Kingdom of Navarre

From Academic Kids

The Kingdom of Navarre traditionally evolved from the county of Pamplona, its traditional capital, when the Basque leader Eneko Aritza (Iñigo Arista in Spanish) was chosen King in Pamplona, traditionally in 824, and led a local revolt against the Franks.

The kingdom of Pamplona and then Navarre formed part of the traditional territory of the Vascones— the Basques and Gascons— who occupied the southern slope of the western Pyrenees and part of the shore of the Bay of Biscay. Little is known of the earliest history of the country, but it is certain that neither the Romans nor the Visigoths nor the Arabs ever succeeded in permanently subjugating the inhabitants of the Western Pyrenees, who had always retained their own language. In the course of the 6th century there was a considerable emigration of Basques to the north of the Pyrenees, resulting from the pressure of attacks from the Visigoth kings to the west and south and responding to a power vacuum at the limits of Frankish control in Aquitaine. Thus the Basques maintained their independence. The population of northern and western province of Spanish Navarre is today largely of Basque stock, and the early history of the region is that of the Basques.

The name "Navarre" derives from nava a common name for a flat valley surrounded by hills (compare Las Navas de Tolosa) and Basque herri, a region or country. The name "Navarra" began to appear towards the end of the Visigoth epoch in Spain in the 7th century.

The pass of Roncevalles in Navarrese territory was the scene of a minor defeat of Charlemagne's baggage train in 778, which features as an epic event in the Chanson de Roland. The pass of Roncesvalles, which leads from France to Navarre, made the region strategically important early in its history. The Basques defended themselves successfully against the Moorish invaders as well as against the Franks; the domination of Charlemagne, who conquered Navarre in 778, was short-lived. In 824 the Basque chieftain Iñigo Arista was chosen king of Pamplona, which was expanded under his successors and became known as the kingdom of Navarre.

The capture of Pamplona by Charlemagne in 778 was not a lasting victory: in the same year the Basques and Navarrese defeated him at the Pass of Roncesvalles. In 806 and 812, Pamplona seems to have been again taken by the Franks. When, however, the Frankish emperors, on account of difficulties at home, were no longer able to give their attention to the outlying borderlands of their empire, the country, little by little, entirely withdrew from their allegiance, and about this time began the formation of a Basque dynasty which soon became very powerful. The first King of Pamplona of this dynasty was Inigo Arista, his elder brother or kinsman, Garcia Jimenez, having received the Duchy of Vasconia, the original Navarre. After the death of Inigo Arista (852), the two territories were united and Jimeno Garcez, the son of the Count of Alava, was chosen king. In 860, the united Pamplonese and Navarrese gave the Crown to the son of Arista, Garcia II Iniguez, who zealously defended his country against the encroachments of Islam, but was killed at Ayhar (882) in a battle against the Emir of Cordova. He was succeeded by his eldest son Fortun Garcez, who was held a prisoner for fifteen years by the infidels, and who, after a reign of twenty-two years, became a monk at Leyra, the oldest convent in Navarre, to which no less than seventy-two other convents were subject.

The choice of the Navarrese now fell upon his kinsman Sancho I Garcez (905-925), who fought against the Moors with repeated success and joined Ultra-Puertos, or Basse-Navarre, to his own dominions, also extending its territory as far as Najera. As a thank-offering for his victories, he founded, in 924, the convent of Albelda. Before his death, all Moors had been driven from the country. His successor, Garcia Sanchez (925-70), who had the support, of his energetic and diplomatic mother (Teuda) Toda Aznarez of the royal branch of Larraun, likewise engaged in a number of conflicts with the Moors.

The first historic king of Navarre was his son Sancho II Garces, nicknamed Abarca, who ruled from Pamplona as king of Navarre and count of Aragon from 970 to 994. The valley of Aragon he had inherited from his mother. The Historia General de Navarra by Jaime del Burgo says that on the occasion of the donation of the villa of Alastue by the king of Pamplona to the monastery of San Juan de la Peña in 987, he titled himself "King of Navarre," the first time that title had been used. In many places he appears as the first King of Navarre and in others the third. However, he was at least the 6th king of Pamplona, and apparently the 9th.

Under Sancho and his immediate successors, Navarre reached the height of its power and its extension. Sancho III the Great (reigned 1000-1035) married the heiress of the county of Castile. The realm reached its zenith under Sancho III, who ruled over nearly all of Christian Spain. Under the sway of Sancho el Mayor, the country attained the greatest prosperity in its history. He seized the country of the Pisuerga and the Cea, which belonged to the Kingdom of Leon, conquered Castile, and ruled from the boundaries of Galicia to those of Barcelona.

On his death he divided his possessions among his four sons, so that one of them, Garcia of Najera, received Navarre, Guipuzcoa, Vizcaya, and small portions of Bearn and Bigorre; Castile and the lands between the Pisuerga and the Cea went to the eldest Fernando; to Gonzalo were given Sobrarbe and Ribagorza; the County of Aragon was allotted to the bastard son Ramiro. The realm was divided thus once more, into Navarre, Aragón, and Castile. The eldest legitimate son, Ferdinand I ruled as high king having Castile as his seat, and he enlarged his realm by various means. His Navarrese line ruled as kings of Castile and Leon.

The bastard son of Sancho III, Ramiro de Aragon founded the Navarrese line of Aragon.

An younger legitimate son of Sancho III, Garcia de Najera founded a new line of rulers of Navarre. The kingdom of Navarre then comprised the present province of Navarre, the Basque Provinces (which were later lost to Castile), and, north of the Pyrenees, the district called Lower Navarre, now a part of France. At its greatest extent the Kingdom of Navarre included all the modern Spanish province; the northern slope of the western Pyrenees called by the Spaniards the ultra puertos ("country beyond the mountain passes") or French Navarre; the Basque provinces of Spain and France; the Bureba, the valley between the Basque mountains and the Montes de Oca to the north of Burgos; the Rioja and Tarazona in the upper valley of the Ebro.

In this period of independence the ecclesiastical affairs of the country reached a high state of development. Sancho the Great was brought up at Leyra, which was also for a short time the capital of the Diocese of Pamplona. Beside this see, there existed the Bishopric of Oca, which was united in 1079 to that of Burgos. In 1035 Sancho the Great re-established the See of Palencia, which had been laid waste at the time of the Moorish invasion. When, in 1045, the city of Calahorra was wrested from the Moors, under whose dominion it had been for more than three hundred years, a see was also founded here, which in the same year absorbed that of Najera and, in 1088, that of Alava, the jurisdiction of which covered about the same ground as that of the present diocese of Vitoria. To Sancho the Great, also, the See of Pamplona owed its re-establishment, the king having, for this purpose, convoked a synod at Leyra in 1022 and one at Pamplona in 1023. These synods likewise instituted a reform of ecclesiastical life with the above-named convent, as a centre.

Sancho the Great's realm was never again united (until Ferdinand the Catholic): Castile was permanently joined to Leon, whereas Aragon enlarged its territory, joining Catalonia through a marriage.

The small Navarre could no longer extend its dominions, and became in a measure dependent upon its powerful neighbours. Garcia V (1035-54) was succeeded by Sancho IV (1054-76), who was murdered by his brothers. The then king of Aragon, successor of the bastard Ramiro, took much of the Navarrese lands and its royal title. King of Castile took some of the western lands. In the 12th century the kings of Castile gradually annexed the Rioja and Alava. As long as Navarre was united to Aragon (I076 – 1234) it was free from aggression on the east, but never recovered the western territory taken by Castile. About the year 1200 Alfonso VIII of Castile annexed the other two Basque provinces, Biscay (Vizcaya) and Guipúzcoa. Tarazona remained in possession of Aragon even after Navarre had regained its independence in around 1134. The Basque lordship of soberano of Vizcaya retained its near-independence even under Castilian overlordship, thus its Princes were called as Lords Sovereigns of Biscaye.

After the murder of Sancho IV (1076), king Alfonso VI of Castile, and Sancho Ramirez of Aragon, ruled jointly in Navarre; the towns south of the Ebro together with the Basque Provinces fell to Castile, the remainder to Aragon, which retained them until 1134. The three Aragonese rulers, Sancho Ramirez (1076-94) and his son Pedro Sanchez (1094-1104) conquered Huesca; Alfonso el Batallador (the Fighter, 1104-1134), brother of Pedro Sanchez, secured for the country its greatest territorial expansion. He wrested Tudela from the Moors (1114), re-conquered the entire country of Bureba, which Navarre had lost in 1042, and advanced into the Province of Burgos; in addition, Roja, Najera, Logrono, Calahorra, and Alfaro were subject to him, and, for a short time, Bayonne, while his ships-of-war lay in the harbour of Guipuzeoa. As he died without issue (1134), Navarre and Aragon separated. In Aragon, Alfonso's ecclesiastic brother Ramiro became king.

In Navarre, Garcia Ramirez, lord of Monzon, a grandson of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid, and a descendant in bastard line of Garcia V of Navarre, a son of Sancho the Great, wrested the kingship from his bastard-line Aragonese cousins in 1134.

He was obliged to surrender Rioja to Castile in 1136, and Taragona to Aragon in 1157, and to declare himself a vassal of King Alfonso VII of Castile. He was utterly incompetent, and at various times was dependent upon the revenues of churches and convents. His son, Sancho Garcia el Sabio (the Wise -- 1150-94), a patron of learning, as well as an accomplished statesman, fortified Navarre within and without, gave charters (fueros) to a number of towns, and was never defeated in battle.

The rich dowry of Berengaria, the daughter of Sancho VI the Wise, and Blanche of Castile, made her a desirable catch for Richard I of England. His aged mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, crossed the passes to escort Berengaria to Sicily, eventually to wed Richard in Cyprus, May 12, 1191. She is the only Queen of England who never set foot in England.

The reign of Sancho the Wise's successor, the last king of the male line of Sancho the Great and of kings of Pamplona, king Sancho VII the Strong (el Fuerte) (1194-1234), was more troubled. He appropriated the revenues of churches and convents, granting them instead important privileges; in 1198 he presented to the See of Pamplona his palaces and possessions in that city, this gift being confirmed by Pope Innocent III on 29 January, 1199. While he was absent in Africa, whither he had been induced to go on an adventurous expedition, the Kings of Castile and Aragon invaded Navarre, and as a consequence, the Provinces of Alava and Guipuzcoa were lost. The greatest glory of Sancho el Fuerte was the part he took in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), where, through his valour, the victory of the Christians over the Calif En-Nasir was made decisive. He retired and in 1234 he died in el Encerrado. His elder sister Berengaria, Queen of England, had died some years earlier childless. His deceased younger sister Blanca, Countess of Champagne, had left a son.

After 1234 the Kingdom of Navarre, though the crown yet was claimed by the kings of Aragon, passed by marriage to a succession of French lords, firstly those who simultaneously were counts of Champagne and Brie.

When in 1234 Sancho VII died in retirement (el Encerrado), the Navarrese chose to allow his closest relative in female line, Thibault de Champagne, son of Sancho's sister Blanca, to succeed as king of Navarre. Teobaldo I, from 1234 to 1253, made of his Court a centre where the poetry of the Troubadours was welcomed and fostered, and whose reign was peaceful. His son, Theobald II of Navarre (1253-70), married Isabel, the second daughter of St. Louis of France, and accompanied the saintly father-in-law upon his crusade to Tunis. On the homeward journey, he died at Trapani in Sicily, and was succeeded by his brother, Henry I of Navarre, who had already assumed the reins of government during his absence, but reigned only three years (1271-74). His daughter Joanna I of Navarre not yet being of age, the country was once more invaded from all sides, and the queen mother, Blanca, sought refuge with her daughter at the court of Philip the Bold of France, whose son, Philip the Fair, had already been engaged to the daughter and married Joanna in 1284. In 1276, at the time of the negotiations for this marriage, Navarre passed under practical French dominion. In 1305, Navarre passed to guardianship of King Philip IV of France. Navarre stayed with the French crown until the death (1328) of Charles IV of France. Navarre was until 1328, subject to Kings Philip the Fair (d. 1314), Louis X Hutin (1314-16), his brother, Philip the Tall (1316-22), and Charles the Fair (1322-28). As Charles died without male issue, and Philip of Valois became King of France, the Navarrese declared themselves independent and called to the throne Joanna II, daughter of Louis Hutin and senior niece of Charles, and her husband Philip of Evreux (1328-1343), surnamed the Wise. Joanna waived all claim to the throne of France and accepted as compensation for the counties of Champagne and Brie those of Angouleme, Longueville, and Mortain.

King-consort Philip III devoted himself to the improvement of the laws of the country, and joined King Alfonso XI of Castile in battle against the Moors (1343). After the death of his mother (1349), Charles II of Navarre assumed the reins of government (1349-87), and, on account of his deceit and cruelty received the surname of the Wicked. Charles II (Charles the Bad), played an important part in the Hundred Years War and in the French civil unrest of the time.

His eldest son, on the other hand, Charles III of Navarre, surnamed the Noble, gave the land once more a peaceful and happy government (1387-1425), exerted his strength to the utmost to lift the country from its degenerate condition, reformed the government, built canals, and made navigable the tributaries of the Ebro flowing through Navarre. As he outlived his legitimate sons, he was succeeded by his daughter Blanca (1425-42) and her husband John of Penafiel (1397-1479), son of king Ferdinand I of Aragon.

As king-consort John II ruled Aragon in the name of his brother, king Alfonso V of Aragon, he left his son, Don Carlos (Charles) of Viana, in Navarre, only with the rank of governor, whereas Blanca had designed that Charles of Viana should be king. In 1450, John II himself regained to Navarre, and, urged on by his ambitious second wife, Juana Enriquez of bastard Castile, endeavoured to obtain the succession for their son Fernando (the future Ferdinand the Catholic). As a result a violent civil war broke out, in which the powerful party of the Agramontes supported the king and queen, and that of the Beaumonts, called after their leader, the chancellor, John of Beaumont, espoused the cause of Charles; the highlands were on the side of the prince, the plains on that of the king. The unhappy prince was defeated by his father at Aybar, in 1451, and held a prisoner for two years, during which he wrote his famous Chronicle of Navarre, the source of our present knowledge of this subject. After his release, he sought in vain the assistance of King Charles VII of France and of his uncle Alfonso V (who resided in Naples). In 1460 he was again imprisoned at the instigation of his step-mother, but the Catalonians rose in revolt at this injustice, and he was again liberated and named governor of Catalonia. He died in 1461, without having been able to reconquer his kingdom of Navarre; he named as his heir his next sister Blanca, who was, however, immediately imprisoned by John II, and died in 1464.

Her claim descended to her sister Eleanor I of Navarre (Leonor), Countess of Foix and Bearn, who had been ally of her father. After her death (which occurred very soon after that of John II, she barely having time to ascend the Navarrese throne), to her grandson, Francis Phoebus of Foix (who reigned Navarre 1479-83). His sister Catherine I of Navarre, who, as a minor, remained under the guardianship of her mother, Madeleine of France, was sought by Ferdinand the Catholic as a bride for his eldest son; but she gave her hand (1494) to the French Count of Perigord, Jean d'Albret, a man of vast south-French possessions. Nevertheless, Ferdinand the Catholic did not relinquish his long-cherished designs on Navarre, and married secondly Germana, the daughter of Catherine's uncle who had attempted to claim Navarre over his deceased elder brother's underage children. As Navarre refused to join the Holy League against France, declared itself neutral, and would have prevented the passage through the country of Ferdinand's troops, the latter sent his general Don Fabrique de Toledo to invade Navarre in 1512. Jean d'Albret fled, and Pamplona, Estella, Olita, Sanguessa, and Tudela were taken. As the royal House of Navarre and all opponents of the Holy League were under the ban of the Church, the Navarrese declared for Ferdinand, who took possession of the kingdom on 15 June, 1515. Lower Navarre -- the part of the country lying north of the Pyrenees -- he generously left to his enemies.

Thus in 1479, Navarre passed to Eleanor who was married with the count of Foix. Soon, in 1483, Navarre was inherited by Catherine who was married with Jean d'Albret. in the 15th century to the counts of Foix and then to the house of Albret.

King Ferdinand the Catholic, after defeating Jean d'Albret, annexed most of Navarre in 1515. In 1511 or 1516 Spanish Navarra, the part of Navarre south of the Pyrenees (the majority of the Kingdom), was finally annexed by Ferdinand the Catholic. He later ceded it to his daughter Queen Joanna I of Castile whereby Spanish Navarre was regarded as dominion of Castile, not of Aragon. Spanish Navarre was governed as a viceroyalty and not formally annexed to the kingdom of Spain until 1833. The history of the two divisions of the country is identical until the year 1512, when Spanish Navarre was conquered by Ferdinand the Catholic, the northern part remaining French.

The tiny portion of Navarre north of the Pyrenees known as Basse-Navarre, along with the neighboring Principality of Béarn survived as an independent little kingdom which passed by inheritance. Lower, or French, Navarre, received from Henry II of Navarre, the son of Jean d'Albret, a representative assembly, the clergy being represented by the bishops of Bayonne and Dax, their vicars-general, the parish priest of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and the priors of Saint-Palais, d'Utziat and Haramples. When, in 1589, its administration was united with that of France, it was still called a kingdom. After Henry IV, the kings of France bore also the title King of Navarre. The Basque language is still spoken in most of the provinces. The area north of the Pyrenees (Lower Navarre) remained an independent kingdom with large additional French estates until it was joined (1589) with the French crown when Henry III of Navarre became King Henry IV of France. It was united with Béarn into a French province.

The last independent king of Navarre, Henry III (reigned 15721610), succeeded to the throne of France as Henry IV in 1589, founding the Bourbon dynasty. In 1620, French Navarre and Béarn were incorporated into France proper by Henry's son, Louis XIII of France. The title of King of Navarre continued to be used by the Kings of France until 1791, and was revived again during the Restoration, 18141830.

As the Kingdom of Navarre was originally organized, it was divided into merindades, districts governed by a merino ("mayorino"), the representative of the king. They were the Ultrapuertos (French Navarre), Pamplona, Estella, Tudela and Sangüesa. In 1407 the merindad of Olite was added. The Cortes of Navarre began as the king's council of churchmen and nobles, but in the course of the 14th century the burgesses were added. Their presence was due to the fact that the king had need of their co-operation to raise money by grants and aids, a development that was being paralleled in England. The Cortes henceforth consisted of the churchmen, the nobles and the representatives of twenty-seven (later thirty-eight) "good towns"— towns which were free of a feudal lord, and, therefore, held directly of the king. The independence of the burgesses was better secured in Navarre than in other parliaments of Spain by the constitutional rule which required the consent of a majority of each order to every act of the Cortes. Thus the burgesses could not be outvoted by the nobles and the Church, as they could be elsewhere. Even in the 18th century the Navarrese successfully resisted Bourbon attempts to establish custom houses on the French frontier, dividing French from Spanish Navarre. Yet the Navarrese were loyal to their Spanish sovereigns, and no part of the country offered a more determined or more skilful resistance to Napoleon.

Navarre was staunchly Catholic and much under clerical influence. This, and the resentment felt at the loss of their autonomy when they were incorporated into Spain in 1833, account for the strong support given by many Navarrese to the absolutist Carlist cause. Until the French Revolution the kings of France carried the additional title king of Navarre. Since the rest of Navarre was in Spanish hands, the kings of Spain also carried (until 1833) the title king of Navarre. During that period Navarre enjoyed a special status within the Spanish monarchy; it had its own cortes, taxation system, and separate customs laws. In 1833, Navarre became the chief stronghold of the Carlists but recognized Isabella II as queen in 1839. As a reward for their loyalty in the Spanish Civil War, Franco allowed the Navarrese to maintain their ancient fueros, which were charters handed down by the crown outlining a system of self-government.

The territory formerly known as Navarre now belongs to two nations, Spain and France, according as it lies south or north of the Western Pyrenees. Today, Navarre is an autonomous community of Spain and Basse-Navarre is part of France's Pyrénées Atlantiques département.

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See also:

pt:Reino de Navarra


Chappuys, Histoire du royaume de Navarre (Paris, 1590; 1616); Favyn, Histoire de Navarre (Paris, 1612); Galland, Memoires sur la Navarre (Paris, 1648); de Marca, Histoire de Bearn (Paris, 1640); Oihenart, Notitia utriusque Vasconiae (Paris, 1656); Moret, Investigationes historicas del reino de Navarra (Pamplona, 1655); Idem, Annales del reino de Navarra (5 vols., Pamp]ona, 1684-95; 12 vols., Tolosa, 1890-92); Ferrreras, La Historia de Espana (Madrid, 1700-27); Risco, La Vasconia in Espana Sagrada, XXXII (Madrid, 1779); Yanguas y Miranda, Cronica de los reyes de Navarra (Pamplona, 1843); Idem, Historia compendiada del reino de Navarra (S. Sebastian, 1832); Idem, Diccionario de las antiguedades de Nayanna (Pamplona, 1840-43); Bascle de Lagreze, La Navarre française (Paris, 1881); Blade, Les Vascons espagnols (Agen, 1891); Boissonade, Histoire de la reunion de la Navarre à la Castille (Paris, 1893); Jaurgain, La Vasconie (Pau, 1898); Ruano Prieto, Anexión del Reino de Navarra en tiempo del Rey Catolico (Madrid, 1899); Ariqita y Lasa, Colección de documentos para la historia de Navarra (Pamplona, 1900).


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