On August 11th, 1137 Petronila of Aragon was betrothed to Count Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona (Catalonia).

Shortly thereafter, Ramiro II had abdicated in favour of his infant daughter, having first established Ramon Berenguer IV as princeps and ruler of Aragon, whilst reserving the full rights of sovereignty for the house of Sanchez; “I give to you, Ramon, with my daughter, my kingdom of Aragon;” but Ramon “should have me as a father and lord” and that “it is licit to give over to you my kingdom; nevertheless my royal prerogative I do not give up.” [1]

In accordance with Aragonese customary law, the inheritance of Aragon by any descendant of Ramon Berenguer IV was dependant on their being begot by Petronila; however, under the clauses of the treaty between Ramiro II and Ramon Berenguer IV, should Petronila die prior to their marriage being ‘solemnized’, or without producing an heir, the kingdom of Aragon would pass to Ramon Berenguer IV, in its entirety[2__].__
Queen Petronila of Aragon and Count Ramon Berenguer IV were officially married in 1150.
external image Petronila_Ramon_Berenguer.jpg

On April 4th, 1152 Petronila drafted a will, whilst in labour with her first child, bequeathing the kingdom of Aragon, in its entirety, to her son to be inherited upon the death of Ramon Berenguer IV. In the case of a daughter, the kingdom would pass immediately to Ramon Berenguer IV.[3] The child was a boy, Peter, and did not live more than a few months (at most). Petronila, however, had survived her labour, and between 1157 and 1161 she gave birth to four more children, all of which reached adulthood.

With the death of Ramon Berenguer IV in 1162, their eldest child, Ramon (1157-1196), became count of Barcelona but it would not be until 1164, with the abdication of Petronila, that he would become Alfonso II, King of Aragon.

On June 18th, 1164 Petronila, Queen of Aragon, granted the kingdom to her 7 year old son Ramon; Ramon Berenguer IV had died whilst in Italy in 1162, leaving his succession to the ‘honours’ of Aragon and Barcelona to Ramon, known as Alfonso II of Aragon (Alfons I in Catalonia) thereafter[4].

This union of the kingdom of Aragon and the Catalonian counties would prove one of the most significant developments in the history of medieval Spain[5]; Aragon gained protection from foreign and internal dangers, whilst the threat of Castilian (or Aragonese) domination of the Moorish borderlands from Lerida to the lower Ebro, was effectively neutralised[6].

Whilst the role of Petronila of Aragon can be best described as the wife of Ramon Berenguer IV, mother to the future rulers of Aragon and Provence, it can be said that, by her mere existence, she changed the ‘course of (Iberian) history’ in a very real sense; in many respects the reconquista of Catalonia can be attributed to the efforts, and successes, of Ramon Berenguer IV, a feat that is unlikely to have been accomplished without the increases in power and security effected by his marriage.

[1] William C. Stalls, “Queenship and the Royal Patrimony in Twelfth Century Iberia” in Queens, Regents, Potentates, ed. Theresa M. Vann, (Academia 1993), 52 (ref. Documentos de Ramiro II, no 113 (August 1137))
[2] Stalls, Queenship, 54 (ref. LFM no 7); See also, Serrano Daura, //La donación de Ramiro II de Aragón a Ramón Berenguer IV de Barcelona, de 1137, y la institución del "casamiento en casa"// ("The Donation of Ramiro II of Aragon to Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona in 1137, and the Institution of In-House Marriage"), published in Hidalguía, #270, Madrid, 1998, p. 710.
[3] Stalls, Queenship and Patrimony, 54 (ref. LFM no 16 (4 April 1152))
[4] Stalls, Queenship and Patrimony, 55 (ref. LFM no 17 (18 June 1164), See also: Bisson, Medieval Crown of Aragon, pp35-6.
[5] Joseph O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain (London: Cornell University Press, 1975), 225
[6] T.N. Bisson, The Medieval Crown of Aragon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp.27, 31. See also: Roger B. Merriman, The Rise of the Spanish Empire (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1962), 277-8