Tag Archives: Castile

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.

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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

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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.

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