Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona - Early Reign

Early Reign

He inherited the county of Barcelona from his father Ramon Berenguer III on August 19, 1131. On 11 August 1137, he was married to the infant Petronilla of Aragon, aged one at the time. Her father, Ramiro II of Aragon the Monk, who sought Barcelona's aid against Alfonso VII of Castile, abdicated on November 13 that same year, leaving his kingdom to Petronilla and Ramon Berenguer. The latter essentially became ruler of Aragon, although he was never king himself, but instead he commonly used the titles "Count of the Barcelonans and Prince of the Aragonians" (Comes Barcinonensis et Princeps Aragonensis), and occasionally those of "Marquis of Lleida and Tortosa" (after conquering these cities). He was the last Catalan ruler to use the title of Count as his first; starting with his son Alfonso II of Aragon the counts of Barcelona styled themselves, in the first place, as kings of Aragon.

The treaty between Ramon Berenguer and his father-in-law stipulated that their descendants would rule jointly over both realms. Even should Petronila die before the marriage could be consummated, Berenguer would still inherit the title of King of Aragon. Both realms would preserve their laws, institutions and autonomy, remaining legally distinct but federated in a dynastic union under one ruling House. Historians consider this arrangement the political masterstroke of the Hispanic Middle Ages. Both realms gained greater strength and security and Aragon got its much needed outlet to the sea. On the other hand, formation of a new political entity in the north-east at a time when Portugal seceded from León in the west gave more balance to the Christian kingdoms of the peninsula. Ramon Berenguer successfully pulled Aragon out of its pledged submission to Castile, aided no doubt by the beauty and charm of his sister Berengaria, wife of Alfonso the Emperor, for which she was well known in her time.

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