James I of Aragon

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James I the Conqueror (Catalan: Jaume el Conqueridor, Aragonese: Chaime lo Conqueridor, Spanish: Jaime el Conquistador, Occitan: Jacme lo Conquistaire; 2 February 1208 – 27 July 1276) was the King of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276. His long reign saw the expansion of the Crown of Aragon on all sides: into Valencia to the south, Languedoc to the north, and the Balearic Islands to the east. By a treaty with Louis IX of France, he wrested the county of Barcelona from nominal French suzerainty and integrated it into his crown. His part in the Reconquista was similar in Mediterranean Spain to that of his contemporary Ferdinand III of Castile in Andalusia.

As a legislator and organiser, he occupies a high place among the Spanish kings. James compiled the Libre del Consulat de Mar,[1] which governed maritime trade and helped establish Aragonese supremacy in the western Mediterranean. He was an important figure in the development of Catalan, sponsoring Catalan literature and writing a quasi-autobiographical chronicle of his reign: the Llibre dels fets.

Contents

Early life and reign until majority

James was born at Montpellier as the only son of Peter II and Mary, heiress of William VIII of Montpellier and Eudokia Komnene. As a child, James was a pawn in the power politics of Provence, where his father was engaged in struggles helping the Cathar heretics of Albi against the Albigensian Crusaders led by Simon IV de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who were trying to exterminate them. Peter endeavoured to placate the northern crusaders by arranging a marriage between his son James and Simon's daughter. He entrusted the boy to be educated in Montfort's care in 1211, but was soon forced to take up arms against him, dying at the Battle of Muret on 12 September 1213. Montfort would willingly have used James as a means of extending his own power had not the Aragonese and Catalans appealed to Pope Innocent III, who insisted that Montfort surrender him. James was handed over, at Carcassonne, in May or June 1214, to the papal legate Peter of Benevento.

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