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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The daughter of King Manfred of Sicily


Foreign policy of Pedro III.]

Pedro took the first step toward the reincorporation of the realm left by his father to Pedro's brother Jaime when he procured a recognition from the latter that he held his kingdom of Majorca as a vassal of the king of Aragon. Reaching out still farther he established a protectorate over the Moslem state of Tunis, gaining great commercial advantages at the same time. The next logical move was the conquest of the island of Sicily. Two events combined to bring Pedro III into competition for dominion there. One was his denial of vassalage to the pope, repudiating the arrangement of Pedro II, and the other was his marriage to Constance, the daughter of King Manfred of Sicily. The papacy had only recently won its struggle of several centuries against the Hohenstaufen Holy Roman Emperors, and it claimed that the territory of Naples, or southern Italy and Sicily, was at the pope's disposal. Manfred of Sicily was a member of the defeated imperial family, and would not recognize the papal claim, whereupon the pope offered the kingdom as a fief to the French prince, Charles of Anjou. Charles accepted and succeeded in conquering the island, putting Manfred to death. He then proceeded to rule in tyrannical fashion, until in 1282 he provoked the celebrated uprising known as the "Sicilian vespers," when a terrible vengeance was wreaked upon the followers of Charles. Pedro III already had a great army near by in Tunis, and when

he was invited by the Sicilians to help them he accepted, alleging the claims of his wife to the Sicilian crown, and landing in Sicily in the same year, 1282. In a short time he was master of the entire island, and through the exploits of his great admiral, Roger de Lauria, in control of not a little of the Italian coast as well, though only temporarily.

[Sidenote: The French invasion.]

Affronted both by the denial of vassalage and by the conquest of Sicily the pope excommunicated Pedro, and declared his deposition as king of Aragon, granting the throne in his stead to Charles of Valois, second son of the king of France. He even went so far as to proclaim a crusade against Pedro, and a great French army was prepared to carry out his decision and to establish the claim of Charles of Valois. Allies were found in King Jaime of Majorca and many of Pedro's own nobles and churchmen. The French forces soon overran much of Catalonia, but when matters looked darkest a great naval victory by Roger de Lauria and an epidemic which broke out in the French army turned the tide, and the invaders were driven across the Pyrenees. In the same year Pedro died, but just before his death he offered to return Sicily to the pope,--so strong was the prestige of the papacy in that day.

[Sidenote: Alfonso III.]

[Sidenote: Struggles with the nobility and the Privilege of the Union.]

Pedro's son, Alfonso III (1285-1291), had no idea of abandoning Sicily. He made it into a separate kingdom under his brother Jaime, and the strife with France and the pope went on. Alfonso was not of his father's calibre, however, and in 1291 agreed to renounce the Sicilian claim and to fight Jaime if the latter should fail to comply

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