Ramiro I was born about 790 and was King of Asturias from 842 until his death on 1st February 850. He was the son of King Bermudo I and became king after a power struggle for succession that followed the death of Alfonso II, who died without issue. Chronicles state that his reign was turbulent with attacks from both Vikings and Moors.
The death of King Alfonso II of Asturias brought about a succession crisis that would rock the whole kingdom. According to the Chronicle of Alfonso III, the childless Alfonso II chose Ramiro a distant kinsman and son of Alfonso’s predecessor Bermudo I. At the time of Alfonso’s death, Ramiro was attending his own wedding in Castile. In Ramiro’s absence Nepocian, the late king’s son-in-law contested the succession and was supported by Astures and Vascones who had both been loyal to Alfonso II. Ramiro turned to the area of Galicia and found support where he formed his army and advanced towards Oviedo.
Nepotian waited at Cornellana by the river Narcea where either Ramiro either defeated them in battle or Nepotian’s troops fled without putting up a fight. Nepotian fled, but was caught by Count Scipion and Count Sonna. After capture Nepotian was blinded and interned into a monastery.
Ramiro now gained the crown, with which his first piece of business was to abandon the election process for the kings in which the nobles picked the successor monarch as the nobles had done with Nepotian.
Early in his reign, Ramiro received word that Vikings were raiding on the western coast of France and travelling south towards his own kingdom. Normally Vikings looked for rivers to navigate using their long boats and large cities to attack providing the most plunder. Luckily for Ramiro Asturias lacked both of these and chronicles of the time only refer to two small attacks, one in Gijon and one in A Coruna both in 844. The attacks were both challenged by troops sent by Ramiro.
According to legend in 834 Ramiro was said to have defeated the Moors at the Battle of Clavijo. The date was later changed to 844 to accommodate the contradictions in the story (Ramiro was not ruling in 834). The battle came to the spotlight because of a charter from the 12th Century written in Santiago de Compostela. Neither Asturian nor Arab chronicles of the time mention the battle. It’s possible that the battle is a myth and of the historical battle that took place between Ramiro’s son, Ordono I and Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi. During the Second Battle of Albelda in 859, Ordono’s troops with Garcia Iniguez of Pamplona crushed the Moor forces. According to legend during the battle, Saint James the Greater, the Moor-slayer, is said to have appeared on a white horse bearing a white standard and aided the Asturian troops to defeat the Moors.
Ramiro’s actual battles with the Moors were not much of a success. Emir Abd ar-Rahman II of Cordoba also had to battle against Viking raids and also internal rebellions led by Musa ibn Musa of the Banu Qasi family. Ramiro tried to take advantage of this by repopulating the city of Leon. This was short lived and Abd ar-Rahman II dispatched both the rebels and the Vikings and sent an army under his son who would become Muhammad I of Cordoba making the Christians flee in 846. The city would not be re-occupied until 856 under Ordono I.
During the later part of Ramiro’s reign internal conflict would take over. Throughout discontented nobles made noises about rebellions. The Chronica Albeldenisis mentions two of these nobles. One being Piniolo who Ramiro condemned to death with his seven sons. The second was Aldroito who Ramiro punishment was for Aldroito to be blinded. Ramiro is said also to have dealt harshly with pagans and thieves who’s numbers are said to have grown through his reign.
The Chronica Albeldensis praises Ramiro as ‘the Rod of Justice’
Not much is known of Ramiro’s first marriage except that it occurred early enough for his son to be old enough to be an adult at the time of his succession. His second marriage took place roughly about 842. At the time of Alfonso II’s death it is stated that Ramiro was in Castile at his own wedding. From this you would presume that his second wife Paterna was Castillian.
There is no solid evidence that Ramiro had any other children other than Ordono. It is said that Count Rodrigo of Castile (died 873) has been named as the son of Ramiro and Paterna and was named Count of Castile due to his connection with the royal family in Asturia.
Ramiro died on 1st February 850 in his palace at Santa Maria del Naranco located on Mount Naranco near Oviedo. He was buried in the Pantheon of Asturian Kings in the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo alongside his second wife Paterna.