Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The name of the Nation (I): Origins of federalism

Treating the question of the name of our nation, the evolution of the denominations that are applied on the whole of the territories populated by Catalans, and our own political structure is something I wanted to talk about for a long time and some comments of readers on this blog have claimed, in more than one occasion, especially as I am used to call the actual “Autonomous Community of Catalonia” with the name of “Principat”.

In the article “El misteri de la paraula Catalunya” –“The mistery of the word Catalonia”-, published last year, I introduced the possibility that the old concept of “Cathalunya” meant “Union of Countries”, a name empty of identity meaning from the very beginning and would designate the whole of the Counties that grouped together around the County of Barcelona. In another article, “Bars in the wind” we can see how the golden bars or paly of our flag would mean each one of the territories that, at each time, were under the sovereignty of the House of Barcelona. In this article and the following of this series I shall give my opinion of the conception and political structure of the Catalan Nation and explain how the denomination “Catalunya” is lost to end up to being the official name of only a part of the territories that formed part of such union.

Political structure of the Catalan Nation: The Principality and the Kingdoms of Catalonia

As it is known, the initial Counties that were formed in the Southern border of the Carolingian Empire were ruled by a Count, from which, the Count of Barcelona appeared to be head.

The Count of Barcelona would be therefore, the first among equals or –primus inter pares- of the other Counts, later in time they all belonged to the Count of Barcelona. This function of being the first among equals would give the House of Barcelona the federal political culture that characterized the territorial structure of their dominies.

The Count Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona, at the age of 23, betrothed Princess Petronila of Aragon, a little girl of one year old –although the wedding did not celebrate until a few years later in Lleida, in 1150. From that day, the Kingdom of Aragon –that only occupied a similar territory of what today is the province of Huesca-, that was in great difficulties and to which Castilians and Navarrese had pretensions of, was incorporated to the House of Barcelona, and the “Counts” acquired the title of “Kings” that would exercise for Aragon but kept the title of Count of Barcelona.

The Counts of Barcelona and the Kings of Aragon would be Princes, not in the sense of being the son of the King or heir to the title, because the title of the heir of that crown was “Prince of Girona”, but in the sense of exercise the sovereignty over a number of territories and the “first citizen” with the meaning given in the Roman Empire to preserve their Republican conception.
Found in the Wikipedia, one of the meanings of “Principality” is precisely, “territory where the sovereign has not any specific title or exercises in order of other title”. Therefore, in this number of Counties, we are talking about a Principatus in the Latin sense of sovereignty and was maintained without the category of Kingdom that was given to other territories later joined to the House of Barcelona: Aragon, Valencia, Majorcas, Sicily, etc.

This is when it arises the following question: why did not the Count of Barcelona proclaim as King of Barcelona and the Kingdom of Barcelona was created, as Aragon, Valencia and Majorcas? Why was a territory surrounded by Kingdoms kept that way without “elevating” it to that category? My opinion was that it was never proclaimed as Kingdom of Barcelona due to very diverse reasons i.e. initially, it would not be interesting for the other Counts and institutions to lose power –that they could apply being a Count- in front of a King, for the all time reluctance of the Church in front of the House of Barcelona and finally, but probably most important, they did not need to change a situation that worked well. Contrarily to what one think, the fact of not being a Kingdom might had been beneficial to Barcelona and the Principality because of the equilibrium of powers amongst the Catalan Crown.

The territorialization of the concept of “first among equals” and “Prince” that fell to the Count of Barcelona, implied a County of Barcelona that became “first among equals” in front of the rest of Counties and a “Principality” that, not being formally a Kingdom, was very similar and the first among the Kingdoms of the Crown, because it was the origin, the head and housed the Dynasty of Barcelona, that had created a Monarchy with its territories, each one with their laws and own institutions. With the function of “first among equals” of the Principality, the following Republican versions of Catalan Federalism that were imitated by other Nations, the “first among equals” principle would be represented by the Federal District, a territory with the same category that exercises as Capital of the Federation.

As this model has been imitated in this precise and concrete way, it must be that was right. Effectively, each Kingdom had to have a viceroy who represented the King in that territory, while each modern State of a Federation has its Governor or similar figure. The Federal District, though, is under the direct jurisdiction of the Government of the whole Federation, as Mexico DF, and its government presents some peculiarities with regards to election and naming of the Governors of the State members.

Exactly the same as the case of the Principality of Catalonia, that could not have viceroy because it was not a Kingdom and remained under direct rule of the Count-King, only in case of his absence, a Lieutenant was named as a representative.

The need of a Federal District is justified with the objective of avoiding the influence of particular interests of any member State over the territory, in the same way that was not interesting a Kingdom of Barcelona that might create conflicts between the Viceroy of Barcelona and the rest of Viceroys, whereas it was not possible between the Viceroys and the King in person. A question that still affects the Principality, where everybody seems to have the right to decide about what has to happen or to decide in questions like water, the Royal Archives of Barcelona –ill named “Crown of Aragon”-, infrastructures, finances.

Moreover, the paper of the Catalan Court has to be present. They represented a limitation of the power of the Count-King unedited to other Nations, where Catalan Constitutions were approved and other territories of the Union like Sardinia and Sicily claimed rights to send representatives to, likewise the Kingdom of Majorca. The paper of the Principality of Catalonia that was exercised by the Counties headed by Barcelona, is understood, like a feudal and primitive form of Federal District of Catalonia, and might had the particularity of being an authentic federation –union of counties- inside a bigger federation that was Catalonia.

In the same way that the City of Majorca takes its name from the island and Kingdom where it stands, like the City of Valencia and gives name to the Kingdom capital of , like Mexico DF takes the name of United States of Mexico and the City is their capital. The Principality of Catalonia takes the name of Catalonia from the Union of Countries that were in its own origin, from which was part of and was the first among equals.

The territories of the “Union of Countries” or Catalonia

The old Catalonia formed by the Principality and the rest of the Kingdoms.

It must be highlighted that the shape of the Principality, that exercised similarly to what today we know as a Federal District, is similar to the Iberian peninsular Catalonia at smaller scale. The expansion of federalism To describe the spirit of Catalan federalism, it is very useful the example in Ramon Muntaner’s Chronicle about “the bush of reed”, referred in its context to the Unity between the King Alfonso of Aragon (Valencia, Sardinia, Count of Barcelona and Urgell) and the Kings of Majorca (then reigned by James III of Majorca) and Sicily (then reigned by Frederick II, younger brother of James II of Barcelona), monarchs who carried his signal: –translated- “And nobody asked me: Muntaner, what’s the example of the bush of reed: has that strength that, if all the bush is tied by a rope, and you want to pull it out together, tell you that ten men, no matter how they pull, they will not pull it out, and even more they try: and if they leave the rope, branch by branch, an eight year-old will break it, that not even a bush will remain. And it would be like these three Kings, that if among them there is division or disagreement, God did not want that, we count that the neighbours would like to consummate them, one with each other. Because it is necessary that they guard against this step: while all three are one, they do not fear other power in the World, and this way, as I told you, will be all time sovereigns to their enemies”.

From this paragraph we must highlight the vision of Kingdoms that formed the dominies of the branches of the House of Barcelona and that implied the union of these territories even if they had different Kings, and that our neighbours do not wish more that see us divided and confronted to conquest us. The expansion of the Catalan State, first with the Spains, incorporating Navarre, Castile and Granada to the Crown and the with America, implied that the Catalan political model acquired Worldwide scale.

The Wikipedia says that the word federation comes from the latin “foedus” meaning covenant. And is convening an original characteristic of our political and juridical culture, that is reflected in the territorial and institutional structure of the State, opposed to unitary and unitarian States. Moreover, if Catalonia meant originally Union of Countries, it could be said that the actual term “federal” and the original “Catalan” not referred to a specific identity were equivalent. The explanation that is traditionally offered of our political structure is of a personal union or confederation. But the differences that exist between both systems are of hue or tradition.

Personal unions are more typical of Monarchies and would apply in our case, confederations and federations would be the normal evolution of republics. The degree of union among the State members, the power of the Central Government and the right of secession of the parts make the limits between federal and confederal states was very blurred and more theoretical than real.

Nowadays, Federal or Confederal States are the majority of the countries of the American continent, from Canada (a Federal Constitutional Monarchy with the Queen of England as Head of State) to the Argentinean Republic. From whom did they learn this system? From unitarian Castile, France or England, evidently not. Only Catalan political tradition could be the model. In Europe, we have Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium and Russia. Other countries in the world that have adopted this political structure are Australia, India, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan. And other States worldwide tend to federate amongst equals in continental organizations like the European Union.

It is curious that the Catalan Nation, the origin and the introductory of this system, is today cancelled, divided and quartered between two unitarian States; France and Spain, waiting to reappear from its ashes and be able to make new contributions to Humanity. And I do not stop saying the quote by Francesc Pujols at the House-Museum Dali in Figueres: “Catalan thinking always shoots out and survives to its dreamer gravediggers”.

Map of the actual federal and confederal countries. Countries with a genuine Catalan political form.

From “Es Poblat de’n Talaiotic”.


  1. Most of this "story" is absolutely false. Catalan people have been modifying and manipulating history, as every serious and decent historian knows, in order to become what THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN. All the territorial posessions that catalan people, have been dreaming of for centuries, BELONGED TO THE CROWN OF ARAGON, formed by the KINGDOM of ARAGON, the KINGDOM of VALENCIA (conquered to the Moors and annexed to the Crown by the KING OF ARAGON), the KINGDOM OF MAJORCA (annexed by the same king in the same circomstances) and the COUNTY of BARCELONA, which became part of the Crown by the marriage of a QUEEN of ARAGON (Petronila) and the Count of Barcelona. In the wedding agreements, Ramiro III el Monje (Petronilas's father) explicitely indicated that the Kingdom was NOT to be inherited by the Count of Barcelona, unless Petronila had no children, which never happened) The kings of Aragon were brave warriors who conquered territories in France, Italy and Greece, as well as in Hispania.These manipulated PROPAGANDISTIC "catalan stories" are paid by the catalan goverment in order to cheat whatever reader may come across these pages. In their ignorance, they try to build a pathologic world and sell it as a great nation.

    1. Lo que hace más daño es el centralismo que ejerce la dinastia borbonica!
      Castilla bajo el reynado de carlos 1 y fFelipe II alcanzo su maximo explendor y nunca se ponia el sol.
      Bajo los Austrias se respeto las leyes de cada reyno y sus constituciones!
      Fue el intento de borrar la memoria colectiva de los pueblos de lengua catalana lo que ha llevado a esta situación!!! No es que el pueblo catalan sea Nacionalista por gusto simplemente nos resistimos a dejarnos borrar la memoria!! No quieren nacionalismo catalan es facil respeten y seran respetados
      Desde Madrid se han lanzado campañas de desprestigio por que temen que los pueblos que formaban el reyno de Aragon se vuelvan a unir y eso a España no le vendria nada bien.perderia bastantes kilometros de costa medierranea,Madrid se quedaria sin su puerto principal de valencia y el de barcelona entre muchas cosas más.
      Estan dispuestos a perder todo? Sigan oprimiendo y exprimiendo como hasta ahora.
      La mayor riqueza de España que permite mantener tantos xorizos (si quieren podemos exportar) es la diversidad de pueblos que la componen y si unos cabeza cuadradas quieren oprimir siempre el mismo boton al final salta la alarma!!

  2. que aprobación? La de los fascistas que controlan los medios?

  3. Anonymous, your appreciation is taken has been read but it will not change History. It is not necessary to go through -again- all the documents that show that you are a very badly informed, or perhaps just politically contaminated, Historian apprentice.
    It made me laugh your "In the wedding agreements, Ramiro III el Monje (Petronilas's father) explicitely indicated that the Kingdom was NOT to be inherited by the Count of Barcelona". Wrong. Petronila married Ramon Berenguer IV, and their son took possession of both territories at once, as she 'title', which was passed to their son by succession, and Ramon Berenguer had the 'power' over the Kingdom. And the Aragonese adopted the ensigns of Barcelona. And they lived in Barcelona. Hmmm, how strange, the strongest taking the sings of the weakest?... or perhaps the opposite.
    Perhaps too complicated for you. It does not matter, though. Catalonia is close to independence, so we will be able to explain our History as it should be explained.

  4. Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.


  5. Thanks Bettie for your comments on the blog.

    I'll pass your comments to the author of this article in particular too.

  6. Sou patètics! Feu molt mal al país! Qui dimonis us ha demanat que us inventeu una història que no ens cal per ser qui som? Quan siguem independents us fotrem fora de Catalunya. Pallassos.

  7. Me encantan las importantes fuentes de un artículo que en su mayor parte es una gran mentira.
    La Cataluña de la que hablas es el Reino de Aragón y los territorios dependientes de él.
    Los nacionalistas convertís y tergiversáis la historia con el fin secesionista... Aprended antes de relatarnos mentiras y patrañas y de decir que Cataluña está mal llamado "Reino de Aragón" con fines meramente propagandísticos.