King of Aragon, Mallorca, and Valencia, count of Barcelona (1214-1276), known as “the Conqueror,” principal figure of the Aragonese-Catalan Reconquista (reconquest of Spain from the Muslims).
Barely a child when his father Peter II died in the battle of Muret (1213) during the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229), James effectively acceded to the throne in the early 1220s. One of his first independent actions was a failed attack on the Muslim-held fortress of Peniscola in 1225, and campaigns against Muslim Spain were a recurring element of his reign. The conquest of the island of Mallorca was achieved with substantial support from the wealthy Catalan towns between September 1229 and July 1231; Menorca accepted Christian sovereignty in 1231, and Ibiza was conquered in 1235. The Taifa kingdom of Valencia fell to a prolonged series of campaigns that lasted from 1233 until the conquest of the capital on 9 October 1238, although it took until 1245 to subdue the entire realm. Contrary to the situation in Mallorca, the Muslims of Valencia who had capitulated were permitted to stay; they formed a considerable Mudejar population, parts of which carried out a series of ultimately futile uprisings between 1245 and 1277. A similar revolt by Mudejars of Andalusia and Murcia against Castilian lordship led James to intervene on behalf of King Alfonso X of Castile, his son-in-law. Between November 1265 and April 1266, Murcia was subdued and then returned to Alfonso X.
The champion of the Iberian reconquest also hosted a crusade to the Latin East. In 1245/1246 and in 1260, he had made tentative plans for military action in the eastern Mediterranean, but only in 1269 was a campaign undertaken. By September of that year, around 800 knights, several thousand foot soldiers and Catalan mercenaries (Cat. almogàvers), and a large fleet had been mustered. However, ill weather sabotaged the campaign: many crusaders, including the king, turned back. Out of over 30 ships, only 21 vessels carrying 424 knights reached Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel), and slightly more than half the contingent abandoned the Holy Land on hearing of the king’s misfortune. The remnant, under the leadership of James’s illegitimate son Peter Fer- randis, participated in the defense of the town against the Mamlûks for some weeks and returned home in early 1270. On his death, King James was succeeded in Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia by his son Peter III.