onsdag 16. mars 2011

Berengaria of Castile

Statue of Berenguela of Castile in Madrid (1753)

A granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and heiress to the kingdom of Castile, Berengaria was, like her infamous grandmother, not a woman to be stowed away. For the sake of her children she would do anything.

Berengaria, or Berenguela as was her name in Castilian, was born as the first child to Alfonso VIII of Castile and his queen Eleanor of England, the daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine on either the 1st of January or June in 1180.

Not much is known about her childhood, except that her grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine was somewhat involved when it came to choose a future bride among the sisters for the coming King of France, Louis VIII. Berengaria was not an option at the time as she had just been married off to Alfonso IX of León, so her grandmother instead chose her sister Blanche. Berengaria was also betrothed to Conrad II, Duke of Swabia, but he died in 1196 before they could be married.

The marriage between Alfonso IX and Berengaria took place in 1197, when she was seventeen. It was her mother Eleanor who had persuaded her husband, Berengaria’s father, to a union between Castile and León. This was because Alfonso IX had invaded Castile and that with the aid of Muslim troops, an act he was excommunicated for by Pope Celestine III.
Alfonso had first been married to his cousin Teresa of Portugal, but the marriage was declared null by the papal legate Cardinal Gregory. Berengaria was Alfonso’s second cousin, so for this act of consanguinity, the king and the kingdom were placed under interdict by the Pope.  In 1204 it was officially annulled, and Berengaria returned to her father’s court in Castile, bringing with her the five children she and her husband had begot through the seven years of marriage.

Berengaria often found herself politically at odds with her former husband. Alfonso had two daughters, Sancha and Dulce, by his first wife, and wished to disinherit Berengaria's children in favour of these daughters. He offered John of Brienne Sancha’s hand in marriage, so that he would eventually inherit the kingdom of León and make Sancha queen. When Berengaria found out about his plan, she was furious, and managed to sabotage this plan by convincing John to marry her own daughter, Berengaria of León instead. Later, on 24 September 1230 when Alfonso died, Berengaria and her son Ferdinand acted to set aside the rights of Sancha and Dulce by offering them a lifetime appanage, which they accepted. This was done so that, with Berengaria's aid, he could assume the Leonese throne. Berengaria was not the granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine for nothing!

When her father died in 1214, her mother was so devastated with grief that she could not preside over the burial. Instead these honours were performed by Berengaria. Eleanor then took sick and died only twenty-eight days after her husband. Three years later, in 1217, Berengaria’s brother Henry died (he was hit by a tile coming off a roof) without issue, this meaning that she was now Queen of Castile in her own right. However, in favour of her son she renounced the throne, and Ferdinand became king, thus eventually uniting the two kingdoms of Castile and León.
Berengaria served as the king's motherly advisor; according to the Cronica Latina, her "total intent and desire being to procure honour for her son in every way possible". Berengaria helped quell the rebellious nobles, and then arranged for Ferdinand to marry a high-born wife, Beatrice of Swabia.

Berengaria maintained strong connections with her sister Blanche, the Queen of France. It was in fact Blanche who suggested sending Joan of Ponthieu as a bride for Ferdinand after his first wife's death.
Berengaria died on the 8th of November in 1246 at the age of 66, and is buried in the Royal Chapel of Granada.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berengaria_of_Castile

2 kommentarer:

  1. Great post. I always find it amazing that women of long ago had endure not only the normal trials of women, but also political turmoil. Brava - you're a lovely writer.