The following is a guest post by Johannah Ball, who served as a fall 2021 remote intern transcribing and researching documents in the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign at the Law Library of Congress.
Herencia is a rich collection of Spanish government documents from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Many documents fit into definite categories, such as wills, civil disputes, and criminal cases. The Miscellaneous category defies the precise nature of government documents and allows researchers a window into the often complicated world of the Spanish bureaucracy. These documents conjure up surprise, and in this case, made me discover unexpected links to events that occurred centuries before the date range of this collection.
It was with great confusion that I found references to the heroic deeds of a Jayme Dieste in 1080 during la Batalla de Morella, a major event in the Reconquista, contained within the pages of a document from 1772. When researching this skirmish, it became even more surreal when I came to the realization that the infamous El Cid was involved in this landmark battle, being allied with the Moors at the time (Arroyo, at 1-2). The document recounts the story of the Dieste brothers: Jayme and Guillermo, who saved Sancho Ramírez, King of Aragón, from harm in la Batalla de Morella:
. . . mi hermano, y yo sacamos á la Magestad (que goza de Dios) del mayor peligro, que se vió; pues abrazados de él, lo sacamos de la bateria de los Moros, costandonos muchas heridas . . . [p. 1]
. . . my brother and I saved the Majesty (who enjoys the favor of God) from extreme peril, once it became apparent, we then grabbed him and took him out of the Moors’ battery, costing us many injuries.
Because of Jayme Dieste’s bravery in battle, he was granted royal privileges and perpetual rights to a royal palace in Ayerbe, Aragón Province, by King Pedro I de Aragón, the son of King Sancho Ramírez, in 1105. One of the most extraordinary aspects of this story is that Jayme Dieste was honored with royal privileges for his descendants indefinitely, unless the Dieste family line ceased to exist:
. . . que es de los Diestes, descendientes del Palacio de Ayerbe, que puedan gozar todos los Privilegios, y que ninguno los inquiete con los Privilegios yá dichos, y la dicha Hacienda de dicho Palacio, no pueda ser tocada, ni disminuida por deudas, ni otras cosas . . . y si por tiempo vinieren á faltar del Linage de los Diestes, quiero, que dicha Hacienda, y Palacio sea de los Frayles, y Monges de San Juan de la Peña . . . [p. 3]
. . . and the Diestes, descendants of the Palace of Ayerbe, can enjoy all the [royal] privileges, and never be unsettled from the already stated privileges, and the said farm and the said palace can never be touched or reduced by debts or other things . . . and if there comes a time when there is no Dieste lineage, I would like the said farm and palace to be of the Frays and Monks of San Juan de la Peña . . .
Ultimately, this document serves to prove the rights to royal privilege on the part of Jayme Dieste’s descendant, Joseph Dieste, a judge in Murillo de Gállego, Zaragoza Province. By 1772, the Kingdom of Aragón had dissolved into the Kingdom of Spain, with the last independent reigning monarch being the infamous Fernando II and Isabella I, whose strategic marriage united the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. It is incredible to think about how a decree of royal privileges from a then-defunct kingdom could still be honored more than 600 years later and carry the weight of nobility for the fortunate descendants of Jayme Dieste.
From an American perspective, it is fascinating to consider how royal privileges extend beyond the individual endowed with the honor. By the third generation of royal privileges in families, the ensuing generations are considered to have royal blood (Morales Moya, at 219-220). Thanks to the meticulous recordkeeping of local and provincial Spanish government officials, modern scholars can now enjoy greater insight into how royal privileges were handed down from generation to generation unceasingly for centuries.
Arroyo, S. (2012). Montaner Frutos, Alberto y Alfonso Boix Jovaní. Guerra en Šarq Al’andalus: Las batallas cidianas de Morella (1084) y Cuarte (1094) [Review of the book Las batallas cidianas de Morella (1084) y Cuarte (1094), by A.M.F. & A.B.J.] Dissidences. Hispanic Journal of Theory and Criticism, p. 1-4. https://digitalcommons.bowdoin.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=dissidences
Morales Moya, A. (1994). La hidalguía de privilegio. Studia Zamorensia, 1, pp. 219-222. https://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/articulo?codigo=297494