Urraca of León, Castile, and Galicia

On this date, 8 March 1126, Urraca of León, Castile, and Galicia, passed away. She was my 27th great-grandmother through her grandson Fernando II of Léon, my 28th great-grandmother through her grandson Sancho III of Castile, and my 28th great-grandmother through her granddaughter Sancha of Castile.

Urraca was born circa April 1079 in Burgos, Spain to Alfonso VI and Constance of Burgundy. As the eldest and only surviving child of Alfonso VI, Urraca was heir presumptive to Castile and León until 1107, when her father recognized his illegitimate son Sancho as his heir.

Urraca’s place in the line of succession, however, made her the focus of dynastic politics.  Circa 1086, Raymond of Burgundy arrived in Spain. In 1087, Urraca, who was eight years old at time, was betrothed and possibly even wedded to Raymond of Burgundy. Although canon law set a minimum age for marriage at 12 years old for women, exceptions did occur. Some evidence that they might have been married, instead of just betrothed, was in protocol documents, which, almost immediately, began labeling Raymond of Burgundy as Alfonso VI’s son-in-law. Nevertheless, it appears their marriage was formalized by 1090, when Alfonso VI issued a charter to the church of Palencia in their name.

Together, Urraca and Raymond had two surviving children: daughter Sancha and son Alfonso VII of Léon (my 27th great-grandfather through his son Sancho III, my 26th great-grandfather through his son Fernando II, and my 27th great-grandfather through his daughter Sancha.)

In 1107, Raymond of Burgundy died. In late September 1107, Urraca succeeded her late husband as ruler of Galicia.

In 1108, Urraca again became the heir presumptive to her father when her brother Sancho died at the Battle of Uclés. Alfonso VI reunited the nobles of Toledo, announcing that he had chosen Urraca to succeed him. The nobles agreed with his choice, on the condition that Urraca would marry again. Several candidates for her hand were proposed, including Count Gómez González and Count Pedro González de Lara. However, Alfonso VI feared that the rivalries between the nobles of Castile and of Léon would increase if Urraca were to wed one of these suitors; therefore, Alfonso VI decided that Urraca would marry a relative, Alfonso I of Aragon, thereby uniting Castile and Léon with Aragon.

When Alfonso VI died on 30 June 1109, Urraca ascended to the throne. In October 1109, in accordance with her father’s wishes, she married Alfonso I of Aragon. For Alfonso I of Aragon, the match was politically advantageous, while for Urraca it meant a loss of the power she had held since 1107.

Unfortunately, many were opposed to the marriage. The marriage agreement between Urraca and Alfonso I stipulated that if either party left the other against the other person’s will, he or she would forfeit the loyalty of his or her followers. Alfonso I of Aragon promised not to leave Urraca for reasons of blood relationship or excommunication. If Alfonso I of Aragon and Urraca had a child, that child would inherit Alfonso I of Aragon’s territories jointly with Urraca, in the event of Alfonso I of Aragon’s death. If no child were conceived, Urraca and her heirs would be the inheritors. If Urraca died first, Alfonso would be entitled to the profits from her lands until he died; following his death, the lands would fall to her son by her first marriage, Alfonso VI.

In the summer of 1109, the Muslims threatened to occupy Aragon. Alfonso I of Aragon, accompanied by Urraca, defeated the Muslim forces on January 24, 1110.

However, increasing tensions between the couple became more evident, and by May 1110, Urraca and Alfonso I of Aragon had separated. Two years later, Urraca led her forces against those of Alfonso I of Aragon in an attempt to retake Castile, which her estranged husband had seized. By 1113, Alfonso I of Aragon had laid claim to Toledo, Léon, Castile, and Aragon. Finally, in 1114, their marriage was annulled.

With continued fighting between Urraca and Alfonso I of Aragon, Urraca named her son Alfonso VI co-ruler and heir. By the winter of 1116, Urraca had reclaimed most of Castile. By that time, Alfonso I of Aragon was planning to lay siege to the Muslim stronghold of Zaragoza. To free up his forces for this siege, Alfonso I of Aragon negotiated a truce with Urraca in 1117.

In 1118, Alfonso I of Aragon wrested Zaragoza from the Moors. In 1120, he captured Calatayud in 1120. In 1125, he raided Andalusia, encouraging Christians in Muslim lands to settle in his domain. Meanwhile, Urraca focused her attention on securing Toledo.

In 1120, Urraca made the tactical mistake of seizing Bishop Gelmirez, who had served her father but favored a faction surrounding her son following the death of Alfonso VI. The act placed her at risk of excommunication and could have led to her deposition. But by appealing directly to the pope, Urraca escaped excommunication.

On March 8, 1126, Urraca died in Tierra de Campos, Spain. Initially, Uracca’s heir Alfonso VII was refused the crown in favor of Count Pedro Gonzalez of Lara and his brother, Rodrigo Gonzalez, Count Astururias de Santillana. But with the support of his allies, Alfonso VII of Léon ascended to the throne. Alfonso VII of Léon then began to recover the lands that had been lost to his stepfather Alfonso I of Aragon. Finally, in 1134, Alfonso VII of Léon defeated Alfonso I of Aragon, who died in battle.

#familyhistory     #genealogy     #spanishhistory

Categories: Famous Faces and Places, On This Day, Royal Roots, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Urraca of León, Castile, and Galicia

  1. I enjoy your history lessons! Your family tree is so interesting, and I look forward to reading them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ann Marie! They are certainly a fascinating bunch! I am always amazed of how far-flung my ancestry is, as I thought I was only English, Scottish, and German. Silly me!

      Liked by 1 person

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