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Urraca
Queen Urraca presides over Court,
Santiago Cathedral
Empress of Spain, Queen Regnant of León, Castile, and Galicia
Reign 1109-1126
Coronation 1108
Predecessor Alfonso VI
Successor Alfonso VII
Spouse Raymond of Burgundy
Issue
Alfonso VII
Infanta Sancha
Fernando Pérez Furtado
House House of Jiménez
Father Alfonso VI
Mother Constance of Burgundy
Born April, 1079
Burgos
Died 3 August 1126 (aged 47)

Urraca of León and Castile (b. April 1079 – March 8, 1126) was Queen Regnant of León, Castile, and Galicia, and claimed the imperial title as suo jure Empress of All the Spains[1] from 1109 until her death in childbirth. Urraca was the eldest surviving child of Alfonso VI of León with his second wife Constance of Burgundy, and was heiress presumptive from her birth until 1107, when her father recognized his illegitimate son Sancho as his heir. Urraca became heiress presumptive again after Sancho’s death the following year in 1108 when he was killed at the Battle of Uclés (1108).

Urraca’s placement in the line of succession made her the focus of dynastic politics, and Urraca was made a child bride at age eight to Raymond of Burgundy, a mercenary adventurer and grand-nephew of Urraca’s mother.[2][3][4] Urraca's marriage to the Burgundian was part of Alfonso VI's diplomatic strategy to attract cross-Pyrenees alliances. However, after Raymond died in 1107, Urraca’s father contracted with Alfonso I of Aragon, known as the Batallador, for a dynastic marriage between him and Urraca, opening the opportunity for uniting León-Castile with Aragón. Marriage negotiations where still underway when Alfonso VI died and Urraca became queen.[5] Urraca protested against the marriage though honored her late father’s wishes (and the Royal Council's earnest advice) and continued with the marriage negotiations, though she and her father’s closest advisers were growing weary of Aragón’s demands.[6]

Urraca married Alfonso I of Aragon but almost immediately their marriage sparked oppositional rebellions in Galicia, scheming by her illegitimate half-sister Theresa and her husband Henry, Count of Portugal, and rumblings elsewhere.[7] As their relationship soured, Urraca accused Alfonso of physical abuse and by May 1110 Urraca separated from Alfonso.[8] Estrangement between husband and wife escalated from discrete and simmering hostilities into open armed warfare between the Leonese-Castilians and Aragonese, however by the fall of 1112 a truce was brokered between Urraca and Alfonso I of Aragon with their marriage annulled. Though Urraca recovered Asturias, Leon, and Galicia, Alfonso VI occupied a significant portion of Castile (where Urraca enjoyed large support), while her half-sister Theresa and her husband Count Henry of Portugal occupied Zamora and Extremadura. Recovering these regions and expanding into Muslim lands would occupy much of Urraca's foreign policy.

According to author Bernard F. Reilly, the measure of success for Urraca’s rule was her ability to restore and protect the integrity of her inheritance, that is the kingdom of her father, and transmit that inheritance in full to her own heir. Policies and events pursued by Alfonso VI contributed in large part to the challenges Urraca faced upon her succession, namely legitimizing her brother and thereby providing an opportunity for her illegitimate half sister to claim a portion of the patrimony, and also the forced marriage with Alfonso I of Aragon. Additionally, the circumstance of Urraca’s gender added a distinctive role-reversal dimension to diplomacy and politics which Urraca used to her advantage.

Urraca is characterized in the Historia Compostelana as prudent, modest, and with good sense. According to Reilly, the Historia Compostelana also attributes her "failings" to her gender, "the weakness and changeability of women, feminine perversity, and calls her a Jezebel" for her liaisons with her leading magnates, with at least one relationship producing an illegitimate son. These observations were hardly neutral or dispassionate, according to Reilly, who wrote "[T]here is no question that the queen is in control, perhaps all too much in control, of events". Urraca's use of sex in politics should be viewed more as a strategy that provided the queen with allies but without any masters.

As queen, Urraca rose to the challenges presented to her and her solutions were pragmatic ones, according to Reilly, and laid the foundation for the brilliant reign of her son Alfonso VIII who succeeded to the throne of a kingdom whole and at peace at Urraca’s death in 1126. Urraca would be the last of the House of Jiménez to reign, her son being of the House of Burgundy (Casa de Borgoña).

Notes

  1. ^ The actual title in the text is Queen of Spain (Ispanie regina), a title analogous to that of Imperator totius Hispaniae, according to Bernard F. Reilly
  2. ^ Klapisch-Zuber, Christine; A History of Women: Book II Silences of the Middle Ages, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England. 1992, 2000 (5th printing). Chapter 6, "Women in the Fifth to the Tenth Century" by Suzanne Fonay Wemple, pg 74. Spainish law allowed women to inherit land and title. According to Wemple, Visigothic women of Spain and the Aquitaine could inherit land and title and manage it independently of their husbands, and dispose of it as they saw fit if they had no heirs, and represent themselves in court, appear as witnesses (over the age of 14), and arrange their own marriages over the age of twenty
  3. ^ Author Bernard F. Reilly suggest that rather then a betrothal, Raymond of Burgundy was fully wedded to the eight year old Urraca as Raymond almost immediately appears in protocol documents as Alfonso VI's son-in-law, a distinction that would not have been made without the marriage
  4. ^ Reilly doubts that the marriage was consummated until Urraca was 13, as Urraca was placed under the protective guardianship of a trusted magnate. However, Urraca's pregnancy and stillbirth at age 14 suggests the marriage was consummated when she was 13 or 14 years old.
  5. ^ Many of Alfonso VI’s advisers and leading magnets in the kingdom formed a “quiet opposition” to the Urraca Alfonso I of Aragon match, in part, according to Bernard F. Reilly, for fear of what influence he may attempt to wield over the Urraca.
  6. ^ Alfonso VI's closest advisers were initially "quietly opposed" to the match, however, the prospect of Count Henry of Portugal filling any power vacuum moved them towards going through with the marriage. As the events would unfold, these advisers under estimated Urraca's political prowess and later advised her into separating from the marriage. Urraca's permission had to be sought, as according to Spanish law women may contract their own marriages over the age of 20
  7. ^ With the legitimizing of their half-brother Sancho, Theresa felt she should have been given equal consideration to be queen of the three kingdoms as Urraca was, or felt she was at least entitled to half of Urraca's inheritance.
  8. ^ In addition to her objections to Alfonso's handling of rebels, Urraca and Alfonso I had a falling-out over his execution of one of the rebels who had surrendered to the queen, to whom the queen was inclined to be merciful. Additionally, as Urraca was married to someone many in the kingdom objected to, Urraca’s son Alfonso Raimundez became a rallying point for opponents to the marriage.

References

  • Reilly, Bernard F. (1982). The Kingdom of Leon-Castilla under Queen Urraca. New York: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-69-105-3448-b.  

External links

Preceded by
Alfonso VI
Empress of Spain
suo jure

1109–1126
Succeeded by
Alfonso VII
Queen of León
1109–1126
Queen of Castile
1109–1126
Queen of Galicia
1109–1111
Preceded by
Bertha of Italy
Queen consort of Navarre
1109–1114
Succeeded by
Marguerite de l'Aigle
Queen consort of Aragon
1109–1114
Succeeded by
Berenguela of Barcelona
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