Government under Alfons the Chaste

Developments in Taxation and the Law

The main government reform of Alfons the Chaste was to put into practice the legal doctrines of the Usatges de Barcelona, which confirmed him as the supreme authority and annulled the feudal system. 

He began this process at the Assembly of Peace and Truce in Fondarella in 1173 by applying statutes that, rather than defining the King as a lord over vassals, establishe him as a sovereign power charged with maintaining law and order and keeping the peace over a territory that stretched from Salses to Tortosa and Lleida.

The King's domains also included the still theoretically independent counties of Empúries, Pallars Jussà, Pallars Sobirà and Urgell, which effectively became part of the Principality of Catalonia within the Crown of Aragon. 

Alfons the Chaste also stopped the practice of dating Catalan documents based on the year of the reign of French Kings, thus breaking with the country's Frankish past.





Assemblies of Peace and Truce

The Treaties of Peace and Truce had been created in the 11th century as a result of the confluence of interests of the church and the peasantry, both of whom were victims of feudal violence. However, the Counts of Barcelona soon began to take a central role in their application. 

Thus, for example, the Assembly of Toluges in 1027 was attended only by clergy and peasants whereas the Assemblies of Barcelona in 1064 and Girona in 1068 were presided by Ramon Berenguer I. 

The Counts continued using the Peace and Truce to limit the power of the noble clans, who used violence to maintain their dominance over the peasants. Examples of this were when Ramon Berenguer III presided Olèrdola in 1108 and La Cerdanya in 1118, or Ramon Berenguer IV, who in 1134 presided the Assembly of Peace and Truce together with Archbishop Oleguer in order to guarantee the privileges granted to the Order of the Temple. 

The Assembly of Fondarella, presided by Alfons the Chaste in 1173, was simply the culmination of the process of converting Peace and Truce into an instrument of royal power.

An Administrative System

Alfons the Chaste obliged the barons and nobles to ratify the Statutes of Fondarella, which, in accordance with ecclesiastical origins of the Peace and Truce, conferred an important jurisdictional function on the bishops. This was the power to call on heads of family to fight against criminals. However, the bishops had no real coercive power to enforce this. 

For this reason, the King created the vegueries, which were districts governed by an administrator known as a veguer, who was named directly by the King and was always someone who had no family ties with the barons and nobility in the area. This was how the first local administration in Catalonia was created with judges, bailiffs and intendents being responsible for taking royal authority to the territory.

Royal Property Rights

Alfons imposed his authority over the aristocratic clans not just by strengthening the Peace and Truce but also by reaffirming property rights over certain castles. The barons who controlled the castles wanted to keep them under the beneficial allod system rather under the King's feudal conditions. 

For example, in 1180 a noble by the name of Pere responded to the King's claim on the Castle of Lluçà by insisting that his family had always owned the property. However, Alfons the Chaste successfully regained ownership of the castle by showing that Guisald de Lluçà, a forebear of Pere, had received it as a fief from Ramon Berenguer I.

This was possible because, around 1190, the King had created an archive of castles and lineages, which became the basis of the Liber domini regis. This document is now known by its 14th century name, Liber feudorum maior, and was drafted by the faithful royal administrator and deacon of the Cathedral of Barcelona, Ramon de Caldes.

Effective Taxation 

The affirmation of monarchic power was completed after 1178 by Ramon de Caldes and Guillem de Bassa, who both came from the class of scribes, accountants and bailiffs rather than the nobility. These court officials would reorganise the administration of the royal patrimony by maintaining strict control over local bailiffs. 

Intendents were obliged to take their accounts to the computum in Barcelona. This improved the system under Ramon Berenguer IV, who in 1151 had drawn up inventories, which were useful for evaluating resources available but ineffective for controlling the bailiffs. 

After the reform of 1178, the existence of a more efficient administration allowed the King to finance his policies without having to borrow from the barons.




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