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Kingdom of Castile (13th – 15th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

Kingdom of Castile at the beginning of the 13th century was economically weaker and politically less influential in compare to Aragon, while the Castilian government was concentrated on military campaigns against the Moors. Castile achieved the first major political success during the reign of Ferdinand III (1217-1252) who permanently united Castile and Leon after his father’s death in 1230. He also launched several military campaigns against the Moors and captured Cordoba and Seville, and made the Kingdom of Granada his vassal state.

Ferdinand’s son and successor Alfonso X the Wise (1252-1282) did pursue his father’s policy and was more interested in culture. He claimed the title of Holy Roman Emperor as grandson of Philip of Swabia in 1256 but he was more interested in Italy than Germany. He later renounced his claim to the Imperial crown and was not able to fulfill his plans in Italy due to inner political crisis and financial difficulties. Alfonso’s rule ended with his abdication in 1284. He was succeeded by his son Sancho IV (1284-1295) whose reign was marked by the dynastic struggles over the throne. He died in 1295 and his wife Maria de Molina acted as regent queen to her son Ferdinand IV (1295-1312) who was a minor at the time of his coronation. She was also a guardian to her grandson Alfonso XI (1312-1350) who was an infant at his accession to the Castilian throne in 1312.

Portrait of Alfonso XI of Castile by unknown artist

Alfonso XI

Alfonso XI managed to restore the royal power which was greatly weakened under his predecessors and during his long minority. He launched several campaigns against the Moors and achieved a major victory in the Battle of Rio Salado in 1340. The reign of his successor Peter the Cruel (1350-1369) was marked by a civil war with Alfonso’s illegitimate son Henry of Trastamara. Peter was supported by the English, while Charles V of France sent his troops to aid Henry of Transtamara. However, Peter came into conflict with his English allies and thus the struggle ended with Peter’s deposition in 1369. His illegimate half-brother assumed the throne as Henry II (1369-1379).

The war for the succession also marked the reign of Henry’s successor John I (1379-1390). He claimed the throne of Portugal on the death of his father-in-law Ferdinand I of Portugal in 1383. The war for the Portuguese throne ended with Castilian defeat in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385, while Castile was invaded by the English forces led by John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster shortly afterwards. The English invasion failed but John I finally ended the English threat by arrangement of the marriage of Henry III, his son and heir to the Castilian throne and Katherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt in 1388. The reigns of Henry III (1390-1406), John II (1406-1454) and Henry IV (1454-1474) were characterized by the increased power of the Castilian nobility which virtually freed itself from the royal control during the reign of Henry IV.

Portrait of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II

Isabella I and Ferdinand II

Castilian throne was assumed by sister of Henry IV, Isabella I (1474-1504) and her husband Ferdinand II (1479-1516) on Henry’s death in 1474. Ferdinand II defeated Alfonso V of Portugal who claimed the Castilian throne and succeeded his father as King of Aragon in 1479. Thus Isabella and Ferdinand often referred as the Catholic Kings united Castile and Aragon, and created a basis for the political unification of Spain. Isabella I and Ferdinand II ended the Reconquista by conquest of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in the Iberian Peninsula in 1492 and financed Christopher Columbus’ voyage to India which resulted in the discovery of America.

Kingdom of Aragon (11th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Aragon was established in 1035 when the deceased King Sancho III of Navarre left the county of Aragon to his illegitimate son Ramiro I (1035-1063). Ramiro I elevated Aragon into a kingdom and extended Aragonese territory to Sobrarbe and Ribagorza after the death of his half-brother Gonzalo in 1045. His successor Sancho Ramirez (1063-1094) took advantage of the dynastic crisis in the Kingdom of Navarre, captured one third of its territory and added to his title the King of Navarre in 1076.

Ramon Berenguer IV

Ramon Berenguer IV

Aragonese territorial expansion – predominantly on Moorish expense continued during the reign of Peter I (1094-1104) and his successor Alfonso the Battler (1104-1134). The latter tried to gain Castile through marriage with Urraca of Castile (1109-1126) but the royal couple divorced already in 1114. Alfonso was succeeded by his brother Ramiro II (1134-1137) who lost the Kingdom of Navarre which restored its independence on Alfonso’s death in 1134. In 1137, Ramiro II abdicated in favor of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona (1137-1162) who was betrothed to the infant Petronila of Aragon, at the time two years old. The accession of Ramon Berenguer IV to the Aragonese throne established a union between Aragon and Catalonia under one ruling house. The son of Ramon Berenguer IV and Petronila, Alfonso II (1162-1196) inherited both titles King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona. However, Catalonia preserved its own laws and institutions and became the dominant part of the kingdom.

Kingdom of Portugal (12th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012
Alfonso I of Portugal

Alfonso I of Portugal

The Kingdom of Portugal was established after the coronation of Alfonso I (1139-1185) as King of Portugal and declaration of independence from the Kingdom of Castile and Leon in 1139. Alfonso strengthened his authority and achieved his recognition by the Spanish Kingdoms as well as by the Pope. He was succeeded by his son Sancho I (1185-1211) who led a successful campaign against the Moors and captured Algarve. The reign of Sancho I was also characterized by a conflict over the land and power with the Church which also marked the reign of his successor Alfonso II (1211-1223).

Emirate of Cordoba

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Iberian Peninsula except for the Kingdom of Asturias was conquered by the Muslims between 711 and 718. It became an integral part of the Umayyad Empire known as Al-Andalus and was ruled by the governors from Damascus appointed by the Caliphs. However, anti-Ummayad movements led by the Abbasids in the Umayyad Empire after 740 resulted in breakdown of the Caliphal control in the Iberian Peninsula by 750.

Umayyad Caliphate

Umayyad Caliphate

The Umayyad Dynasty was overthrown but the grandson of the tenth Umayyad Caliph, Abd ar-Rahman I escaped from Syria and established Emirate of Cordoba in 752. Abd ar-Rahman I managed to establish an independent kingdom with relatively strong central government during his 32-year long reign. He also began the construction of the Mezquita, the great mosque at Cordoba which was completed by his successor Hisham I (788-796). The latter enjoyed relatively peaceful reign but his successor al-Hakam I (796-822) had to deal with numerous rebellions.

Kingdom of Asturias (5th – 9th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Asturias situated north of the Cantabrian Mountains was the only Christian kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula that managed to withstand the Moorish invasion. The Kingdom of Asturias was established by the legendary Pelayo (Pelagius) who defeated the Moorish forces in the Battle of Covadonga in 718. Pelayo’s victory against the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga in 718 is traditionally regarded as the beginning of the Reconquista or the Christian re-conquest of Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim Moors.

Pelayo was succeeded by his son Favila in 739 but he was supposedly killed by a bear on a hunt in the same year. He was succeeded by Alfonso I or Alfonso the Catholic (739-757) who conquered Galicia, Alamanca, Astorga, Leon, part of Navarre and reached Castile by capturing Segovia and Avila. Alfonso’s successors successfully withstood the Moorish attacks, continued the expansion of the Kingdom of Asturias and incorporated the northwestern part of the Iberian Peninsula by about 775.

Kingdom of Asturias

Kingdom of Asturias

The territorial expansion of the Kingdom of Asturias on expense of the Moors continued under Alfonso II (791-842) who reached almost to Lisbon. The reign of Alfonso II was also marked by his recognition as king by Charlemagne and by the Pope which greatly increased the prestige and influence of the Kingdom of Asturias.

Visigothic Kingdom

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Visigoths under leadership of King Alaric moved to Aquitaine after the sack of Rome in 410 and established a kingdom with center at Toulouse. They settled in Aquitaine as Roman foederati and joined the Roman army against the Huns, helped suppress the peasant’s revolts and joined the war against the Vandals and Alans in the Iberian Peninsula. The Visigoths expanded their influence in southern Gaul and Iberian Peninsula during the reign of Euric (466-484) but the Visigothic Kingdom reached its height during the reign of King Alaric II (485-507) and became an important European power.

Migration of the Visigoths

Migration of the Visigoths

Alaric was defeated and killed by the Franks in the Battle at Vouille in 507. The Visigoths afterwards left Aquitaine and moved south of the Pyrenees where they established a kingdom with the capital in Toledo. The Visigothic Kingdom with center in Toledo managed to survive the period of turmoils, to consolidate and repulse the Byzantine attempts to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. The Byzantine Empire captured the very southern part of the Visigothic Kingdom in 551 but the Hispano-Roman population preferred Visigothic over Byzantine rule. Thus King Liuvigild (568-586) managed to repel the Byzantines from Cordoba as well as to conquer the Suebi Kingdom in 575. The Visigothic Kingdom survived until 711 when the last Visigothic King Roderic was killed in the Battle of Guadalete by the Moorish invaders who conquered the Iberian Peninsula by 718.
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