Peter IV

Peter IV (Peter the Ceremonious, or the Cruel) (b. 1319, Balaguer, Catalonia, d. 1387, Barcelona), king of Aragon from January 1336, son of Alfonso IV.

Peter was the most cultivated of Spanish 14th-century kings but was also an inveterate political intriguer whose ability to dissemble was notorious. Through his voluminous correspondence, the workings of his mind are far better known than those of any contemporary Spanish ruler. Having picked a quarrel with James III of Majorca, he reincorporated the possessions of the Majorcan crown, namely the Balearic Islands and Roussillon, by force into his own dominions (1343-44). He next crushed the long-standing pretensions of the Aragonese nobles by defeating the armies of the Unión Aragonesa at Epila (1348), thereafter displaying the extreme vindictiveness that he always showed when his authority was challenged. Peter had to contend with revolt in Sardinia throughout his reign; but he succeeded, by political and military means, in preparing the future reunion of Sicily to the Aragonese crown and was recognized by the Catalan Almogávares as duke of Athens and Neopatras in 1380.

The chief event of his reign, however, was the intermittent war (1356-66) against King Peter of Castile. Urged on by France and by his own ambitions, Peter IV underwrote Henry of Trastámara's claims to the Castilian throne in exchange for a promised cession of one-sixth of Castile. The war was disastrous to Aragon, which was saved only by the intervention of the mercenary companies brought from France by Bertrand du Guesclin. Although the mercenaries succeeded in briefly installing Henry of Trastámara on the Castilian throne, Henry failed to honour any of his promises to Peter, and after 1369 Charles V of France took no trouble to conceal that he preferred his alliance with Castile to that with Aragon. As a result, Peter now pursued a complicatedly neutral approach to the Hundred Years' War, with some bias in favour of the English. His last years were clouded by a quarrel with his heir, the future John I, who let himself become the tool of French intrigues against Aragonese neutrality.