Queen Urraca

Medieval Spanish Queen Urraca’s marriage led to rebellion and war.

Urraca of Leon and Castile was born in 1079. She was her father’s only legitimate child, and was made his heir (unusual for a female child, especially at this time). In 1107, her father recognized an illegitimate son, Sancho, as heir, but when Sancho was killed in battle a year later, Urraca became the heir again.

Urraca was married at age 8 and became pregnant at 14. That pregnancy ended in stillbirth, but she gave birth to a son in 1105 (the future Alonso VII).

Urraca’s husband, Raymond, died in 1107. Her father quickly looked for a new match for his daughter, settling on Alfonso I of Aragon.

In 1109, Urraca’s father, Alfonso VII, died. Urraca was now queen of Leon and Castile, using the title “Empress of all the Spains.”

She continued marriage negotiations with Alfonso of Aragon, though her advisors suggested against it. On the one hand, the advisors feared he would wield too much control. On the other hand, they feared a power vacuum if she didn’t marry. They did marry, but it was tumultuous.

The marriage sparked rebellion in Gallicia. Urraca’s half-sister, Theresa, Countess of Portugal, began trying to find a way to take the throne. Urraca accused Alfonso of abuse, and separated from him.

Their estrangement led to war between Leon-Castile and Aragon. After several years, a peace treaty was finally hashed out and the marriage annulled. Unfortunately, Urraca lost lands to Alfonso, as well as to Theresa (and her husband, Count Henry of Portugal). Urraca would spend much of her reign getting this land back.

Urraca was said to be prudent and have good sense. She supported the arts and learning. Unfortunately, most (English-language) internet sources focus on her marriages and children – she was a way to get from King A to King B.

Therese Martin has written a book, The Queen as King, that looks at Urraca’s architectural efforts. Urraca sponsored the rebuilding of the church of San Isidoro in Castile.

She died in 1126.

This post originally appeared in slightly modified form on Mirous Worlds.

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Natasha

History. Hindi cinema. Hugging cats.

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