September 29, 2009

The name of the Nation (II): Evolution and diversity of denominations

In the last article of this series, I presented the former union or group of countries under the sovereignty of the House of Barcelona and its political structure as origins of federalism, supposing the initial application of the denomination “Catalunya” to that union.

The original denomination: Catalonia

This typical Catalan conception might be the generalized usage, albeit not the only one, because there was no official name as we define it today to refer to that group of territories.

Perhaps at the very beginning the name of “Catalonia” was used to the whole Union because the inhabitants of the Counties of the House of Barcelona might not have any identity connotation, and so it could be applied to Aragon as another possession of the Sovereign. But surely, that denomination was identified as something different by the Aragonese and they did not accept it, hence there is not a single official denomination to the whole of the Crown.

While the Mediterranean countries knew perfectly the territories of the Monarchy as Catalonia –and in this case would be known as the actual Catalan Countries-, it was not rare that Aragonese, Castilian or Hispanic in general without that political culture would call it simply “Aragon”, giving importance to only one territory of the Union, the closest and the one that possessed the title of Kingdom in front of the County of Barcelona.

These contradictions and divergences are not more than another element of the incompatibility of the political culture between Catalans and Spaniards. In fact, the communal existence of the denominations “Catalonia” and “Aragon” within the Chronicles, makes very difficult to know if they are talking about the Principality, the Kingdom of Aragon or the whole Union. What is sure, though, is that in the Chronicles, like Muntaner’s, the term “Catalan” is common in front of the term “Aragonese” to refer to the inhabitants of the different territories.

Some other clear examples, amongst a lot more others, where the denomination “Catalonia” and its derivatives appears to refer to the different territories of the House of Barcelona, its given by Benplantat in his web:

-The Juries at Palermo (Sicily) wrote “Regnum Cathaloniae” when referring to the General Court of Caspe (Aragon).

-Edward III (England) “Mercatores fifeles de partibus Ispaniae, Catalonie et Majoricam”. Majorca was independent in 1340.

-Peter the Great called himself “Heres Cataloniae”, meaning he was the heir of all Kingdoms.

-King James II, in a letter to the Dux of Venice: “…partibus imperi Constantinopolis in Sicilia et Cataloniae”, where the expression Catalonia refers to all Iberian territories.

-King Ferdinand II differentiates between subject traders as “consuli mercatorum tam catalanorum quan castellanorum” (market trades so Catalans as Castilian).

-In the same Constitutions, Vol.I 1292, it says that is not possible to separate the Kingdom of Majorca from the Counties of the North with denomination Catalonia and Kingdom of Aragon, Valencia and Counties of Barcelona, “dominatione Catalonie e dictorum regnorum Aragonum, Valentie et Comitatus Barchinone”. It is clear that the name of these Kingdoms is Catalonia.

Other references:

-1365: the representatives of Majorca wrote to King Peter the Cerimonious, “as Majorcans and populates of that island were Catalan naturals, and that Kingdom was part of Catalonia”.

-1392: Valencian governors addressed to Majorca and complain of the insecurity at sea: “Where is the vigour of the Catalan Nation, that made payable all the surrounding Nations”.

-Vicent Ferrer calls “Catalonia” the Catalan speaking part of Valencia, while he preached in the region of Serrans (Aragonese speaking): “You of the Serrania, who are between Castile and Catalonia, and so take a Castilian word and another Catalan”.

-In the Catalan Civil War (1462-72), Minorca took sides for the Generalitat against the Trastamara’s John II, father of Ferdinand the Catholic. The commotion started in Ciutadella with the chant “Visca Catalunya!”.

Catalonia as a political concept encompassing a diverse Kingdoms and territories was a comparable denomination to what Spain would be in later centuries. The same way that Charles I was known as “King of Spain” without existing any Kingdom with such name, but a set of inherited Kingdoms –almost all them from the old Catalonia, neither Catalan Crown, because no kingdom with such denomination ever existed. The King, though, could receive the treatment “King of Catalonia”, as it is written in the Chronicle of Pere Marsili, 14th Century AD, where they call James I as follows:

"Capitol XXXVII

Lo maestre del Espital per nom Huch de Fuyalalquer ab XV cavalers frares del seu orde, lo qual lo rey havia char e amich especial, e l'havia fet fer maestre en lo regne e en las suas terras per lo maestre major del dit orde, vench al rey de Cathalunya, e demaná sol parlar ab lo rey en presencia dels companyons, e dix: Senyor, pus Deus ha feta la vostra via ó carrera tant be estruga e bona, pregam la vostra pietat que acabets á nos ab los nobles e prelats que el nostre orde haja alcuna rosa en Malorcha".

There are other denominations in use with reference to the King of Aragon, that was the official title of only one of the territories, used preferably to simplify and because it was the title that was superior in hierarchy –king in front of count- and seniority –Aragon before Valencia, Majorca, etc-, to refer to the sovereigns of the House of Barcelona.

-William de Baux, prince of Orange “… to the Emperor of Barcelona”, 1210.

-Marcabru; “Avec l'aide de Portugal et de Navarre e pourvú que l'emperateur de Barcelone", 1261.

15th and 16th Centuries AD: From Catalonia to Spain and the Crown of Aragon. The use of the term “Catalan Nation”

From the Compromise of Caspe (1412) and the enthronization of the dynasty of the Trastamara, Castilian, and the incorporation of more peninsular Kingdoms, like Navarre, Castile and Granada as new partners in the Union, the name of Catalonia as referent was being substituted by Spain, an initially geographical denomination that pretended to facilitate the integration of the new territories joined to the Monarchy of Catalan origins. King Ferdinand II talked of the “Spains” whereas his wife dona Isabella talked only about Castile. This change, from Catalonia to Spain, was not due by imposition of our sovereigns but had to be readily accepted due to the Catalan pre-eminence within the new Crown and as a symbol of our domain. The same adjective “espanol”, with suffix –ol is from Catalan origin. That Spain was an increased Catalonia with new territories and Barcelona as Imperial city where the Crown expanded to the New World, with Our Lady of Montserrat as Saint patron and with a culture that gave works like “Tirant lo Blanc”, “El Llàtzer de Tormos” or “La Celestina” from the Kingdom of Valenca. A rather different Castilian Spain of today, with centre in Madrid and which have been made us believe that existed since the Big Bang.

The denomination “Spain”, originated from “Hispania”, started politically from Catalonia in the Iberian era and in the 15th and 16th Centuries AD with the beginning of a new power –Rome in one case, a dynasty of foreign origin in the other- in our territory. In both periods, the power extended throughout the peninsula and became hostile to the reality of the autochthon Iberian or Catalan population.

But as we know, from Castile, in the same way that happened before with Aragon, did not want to see their incorporation to Catalonia -or Spain- in the same way that to our Nation, and they prefer to sell their “tanto monta, monta tanto” as a political conception of union of two crowns, theirs and Aragon, never Catalonia! Effectively, the name “Crown of Aragon” began at that time and in 1493 the old “Consell Reial” –Royal Council- was transformed into the “Consell d’Aragó” –Aragonese Council-. And naturally, the name “Crown of Aragon” was imposed by the revisionists when Catalonia was governed from Castile and in Castilian way during the 16th Century.

This is the vistion that has been imposed by Spain and that is observed today as “Crown of Aragon” or even worse, “Kingdom of Aragon”, which is what is learnt by Catalans and the rest of the world as the only certain and valid History, like they say that Catalan Kings were Aragonese, that the Catalan flag was Aragonese and that Catalan conquests in the Mediterranean were Aragonese –and exclusively Castilian were the territories in the Atlantic, something absolutely false-. Burying their Catalanism under a few layers of confusion, which pretends to exclude and erase us from the past.

The transformation of the political subject of what Catalonia was within Spain by their sovereigns, with the territorial enlargement in the Iberian peninsula and the application of the name of “Crown of Aragon” to the former Kingdoms would make the Principality become the only territory where the denomination “Catalonia” would apply, in spite of the name “County of Barcelona”. Consequently, inheriting the concept of “Catalan identity” which will be more difficult to maintain in the rest of the nation. In this context, the term Catalan Nation, used long before then, becomes the natural substitute of the term “Catalonia” to refer to the territories of the Monarchy inhabited by Catalans, in front of the official use that was made of “Catalonia”, limited to the Principality and not only to the whole of the territories of the King.

Document of 1444 by the Councillors of Barcelona where “Catalan Nation” is differentiated from “other subjects” of the Prince King.

Naturally, these changes are happening slowly and diffusely, because in the 16th Century we still can observe maps where the denomination “Catalunya” is still attributed to the original territories inhabited by Catalans. Evidently, is simpler to find these references in other countries than in Catalonia, where the Spanish censorship was already working fully. Please observe these two centuries:

Map of 1505 by Andrea Benicasa, preserved at the Vatican Apostolic Library. The denomination that appears in this map is still “Catalonia”, not “Aragon” or “Crown of Aragon”.

Map of 1540 by Battista Agnese. The names that appear are “Catalonia” in one side and “Ispania” on the other, apart from “Regnu Granate”. Do not appear “Castilian Kingdom”, nor “Portugal” that seem to be incorporated to the generic “Ispania”. Neither “Kingdom of Aragon”, “Valencia” nor “County of Barcelona”, included in the generic “Catalonia”.

Map by Americh Despuig (officially known as Amerigo Vespucci), where the name of the Nation is “Regnu Tarraconie et Catelonie”. The denomination “Kingdom of Aragon” is nowhere to be found.

In Naples, the Kings successors to Alfonso the Magnanimous, where treated by the Angevin Party as “Catalans” –“Sto catalano quante ne fa!”, said about Ferdinand I of Naples-.

In Castile, the very King Ferdinand the Catholic was known disrespectfully know as “old Catalan” and “catalanote”.

1554: M. Bandello. Novelle I: "Valenza, gentile e nobilissima, che in tutta Catalogna non è piu lasciva e amorosa città."

The qualification of “Catalans” is known to be given to the Popes of the Borja family, originally from Xativa, by the contemporary Italians -"O Dio, la Chiesa Romana in mani dei catalani"- but even by themselves: Calixtus III was known as “papa catalanus” and considered his pontificate as “gloria nationis catalanae”.

Also from that time, allusions to Catalonia as a Kingdom by Catalanist manipulators like Ferran Colom, son of the Discoverer, and Joan Miquel Servent, the writer. The first, calls “Kingdom of Catalonia” the old Principality, and the latter talks about the Kingdom but also the “viceroyalty of Barcelona”, so that gives the impression that there are diverse viceroyalties, Barcelona amongst them.

From suppression of the Catalan institutions to the destruction of territoriality

As it is known, the loss of the Succession war in the 18th Century AD meant the elimination of the institutions of the different Kingdoms of Catalonia, but the territorial conception does not change in great deal with regards the previous two centuries. The old territories of the Principality of Catalonia, the Kingdom of Valencia, and Majorca preserve their denominations even though their own institutions are not maintained and they depend directly from Castile.

It is with the division in provinces in the 19th Century where a new substantial conceptual change of our territories within Spain takes place. With this model, the conception of unity among the Catalan territories aside to Spain –that was already very precarious- is destroyed, and also the unity of each one of the historical territories, now divided in provinces. Now, the denomination Catalunya completely disappears, as also did Aragon or even Castile itself. The old Principality was divided basically in four provinces –the Western Strip, disputed with Aragon for many centuries, was included and spread within the three Aragonese provinces-, the Kingdom of Valencia was divided in three and the Kingdom of Majorca was initially converted in the province of Majorca and later in the Balearic Islands. The new administrative system, of French inspiration, would only admit one Spanish national reference, with clear Castilian base.

These trials of disintegration and destructuralization of the Catalan territories would go a higher level with projects that did never become real and which pretended to separate the South of the old Kingdom of Valencia from the rest of the territory, in a zone that would include Albacete, Murcia and Alicante, while the territory of Lleida was meant to be grouped with the Aragonese province of Huesca.

This way, we have Catalonia, that, from being the denomination of a whole of the territories was the official denomination of one of those that formed part of the Union, to finally disappear.

Beginning to revert the process

With the First Spanish Republic, only lasting a few months, the name “Catalunya” was recovered as denomination of one of the federate States projected, corresponding to the old Principality, and it would not be until the “Mancomunity”, beginning of the 20th Century, that an administrative organ was created, as a simple group of four Spanish provinces, suppressed with the Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship. The name Catalonia was restored with the Second Spanish Republic in the form of autonomous government as a substitute of Catalan Republic. This autonomy was equally suppressed by the Francoist dictatorship and being restored again within an autonomous regime that put back the Principality, the Valencian Country and the Balearic Islands in charge of a minimal self management in the internal maps of the Castilian State, in company with and diluted at the same level of new autonomies within the Castilian nation like Madrid, the two Castiles, Rioja, Cantabria…

During all these centuries of Spanish distortion and with clear destructive will of our Nation, uninterruptedly have shown, throughout the territory, voices and references to the universal Catalanism of the Pricipality, Valencian Country and Balearic and Pine Islands, that more or less clearly due to clandestinity have arised. The question of the name of the Nation still reappears today, intermittently, to remind us that we have an unresolved question: recover the power to redefine us without the interference from whom question our existence as a Nation.

We must begin the recovery, without euphemisms, of the denomination of the old territories of the House of Barcelona, especially the Catalan speaking ones, as a minimal historical denomination. Aragonese Crown is not valid, and even less is Kingdom of Aragon, that would not be a denomination used by neither our Monarchs nor the Chroniclers, until it was created and imposed by the new Spanish powers in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. Neither valid are other modern euphemisms like Catalano-Aragonese Crown, never used in that era which, more than reflect the reality, repeats the Spanish concept. Catalonia is a historical name that our Nation applied to the diverse territories, perfectly documented and real during the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries, no matter that some have wanted to bury it.

Published at “Es Poblat de’n Talaiotic”


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