- Peter III of Aragon
Peter the Great (Catalan: "Pere el Gran", Spanish: "Pedro el Grande"; 1239 –
2 November 1285) was the King of Aragon(as Peter III) of Valencia and of Majorca(as Peter I), and Sovereign Count of Barcelona(as Peter II) from 1276 to his death. He conquered Sicily and became its king in 1282. He was one of the greatest of medieval Aragonese monarchs.
Youth and succession
Peter was the eldest son of
James I of Aragonand his second wife Yolanda of Hungary. On 13 June 1262, he married Constance, daughter and heiress of Manfred of Sicily. During his youth and early adulthood, Peter gained a great deal of military experience in his father's wars of the Reconquistaagainst the Moors. [Chaytor, 97.]
On James' death, the lands of the
Crown of Aragonwere divided, with Aragon and Valencia, along with the Catalan counties, going to the eldest son, Peter, while the Balearic Islands(constituted as the Kingdom of Majorca), alongside the territories in the Languedoc( Montpellierand Roussillon), went to the second son, James. Peter and Constance were crowned in Zaragoza(the capital of Aragon) in November by the archbishop of Tarragona. At this ceremony, Peter renounced all feudal obligations to the papacy which his grandfather Peter II had incurred.
Peter's first act as king was to complete the pacification of his Valencian territory, an action which had been underway on his father's death.
However, a revolt soon broke out in Catalonia, led by the viscount of
Cardonaand abetted by Roger-Bernard III of Foix, Arnold Roger I of Pallars Sobirà, and Ermengol X of Urgell. [Ibid.] The rebels had grown a hatred for Peter in response to the severity of his dealings with them in the days of his father. Now, as king, they opposed him for not summoning the Catalan "corts", or assembly, and confirming its privileges.
At the same time, a succession crisis continued in the
County of Urgell. When Count Álvaro died in 1268, the families of his two wives, Constance, a daughter of Pedro Moncada of Béarn, and Cecilia, a daughter of Roger-Bernard II of Foix, began a long fight over the inheritance of his county. Meanwhile, a good portion of the county had been repossessed by James and thus inherited by Peter. In 1278, Armengol X, Álvaro's eldest son, succeeded in recovering most of his lost patrimony and came to an agreement with Peter whereby he recognised the latter as his suzerain. [Ibid, 98.]
In 1280, Peter defeated the stewing rebellion led by Roger-Berengar III after besieging the rebels in
Balaguerfor a month. Most of the rebel leaders were imprisoned in Lleidauntil 1281, while Roger-Bernard was imprisoned until 1284.
HafsidEmir of Tunisia, Muhammad I al-Mustansir, who had put himself under James the Conqueror, died in 1277, Tunisia threw off the yoke of Aragonese suzerainty. [Ibid, 101.] Peter first sent an expedition to Tunisin 1280 under Conrad de Llansadesigned to re-establish his suzerainty. [Ibid.] In 1281, he himself prepared to lead a fleet of 140 ships with formatnum:15000 men to invade Tunisia on behalf of the governor of Constantine. [Ibid, 102.] The fleet landed at Alcoyll in 1282 and the troops began to fortify themselves in. It was these Aragonese troops that received a Sicilian embassy after the Vespers of 30 Marchasking Peter to take their throne from Charles of Anjou.
Peter was the direct descendant and the heir-general of the Mafalda, daughter of
Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, the Norman conqueror, and his official wife Sigelgaita, daughter of a Lombard prince, Guaimar IV of Salerno. Thus, he stood at the end of the Hauteville succession to Sicily. After the ducal family of Apulia became extinct with William II in 1127, Mafalda's heirs (then counts of Barcelona) apparently became "de jure" heirs of Guiscard and Sigelgaita: thus Peter was dormantly a claimant to the Norman succession of southern Italy. More directly, he was the heir of Manfred in right of his wife. The Two Sicilieswere to be a tenaciously-pursued inheritance for the Aragonese royal house and its heirs for the next five centuries.
The Italian physician
John of Procidaacted on behalf of Peter in Sicily. John had fled to Aragon after Charles' success at Tagliacozzo. John travelled to Sicily to stir up the discontents in favour of Peter and thence to Constantinopleto procure the support of Michael VIII Palaeologus. [Ibid, 103.] Michael refused to aid the Aragonese king without papal approval and so John voyaged to Romeand there gained the consent of Pope Nicholas III, who feared the ascent of Charles in the Mezzogiorno. [Ibid.] John then returned to Barcelona and the pope promptly died, to be replaced by Simon de Brie, a Frenchman and a staunch ally of Charles. The stage, however, had been set for a conflict.
After receiving an embassy from the people of
Palermoat Alcoyll, Peter landed at Trapanion 30 August 1282. [Ibid.] He was proclaimed King in Palermo on 4 September. Charles was forced to flee across the Straits of Messinaand be content with his " Kingdom of Naples." Simon de Brie as the new Pope Martin IVexcommunicated both Peter and the Byzantine emperorfor providing Peter III with formatnum:60000 gold pieces to invade Sicily( 18 November).J. Harris, "Byzantium and The Crusades", 180]
Peter nevertheless pressed his advantage and by February 1283 had taken most of the
Calabrian coastline. Charles, perhaps feeling desperate, sent letters to Peter demanding they resolve the conflict by personal combat. The invader accepted and Charles returned to France to arrange the duel. Both kings chose six knights to settle matters of places and dates. A duel was scheduled for 1 Juneat Bordeaux. A hundred knights would accompany each side and Edward I of Englandwould adjudge the contest; the English king, heeding the pope, however, refused to take part. Peter left John of Procida in charge of Sicily and returned via his own kingdom to Bordeaux, which, evading a suspected French ambush, he entered in disguise. Needless to say, no combat ever took place and Peter returned to a very troubled Spain. [Ibid, 104.]
While Peter was back in France and Spain, his admiral,
Roger of Lauria, was wreaking havoc in Italy. He routed Charles' fleets on the high seas several times and conquered Maltafor Aragon.
Later domestic unrest
Peter was dealing with domestic unrest at the time when the French were preparing an invasion. He took
Albarracínfrom the rebellious noble Juan Núñez de Lara, and he renewed the alliance with Sancho IV of Castileand attacked Tudela in an attempt to prevent the king of Navarre, Philip I, the son of the French king, from invading on that front.
Peter held meetings of the "cortes" at
Tarragonaand Zaragozain 1283. He was forced to grant the "Privilegio General" to the newly-formed Union of Aragon. [Ibid.] Also in that year, Peter's brother James joined the French and recognised their suzerainty over Montpellier, giving them free passage through the Balearic Islands and Roussillon. In October, Peter began preparing the defences of Catalonia.
Pope Martin IVgranted the kingdom of Aragon to Charles, Count of Valois, the son of the French king, Philip III the Bold, and great nephew of Charles. Papal sanction was given to a war — crusade — to conquer Aragon on behalf of Charles of Valois.
In 1284, the first French armies under King Philip and Count Charles entered Roussillon. They included formatnum:16000 cavalry, formatnum:17000 crossbowmen, and formatnum:100000 infantry, along with 100 ships in south French ports. [Ibid, 106.] Though the French had James' support, the local populace rose against them. The city of
Elnewas valiantly defended by the so-called "bâtard de Roussillon" ("bastard of Roussillon"), the illegitimate son of Nuño Sánchez, late count of Roussillon (1212–1242). Eventually he was overcome and the cathedral was burnt; the royal forces progressed.
In 1285, Philip entrenched himself before
Gironain an attempt to besiege it. The resistance was strong, but the city was taken. Charles was crowned there, but without an actual crown. The French soon experienced a reversal, however, at the hands of Roger de Lauria, back from the Italian theatre of the drawn-out conflict. The French fleet was defeated and destroyed at the Battle of Les Formigues. As well, the French camp was hit hard by an epidemic of dysentery.
Philip himself was afflicted. The heir to the French throne, Philip the Fair, opened negotiations with Peter for free passage for the royal family through the
Pyrenees. But the troops were not offered such passage and were decimated at the Battle of the Col de Panissars. The king of France himself died at Perpignan, the capital of James of Majorca, who had fled in fear after being confronted by Peter, and was buried in Narbonne. James was declared a vassal of Peter.
Peter matched his father in patronage of the arts and literature, but unlike him he was a lover of verse, not prose. He favoured the
troubadours, of which he himself was one, and wrote two sirventesos.
The first is in the form of an exchange between Peter and one
Peironet, a jongleur. The second forms part of a compilation of five compositions from Bernat d'Auriac, Peter the Great, Pere Salvatge(perhaps the same as Peironet), Roger-Bernard III of Foix, and an anonymous contributor.
As well, the wars with Philip of France and James of Majorca furnished material for new sirventesos and during this period the sirventes was converted into a convenient tool of political propaganda in which each side could, directly or allegorically, present its case and procure sympathy propitious to its cause.
Death and legacy
Peter died at
Vilafranca del Penedèson 2 November 1285, in the same year as his two royal foes, Charles and Philip, and was buried in the monastery of Santes Creus. His deathbed absolution occurred after he declared that his conquests had been in the name of his familial claims and never against the claims of the church.
Peter left Aragon to his eldest son Alfonso III and Sicily to his second son James II. Peter's third son, Frederick III, in succession to his brother James, became regent of Sicily and in due course its king. Peter did not provide for his youngest son and namesake, Peter (1275 –
25 August 1296), who married Constanca Mendes de Silva, daughter of Soeiro Mendes Petite, governor of Santaremin Portugal. This Peter left Spainfor Portugalwith his sister Elizabeth.
Peter also had two daughters, Elisabeth, who married
Denis of Portugal, and Yolanda (1273 – August 1302), who married Robert of Naples.
In the "
Divine Comedy", Dante Alighierisees Peter "singing in accord" ("d'ogni valor portó cinta la corda") with his former rival, Charles I of Sicily, outside the gates of Purgatory.
*Runciman, Steven. "The Sicilian Vespers". 1958. ISBN 0-521-43774-1
*Chaytor, H. J. " [http://libro.uca.edu/chaytor/achistory.htm A History of Aragon and Catalonia] ". London: Methuen, 1933.
width="30%" align="center" rowspan="3" | Preceded by:
width="40%" align="center" |
King of Aragon
width="30%" align="center" rowspan="3" | Succeeded by:
width="40%" align="center" | Count of Barcelona
width="40%" align="center" | King of Valencia
width="30%" align="center" | Charles I
width="40%" align="center" | King of Sicily
width="30%" align="center" | James
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