Genealogy of the Royal House of AragonThe Royal House of Aragon was founded by James I of Aragon ("The Conqueror") who reigned as King of Aragon 1213 - 1276. The Kingdom of Aragon was one of the small Christian states which arose in the Iberian peninsula following the gradual expulsion of the Moors, who had held sway in the area in the wake of their conquest of the old Visigothic realm of Spain in the eighth century.
Peter III succeeded his father James I to the throne in 1276, and for many years the succession continued without problems. But when King Martin I (the Humanist) of Aragon died in 1410 he had no children to succeed him, and he had not named any successor. The only written law of succession was the Will of James I which confirmed the principle of male primogeniture, but this was not followed. Six claimants to the throne stepped forward. Through intrigues and political gerrymandering the law of succession was set aside, and a group of nine electors was put together todecide upon the respective claims. They met at Caspe in Aragon in 1412, and by the very composition of the group a decision for one of the claimants, Ferdinand of Antequera, was assured in advance. He thus came to power in a manner similar to a coup in conflict with the prevailing order of succession.
This point is also stressed by T.N. Bisson, who for many years was professor of medieval history at Harvard University. When discussing the "compromise" of Caspe in his book "The medieval crown of Aragon" he points out that " ... the issue was (or became) political rather than simply legal, a utilitarian question of which candidate with some dynastic claim would make the best king"(op. cit., pp. 135-6).
When James Count of Urgel, who should have inherited the throne after Martin I, died in captivity in 1433 the legitimate line passed to the Duke of Gandia who died without heir in 1454. The lawful succession thus passed in 1454 to the House of Ayerbe where the Princes of Cassano were heads of the House until their line became extinct with the death of Joseph the last Prince of Cassano.
The succession thence passed to the cadet branch of the House of Ayerbe, the line from Peter, the younger son of King James the Conqueror in his third marriage. Peter first Baron of Ayerbe had a son Michael who in turn sired a boy, Giovanni the Elder born in 1347 and who in 1398 became Vicar General of the Kingdom of Sicily. Giovanni married Sibilla Spadafora and from that union descends unbroken the line of the House of Paternò.
Over the centuries the descent had thrown off numerous branches, many of which have intermarried. Thus, when the last Prince of Cassano died, it was not clear who precisely held the dynastic right to the jus majestatis of the Lands of the Crown of Aragon and it became urgently necessary that the question be answered.
A family conclave, on the initiative of the 7th Duke of Carcaci Don Francesco Paternò Castello e Sammartino, was called on 14th June 1853, and held in Palermo in the palace of the Marquis of Spedalotto, head of one of the more senior branches of the family. After a review of the relevant evidence and a wide-ranging discussion, it was the finding of the conclave that the royal rights, which had been the subject of the debate, should be confirmed as belonging to Don Mario, son of the Duke of Carcaci''s younger brother Don Giovanni and his wife Donna Eleonora Guttadauro of Emmanuel Riburdone, the heiress of the House of Guttadauro. This conclusion which had received the assent of King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies was reached on the recognition that Don Mario alone had the royal blood of Aragon in his veins from two sources, through the separate descents of both his mother and his father from King James the Conqueror.
A family pact was then signed and registered on 16 June 1853in the Chamber of Seals and Royal Registers of the Kingdomof the Two Sicilies. It was decreed that during the minority of Don Mario, his father Don Giovanni should be Regent.
The sealing of the family pact was but one of a series ofevents following the death of the last Prince of Cassanowhich determined and confirmed the dynastic rights of the House of Paternò Castello Guttadauro. The final endorsement came on 2nd February 1860 when the Royal Commission for Titles of Nobility recommended to the new king Francis II that a petition by "Ecc''mo Sig. Don Mario Paternò Castello Guttadauro dei Duchi di Carcaci be granted. The petition was that the Prince should receive all confirmation of the Sovereign''s assent for those "chivalrous distinctions" which he wished to bestow. On 11th February 1860 the king approved the recommendation of the Royal Commission and directed the Secretary of State for Sicilian Affairs to give effect to his approval.
In 1996, following the abdication of his father, H.R.H. Don Francesco became Head of the Royal House of Aragon, Majorca and Sicily as Prince of Emanuel and Duke of Perpignan.
Jan-Olov von Wowern lives in Stockholm, and is active in European charitable and nobiliary work. He is the author of several book and articles on genealogical issues. Further information about the Royal House of Aragon is available at MocTerraNordica.org