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5 - One Monarch’s Ban on Illegal Artillery and Castle Use in the Medieval Crown of Aragon and a Slowly Changing Royal Prerogative

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2024

Kelly DeVries
Affiliation:
United States Military Academy
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Summary

This article examines how Jaime (James) I of Aragon (1214–76) sought to assert the crown's theoretical monopoly of violence by trying to ban the unauthorized use of castles and of siege artillery by the nobility. James had some success, not least because artillery was expensive and demanded rare skills somewhat beyond the pockets of most nobles. It was, however, much more difficult to prevent nobles using castles for their own purposes, especially as in many cases these had been granted to them by the crown. In fact, the crown of Aragon, like other medieval monarchies, needed to establish consensus about the bearing of arms and the waging of war, and this proved very difficult, with many aristocrats resisting royal limitations to the extent of waging minor civil wars against James. Towards the end of his reign the Unión of barons was able to pass statutes curbing royal power and by the mid-fourteenth century they took advantage of the wars with Castile to further the cause of their own autonomy. Military and political reality trumped royal doctrine and law.

War and the Modern World

At 5:30 on the morning of 16 July 1945 at Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert, the first atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, was exploded as a test for the first such aerial explosion to be utilized on the Empire of Japan. On witnessing the first massive atomic explosion, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the leader of the team of scientists that produced the bomb, immediately discerned its terrible potential. He realized that neither he nor the modern world could avoid the horrific ramifications of a world in which modern science was clearly the handmaiden of war. Like Krishna in the Hindu sacred epic, Bhavagad Gita, he could not escape the sad fact that: “I am become death/ the destroyer of worlds.”

In the final analysis, the Alamogordo blast provided humankind with a weapon of such destructive dimensions that it could potentially render much of the Earth's environment too toxic for human life. When the advancement of military technology gave men the very real possibility of killing off their fellows in unprecedented numbers, international law was called upon to formulate new ethical standards for human battlefields, in response to a movement toward ever-more complex implements of warfare that seemed to steadily lessen human control over war-making.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

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