War financing in the late-Medieval Crown of Aragon
Kagay, Donald J. (Albany State University)
The Journal of Medieval Military History, Volume 6 (2008)
Introduction: Medieval soldiers would agree wholeheartedly with the political maxim which had grown hackneyed by the time of the Renaissance in its assertion that “money constitutes the sinews of war.” Medieval sovereigns often came to the painful conclusion that warfare required only three things: “money, more money, and yet more money;” they would also agree that of all the costs a ruler might run up war was “the…arch-point of [state] expenses” and that its predictable end was the inexorable “increase in taxes.” To explore in very specific terms how these realities were managed by and simultaneously affected medieval sovereigns, this paper will focus on the family of realms of eastern Spain known as the Crown of Aragon during one of the longest and most expensive conflicts of its history known by later historians as the War of the Two Pedros.
As early as the twelfth century, the fiscal exigencies of war acted as a powerful catalyst for the development of treasuries across Europe. In the Low Countries, England, and France, body servants to the sovereign inexorably took on a wider public role as collectors of war taxes and finally as members of an emerging treasury. As conflicts became more extended and costly in the late-thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, treasury officials in both England and France grew expert in squeezing taxes and subsidies from increasingly restive populations–all in the name of the “evident necessity” and “common good” of the realm. After several decades of growing royal insolvency and desperate bureaucratic efforts to address it, all sources of war funding began to dry up in a firestorm of opposition from many different groups, caused by lengthening episodes of warfare. Far from totally rejecting the expensive martial policies of their sovereigns, the English Parliament and French Estates General, distrusting royal officialdom, began to assert their rights to control the fiscal course of such conflicts.