The Crown of Aragon (a snapshot)

This blogger is still on the Iberian Peninsula and so it will be another Iberian inspired post that is related to my travels. In February 2017 I visited Zaragoza in the autonomous community of Aragon in Spain. The blog will highlight the Crown of Aragon and is intended to provide a basis of knowledge for such a vast realm, in the hope that readers would be intrigued and would like to find out more.

Since I was a child, I had always been fascinated with the history of Aragon. For many British schoolchildren the first mention of Aragon is when we study Henry VIII and his six wives, the first being, Catherine of Aragon who is the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand (Los Reyes Católicos). Ferdinand being the King of Aragon and Isabella the Queen of Castile, through their marriage this dynastic union layed the foundations to a seemingly united Spain. However, there is never really anymore to it than that. We only learn that Aragon was a realm on the Iberian Peninsula and that it was included in Catherine’s title. A personal favourite tale about the Crown of Aragon that I came across when I was much older was that Ferdinand’s mother, Juana Enriquez was so desperate to have her son born in Aragon that when she was pregnant she crossed over from Navarre to Sos del Rey Católico. However, I digress there is more to the Crown of Aragon than Ferdinand and his daughter Catherine. Let’s see…

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Cathedral of the Saviour of Zaragoza, commonly shorted to “La Seo”, photo taken by sholderness13

What was the Crown of Aragon’s size throughout its history?

The Crown of Aragon was a vast territory that covered large parts of the eastern coast on the Iberian Peninsula. Included in the realm was; Aragon, Catalan territories, the Kingdom of Valencia (1238-1245), the Kingdom of Majorca (1229-1235), the Kingdom of Naples (1442), Corsica (1324), Sicily (1282) and the Duchy of Athens and Neopatras (1311-1390).

 

So where did it all begin?

Aragonese monarchs were crowned in La Seo Cathedral in Zaragoza, a Cathedral erected on a former Roman and Moorish site. After this the Cathedral was built in the Romanesque style. Throughout the course of La Seo’s history, the design had changed to Gothic-Mudejar and Renaissance styles. The Crown of Aragon emerged as a result of a dynastic union, much like the union of Isabella and Ferdinand that was to come in 1469. However the circumstances were different. Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona at twenty four years old was betrothed to Petronilla of Aragon when she was only a year old, whereas Isabella and Ferdinand were closer in age. Petronilla’s father, Ramiro II Aragon wanted his daughter to marry the Count of Barcelona as a result of gaining some support against the Alfonso VII of Castile. Both Ramon and Petronilla had jointly ruled over their territories. Aragon was a landlocked realm and as such it had no access to the sea which would know doubt improve trade. Through Petronilla marrying Ramon, Aragon gained easy access to the Mediterranean. However both realms remained distinct in terms of culture, identity and law.

 

Relationship to Castile-

At one point Aragon and Castile were joined temporarily under Sancho III of Pamplona who wanted to unite all the Iberian Christian realms at a time when the Caliphate of Cordoba appeared to retract into taifas (independently ruled principalities). Sancho III ruled from 1004 until his death in 1035 and assumed the throne of Pamplona. Sancho revised the border of Navarre and Castile by marrying Muniadona of Castile. During his reign he would acquire power in the rest of Northern Iberia including Leon, Galicia, Aragon and the east towards Barcelona. It was upon his death that this “unity” dissolved. In Sancho’s will the realms he had claimed were divided up amongst his surviving sons. On the face of it this split between the two kingdoms appeared to have changed in the twelfth century when Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre married Doña Urraca, Queen of Leon, Castile and Galicia. However, the marriage was unsuccessful and was as a result annulled. The annulment sparked an outbreak of war between the territories and in a sense became rival domains that did not amalgamate successfully until the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand.

 

Language-

For the most part the Crown of Aragon had two distinct languages, Aragonese and Catalan. These languages are Romance languages and they belong to the same language group as Castilian Spanish, French and Galician to name but a few. Despite Catalonia being part of the Crown of Aragon, they had maintained their language. So in terms of linguistic unity in the Crown of Aragon depending on where the population were settled two different languages were spoken in the realm. Catalan was spoken in the east of the realm and was spread as far as the Balearic Islands and Corsica. Aragonese remained in the territory of Aragon.

Castilian Spanish did not arrive until the 1400s and even then Aragonsese was more common. It was really in the 1600s that Castilian Spanish started to spread in the territory, thereby pushing the Aragonese language slowly up towards the Pyrenees. Catalan for the most part did not distinguish as much as Aragonese. By the 1600s Castilian Spanish made its way into Catalonia but unlike Aragonese, where the language was not in much use, Catalan remained alongside Castilian Spanish. However, nowadays outside the Barcelona metropolitan area it is far more common to be greeted with a “Hola, Bon Dia” than a “Hola, Buenos Días” at face value.

 

What does it mean for Spain today?

The coat of arms. The Crown of Aragon’s coat of arms are an eye catching red and yellow stripped seal that is said to have been used since the time of Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona. Some theories differ in this explanation, suggesting the coat of arms belonged to Count Ramon Berenguer II. This implies that the origin of the coat of arms was much older. According to legend the coat of arms was created by Charles the Bald (King of West Francia, King of Italy and later known as Holy Roman Emperor) during the 9th century AD. Bald’s fingers were said to have been covered in blood from war and he placed them down Wilfrid I of Barcelona’s shield as an act of gratitude. However this is often disputed and is according to legend after all.

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The flag of Catalonia, an example of the red and yellow stripped flag, photo taken by sholderness13

 

Today many areas in Spain bare the red and yellow stripped design on flags in many shapes and forms. Here is a list of the most famous flag bearers-

  • Kingdom of Spain flag (the coat of arms is present)
  • Catalan flag
  • Aragonese Flag
  • Valencian Flag
  • Balearic Islands Flag
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