3 - A divided society I: the urban–demesnal world  pp. 85-155

A divided society I: the urban–demesnal world

By Clifford R. Backman

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Urban–demesnal Sicily comprised both the coastal commune–republics (universitates or urbes), several inland towns (like Polizzi, Castrogiovanni, Naro, and Piazza) that were likewise governed by elected Judices and lesser municipal officials but which lacked the more varied economic activity and demographic makeup of the perimeter cities, and the personal estates of the crown. In addition – although it was not strictly part of the demesne – Frederick's queen Eleanor held an extensive independent apanage known as the camera reginale, which she administered with her own corps of officials; located in the Val di Noto, its most important component was the city of Siracusa, but it included Francavilla, Lentini, Mineo, and Vizzini as well. This camera grew rapidly in the 1320s and 1330s and became a favorite resettlement site for immigrants from the Val di Mazara, owing to certain tax advantages it enjoyed but above all due to the relative absence of baronial influence there. Whether as part of the king's demesne or as subjects to the queen's administration, well over 50 percent of the total population of Sicily lived within sixteen kilometers (ten miles) of the coastline at the start of Frederick's reign; and the urban segment of the population increased proportionally as the overall population declined.