A Chain for Freedom

As the Wall Street Journal reports today, “hundreds of thousands of Catalans protesting what they consider economic and cultural abuse by Spain’s central government joined hands in a 400-kilometer (250-mile) human chain Wednesday to underscore their call to make this industrialized region an independent nation.  Catalonia claimed for independence from Spain

The area of what today is Catalonia was a part of the Hispanic March, a buffer zone beyond the province of Septimania, created by Charlemagne in 795 as a defensive barrier between the Umayyad Moors of Al-Andalus and the Frankish Kingdom.

In 985 the Hispanic March was attacked by the Muslim general Almansur, who managed to take Barcelona, which was pillaged and sacked. Many citizens were taken prisoner by the Muslim forces. Borrell II, Count of Barcelona, sent a request for help to King Lothar III, the current King of the Western Franks, but although documents of Borrell’s refer to royal orders that must have come from this embassy, actual military assistance was beyond Lothar’s power. What appears to have been a similar plea to Hugh Capet resulted in a letter from Hugh to Borrell promising aid if the count preferred “to obey us rather than the Ishmaelites”, but in any event Hugh could not persuade his nobles to support a southern expedition. No answer to Hugh’s letter is known from Borrell, and the connection between the March and France was effectively broken. Catalan historians now consider this the point at which their nation became a sovereign power, and the millennium of their independence was celebrated in 1987″

Catalonia became part of the Crown of Aragon in 1137, when the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona (with the County of ProvenceGironaCerdanyaOsona and other territories) merged by dynastic union with the marriage of Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona and Petronilla of Aragon; their individual titles combined in the person of their son Alfonso II of Aragon, who ascended to the throne in 1162. This union respected the existing institutions and parliaments of both territories.

The Crown of Aragon was a composite monarchy, ruled by one king with a personal and dynastic union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the county of Barcelona. At the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy (a state with primarily maritime realms) controlling a large portion of the present-day eastern Spain and southwestern France, as well as some of the major islands and mainland possessions stretching across the Mediterranean as far as Greece. The component realms of the Crown were not united politically except at the level of the king, who ruled over each autonomous polity according to its own laws, raising funds under each tax structure, dealing separately with each cortes. Put in contemporary terms, the disparate lands of Aragon functioned more as a confederacy of cultures rather than as a single country. In this sense, the larger Crown of Aragon must not be confused with one of its constituent parts, the Kingdom of Aragon, from which it takes its name.

In 1469, a new dynastic familial union of the Crown of Aragon with the Crown of Castile by the Catholic Monarchs, joining what contemporaries referred to as “the Spains”[ led to what would become the Kingdom of Spain under King Philip II.

The Crown of Aragon existed until it was abolished by the Nueva Planta decrees issued by King Philip V in 1716 as a consequence of the defeat of Archduke Charles in the War of the Spanish Succession.

As a result of that defeat, which took place 299 years ago today on the 11th of September 1714, when after a long siege, the Bourbon army of Philip V finally conquered an exhausted and defeated Barcelona, the Crown of Aragon was dissolved and Catalonia lost all its liberties, becoming a “de facto” colony of Spain, situation that remains unchanged today.

With today’s human chain Catalans strive to continue a path towards total independence from Spain and to be able to make of Catalonia a new state in Europe.

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