- Alfonso VIII of Castile
Alfonso VIII (
11 November 1155– 5 October 1214), called the Noble or "Él de las Navas", was the King of Castilefrom 1158 to his death and King of Toledo [ [http://www.geocities.com/eurprin/castile.html Titles of the European kings] ] . He is most remembered for his part in the Reconquistaand the downfall of the Almohad Caliphate. After having suffered a great defeat with his own army at Alarcos against the Almohads, he led the coalition of Christian princes and foreign crusaders who broke the power of the Almohads in the Battle of the Navas de Tolosain 1212, an event which marked the arrival of an irreversible tide of Christian supremacy on the Iberian peninsula.
Regency and civil war
Alfonso was born to
Sancho III of Castileand Blanca, daughter of García Ramírez of Navarre, in Soriaon 11 November 1155. He was named after his grandfather Alfonso VII. His early life resembled that of other medieval kings. His father died in 1158 when his mother was also dead. Though proclaimed king when only three years of age, he was regarded as a mere name by the unruly nobles to whom a minority was convenient. Immediately, Castile was plunged into conflicts between the various noble houses vying for ascendancy in the inevitable regency. The devotion of a squire of his household, who carried him on the pommel of his saddle to the stronghold of San Esteban de Gormaz, saved him from falling into the hands of the contending factions. The Lara and Castro both claimed the regency, as did the boy's uncle, Ferdinand II of León. In March 1160 the former two families met at the Battle of Lobregaland the Castro were victorious.
Alfonso was put in the custody of the loyal village
Ávila. At barely fifteen, he came forth to do a man's work by restoring his kingdom to order. It was only by a surprise that he recovered his capital Toledo from the hands of the Laras.
In 1174, he ceded
Uclésto the Order of Santiagoand afterwards this became the order's principal seat. From Uclés, he began a campaign which culminated in the reconquest of Cuencain 1177. The city surrendered on 21 September, the feast of Saint Matthew, ever afterwards celebrated by the citizens of the town.
Alfonso took the initiative to ally all the major Christian kingdoms of the peninsula — Navarre, León, Portugal, and Aragon — against the
Almohads. By the Treaty of Cazolaof 1179, the zones of expansion of each kingdom were defined.
Plasencia(Cáceres) in 1186, he embarked on a major initiative to unite the Castilian nobility around the Reconquista. In that year, he recuperated part of La Riojafrom the Kingdom of Navarre.
In 1195, after the treaty with the Almohads was broken, he came to the defence of
Alarcoson the river Guadiana, then the principal Castilian town in the region. At the subsequent Battle of Alarcos, he was roundly defeated by the caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf al-Mansur. The reoccupation of the surrounding territory by the Almohads was quickly commenced with Calatravafalling first. For the next seventeen years, the frontier between Moor and Castilian was fixed in the hill country just outside Toledo.
Finally, in 1212, through the mediation of
Pope Innocent III, a crusade was called against the Almohads. Castilians under Alfonso, Aragonese and Catalans under Peter II, Navarrese under Sancho VII, and Franks under the archbishop Arnold of Narbonneall flocked to the effort. The military orders also lent their support. Calatrava first, then Alarcos, and finally Benaventewere captured before a final battle was fought at Las Navas de Tolosanear Santa Elena on 16 July. The caliph Muhammad an-Nasirwas routed and Almohad power broken.
Alfonso was the founder of the first Spanish university, a "
studium generale" at Palencia, which, however, did not survive him. His court also served as an important instrument for Spanish cultural achievement. His marriage ( Burgos, September 1180) with Eleanor (Leonora), daughter of Henry II of Englandand Eleanor of Aquitaine, brought him under the influence of the greatest governing intellect of his time. Troubadours and sages were always present, largely due to the influence of Eleanor.
Alfonso died at
Gutierre-Muñozand was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Henry I, named after his maternal grandfather.
Alfonso was the subject for
Lion Feuchtwanger's novel " Die Jüdin von Toledo" ("The Jewess of Toledo"), in which is narrated an affair with a Jewish subject in medieval Toledo in a time when Spain was known to be the land of tolerance and learning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The titular Jewish woman of the novel is based on Alfonso's historical paramour, Rahel la Fermosa.
With Eleanor, (
Leonora of England) he had 11 children:
*Berenguela, or Berengaria, (August 1180 –
8 November 1246), married Alfonso IX of Leon
*Sancha (1182 –
3 February 1184)
*Urraca (1186 – 1220), married
Alfonso II of Portugal
4 March 1188– 26 November 1252), married Louis VIII of France
29 September 1189– 1211), on whose behalf Diego of Aceboand the future Saint Dominictravelled to Denmarkin 1203 to secure a bride [Vicaire. pp 89–98.]
*Mafalda (1191 – 1204)
*Constance (1195 – 1243), abbess of Santa María la Real of
*Eleanor (1200 – 1244), married
James I of Aragon
*Henry I (
14 April 1204– 1217), successor
* [http://www.ricardocosta.com/pub/love_crime.htm COSTA, Ricardo da. "Love and Crime, Chastisement and Redemption in Glory in the Crusade of Reconquest: Alfonso VIII of Castile in the battles of Alarcos (1195) and Las Navas de Tolosa (1212)". In: OLIVEIRA, Marco A. M. de (org.). Guerras e Imigrações. Campo Grande: Editora da UFMS, 2004, p. 73-94 (ISBN 85-7613-023-8).]
*Vicaire, M.-H. "Une ambassade dans les Marches," in
Pierre Mandonnet, "Saint Dominique: l'idée, l'homme et l'oeuvre Vol. 1". Desclée De Brouwer: Paris, 1938.
* [http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/CASTILE.htm#AlfonsoVIIIdied1214B Foundation for Medieval Genealogy on Alfonso VIII of Castile, marriage and issues]
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