Eleanor of Castile (1307–1359)

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Eleanor of Castile
Eleonor de Castilla 1330.jpg
Seal of Queen Eleanor, ca. 1330.
Queen consort of Aragon
Tenure 5 February 1329 – 24 January 1336
Born 1307
Died 1359 (aged 51–52)
Spouse Alfonso IV of Aragon
Issue Ferdinand, Marquis of Tortosa
John, Lord of Elche
House House of Ivrea Burgundy
Father Ferdinand IV of Castile
Mother Constance of Portugal
Religion Roman Catholicism

Eleanor of Castile (1307–1359), was by birth Infanta of Castile and by marriage Queen consort of Aragon during 1329–1336.

She was the eldest child and daughter of King Ferdinand IV of Castile by his wife Constance of Portugal.


At the age of four Eleanor was engaged to the Infante James of Aragon, the eldest son and heir of King James II of Aragon, through the agreements reached in the Meeting of Calatayud of 1311 between Ferdinand IV of Castile and James II,[1] while at the same time was celebrated the marriage between Infanta Maria of Aragon, daughter of Jaime II, with the Infante Peter of Castile, Lord of Cameros and brother of Ferdinand IV. Shortly after, she was sent to the Aragonese court to be raised there as the future wife of the heir of the throne. When she was five years old, in September 1312, her father King Ferdinand IV died in the city of Jaén. A year later, in November 1313, her mother Queen Constance died in Sahagún.

However, James of Aragon, despite his betrothal with Eleanor, was eager to receive the sacred orders and to enter a monastery, before which the intervention of Pope John XXII took place, which reminded the Aragonese Infante of his duties.[1] In view of the situation, James II and his son (whose relationship was strained due to the reluctance of the heir to fulfill his court obligations), signed a document before a notary in October 1319, on the eve of the marriage ceremony, where the heir of the crown promised to marry. Later, in an interview between father and son, both agreed that the Infante James should be only present at the bridal mass, which would be officiated in the city of Gandesa, but leaving undiscussed the question of whether the Infante should consummate the marriage, given his opposition to the consummation, and taking into account that the commitments with the Kingdom of Castile and León only forced the celebration of the marriage.[1]

On 18 October 1319 the wedding ceremony between James of Aragon and Eleanor of Castile took place. The Aragonese Infante, according to the chronicles of the time, refused to give the Kiss of peace during the ceremony, and James II had to do it.[2] After the ceremony, officiated by the Archbishop of Tarragona, the Infante James again transmitted to his father his desire to renounce his rights to the throne and enter a convent. After the wedding ceremony, and after a discussion with his father, the Infante fled on horseback, leaving his wife abandoned, and in December 1319, renounced his rights to the throne of Aragon in the Convent of San Francisco of Tarragona. Immediately, he took the habit of the Knights Hospitaller in the Convent of Santo Domingo of the same city.[2]

After the resignation of the throne by the Infante James, his younger brother the Infante Alfonso, the future King Alfonso IV of Aragon was proclaimed heir to the throne. The Infante James' rejection of his wife could have caused serious diplomatic incidents between the Castilian and Aragonese courts. Nevertheless, James II of Aragon transmitted to the Dowager Queen María de Molina his regret for the actions of his son, incomprehensible to him. During the spring of 1320 the Infanta Eleanor remained lodged in the city of Tortosa; during her stay there, James II and his son Infante Alfonso were aware that the Infante James planned to recover his wife and his rights to the throne, although the conspiracy, in which the Infante was supported by some of his servants, was aborted by his father.[3]

After her stay in Tortosa, Eleanor lived in the cities of Zaragoza, Calatayud and Ateca, from where some Castilian ricohombres returned her to the Kingdom of Castile and León.[4] Once in her homeland, Eleanor retired to the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, although she never took the veil.[5]

In early 1325, King Edward II of England proposed the marriage of his eldest son and heir Edward, Prince of Wales with Eleanor, and sent his proxies to negotiate the terms of the wedding by charter dated 6 February 1325. The union never took place.[6]

In Ágreda in January 1329 the betrothal between Eleanor and King Alfonso IV of Aragon was signed, and the wedding ceremony took place one month later, on 5 February in the Church of San Miguel de Tarazona. In the ceremony were present King Alfonso XI of Castile (Eleanor's brother), the Infanta Maria of Aragon (already a widow), as well as the Infantes John, Peter and Ramón Berenguer, sons of James II of Aragon. Alfonso IV gave his new wife the city of Huesca and other villages and castles belonging to the Aragonese crown.[4] With this marriage, while at the same time improving relations between Castile and Aragon in a renewed alliance formed with the aim of reconquering Granada, was also repaired the previous affronts made by the Kingdom of Aragon after breached several marriage agreements, returning to Castile several Infantas without finally marrying them, as stipulated in their agreements. This was, for example, the case of the Infanta Isabella of Castile, daughter of Sancho IV and María de Molina, who returned to the Kingdom of Castile without having contracted marriage with James II of Aragon.

Eleanor became a disruptive influence in Aragon, plotting to advance the interests of her own sons over those of her stepson Infante Peter (born from Alfonso IV's first marriage with Teresa d'Entença, Countess of Urgell, who died in 1327). She convinced her husband to consent to make significant territorial donations to the children born to them, the Infantes Ferdinand and John. Alfonso IV was generous and on 28 December 1329, he granted Ferdinand the Marquisate of Tortosa and the cities of Albarracín, Orihuela, Callosa, Guardamar, Alicante, Monforte, Elda, La Mola, Novelda and Aspe.[7] Eleanor's younger son John also received several lordships: Elche, Biel and Bolsa.

These donations made by Alfonso IV diminished the territorial patrimony of the crown and mainly affected the Infante Peter, heir of Alfonso IV, originating with them a climate of resentment in the Aragonese court. Because of this the nobility was divided into two camps. One of the two sides was in favor of Queen Eleanor and her sons, and the other defended the prerogatives of the Infante Pedro and his full-siblings. When the King granted his son Ferdinand the cities of Játiva, Alcira, Sagunto, Morella, Burriana and Castellón de la Plana, all located in the Kingdom of Valencia, the local subjects protested, and for this reason the King decided to revoked these last donations.[8]

After the death of Alfonso IV, which occurred in the city of Barcelona on 24 January 1336, Queen Eleanor fled to the Kingdom of Castile and León, accompanied by his two sons, Ferdinand and John, fearing the new King Peter IV of Aragon, who was resentful of his stepmother and stepbrothers, because of the postponement suffered since the second marriage of his father.[4]

Castle of Castrojeriz, Burgos.

In his testament, written in the Monastery of Poblet in August 1333, Alfonso IV bequeathed to his second wife all her jewels and confirmed the possession of the cities that he had given to her in occasion of their wedding, while bequeathing their oldest son Ferdinand the Marquisates of Tortosa and Albarracín. When she escape to the kingdom of Castile, the now Dowager Queen took with her great quantities of gold, silver and jewels, although King Peter IV tried to prevent her and her sons from leaving the Kingdom of Aragon.[9] At first, the new monarch moved to confiscate Eleanor's revenues and prosecute her protector Pedro de Ejérica, but in 1338 he confirmed her and her sons in possession of their domains, not wishing to antagonise Castile at a time when the whole Iberian Peninsula was threatened by a new Moorish invasion.

Once in Castile, Eleanor continued with her disruptive behavior, this time against her nephew King Peter I. Her youngest son, John of Aragon, was assassinated in Bilbao on 12 June 1358 by order of his cousin the Castilian sovereign,[10] and one year later (March/April 1359), she was murdered in the castle of Castrojeriz by order of her nephew.[5] Four years later, in 1363, her oldest son, Ferdinand of Aragon, was assassinated in Burriana by order of his stepbrother, King Peter IV.[11]


There is controversy about the final whereabouts of the remains of Queen Eleanor of Castile. There are three places that adjudge the possession of its remains: the Old Cathedral of Lleida, the Church of Nuestra Señora del Manzano in Castrojeriz, and the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, place of burial of numerous members of the Castilian-Leonese royalty.

In the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas was conserved a white marble tomb, placed in the side of the Epistle or of Saint John,[12] that measures 2.25 meters long by 0.67 of width, with cover of limestone, and in which it is affirmed that Queen Eleanor of Castile was buried, although in the epitaph carved in the tomb appeared the name of María of Almenara, also called María of Urgel, daughter of Ermengol VI, Count of Urgell.[13] In its interior are five skulls and bones, as well as coffin boards and pieces of badana of the linings that covered them. It has been assumed that Queen Eleanor was buried in the tombstone of María of Almenara, whose mortal remains could be transferred to another tomb placed in the same nave, and inside which a female mummy, corpulent and of mature age. The tomb which is supposed to contain the remains of Queen Eleanor was trimmed for being too long and wide.[14] On one side of the tomb is the dead woman depicted on her deathbed, and two angels carrying her soul to heaven. To the sides, in arches on columns of twisted shaft, four bishops with miter and staff, and several personages. Below, a series of dogs chasing harpies, and dragons biting. On the other slope of the sepulcher appear vegetal scrolls and, in the corner, between rosettes that separate the words, it appears sculpted the epitaph.[14]

Alleged sepulcher of Queen Eleanor of Castile in the Old Cathedral of Lleida.

In the Old Cathedral of Lleida is a tomb in which on 23 October 1986 the remains of Alfonso IV of Aragon were deposited.[15] Next to him, were also deposited the remains of a young man, identified as the Infante Ferdinand, son of Alfonso IV, and those of an adult woman, who were identified as those of Queen Eleanor de Castile, second wife of Alfonso IV.[15] The remains of Alfonso IV, who had been transferred to the Old Cathedral of Lleida in 1781, remained in the crypt until 1986, when they were placed in a stone tomb, located next to the door of San Berenguer of the cathedral.

Alleged sepulcher of Queen Eleanor of Castile in the Church of Nuestra Señora del Manzano of Castrojeriz.

In the Church of Nuestra Señora del Manzano of Castrojeriz a tomb is conserved, attributed to the Queen Eleanor de Castile,[16] that is located at the feet of the church, near the baptistery,[17] and was discovered in June 1970, hidden behind a wall of adobe, by the Rescue Mission Group Marqués de Camarasa School Group.[18] From the moment of his discovery, the grave was attributed by the experts to the Queen Eleanor de Castile, daughter of Ferdinand IV, because the fashion of the sepulcher corresponds with other tombs realized in the middle of the 14th century, as well as by the fact that on its cap appears the sculpted figure of a woman. The assumption that Queen Eleanor was buried in this tomb is supported by the fact that certain documents found mention that Queen Leonor was buried in that church.[18]

Marriages and Issue[edit]

In Gandesa on 18 October 1319, Eleanor married firstly with Infante James of Aragon, who left her immediately after the ceremony to take holy orders.

In Tarazona on 5 February 1329, Eleanor married secondly with King Alfonso IV of Aragon, brother of her first husband.They had two sons:

  • Ferdinand, Marquis of Tortosa (1329–1363), married in 1355 to Maria of Portugal. No issue.
  • John, Lord of Elche, Biel y Bolsa (1334–1358), married in 1354 to Isabel Núñez de Lara (daughter of Juan Núñez III de Lara). No issue.



  1. ^ a b c Hinojosa Montalvo 2006, p. 77.
  2. ^ a b Hinojosa Montalvo 2006, p. 78.
  3. ^ Hinojosa Montalvo 2006, p. 79.
  4. ^ a b c Arco y Garay 1945, p. 258.
  5. ^ a b Arco y Garay 1954, p. 277.
  6. ^ Thomas Rymer (1745) Foedera, Conventiones, Literae 3rd Ed. (London), Tome II, Pars II, p. 125.
  7. ^ Ramón Pont 1983, pp. 63–64.
  8. ^ Ramón Pont 1983, p. 63–65.
  9. ^ Arco y Garay 1945, pp. 259, 263.
  10. ^ Arco y Garay 1945, p. 262.
  11. ^ Arco y Garay 1945, p. 261.
  12. ^ Herrero Sanz 2004, p. 262.
  13. ^ Gómez Moreno 1946, p. 28.
  14. ^ a b Arco y Garay 1954, p. 278.
  15. ^ a b Amics de la Seu Vella 1989, pp. 14–15.
  16. ^ Fernández-Ladreda 1989, p. 124.
  17. ^ Cruz 1979, p. 137.
  18. ^ a b "ABC.es Hemeroteca" (in Spanish). 25 June 1970. p. 63. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 


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Eleanor of Castile (1307–1359)
Cadet branch of the Anscarids
Born: circa 1307 Died: circa 1359
Royal titles
Title last held by
Elisenda of Montcada
Queen consort of Aragon
Valencia and Sardinia

Title next held by
Maria of Navarre