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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Jaime I the Conqueror 1213 1276


The act of vassalage to the pope and the French conquests in Aragonese dominions of southern France.]

Alfonso II inherited Catalonia in 1162, and became king of Aragon proper in 1164 on the abdication of Petronilla. Later he inherited nearly all of southern France. He was also a frequent ally of Alfonso VIII of Castile against the Moslems, gaining some territories on his own account. In 1179 these two kings made a treaty dividing Spain between them, fixing the limits of their respective present and future conquests,--a noteworthy instance of the approach toward the unification of Spain. Alfonso II was succeeded by Pedro II "the Catholic" (1196-1213) at a time when affairs were in a critical state in his French dominions. That region had been in constant turmoil, as a result both of the ambitions of the kings of France and of the comparative independence and selfish aims of the feudal lords. There was now added a new factor,--the widespread Albigensian heresy, which had been accepted by the majority of the Proven?al people and even more by their lords. With matters in this state Pedro visited Rome in 1204, and, while there, gave his dominions in vassalage to the pope, receiving them back as a fief. This act was to have important consequences at a later time, but if its immediate object was to check French pretensions to southern France, as has been supposed, it was not very successful, for the pope himself proclaimed a crusade against the Albigenses.

The crusaders were French nobles, who represented a purely French invasion quite as much as they did an orthodox host. Under their leader, Simon de Montfort, they won several victories, displaying such cruelty against Catholics and heretics alike that they were censured by a famous religious at that time preaching among the Albigenses, Domingo de Guzm?n. Guzm?n was the Spaniard who later founded the Dominican order, named for him, and who became canonized as Saint Dominic (San Domingo). Pedro II endeavored to mediate to check the temporal designs of Montfort, but was persuaded by the pope to recognize the French leader as his vassal in the regions he had conquered. When Montfort continued in his aggressive designs Pedro II declared war against him, but was defeated in a battle which cost him his life.

[Sidenote: Early years of the reign of Jaime "the Conqueror."]

The death of Pedro II brought to the throne the greatest Aragonese monarch of the period, Jaime I "the Conqueror" (1213-1276), a worthy contemporary of Ferdinand III of Castile. At the outset of his reign he was a mere child in the dangerous possession of Simon de Montfort. On this occasion the tremendous influence of the great pope, Innocent III, was beneficial to Spain, for Montfort was constrained to surrender the boy king to his people. Then followed the usual troubles which beset the early years of a youthful monarch in that period. There were wars brought about by ambitious nobles fighting for the possession of the king, wars of the nobles among themselves, and wars of the nobles against the king. Though only a boy, Jaime took a hand in the fighting, and was many times in danger,--twice he was captured by hostile nobles,--but thanks to his courage and coolness was always able to free himself from the perils which beset him. Not until 1228 was he in full command of the situation. Meanwhile, civil wars had been taking place in southern France, resolving themselves finally into a struggle between the count of Toulouse, aided by the Catalans, and Simon de Montfort. In this war Montfort lost his life, and the French power in that region for the time being vanished.

[Sidenote: The conquests of Jaime.]

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