The Kingdom of Navarre (Reino de Navarra, Nafarroako Erresuma, Royaume de Navarre), originally the Kingdom of Pamplona, was a European kingdom which occupied lands on either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean.
The southern part of the kingdom was absorbed by the Kingdom of Castile in 1513, and thus became part of the unified Kingdom of Spain. The northern part of the kingdom remained independent, but it was joined with France in a personal union in 1589 when King Henry III of Navarre inherited the French throne as Henry IV of France, and in 1620 it was merged into the Kingdom of France.
The kingdom of Pamplona and then Navarre formed part of the traditional territory of the Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe who occupied the southern slope of the western Pyrenees and part of the shore of the Bay of Biscay.The area was completely conquered by the Romans by 74 BC. It was first part of the Roman province of Citerior, then of the Tarraconensis province and after that of the conventus Caesaraugustanus. Rome left a clear mark in the area in urbanization, language, infrastructure, commerce, and industry.
After the decline of the Western Roman Empire neither the Visigoths nor the Arabs ever succeeded in permanently occupying the Western Pyrenees. The western Pyrenees passages were the only ones allowing good transit through the mountains, other than those on the Southern Pyrenees. That made the region strategically important early in its history.
The Franks under Charlemagne extended their influence and control towards the south, occupying several regions of the north and east of the Iberian Peninsula. It's not clear how solid was the Frankish control over Pamplona. In August 15 778, after the retreating Charlemagne had demolished the walls of Pamplona, the Basque tribes annihilated his rearguard, led by Roland, in a confrontation at a mountain passage known to history as the Battle of Roncevaux Pass.
In 806 and 812 Pamplona fell again into the Franks' hands. When, however, the Frankish emperors, on account of difficulties at home, were no longer able to give their attention to the outlying borderlands of their empire, the country, little by little, entirely withdrew from their allegiance, and about this time began the formation of a Vasconic dynasty which soon became very powerful. In 824 the Basque chieftain Íñigo Arista was chosen king of Pamplona, which was expanded under his successors and became known as the kingdom of Navarre.
In 905, the dynasty founded by Íñigo Arista was overtrown through the machinations of neighboring princes, and Sancho I Garcés (905–25), nephew of the Count of Ribagorza, was placed in the throne. He fought against the Moors with repeated success and joined Ultra-Puertos, or Basse-Navarre, to his own dominions, also extending its territory as far as Nájera. As a thanksgiving for his victories, he founded, in 924, the convent of Albelda. Before his death, all Moors had been driven from the country. His son and eventual successor, Garcia Sanchez I (931–70), who had the support of his energetic and diplomatic mother Toda (Teuda) Aznárez of the line of Arista, likewise engaged in a number of conflicts with the Moors. At this time, the county of Aragon, previously only nominally a vassal state, came under the direct control of the kings of Pamplona.
In the year 905 a Leonese chronicle mentions the extension of the Kingdom of Pamplona for the first time, being clear that it extended then to Nájera and Arba (arguably Araba), what for some implies that it included the Western Basque Country as well:
In era DCCCCXLIIII surrexit in Panpilona rex nomine Sancio Garseanis. Fidei Xpi inseparabiliterque uenerantissimus fuit, pius in omnibus fidefibus misericorsque oppressis catholicis. Quid multa? In omnibus operibus obtimus perstitit. Belligerator aduersus gentes Ysmaelitarum multipficiter strages gessit super Sarrazenos. Idem cepit per Cantabriam a Nagerense urbe usque ad Tutelam omnia castra. Terram quidem Degensem cum opidis cunctam possideuit. Arbam namque Panpilonensem suo iuri subdidit, necnon cum castris omne territorium Aragonense capit. Dehinc expulsis omnibus biotenatis XX' regni sue anno migrauit a seculo. Sepultus sancti Stefani portico regnat cum Xpo in polo (Obiit Sancio Garseanis era DCCCCLXIIII (A marg.)).
In the Era 944 [AD 905] arose in Pamplona a king named Sancio Garseanis. He was a man of unbreakable devotion to the faith of Christ, pious with all the faithful and merciful with oppressed Catholics. What more? In all his actions he performed as a great warrior against the people of the Ismailites; he inflicted multiple disasters on the Saracens. This same captured all the fortified places in the Cantabria, from the city of Nájera to Tudela. Indeed he possessed all the land of Degium [Monjardín, near Lizarra] with its towns. The "Arba" of Pamplona he submitted to his law, and conquered as well all the country of Aragon [then Jaca and nearby lands] with its fortresses. Later, after suppressing all infidels, the twentieth year of his reign he left this world. Buried in the portal of Saint Stephen [Monjardín], he reigns with Christ in Heaven (King Sancho Garcés died in the era 964  (marginal note)).
Under Sancho and his immediate successors, Pamplona reached the height of its power and extent. Sancho III the Great (reigned 1000–35) married the heiress of the county of Castile. The realm reached its zenith under him: he ruled over Pamplona, Castile and Aragon, exerting protectorate also over Leon and Gascony, and conquered Ribagorza and Sobrarbe. Under the sway of Sancho el Mayor, the country attained the greatest prosperity in its history. He seized the country of the Pisuerga and the Cea, which belonged to the Kingdom of Leon, subjected Castile to vassalage, and marched armies to the heart of Leon, ruling the north of Iberia from the boundaries of Galicia to those of the count of Barcelona.
At its greatest extent the Kingdom of Navarre included all the modern Spanish province; the northern slope of the western Pyrenees called by the Spaniards the ultra puertos ("country beyond the mountain passes") or French Navarre; the Basque provinces of Spain and France; the Bureba, the valley between the Basque mountains and the Montes de Oca to the north of Burgos; the Rioja and Tarazona in the upper valley of the Ebro. On his death, Sancho divided his possessions among his four sons. Sancho the Great's realm was never again united (until Ferdinand the Catholic): Castile was permanently joined to Leon, whereas Aragon enlarged its territory, joining Catalonia through a marriage.
Of Sancho's sons, Garcia of Najera inherited the Kingdom of Pamplona, from the proximity of Burgos and Santander to the border with Aragon; Castile and the lands between the Pisuerga and the Cea went to the eldest, Fernando; to Gonzalo were given Sobrarbe and Ribagorza; Lands in Aragon were allotted to the bastard son Ramiro. The realm was divided thus once more, into Navarre, Aragón, and Castile.
Younger son Ferdinand I was given Castile as count, but after acquiring the Kingdom of Leon, he used the title of King of Castile as well, and he enlarged his realm by various means (see Kingdom of Castile).
García, the eldest legitimate son, was to be feudal overlord of his brothers, but he was soon challenged by his brothers, leading to the first partition of the kingdom after his death in the Battle of Atapuerca, in 1054.
García Sánchez III (1035–54) soon found himself struggling against his brothers, specially ambitious Ferdinand of Castile. He died fighting against him in Atapuerca, near Burgos, then the border of Pamplona.
The royal title was transferred to the Aragonese line but Castile swiftly annexed two thirds of the realm from the historical border of the Atapuerca-Santander line to a vague partition-line at the Ega valley, near Estella.
It is in this period of Aragonese domination that the name of Navarre first appears historically, referring initially to a county that comprised only the central part of modern Navarre.
The three Aragonese rulers, Sancho Ramirez (1076–94) and his son Pedro Sanchez (1094–1104) conquered Huesca; Alfonso "the Fighter", 1104–34, brother of Pedro Sanchez, secured for the country its greatest territorial expansion. He wrested Tudela from the Moors (1114), re-conquered the entire country of Bureba, which Navarre had lost in 1042, and advanced into the current Province of Burgos; in addition, Roja, Najera, Logroño, Calahorra, and Alfaro were subject to him. He also annexed Labourd, with its strategic port of Bayonne, but lost its coastal half to the English soon after. The remainder was since then part of Navarre and eventually came to be known as Lower Navarre.
García Ramírez, known as the Restorer, is the first King of Navarre to use such a title. He was Lord of Monzón, a grandson of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid, and a descendant by illegitimate line of Garcia V of Navarre, a son of Sancho the Great. He and his son Sancho the Wise fought bitterly against Castile (and sometimes also against Aragon) for the recovery of the historic Pamplonese territory.
In 1177, the dispute was submitted to arbitration by the English King Henry II. The Navarrese based their claims on the proven will of the locals and history, the Castilians on their merits as crusaders. The English decision was Solomonic, giving to each side what they actually controlled militarily at the time: to Navarre: Alava, Biscay and Guipuscoa. To Castile: La Rioja and the other western lands.
Although the arbitration decision was ignored for two years, in 1179 the contending kings finally agreed to a peace on the same terms.
Sancho Garcia, known as Sancho VI "the Wise" (1150–94), a patron of learning, as well as an accomplished statesman, fortified Navarre within and without, granted charters (fueros) to a number of towns, and was never defeated in battle.
The rich dowry of Berengaria, the daughter of Sancho VI the Wise and Blanche of Castile, made her a desirable catch for Richard I of England. His aged mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, crossed the Pyrenean passes to escort Berengaria to Sicily, eventually to wed Richard in Cyprus, May 12, 1191. She is the only Queen of England who never set foot in England.
The reign of Sancho the Wise's successor, the last king of the male line of Sancho the Great and of kings of Pamplona, king Sancho VII the Strong (Sancho el Fuerte) (1194–1234), was more troubled. He appropriated the revenues of churches and convents, granting them instead important privileges; in 1198 he presented to the See of Pamplona his palaces and possessions in that city, this gift being confirmed by Pope Innocent III on 29 January, 1199.
However, in 1199 Alfonso VIII of Castile, determined to own coastal Navarre, a strategic region that would allow Castile much easier access to European wool markets and would isolate Navarre as well, launched a massive expedition, while Sancho the Strong was on an international diplomatic voyage to Tlemcen (modern Algeria).
The cities of Vitoria and Treviño resisted the Castilian assault but the Bishop of Pamplona was sent to inform them that no reinforcements would arrive. Vitoria then surrendered but Treviño did not, having to be conquered by force of arms.
By 1200 the conquest of Western Navarre was complete. Castile granted to the fragments of this territory (exceptions: Treviño, Oñati, directly ruled from Castile) the right of self-rule, based on their traditional customs (Navarrese right), that came to be known as fueros. Alava was made a county, Biscay lordship and Guipuscoa just provinces.
The greatest glory of Sancho el Fuerte was the part he took in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212), where, through his valour, the victory of the allied Christians over the Calif En-Nasir was made decisive. He retired and died in el Encerrado. His elder sister Berengaria, Queen of England, had died some years earlier childless. His deceased younger sister Blanca, countess of Champagne, had left a son, Theobald IV of Champagne.
Thus the Kingdom of Navarre, though the crown yet was claimed by the kings of Aragon, passed by marriage to the House of Champagne, firstly to the heirs of Blanca, who simultaneously were counts of Champagne and Brie, with the support of the Navarrese Parliament (Cortes).
Thibault, as Teobaldo I, from 1234 to 1253, made of his Court a centre where the poetry of the Troubadours that had developed at the court of the counts of Champagne was welcomed and fostered; his reign was peaceful. His son, Theobald II of Navarre (1253–70), married Isabel, the second daughter of Louis IX of France and accompanied his saintly father-in-law upon his crusade to Tunis. On the homeward journey, he died at Trapani in Sicily, and was succeeded by his brother, Henry I of Navarre, who had already assumed the reins of government during his absence, but reigned only three years (1271–74). His daughter Joanna I of Navarre not yet being of age, the country was once more invaded from all sides, and the queen mother, Blanca, with her daughter sought refuge at the court of Philip the Bold of France, whose son, Philip the Fair, had become engaged to the daughter and married Joanna in 1284. In 1276, at the time of the negotiations for this marriage, Navarre effectively passed into French control.
In 1305, Navarre passed to the guardianship of King Philip IV of France. It stayed with the French crown until the death of Charles IV of France at 1328. As Charles died without male issue, when Philip of Valois became king of France, the Navarrese declared themselves independent and called to the throne Joanna II, daughter of Louis Hutin and senior niece of Charles, and her husband Philip of Evreux (reigned 1328–43), called Philip the Wise. Joanna waived all claim to the throne of France and accepted as compensation for the counties of Champagne and Brie those of Angoulême, Longueville, and Mortain.
King-consort Philip III devoted himself to the improvement of the laws of the country, and joined King Alfonso XI of Castile in battle against the Moors of 1343. After the death of his mother (1349), Charles II of Navarre assumed the reins of government (1349–87). He played an important part in the Hundred Years' War and in the French civil unrest of the time, and on account of his deceit and cruelty he received the surname of the Wicked. He gained and lost possessions in Normandy and, later in his reign, the Navarrese Company acquired island possessions in Greece.
His eldest son, on the other hand, Charles III of Navarre, surnamed the Noble, gave the land once more a peaceful and happy government (1387-1425), exerted his strength to the utmost to lift the country from its degenerate condition, reformed the government, built canals, and made navigable the tributaries of the Ebro flowing through Navarre. As he outlived his legitimate sons, he was succeeded by his daughter Blanca (1425–42) and her husband John of Penafiel (1397–1479), son of king Ferdinand I of Aragon.
Her right was inherited by her sister Eleanor I of Navarre (Leonor), Countess of Foix and Béarn, who had been an ally of her father. After her death, which occurred very soon after that of John II, the claim to the throne of Navarre passed to her grandson, Francis Phoebus of Foix (who reigned over Navarre 1479–83). His sister Catherine I of Navarre, who, as a minor, remained under the guardianship of her mother, Madeleine of France, was sought by Ferdinand the Catholic as a bride for his eldest son; but she gave her hand in 1494 to the Jean d'Albret, count of Perigord, a man of vast possessions in the south of France, brother-in-law of Cesare Borgia.
Nevertheless, Ferdinand of Aragon did not relinquish his long-cherished designs on Navarre, and married secondly Germana (Germaine of Foix), the daughter of Catherine's uncle who had attempted to claim Navarre over his deceased elder brother's under-age children.
When Navarre refused to join one of many Holy Leagues against France and declared itself neutral, Ferdinand asked the Pope to excommunicate Albret, which would have legitimised his attack. When the Pope refused, Ferdinand fabricated a false bull and sent his general Don Fabrique de Toledo to invade Navarre in 1512.
Unable to face the powerful Castilian-Aragonese army, Jean d'Albret fled to Pau, and Pamplona, Estella, Olite, Sanguesa, and Tudela were captured. Some months later the legitimate King returned with an army recruited north of the Pyrenees and attacked Pamplona without success.
After this failure, the Navarrese Cortes (Parliament) had to accept annexation to Castile, which agreed to keep Navarrese autonomy and identity. In 1513, the first Castilian viceroy took an oath to respect Navarrese law (fueros).
Nevertheless, the Castilian occupation forces carried out a severe repression that forced many Navarrese into exile or even death. Most unfortunate were the formerly buoyant Jewish community of Navarre and also the Moriscos (Muslims) of Tudela, who became the main victims of the Spanish Inquisition.
There were two more attempts at liberation in 1516 and 1521, both supported by popular rebellion, especially the second one. It was in 1521 that the Navarrese came closest to regaining their independence. As the liberation army commanded by General Asparros approached Pamplona, the citizens revolted and besieged the military governor, Iñigo de Loyola, in his newly built castle. Tudela and other cities also declared their loyalty to the House of Albret. The Navarrese-Bearnese army did manage to liberate all the Kingdom, and Castile was at first distracted due to only recently overcoming the Revolt of the Comuneros. But Asparros, overconfident, let the infantry get out of control and besieged Logroño, where he was finally defeated in the Battle of Noain on June 30, 1521, by a much superior army.
Nevertheless, in 1522, two hundred Navarrese revolted at Amaiur castle, Baztan, where a monolith now commemorates their heroism. That same year, an army of one thousand Navarrese took Hondarribia for some days.
Navarre was a thalassocracy in its later existence and was involved in whaling, fishing, and beaver trapping in and around Newfoundland. Basque coastal exploration of the northern Atlantic coast of North America was extensive and outposts were present on the Newfoundland coast around or before the time of the New World arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. They continued to operate there as agents of the Spanish and French after losing their independence until France's 1762 loss of Newfoundland to the British in the French and Indian War.
A small portion of Navarre north of the Pyrenees, Lower Navarre, along with the neighbouring Principality of Béarn survived as an independent kingdom which passed by inheritance. Navarre received from Henry II of Navarre, the son of Jean d'Albret, a representative assembly, the clergy being represented by the bishops of Bayonne and Dax, their vicars-general, the parish priest of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and the priors of Saint-Palais, d'Utziat and Haramples. The area north of the Pyrenees (Lower Navarre) remained an independent kingdom with large additional French estates until 1620.
Queen Jeanne III converted to Calvinism in 1556 and, consequently, promoted a translation of the Bible into Basque language, which is one of the first books published in this language. She and specially her son, Henry III of Navarre, led the Huguenot party in the French Wars of Religion. In 1589, Henry became the sole rightful claimant to the crown of France, though he was not recognized as such by many of his subjects until his conversion to Catholicism four years later.
The last independent king of Navarre, Henry III (reigned 1572–1610), succeeded to the throne of France as Henry IV in 1589, founding the Bourbon dynasty. In 1620, Lower Navarre and Béarn were incorporated into France proper by Henry's son, Louis XIII of France. The title of King of Navarre continued to be used by the Kings of France until the French Revolution in 1791, and was revived again during the Restoration, 1814–30.
As the Kingdom of Navarre was originally organized, it was divided into merindades, districts governed by a merino ("mayorino"), the representative of the king. They were the "Ultrapuertos" (French Navarre), Pamplona, Estella, Tudela and Sangüesa. In 1407 the merindad of Olite was added. The Cortes of Navarre began as the king's council of churchmen and nobles, but in the course of the 14th century the burgesses were added. Their presence was due to the fact that the king had need of their co-operation to raise money by grants and aids, a development that was being paralleled in England. The Cortes henceforth consisted of the churchmen, the nobles and the representatives of twenty-seven (later thirty-eight) "good towns" — towns which were free of a feudal lord, and, therefore, held directly of the king. The independence of the burgesses was better secured in Navarre than in other parliaments of Spain by the constitutional rule which required the consent of a majority of each order to every act of the Cortes. Thus the burgesses could not be outvoted by the nobles and the Church, as they could be elsewhere. Even in the 18th century the Navarrese successfully resisted Bourbon attempts to establish custom houses on the French frontier, dividing French from Spanish Navarre. Yet the Navarrese were loyal to their Spanish sovereigns, and no part of the country offered a more determined or more skilful resistance to Napoleon.
Navarre was staunchly Catholic and much under clerical influence. This, and the resentment felt at the loss of their autonomy when they were incorporated into Spain in 1833, account for the strong support given by many Navarrese to the Carlist cause. Until the French Revolution the kings of France carried the additional title king of Navarre. Since the rest of Navarre was in Spanish hands, the kings of Spain also carried (until 1833) the title king of Navarre. During that period Navarre enjoyed a special status within the Spanish monarchy; it had its own cortes, taxation system, and separate customs laws. In 1833, Navarre became the chief stronghold of the Carlists but recognized Isabella II as queen in 1839. As a reward for their loyalty in the Spanish Civil War, Franco allowed the Navarrese to maintain their ancient fueros, which were charters handed down by the crown outlining a system of self-government.
The territory formerly known as Navarre now belongs to two nations, Spain and France, depending on whether it lies south or north of the Western Pyrenees. The Basque language is still spoken in most of the provinces. Today, Navarre is an autonomous community of Spain and Basse-Navarre is part of France's Pyrénées Atlantiques département. Other former Navarrese territories belong now to several autonomous communities of Spain: the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, La Rioja, Aragon and Castile and Leon.