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ALFONSO VII, Emperor of Spain, Berenguela of Barcelona

ALFONSO VII. (Alfonso Raimúndez). Emperor of Spain. [PC T3-2-1], [Chart A11].
He became the King of Galicia in 1111 and King of León and Castile in 1126. He was crowned Emperor of Spain in 1135
Born on 1 March 1105 at Toledo, Castile; son of RAYMOND of Burgundy and Urraca of Castile; the first of the House of Burgundy to rule in Spain.

Alfonso was a dignified and somewhat enigmatic figure. His rule was characterised by the renewed supremacy of the western kingdoms of Christian Spain over the eastern (Navarre and Aragón) after the reign of Alfonso the Battler. He also sought to make the imperial title meaningful in practice, though his attempts to rule over both Christian and Moslem populations was even less successful. His hegemonic intentions never saw fruition, however. During his tenure, Portugal became de facto independent, in 1128, and was recognized as de jure independent, in 1143.

He married (1) Berenguela of Barcelona Queen of Castile and Leon Bef 04 Dec 1152.

He married (2) Rixa (Richeza), Princess of Poland.

Succession to three kingdoms

In 1111, Diego Gelmírez, Bishop of Compostela, and the count of Traba crowned Alfonso King of Galicia in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He was but a child at the time, but his mother had already (1109) succeeded to the united throne of León-Castile-Galicia and desired to assure her son's prospects and groom him for his eventual succession.

On 10 March 1126, after the death of his mother, he was crowned in León and immediately began the recovery of the Kingdom of Castile, which was then under the domination of Alfonso the Battler. By the Peace of Támara of 1127, the Battler recognised Alfonso VII of Castile. The territory in the far east of his dominion, however, had gained much independence during the rule of his mother and experienced many rebellions. After his recognition in Castile, Alfonso fought to curb the autonomy of the local barons.

Territorial aspirations

When Alfonso the Battler, King of Navarre and Aragón, died without descendants in 1134, he willed his kingdom to the military orders. The aristocracy of both kingdoms did not accept this and García VI was elected in Navarre while Alfonso pretended to the throne of Aragón. The nobles chose another candidate in the dead king's brother, Ramiro II. Alfonso responded by occupying La Rioja, conquering Zaragoza, and governing both realms in unison. From this point, the arms of Zaragoza began to appear in those of León.

In several skirmished, he defeated the joint Navarro-Aragonese army and put the kingdoms to vassalage. He had the strong support of the lords north of the Pyrenees, who held lands as far as the River Rhône. In the end, however, the combined forces of the Navarre and Aragón were too much for his control.

At this time, he helped Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona, in his wars with the other Catalan counties to unite the old Marca Hispanica.

Imperial rule

A vague tradition had always assigned the title of emperor to the sovereign who held León. Sancho the Great considered the city the imperiale culmen and minted coins with the inscription Imperator totius Hispaniae after being crowned in it. Such a sovereign was considered the most direct representative of the Visigothic kings, who had been themselves the representatives of the Roman Empire. But though appearing in charters, and claimed by Alfonso VI of Castile and Alfonso the Battler, the title had been little more than a flourish of rhetoric.

In 1135, Alfonso was crowned "Emperor of All the Spains" in the Cathedral of León. By this, he probably wished to assert his authority over the entire peninsula and his absolute leadership of the Reconquista. He appears to have striven for the formation of a national unity which Spain had never possessed since the fall of the Visigoth kingdom. The elements he had to deal with could not be welded together. The weakness of Aragón enabled him to make his superiority effective, although Afonso I of Portugal never recognised him as liege, thereby affirming Portugal's independence. In 1143, he himself recognised this status quo and consented to the marriage of Petronila of Aragón with Ramon Berenguer IV, a union which combined Aragón and Catalonia into the Crown of Aragón.


Alfonso was a pious prince. He introduced the Cistercians to Spain by founding a monastery at Fitero. He adopted a militant attitude towards the Moors of al-Andalus, especially the Almoravids.

From 1139, Alfonso led a series of expeditions subjugating the Almoravids. He took the fortress of Oreja near Toledo and, as the Chronica Adefonsis Imperatoris tells it:

Alfonso VII of León
. . . early in the morning the castle was surrendered and the towers were filled with Christian knights, and the royal standards were raised above a high tower. Those who held the standards shouted out loud and proclaimed "Long live Alfonso, emperor of León and Toledo!"

Alfonso VII of León

In 1146, the Almohads invaded and he was forced to refortify his southern frontier and come to an agreement with the Almoravid Ibn Ganiya for their mutual defence.

In 1144, Alfonso advanced as far as Córdoba. When Pope Eugene III preached the Second Crusade, Alfonso VII, with García of Navarre and Ramon Berenguer, led a mixed army of Catalans and Franks, with a Genoese-Pisans navy, in a crusade against the rich port city of Almería, which was occupied in October 1147. It was Castile's first Mediterranean seaport. In 1157, Almería entered into Almohad possession. Alfonso was returining from an expedition against them when he died in pass of Muradel in the Sierra Morena, possibly at Viso del Marqués (Ciudad Real).


Alfonso was at once a patron of the church and a protector, if not a supporter of, the Moslems, who formed a large portion of his subjects. His reign ended in an unsuccessful campaign against the rising power of the Almohads. Though he was not actually defeated, his death in the pass, while on his way back to Toledo, occurred in circumstances which showed that no man could be what he claimed to be — "king of the men of the two religions."

Furthermore, by dividing his realm between his son, he ensured that Christendom would not present the new Almohad threat with a united front.

In November 1128, he married Berenguela, daughter of Ramon Berenguer III. She died in 1149.

In 1152, Alfonso married Richeza of Poland, the daughter of Ladislaus II the Exile. They had a daughter, Sancha (1155-1208), the wife of Alfonso II of Aragón.

By his mistress, an Asturian noblewoman named Guntroda, he had an illegitimate daughter, Urraca, who married García VI of Navarre.

He died on 21 August 1157 at La Fresneda, Teruel, Aragon; and was buried in the Catedral De Toledo, Toledo, Castile.

WIFE (1):
Berenguela of Barcelona. Queen of Castile and Leon. [Chart A11].
Born in 1112; daughter of RAMON Berenguer III and Maria (Marie) RODRIGUEZ (RUIZ) de VIVAR. She died in 1149.

CHILDREN of ALFONSO VII, Emperor of Spain and Berenguela of Barcelona:
  1. Sancho III, King of Castile. (el Deseado). Born in 1134 at Leon, Spain. He married Blanca, Princess of Navarra. He died on 31 January (1151)(in 1158) at Toledo, Spain.
  2. FERDINAND II, King of León. [Chart A11]. (1137-1188)
  3. Sancha. Born about 1137-1138 at Toledo, Castile. She married Sancho V (VI) Garcia, King of Navarre. She died on 5 August (1177)(1179).
  4. Constance of CASTILE. Born (after 1140)(in 1141). She married Louis VII, the Younger, King of FRANCE before 18 November 1153. She died 4 October 1160. Constance married Louis VII the son of Louis VI, the Fat, and Adelaide of Savoy de Maurienne, before 18 November 1153. (Louis VII the Younger of France Capet was born circa 1120 and died on 18 Sep 1180 in Paris, France.)

WIFE (2):
Richeza of Poland. (Rixa).
daughter of LADISLAUS II (Uladislav), the Exile, and Sophia. She married Alfonso VII.

CHILDREN of ALFONSO VII, Emperor of Spain and Richeza:
  1. SANCHA. Born 21 Sep 1154 at Toledo, Castile. She married Alfonso II, The Chaste, King of Aragón. She died on 9 November 1208 at Monasterio De Jaen, Jaen, Spain.


CHILDREN of ALFONSO VII, King of Leon and Castile, and Guntroda:
  1. Urraca, who married García VI of Navarre.