Category Archives: Spain

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid

El Cid or Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar to give him his full name is a much known noble and warrior of Spain. Known as El Cid (the Lord) to the Moors and El Campeador (the Champion) to the Christians in Spain he is still celebrated to this day as a national hero.

He was born in circa 1043, in Vivar about six miles Burgos the capital of Castile. His father Diego Lainez was a courtier at the court of Castile and a cavalryman known to have fought in many battles. The family were minor nobility as his family’s name is mentioned as witnesses in only a handful of documents. He grew up at the court of Ferdinand the Great before serving in the household of Ferdinand’s son Sancho.

In 1057 he fought during the campaign against the Muslim stronghold of Zaragoza in which the emir al-Muqtadir was defeated and became a vassel of Sancho. In the spring of 1063 he also fought alongside al-Muqtadir at the Battle of Graus, laying siege to the Moorish town of Cinca. They thought against Ferdinand’s half brother Ramiro I of Aragon. Ramiro was defeated and his troops fled the battle field.

The battle is also important in El Cid’s story as it is here that legend says he gained the honorary title El Campeador. El Cid is said to have thought in single combat against a Aragonese knight. He won the combat and the title was given, the Champion.

After the death of King Ferdinand, Sancho his son was crowned and continued to try and grow his territories. He managed to conquer Zamora and Badajoz.   Sancho was assassinated by his brother Alfonso and his sister Urraca. He was not married and childless and due to this Alfonso took over his kingdoms.


El CId Statue

Alfonso returned from exile in Toledo and took his seat as king of Castile and Leon. He was treated with great suspicion in Castile which was properly the correct thing to do after his involvement in his brother’s murder. According to the epic of El Cid, El Cid and a group of Castilian nobleman forced Alfonso to swear publicly in front of Santa Gadea Church in Burgos on holy relics numerous times that he had no part in the murder of Sancho.

In 1079 El Cid was sent by Alfonso to Seville to the court of al-Mutamid to collect their tribute to Leon-Castile. While he was in Granada, Count Garcia Ordonez his enemy assisted with other Castilian knights attacked. Seville. El Cid with his followers repulsed the attack at the Battle of Cabra in the belief he was protecting and defending the king’s tribute.   The Count and the other Castilian knights were taken captive and held for three days.

During the battle, El Cid rallied his own troops and made it a rout defeating Emir Abdullah of Granada and the Garcia Ordonez. This action though angered Alfonso and the lone actions are believed to be the reason for El Cid’s exile. On the 8th May, 1080 he witnessed his last document in the Alfonso’s court.

There are many other reasons that are suspected for the exile as well; other jealous nobles who could have turned Alfonso against El Cid, Alfonso’s own animosity towards El Cid, and also accusations of him pocketing some of the tribute from Seville for himself.

At first he went to Barcelona, where Ramon Berenguer II (1076-1082) and Berenguer Ramon (1076-1097) refused his offer of service. After being rejected he journeyed to the Taifa of Zaragoza were he received a warmer reception.

According to Moorish accounts; Andalusian Knights found El Cid, ill, thirsty. He was then presented before the elderly Yusuf al-Mu’taman ibn Hud and accepted command of the forces of Taifa of Zaragoza. He served both ibn Hud and his successor al-Mustain II, serving as a leading figure in a vibrant Moorish force consisting of Muladis, Berbers, Arabs and Malians.

El Cid Sword

The kingdom was split into two, al-Mutamin who ruled over Zaragoza and his brother al-Mundhir who ruled over Lerida and Tortosa. El Cid entered al-Mutamin’s service and was successful in defending Zaragoza from attacks from al-Mundhir, Sancho I of Aragon and Ramon Berenguer II, who he held captive briefly in 1082.

In 1084 at the Battle of Morella near Totosa, El Cid with Moorish armies defeated Sancho of Aragon. In 1086 the Almoravid’s invaded the Iberian Peninsula through Gibraltar. The Almoravid’s residents of present day North Africa were asked to help defend the divided Moors from Alfonso. El Cid properly led a large Moorish force during the Battle of Sagrajas, which took place in 1086. This was near the Taifa of Badajoz. The Almoravid and Andalusian tribes, including armies of Badajoz, Malaga, Granada, Tortosa and Seville defeated a combined army of Leon, Aragon and Castile.

The defeat made Alfonso recall and request El Cid. It is known that El Cid was at Alfonso’s court in July 1087 but after that it is unknown. El Cid may have returned to Alfonso, but now he was his own man with his own plans. He returned to Zaragoza and was quite content to let the Alfonso’s army and the army of the Almoravid’s fight it out amongst themselves without his assistance. He had a plan and his hope was for two weakened sides.

It was around the same time that El Cid started to his plans into action. With a combined force of Christians and Moors he manoeuvred towards the Moorish Mediterranean city of Valencia. Obstacles did though lay in his way. Firstly Berenguer Ramon II of Barcelona who El Cid fought the army of at the Battle of Tebar, were he only defeated Berenguer but captured him also. He was later released with Berenguer’s nephew Ramon Berenguer III marrying El Cid’s daughter Maria.

On his way to Valencia El Cid conquered other towns also. These were such as El Puig and Quart de-Poblet. This then lead to his influence in Valencia and the surrounding areas growing. Valencia at the time was ruled by al-Qadir and in October 1092 it revolted with an uprising inspired by the city’s chief judge Ibn Jahhaf and the Almoravids. El Cid took this chance and began to lay siege to the city. In December 1093 an attempt to try and break the siege failed. The siege went on and lasted till May 1094 and by this point El Cid had carved his own principality along the Mediterranean coast.

Officially El Cid ruled on behalf of Alfonso, but in truth he was largely independent with the city being both Christian and Muslim.

El Cid and his wife Jimena Diaz lived peacefully in Valencia for five years until the Almoravids besieged the city. The siege went on and El Cid died on the 10th June 1099. Jimena Diaz tried to keep control but she fled to Burgos in 1101 with El Cid’s body. Valencia lasted until 5th May 1102 when it was captured by Masdali. It would be another 125 years before it would be ruled by Christians again.

El Cid was buried in Castile in the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena. His body now lies at the centre of Burgos Cathedral.

El CId Tomb

Babieca or Bavieca was El Cid’s warhorse. Several stories exist about El Cid and his horse. One well known legend describes how El Cid acquired the stallion. El Cid’s godfather Pedro El Grande was a monk at a Carthusian monastery and as El Cid’s coming of age present he allowed El Cid to pick a horse from an Andalusian herd. El Cid picked and Pedro didn’t approve and is said to have shouted ‘Babieca’ (stupid) and this is where the name of the horse came from.

The horse stayed with El Cid, and is it is said that he requested that he was buried with him at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardena and his name is mentioned in several tales and historical documents about El Cid.

The weapon traditionally identified as El Cid’s sword, Tizona used to be displayed in the Army Museum in Toledo. In 1999 a small sample of the blade underwent metallurgical analysis which confirmed that the blade was made in Moorish Cordoba in the eleventh century and contained amounts of Damascus steel. El Cid also had a sword called Colada.   In 2007 the Autonomous Community of Castile and Leon bought the sword for €1.6 million and it is currently on display at the Museum of Burgos.

El Cid was married in July 1075 to Alfonso’s kinswoman Jimena Diaz. The Historia Roderici calls her a daughter of a Count Diego of Oviedo. Tradition states that when El Cid laid his eyes on her he fell in love straight away. They had two children Cristina and Maria who both married into royal families. Christina to Ramiro, Lord of Monzon, grandson of Garcia Sanchez III of Navarre and Maria, firstly it is alleged to a prince of Aragon (possibly a son of Peter I) and secondly to Ramon Berenguer III, count of Barcelona. El Cid’s son was killed in battle at the Battle of Consuegra in 1097.

I am currently starting to look into the history of Spain more and El Cid has definitely added to my curiosity about the fractious country that very much like Anglo-Saxon England seems to a very rich past. I am sure I will be writing more soon.

Ramiro I of Asturias

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.

ramiro i

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’

Santa María del Naranco, at the capital of Oviedo, originally a recreational palace of Ramiro's, then a church.

Santa María del Naranco, at the capital of Oviedo, originally a recreational palace of Ramiro’s, then a church.

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.


Urraca – Queen of Leon and Castile

Urraca 2

Urraca was the daughter of Alfonso VI of Leon and his second wife Constance of Burgundy and was born in April 1079. As her father’s eldest legitimate child she was heiress presumptive of his lands from when she was born until 1107. In 1107 Alfonso recognised his illegitimate son Sancho as his heir. This didn’t last for long as the following year Sancho died and Urraca once more became heiress presumptive.

As heiress presumptive Urraca was the source and focus of dynastic politics. She became a child bride at the age of eight when she was married to Raymond of Burgundy. Author Bernard F Reilly suggests that Urraca and Richard were fully married when she was eight because Richard is then named in documents as Alfonso’s son-in-;aw. Reilly though states that the marriage wouldn’t of been consummated till Urraca reached thirteen, as she was placed under the care of a trusted magnate. At the age of fourteen she fell pregnant although suffered a still birth, which suggests the marriage was consummated when she was thirteen or fourteen.ile, even tough it stayed loyal to Urraca.

The marriage was part of Alfonso’s plans to try and create greater unity across the Pyrenees. In 1105 she gave birth to a son that would go on to become Alfonso VII. Richard died in 1107 and Alfonso VI moved to try and unite Leon and Castile with Aragon with a marriage to Alfonso I of Aragon.

Marriage negotiations were still being carried out when Alfonso VI died in 1109. Many of the leading magnates and advisors silently opposed the wedding worrying how much influence Alfonso of Aragon would have over Urraca. Urraca herself didn’t favour the marriage but honoured her now late father’s wishes and married Alfonso.

As soon as they were married it sparked rebellion in Galicia, under the influence of her half-sister Theresa and her husband Henry, Count of Portugal. The relationship between Urraca and Alfonso quickly soured and she accused him of physical abuse and by May 1110 they had separated.

Urraca had become unhappy with Alfonso’s treatment of rebels, especially with a certain rebel who he had executed after he had surrendered to the queen. This then led to open warfare between the two kingdoms. This escalated into an alliance between Alfonso I of Aragon and Henry of Portugal at the Battle of Candespina in 1111. Urraca’s chief supporter and lover Gomez Gonzalez died at the battle and was replaced in both roles by Pedro Gonzalez de Lara.

By the end of 1112 a truce had been called which led to the annulment of the marriage between Alfonso and Urraca. Urraca recovered Asturias, Leon and Galicia with Alfonso still occupying large parts of Castile, even though large parts of it stayed loyal to Urraca.

With being a female in a very dominated male world Urraca defiantly had her challenges, but it seems despite different set backs she embraced this and strived to maintain her kingdom. This helped lay the foundations for her son to become Alfonso VII even despite the opposition from her lover Pedro Gonzalez de Lara upon her death in 1126.

urraca 1