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The Principality of Catalonia ( ; ; Aranese: Principautat de Catalonha; ; ), from the Latin Principatus Cathaloniae, is a historic territory in the northeastern Iberian Peninsulamarker, mostly in Spainmarker and with an adjoining portion in southern Francemarker.

The principality was formed by the union of many of the different counties which formed the Marca Hispanica during the reconquista under the rule of the Count of Barcelona. It was later unified dynastically in 1137 to the Crown of Aragon, of which it was an important member.

The term "Principality of Catalonia" remained in use until the Second Spanish Republic, when its use declined because of its historical relation to the monarchy. It is still used occasionally.

History of Catalonia

Like much of the Mediterraneanmarker coast of the Iberian Peninsulamarker, it was colonized by Ancient Greeks, which chose Rosesmarker to settle in. Both Greeks and Carthaginiansmarker interacted with the main Iberian population. After the Carthaginian defeat, it became, along with the rest of Hispania, a part of the Roman Empire, Tarraco being one of the main Roman posts in the Iberian Peninsula.

The Visigoths ruled briefly after the Roman Empire's collapse, but Moorish al-Andalusmarker gained control in the eighth century. After the defeat of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqiwas's troops at Tours in 732, the Franks conquered former the Visigoth states which had been captured by the Muslims or had become allied with them in what today is the northernmost part of Catalonia. In 795, Charlemagne created what came to be known as the Marca Hispanica, a buffer zone beyond the province of Septimaniamarker made up of locally administered separate petty kingdoms which served as a defensive barrier between the Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalusmarker and the Frankish Kingdom.

The Catalan culture started to develop in the Middle Ages stemming from a number of these petty kingdoms organized as small counties throughout the northernmost part of Catalonia. The counts of Barcelona were Frankish vassals nominated by the emperor then the king of France, to whom they were feudatories (801-987).

In 987 the count of Barcelona did not recognise French king Hugh Capet and his new dynasty which put it effectively out of the Frankish rule. Then, in 1137 Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona married Petronila of Aragón establishing the dynastic union of the County of Barcelona with the Kingdom of Aragón which was to create the Crown of Aragon).

It was not until 1258, by the Treaty of Corbeil, that the king of France did formally relinquish his feudal overlordship over the counties of the Principality of Catalonia to the king of Aragon Jaime I, descendant of Ramon Berenguer IV. This Treaty turned the de facto independence into a full de jure direct transition from French to Aragonese rule. It also solved an historic incongruence. As part of the Crown of Aragon, Catalonia became a great maritime power, helping to expand the Crown of Aragon by trade and conquest into Valenciamarker, the Balearic Islandsmarker, and even Sardinia or Sicily.

Catalan constitutions (1283)

The first Catalan constitutions are of the ones from the Corts of Barcelona from 1283. The last ones were promulgated by the court of 1702. The compilations of the constitutions and other rights of Catalonia followed the Roman tradition of the Codex. The Parliament of Catalonia, dating from the 11th century, is one of the first parliaments in continental Europe.

Catalonia after the Middle Ages

The marriage of Isabel of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon (1469) unified all the Christian kingdoms in Spain (except the Kingdom of Navarre, which was annexed to the Castilian crown in 1513). This resulted in the dawn of the Kingdom of Spainmarker, made up by the former Crown of Aragon, Castile and Navarra. In 1492, the last remaining portion of Al-Andalusmarker around Granada was conquered and the Spanish conquest of the Americas began. Political power began to shift away from Aragón toward Castile and, subsequently, from Castile to the Spanish Empire, which engaged in frequent warfare in Europe striving for world domination.

For an extended period, Catalonia, as part of the late Crown of Aragon, continued to retain its own laws and constitutions but these gradually eroded in the course of the transition from a feudal state to a modern one and the king's struggle to get from the territories as much of the power as possible until they were finally suppressed as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession defeat. Over the next few centuries, Catalonia was generally on the losing side of a series of wars that led steadily to more centralization of power in Spainmarker.
The color shading shows the division between The principality of Catalonia (present-Spain) and the counties of Roussillon and Cerdagne (present-France) divided in 1659
In 1659, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees signed by Philip IV of Spain, the comarques (counties) of Roussillon, Conflentmarker, Vallespirmarker and French Cerdagnemarker were ceded to France. In recent times, this area has come to be known in Catalonia, as Northern Catalonia (Roussillon in French).

Catalan institutions were suppressed in this part of the territory and public use of Catalan language was prohibited. Currently, this region is administratively part of Frenchmarker Départment of Pyrénées-Orientales.

At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession (in which the Catalans supported the unsuccessful claim of the Archduke Charles of Austria) the victorious Bourbon duc d'Anjou, now Philip V, signed the Nueva Planta decrees, which abolished the Crown of Aragon and all remaining Catalan institutions and prohibited the administrative use of Catalan language.

In the 18th afnd 19th centuries, Spanish Catalonia benefited from the beginning of open commerce to America and protectionist policies enacted by the Spanish government, becoming a center of Spain's industrialization; to this day it remains one of the most industrialized parts of Spain, along with Madrid and the Basque Countrymarker. On several occasions during the first third of the 20th century, Spanish Catalonia gained and lost varying degrees of autonomy, but as in most regions of Spain, Catalan autonomy and culture were crushed to an unprecedented degree after the defeat of the Second Spanish Republic (founded 1931) in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) which brought Francisco Franco to power. Public use of the Catalan language was again banned after a brief period of general recuperation.

The Franco eramarker ended with Franco's death in 1975; in the subsequent Spanish transition to democracy, Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy. It became one of the Autonomous Communities of Spain. In comparison, "Northern Catalonia" has a much more limited degree of autonomy.

The term Principality

The Catalan parliament in the XV century
When Ramon Berenguer IV married Petronila of Aragon, her father Ramiro II of Aragon gave him the title of Princeps Aragonensis (from the Latin princeps: the first one in dignity).

His heir Alfonso II of Aragon grew up and inherited the titles of Count of Barcelona from his father and King of Aragon from his mother. Neither Alfonso II nor his heirs used again the title of Princeps.

During the fourteenth century, a Catalan jurist used the Roman Law to extend the term Princeps to the territory, thus calling it principatus, or Principatus Cathaloniae to indicate that this territory had not the status of kingdom as seen in the "Actas de las cortes generales de la Corona de Aragón 1362-1363". The oldest formal reference to it dates back to 1350, at the Courts in Perpignanmarker presided by the king Peter IV of Aragon. However, there seems to be an older reference, in a more informal context, in Ramon Muntaner's chronicles.

Comitatus Barchinone (County of Barcelona) was the one in use, but as the Count added more counties under his jurisdiction, such as the County of Urgell, another name had to be found. 'Catalonia' comprised several counties of different names and the County of Barcelona was one of them.

The term Principatus Cathaloniae or simply Principatus never achieved official status as the various covers of Catalan constitutions prove , until Philip V of Spain used it to describe the Catalan territories in the Nueva Planta decrees. In 1931, Republican movements favoured its abandonment because it is historically related to the monarchy.

Neither the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, Spanish Constitution nor French Constitution, mention this denomination, but, despite most of them being republican, it is moderately popular among Catalan nationalist and independentist.


Catalonia constitutes the original nucleus where Catalan is spoken.Catalan is regarded by some linguists as being an Ibero-Romance language (the group that includes Spanish), and by others as a Gallo-Romance language, such as Occitan. Most linguists agree, however, that it has traits of both families.

Catalan is one of the three official languages of Autonomous Community of Cataloniamarker, as stated in the Catalan Statute of Autonomy; the other two are Spanish, and Occitan in its Aranese variety. Catalan is not an official language in "Northern Catalonia".


See also

External links


  1. BITECA Manid 2045: Barcelona: Arxiu Corona Aragó, vol. 948

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