Aragon ( or , Spanish and , or ) is an autonomous community in Spain, coextensive with the medieval Kingdom of Aragon. Located in northeastern Spain, the Aragonese autonomous community comprises three provinces (from north to south): Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Its capital is Zaragoza (also called Saragossa in English). The current Statute of Autonomy declares Aragon a nationality of Spain.
Aragon's northern province of Huesca borders France and is positioned in the middle of the Pyrenees. Within Spain, the community is flanked by Catalonia on the east, Valencia and Castile–La Mancha to the south, and Castile and León, La Rioja, and Navarre to the west.
Covering an area of , the region's terrain ranges diversely from permanent glaciers to verdant valleys, rich pasture lands and orchards, through to the arid steppe plains of the central lowlands. Aragon is home to many rivers—most notably, the river Ebro, Spain's largest river in volume, which runs west-east across the entire region through the province of Zaragoza. It is also home to the Aneto, the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.
As of 2012, the population of Aragon was 1,349,467, with slightly more than half of it living in Zaragoza, its capital city. The economy of Aragon generates a GDP of €33,252 million which represents 5% of Spain national GDP and is currently 5th in per capita production behind Basque Country, Madrid, Navarre and Catalonia.
In addition to its three provinces, Aragon is subdivided into 33 comarcas or counties; all with a rich geopolitical and cultural history from its pre-Roman, Celtic and Roman days; and from the four centuries of Islamic period as Marca Superior of Al-Andalus or kingdom (or taifa) of Saraqustah, and as lands that once belonged to the Frankish Marca Hispanica; and counties that later formed the Kingdom of Aragon and eventually the empire or Crown of Aragon.
Formation of the kingdom
Before Aragon came into being as a self-proclaimed kingdom in 1035, the northern counties of Jaca, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza were all counties and appanages suzerain to the Kingdom of Navarre. King Sancho set out on his will the primacy of Pamplona over all appanages (domains for the personal management of his offspring) including Castile, but his younger children set off on separate paths instead, establishing their own kingdoms. Ramiro I was for the first time named king of Aragon in 1035. Later, after his brother Gonzalo's death, he was also named king of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza in 1044. The new kingdom grew quickly, conquering territories from the Moorish kingdoms to the south.
Huesca was taken in 1096 and Zaragoza in 1118. According to Aragonese law, the monarch had to swear allegiance to the Kingdom's laws before being accepted as king. Like other Pyrenean and Basque realms (and unlike Castile), the Aragonese justice and decision making system was based on Pyrenean consuetudinary law, the King was considered primus inter pares ('first among equals') within the nobility. A nobleman with the title "Justicia" acted as ombudsman and was responsible for ensuring that the King obeyed the Aragonese laws. An old saying goes, "en Aragón antes de Rey hubo Ley" ("in Aragon Law came before King"), similar to the saying in Navarre, "antes fueron Leyes que Reyes", with much the same meaning.
Absorption of the County of Barcelona
The dynastic union in 1137 between Petronila, Queen of Aragon, and Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, produced a son, Alfonso II of Aragon who inherited all their respective territories creating the Crown of Aragon which included all lands and people, titles and states previously outside of the Kingdom of Aragon. The Crown of Aragon was effectively abolished after the dynastic union with Castile (1469, see below) but the title continued to be used until 1714. The dynasty of the Kings of Aragon (called by some present-day historians "Kings of Aragon and Counts of Barcelona") ruled the present administrative region of Aragon, Catalonia, and later the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Sicily, Naples and Sardinia (see Aragonese Empire).
The monarch was known as King of Aragon and also held the titles of King of Valencia, King of Majorca (for a time), Count of Barcelona, Lord of Montpellier, and (temporarily) Duke of Athens and Neopatria. Each of these titles gave him sovereignty over the specific region, and the titles changed as territories were lost and won.
Union with Castile
Despite the dynastic union with Castile following the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon at the end of the 15th century following which most former kingdoms in Spain were progressively consolidated during the 16th and 17th centuries, Aragon lasted as a separate kingdom with its own laws and institutions until 1707 when Philip V, the first Bourbon king of Spain, invaded Aragon with his army and forced the signature of the Nueva Planta decrees, making Spain into a more centralized state and forcing the use of Castilian language.
Under the Bourbon dynasty
During the War of the Spanish Succession the advancing army of German, British and Dutch troops defeated the Spanish Army in the battle of Saragossa in 1710. As a result of the battle Philip V was forced to abandon Madrid, retreating to Valladolid.
During the Peninsular War, the Aragonese capital was the site of two fierce sieges. During the siege in 1808, the Spanish under General Palafox defeated a superior French force. In 1809, during a particularly bloody siege, the Spaniards were overwhelmed by superior enemy forces. Almost 30,000 of the garrison and citizens of Zaragoza (from a total of 32,000) perished rather than surrender the city. Two weeks after they breached the walls, the French were still forced to fight for each house, square, church and convent.
During the Spanish Civil War, Aragon saw the establishment of various anarchist communes. The particularly harsh winter of 1937 to 1938 saw the Battle of Teruel, one of the most bloody of the war, which ended in a Nationalist victory.