Maria was born in castle Ursino, in Catania (Sicily) in 1362. Her parents, Frederic III (IV) el Feble (1342 – 1377), son of Pere II of Sicily and Elisabet de Caríntia, and Constança d’Aragó (1342 – 1363), daughter of Pere IV el Cerimoniós of Aragon and Maria of Navarra; had been married for a year.
A few days after her birth, in the face of the problems with the barons and the claims of the Crown of Aragon, king Frederic swore to the barons his loyalty to the princess as successor to the kingdom of Sicily.
When she was less than one year her mother died and came under the tutelage of her godfather Artal of Alagó, supporter of the catalan faction. She lived closely with the clashes of the different factions and the negotiations on the vassalage of the island with the papacy and the Kingdom of Naples. On August 20, 1372, under the tutelage of Pope Gregori XI, her father signed the Peace of Catania or Avignon Treaty. Among other agreements, he accepted the title of King of Trinacria, vassal of the Pope and the queen Joana I of Naples, the succession of princess Maria if there were no male heirs, and the marriage with Antònia dels Baus, a napolitan court noble. The question with the papacy about Sicily ended that way, and an understanding was reached with the Anjou.
Regarding the succession of different marriage negotiations, in 1370, on the table there was the possibility of improving relations with the Visconti through a double marriage: One between King Frederic and a daughter of Bernabó Visconti and other between princess Maria and a son of the same Lord of Milan. But this proposal was immediately rejected by Pere el Cerimoniós and Pope Gregorio XI, who threatened not to ratify the peace with Naples. This possibility will happen again after the death of the second wife. And, this time, in February 1377, the marriage between the king and Antonia Visconti was signed, but it did not come to happen due to the death of king Frederic in Messina on July 27, 1377.
Therefore, at the age of fifteen, she succeeded her father as Maria Dei gratia regina Sicilie et Athenarum ac Neopatria ducissa (1377 – 1401), but the government was exercised by her guardian and vicar of the island Artal d’Alagó. In the face of the conflicts with the barons, the government was entrusted to four vicars – Artal himself, Manfredo Chiaramonte, Guillem of Peralta and Francesco Ventimiglia- two of each faction, catalan and latin. Thus, the island was divided between these four great families, and we can say that the queen remained as a captive of her guardian in Ursino castle, in Catania.
Following the line, started by king Frederic, Artal d’Alagó continued the negotiations to reestablish a marriage agreement with the Visconti. The negotiations were close and sealed by the autumn of 1377 with a nephew of Bernabó Visconti, Joan Galeàs Visconti, earl of Vertus (1351 – 1402). But, as Pere el Cerimoniós himself said in the appendix of the Chronicle: “Après, nós, sabent la mort del dit rei Frederic de Sicília, cunyat e gendre nostre, e sabent que els dits barons contractaven, sens nostre consentiment, matrimoni de la dita infanta ab lo comte de Virtut, trametem ambaixada a aquells dits barons per desenganar-los, que es guardessin de fer matrimoni de la dita infanta, com no es pertangués a ells, mas a nós qui érem son avi, e lo regne tenguessen per nós, a qui es pertanyia de dret, per virtut del testament del rei Frederic lo Vell” (SOLDEVILA, 2014). That led to the events of Porto Pisano. When only the count of Vetus was missing on board, Gilabert de Cruïlles (†1395) attacked and burned all the ships, which were about to sail to Sicily.
In the autumn of 1378 the wife of prince Joan, firstborn of the Crown of Aragon, died, and immediately, his father proposed him as his granddaughter’s husband and activated all the appropriate protocols. The problem seemed solved when the consent of the vicars of Trinacria arrived by the spring of 1380, but the Duke of Girona, who had always opposed this marriage which he considered almost incestuous, announced his engagement with the daughter of the duke of Bar. Pere el Cerimoniós had to find another strategy and a new candidate. He appointed prince Martí as the heir of his rights to the crown of Sicily and proposed Martí’s son, who was four years old, as the future husband of his Sicilian granddaughter, who was already eighteen. The agreement was signed by the sovereign of Aragon, prince Martí, Guillem Ramon de Montcada (†1398) and Enrico Rosso (†1386), the last two as representatives of the queen.
Meanwhile, on January 23, 1379, Guillem Ramon de Montcada managed to get the queen out of castle Ursino, where she lived under the surveillance of Artal d’Alagó, and took her to the castle d’Agosta or Augusta. But what seemed like a salvation turned out to be a terrible captivity. From Augusta she was led to Licata, from there back to Augusta, and at last, to Cagliari (Sardinia) in 1382. The time the queen spent in this besieged castles was one of great hardship due to the lack of supplies and money that had to arrive from the Crown of Aragon. At last, the viscount of Rocabertí -under the orders of the Cerimoniós-, evading the siege of Augusta, led the queen to Cagliari. It is known that during the time she was at the castle of Cagliari, the governor of this city had to ask for economic and health assistance for queen Maria and the little personnel that was at her service. The prison continued.
It won’t be until the spring of 1386 that she was rescued and led to Majorca. Shortly after, she arrived in Barcelona. But during all those years that she was under the tutelage of Martí de Montblanc and Maria de Luna, the difficulties to maintain her house or court persisted. It is known that during 1388 due to the great mortality that a new plague was causing in Barcelona, she was transferred to safer places as Terrassa and Verdú. In 1390, Pope Clement VII (Avignon, 1378-1394) granted her the matrimonial dispensation for getting married to the little Martí (1376-1409) (FODALE, 2008). At that time the bride was twice the boyfriend’s age, and the Cerimoniós had died a couple of years ago.
It was not until a year and a half after the wedding that the couple sailed from Port Fangós (Tortosa) on the boats driven by Martí de Montblanc, her father-in-law. On March 22, 1392 they approached Favignana (Trapani). Their arrival had been previously negotiated and the barons had already sworn allegiance to the queen, but opposition to the two Martins. This conflict lasted until 1397, finishing with a bloody purge of the Ribelli and with the redistribution and division of the great lands owned by the Alagó and Chiaramonte, properties given to the Cabrera, Montcada (Moncada), Aragó and Peralta. Everything was under a similar behavior in the relations between monarchy and feudalism. Nothing has changed. The cities were almost nullified and the rise of a middle class was prevented at all costs.
From the moment that Martí l’Humà o el Vell had to leave the island in order to lead the Crown of Aragon after the death of his brother Joan, the government of Trinacria was led by Martí el Jove. The queen fell into a deep depression until she became pregnant in February 1398. That same year, they were accepted as monarchs: Maria I and Martí I of Sicily. On November 17, 1398 a child was born whom queen Maria would name Frederic, after his Sicilian ancestors, but who would be baptized on Saint George’s day in 1399 in the Paradise chapel of castle Ursino with the name of Pere, according to Aragonese tradition. Once more, the queen’s wish was irrelevant. Those were a few months of happiness until they took the boy away from the royal chambers. The justification was that it was necessary to remove him from the maternal influence so that he could develop his personality (LO FORTE, 2003).
In strange circumstances that have never received a plausible explanation, on November 8, 1400, the boy died while he was with his parents. At the tombstone of the apse of the cathedral of Catania it’s named Frederic. The child’s remains were claimed and, according to some authors, transferred by order of his grandfather to the monastery of Poblet (Catalonia). Fact that has been denied with opening the tomb of Frederic II(III) in 1958, since the remains of a three-year-old boy were found (REALE, 1983). On January 3, 1401, the people of Catania gave him a solemn service in the cathedral.
In the spring of 1401, the ravages that a new plague outbreak was causing in Catania forced the queen to move to Lentini castle. There, on May 18, all the symptoms of the plague were unleashed. The queen, who since the death of her son had entered a serious depressive state, never received a word of comfort from her husband, who, from Modica, was waiting the outcome.
On Wednesday May 25, at two in the morning, ended the disastrous life of a queen who never knew how to escape the kidnapping of the Sicilian barons and the kings of Aragon harassment to her. On June 14 his father-in-law still did not know anything because he writes to his son talking about the bona sanita de la reyna and exhorting him to continue trying “en haver hereu e successors qui sien a honor gloria de nostre Senyor Deu e plaer e consolacio nostra” (LO FORTE, 2003).
Her body was provisionally buried in the Capuchin church of Lentini: Chiesa di S. Andrea e dell’Immacolata (SCOLARI 2011; PISANO, 1898), and later transferred to the cathedral of Catania near the reliquary of Saint Agate (1376) of Giovanni di Bartolo (†1404). This wonderful goldsmith work came to the city when Maria had only recently become queen and still resided in castle Ursino.
Possibly, the sarcophagus with the image of the Annunciation had already been commissioned by herself at he time she got pregnant. Her husband did not have the delicacy of waiting for it to be finished before using it. Nowadays her remains are inside the sarcophagus of the king Frederic II(III), son of Pere el Gran d’Aragó in the Cappella della Madonna, along with her son and other relatives.