Crown of Aragon

Crown of Aragon
Crown of Aragon
Corona d'Aragón (Aragonese)
Corona d'Aragó (Catalan)
Corona Aragonum (Latin)
Corona de Aragón (Spanish)


1164–1716 30px
Standard Escutcheon
The Crown of Aragon in 1443
Capital Itinerant
Language(s) Aragonese, Catalan, Castilian and Latin
Minority languages:
Greek, Italian, Maltese, Occitan, Sardinian and Sicilian
Religion Majority religion:
Roman Catholicism
Minority religions:
Islam, Judaism
Government Absolute monarchy
Historical era Early modern period
 - Union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona 1164
 - Conquest of the Kingdom of Majorca 1229
 - Conquest of the Kingdom of Valencia 1238–1245
 - Conquest of the Kingdom of Sardinia 1324-1420
 - Conquest of the Kingdom of Naples 1504
 - Nueva Planta decrees 1716
 - 1443 250,000 km2 (96,526 sq mi)
 - 1443 est. 300,000 
     Density 1.2 /km2  (3.1 /sq mi)
Today part of  Andorra

The Crown of Aragon (Aragonese: Corona d'Aragón, Catalan: Corona d'Aragó, Latin: Corona Aragonum, Spanish: Corona de Aragón)[nb 1] was a personal and dynastic union of multiple titles and states in the hands of the King of Aragon. At the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy (a state with primarily maritime realms) controlling a large portion of the present-day eastern Spain and southeastern France, as well as some of the major islands and mainland possessions stretching across the Mediterranean as far as Greece. The component realms of the Crown were not united politically except at the level of the king. Put in contemporary terms, the lands of Aragon functioned more as a confederacy rather than as a single country. In this sense, the larger Crown of Aragon must not be confused with one of its constituent parts, the Kingdom of Aragon, from which it takes its name.

In 1469, a new dynastic familial union of the Crown of Aragon with the Crown of Castile by the Catholic Monarchs led to what would become the Kingdom of Spain under King Philip II. The component titles of the Aragonese Crown as subsidiary titles of the Habsburg inheriting Monarch were used until 1716, when they were abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees as a consequence of the defeat of the pretender representing the former components of the Crown of Aragon, in the settlement following the War of the Spanish Succession.



Formally, the political center of the Crown of Aragon was Zaragoza where kings were crowned in the La Seo Cathedral. Leading economic centres of the Crown of Aragon were the cities of Barcelona and Valencia. Finally, Palma (Majorca) was an additional important city and seaport.

The Crown of Aragon eventually included the Kingdom of Aragon, the County of Barcelona, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Majorca, Kingdom of Sicily, Malta, the Kingdom of Naples and Kingdom of Sardinia. For brief periods the Crown of Aragon also controlled Montpellier, Provence, Corsica, the Duchy of Neopatria in Latin Greece and the Duchy of Athens.

The countries that are today known as Spain and Portugal spent the Middle Ages after 722 in an intermittent struggle called the Reconquista. This struggle pitted the northern Christian kingdoms against the Islamic taifa petty kingdoms of the South and against each other.

In the Late Middle Ages, the expansion of the Aragonese Crown southwards met with the Castilian advance eastward in the region of Murcia. Afterward, the Aragonese Crown focused on the Mediterranean, acting as far as Greece and Barbary, whereas Portugal, which completed its Reconquista in 1272, focused on the Atlantic Ocean. Mercenaries from the territories in the Crown, known as almogàvers participated in the creation of this Mediterranean "empire", and later found employment in countries all across southern Europe.

The Crown of Aragon has been considered by some as an empire which ruled in the Mediterranean for hundreds of years, with the power to set rules over the entire sea (for instance, the Llibre del Consolat del Mar or Book of the Consulate of the Sea, written in Catalan, is one of the oldest compilation of maritime laws in the world). It was indeed, at its height, one of the major powers in Europe.

However, its different territories were only connected through the person of the monarch, an aspect of empire as early as Achaemenid Persia. A contemporary, the Marqués de Lozoya[1] described the Crown of Aragon as being more like a confederacy than a centralized kingdom, let alone an empire. Nor did official documents ever refer to it as an empire (Imperium or any cognate word); instead, it was considered a dynastic union of autonomous kingdoms.



Petronilla of Aragon, and Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona depicted later in a 16th century painting

The Aragonese "empire" originated in 1137, when the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona (with the County of Provence) merged by dynastic union[2][3] by the marriage of Raymond Berengar IV of Barcelona and Petronilla of Aragon; their titles were combined in the person of their son Alfonso II of Aragon, who ascended to the throne in 1162. This union respected the existing institutions and parliaments of both territories. Although the County of Barcelona was the wealthier, given its position on the Mediterranean, the combined state was known as Aragon, given its higher ranking as a kingdom due to lineage from Imperator Hispaniae Sancho III of Navarre.[4] Also Petronilla's father King Ramiro, known as "The Monk" for his incapacity to rule the Aragonese troops, was the youngest brother of all three. He was raised in the Saint Pons de Thomières Monastery in the south of France. His brothers Peter I and Alfonso I El Batallador (The Battler) who re-conquered Murcia had died in battle. Then, knowing nothing about war he decided to make an alliance with his neighbour Raymond Berengar IV the Count of Barcelona. Raymond was forged in the wedding contract to recognise Ramiro II as "My King, My Lord, and my Father" he became part of the Aragonese dynasty. Then Raymond was entitled as "Prince of the Aragonese" (Chief of the Aragonese Army).

Raymond Berengar IV of Barcelona, the new ruler of the united dynasty, still called himself count of Barcelona and merely "prince" of Aragon.[5]


Alfonso II tried to conquer Valencia when favorable circumstances offered, but the opportunity was lost when Sancho VI of Navarre invaded Aragon. Alfonso II signed the treaties of Cazola with Alfonso VIII of Castile in order to secure the Aragonese frontiers. The treaty also delimited anew their zones of prospective Moorish conquest—the Kings of Aragon were to have Valencia, leaving Murcia to Castile.[6]

From the 9th century, the dukes of Aquitaine, the counts of Foix, the counts of Toulouse and the Aragonese kings rivalled in their attempts at controlling the various pays of Occitania. The Crown of Aragon was widespread in the area that is now south of France, under the control of vassal local princes, such as the Counts of Toulouse. The rebellion of the Cathars or Albigensians rejected the authority and the teachings of the Catholic Church and led to the loss of the southern France possessions. Pope Innocent III called upon Louis IX of France to suppress the Albigensians—The Albigensian Crusade, which led to bring the Occitania region firmly under the control of the King of France, and the Capetian dynasty from northern France.

Peter II returned from Las Navas in autumn 1212 to find that Simon de Montfort had conquered Toulouse, exiling Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, who was Peter's brother-in-law and vassal. Peter's army crossed the Pyrenees and arrived at Muret accompanied by Raymond of Toulouse's forces, in September 1213 to confront Montfort's army.

The Battle of Muret began on September 12, 1213. The Aragonese forces were disorganized and disintegrated under the assault of Montfort's squadrons. Peter himself was caught in the thick of fighting, and died as a result of a foolhardy act of bravado. So, the nobility of Toulouse, vassals of the Crown of Aragon, was defeated. The conflict culminated in the Treaty of Meaux-Paris in 1229, in which it was agreed the integration of the Occitan territory in the French crown.

King James I (13th century) started the era of expansion, by conquering and incorporating Majorca and a good part of the Kingdom of Valencia to the Crown. With the Treaty of Corbeil (1258), which was based upon the principle of natural frontiers,[7] French claims over Catalonia came to an end. The general principle was clear, that Aragonese influence north of the Pyrenees was to cease.[7] James I had realized that wasting his forces and distracting his energies in attempts to keep a footing in France could only end in disaster.[7] On January 1266, James I besieged and captured Murcia, settled his own men, mostly Catalans, there; and handed Murcia over to Castile by the treaty of Cazorla.[8]

Majorca, together with the counties of Cerdanya and Roussillon and the city of Montpellier, was held independently from 1276 to 1279 by James II of Majorca as a vassal of the Crown after that date, becoming a full member of the Crown of Aragon in 1344.

Valencia was made a new kingdom with its own institutions, and so was the third member of the crown—the legal status of Majorca was not as consistent as those of Aragón, Catalonia.

On 1282, the Sicilians rose up against the second dynasty of the Angevins on the Sicilian Vespers and massacred the garrison soldiers. Peter III responded to their call, and landed in Trapani to an enthusiastic welcome five months later. This caused Pope Martin IV to excommunicate the king, place Sicily under interdict, and offer the kingdom of Aragon to a son of Philip III of France.[9][10]

When Peter III refused to impose the Charters of Aragon in Valencia, the nobles and towns united in Zaragoza to demand a confirmation of their privileges, which the king had to accept on 1283. Thus began the Union of Aragon, which developed the power of the Justícia to mediate between the king and the Aragonese rich men. [9]

When James II of Aragon—not to be confused with James II of Majorca—completed the conquest of the kingdom of Valencia, the Crown of Aragon established itself as one of the major powers in Europe.

By grant of Pope Boniface VIII to James II, the kingdoms of Sardinia and Corsica were added to the Crown in 1297, though it would not be for more than a century that they were brought under control. By marriage of Peter IV to Maria of Sicily, the Kingdom of Sicily, as well as the duchies of Athens and Neopatria, were added to the Crown in 1381. The Greek possessions were permanently lost to Nerio I Acciaioli in 1388 and Sicily was dissociated in the hands of Martin I from 1395 to 1409, but the Kingdom of Naples was added finally in 1442 by conquest of Alfonso V.

It must be noted that the King's possessions outside of the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands were ruled by proxy through local elites as petty kingdoms, rather than subjected directly to a centralized government. They were more an economic part of the Crown of Aragon than a political one.

The fact that the King was keen on settling new kingdoms instead of merely expanding the existing kingdoms was a part of a power struggle that pitted the interests of the king against those of the existing nobility. This process was also under way in most of the European states that successfully effected the transition to the Early Modern state. Thus, the new territories gained from the Moors—namely Valencia and Majorca—were usually given fueros—Catalan furs—as an instrument of self-government in order to limit the power of nobility in these new acquisitions and, at the same time, increase their allegiance to the monarchy itself. The trend in the neighbouring kingdom of Castile was similar, both kingdoms giving impetus to the Reconquista by granting self-government either to cities or territories, instead of placing the new territories under the rule of nobility.

Union with Castile

Ferdinand V and Isabella I, King and Queen of Castile and León, and later of Aragon, Valencia, Sicily, and Majorca

In 1410, King Martin I died without surviving descendants. As a result, by the Pact of Caspe, Ferdinand of Antequera from the Castilian dynasty of Trastámara, received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon.

Later, his grandson King Ferdinand II of Aragon recovered the northern Catalan counties—Roussillon and Cerdagne—which had been lost to France and also the kingdom of Navarre, which had recently joined the Crown of Aragon but had been lost after internal dynastic disputes.

In 1469, Ferdinand married Infanta Isabella of Castile, half-sister of King Henry IV of Castile, who became Queen of Castile and León after his death in 1474. Their marriage was a dynastic union[11][12][13] which became the constituent event for the dawn of the Kingdom of Spain. At that point both Castile and the Crown of Aragon remained distinct territories, each keeping its own traditional institutions, parliaments and laws. The process of territorial consolidation was completed when King Charles I, known as Emperor Charles V, in 1516 united all the kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula minus the Kingdoms of Portugal and the Algarve under one monarch—his co-monarch and mother Queen Joanna I in confinement—thereby furthering the creation of the Spanish state, albeit a decentralized one.


The literary evocation of past splendour recalls correctly the great age of the 13th and 14th centuries, when Valencia, Majorca and Sicily were conquered, the population growth could be handled without social conflict, and the urban prosperity, which peaked in 1345, created the institutional and cultural achievements of the Crown.[14] The Aragonese crown's wealth and power stagnated and its authority was steadily transferred to the new Spanish crown after that date—the demographic growth was partially offset by the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492), Muslims (1502) and the expulsion of the Moriscos (1609).[15] It was unable to prevent the loss of Roussillon in 1659, the loss of Minorca and its Italian domains in 1707–1716, and the imposition of French language on Roussillon (1700) and Castilian as the language of government in all the old Aragonese Crown lands in Spain (1707–1716).[15]

The Crown of Aragon and its institutions were abolished in 1716 only after the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713) by the Nueva Planta decrees, issued by Philip V of Spain.[15] The old regime was swept away, the administration was subsumed into the Castilian administration, the lands of the Crown were united formally with those of Castile to legally form a single state, the kingdom of Spain, as it moved towards a centralized government under the new Bourbon dynasty.[15]

Nationalist revisionism

The creation of the nation of Spain was shaped by Castilian nationalism ignoring the reality and history of Spain, under "favorable" revisions of history and the predominance of the Castilian language (later known as Spanish) over other languages in the Iberian Peninsula.[citation needed] Until the restoration of democracy in 1975 in Spain, all languages but Spanish and regional specific laws were banned under the former fascist regime. There is still political pressure from Spanish nationalism to identify Spain with the Spanish language and culture, by using the term Spanish instead of Castilian, ignoring other Spanish languages, and accusing others of separatism when using one of the other languages.[citation needed] This discrimination was finally removed by the Spanish Constitution of 1975 which recognizes the plurality of languages, rights and freedom of all Spaniards to keep their own culture.

The punishments on the territories that had fought against Philip V in the War of Succession are used by some Valencian and Catalan nationalists as arguments against the centralism of Castilian nationalism and in favor of federalism, confederation, or even independentism. Some Aragonese took refuge in the myth of an ancient constitution dated before the beginnings or recorded medieval time, while the Catalans remembered their privileges, which they associated with their Generalitat and resistance to Castile.[16] Because restoration of fueros was one of its tenets, Carlism won support in the lands of the Crown of Aragon during the 19th century.

The Romanticism of the 19th century Catalan Renaixença evoked a "Pyrenean realm" that corresponded more to the vision of 13th century troubadours than to the historical reality of the Crown.[16] This vision survives today as "a nostalgic programme of politicized culture".[16]


The origin of Coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon is the familiar coat of the Counts of Barcelona and Kings of Aragon.[17] The Pennon was used exclusively by the monarchs of the Crown and was expressive of their sovereignty.[18] James III of Majorca, vassal of the Kingdom of Aragon, used a coat of arms with four bars, as seen on the Leges Palatinae miniatures.


Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia each had a legislative body, known as the Cortes in Aragon or Corts in Catalonia and Valencia. A Diputación General was established in each, becoming known as a Generalidad in Aragon and Generalitat in Catalonia and Valencia.


During the 15-16th century the Crown's de facto capital was Naples: after Alfonso V of Aragon, also Ferdinand II of Aragon settled the capital in Naples. Alfonso, in particular, wanted to transform Naples into a real Mediterranean capital, lavishing also huge sums to embellish it further.[19] Later the courts were itinerant[20] until Philip II of Spain. The Spanish historian Domingo Buesa Conde has argued that Zaragoza ought to be considered the political capital, but not economic or administrative, due to the obligation of the kings to be crowned at the Seo of Zaragoza.[nb 2]

Lands of the Crown

See also


  1. ^ Corona d'Aragón (Aragonese pronunciation: [koˈɾona ðaɾaˈɣon])
    Corona d'Aragó (Eastern Catalan: [kuˈɾonə ðəɾəˈɣo], Western Catalan: [koˈɾona ðaɾaˈɣo])
    Corona Aragonum (Latin pronunciation: [koˈroːna araˈgoːnũ]
    Corona de Aragón (Spanish pronunciation: [koˈɾona ðe aɾaˈɣon])
  2. ^ Domingo J. Buesa Conde, in El rey de Aragón (Zaragoza, CAI, 2000:57–59. ISBN 84-95306-44-1) postulates that the Crown of Aragon's political capital of Zaragoza, though it was not the economic one, nor the administrative one, due to the court being itinerative in the 14th century, took its start from the decrees of Peter IV of Aragon establishing his coronation there.: "Pedro IV parte (...) de la aceptación de la capital del Ebro como "cabeza del Reino". [...] por eso hizo saber a sus súbditos que Mandamos que este sacrosanto sacramento de la unción sea recibido de manos del metropolitano en la ciudad de Zaragoza al tiempo que recordaba: "...y como quiera que los reyes de Aragón están obligados a recibir la unción en la ciudad de Zaragoza, que es la cabeza del Reino de Aragón, el cual reino es nuestra principal designación—esto es, apellido—y título, consideramos conveniente y razonable que, del mismo modo, en ella reciban los reyes de Aragón el honor de la coronación y las demás insignias reales, igual que vimos a los emperadores recibir la corona en la ciudad de Roma, cabeza de su imperio. Zaragoza, antigua capital del reino de Aragón, se ha convertido en la capital política de la Corona (...).


  1. ^ Marqués de Lozoya, Historia de España, Salvat, ed. 1952, vol. II page 60: "El Reino de Aragon, el Principado de Cataluña, el Reino de Valencia y el Reino de Mallorca, constituyen una confederación de Estados".
  2. ^ Thomas N. Bisson, The Medieval Crown of Aragon: a short history, 1986, chapter II. The age of the Early Count-Kings (1137–1213) (The Principate of Ramon Berenguer IV 1137–1162), page 31
  3. ^ Cateura Benàsser, Pau. "Els impostos indirectes en el regne de Mallorca.". Retrieved 2008-04-24.  El Tall dels Temps, 14. (Palma de) Mallorca: El Tall, 1996. ISBN 84-96019-28-4. 127pp.
  4. ^ "The Kingdom of Aragon". Aragón Turismo. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Stanley G. Payne. "Chapter Five. The Rise of Aragon-Catalonia". A History of Spain and Portugal. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  6. ^ Bisson T. N. chapter II. The age of the Early Count-Kings (1137–1213) (Dynastic Policy 1162–1213), page 36
  7. ^ a b c H. J. Chaytor. "Chapter 6, James the Conqueror". A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  8. ^ Bisson 1986:67
  9. ^ a b Bisson 1986:87–88
  10. ^ H. J. Chaytor. "7, Pedro III". A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  11. ^ Stanley G. Payne. "Chapter Nine, The United Spanish Monarchy". A History of Spain and Portugal. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  12. ^ H. J. Chaytor. "Juan II. Union of Aragon with Castile". A History of Aragon and Catalonia. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  13. ^ Richard Herr. "Chapter 3, The Making of Spain". An historical essay on modern Spain. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  14. ^ Bisson T. N. Epilogue, page 188-189
  15. ^ a b c d Bisson T. N. Epilogue, page 189
  16. ^ a b c Bisson T. N. Epilogue, page 188
  17. ^ Léon Jéquier. Actes du II Colloque international d'héraldique. Breassone 1981. Académie internationale d'héraldique. Les Origines des armoiries. Paris. ISBN 2-86377-030-6.(French)
  18. ^ "La bandera de Aragón". Autonomical Government of Aragon. 1997-03-06. Retrieved 2008-04-20.  Page on the official flag of Aragon and the origin of the "palos de gules" or "barras de Aragón" (Spanish)
  19. ^ History books (Donzelli), Medieval Historic, Rome 1998, ISBN 88-7989-406-4
  20. ^ A team of investigators of the UIB directed by Doctor Josep Juan Vidal. "Felipe II, the King that defended Majorca but didn't want to recognize all its privileges". Servei de Comunicacions de la UIB. Archived from the original on 29 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-17.  (Spanish)


  • T. N. Bisson (1986). Clarendon Press – Oxford. ed. The medieval Crown of Aragon. A short story. ISBN 0-19-820236-9. 

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