Pau Claris 94th president of the Generalitat
The Generalitat is the popular name for the "Deputació del General de Catalunya" which literally translates as the General Council of Catalonia. It is a political body that has been in existence since the Late Middle Ages and was essentially a governing structure under the Catalan Corts, or parliament. This parliamentary assembly representing the entire country had emerged from an agreement between the main political actors of the time. The arrangement is considered to be not only the first, but also one of the most democratic and pluralistic institutions in Europe.
As an institution, during the reign of King Jaume I the Conqueror, the Generalitat gradually emerged from a committee of the Catalan parliament, or Corts, to a fully consolidated and permanent Parliament during the reign of King Jaume I, or James I the Conqueror, in the 13th century. For over four hundred years the Corts, represented the entire Catalan nation through the three branches of government establish during the Middle and Modern ages: the ecclesiastical, the noble and the royal societies. Agreements on taxation, laws and royal prerogative would be decided upon in each parliamentary session, or Cort, convened by the King.
Additionally, the Generalitat was the permanent body administering these accords and would later go on to issue its own sovereign debt and have its own armed forces. It would not have to depend directly on the Crown and would guarantee the preservation as well as the protection of Catalan laws and interests.
The origins of the Generalitat are considered to date back to 1359, when King Peter the Ceremonious convened a parliamentary session in Cervera, known as the Cort de Cervera, in Western Catalonia to raise funds in the case an invasion by King Peter the Cruel of Spain were to take place. The gravity of the situation prompted a further consolidation of the Generalitat, which led to its establishment as permanent institution. From that year on, the ruling body would be composed of group of representatives who would govern on a collegial basis. However, due to the previously established tradition, only the representatives of the Ecclesiastical branch could be considered as the legitimate heads of government, henceforth the list of presidents of the Generalitat begins with Berenguer de Cruïlles, Bishop of Girona.
The Generalitat existed as fully consolidated institution from 1359 until King Philip V of Spain abolished it in 1714, after Catalonia's military was defeated in the War of the Spanish Succession which ended with the siege of Barcelona on September 11th. As a result, Castilian law was imposed on the territories of the Kingdom of Catalonia and Aragon through an absolutist monarchical form of government.
In 1931, an agreement was made with the Spanish State to have a new form of self-government, under the name of Generalitat of Catalonia, acknowledging the historical and political significance of the ancient institution. It remained in exile, however, following the Spanish Civil War and was not fully recognised until 1977, after the restoration of democracy in Spain.
[*] The names of representatives who were chosen more than once appear in cursive lettering and have been counted only once among the 129 presidents of the Generalitat.