Compromise of Caspe
Original deed of the compromise.
|Date||29 March - 28 June 1412|
|Participants||Nine compromisarios (delegates) of the peninsular territories of the Crown of Aragon.|
The Compromise of Caspe made in 1412 was an act and resolution of parliamentary representatives on behalf of the constituent realms of the Aragonese crown, namely of the Kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia and the Principality of Catalonia, to resolve the interregnum commenced upon the death of King Martin in 1410 without a legitimate heir, in Caspe.
The Aragonese succession laws at that time were based more on custom than any specific legislation, and even case law did not exist. All successions after the union of Catalonia with Aragon in 1137 had been to the eldest son, to the next younger brother, or to the only daughter. However, earlier successions indicated that agnates (a male in the male line) of Aragonese royal family had precedence over daughters and descendants of daughters; for example, Martin himself had succeeded over daughters of his late elder brother, King John I.
However, very distant agnates had lost out to the daughter of the late king in the 11th century, when Queen Petronilla succeeded over claims of the then agnates (second cousins or the like), the kings of Navarre.
J. N. Hillgarth writes: "Among the descendants by the male line, the closest relation to Martin was James II, Count of Urgell." T. N. Bisson writes that "the issue was (or became) political rather than simply legal, a utilitarian question of which candidate with some dynastic claim would make the best king."
The major candidates for succession were the following:
- Alfonso I, Duke of Gandia, an octogenarian, patrilineal grandson of James II of Aragon. He claimed the throne according to both agnatic seniority and proximity of blood to the previous kings of Aragon. Upon his death in 1412, his claim was inherited by his brother:
- Ferdinand of Castile, matrilineal grandson of Peter IV of Aragon and nephew of Martin, claimed the throne according to the proximity of blood to the last king.
- Frederic, Count of Luna, grandson of Martin of Aragon, bastard of his predeceased son, Martin I of Sicily but legitimized by Pope Benedict XIII.
- James II, Count of Urgell, Martin's brother-in-law and closest agnate as patrilineal great-grandson of Alfonso IV of Aragon. Appointed Lieutenant of the Kingdom by Martin, he was heir male of the line and claimed the throne according to agnatic primogeniture.
- Louis of Anjou, matrilineal grandson of John I of Aragon and grandnephew of Martin. He was heir general to the line and claimed the throne according to cognatic primogeniture.
The parties had agreed to a parliamentary process to resolve the issue, but coordinating deliberations between the cortes (parliaments) of Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia was made difficult by their diverging interests. Thus, a general cortes was demanded by the governor of Catalonia to meet in Montblanch, but the meeting was delayed and ended up in Barcelona starting in October 1410 an only being Cortes of the principality of Catalonia. As the cortes dragged on, the situation became violent.
Antón de Luna, an Aragonese supporter of Count James II of Urgell, assassinated the archbishop of Zaragoza, García Fernández de Heredía (supporter of Louis of Anjou). This event damaged the candidacy of James of Urgell and gave strength to the candidacy of Ferdinand (regent of Castile and therefore commanding a nearby army with which protected his allies). There was fighting in the streets especially between partisans on Aragon and Valencia. The fights brought the kingdom of Aragon to split in two different Cortes (parliaments): one favorable to Ferdinand of Castile in Alcañiz, and another favorable to James II, Count of Urgell in Mequinenza (but this one was not recognized by the Catalan parliament at Tortosa). The same occurred in Valencia splitting in Traiguera and Vinaròs respectively. Furthermore, between 1410-1412 the troops of Ferdinand of Castile entered Aragon and Valencia for fighting against urgellist followers, at the same time that thus also mobilised against their enemies in the two kingdoms. The victory of the Trastamarist side at the battle of Morvedre on 27 February 1412 finally left Valencia on their hands.
Conflicts and deliberations
Pope Bendict XIII (Avignon) intervened and proposed a smaller group of nine compromisarios (negotiators). The Trastamarist parliament of Alcañiz agreed with the proposition (which was finally accepted by a Catalan-Aragonese board of fourteen Trastamarist Aragoneses and five varied Catalan emissaries: agreement known as Alcañiz Concord of 15 February 1412) but few days later they imposed not only the 3 compromisarios from Aragon but the 3 Catalan and the 3 Valencian compromisarios too. The angry complaints among the Catalan and Valencian parliamentarians for this abuse were ignored, targeting the peaceful discussions sought since 1410; and equally the complaints of James of Urgell and Louis of Anjou.
The appointed compromisarios, met in Caspe, to decide who had to be the next king. The majority of historians agreed with the narration of the election made by the historian Jerónimo Zurita about the Compromise. Zurita wrote his Anales de la Corona de Aragón from the original deeds which he handed to the house of the General Diputation of Aragon in 1576 (and were lost or burned cause multiple rebellions in the 19th century). According to it, the compromisarios had different views about the succession of the deceased Martí I and they voted differently as well, announcing the decision publicly on the June 28th 1412. Votes, narrated by Zurita (1562-1580, Tome. XI, chapter 87), were emitted on Friday 24 June 1412 and recorded on the 25th. Vincent Ferrer was the first one to spoke in a long speech giving his vote to Ferdinand, and then Ram, his brother Bonifaci, Gualbes, Bardaixí and Aranda simply joined him. Sagarriga, Vallseca and Bertran voted differently and explaining their own reasons.
Kingdom of Aragon delegates:
- Domènec Ram (bishop of Huesca): voted for Ferdinand of Castile
- Francesc de Aranda (ancient royal councillor as well as envoy of Benedict XIII): voted for Ferdinand of Castile
- Berenguer de Bardaixí (jurist and official general of the Cortes of Aragon): voted for Ferdinand of Castile
Kingdom of Valencia delegates:
- Vicent Ferrer (Dominican monk, later canonized): voted for Ferdinand of Castile
- Bonifaci Ferrer (brother of Vincent and prior of the monastery of Portaceli): voted for Ferdinand of Castile
- Pere Bertran (substitute for Gener Rabassa, citizen of Valencia and legal expert): abstained
Principality of Catalonia delegates:
- Pere de Sagarriga i de Pau (archbishop of Tarragona): voted for James of Urgell and also for Alphonse of Gandia, but finally the vote have to be got by the most voted of both.
- Bernat de Gualbes (syndicus and councillor of Barcelona): voted for Ferdinand of Castile
- Guillem de Vallseca (officer general of the Corts Reials Catalanes): voted for James of Urgell
On June 28, Ferdinand of Castile was proclaimed king by Vicent Ferrer in a public speech also recorded.
Lately, in recent years, three Aragonese historians denied the version of Zurita arguing that no contemporary sources confirm the existence of any secret ballot: José Ángel Sesma Muñoz, Carlos Laliena and Cristina Monterde. Sesma assured in 2011 that all nine compromisarios, despite their different preferences, agreed the same name of Ferdinand unanimously, and he repeted this view in 2012 with Laliena and Monterde. The main argument is that the official notarized deed of proclamation writted on June 25, 1412 doesn't mention any results of the hypotetical election. Furthermore, they quoted some testimonies (but not the full statements) who were present at the ceremony of proclamation on June 28, like Melchor de Gualbes, saying that the 3 Catalan compromisarios had declared that "they had acted freely and had not been under any pressure" and that at the end "everybody would be one opinion". On 2013 there are no more pulicised works that support this new theory.
Already in 2012 this point of view was refuted by historian Ernest Belenguer, who called the attention on the point that in this kind of elections (like conclaves) the results of the ballots are not publicized, therefore it can't be deduced a unanimity election only from this kind of deed. He also mentioned that even the official and paid Trastamara's chronist Lorenzo Valla said in the 15th century that there were very different opinions among the compromisarios. Furthermore, Belenguer cited other authors which in the 17th century had seen too the same documents as Zurita did, like Uztarroz or Dormer, and they also made the same narration as the Aragonese historian did about the preferences spoken by every one of the nine compromisarios.
Initially James II of Urgell accepted the sentence and even swore allegiance to the new king, but several months after revolted himself in May 1413 but was unsuccessful to mobilize more nobles after two years of fights and battles. There were some uprisings in support of James in Valencia and Catalonia and James himself lead sorties out from his domain in Urgell. James's supporters were defeated in battle on 25 June 1413 outside of Lleida. Antón de Luna enlisted the support of Gascon and English troops who invaded at Jaca, but they were defeated on 10 July 1413 before he was able to join James's army.
In August, Ferdinand began the siege of Balaguer. Meanwhile, Antón de Luna had organized defenses in Huesca; however, the Castle of Montearagon was taken on 11 August, and he and his troops fled to Loarre Castle. Finally, in October 1413 James surrendered at his city: Balaguer. The following January, Loarre Castle fell, and the rebellion was over. The County of Urgell was dissolved in 1413 and the area came under the royal domain of the county of Barcelona, but were shared out among the Trastámara's supporters.
With the selection of a younger prince of the Castilian Royal House of Trastamara, the Aragonese Crown became increasingly drawn into the sphere of influence of more powerful Castile. About 50 years after the Compromise, with the marriage of Ferdinand I's grandson Ferdinand II to Queen Isabella of Castile, Aragon became the junior partner in a dynastic union that would become the modern Spanish state.
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