Alfonso II of Asturias
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He was born in Oviedo in 759 or 760. He was put under the guardianship of his aunt Adosinda after his father's death, but one tradition relates his being put in the monastery of Samos. He was the governor of the palace during the reign of Adosinda's husband Silo. On Silo's death, he was elected king by Adosinda's allies, but the magnates raised his uncle Mauregatus to the throne instead. Alfonso fled to Álava where he found shelter with his maternal relatives. Mauregatus was succeeded by Bermudo, Alfonso's cousin, who abdicated after his defeat at the Battle of the Burbia River.
Alfonso proclaimed king
Alfonso was subsequently elected king on 14 September 791. The events of his reign are in reality almost unknown. Poets of a later generation invented the story of the secret marriage of his sister Ximena to Sancho, count of Saldana, and the feats of their son Bernardo del Carpio. Bernardo is the hero of a cantar de gesta (chanson de geste) written to please the anarchical spirit of the nobles.
Andalusian raids into Asturias
On accession to the throne, son of Abd ar-Rahman I Hisham I commenced a string of military campaigns to the eastern Pyrenees and to the north-west. In 794 a raid spearheaded by Abd al-Karim dealt a major military blow to Alfonso II on the eastern fringes of the Kingdom of Asturias (Cantabria and Castile). The Asturian king asked then for the assistance of the Basque Frankish vassal Belasco, master of Álava and bordering regions at the time. Abd al-Karim campaigned deeper west into Asturias, and pillaged the region, while his brother Abd al-Malik ventured into the western Asturian lands.
Relations with Charlemagne and the Papacy
Confronted with heavy fire, Alfonso II reached out to Charlemagne's Franks. He sent delegations to Toulouse and Aix-la-Chapelle in 796, 797, and 798. These diplomacy efforts may have aimed to strengthen his legitimacy and the government structures of Asturias against ongoing internal unrest——troubles in Galicia——and external attacks of the Ibn Mugait brothers, i.e. generals Abd al-Karim and Abd al-Malik.
Alfonso was acknowledged as a king by Charlemagne and the Pope, and Asturias as a kingdom for the first time. The king showed an interest in the Frankish cult of Saint Martin of Tours, and most notably he encouraged Carolingian Church influence into Asturias. Not surprisingly, during Alfonso's reign the alleged resting-place of St. James was revealed. Alfonso's envoys to Charlemagne's courts may have also dealt with the adoptionist controversy, which had brought Bermudo's kingdom into Charlemagne's view. It seems that Carolingian support did much to spur his military raid into Andalusian territory up to Lisbon. The Andalusian city in turn was captured and sacked by his troops in 798.
Alfonso also moved the capital from Pravia, where Silo had located it, to Oviedo, the city of his father's founding and his birth. There he constructed churches and a palace. He built San Tirso, where he is buried, and Santullano, on the outskirts. The Crónica Sebastianense records his death in 842, saying:
- tras haber llevado por 52 años casta, sobria, inmaculada, piadosa y gloriosamente el gobierno del reino
- [after having held for 52 years chastely, soberly, immaculately, piously, and gloriously the government of the realm]
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
|King of Asturias