Sancho, Count of Provence

Sancho (died 1223), also spelled Sanç or Sanche,[lower-alpha 1] was a Catalano-Aragonese nobleman and statesman, the youngest son of Queen Petronilla of Aragon and Count Raymond Berengar IV of Barcelona. He was at different times the count of Cerdanya (c.1175–89), Provence (1181–85), Gévaudan, Rodez and Carlat (1183–85), and Roussillon (1208–12).[lower-alpha 2] He served as the regent of Provence from 1209 until 1218 during the minority of Count Raymond Berengar IV, and as regent of Aragon from 1214 until 1218, during the minority of King James I.

Partially preserved seal of Sancho of Provence
Count of Provence
Reign1181 – 1185
PredecessorRamon Berenguer III
SuccessorAlfonso II
Count of Cerdanya
Reign1175 – 1189
SuccessorNuño Sánchez
Count of Roussillon
Reign1209 – 1223
SuccessorNuño Sánchez
Sancha Nuñez de Lara
IssueNuño, Count of Cerdanya
FatherRamon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona
MotherPetronilla of Aragon


Count of Cerdanya

Sancho was a minor at the time of his father's death (1162) and he did not inherit lands or titles, but only the right of reversion should his elder brothers die without heirs.[1] Thus, according to his father's will, he should have inherited Provence and Cerdanya only after his elder brother Raymond Berengar III, count of Provence, was assassinated in 1181. In fact, while he inherited Provence at that time, he may have received Cerdanya shortly before that.[2]

Sancho came of age between 1175, when he first began witnessing the royal charters of his eldest brother, King Alfonso II of Aragon, and 1180. In these years, he witnessed charters only in Catalonia and Provence. Before 1180, he occasionally signed documents with the title "Count of Cerdanya" (comes Ceritanie), but usually he was described as just "the king's brother". Alfonso does not seem to have entirely trusted his administration of Cerdanya, for he intervened in the county in 1177 and again in 1188. Sancho is not recorded as count of Cerdanya after that.[1][2]

Count of Provence

Sancho's first responsibility after inheriting the county of Provence in 1181 was to defend the county from the claims of Count Raymond V of Toulouse. For the following four years, Sancho and his brother Alfonso prosecuted a war against Toulouse.[3] On 9 December 1182, Alfonso visited his brother in Aix and exempted the Knights Hospitaller from commercial duties and tolls in Provence.[4] In March 1183, Alfonso enfeoffed Sancho with the counties of Gévaudan, Rodez and Carlat.[5][6][7] Sancho's expense account for his stay at Perpignan in November 1184, where he met his brother, has survived and provides a detailed look at how his court functioned.[8]

During Sancho's first government of Provence, conflict arose every spring between him and the neighbouring prince, Count William IV of Forcalquier.[9] Finally, in 1184, Sancho signed a treaty of alliance with the count of Forcalquier, the count of Toulouse and the Republic of Genoa agreeing to oppose the king of Aragon's efforts to dominate Genoa and to take the city of Marseille from him. He then intervened on the side of Genoa in that commune's war against Pisa.[1][10][11][7] These actions of disloyalty caused a rift between the brothers, and Alfonso dispossessed Sancho of Provence (and Gévaudan, Rodez and Carlat). In his place he appointed Roger-Bernard I, Count of Foix, as his bailiff or procurator in Provence.[12] According to some historians, like Joan Cabestany, the king was merely looking for an excuse to seize control of Provence.[13] Alfonso had travelled to Aix-en-Provence by March 1185, when the dating clause of a charter reads "when we recovered Provence from the hands of Sancho, our brother". Evidence of ill-will can even be found in the Gesta comitum Barcinonensium, which records of Alfonso that "his brother Sancho he never loved and did not wish to give him anything in his kingdom."[lower-alpha 3][14]

The hostility between Sancho and Alfonso caught the notice of the troubadour Peire Vidal, who addresses the king in a tornada:[15]

Francs reis, Proensa·us apella,
qu'En Sancho la·us desclavella,
e gasta·us la cer'e·l mel
e sai tramet vos lo fel.
(Noble king, Provence is calling out to you, it is being despoiled by Lord Sancho, he is taking the wax and honey and sending you nothing but gall.)

By contrast, the troubadour Bertran de Born presents Sancho as popular in Provence:[14]

Proenza pert, don es eissitz,
que so frair Sanso prezan mais...
(He [Alfonso] is losing Provence, which he left, where his brother Sancho is better loved...)

After his removal from office, Sancho continued to style himself Count of Provence.[3]

Count of Roussillon and procurator of Provence

In 1204, Sancho and his son, Nuño Sánchez, witnessed the donation of the county of Roussillon to Maria of Montpellier, the new wife of King Peter II, Sancho's nephew. Since Roussillon was a region in which Sancho had ambitions, his recognition of the donation to Maria was critical.[16] In 1208, Peter finally granted Sancho the government of the county of Roussillon. In 1209–10, Sancho left the day-to-day government in the hands of a "vicar and bailiff" (vicarius et baiulus), Ferran de Norvais. In January 1211, Peter "granted" Roussillon to Guillem de Creixell, but this probably refers to a grant of the county's revenues, since Guillem was the king's creditor, in which case Sancho continued to govern the county into 1212.[2]

In 1209, Sancho's other nephew and Alfonso's successor in Provence, Count Alfonso II, died, leaving a minor heir, Raymond Berengar IV. King Peter appointed him governor of Provence on behalf of Raymond Berengar. One of his first tasks was to subdue the rebellious city of Arles.[17] Sancho also promptly associated with him his own son in the governance of Provence. They pursued a policy that favoured communal liberties and commercial activity while opposing encroaching French and Papal influence.[3] For their base in Provence, Peter granted Sancho and Nuño the ports of Agazi, Boch and Monaco.[18]

In 1212, Sancho fought at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa on the side of Peter II.[3] That same year Roussillon was transferred from Sancho to his son Nuño, to be held by the latter along with Cerdanya and Conflent for life.[2]

Peter II died fighting the anti-Catharist crusaders at the Battle of Muret in 1213. His heir and successor, James I, a minor, was taken captive by Simon IV de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester. An army was soon assembled at Narbonne with the support of Viscount Aimery III to recover the captive king and avenge the dead king. Sancho and his son Nuño were among the leading men present. The situation was diffused, however, by the papal legate Peter of Benevento, who secured James's release.[19]

Procurator general of the realm

Opposition and setbacks (1214–16)

Since Peter had placed his kingdom under the authority of the Papacy, the papal legate arranged for James to be placed under the guardianship of Guillem de Montrodon, master of the Templars in Aragon and for Sancho to be appointed procurator general, effectively regent.[3] The exact date of Sancho's appointment is uncertain: it occurred either late in 1214 or early in 1215.[3][20] James in his autobiographical Llibre dels fets, later accused Sancho of wanting to be king and of plotting for the throne.[10] This claim has been widely accepted by historians, but Salvador Sanpere has written a short monograph to "vindicate" Sancho's actions.[13]

In the summer of 1214, Peter of Benevento convened a cort (council of the realm) in Lleida. The assembled clergy and nobility agreed on a political programme for James's minority that included a prohibition on new taxes. Sancho was charged with implementing the programme.[10] His power base, however, was in Provence and he had limited support in Aragon and Catalonia, especially for his preferred policy of continuing the war against Simon de Montfort.[19]

In 1214, Gaston VI, Viscount of Béarn and Count of Bigorre, died. In order to prevent the county of Bigorre from falling out of Aragon's orbit, Sancho arranged for his son Nuño to marry Gaston's widow, Petronilla, the hereditary countess in 1215. This marriage, however, was annulled by the clergy (1216), and Petronilla ended up marrying Guy de Montfort, brother of Simon.[19]

In November 1215, the Fourth Council of the Lateran, an ecumenical council of the church, met in Rome. As procurator, Sancho sent two envoys, Pedro Ahones and Guillem IV de Cervera, to attend the council. At the council, they, along with Bishop Hispan of Segorbe, undermined Sancho's anti-crusade policy. In the end, the council upheld the legality of the crusade. In a letter addressed to Pope Innocent III, Sancho had requested enhanced authority as procurator, but the envoys to the Lateran returned instead with a series of orders dated 23 January 1216. In them, Innocent appointed seven noblemen from both Aragon and Catalonia as deputy councillors to assist Sancho and ordered all the men of the realm to observe the truce with the crusaders. Innocent did order the cities of the Aragon and Catalonia to subsidise the regent's redemption of pledged lands (royal demesne that had been pawned by Peter II to fund his wars), but royal finances were transferred to Guillem de Montrodon. As a result, Sancho found his power not strengthened but curtailed.[10][19]

War in Occitania (1216–18)

Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, who had been deprived of his lands by the Lateran council, was granted refuge by Sancho. In April 1216, King Philip II of France formally granted Raymonds fiefs to Simon de Montfort. Raymond tried during the spring of 1216 to recruit knights in Aragon and Catalonia in order to fight for him in Provence. Encouraged by a letter from King Frederick II of Germany, emperor-elect,[lower-alpha 4] Raymond besieged Beaucaire in June. On 12 June 1216 Sancho signed a treaty at Balaguer in Aragon with representatives of the rectors of the Confraternity of the Holy Spirit of Marseille. The Confraternity was a pious lay association and the de facto government of the city. By the treaty of Balaguer the principals agreed to aid one another in the case of any aggression by a third party.[19] This was part of a concerted effort by the houses of Toulouse and Aragon to restore their shaken authority in Provence at the same time as Raymond Berengar IV came of age and Sancho's second government in Provence ended.[21]

On 26 October 1216 at Barcelona, Sancho and Nuño signed a peace treaty with Guillem Ramon de Montcada, the viscount of Béarn, his son Guillem and Guillem de Cervera. This treaty was made in response to Petronilla of Bigorre's marriage to Guy de Montfort, which the viscount of Béarn considered a threatening move. The newfound allies invaded Bigorre and as a result Simon de Montfort lifted his siege of Lourdes, temporarily removing the threat the crusade posed to western flank of the Aragonese sphere.[19]

In September 1216, Raymond of Toulouse, probably with a following of Catalan and Aragonese knights, invaded France to reclaim the county of Toulouse with Sancho's support. At the siege of Toulouse, Simon de Montfort was killed in 1218.[20]

Sancho's policy of intervention in Occitania was opposed by a faction of Aragonese feudatories led by his nephew, Ferdinand, abbot of Montearagón, and by those who wished to make peace with the Papacy.[13] Ferdinand even encouraged local rebellions in Huesca, Jaca and Zaragoza.[19] In two bulls dated 28 and 29 December 1217,[20] Pope Honorius III threatened to excommunicate James and Sancho, respectively, and to authorise a crusade against their realm if they did not abandon Raymond VI's cause. Under pressure from several sides and apparently unwilling to abandon the Toulousain alliance, Sancho stepped down as regent.[3][10]

On 8 September 1218 he signed an agreement with James which formally terminated the regency. In it, he agreed to keep peace with the king and in exchange the king granted him lands and revenues—15,000 solidi from five castles in Aragon and 10,000 solidi from Barcelona and Vilafranca. James also promised not to attack his lands or to permit anyone else from doing so for a period of seven years. This last clause secured James's neutrality in the event that Sancho continued to fight the Crusaders. The historian Ferran Soldevila considers Sancho's promise to keep the peace an indication that his resignation was not wholly voluntary.[20][22]

Shortly after his resignation, in the same month of September 1218, Sancho was present at the assembly in Lleida, where he was named as one of the king's advisers when James confirmed the privileges of Montpellier, which he had inherited from his mother. This same assembly appointed Guillem IV de Cervera as procurator in Sancho's place.[23]

Marriages and children

Sometime before 1184, Sancho married Ermessenda, daughter of Geoffrey I of Rocabertí and Ermessenda de Vilademuls. In 1185, he married Sancha Núñez de Lara, daughter of Count Nuño Pérez de Lara and Teresa Fernández de Traba, and thus a step-daughter of King Ferdinand II of León. By her he had his only known son, Nuño Sánchez.[3]


  1. "Sancho" is Spanish, "Sanç" Catalan and Occitan and "Sanche" French.
  2. Provence was part of the Kingdom of Arles in the Holy Roman Empire, while Roussillon and Cerdanya were nominally part of the Kingdom of France at the time; Gévaudan, Rodez and Carlat were indisputably part of France. The County of Provence only encompassed part of Provence, which also included the Marquisate of Provence (ruled by the counts of Toulouse) and the County of Forcalquier. Roussillon and Cerdanya effectively belonged to the Counts of Barcelona, who were de facto independent princes ruling an emerging Principality of Catalonia. France only formally ceded its rights in these counties in 1258.
  3. Fratrem quoque suum iam dicti Ildefonsi regis Aragonensis, Sancium nomine, nunquam dilexit et nullam portionem sui regni illi dare voluit.
  4. As elected king of Germany, Frederick was also ruler of the kingdom of Arles; he would not be crowned emperor until 1220.



  1. Cheyette 2001, p. 333.
  2. Bisson 1984, vol. 1, p. 194.
  3. Salrach 2016.
  4. Miret i Sans, Joaquim 1904, p. 417.
  5. Aurell 1986, p. 183.
  6. Miret i Sans, Joaquim 1904, p. 419.
  7. Smith 2010, p. 29 n. 78.
  8. Bisson 1984, vol. 2, pp. 120–23.
  9. Fraser 2006, p. 3.
  10. Bisson 2000, pp. 58–60.
  11. Orvietani Busch 2001, p. 241.
  12. Orvietani Busch 2001, p. 9.
  13. Orvietani Busch 2001, p. 71 n. 33.
  14. Riquer 1950, pp. 211–13.
  15. Fraser 2006, p. 197.
  16. Orvietani Busch 2001, pp. 68–69.
  17. Smith 2010, p. 41.
  18. Orvietani Busch 2001, p. 74.
  19. Smith 2010, pp. 42–47.
  20. Orvietani Busch 2001, pp. 16–17.
  21. Léglu, Rist & Taylor 2014, p. 13.
  22. Bisson 1989, p. 355.
  23. Bisson 1989, pp. 360–62.


  • Léglu, Catherine; Rist, Rebecca; Taylor, Claire, eds. (2014). The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge.
  • Aurell, Martin (1986). "L'expansion catalane en Provence au XIIe siècle". In J. Portella (ed.). La formació i expansió del feudalisme català. Girona. pp. 175–95.
  • Bisson, Thomas N., ed. (1984). Fiscal Accounts of Catalonia under the Early Count-Kings (1151–1213). 2 vols. University of California Press.
  • Bisson, Thomas N. (1989). "The Finances of the Young James I (1213–1228)". Medieval France and Her Pyrenean Neighbours: Studies in Early Institutional History. The Hambledon Press. pp. 351–92.
  • Bisson, Thomas N. (2000). The Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History. Clarendon Press.
  • Cheyette, Fredric L. (2001). Ermengard of Narbonne and the World of the Troubadours. Cornell University Press.
  • Fraser, Veronica Mary (2006). The Songs of Peire Vidal: Translation and Commentary. Peter Lang.
  • Miret i Sans, Joaquim (1904). "Itinerario del Rey Alfonso I de Cataluña, II en Aragón: II (de 1174 a 1185)". Butlletí de la Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres de Barcelona. 2 (15): 389–423.
  • Orvietani Busch, Silvia (2001). Medieval Mediterranean Ports: The Catalan and Tuscan Coasts, 1100–1235. Brill.
  • Riquer, Martí de (1950). "El trovador Giraut del Luc y sus poesías contra Alfonso II de Aragón". Butlletí de la Reial Acadèmia de Bones Lletres de Barcelona. 23: 209–48.
  • Sanpere y Miquel, Salvador (1913). "Minoría de Jaime I: Vindicación del procurador Conde Sancho, años 1214–1219". I Congrés d'història de la Corona d'Aragó (Barcelona, 1908). Barcelona. pp. 580–694.
  • Salrach, Josep Maria (2016). "Sanç I de Rosselló-Cerdanya". Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  • Shideler, John C. (1999). A Medieval Catalan Noble Family: The Montcadas, 1000–1230. University of California Press.
  • Smith, Damian J.; Buffery, Helena, eds. (2003). The Book of Deeds of James I of Aragon: A Translation of the Medieval Catalan "Llibre dels Fets". Ashgate.
  • Smith, Damian J. (2010). Crusade, Heresy and Inquisition in the Lands of the Crown of Aragon (c. 1167–1276). Brill.

Further reading

  • Martin-Chabot, Fernand-Eugène (1902). La politique hors d'Espagne d'Alphonse II, roi d'Aragon (1162–1196) et marquis de Provence (PhD). Mâcon: École des Chartes.
Preceded by
Raymond Berengar III
Count of Provence
Succeeded by
Alfonso II
Count of Cerdanya
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Girard II
Count of Roussillon
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