Constanza was born in Poblet (Conca de Barberà, Tarragona) in the last days of July 1342 (CINGOLANI, 2019; ACA Reg. 1305, f. 60v). She was the firstborn of Pere el Cerimoniós (1319-1387) and María de Navarra (1326?-1347). Her father, Pere el Cerimoniós, was son of the earls of Urgell, Alfons el Benigne (1299-1336) and Teresa d’Entença (1301-1327). He ruled over more than fifty years which were full of conflicts and big changes. The obsession of this sovereign to preserve the dignity and the power of his house, the House of Aragon, should be noted (CINGOLANI, 2007, p. 226-227). That is why he had the need to collect writings, ordenances, books, tombs, relics, artworks and other items with the clear intention of “venerating his dynasty and his person”. His mother, María of Navarra, was the second daughter of Juana II of Navarra (1311-1349) and Felip d’Evreux (1306-1343), both of the Capetian dynasty. Thus, she was the great granddaughter of the king Lluís l’Obstinat (1314-1316) of France. She got married in July 1338 in Aragon when she was not yet twelve years old. She brought with herself all the traditions and world of the french court. She had four children and was just over twenty years when she died. We have little details of her short life but we should remark that the Book of Hours of Maria de Navarra is named after her. This book was commissioned by Pere el Cerimoniós to the workshop of Ferrer Bassa. At the present time it is guarded at the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana of Venice.
In 1347 Constanza was proclaimed as the rightful heiress of the Crown of Aragon, with the consequent protest of the king’s brother, Jaume d’Urgell, and the amiable confrontations or Unions (Aragon and Valencia). The problem was set apart with the birth of a male heir, the future Joan I, son of the third wife of Pere el Cerimoniós. In the face of this paradigm shift, the talks with the king Joan el Bo of France concerning the marriage of his son Lluís d’Anjou with one of the daughters of the King of Aragon ended. Instead, began the attempts to make an alliance with the insular monarchy of Sicily, ruled by a little brother of the queen Leonor of Sicily (1325?-1375), the wife of Pere el Cerimoniós, described as a splendid and machiavellian night queen” (SCIASCIA, 2010/12, p. 111).
We know little about Costanza’s childhood, but we can imagine her in close relation with her sisters and her mother until her death in 1347. The only direct reference to family life is found in the Crónica of Pere el Cerimoniós (PERE EL CERIMONIÓS,1382-85, Cap. III, núm. 199) and tell the trip of his wife María and his daughters Constanza and Juana from Barcelona to Perpinyà in 1344, shortly after the birth of Juana, as he says: “Dimecres, a vint-e-dos de desembre de propdit, nós estant a Perpenyà, venc la reina dona Maria, muller nostra, ab les infantes Na Constança e Na Joana, filles nostres, de les parts de Barcelona”.
Among the writings and letters of Pere el Cerimoniós preserved at the Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó, some help us to know the relationship maintained between the monarch and his daughters*. Thus, for example in 1350, the king ordered his daughters Constanza and Juana to dress in mourning for the death of their grandmother, Juana de Navarra (Barcelona, ACA, Reg.1133, f. 26r), while soon after that same year the monarch refused to give permission to his daughters to assist to the crowning of the king of Navarra on june 27th, 1350 (Barcelona, ACA, Reg. 1134, f. 37r-v), he wrote:
“1350, abril, 1. Saragossa. Lo rey d’Aragó.
Cara filla, reebudes dues letres vostres, et les coses en aquelles contengudes bé enteses, responén vos fem saber que, mercè de Nostre Senyor, som sans et en bona disposició de nostra persona, e havem haüt et havem gran goig et plaer de la salut vostra et de la alta infanta dona Johana, filla nostra et sor vostra molt cara. E res-no-menys vos fem saber que havem manats dar al feel porter vostre Sanch[o] d’U[n]castiello M solidos barchinonenses per comprar un mul a obs de les andes; altra moneda, quant a adés, no us o po[de]m trametre, mas volem que manlevets açò que mester haurets tro a Perpenyà, car nós, qui, si a Déu plau, serem dins breus dies en Cathalu[n]ya, farem pagar complidament ço que manlevant haurets. Quant és de ço que·ns havets fet saber de la reyna de Ffrança, havem haüt gra[n] plaer, et ja o sabíem ans que les vostres letres reebéssem. Açò que deyts, que vós et la dita infanta anàssets a la conoració del rey de Navar[r]a, no·ns sembla cosa covinent, ans volem que, ab la benedicció [de] Déu, tingats vostre camí vers Perpenyà. E porets fer resposta sob[r]e açò a la comtessa de Ffoix, que vós et la dita infanta, de manament et ordinaci[ó] nostre, anats a Perpenyà, et con serets là, et ella serà en lo comtat de Ffoix, vós porets ve[n]ir dins nostra t[err]a en alcu[n] loch covi[n]ent, notifficàn-li [que la?] havets gran desig de veer.
D[ata] en Çaragoça sots nostre segell secret [l]o dia primer del mes d’abril en l’any de Nostre Senyor MCCCL. Rex Petrus.
Dominus rex mandavit Matheo Adriani.”
In his letter he did not authorize his daughter to go to the coronation of Carlos II of Navarra, which took place on June 27th , 1350, but, some days later, on April 19th, 1350, in the record 1134, f. 44v.,the king summoned his daughters to come and meet him in Tarragona in order to accompany him to Poblet during the transfer of the corpse of their mother María de Navarra.
We also found in the record 1067, f.90r, a letter of the “Cerimoniós” addressed to his uncle, Pere de Ribagorça i Muntanyes de Prades, dated on April 1354, asking for advice on the marriage project between his daughter Constanza and the King of Sicily. He said that, as his guardian, he begs him that “porti totes les joy[e]s de la dita infanta, per tal que, si finarem de fer lo dit matrimoni, que no calla laguiar per aquellas.” (Barcelona, ACA, Reg. 1067, f.90r). From these writings we can deduce that during a period, the two princesses lived under the tutelage of Pere de Ribagorça and Joana de Foix.
Some years later, a note from the Arxiu Històric de Protocols de Barcelona del 1359 (23/8, f.62r 17-4-1359) mentions that both princesses had to pawn a crowns in Perpinyà for the maintenance of his house or court, which was constantly moving. One of the places where they probably spent some time was the residence of their great grandfather’s last wife, the queen Elisenda of Montcada (1292-1364), since she was the godmother of princess Joana. In those years queen Elisenda was living in the palace of the monastery of Pedralbes, where the Saint Michael’s cell was already painted with the frescoes of Ferrer Bassa.
We know little about the relationship between Constanza and her stepmother, Elionor of Sicily, except for the use of her stepdaughter to gain control over the kingdom of Sicily. After long negotiations and hard plots, the marriage agreement between Constanza and Lluís I el Nen de Sicília (1337-1355) was signed. When he died, the agreement passed to his little brother, Frederic IV (III) el Dèbil or el Senzill (1342-1377). Finally, in 1356 the matrimonial agreement was signed, but the wedding didn’t take place until April 15th 1361, in Catania (Sicily), after evading the vigilance of the sicilian nobles who wanted to prevent the union.
During the few years that she was queen of Sicily, the Constanza’s Court or Càmera règinale di Costanza, was active under the regulation of the Ordinacions sobre lo regiment de tots los officials de la sua cort, of Pere el Cerimoniós, from the year 1344. This court met in Castle Ursino in Catania or in Castle Maniace in Siracusa until the death of the queen. Among the documents still preserved we should remark a note from the Curia, kept in the Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó (MR, 472, f.17v.) where the queen commissioned artworks to the painter Jaume Serra from Barcelona (AGNELLO, 2005 p. 31). Whether an altarpiece or paint from the Serra brothers arrived in Sicily during her brief reign or not is unknown.
At the end of the year 1362 her only daughter, Maria de Sicilia (1362-1401), was born. A few months later, on July 18th 1363, the queen died of an epidemic. The last news that we have from Constanza is that her father, in December 1363, ordered to buy some “brandons” for the celebration of the queen of Sicily’s anniversary in Perpinyà (MR, 347, f.203r.). The blurred image of Constanza’s stamp says a lot about this forgotten queen.
She was queen of the insular Sicily during little more than two years, from 1361 to 1363, and was buried in the Catania’s cathedral in a marble sarcophagus from which we believe that only remains the cover or gisant. It is the grave known as the “Sarcofago di Costanza di Aragona” preserved at the Chapel of la Madonna of the Catania’s cathedral.
* I appreciate the collaboration of Stefano Cingolani.