In the spring of 1188, Alfonso IX, King of Leon, called a “Curia Regia” (or Royal Court in Latin) within the framework of the legendary Church of Leon, – today known as the Basilica Collegiate – of Saint Isidoro. Representatives of the clergy and the nobility attended this assembly, and, for the first time in history, the representatives of the cities as well; that is, the “ciues electti” (the plain state) or, in other words, the common people, a fact confirmed by the so-called Leonese Magna Carta text, which reads as follows: “In the name of God. I, Don Alfonso, King of Leon and Galicia, having held curia in Leon, with the archbishop [of Santiago de Compostela, Pedro Suarez] and the bishops and magnates of my kingdom and with the elected citizens of each of the cities, I have established and confirmed under oath to all those within my kingdom, both clerics and laity, that I would respect the good customs that have been established by my predecessors”. In the spring of 1188, Alfonso IX, King of Leon, called a “Curia Regia” (or Royal Court in Latin) within the framework of the legendary Church of Leon, – today known as the Basilica Collegiate – of Saint Isidoro. Representatives of the clergy and the nobility attended this assembly, and, for the first time in history, the representatives of the cities as well; that is, the “ciues electti” (the plain state) or, in other words, the common people, a fact confirmed by the so-called Leonese Magna Carta text, which reads as follows: “In the name of God. I, Don Alfonso, King of Leon and Galicia, having held curia in Leon, with the archbishop [of Santiago de Compostela, Pedro Suarez] and the bishops and magnates of my kingdom and with the elected citizens of each of the cities, I have established and confirmed under oath to all those within my kingdom, both clerics and laity, that I would respect the good customs that have been established by my predecessors”.

León Cuna del Parlamentarismo
Panteón de los Reyes Leoneses

The Royal Curia of 1188 is considered “the closest institutional precedent of the Courts”. There, the “Decreta” was born, a set of laws where the protection of a person and assets against the abuse of power shines with its own light. The rights, precepts, guarantees and freedoms that foment its contents, require of a scrupulous compliance with the law on all social levels, from the monarch himself to the last and most humble citizen. This was true to such point that the aforementioned legislative text contains the promise by Alfonso IX not to make “war or peace or pact except if guided by the advice of bishops, nobles and good men, by whose advice I must abide”.

Since 1988, a monolith placed in the convent cloister of the aforementioned Basilica Collegiate of the “Doctor de las Españas”, testifies to the act of parliamentarism accredited by the Decree of Leon of 1188, and determines a form of government that, as the aforementioned Magna Carta concludes verbatim, “as promised by all the bishops, and sworn by oath by all the knights and citizens, to be faithful in my council, in order to maintain justice and preserve peace in my kingdom.”

For those who seek an explanatory basis to the origins of this Curia Regia, we must concisely point out that the social instability, the continuous confrontations with Castilians, Almohads (or Muslims) and Portuguese, the numerous economic difficulties, the loyalties concerned, as well as the desires of his stepmother, Urraca Lopez de Haro, in favor of his son, Prince Sancho Fernandez, and all in all, the anguishing and overwhelming inheritance received by Alfonso IX, who was only 16 years old when he rose to the throne, were decisive in convincing the monarch of the need to invoke the Curia Regia Leonese of 1188, “concilium regis” that happily redressed the prevailing situation and propitiated the entry of the bourgeoisie into the aforementioned Curia, that has been since then, one of the representative sectors of the kingdom, and whose presence, given its prominent role and its growing consolidation in economic activity, besides being manifestly determinant, made possible the appearance of two new legal figures: the prosecutors and the investigators.

caliz

Certainly, the kingdom of Leon is the European precursor in this class of assemblies. In Germany, the bourgeoisie made such an appearance in 1232. In England, the popular establishment reached representation in Parliament for the first time in 1265, and in France, 114 years later, in 1302.

On June 18 of this year, UNESCO awarded the Courts of Alfonso IX of 1188 the title of “Memory of the World”, an official and well-deserved recognition that is summarized in this very honorable title: “Leon, Cradle of Parliamentarism.”

In conclusion, the Leon curial provisions of 1188, given their unique legislative resonances, while ensuring new standards of coexistence and understanding, provided a solid basis for the consolidation of the Rule of Law.