Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre, Alfonso the Battler, Emperor of Spain, Imperator totius Hispaniae, King Alfonso VII of Castile, Kingdom of Aragon, Kingdom of Castile, Kingdom of Galicia, Kingdom of León, Queen Urraca of Castile, Ramon Berenguer III of Barcelona, Spanish Empire, The Second Crusade
Alfonso VII (March 1, 1105 – August 21, 1157), called the Emperor, he became the King of Galicia in 1111 and King of Castile and León 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, Queen of León and Raymond of Burgundy, the first of the House of Ivrea to rule in the Iberian peninsula.
Raymond of Burgundy (c. 1070-1107) was the ruler of Galicia from about 1090 until his death. He was the fourth son of Count William I of Burgundy and Stephanie, and her name is all that is known about her.
Alfonso’s Mother was Urraca (1079-1126) called the Reckless was Queen of Castile, León and Galicia in her own right from 1109 until her death. She claimed the imperial title as suo jure Empress of All Spain and Empress of All Galicia. Born in Burgos, Urraca was the eldest and only surviving child of Alfonso VI of León with his second wife Constance of Burgundy; for this, she was heir presumptive of the Kingdoms of Castile and León.
Urraca, the Reckless, Queen of Castile, León and Galicia
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 reign of her son Alfonso VII, who in spite of the opposition of Urraca’s lover Pedro González de Lara succeeded to the throne of a kingdom whole and at peace at Urraca’s death in 1126. The queen’s reign also served as the legal precedent for the reigns of future queens.
In 1111, Diego Gelmírez, Bishop of Compostela and the count of Traba, crowned and anointed Alfonso as 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 desired to assure her son’s prospects and groom him for his eventual succession. 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 I the Battler, King of Aragon and Navarre. By the Peace of Támara of 1127, the Battler recognised Alfonso VII as King of Castile.
Emperor of Spain
On May 26, 1135, Alfonso VII was crowned “Emperor of Spain” (Imperator totius Hispaniae) in the Cathedral of León. With this title 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.
Imperator totius Hispaniae is a Latin title meaning “Emperor of All Spain”. In Spain in the Middle Ages, the title “emperor” (from Latin imperator) was used under a variety of circumstances from the ninth century onwards, but its usage peaked, as a formal and practical title, between 1086 and 1157. 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.
Alfonso VII, King of Castile, León and Galicia
The imperial title signalled at various points the king’s equality with the rulers of the Byzantine Empire and Holy Roman Empire, his rule by conquest or military superiority, his rule over several ethnic or religious groups, and his claim to suzerainty over the other kings of the peninsula, both Christian and Muslim. The use of the imperial title received scant recognition outside of Spain and had been little more than a flourish of rhetoric. By the thirteenth century the imperial title had become largely forgotten.
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.
When Pope Eugene III preached the Second Crusade, Alfonso VII, with García Ramírez of Navarre and Ramon Berenguer IV, led a mixed army of Catalans and Franks, with a Genoese–Pisan navy, in a crusade against the rich port city of Almería, which was occupied in October 1147. A third of the city was granted to Genoa and subsequently leased out to Otto de Bonvillano, a Genoese citizen. It was Castile’s first Mediterranean seaport.
In 1151, Alfonso VII signed the Treaty of Tudilén with Ramon Berenguer. The treaty defined the zones of conquest in Andalusia in order to prevent the two rulers from coming into conflict. Six years later, Almería entered into Almohad possession. Alfonso was returning from an expedition against them when he died on 21 August 1157 in Las Fresnedas, north of the Sierra Morena.
Alfonso was at once a patron of the church and a protector, though not a supporter of, the Muslims, who were a minority of his subjects. His reign ended in an unsuccessful campaign against the rising power of the Almohads. Though he was not actually defeated, his death in the pass, while on his way back to Toledo, occurred in circumstances which showed that no man could be what he claimed to be — “king of the men of the two religions.” Furthermore, by dividing his realm between his sons, he ensured that Christendom would not present the new Almohad threat with a united front.
In November 1128, he married Berenguela, the daughter of Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona, and Douce I, Countess of Provence, the daughter of Gilbert I of Gévaudan and Gerberga of Provence.
According to a description of Berenguela, “She was a very beautiful and extremely graceful young girl who loved chastity and truth and all God-fearing people.”
She died in Palencia, and was buried at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Their children were:
* Ramón, living 1136, died in childhood
* Sancho III of Castile (1134 – 1158)
* Fernando II of León (1137 – 1188)
* Constance (c.1138 – 1160), married Louis VII of the Franks
* Sancha (c. 1139 – 1179), married Sancho VI of Navarre
* García (c. 1142 – 1145/6)
* Alfonso (1144/1148-c. 1149)
In 1152, King Alfonso VII married Richeza of Poland, the daughter of Ladislaus II the Exile, the High Duke of Poland and ruler of Silesia, and his wife Agnes of Babenberg, daughter of Margrave Leopold III of Austria and half-sister of King Conrad III of Germany.
Their Children were:
1. Fernando (1153 – 1157), possibly named like his older brother because he was never expected to survive
2. Sancha (1155 – 1208), the wife of Alfonso II of Aragón.
Alfonso also had two mistresses, having children by both. By an Asturian noblewoman named Gontrodo Pérez, he had an illegitimate daughter, Urraca (1132 – 1164), who married García Ramírez of Navarre, the mother retiring to a convent in 1133. Later in his reign, he formed a liaison with Urraca Fernández, widow of count Rodrigo Martínez and daughter of Fernando García de Hita, having a daughter Stephanie the Unfortunate (1148 – 1180), who was killed by her jealous husband, Fernán Ruiz de Castro.