Kingdom of Valencia

Infobox Former Country
native_name = "Regne de Valencia"
conventional_long_name = Kingdom of Valencia
common_name = Kingdom of Valencia
continent = Europe
region = Mediterranean
era = Middle Ages
government_type = Monarchy
title_leader= King
leader1 = James I
year_leader1 = First
leader2 = Philip IV
year_leader2 = Last
year_start = 1237
year_end = 1707
event_start = Kingdom of Valencia established as independent kingdom
event_end = Nueva Planta decrees, the Spanish kingdom becomes centralized

image_map_caption = Kingdom of Valencia and its administrative structure|thumb|150px
capital = Valencia

The Christian Kingdom of Valencia, located in the Eastern shore of the Iberian Peninsula, was one of the component realms of the Crown of Aragon. When the Crown of Aragon merged by dynastic union with the Crown of Castile to conform the Kingdom of Spain, then the Kingdom of Valencia subsequently became a component realm of the Spanish Monarchy.

The Kingdom of Valencia was formally created in 1237 when the Moorish taifa of Valencia was taken in the course of the Reconquista. It was terminated by Philip V of Spain in 1707, by means of the Nueva Planta decrees, as a result of the Spanish War of Succession.

During its existence, the Kingdom of Valencia was ruled by the laws and institutions stated in the Charters of Valencia ("Furs de València") which granted it wide self government, initially from the Crown of Aragon and, later on, from the Spanish Kingdom.

The boundaries and identity of the present Spanish Autonomous Community of Valencia are essentially based on those of the former Kingdom of Valencia.


The conquest of what would later become the Kingdom of Valencia started in 1232 when the king of the Crown of Aragon, James I, called "Jaume I el Conquistador" or the Conqueror, took Morella, mostly with Aragonese troops. Shortly after, in 1233, Burriana and Peñíscola were also taken from the Balansiya ("Valencia" in the Arabic language) taifa.

A second and more relevant wave of expansion took place in 1237, when James I defeated the Moors from the Balansiya taifa. He entered the city of Valencia on 9 October 1237, which is regarded as the dawn of the Kingdom of Valencia.

A third phase started in 1243 and ended in 1245, when it met the limits agreed between James I and the heir to the throne of Castile, Alfonso the Wise, who would succeed to the throne as Alfonso X in 1252. These limits were traced in the Treaty of Almizra between the Crown of Castile and the Crown of Aragon, which coordinated their Reconquista efforts to drive the Moors southward by establishing their respectively desired areas of influence. The Treaty of Almizra established the south line of Aragonese expansion in the line formed by the villes of Biar and Busot, today in the North of the Alicante province. Everything South of that line, including what would be the Kingdom of Murcia, was reserved by means of this treaty for Castile.

The matter of the large majority of "mudejar" population, left behind from the progressively more southern combat front, lingered from the very beginning until they finally were expelled "en masse" in 1609. Until that moment, they represented a complicated issue for the newly established Kingdom, as they were essential to keep the economy working due to their numbers, which inspired frequent pacts with local Muslim populations, such as Mohammad Abu Abdallah Ben Hudzail al Sahuir, allowing their culture various degrees of tolerance but, on the other side, they were deemed as a menace to the Kingdom due to their lack of allegiance and their real or perceived conspiracies to bring the Ottoman Empire to their rescue.

There were indeed frequent rebellions from the Moor population against Christian rule, the most threatening being those headed by the Moor chieftain Mohammad Abu Abdallah Ben Hudzail al Sahuir, also known as Al-Azraq. He led important rebellions in 1244, 1248 and 1276. During the first of these, he briefly regained Muslim independence for the lands South of the Júcar, but he had to surrender soon after. During the second revolt, king James I was almost killed in battle, but Al-Azraq also was finally subjugated, his life spared only because of a long time relationship with the Christian monarch. During the third rebellion, Al-Azraq himself was killed but his son would continue to promote Muslim unrest and local rebellions remained always at sight.

James II called "Jaume II el Just" or the Just, a grandson of James I, initiated in 1296 a final push of his army further southwards than the Biar-Busot pacts. His campaign aimed at the fertile countryside around Murcia and the Vega Baja del Segura whose local Muslim rulers were bound by pacts with Castile and governing by proxy on behalf of this kingdom; Castilian troops often raided the area to assert a sovereignty which, in any case, was not stable but was characterized by the typical skirmishes and ever changing alliances of a frontier territory.

The campaign under James II was successful to the point of extending the limits of the Kingdom of Valencia well South of the previously agreed border with Castile. His troops took Orihuela and Murcia. What was to become the definite dividing line between Castile and the Crown of Aragon was finally agreed by virtue of the "Sentencia Arbitral de Torrellas" (1304), amended by the Treaty of Elche (1305), which assigned Orihuela (also Alicante and Elche) to the Kingdom of Valencia, while Murcia went to the Crown of Castile, so drawing the final Southern border of the Kingdom of Valencia.

At the end of the process, four taifas had been wiped out: Balansiya, Alpuente, Denia and Murcia. Taking into account the standards of the day, it can be considered as a rather rapid conquest, since most of the territory was gained in less than fifty years and the maximum expansion was completed in less than one century. The toll in terms of social and politic unrest which was to be paid for this fast process was the existence of a large Muslim population within the Kingdom which neither desired to become a part of it nor, as long as they remained Muslim, was given the chance to.


Modern historiography sees the conquest of Valencia under the light of similar Reconquista efforts by the Crown of Castile: as a fight led by the King in order to gain new territories as free as possible of serfdom to the nobility. The new territories would then be only accountable to the King, thus enlarging and consolidating his power versus that of the nobility. Making it part of a growing trend evident in Spain in the Middle Ages (said to end in 1492 with the final acts of the Reconquista in the capitulation of Kingdom of Granada and the expulsion of the Jews) and well into the era of Habsburg Spain.

It is under this approach that the repopulation of the Kingdom is assessed today. The new Kingdom population was initially overwhelmingly Muslim and often subjected to revolts and the serious threat of being taken by any given fellow Muslim army put together for this purpose in the Maghreb.

The process by which the monarchy strived to free itself from any noble guardianship was not easy as the nobility still held a big share of power and was determined to retain it as much as possible. This fact marked the Christian colonization of the newly acquired territories, ruled by the "Lleis de Repartiments". Finally the Aragonese nobles were granted several domains but only managed to obtain the inland, mostly mountainous and sparsely populated parts of the Kingdom of Valencia.The king reserved the fertile and highly populated lands in the coastal plains to free citizens and incipient bourgeoisie whose cities were given Furs or royal charters regulating civil law and administration locally, always accountable to the king.

This had linguistic consequences.:

*The innerland was mostly repopulated by speakers of the Aragonese language, an Italo-Western language of the Pyrenean-Mozarabic group. Their language was a close relative of the Mozarabic language and a close relative of the Castilian language, which would evolve into the Spanish language also by adding treats from neighbouring Romance languages such as Aragonese.

*The coastal lands were mostly repopulated by speakers of the Catalan language from the Principality of Catalonia. Their language was an Italo-Western language of the Gallo-Iberian group. In particular, part of the Iberian Romance languages. The language of these set of settlers would evolve into Valencian, a distinctive variant of Catalan which has gained its own currency within the Catalan domain.

Another possibly primary driving force, but likely to be understated by modern historiography, was religious faith. In this regard, Pope Gregory IX recognized the fight as a Crusade and James I was known for being a devout king.


The Kingdom of Valencia achieved its height during the early 15th century. The economy was prosperous and centered around trading through the Mediterranean Sea, which had become increasingly controlled by the Crown of Aragon, mostly from the ports of Valencia and Barcelona.

In the city of Valencia the "Taula de canvis" was created, functioning partly as a bank and partly as a stock exchange market; altogether it boosted trading.The local industry, specially textile manufactures, achieved great development and the city of Valencia turned into a Mediterranean trading emporium where traders from all Europe worked. Perhaps the best symbol which summarizes this flamboyant period is the Silk Exchange, one of the finest European examples of civil Gothic architecture and a major trade market in the Mediterranean by the end of the 15th century and throughout the 16th century.

Valencia was one of the first cities in Europe to install a movable type printing press as per the designs of Johannes Gutenberg. It was Valencian authors such as Joanot Martorell or Ausiàs March who conformed the canon of classic Catalan literature.

Modern Era, the Germanies, and decay

In 1479 the Kingdom of Valencia merged with the rest of territories of the Crown of Aragon and the Crown of Castile to form the modern Kingdom of Spain.

Kings of Habsburg Spain (January 23, 1516 - November 1, 1700) maintained the privileges and liberties of the territories and cities which formed the kingdom and its legal structure and factuality remained intact. Meanwhile the rising Spanish Empire had left behind its former status as a Kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula and had emerged as a Great power. The Empire shifted its focus to the Spanish colonization of the Americas and its possessions in Europe, rather than its Iberian territories.

During the 16th century Valencia lost its status as a preeminent commercial center of Europe to the rapidly developing cities of Northern Europe and Central Europe. This was in part due to diminishing profits from the Mediterranean trade. The Spanish Empire was in frequent conflict with the Ottoman Empire which controlled most of the eastern Mediterranean. They prevented each other from reaching certain ports while Ottoman privateers like Barbarossa prayed on trade ships. Meanwhile the Barbary pirates such as Dragut, operating out of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Salé and ports in Morocco were actively preying on shipping in the western Mediterranean, which included destructive raids in Christian ports along the coast, also Valencian ones. The combined effects represented a blow to the Kingdom of Valencia which had already been economically affected by the Alhambra decree which had expelled the Jews back in 1492.

Besides, locally bred social tensions, fueled by the economic crisis, erupted in the form of the "Revolta de les Germanies". A "Germania" ("brotherhood") refers to an association or guild of artisans. The revolt they started in 1521, which led to civil unrest and bloody local clashes well into 1522, had several different causes, such as economic resent against the nobility and high Bourgeoisie, a will to oust them from the city command and, also, a religious resentment against the Moors, who were closely associated to the nobles per serfdom ties, something which made them vital for the nobility's economy. This rebellion shared many traits and happened almost contemporarily to the one of the "Comuneros" in Castile.

As a result of the exhausted forces left by the clashes between nobles and high bourgeoisie versus the general populace and lesser bourgeoisie, the king used this power vacuum to enlarge his share of power and gradually diminish the ones of the local authorities; this meant that his requests for money in order to enlarge or consolidate the disputed possessions in Europe were progressively more frequent, more imperative and, conversely, less reciprocated for the Kingdom of Valencia, just as they were elsewhere for the rest of the Spanish Kingdom territories.

Then the expulsion in 1609 of the "mudejar" population meant a final blow for the Kingdom of Valencia, as thousands of people were forced to leave, entire villages got deserted and the countryside lost its main labour force, which further deepened the economic crisis. Since the expulsion meant the loss of the free workforce for the nobility, themselves and the upper bourgeoisie had to turn to the king seeking protection from the general populace, which meant that they had to renounce their former check and balance role before the requests of the kings, which was one of the driving forces of the Kingdom's autonomy.

The Kingdom of Valencia as a legal and politic organization was finally terminated in 1707 as a result of the Spanish War of Succession. The local population mostly took side and provided troops and resources for Archduke Charles, the pretender who was arguably to maintain the legal status quo. His utter defeat at the Battle of Almansa, near the borders of the Kingdom of Valencia, meant its legal and politic termination, along with other autonomous parliaments in the Crown of Aragon, as the Nueva Planta Decrees were passed and the new King Philip V of Spain of the House of Bourbon created a centralized Spain.

ee also

*Conquest of Valencia by El Cid


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