Urraca of Zamora

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The twelfth-century Chalice of Doña Urraca, donated by Urraca to the Basilica of San Isidoro de León, where it remains.

Urraca (1033/4 – 1101) was a Leónese infanta, one of the five children of Ferdinand I the Great, who received the city of Zamora as her inheritance and exercised palatine authority in it. Her story was romanticized in the cantar de gesta called the Cantar de Mio Cid, and Robert Southey's Chronicle of the Cid.

Life[edit]

Before his death in 1065, Ferdinand divided his widespread conquests in central Spain between his five children, charging them to live at peace with one another. Ferdinand's oldest son, Sancho II, received Castile and the tribute from Zaragoza; Alfonso VI received León and the tribute from Toledo; and García II received Galicia. His daughters, Elvira and Urraca, received Toro and Zamora respectively.

Sancho however resolved to rule over his father's entire kingdom and made war on his siblings. By 1072, Sancho had overthrown his youngest brother Garcia, and forced his other brother Alfonso to flee to his Moorish vassal city of Toledo. Toro, the city of Sancho's sister Elvira, fell easily. But in a siege of Urraca's better-defended city of Zamora, King Sancho was stalled, and was then mysteriously assassinated on 7 October 1072. It was widely suspected that the assassination was a result of a pact between Alfonso and Urraca. The Chronicle of the Cid, purportedly written by one of the Cid's followers, states that the assassin was a nobleman of Zamora, who then received sanctuary in the city. The chronicle is careful not to place any direct blame on Alfonso or Urraca, just as it takes pains to stress that the participation of the Cid at the siege of Zamora was involuntary and supposedly forced on him by King Sancho.

The Castilian nobility, however, were highly suspicious of both Urraca and Alfonso, and maintained the siege of Zamora for a period after Sancho's death. In the absence of Sancho, however, their siege was pointless. According to the chronicle, the guilt of Zamora was decided by a trial by combat, which proved inconclusive. Urraca sent summonses to the nobles of Sancho's dominions, calling on them to gather, and Alfonso was grudgingly acknowledged as heir to all of the Castilian realm as well as León. Suspicion, however, remained and, led by the Cid and a dozen "oath-helpers," the nobles forced Alfonso to swear to his innocence publicly in front of St. Gadea's Church in Burgos. From this incident dated Alfonso's later antagonism to the Cid.

The Chronicle of the Cid states that in his early years as King, Alfonso followed Urraca's advice in all respects. There were even rumors of an incestuous relationship between the pair. Urraca maintained her rule over Zamora following Alfonso's succession to the Castilian throne. In her later years she gradually gave up her governing duties, finally retiring to a monastery in Leon, where she died in 1101. She is interred in the Chapel of the Kings at the Basílica of San Isidoro of León.

Following the death of his son, Sancho, fighting Muslim forces, Alfonso VI was eventually succeeded by his daughter, Queen Urraca of León.

Death and burial[edit]

At the end of her life, she retired to a monastery in Leon where she remained until her death in 1101 and was buried in The Royal Pantheon in Basilica of San Isidoro where her parents and two siblings, King García of Galicia and Infanta Elvira of Toro were also buried.

The following epitaph in Latin was carved in her tombstone:

H. R. DOMNA URRACA REGINA DE ZAMORA, FILIA REGIS MAGNI FERDINANDI. HAEC AMPLIFICAVIT ECCLESIAM ISTAM, ET MULTIS MUNERIBUS DITAVIT. ET QUIA BEATUM ISIDORUM SUPER OMNIA DILIGEBAT. EJUS SERVITIO SUBJUGAVIT. OBIIT ERA MCXXXVIIII...NOBILIS URRACA JACET HOC TUMULO TUMULATA HESPERIAEQUE DECUS HEU TENET HIC LOCULUS HAEC FUIT OPTANDI PROLES REGIS FREDENANDI. AST REGINA FUIT SANCTIA QUAE GENUIT CENTIES UNDECIES SOL VOLVERAT ET SEMEL ANNUM CARNE QUOD OBTECTUS SPONTE.

Literature and film[edit]

Urraca of Zamora, nineteenth-century romanticized depiction.

In the poetic legend, Dona Urraca is the wronged infanta, watching Sancho and the Cid despoil her lands from the battlements of her castle shortly before Sancho is murdered. Her brother Alfonso is her loyal and chivalrous defender.

The Hollywood film El Cid largely follows the narrative of the Chronicle and the poetic epics, adding to the character of the Infanta a spurned woman role scheming against the Cid, once she seems rejected by him; however it omits the story that Urraca and Rodrigo grew up as close companions in Zamora and maybe more is behind omitted. And it stretches the psychological card that as older and provoking sister she plays between her brothers Alfonso and Sancho's quarrels for her city and herself. Later in the film, after the death of the haughty older brother Sancho, she focuses her favours to extract from Alfonso compensation to her own grudges with Ruy Diaz. For some reason the film wrongly makes Urraca the ruler of Calahorra, rather than Zamora. Urraca is portrayed by the French actress Geneviève Page.

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

  • Del Arco y Garay, Ricardo. Instituto Jerónimo Zurita. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas.. ed. Sepulcros de la Casa Real de Castilla. Madrid. OCLC 11366237.
  • Blanco Lozano, Pilar. Colección diplomática de Fernando I (1037–1065). León: Centro de Estudios e Investigación «San Isidoro» (CSIC-CECEL) y Archivo Histórico Diocesano, 1987. ISBN 84-00-06653-7.
  • Martínez Díez, Gonzalo. El Condado de Castilla (711–1065). La Historia frente a la leyenda. Valladolid, Junta de Castilla y León, 2004. ISBN 84-8718-275-8.
  • Sánchez Candeira, Alfonso. Castilla y León en el siglo XI. Estudio del reinado de Fernando I. Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1999. 349 p. ISBN 84-89512-41-8.
  • Viñayo González, Antonio. Fernando I, el Magno (1035–1065). Burgos: La Olmeda, 1999. 309 p. ISBN 84-89915-10-5.

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