Urraca of León and Castilla c.(1082 – March 8 1126) was Queen of León and Castilla from June 30, 1109 to her death while while giving birth on March 8, 1126. She was the daughter of Alfonso VI of Castile by his second wife, Constance of Burgundy, and provided an example of successful rulership by a Queen Regnant in the 12th century.
Urraca was born to Constance of Burgandy, the second wife of king Alfonso VI king of León and Castille, probably at Sahagún in León, the favorite royal residence and monastic center. With no other legitimate brothers or sisters, Urraca was born heiress presumptive, and an important tool in her father's diplomatic and dynastic ambitions. Alfonso VI's marriage with Constance of Burgandy represented the dedicated foreign policy of Alfonso VI in seeking alliances from beyond the Pyrenees as a way to both check Muslim advancement from the south and to check Aragonese ambitions from the east. Part of this policy ment opening Spain to Clunic Monasticism and papal influence, represented by increasingly frequent visits by Roman legats. In exchange for allowing Roman influence over native Visgothic traditions, Alfonso VI benifited with the papacy directing crusading armies towards Spain, reinforcing his own army. It was in these circumstances that Constance's great-nephew, Raymond of Burgundy, arrived on the Iberian penninsula in the feudal host of Duke Eudas I of Burgundy in the expedition of 1086-87. Though the expedition failed at the seige of Tudela, Eudas I and Raymond continued on to León ostensibly to visit with Constance. There, Alfonso VI may have been impressed by the Burgundian host and the prospects of continued alliance with Burgundy, for he betrothed Urraca, then around six, to Raymond of Burgundy. However, as Canon Law set the minimum age for marrage for women at age 12, Urraca was placed in the guardianship of count Pedro Ansùrez until the formal marrage could take place. With these events an influencial Occitan nexus formed around the Leónese throne with Burgandians for both a queen-consort and for a son-in-law, and a Clunic primate for chief-advisor in the person of Benard of Sauvetot. As a counter-ballance, the choice of Count Pedro Ansùrez was a precise one, as Pedro Ansùrez was a trusted and powerful Leónese noble and would act as some guarentee for Raymond's good behaivor given his recently elevated status.
In 1087 and 1089 Alfonso VI strenghtened his rule in Galicia and continued to press his advantage against the taifa king al Mutamid of Sevilla. In May 1087 the king created Raymond as count of Galicia, the event which may have triggered the revolt led by count Rodrigo Ovequiz sometime after 25 of April 1087. The unsuccessful revolt had the effect of diposing adhearents to the older Visgothic Mass, which retained elements of Arianism, and making way for the introduction of the Roman Mass and Clunic legates into Galicia who would be loyal to Raymond. This eased the way for the rule of the newly created count. Additionally, from his position in Aledo, Murcia, Alfonso VI harrassed Sevilla's eastern lands and also attacked Muslim territories around Calatrava in the west.
1090 started well for the Leónese king with the use of the Roman ritual reaffirmed in his kingdom that year, and a council of León, presided over by (then) Cardinal Rainerius, deposing Pedro of Cardeńa (a foe of Alphonso VI) from the see of Compostella. However, Alfonso VI was pressed domestically with the reemergence of the succession question. In 1090 García, Alfonso VI's younger brother and long-time prisoner, died without issue, bringing the question of succession again to the forefront. With no direct male heir, Alfonso VI was settled on the marriage of Urraca with Raymond. On March 31, 1090, the marriage seems to have take place, with Urraca about eight years of age. This was a politically expedient move designed to formally recognize Raymond's position in the kingdom as possible regent-through-marriage to Urraca. Additionally, Raymond was granted more authority, including with the transfering to him of the cities of Lisbon, Santarem, and Cintra. Thus Raymond of Burgandy was entrusted with the task of defending them against the taifa king al-Mutawakkil of Badojoz. As Raymond of Burgandy could not have been expected to defend such a wide frontier solely from his base in Galicia, he may have been entrusted with the defense of the western march, a full quarter of the Leónese kingdom. As countess of Galicia, Urraca was associated with Raymond on charters within Galicia through-out 1091 and 1099, when Raymond continued to consolidate his position at court and securing his position in Galicia.
Though Alfonso VI strengthened the position of Raymond in the kingdom, the king simultaneously manoevered to deminish Occitan influence in his court. Urraca's morther Queen Constance died in 1093, making way for the promotion at court of Alfonso's mistress Zaida, the Muslim widowed daughter-in-law of King al-Mutamid of Sevilla. Zaida became Alfonso's mistress in 1092, and bore him a son in c. 1093, Sancho Adelfónsez. Zaida may have died in the child's birth. Additionally, Alfonso VI took to wife Bertha from northern Italy, negociated from at least 1094. No children would come from that match, but Raymond was concerned with these events as he entered into a "Pact of Succession" with his cousin count Henry of Portugal, the brother of Duke Eudas I of Burgandy. Negociated with the aid of Hugh, the Abbot of Cluny, it stipulated that Raymond would grant Henry either Toledo or Galicia on the death of Alfonso VI in exchange for Henry's suport in recognizing Raymond as king.
Urraca and Raymond may have continued to reside at their vast estates near the royal court at Sahagún, possibly the important Castle of Grajal. Raymond is documented as inhabiting the castle in 1105, but it may have come into their possion much earlier. By age 13, Urraca gave birth to princess Sancha (b.c. 1095) , and may have had as many as seven miscarages and stillbirths before the birth of her son, prince Alfonso Raimundez, on March 1, 1105, prehaps named in honor of her own father but certinly in the tradition of the dynasty.
She was married, as a child, to Raymond of Burgundy who died in September 1107. They had two children: the Infante Alfonso Raimúndez (born 1104) and the Infanta Sancha (born before 1095). Now a widow, Urraca was ruler of Galicia. She was also her father's only surviving legitimate child, and now the heiress to Castile. King Alfonso VI selected a new husband for her. His choice fell on Alfonso I of Aragon who he hoped would safeguard the kingdom. Alfonso was renowned as a great warrior. According to the chronicler Ibn al-Athir, he once remarked that a real soldier lives with men, not with women.
Urraca and Alfonso of Aragon were related within forbidden degrees. Bernard, Archbishop of Toledo, objected to the marriage on these grounds and condemned it as consanguinous. Nevertheless, Urraca and Alfonso were married in October 1109 in Monzón. Urraca accused Alfonso of being physically abusive to her. Their inability to produce a child created a further rift between them. The royal couple were separated by 1111 and their marriage was annulled in 1114. Urraca never remarried though she took several lovers, including Count Gómez González.
Urraca's reign was disturbed by strife among the powerful nobles and especially by constant warfare with her husband who had seized her lands. Another thorn on her side was her brother-in-law, Henry, the husband of her half-sister Teresa of Leon. He alternatively allied with Alfonso I of Aragon, then betrayed Alfonso for a better offer from Urraca's court. After Henry's death in 1112, his widow, Teresa, still contested ownership of lands with Urraca. With the aid of her son, Alfonso Raimúndez, Urraca was able to win back much of her domain and ruled successfully for many years.
Besides her two legitimate children by Raymond of Burgundy, Urraca also had an illegitimate son by her lover, Pedro González de Lara. She recognized their son, Fernando Perez Furtado, in 1123.
- Reilly, Bernard F. "The Kingdom of León-Castilla under Queen Urraca, 1109-1126"
- Reilly, Bernard F. The Medieval Spains, 1993.
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