest bidder. It may be easily understood that every country attempted to shake off such a plague, facilitating their departure to other lands, as we have already seen in the case of the White Companies in southern France in the time of Peter I of Castile. Frederick II, King of Sicily, wishing to get rid of the numerous adventurers who had remained in the island after the peace of 1302, suggested to one of the captains, Roger de Flor of Brindisi, that he should go to the aid of Andronicus, Emperor of Constantinople, who was then hard pressed by the Turks, already masters of all the Byzantine possessions in Asia Minor. Roger agreed, and in ships lent by Frederick sailed to Constantinople in 1303, with 1500 horse, 1000 infantry from various parts, and 4000 almogavares (“raiders”), picked troops so called because they followed the Moorish tactics of incursions and raids in enemy country. The Emperor received them with joy, bestowed upon Roger de Flor the title of megaduke, and married him to a daughter of the King of Bulgaria. Roger and his troops invaded Asia Minor and won great victories over the Turks. The news of these victories and of the honours and gifts bestowed upon the leader of the expedition attracted fresh adventurers from Catalonia, Aragon, and Navarre, who made two new expeditions to Asia Minor under Berengar de Rocafort and Berengar de Entenza. The Emperor in reward for these successes, which freed him for the time from the Turkish peril, gave the exalted title of Caesar to Roger de Flor; on Entenza he bestowed the title of megaduke. He also granted the whole of Anatolia to be parcelled out among those who took part in the expedition (1305).
Such great favours, although well earned, roused the jealousy of the Greek courtiers and of Michael the heir to the throne. They formed a conspiracy. Roger de Flor, many of his officers, and 1300 of their followers were murdered at a banquet. A body of Catalans and Aragonese stationed in the town of Gallipoli were also massacred, as well as those under the command of Admiral Fernando de Ahones in Constantinople. Thereby the expeditionary force was reduced to some 3300 men and 200 horses. However, so far from being intimidated, these survivors, furious for re venge, rose against the Byzantines, defeated them repeatedly, and set fire to several towns. Rivalry broke out between the leaders of the various bands, which were joined for a time by the Infante Ferdinand of Majorca, appointed commander-in-chief by his cousin, Frederick of Sicily, in order to turn the situation to account. This rivalry rendered their victories politically useless, and gave a new direction to the action of the Spanish and other warriors in the East. The Catalans and Aragonese, with some Turkish auxiliaries, entered the service of Walter, Duke of Athens, who was hard pressed by his enemies. They delivered him from this peril. But the treacherous duke attempted to make away with his deliverers after the example of Constantinople. The adventurers thereupon stormed the city of Athens and placed themselves under the protection of the King of Sicily. The latter seized the opportunity and sent his second son Manfred, who became sovereign of the Sicilian duchy of Athens, which however owed its origin to Catalans and Aragonese. The duchy, which lasted from 1326 to 1387, was a singular conclusion to the exploits of those adventurers who, leaving Sicily in 1303, not only earned the banner of Aragon for the first time triumphantly through Asia Minor and Greece, but introduced Spanish culture into those countries, especially Greece.
Peter IV: annexation of Majorca
The short reign of Alfonso IV of Aragon (1327-36) was marked in foreign affairs by the continued effort to conquer Sardinia and at home by family disputes. Alfonso’s second wife, Leonor of Castile, sister of Alfonso XI, strove to favour her own children at the expense of those by her husband’s first marriage. These resisted vigorously, especially the eldest, Peter, who from his earliest years shewed remarkable energy. He won the support of the people, and succeeded to the throne on his father’s death without serious opposition from Leonor.
The new king Peter IV, whose struggles with Peter I of Castile and whose intervention in the civil wars of that country we have already related, was, although energetic, treacherous and cruel like his contemporary in Castile. Less harsh than the latter, he was more hypocritical and observant of outward appearances, whence his name Peter the Ceremonious. The first years of Peter IV’s reign were occupied with the above-mentioned war against the Banu-Marin and the Moors of Granada, in which he gave his aid to Alfonso XI of Castile, and with the struggle to effect the annexation of Majorca in order to restore the unity of the possessions of the Crown which had been divided by the testament of James I. Peter IV sought a pretext in the claims of the French King to the stronghold of Montpellier, which belonged to James III, King of Majorca. Instead of aiding the latter against the King of France, Peter drew up a list of charges against James, accusing him of the infraction of his feudal duties to the Crown of Aragon. James III was willing to submit the question to trial and went to Barcelona, but Peter IV, bent on gaining his ends, alleged that James III had conspired against his life, and accused him of high treason. The natural result was a war between the two kings, easily won by Peter IV, who seized Majorca and Roussillon; James was killed in battle. To flatter the national pride, Peter promised solemnly in the Cortes of March 1354 never to separate the two recovered States from the kingdom of Aragon. Majorca thenceforth formed part of the Aragonese kingdom. Roussillon was retained by the kings of Aragon until 1462, when John II ceded it to France, although shortly afterwards he tried to regain it, thus bequeathing a new political problem to his successors.
The war in Sardinia continued, causing serious trouble to the kings of Aragon. The Republic of Genoa in conjunction with Pisa and other Italian States stirred up frequent revolts amongst the islanders against the Aragonese dominion. Peter IV decided to attack the evil at its root, and so allying himself with Venice, the perpetual enemy of Genoa, he declared war on the latter. Two naval victories gained by the Aragonese and Venetians did not suffice to pacify Sardinia. The king himself, at the head of a strong army, took several important places on the island, but not even so did he succeed in overcoming the local disorders of the Sardinians, who were always in a state of insurrection. However, as a contrast to this unfortunate state of affairs, Peter IV in 1381 had a pleasant surprise. The duchy of Athens—so far a Sicilian dependency—was offered to him by an embassy of nobles and burghers of the city. Peter accepted their offer and in return granted Athens the same civic privileges as those enjoyed by Barcelona, which was the most autonomous and powerful of all Catalan municipalities. Moreover, from his intervention in the dynastic wars of Castile, Peter IV obtained in addition to certain material advantages a union with the victorious house of Trastamara, through the marriage of the Aragonese Infanta Leonora with the Infante Don John of Castile. Upon this marriage were based the claims of the Castilian dynasty which some forty years later was to rule in Aragon. The last years of Peter IV were embittered by family dissensions and by an unfortunate attempt to subjugate the peasant vassals of the Archbishop of Tarragona. The king died in January 1387, abandoned by his wife and children.
More valuable perhaps to his country than all his territorial acquisitions was his decisive victory over the anarchical nobility, principally Aragonese and Valencian, and over those municipalities which had made common cause with them. The struggle, already of long standing, had reached a serious crisis in the reign of Peter III. The great nobles of Aragon and their retainers, together with the above-mentioned municipalities, more interested in the increase of their particular privileges than in the political task of breaking the power of the nobles which was really more formidable than that of the Crown, had formed a league known as the “Union” which possessed an organisation and armed force of its own. Confident of its strength, the Union had presented to the king in 1282 a list of petitions and complaints to which Peter III was obliged to agree, being hard pressed at that moment with other political troubles, notably the war in Sicily with Charles of Anjou. The whole body of privileges and promises made by the king was termed Privilegio General. This document was both a statute recognising an aristocratic oligarchy of nobles and citizens and also a charter which defined the immunities and class privileges obtained by the nobility, particularly in the reign of James I (1265), and the civic liberties obtained in successive steps by the municipalities. Alfonso III, who succeeded Peter III, less energetic and resolute than his father, gave way still farther and granted in 1288 to the revolted nobles and municipalities the Privilegio de la Union, still more irksome to the royal authority than the Privilegio General. One clause gave to the Cortes the right of deposing the king if he omitted to fulfil certain of the privileges granted. Obviously matters could not rest there. The accession of a vigorous and resolute king, tenacious of royal prerogatives as they were then conceived, was certain to renew the struggle.
And so it was when Peter IV came to the throne: the struggle soon broke out, since the king, as we have seen, was not a man of a complacent disposition. The trouble began when Peter, being without male heirs, appointed his daughter Constance regent and heiress to the throne, whereas the Aragonese and Valencian nobles preferred the claim of Peter’s brother James, Count of Urgel. For the time being the king was obliged to give way, for only the Catalan nobility and four Aragonese municipalities, Huesca, Daroca, Calatayud, and Teruel, took his side in the Cortes of 1347 at Saragossa. He confirmed the Privilegio de la Union and agreed to change his council and the high officials of the palace, dismissing the Catalan nobles. But this submission on the part of the king was only provisional. Peter IV was waiting for the moment of his revenge, and for this purpose he strove to divide the nobles and form a strong party of his own. The members of the Union in Valencia gave him an excellent opportunity by sacking the houses of those whom they suspected of being partisans of the king. Peter attacked them, but failed in this first attempt (1348). He was himself for some time practically a prisoner in the hands of the Valencians, and suffered treatment but little compatible with his authority. About midsummer he escaped to Aragon, where the Union troops under the command of his brother were besieging the town of Epila. Loyal troops came to the assistance of the besieged, and in the battle which ensued the Union suffered a crushing defeat (21 July 1348). The king entered Saragossa, abolished the Privilegio de la Union, and punished many of the delinquents with death. He did the same in Valencia shortly afterwards. The ferocity of these struggles and of the legal penalties of that age appears in the torments inflicted upon the Valencian unionists by the king. They were even compelled to drink the molten metal of the very bells which had called them to the meetings of the Union.
However, the abolition of the Privilegio went no farther than the actual contents of the document. The rights of the nobility as a social class remained intact, also those of the municipalities just as they existed in the ancient laws of the kingdom and in the local fueros, a fact which shews that Peter IV did not move against the fundamental political organisation of Aragon, but against the unwarrantable pretensions of the nobility and municipalities. Consequently, if the political power which the nobles had acquired by the Union was shattered, in other respects the Aragonese aristocracy retained their former power and social influence, and did not acquiesce, as did the Castilian nobility a century later, in the total abolition of their political importance and their privileges over the plebeian classes.
The two kings who succeeded Peter IV, and with whom the fourteenth century in Aragon comes to a close, are of but slight importance in the political history of the country. The first of them, John I (1387-95), son of Peter IV, had to contend with the Count of Armagnac and the Count of Foix, who made vague claims to the crown, and had to quell another insurrection in Sardinia and a rising in Sicily. During his reign the duchy of Athens was lost to Aragon. John I was succeeded by Martin I (1395-1410), regent of Sicily, who left his only son, also named Martin, as king of that island. The latter died in 1409, leaving the kingdom to his father Martin I of Aragon; but he also died in less than a year without surviving issue or leaving any other will than that by which he had bequeathed his throne to his son Martin of Sicily. Thus uncertainty as to the succession raised a serious question which might have been calamitous if the usual appeal to arms had been made. Fortunately this did not occur.
The period of about a century so far covered in this chapter is a brief space in the nation’s history. Yet in Castile the period from Alfonso X to Henry III and in Aragon that from Peter III to Martin I brought some interesting and sometimes radical changes both in political and in civil institutions.
With regard to social and economic life we see on the one hand in Leon and Castile an evolution towards personal freedom among the rural and urban lower classes, and on the other hand the growth of municipalities, centres of free civic life. We have little detailed knowledge concerning the former tendency. Documents of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries contain evidence of servile insurrections and of protests against seignorial excesses—proof that in some districts the liberating movement was slow and met with strong resistance. The movement received legal support through the extension to the whole country of the law granted by Alfonso IX in 1215 to the serfs, known as foreros, in the royal manors of Leon and in those subject to the Archbishop of Santiago. On the other hand it appears that the right of asylum in municipal territory enjoyed by fugitive serfs from the seignories was restricted; also there was a change for the worse in the status of a certain class, known as behetrías, who had to pay tribute and services to a lord. This change seems to have consisted of a restriction, in many cases, of the right possessed by some of these behetrías to choose any noble as their lord, this right being now restricted to choice among the members of some specified noble family. But apart from the behetrías, the number of free labourers must have become greater as the cultivation of the land spread and as the general wealth increased.
This increase of wealth was furthered in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries by the formation of important industrial and commercial urban centres, first Santiago de Galicia, and later, after the conquests of Ferdinand III and Alfonso X, Seville and other towns in Andalusia. Moreover, the greater security of the strictly Castilian and Leonese districts, once the frontier reached and passed the line of the Guadalquivir, allowed the normal development of economic life in the north. In rural life and the extension of tillage the monasteries still played an important part, while at the same time they gave military aid to the kings, sending bodies of slaves, labourers, and dependants under the command of the abbot or of some layman appointed by him. Indeed so great was the civilising influence of the monastic system that the progress of the reconquest and the successive prosperity of the kingdoms so recovered can be traced on the map by counting the number of monasteries as exactly as by following the dates of Christian victories and the conquest of Moorish territories. The Military Orders founded in Leon and Castile during the Middle Ages, especially those of Calatrava and Alcantara, played a similar part to the monasteries in the colonisation of territory reconquered from the Arabs.
With regard to urban and municipal life, in proportion as the middle class increased, either entirely plebeian or possessing something of aristocratic privilege (los Caballeros de villa or colatión), the manual workers organised themselves in gremios, an institution similar to the gilds and corporations of other European countries. The professions or trades grouped in gremios were composed of the menestrales or workmen in manual industries, merchants, sailors, and artistas or workers in industrial arts. Protected by the municipalities and also by the kings, the gilds increased in importance and became an influential social element in city life. From the fourteenth century particularly, the kings made general laws, ordenanzas de menestrales, to regulate not only the inner life of the gremios but also the wages, the working day, the technical conditions of production in each trade. The development of commerce, especially the commerce of Castile and of the Cantabrian coast with France, Flanders, and other northern countries is shewn, among other things, by the existence of consuls, representatives in various foreign cities of the Spanish producers and exporters.
With regard to the nobility, the introduction of new titles is noticeable, replacing the old names of ricoshombres, infanzones, etc. From the time of Henry II the newer titles of marquess and duke are added to the ancient title of count. The title of Constable of Castile, the head of the army, appears to have been created during the reign of John I. Other important innovations were the fixing of the order of succession to titles by a law of the Partidas of Alfonso X and the institution of mayorazgos, an entail on real estate generally in favour of the eldest son. These mayorazgos soon extended to the upper middle class and caused a rigidity in the ownership of landed property. The wealth of the nobles, originally founded on land, which by the progress of economic life, the freedom of the labourers, and the ever increasing importance of movable property was becoming less lucrative than formerly for the landowners, was however increased by the above-mentioned gifts or mercedes of the kings. These mercedes were often known as encomiendas. They were of two kinds: encomiendas de honor, when the king ceded to the noble the fiscal rights of a town or district; and encomiendas de tierra, when the king granted a rent or sum to be raised from one or various places or from the Jewish or Moorish quarter of a city.
The principal innovation in the social sphere was in respect of the Jews, as we have already indicated. They were strongly protected in the interests of science and literature in the time of Alfonso X and other kings, and played a great part in financial affairs both public and unofficial. Thenceforward we find mention of their economic privileges, as for instance the regulation by Alfonso X of the rate of usury. At the same time religious intolerance, stirred by pulpit oratory, was increasing among the people. In the Cortes of Burgos (1396) it was petitioned that the Jews should be deprived of the fortresses they held, of their public offices, of the farming of the royal revenues, and of the posts which certain of them held in the council of Henry III. The king granted only the last demand. But assaults on the ghettos and massacres by the populace became more frequent, and aggravated the situation.
Social innovations in Aragon and Catalonia were unimportant during this time. In the new kingdom of Valencia constituted by James I and inherited by Peter III, there was no servile Christian class of cultivators, but a class of Moorish slaves and tenant-farmers bestowed by the king upon the conquerors who obtained grants of land. As the majority of these were Aragonese nobles, rural life in Valencia was dominated by these lords and regulated according to the customs of Aragon. On the other hand, the middle class and the popular element predominated in the cities and important towns, giving to the Valencian municipalities a markedly democratic character, which received legal sanction from the fuero or charter granted by James I to the capital. This charter is one of the best models of municipal legislation of the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and was imitated later at Tarragona.
Social history in Majorca resembled that of Catalonia, with the difference that the aristocratic element was not represented there by the nobles and clergy but by the burghers or rich citizens of the capital who were the chief landowners. Their exploitation of the country folk (forenses) provoked a ferment of protests and tumults which at a later date degenerated into sanguinary revolts.
The chief political movement in Leon and Castile is the struggle between the monarch and the nobility, of which some account has been already given. As to public administration, a reform introduced by Ferdinand III was extended and securely established, the old condados or mandationes (counties) being replaced by new territorial divisions known as adelantamientos, ruled by adelantados, divided into two classes, mayores and menores. Alfonso X defined their functions by law. If an adelantamiento touched the Moorish frontier, the governor was called adelantado de frontera. The legislative tendency, also initiated by Ferdinand III and greatly developed by Alfonso X, was more important and progressive. This tendency took two directions: the unification or steps towards the unification of law, and the introduction of the doctrines of the Justinianean Code. Unification was prepared by extending to various towns, by way of a municipal code, the application of the Visigothic Liber Iudiciorum, translated with some modifications into Castilian under the name of Fuero Juzgo, which was in force as the law of appeal in the royal tribunal. The same use was made of the so-called Royal Fuero promulgated by Alfonso X in 1254 and based on that of Soria. This was meant to be a typical or model municipal code and was extended to various cities such as Burgos, Valladolid, Avila, and Segovia. But this method was slow, and moreover clashed to a certain degree with the Romanising tendency favoured by the lawyers, which naturally tended towards juridical doctrines of a more modern character. Accordingly the late thirteenth century and the early fourteenth century is a time of erudite juridical compilations, sometimes the work of individual jurisconsults, sometimes the result of official orders, but seldom attaining legal authority. Nevertheless these compilations often had greater weight in jurisdiction than the very laws promulgated by the kings. Such was the case notably with the juridical encyclopedia, 1256-63, of Alfonso the Learned, drawn up in the form of a code and generally known by the name of the Siete Partidas because it is divided into seven books. Although composed by jurisconsults, some of whose names are known, the king himself directed the work, wrote a great amount of it, and revised the compilation of his collaborators. It draws upon the fueros and customs of Leon and Castile, but much more upon the Justinianean Code, the Italian commentators, and the Canon Law. Even these elements were not slavishly copied, but rather remodelled with modifications, which in some matters, such as the doctrine of royal authority, rectify the Caesarism so prevalent in the writers and the religious and political theories of the time. The Partidas, though not promulgated as law, were immediately established as a text-book in the universities, not only in the kingdom of Castile but in those of Aragon and Portugal as well, and through the students of law it exercised great influence upon jurisprudence.
Another compilation less extensive, known as the Especulo, composed either during the reign of Alfonso the Learned or that of Sancho IV, had a similar influence. While these innovations were being made in juridical principles, the municipal institutions were developing in the direction of self-government. The first municipal organisations, whose fueros or charters contain economic and juridical privileges and the recognition of individual rights, worked under the authority of the king and the immediate direction of the count representing the king. The judges who administered justice were appointed by the king either directly or through the juntas or judicial assemblies presided over by the count. In addition to these judicial assemblies, there were also others composed of all the householders, which like the ancient rural juntas of the Visigoths (concilium vicinorum) concerned themselves with local affairs connected with land, irrigation, and cattle. Some of these assemblies are called concilios in documents of the period, whence the Castilian word concejo, which later came to mean the corporate entity of the town.
By degrees the cities obtained, either from the king or from their seigniors, the right of electing their own judges as distinct from the royal judges in order to reduce litigation and to settle questions of general interest to the citizens. The exercise of this right, which gained ground during the period we are considering, gave to the concejos or municipalities a more democratic tendency and a growing feeling of strength and importance, particularly in the principal towns such as Burgos, Toledo, Valladolid, Seville; and it strengthened their influence in the Cortes on matters of general policy. But the equality imposed by the fuero on all citizens, of whatever class, could not prevent strife between the classes for the exercise of power, especially when the assemblies were replaced by town-councils or Cabildos, executive corporations composed necessarily of smaller numbers than the assemblies and elected by the householders. These struggles were less violent in Leon and Castile than in Catalonia, Valencia, and other regions. Nevertheless in the long run the result was that the Caballeros of noble or plebeian origin took possession of the towncouncils or dominated them.
In the kingdom of Aragon, through special circumstances of a social and economic nature, the two cities most typical and most advanced in their autonomy were Barcelona and Valencia, the former being the capital of the ancient county and the latter the capital of the new kingdom created by James I. But on the other hand these cities were the scene of the hottest political struggles between the rich burghers and the plebeians.
The importance of the Cortes also increased during this period through the combined effect of all the afore-mentioned circumstances and of the struggles between the nobility and the king, who sometimes from motives of policy and frequently of necessity sought the support of the municipalities and of the Cortes which represented them, particularly in Leon and Castile. For some time these two ancient kingdoms, definitely united as we have seen under Ferdinand III, had separate Cortes; but already in the time of Alfonso X they met together, and the fusion was finally established in the fourteenth century. But the existence of three separate Cortes for the three great territories of the Crown of Aragon was maintained, except in certain exceptional cases. There were therefore separate Cortes in Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia. Among their functions was the singular right known as the derecho de greuges or agravios, which meant the presentation of protests made by the municipalities or by other bodies attending the Cortes against the king or his officers for infringements of law. As time went on they also enjoyed a greater share in legislation than the Cortes of Leon and Castile. The origin of this does not appear to be earlier than 1283, that is to say than the reign of Peter III. Unanimity was necessary for the passing of any resolution. The principal cities disposed of a number of votes, while the less important had only one. Saragossa and Barcelona had five votes each.
When, on account of the death of the king and the extinction of the dynasty through lack of direct heirs, a new king had to be elected, the Cortes held a special meeting which took the name of Parlamento. Such a meeting was first held at Borja in 1134 and elected Ramiro the Monk as King of Aragon. During the intervals between the sessions of the Cortes, a Junta or Committee, appointed by the Cortes, sat, called Diputación General in Aragon and Diputación General or Generalidad in Catalonia. The formal existence of this Junta cannot be clearly traced before the fourteenth century. Navarre and Valencia had similar permanent committees of the Cortes. The duty of the Junta was to watch over the observance of the laws and the expenditure of public funds.
In the reign of James II, and even more so in that of Peter IV after the defeat of the Unionists, the special institution, which probably originated in the twelfth century, known as the Justicia Mayor de Aragon, became particularly important. James I on the petition of the nobles granted to this judge, who was a member of the Curia or Royal Tribunal, the power of holding a court of first instance and also of hearing appeals from the courts of the local justices. In the Cortes of 1348, Peter IV made the office tenable for life, with the special function of interpreting the fueros and acting as judge of contrafuero or violation of fueros. In this capacity the Justicia Mayor saw to the fulfilment of the fuero de manifestation, a sort of legal guarantee by which the accused was kept in a special prison while the competent judge dealt with the case. The Justicia also saw to the enforcement of the fuero de derecho, which guaranteed the personal liberty and the property of the litigant, except in cases of serious offences, during the time he remained uncondemned, a guarantee similar to the mesures conservatoires of the present law. These two powers of the Justicia played an important part in later centuries, when the struggle developed between the absolute monarchy and the fueros. On the other hand, the power also granted to him of acting as mediating judge between the king and the nobles was no more than a moral guarantee which has been compared to a sheathed sword. Only once, in the time of James II, did the Justicia settle a question of that nature between the king and the nobility.
Finally, a fact of considerable importance from the economic as well as from the legislative point of view was the creation, in Valencia in 1283, Majorca in 1343, and Barcelona in 1347, of a court to deal with commercial affairs, known as the Court of the Consulate of the Sea. Simultaneously, there appeared at Barcelona (in, or shortly before, 1283) a collection of commercial law (Llibre del Consolat de Mar), thus giving legal form to the customary maritime law which had been elaborated during the preceding centuries along the eastern coasts of Spain.