Alfonso VIII of Castile

Alfonso VIII of Castile

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Alfonso VIII called the Noble or el de las Navas, was the King of Castile from 1158 to his death and King of Toledo
Kingdom of Toledo
The Kingdom of Toledo was the juridical definition of a Christian medieval kingdom in what is now central Spain, created after Alfonso VI of León's capture of Toledo in 1085.-Background:...

. He is most remembered for his part in the Reconquista
Reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

 and the downfall of the Almohad Caliphate. After having suffered a great defeat with his own army at Alarcos
Battle of Alarcos
Battle of Alarcos , was a battle between the Almohads led by Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur and King Alfonso VIII of Castile. It resulted in the defeat of the Castilian forces and their subsequent retreat to Toledo whereas the Almohads conquered back Trujillo, Montánchez and Talavera.-Background:In...

 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 Tolosa in 1212, an event which marked the arrival of a tide of Christian supremacy on the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

.

His reign saw the domination of Castile
Kingdom of Castile
Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region...

 over León
Kingdom of León
The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León...

 and, by his alliance with Aragon, he drew those two spheres of Christian Iberia into close connection.

Regency and civil war


Alfonso was born to Sancho III of Castile
Sancho III of Castile
Sancho III was King of Castile and Toledo for one year, from 1157 to 1158. During the Reconquista, in which he took an active part, he founded the Order of Calatrava...

 and Blanche, daughter of García Ramírez of Navarre, in Soria
Soria
Soria is a city in north-central Spain, the capital of the province of Soria in the autonomous community of Castile and León. , the municipality has a population of c. 39,500 inhabitants, nearly 40% of the population of the province...

 on 11 November 1155. He was named after his grandfather Alfonso VII of Castile. 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 merely nominal 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
San Esteban de Gormaz
San Esteban de Gormaz is a municipality in the province of Soria in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon, Spain. Its population is approximately 3,500...

, saved him from falling into the hands of the contending factions. The noble houses of Lara
House of Lara
The House of Lara or Casa de Lara are a noble family, known from the medieval Kingdom of Castile.Two of its branches, those from the Duke of Nájera and from the Marquis of Aguilar de Campoo were considered Grandees of Spain...

 and Castro
House of Castro
The House of Castro, is believed to have had its origins in Castile, the name deriving from the town of Castrogeriz , and had deep branches in Galicia.-Origins and Brief History:...

 both claimed the regency, as did the boy's uncle, Ferdinand II of León
Ferdinand II of Leon
Ferdinand II was King of León and Galicia from 1157 to his death.-Life:Born in Toledo, Castile, he was the son of King Alfonso VII of León and Castile and of Berenguela, of the House of Barcelona. At his father's death, he received León and Galicia, while his brother Sancho received Castile and...

. In 1159 the young Alfonso was put briefly in the custody of García Garcés de Aza
García Garcés de Aza
García Garcés de Aza was a Castilian magnate "renowned for his wealth and dullness", yet "a prominent figure in the later Andalusian campaigns of the Emperor between 1150 and 1157"...

, who was not wealthy enough to support him. In March 1160 the Castro and Lara met at the Battle of Lobregal
Battle of Lobregal
The Battle of Lobregal took place in March 1160 between the House of Lara and its allies and the forces of the House of Castro under Fernando Rodríguez de Castro...

 and the Castro were victorious, but the guardianship of Alfonso and the regency fell to Manrique Pérez de Lara
Manrique Pérez de Lara
Manrique Pérez de Lara was a magnate of the Kingdom of Castile and its regent from 1158 until his death. He was one of the most important counsellors and generals of three successive Castilian monarchs: Alfonso VII , Sancho III and Alfonso VIII...

.

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
Toledo, Spain
Toledo's Alcázar became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military academy. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 its garrison was famously besieged by Republican forces.-Economy:...

 from the hands of the Laras.

Reconquista


In 1174, he ceded Uclés
Uclés
Uclés is a municipality located in the province of Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 287 inhabitants....

 to the Order of Santiago
Order of Santiago
The Order of Santiago was founded in the 12th century, and owes its name to the national patron of Galicia and Spain, Santiago , under whose banner the Christians of Galicia and Asturias began in the 9th century to combat and drive back the Muslims of the Iberian Peninsula.-History:Santiago de...

 and afterwards this became the order's principal seat. From Uclés, he began a campaign which culminated in the reconquest of Cuenca
Cuenca, Spain
-History:When the Iberian peninsula was part of the Roman Empire there were several important settlements in the province, such as Segóbriga, Ercávica and Gran Valeria...

 in 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
Kingdom of Navarre
The Kingdom of Navarre , originally the Kingdom of Pamplona, was a European kingdom which occupied lands on either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean....

, León
Kingdom of León
The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León...

, Portugal
Kingdom of Portugal
The Kingdom of Portugal was Portugal's general designation under the monarchy. The kingdom was located in the west of the Iberian Peninsula, Europe and existed from 1139 to 1910...

, and Aragon
Kingdom of Aragon
The Kingdom of Aragon was a medieval and early modern kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula, corresponding to the modern-day autonomous community of Aragon, in Spain...

 — against the Almohads. By the Treaty of Cazola of 1179, the zones of expansion of each kingdom were defined.

After founding Plasencia
Plasencia
Plasencia is a walled market city in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Western Spain. , it had a population of 41,447.Situated on the bank of the Jerte River, Plasencia has a historic quarter that is a consequence of the city's strategic location along the Silver Route, or Ruta de la Plata...

 (Cáceres
Cáceres (province)
The province of Cáceres is a province of western Spain, in the northern part of the autonomous community of Extremadura. It is bordered by the provinces of Salamanca, Ávila, Toledo, and Badajoz, and by Portugal....

) in 1186, he embarked on a major initiative to unite the Castilian nobility around the Reconquista. In that year, he recuperated part of La Rioja
La Rioja (Spain)
La Rioja is an autonomous community and a province of northern Spain. Its capital is Logroño. Other cities and towns in the province include Calahorra, Arnedo, Alfaro, Haro, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and Nájera.-History:...

 from the Kingdom of Navarre
Kingdom of Navarre
The Kingdom of Navarre , originally the Kingdom of Pamplona, was a European kingdom which occupied lands on either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean....

.

In 1195, after the treaty with the Almohads was broken, he came to the defence of Alarcos on the river Guadiana
Guadiana
The Guadiana , or Odiana, is an international river located on the Portuguese–Spanish border, separating Extremadura and Andalucia from Alentejo and Algarve...

, then the principal Castilian town in the region. At the subsequent Battle of Alarcos
Battle of Alarcos
Battle of Alarcos , was a battle between the Almohads led by Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur and King Alfonso VIII of Castile. It resulted in the defeat of the Castilian forces and their subsequent retreat to Toledo whereas the Almohads conquered back Trujillo, Montánchez and Talavera.-Background:In...

, 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 Calatrava
Calatrava
-Spain:* Calatrava la Vieja , Spanish medieval town* Calatrava la Nueva, Spanish medieval castle and convent-Philippines:* Calatrava, Negros Occidental, a municipality in the Philippines...

 falling 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
Pope Innocent III
Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

, a crusade was called against the Almohads. Castilians under Alfonso, Aragonese and Catalans under Peter II
Peter II of Aragon
Peter II the Catholic was the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona from 1196 to 1213.He was the son of Alfonso II of Aragon and Sancha of Castile...

, Navarrese under Sancho VII
Sancho VII of Navarre
Sancho VII Sánchez , called the Strong or the Prudent, was the King of Navarre from 1194 to his death...

, and Franks under the archbishop Arnold of Narbonne all flocked to the effort. The military orders also lent their support. Calatrava first, then Alarcos, and finally Benavente
Benavente, Zamora
Benavente is a municipality in the north of the province of Zamora, in the autonomous community Castile and León of Spain. It has about 20,000 inhabitants....

 were captured before a final battle was fought at Las Navas de Tolosa near Santa Elena on 16 July. The caliph Muhammad an-Nasir
Muhammad an-Nasir
Muhammad an-Nasir was the Almohad caliph from 1198 until his death.- Biography :...

 was routed and Almohad power broken.

Cultural legacy


Alfonso was the founder of the first Spanish university, a studium generale
Studium Generale
Studium generale is the old customary name for a Medieval university.- Definition :There is no clear official definition of what constituted a Studium generale...

at Palencia
Palencia
Palencia is a city south of Tierra de Campos, in north-northwest Spain, the capital of the province of Palencia in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon...

, which, however, did not survive him. His court also served as an important instrument for Spanish cultural achievement. His marriage (Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

, before 17 September 1177) with Eleanor (Leonora), daughter of Henry II of England
Henry II of England
Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

 and Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages. As well as being Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, she was queen consort of France and of England...

, 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-Muñoz
Gutierre-Muñoz
Gutierre-Muñoz is a municipality located in the province of Ávila, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2004 census , the municipality has a population of 123 inhabitants....

 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Henry I
Henry I of Castile
Henry I of Castile was king of Castile. He was the son of Alfonso VIII of Castile and his wife Eleanor Plantagenet, ....

, named after his maternal grandfather.

Alfonso was the subject for Lion Feuchtwanger
Lion Feuchtwanger
Lion Feuchtwanger was a German-Jewish novelist and playwright. A prominent figure in the literary world of Weimar Germany, he influenced contemporaries including playwright Bertolt Brecht....

's novel Die Jüdin von Toledo
Die Jüdin von Toledo
This article describes the book by Lion Feuchtwanger. For the play by Franz Grillparzer, see The Jewess of Toledo.Die Jüdin von Toledo is a 1955 novel by German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger. The story focuses on the "Golden Age" of learning in medieval Spain. The novel also describes the...

(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
Rahel la Fermosa
Rahel la Fermosa was a Jewish woman who lived in Toledo, Spain in the twelfth century. She was the paramour of King Alfonso VIII of Castile, husband of Leonora of England, for almost seven years. Under her influence a number of Spanish Jews were appointed to positions within the royal court. This...

.

Children


With Eleanor of England he had 11 children:
NameBirthDeathNotes
Infanta Berenguela (Berengaria) Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

,
1 January/
June 1180
Las Huelgas near Burgos,
8 November 1246
Married firstly in Seligenstadt
Seligenstadt
Seligenstadt is a town in the Offenbach district in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany. Seligenstadt is one of Germany’s oldest towns and was already of great importance in Carolingian times.-Location:...

 on 23 April 1188 with Duke Conrad II of Swabia
Conrad II, Duke of Swabia
Conrad II was duke of Swabia from 1191 to his death and Duke of Rothenburg . He was the fourth son of Frederick III Barbarossa and Beatrice I, Countess of Burgundy, and brother of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor...

, but the union (only by contract and never solemnized) was later annulled. Married in Valladolid
Valladolid
Valladolid is a historic city and municipality in north-central Spain, situated at the confluence of the Pisuerga and Esgueva rivers, and located within three wine-making regions: Ribera del Duero, Rueda and Cigales...

 between 1/16 December 1197 with King Alfonso IX of León
Alfonso IX of Leon
Alfonso IX was king of León and Galicia from the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1188 until his own death...

 as her second wife. After their marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity in 1204, she returned to her homeland and became regent of her minor brother King Henry I. Queen of Castile in her own right after the death of Henry I in 1214, immediately abdicated in favor of her son.
Infante Sancho Burgos,
5 April 1181
26 July 1181 Heir of the throne since his birth, died aged three months.
Infanta Sancha 20/28 March 1182 3 February 1184/
16 October 1185
Died in infancy.
Infante Enrique (Henry) 1184 1184? Heir of the throne since his birth, died either shortly after being born or in infancy. His existence is disputed among sources.
Infanta Urraca 1186/
28 May 1187
Coimbra
Coimbra
Coimbra is a city in the municipality of Coimbra in Portugal. Although it served as the nation's capital during the High Middle Ages, it is better-known for its university, the University of Coimbra, which is one of the oldest in Europe and the oldest academic institution in the...

,
3 November 1220
Married in 1206 to Prince Alfonso, who succeeded his father in 1212 as King Alfonso II of Portugal.
Infanta Blanca
Blanche of Castile
Blanche of Castile , was a Queen consort of France as the wife of Louis VIII. She acted as regent twice during the reign of her son, Louis IX....

 (Blanche)
Palencia
Palencia
Palencia is a city south of Tierra de Campos, in north-northwest Spain, the capital of the province of Palencia in the autonomous community of Castile-Leon...

,
4 March 1188
Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

,
27 November 1252
Married in the Abbaye de Port-Mort near Pont-Audemer, Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 on 23 May 1200 with Prince Louis, who succeeded his father in 1223 as King Louis VIII of France
Louis VIII of France
Louis VIII the Lion reigned as King of France from 1223 to 1226. He was a member of the House of Capet. Louis VIII was born in Paris, France, the son of Philip II Augustus and Isabelle of Hainaut. He was also Count of Artois, inheriting the county from his mother, from 1190–1226...

. Regent of the Kingdom of France during her son's minority (1226–1234) and during his absence on the Seventh Crusade
Seventh Crusade
The Seventh Crusade was a crusade led by Louis IX of France from 1248 to 1254. Approximately 800,000 bezants were paid in ransom for King Louis who, along with thousands of his troops, was captured and defeated by the Egyptian army led by the Ayyubid Sultan Turanshah supported by the Bahariyya...

.
Infante Fernando (Ferdinand) Cuenca
Cuenca, Spain
-History:When the Iberian peninsula was part of the Roman Empire there were several important settlements in the province, such as Segóbriga, Ercávica and Gran Valeria...

,
29 September 1189
Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

,
14 October 1211
Heir of the throne since his birth. On whose behalf Diego of Acebo and the future Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic
Saint Dominic , also known as Dominic of Osma, often called Dominic de Guzmán and Domingo Félix de Guzmán was the founder of the Friars Preachers, popularly called the Dominicans or Order of Preachers , a Catholic religious order...

 travelled to Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 in 1203 to secure a bride. He died soon after returning from campaigning against the Moors.
Infanta Mafalda Plasencia
Plasencia
Plasencia is a walled market city in the province of Cáceres, Extremadura, Western Spain. , it had a population of 41,447.Situated on the bank of the Jerte River, Plasencia has a historic quarter that is a consequence of the city's strategic location along the Silver Route, or Ruta de la Plata...

,
1191
Salamanca
Salamanca
Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

,
1211
Betrothed in 1204 to Infante Ferdinand of Leon, eldest son of King Alfonso IX and stepson of her oldest sister.
Infanta Constanza (Constance) 1195 Las Huelgas,
1243
A nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa María la Real at Las Huelgas in 1217, she later became Abbess
Abbess
An abbess is the female superior, or mother superior, of a community of nuns, often an abbey....

 of her community.
Infanta Leonor (Eleanor) 1202 Las Huelgas,
1244
Married in Ágreda
Ágreda
Ágreda is a town located in the province of Soria, Castile and León, Spain.Ágreda is the regional services center in the Northeast of the province of Soria. Its abundant heritage as well as the local fiestas of the Virgin, and the Archangel Michael attract a large number of tourists.-History:In the...

 on 6 February 1221 with King James I of Aragon
James I of Aragon
James I the Conqueror was the King of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276...

. After her marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity
Consanguinity
Consanguinity refers to the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that respect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person...

 in April 1229, she became a nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa María la Real at Las Huelgas.
King Enrique I (Henry I) of Castile
Henry I of Castile
Henry I of Castile was king of Castile. He was the son of Alfonso VIII of Castile and his wife Eleanor Plantagenet, ....

 
Valladolid,
14 April 1204
Palencia,
6 June 1217
Only surviving son, he succeeded his father in 1214 aged ten under the regency firstly of his mother and later his oldest sister Berengaria. Married in Burgos
Burgos
Burgos is a city of northern Spain, historic capital of Castile. It is situated at the edge of the central plateau, with about 178,966 inhabitants in the city proper and another 20,000 in its suburbs. It is the capital of the province of Burgos, in the autonomous community of Castile and León...

 before 29 August 1215 with Infanta Mafalda of Portugal
Mafalda of Portugal
Infanta Mafalda of Portugal was a Portuguese infanta , later Queen consort of Castile for a brief period. She was the second youngest daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal and Dulce of Aragon....

, the union was unconsummated and dissolved in 1216 on grounds of consanguinity. Soon after his divorce was betrothed with Infanta Sancha of León
Kingdom of León
The Kingdom of León was an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. It was founded in AD 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León...

, eldest daughter of King Alfonso IX and stepdaughter of her oldest sister, but died when a tile came off a roof before the marriage could be solemnized.

Ancestry