The Rise of the Aragonese-Catalan Empire, 1200-1350 - Vol. 1

By J. Lee Shneidman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE KING VERSUS THE NOBLES, 1285-1327

The unexpected death of Pedro deprived the Aragonese empire of an effective leader. The heir, Alfonso III, was a bright youth of twenty 1 who, under the tutelage of Pedro and his administrators, had demonstrated considerable ability in executing directives and leading troops but had shown little originality in either sphere. How serious this lack of inventiveness was is difficult to determine, since it is doubtful whether the existing political conditions would have permitted much royal innovation. Pedro had hoped to train his heir in kingship, but had died before completing the instruction. However, despite the lack of training, the young king-count tried to be a good ruler.

On the royal seal the sovereign is represented as a warrior seated on a charging horse, but Alfonso knew that there was much more to kingship than war: both Jaime and Pedro were warriors whose greatness transcended war. Alfonso attempted to set aside one day a week for individuals to bring him petitions, 2 but the Cortes, fearing the popularity of the House of Barcelona, sought to isolate him from his people. Iberian historians have called Alfonso "El Liberal." 3 It is true that he was generous, 4 but the term "Liberal" is derived from the fact that he was forced to grant all that the Cortes demanded. As the Chronicle of Pedro IV puts it, he was called Llarg because he gave more in his life than any king of the world who ruled a kingdom." 5

When Pedro died, Alfonso was fighting his pro-French uncle Jaume on Mallorca, whose capital surrendered on November 19. 6 While the heir was completing the subjugation of the island he received Bernardo Guillem de Entenza and Eximo de Urrea, representatives of the Union, who informed him that he could not exer-

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