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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Certain democratic towns in Valencia and Aragon joined Pedro


[Sidenote:

Pedro "the Ceremonious" and the overthrow of seigniorial anarchy.]

Pedro IV "the Ceremonious" (1335-1387) forms a curious parallel to his Castilian contemporaries, the great Alfonso XI and the violent Pedro I. Like the latter he was energetic, treacherous, and cruel, but was more hypocritical, having a great regard for appearances and standing on the letter of the law (hence his nickname). Withal, like Alfonso XI, he was the type of ruler needed at the time, and was even more successful than the great Castilian, for he definitely decided the question between the nobility and the crown. The struggle began over a dynastic issue when Pedro, who at the time had no sons, endeavored to arrange for the succession of his daughter Constance, instead of his brother Jaime. The nobles and the towns of the Aragonese and Valencian parts of the kingdom used this event as a pretext for a renewal of the activities of the Union, and in the first conflict they were too strong for Pedro. He was obliged in 1347 to acknowledge the Privilege of the Union, and in addition had to consent to a division of the kingdom into districts ruled by delegates of the Union, who had broad powers, including a right to receive the taxes, which henceforth were not to go to the king. Pedro was not a man to bow at the first defeat, and in the same year renewed the contest. It is noteworthy that the Catalonian nobles and towns were on the king's side, possibly because of their interest

in Mediterranean expansion, which necessitated the backing of a strong government. In addition, certain democratic towns in Valencia and Aragon joined Pedro, as well as many individuals who resented the tyranny of the recently victorious Union. In 1348 Pedro crushed the Aragonese opposition at the battle of ?pila, and then overwhelmed his opponents in Valencia, punishing them afterwards with a ruthless hand, displaying a rather vitriolic humor when he made some of his enemies drink the molten metal of which the bell for calling meetings of the Union had been composed. The legal effect of these victories was little more than the nullification of the Privilege of the Union and a reduction of the powers of the _Justicia_ and of the exaggerated pretensions, social and otherwise, of the nobles, while the General Privilege and other royal charters remained in force. In fact, however, a death-blow had been struck at feudal anarchy, and the tendency henceforth was toward centralization and absolutism.

[Sidenote: Pedro's successful foreign policy.]

The reign of Pedro was not without note, also, in foreign affairs. Even before settling his dispute with the Union he had accomplished something for the aggrandizement of Aragon. He somewhat treacherously provoked a quarrel with the king of Majorca, and then conquered the island in 1343. Proceeding at once against the same king's possessions in southern France he incorporated them into his kingdom. Pedro had also assisted Alfonso XI of Castile against the Benimerines, contributing to the victory of the Salado in 1340. The war with Genoa and the uprisings in Sardinia which had filled the reign of his predecessor gave trouble also to Pedro, but after a campaign in Sardinia in person he was able temporarily to get the upper hand. His intervention in the civil wars of Castile has already been noted, and from these he came out with some not greatly important advantages. He also cast his eyes upon Sicily with a view to restoring it to the direct authority of the Aragonese crown, although this was not accomplished in his reign, and he encouraged commercial relations with the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. In 1381 he accepted an offer to become the sovereign of the Catalan duchy of Athens. These events were more indicative of a conscious Catalan policy of predominance in the Mediterranean than important in themselves.


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