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Sculpture in Arco de Santa María of Burgos.

Fernán González ( –970) was the first independent count of Castile, son of Gonzalo Fernández de Burgos, who had been named count of Arlanza and the Duero around the year 900, and by tradition a descendant of semi-legendary judge Nuño Rasura. His mother Muniadona Ramírez was so well remembered that the later Counts of Castile would sometimes be recorded by Iberian Muslim scholars as Ibn Māma Duna (descendant of Muniadona).

Fernán González was a colourful character of legendary status in Iberia, and founder of the dynasty that would rule a semi-autonomous Castile, laying the foundations for its status as an independent kingdom. In the year 930, Ferdinand's name appears with the title of count inside the administrative organization of eastern the Kingdom of León.

He grew up in the castle of Lara and inherited his father's title after the capture and death of his uncle, Nuño Fernández.

In 931, Fernán gathered under his control a strong military force composed of troops from the counties of Burgos, Asturias, Santillana, Lantaron, Álava, Castile, and Lara. His military prowess came to prominence in the Battle of Simancas in 939 and then at Sepulveda, where he wrested the region from the Moors and repopulated it. As his power increased, so did his independence from León. During this period he married Sancha, the sister of the king of Navarre, García Sánchez I. Sancha was a daughter of Sancho I of Pamplona, and Toda of Navarre.

After having fought with Ramiro II of León against the Arabs, and after the Battle of Simancas and the retreat of the Muslims, Fernán was dissatisfied because the king of León distributed his troops in the frontier towns and he rose in rebellion against him. He was, however, defeated and made prisoner in 944, which lasted for 3 years until he became reconciled with his sovereign, giving his daughter Urraca in marriage to the king's son, Ordoño, who afterwards became King Ordoño III.

Sepulchre in Covarrubias, Spain, the lid is from the nineteenth century and the casket from the fifth.
Statue in Madrid (J. Villanueva, 1750-53).

Notwithstanding this alliance, Fernán continued to foment trouble and discord in León. He later aided Sancho I against his brother Ordoño III, and then Ordoño IV, son of Alfonso IV, against Sancho.

Upon the death of Ramiro II of Leon in 951, the kingdom of León experienced a dynastic crisis that Fernán played out to his advantage.

Initially Fernán supported the demands of Sancho I against his brother Ordoño III, but when Sancho failed, Fernán was forced to recognize Ordoño as king. Ordoño III's early death allowed Fernán to recover his maneuvering capacity, although he abandoned his old ally Sancho, instead supporting his rival Ordoño IV. Defeated in 960 through Navarrese intervention, he was captured by King García of Navarre, but he recovered his freedom after making various territorial concessions. With the kingdom of León weakened and in disorder, Fernán slowly solidified his position as legitimate independent count of Castile.

After his death the county was left to his son García Fernández. His remains were buried in the monastery of San Pedro of Arlanza.

His life and feats are recorded in an anonymous poem, The Poem of Fernán González, written between 1250 and 1271 and conserved as an incomplete copy from the fifteenth century.

By Sancha of Navarre, he had the following children:

  • Gonzalo, who married Fronilde Gómez, suggested to have been granddaughter of count Diego Rodríguez Porcelos
  • Sancho, named in a charter of his paternal grandmother
  • Munio
  • García, his eventual successor
  • Urraca, twice queen of León and then of Navarre
  • Muniadona, wife of Gómez Díaz, count of Saldaña, of the powerful Beni Gómez clan
Preceded by
Ferdinand Ansúrez
count of Castile
Succeeded by
García Fernández

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