Martin the Humane. The Last Catalan Count
Martin the Humane was the last legitimate descendant of Wilfred the Hairy and the last of the Catalan Counts to rule Catalunya and its empire.
Through the marriages, politics and conquests of the House of Barcelona, Martin was ruler of Catalonia, Aragón, Valencia, Mallorca, Roussillon, Conflent, Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily.
Martin the Humane succeeded his elder brother and, after putting down the usual rival claims, led two crusades against the corsairs in North Africa and succeeded his son as King of Sicily, at the latter's premature death.
Martin followed in his father's and brother Juan's footsteps in trying to improve health care. Barcelona had been ravaged by the plague –some 80,000 deaths in just over ten years– and Martin founded the Barcelona Medical University in 1401.
You can see the building, the Hospital de la Santa Creu, finished after his death, on Carrer Hospital. The patio is a pleasant place for a drink and a rest.
Incidentally, his brother Juan had decreed a series of measures revolutionising medical practise including improving higiene and allowing the disection of corpses —for which you would be burned in more benighted regions.
A supporter of the Avignon line of Popes, he rescued Pope Benedict XIII from his rivals through military action. The “Papa Luna” –officially an antipope to the Catholic Church– settled at Peñiscola till his death, some years later.
Martin had married young –to María Luna of Aragon– and had four children. Unluckily, three of these died very young and the fourth, Martin the Younger, died of the plague shortly after reconquering the whole of the island of Sardinia that had been almost entirely lost to the Catalan-born Eleanor de Arborea.
This left the 53 year-old King, in poor health due to having suffered badly from malaria, without an heir. He married a second time to Margarida de Prades in the hope of preserving the line…
Hot Stuff in Valdonzella Covent
According to the Royal Archivist, Dídac Montfor-Sorts, on the night of the 29th May, 1410, the King spent the night at the Valdonzella Convent, run by Margarida’s aunt, the Abbess Constanza of Cabrera. A special dinner of roast duck heavily spiced and accompanied by a rich red wine was prepared for him and everything made ready for the Royal visit. The Archives have this to say about it. “The nuns served that dinner to the King with the idea of finding a remedy for his impotence and making him fit for procreation. But after a few mouthfuls of the duck, he complained of stomach pains… and on the second day, a Saturday, the King died.”
Didac mentions there were some signs of the plague on his body –at this time it carried off many people every day– but adds “But the surest and most common opinion was that he died of the victuals and unctions served to him by the women, without the doctors’ advice, to incite him to the act of generation.”
So we see how misplaced good intentions, without the necessary clarity to qualify them, put an end to a lineage of Catalan Counts started nearly 600 years before by Wilfred the Hairy.
Next: the Compromise of Casp
How Fernando I became ruler of Catalunya and Aragon and how the Generalitat gained power and influence…
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