Alfonso VII, Count of Barcelona, Emperor of Spain, King of Galicia, Kingdom of Castile, Kingdom of León, Petronila of Aragon, Ramon Berenguer III, Richeza of Poland
Alfonso VII (March 1, 1105 – August 21, 1157), called the Emperor (el Emperador), became the King of Galicia in 1111 and King of León and Castile in 1126. Alfonso, born Alfonso Raimúndez, first used the title Emperor of All Spain, alongside his mother Urraca, once she vested him with the direct rule of Toledo in 1116. Alfonso later held another investiture in 1135 in a grand ceremony reasserting his claims to the imperial title. He was the son of Urraca of León and Raymond of Burgundy, the first of the House of Ivrea to rule in the Iberian peninsula.
Alfonso was a dignified and somewhat enigmatic figure. His rule was characterised by the renewed supremacy of the western kingdoms of Christian Iberia over the eastern (Navarre and Aragón) after the reign of Alfonso the Battler. Though he sought to make the imperial title meaningful in practice to both Christian and Muslim populations, his hegemonic intentions never saw fruition. During his tenure, Portugal became de facto independent, in 1128, and was recognized as de jure independent, in 1143. He was a patron of poets, including, probably, the troubadour Marcabru.
Succession to three kingdoms
In 1111, Diego Gelmírez, Bishop of Compostela and the count of Traba, crowned and anointed Alfonso King of Galicia in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He was a child, but his mother had (1109) succeeded to the united throne of León-Castile-Galicia and wished to retain the sole rulership of the kingdom.
By 1125 he had inherited the formerly Muslim Kingdom of Toledo. On March 10, 1126, after the death of his mother, he was crowned in León and immediately began the recovery of the Kingdom of Castile, which was then under the domination of Alfonso the Battler.
By the Peace of Támara of 1127, the Battler recognised Alfonso VII of Castile. The territory in the far east of his dominion, however, had gained much independence during the rule of his mother and experienced many rebellions. After his recognition in Castile, Alfonso fought to curb the autonomy of the local barons.
On May 26, 1135, Alfonso VII was crowned “Emperor of Spain” in the Cathedral of León. By this, he probably wished to assert his authority over the entire peninsula and his absolute leadership of the Reconquista. He appears to have striven for the formation of a national unity which Spain had never possessed since the fall of the Visigothic kingdom.
The elements he had to deal with could not be welded together. The weakness of Aragon enabled him to make his superiority effective. After Afonso Henriques recognised him as liege in 1137, Alfonso VII lost the Battle of Valdevez in 1141 thereby affirming Portugal’s independence in the Treaty of Zamora (1143). In 1143, he himself recognised this status quo and consented to the marriage of Petronila of Aragon with Ramon Berenguer IV, a union which combined Aragon and Catalonia into the Crown of Aragon.
A vague tradition had always assigned the title of emperor to the sovereign who held León. Sancho the Great considered the city the imperiale culmen and minted coins with the inscription Imperator totius Hispaniae after being crowned in it. Such a sovereign was considered the most direct representative of the Visigothic kings, who had been themselves the representatives of the Roman Empire. But though appearing in charters, and claimed by Alfonso VI of León and Alfonso the Battler, the title had been little more than a flourish of rhetoric.
In November 1128, he married Berenguela, daughter of Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona. She died in 1149. She was the daughter of Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona, and Douce I, Countess of Provence.
In 1152, Alfonso married Richeza of Poland, the daughter of Ladislaus II the Exile. Richeza was the third child and only daughter of Władysław II the Exile, the High Duke of Poland and ruler of Silesia, by his wife Agnes of Babenberg, daughter of Margrave Leopold III of Austria and half-sister of Conrad III, King of the Romans.