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 of the constituent realms of the Crown of Aragon (the Kingdom of Aragon, Kingdom of Valencia, and Principality of Catalonia), meeting in Caspe, to resolve the interregnum following the death of King Martin of Aragon in 1410 without a legitimate heir.
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 (males in the male line) of the 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:
- Alfonso I, Duke of Gandia, 80-year-old patrilineal grandson of James II of Aragon. He claimed the throne by both agnatic seniority and proximity of blood to the previous kings of Aragon. He died in March 1412.
- John of Ribagorza, brother of Alfonso, who inherited his claim.
- Ferdinand of Castile, matrilineal grandson of Peter IV of Aragon and nephew of Martin, claimed the throne by 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 and 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 of Castile (regent of Castile and therefore commanding a nearby army with which protected his allies). There was fighting in the streets, especially between partisans of Aragon and Valencia. The conflict divided the Kingdom of Aragon, with two rival Cortes meeting: 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, with Cortes in Traiguera and Vinaròs respectively. Furthermore, in 1410-1412 Ferdinand's troops entered Aragon and Valencia to fight the Urgellists. The Trastamarist victory 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 Aragonese Trastamarists and five varied Catalan emissaries: the agreement known as the Alcañiz Concord of 15 February 1412. But a few days later, the Alcañiz parliament chose not only the three compromisarios from Aragon but also the three Catalan and the three 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 choose the next king. The majority of historians have agreed with the account of the election by historian Jerónimo Zurita. Zurita wrote his Anales de la Corona de Aragón from the original records, which he bequeathed to the house of the General Deputation of Aragon in 1576 (they were lost or burned during political disorders in the 19th century). According to Zurita, the compromisarios had conflicting views about the succession to the deceased King Martin, and they voted differently as well. The votes were cast on Friday, 24 June 1412, and recorded on 25 June. Vincent Ferrer was the first one to speak; in a long speech, he voted for Ferdinand, and then Ram, his brother Bonifaci, Gualbes, Bardaixí, and Aranda simply joined him. Sagarriga, Vallseca, and Bertran voted differently, giving 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 28 June 28, Ferdinand of Castile was proclaimed king by Vicent Ferrer in a public speech also recorded.
In recent years, three Aragonese historians (José Ángel Sesma Muñoz, Carlos Laliena, and Cristina Monterde) rejected Zurita's account, arguing that no contemporary sources confirm the existence of any secret ballot. Sesma claimed in 2011 that all nine compromisarios, despite their different preferences, agreed unanimously to select Ferdinand. He repeated this view in 2012 with Laliena and Monterde. Their main argument is that the official notarized deed of proclamation, issued on 25 June 1412, doesn't mention any results of the supposed election. Furthermore, they quoted testimonies (but not the full statements) from those who were present at the ceremony of proclamation on 28 June, such as Melchor de Gualbes, saying that the three Catalan compromisarios had declared that "they had acted freely and had not been under any pressure" and that at the end "everybody would be of one opinion". As of 2013, there are no new published works that support this new theory.
Already in 2012, this point of view had been refuted by historian Ernest Belenguer, who called attention to the point that in this kind of elections (as with papal conclaves), the results of the ballots are not published, therefore one cannot infer a unanimous election only from this kind of deed. He also mentioned that even Trastamara's official chronicler Lorenzo Valla said in the 15th century that there were very different opinions among the compromisarios. Furthermore, Belenguer cited other authors who in the 17th century had seen the same documents as Zurita, such as Uztarroz and Dormer, and reported the same account as Zurita of the preferences stated 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 Montearagón 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 Trastámara, 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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- Manuel Dualde 1947, pp. 355-385.
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- Esteban Sarasa 1981, pp. 121-122.
- Ernest Belenguer 2012, pp. 74.
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- Sesma, Laliena, and Monterde 2012, p. 5.
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