Alfonso XI of Castile

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Alfonso XI
Alfonso XI, king of Leon and Castile.jpg
Depiction in an illumination of Froissart's chronicles, c. 1410.
King of Castile and León
Reign 7 September 1313 – 26/27 March 1350
Predecessor Ferdinand IV
Successor Peter
Consort Constance of Peñafiel
Maria of Portugal
Issue
among others...
Peter of Castile
Henry II of Castile
House House of Ivrea
Father Ferdinand IV of Castile
Mother Constance of Portugal
Born (1311-08-13)13 August 1311
Salamanca
Died 26/27 March 1350(1350-03-27) (aged 38)
Gibraltar
Burial Real Colegiata de San Hipólito
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature

Alfonso XI (13 August 1311 – 26/27 March 1350) was the king of Castile, León and Galicia.

He was the son of Ferdinand IV of Castile and his wife Constance of Portugal. Upon his father's death in 1312, several disputes ensued over who would hold regency, which were resolved in 1313. His grandmother, María de Molina, his mother Constance, his granduncle John and uncle Peter, assumed regency. Queen Constance died first in 18 November 1313, followed by Infante John and Infante Peter during a military campaign against Granada in 1319, which left Dowager Queen María as the only regent until her death in 1 July 1321. Since Infante John's and Infante Peter's deaths in 1339, Infante Philip (son of Sancho IV and María de Molina, thus brother of Infante Peter), Juan Manuel (the king's second-degree uncle by virtue of being Ferdinand III's grandson) and Juan el Tuerto (the late Juan's son and the king's second-degree uncle) split the kingdom among themselves according to their aspirations for regency, even as it was being looted by moors and Levantine nobility. Once Alfonso was declared adult in 1325, he began a reign that would serve to strengthen royal power. His achievements include solving the problems of the Gibraltar Strait and the conquest of Algeciras.

Life[edit]

As soon as he took the throne, he began working hard to strengthen royal power by dividing his enemies. His early display of rulership skills included the unhesitant execution of possible opponents (Don Juan el Tuerto in 1326, among others).

He managed to extend the limits of his kingdom to the Strait of Gibraltar after the important victory at the Battle of Río Salado against the Marinid Dynasty in 1340 and the conquest of the Kingdom of Algeciras in 1344. Once that conflict was resolved, he redirected all his Reconquista efforts to fighting the Moorish king of Granada.

He is variously known among Castilian kings as the Avenger or the Implacable, and as "He of Río Salado." The first two names he earned by the ferocity with which he repressed the disorders caused by the nobles during his long minority; the third by his victory in the Battle of Río Salado over the last formidable Marinid invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1340.

Alfonso XI never went to the insane lengths of his son Peter of Castile, but he could be bloody in his methods. He killed for reasons of state without any form of trial. He openly neglected his wife, Maria of Portugal, and indulged a scandalous passion for Eleanor of Guzman, who bore him ten children. This set Peter an example which he failed to better. It may be that his early death, during the Great Plague of 1350, at the Fifth Siege of Gibraltar, only averted a desperate struggle with Peter, though it was a misfortune in that it removed a ruler of eminent capacity, who understood his subjects well enough not to go too far.

Marriage and children[edit]

Alfonso XI first married Costanza Manuel of Castile on 1325, but had the union annulled two years later. His second marriage, in 1328, was to Maria of Portugal, daughter of Alfonso IV of Portugal.[1] They had:

By his mistress, Eleanor of Guzman, he had ten children:

After Alfonso's death, his widow Maria had Eleanor arrested and later killed.[2]

Appearance[edit]

"...King Alfonso was not very tall but well proportioned, and he was rather strong and had fair skin and hair." [3]

Ancestry[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia, 75.
  2. ^ Chapman, Charles Edward and Rafael Altamira, A history of Spain, (The MacMillan Company, 1922), 118.
  3. ^ From 'Crónica de Pedro' by Pedro López de Ayala (1332-1407)

References[edit]

  • Chapman, Charles Edward and Rafael Altamira, A history of Spain, The MacMillan Company, 1922.
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia, Ed. E. Michael Gerli and Samuel G. Armistead, Routledge, 2003.
Alfonso XI of Castile
Born: 13 August 1311 Died: 26/27 March 1350
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ferdinand IV
King of Castile and León
1312–1350
Succeeded by
Peter