Aragonese-French War (1284–1285)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Aragon vs. France
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Aragon, Spain
DECLARATION: Pope Martin IV excommunicated the
Aragonese king Pedro III in 1282 and gave his title to a
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: French king Philip III was
attempting to claim the Aragonese throne for his son, to
whom it had been awarded by the pope; Pedro, who the
pope opposed for his expansions into Sicily, fought to
keep his throne and his conquests.
OUTCOME: Pedro repulsed the French, consolidating
Aragon’s position on the Iberian Peninsula and making it
a power in the Mediterranean.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Among the all-but-independent, expansionist, and
intensely competitive Christian powers attacking the
Moors and each other on the Iberian Peninsula during the
13th century was Aragon, growing steadily in influence at
the expense of archival and sometime ally Castile. On its
way to becoming the most powerful state in the Mediterranean,
Aragon was led by King Pedro III (1239–85), who
toward the end of the century formed an alliance with the
Byzantine Empire and, pretending to sail on a crusade to
Africa, actually landed in Sicily, sparking what over the
course of the next 20 years would be called the War of the
SICILIAN VESPERS. Though ultimately aiding the Aragonese
in their eastward maritime expansion, the initial result of
the war was to get Pedro III excommunicated. An angry
Pope Martin IV (c. 1210–85) went on to declare that
Pedro had forfeited his right to rule Aragon because of his
conspiratorial intrusion into the affairs of Sicily, and he
offered the crown of Aragon to Charles of Valois (1270–
1325), third son of King Philip III (1245–85) of France,
who thought the French had a long-standing claim to the
throne in any case. Philip allied himself with his uncle
Charles of Anjou (also called Charles the Lame, c.
1254–1309), and invaded Aragon, seeking to take what
the pope had offered and make his son king of Aragon and
Sicily. Though the French invaders won a victory at
Gerona in 1284, the following year they were forced by
Pedro to retreat. While the French army was in Aragon its
ranks had been ravaged by disease, which claimed the life
of Philip III on the long march home.
See also ARAGONESE-FRENCH WAR (1209–1213).
Further reading: Raymond Carr, Spain: A History
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Bernard F.
Reilly, The Medieval Spains (New York: Cambridge University