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Pere II the Great

Barcelona's Expansion into the Mediterranean Begins

Pere II of Barcelona was Pere III of Aragon and also King of Valencia and Sicily. He was born in Vilafranca del Penedès in 1240 and was known as Pere the Great.

The reign of Pere the Great (1276-1285) marked the beginning of the Mediterranean expansion of the Crown of Aragon with the incorporation of Sicily, which was strategic for Mediterranean trade and also the granary of Europe. 

In the first part of his reign, Pere II imposed his authority over the nobility by abolishing the political system, based on the Corts, which had been created by his father. This victory allowed him to lead an expedition to North Africa, where he wanted to establish a Christian kingdom close to Tunis. However, the death of his father-in-law, Manfred of Sicily and his succession by Charles of Anjou, the brother of Louis IX of France, made him change his plans.

The Sicilians, shocked by the Angevin despotism and worried about being annexed by the French monarchy, offered the island to Pere the Great based on the rights of his wife Constance of Sicily. He was crowned King and defeated the French in the Sicilian Vespers of 1282.

The victory provoked the enmity of France and also of the Pope, who was a political ally of the French. Pere II was excommunicated and dispossessed of his kingdoms, which were allotted to Charles of Valois, the son of Philip III of France. At the same time, a crusade was begun against him.

Because of the difficult circumstances, Pere was forced to negotiate with the nobility in order to ensure their loyalty. He granted the General Privilege to the Aragonese nobility and in 1293 agreed to call the Corts Catalanes once a year and that laws would only be valid in Catalonia if they had been agreed by the Corts.

Having gained the support of his subjects, Pere was able to confront the Crusade and also his brother Jaume, who was an ally of the French. He was not only victorious and managed to stop the threat to Catalonia but his son, Alfons II, retook Mallorca from his uncle Jaume and the island was reincorporated into the territories under the control of the Counts of Barcelona.





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