Content publisher

Back to opinion_FYL_04_08_2022_jaime_I_aragon

Literature and management (5). The purpose was invented by King James I of Aragon.


Published in


Jaume Aurell |

Professor of department of History, History of Art and Geography of the School of Philosophy and Letters.

King James I of Aragon, whose reign covers much of the 13th century, is well known for his conquest of Valencia and Mallorca, but also for his enormous knightly virtues. On the battlefield, he was always ahead. In the order of chivalry, few could beat him in the lordliness of his gestures and actions. Among his peers, the European kings, he was a continuous reference, not only for his military bravery but also for his prudence in government. However, what perhaps gave him a more lasting celebrity is that he was the first medieval king to write his memoirs. Today politicians often bequeath us their memoirs "for their greater glory." But in the Age average, the decision of Jaime I constituted quite an event, for its extraordinary originality. Known as El llibre dels fets ("The book of facts ") and written in beautiful Catalan, they constitute a precious jewel not only as an irreplaceable historical document, but also as a unique literary piece in its memoir-autobiographical genre. 

In addition to all these qualities, the memoirs of James I are a very revealing source of the enormous leadership capacity of King James. Today we talk a lot about the purpose of the business, as a central idea that brings together all those who are part of a corporation, unites them around a common mission statement and makes them recognized by their potential customers. Already from the introduction of the memoirs, James I proposes to his subjects to do everything for the glory of God, "having in the report the notable mercies that the Lord had granted us during our life." Times have changed, and we now seek other unifying ideals, from subject more tangible, such as "To offer inspiration and innovation to all athletes around the world" (Nike), "to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best selection available and the greatest convenience" (Amazon) or "to provide transportation, for everyone, everywhere" (Uber). But the guiding idea remains the same: corporations already have a lot to gain - especially in terms of their own members' adherence and external recognition - when they unite around a mission statement, vision and purpose.

The second great leadership quality of King James I is that he always went ahead, which generated a great adhesion among his subjects. In the heat of the campaign for Valencia, the king tells of a crossbowman who fired at him, "and the projectile went through the sole helmet we were wearing, wounding us in the head, near the forehead. More than half of the arrow was stuck in us. The blood from the wound dripped down our faces, and yet we were laughing so that the army would not faint, and so we went into our tent. Our faces immediately went numb and our eyes swelled up so much that we had to spend four or five days having our sight entirely deprived of that side where we had received the wound". However, the king's leadership mission statement was more powerful than his pain: "but as soon as the swelling had subsided, we mounted again on horseback and rode through the camp, so that all were in good spirits." The scene could be signed by Shakespeare himself in one of his timeless political dramas and is sample eloquent (and worthy of imitation by our rulers) of his leadership. 

The king also knew how to exercise his leadership when he had to energetically correct one of his subjects. In the campaign of Mallorca. The king encounters a knight, William of Mediona, who is fleeing from the battlefield. The king asked him, "How do you get out of the battle?". William replied, "Because I am wounded." But the king wanted to inquire, and asked him in more detail, so that he would tell him clearly where he was wounded. William "answered us that only in the mouth, from a stone that had been thrown at him. On hearing this, we took his horse by the reins and said to the rider: -Turn to battle, that a good knight by such a blow should not flinch, nor less abandon the fight." The king obtained his reward, and the knight prepared to return to battle. Then the prudent king appears, who makes sure that everything is in order: "We were contemplating him for a long time, but at last we lost sight of him."

King James I transmits chivalrous values that, even outside the battlefield, should be taken more into account in business action, in the political arena and in the curricula of the teaching. Having a clear purpose that unites, going (literally) ahead and exercising strength when necessary are three characteristics for which King James I will always be remembered. What wisdom the classics had, particularly the great Cicero, when they advised us to go to the past to learn lessons(magistra vitae) rather than to judge its protagonists. Those who go to the past to "render accounts" do not even realize how much they are losing. It is preferable a patient but more effective work of knowledge, contextualization, becoming position and getting the best out of those who have preceded us in history.