| The fourth king of
the Crown of Aragon
Pedro III of Aragon was born in Valencia,
in 1240 and died in Villafranca del Penedés, on November 2,
1285. He was called "The big", being son of Jaime I the Conqueror
and his second wife Violante de Hungría. He was the successor
of his father in 1276 in the king of Aragon, king of Valencia (like
Peter I) and count of Barcelone (like Pedro II).
He was married on June 13, 1262 in the
cathedral of Montpellier with Constance of Hohenstaufen, daughter
and heiress of Manfredo I of Sicily, they were crowned in Saragossa
in a ceremony in which Pedro cancelled the vassalage that with
the papacy his grandfather Pedro II had coordinated.
All his reign was centred on the expansion
of the Crown of Aragon for the Mediterranean and for it he made use
of his marriage with Constance to claim the Sicilian crown. Sicily
was from 1266 under the sovereignty of Carlos de Anjou who,
with the support of pope Clemente IV, who was not wishing any
Hohenstaufen in the south of Italy, had been invested king after defeating,
in Benevento to Manfredo, who died in the battle.
The angevin monarch made to blind to
three Manfredo's children males and, in 1268, captured and made to
decapitate to Conradino that -like grandson of Federico
II- was the last hereditary male of the house Hohenstaufen. The succession
line goes then to Constance, who offered refuge in Aragon to the supporters
families of her father, the Lanza, the Lauria and the
A fleet of the Aragonese crown, supervised
by Conrado Lanza, covers in 1279 the African coasts to restore
the feudal sovereignty of Aragon on Tunisia, that the death of the
emir Muhammad I al-Mustansir had debilitated. Later, in 1281, Pedro
III armed a fleet to invade Tunisia and requested newly elected pope
Martín IV a bull that the military operation was declaring
like crossed; but the pope, of origin French and supporter of Carlos
de Anjou, denied it to him.
When the fleet was preparing to weigh
anchor, would took place in Sicily the events known like "Sicilian
day before" that provoked the expulsion of the island, after a big
slaughter, of the French. The Sicilian sent then an embassy to Pedro
III offering him the Sicilian crown, to which had a right thanks to
his marriage. The Aragonese king put then his fleet in the direction
of Sicily, where arrived on August 30, 1282 and where king was crowned
in the city of Palermo. Immediately he sent an embassy to Carlos
de Anjou, who was in Messina, urging him to admit him as a king
of Sicily and to leave the island. The defeat of the angevin fleet
in Nicoreta, in hands of admiral Roger de Lauria, forced
Carlos to leave Messina and to shelter in his kingdom of Naples.
Pope Martín IV answered to the Sicilian coronation of Pedro
III with his excommunication (November 9, 1282) and his deposition
like king of Aragon (December 21, 1283), offering the crown to the
second son of the king of France, Carlos de Valois, whom invested
on February 27, 1284, and declaring a crusade against Aragon.
The situation of Pedro III was
completely unstable, since not only he had face up to the French invasion
that was prepared to the north of the Pyrenees, but he had face up
to serious problems inside his kingdoms arisen by the economic needs
that the conquest of Sicily provoked.
Pedro III the Big solves the
internal problems granting, in 1283, the formation of the Aragonese
Union and taking an oath to the "General Privilege" that
was defending the privileges of the nobility; also he granted to the
County of Barcelona the constitution “Una vegada l´any” in
the courts celebrated in Barcelona between 1283 and 1284.
Solved the interior problems, he could
center his attention on the French invasion, which supervised by the
proper French king Felipe III took in 1285 the city of Gerona,
for immediately having to move back when the Aragonese fleet returned
of Sicily supervised by Roger de Lauria and inflicted on the
French squadron an entire defeat in the Formigues islands and next
a defeat in ground in the ravine of the Panizas, when the French
troops were moving back.
After his big victory, Pedro
III prepared to confront with his brother Jaime II and his
nephew the king Sancho IV of Castile, who had not given him
support during his conflict with the French, but his premature death,
in November, 1285, prevented it.
In his testament, Pedro III arranged
that his corpse was receiving grave in the Monastery of Santes Creus,
of the Cistercian order. The funeral of the monarch was celebrated
by big solemnity and the body of the king was placed in an urn of
red porphyry, that admiral Roger de Lauria brought from Sicily.
He was the first Aragonese monarch in receiving grave in the Monastery
of Santes Creus. King Jaime II the Just of Aragon, arranged
the construction of the graves of king Pedro III the Big, his
father, at the same time that he was arranging the creation of his
own grave and that of his second wife, Blanca de Nápoles. It
was arranged that the tombs were sheltered, as this way was done,
under baldachins worked in white marble proceeding from the quarries
of San Felíu, near Gerona. When king Jaime II
arranged the creation of his own tomb, he took that of his father
as a model. The tomb of king Pedro III was realized between
the year 1291 and 1307 by Bartomeu of Gerona and it
is richer than that of his son Jaime II and wife. A little
temple lodges the tomb of the king, consisting of an urn of red porphyry;
before a Roman font of bath, surrounded by saints' images.
In December, 1835, during the Carlists
Wars, the French Legion of Alger and several companies of municipal
polices stayed at the monastic building, causing numerous ravages
in the same. The real graves of Jaime II and his wife were
profaned. The remains of Jaime II, son of Pedro III
were burned, although it seems that some remains remained in the tomb.
The mummy of the queen Blanca de Nápoles was thrown to a well,
from which was extracted in 1854. The tomb of Pedro III, by
the soundness of the urn of porphyry used to lodge the royal remains,
prevented his remains would have equal luck.
His descent is that continues:
- Alfonso III of Aragon (1261-1291), king of Aragon, Valencia
and count of Barcelone.
- Jaime II of Aragon (1267-1327), king of Aragon, Valencia,
count of Barcelone, king of Sardinia and of Sicily.
- Isabel de Aragón (1271-1336), «Santa Elizabeth of
Portugal», spouse queen of Portugal for her marriage in 1288 with
Dionysius I of Portugal.
- Federico II of Sicily (1272-1337), king of Sicily
- Violante (1273-1302), married in 1297 with the infante Roberto
de Nápoles, who would be future Roberto I.
- Pedro de Aragón (1275-1296).
He had three illegitimate sons of his extramarital
relation with Maria Nicolau:
- Jaime de Aragón (deceased after 1285). Master of Segorbe.
Married with Sancha Fernández, daughter of Fernando Díaz.
- Juan de Aragón.
- Beatriz de Aragón, wife of Ramón de Cardona, master
By his relation with Inés Zapata,
four illegitimate sons were born:
- Fernando de Aragón. His father gave him the Albarracín
dominion in 1284 after besieging and taking the city in September
of this year, defeating to Juan Núñez I of Lara.
- Sancho de Aragón. Castellán de Amposta.
- Pedro de Aragón, married Constance Méndez Pelita de Silva,
daughter of Suero Méndez de Silva.
- Teresa Pérez Zapata. She contracted three marriages: the
first with García Romeu III, rich-man of Aragon, son of García
Romeu II; the second with Artal de Alagón, master of Sástago
and Pina; and the third with Pedro López de Oteiza.