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Alfonso VIII OF CASTILE (1155-1214)

      Alfonso VIII, King of Castile and Toledo    
Name: Alfonso VIII OF CASTILE 1
Sex: Male
Nickname: "The Good"
Father: Sancho III OF CASTILE (1134-1158)
Mother: Blanche (Sancha) OF NAVARRE (aft1133-1156)

Individual Events and Attributes

Birth 1155 Soria
Occupation frm 31 Aug 1158 to 5 Oct 1214 (age 2-59) King of Castile and Toledo
Group/Caste Membership House of Burgundy (Anscarids/Ivrea/Capetian)
Death 1214 (age 58-59) Gutierre-Muñoz
Burial Las Huelgas, Burgos


      picture     picture     picture     picture
      Eleonor of England     Statue of Berenguela of Castile in Madrid (1753)     Castle Doña Berenguela in Bolaños de Calatrava Spain     Blanche of Castile
      Coronation of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castile at Reims in 1223; a miniature from the Grandes    
Spouse Eleanor OF ENGLAND (1161-1214)
Children Berengaria OF CASTILE (1180-1246)
Blanche OF CASTILE (1188-1252)
Marriage Sep 1177 (age 21-22) Castile at Burgos Cathedral

Individual Note

Alfonso VIII (11 November 1155 – 5 October 1214), called the Noble or el de las Navas, was the King of Castile from 1158 to his death and King of Toledo.[1] He is most remembered for his part in the Reconquista and the downfall of the Almohad Caliphate. After having suffered a great defeat with his own army at Alarcos against the Almohads,[2] he led the coalition of Christian princes and foreign crusaders who broke the power of the Almohads in the Battle of the Navas de Tolosa in 1212, an event which marked the arrival of a tide of Christian supremacy on the Iberian peninsula.


His reign saw the domination of Castile over León and, by his alliance with Aragon, he drew those two spheres of Christian Iberia into close connection.


Alfonso was born to Sancho III of Castile and Blanche, daughter of García Ramírez of Navarre, in Soria on 11 November 1155.[3] He was named after his grandfather Alfonso VII of Castile. His early life resembled that of other medieval kings. His father died in 1158 when his mother was also dead. Though proclaimed king when only three years of age, he was regarded as merely nominal by the unruly nobles to whom a minority was convenient. Immediately, Castile was plunged into conflicts between the various noble houses vying for ascendancy in the inevitable regency. The devotion of a squire of his household, who carried him on the pommel of his saddle to the stronghold of San Esteban de Gormaz, saved him from falling into the hands of the contending factions. The noble houses of Lara and Castro both claimed the regency, as did the boy's uncle, Ferdinand II of León. In 1159 the young Alfonso was put briefly in the custody of García Garcés de Aza, who was not wealthy enough to support him. In March 1160 the Castro and Lara met at the Battle of Lobregal and the Castro were victorious, but the guardianship of Alfonso and the regency fell to Manrique Pérez de Lara.


Alfonso was put in the custody of the loyal village Ávila. At barely fifteen, he came forth to do a man's work by restoring his kingdom to order. It was only by a surprise that he recovered his capital Toledo from the hands of the Laras.


In 1174, he ceded Uclés to the Order of Santiago and afterwards this became the order's principal seat. From Uclés, he began a campaign which culminated in the reconquest of Cuenca in 1177. The city surrendered on 21 September, the feast of Saint Matthew, ever afterwards celebrated by the citizens of the town.


Alfonso took the initiative to ally all the major Christian kingdoms of the peninsula — Navarre, León, Portugal, and Aragon — against the Almohads. By the Treaty of Cazola of 1179, the zones of expansion of each kingdom were defined.


After founding Plasencia (Cáceres) in 1186, he embarked on a major initiative to unite the Castilian nobility around the Reconquista. In that year, he recuperated part of La Rioja from the Kingdom of Navarre.


In 1195, after the treaty with the Almohads was broken, he came to the defence of Alarcos on the river Guadiana, then the principal Castilian town in the region. At the subsequent Battle of Alarcos, he was roundly defeated by the caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf al-Mansur. The reoccupation of the surrounding territory by the Almohads was quickly commenced with Calatrava falling first. For the next seventeen years, the frontier between Moor and Castilian was fixed in the hill country just outside Toledo.


Finally, in 1212, through the mediation of Pope Innocent III, a crusade was called against the Almohads. Castilians under Alfonso, Aragonese and Catalans under Peter II, Navarrese under Sancho VII, and Franks under the archbishop Arnold of Narbonne all flocked to the effort. The military orders also lent their support. Calatrava first, then Alarcos, and finally Benavente were captured before a final battle was fought at Las Navas de Tolosa near Santa Elena on 16 July. The caliph Muhammad an-Nasir was routed and Almohad power broken.


Alfonso was the founder of the first Spanish university, a studium generale at Palencia, which, however, did not survive him. His court also served as an important instrument for Spanish cultural achievement. His marriage (Burgos, before 17 September 1177)[4] with Eleanor (Leonora), daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, brought him under the influence of the greatest governing intellect of his time. Troubadours and sages were always present, largely due to the influence of Eleanor.


Alfonso died at Gutierre-Muñoz and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Henry I, named after his maternal grandfather.


Alfonso was the subject for Lion Feuchtwanger's novel Die Jüdin von Toledo (The Jewess of Toledo), in which is narrated an affair with a Jewish subject in medieval Toledo in a time when Spain was known to be the land of tolerance and learning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The titular Jewish woman of the novel is based on Alfonso's historical paramour, Rahel la Fermosa.


With Eleanor of England he had 11 children:[5]


Infanta Berenguela (Berengaria) Burgos born 1 January/

June 1180 Las Huelgas near Burgos to 8 November 1246. Married firstly in Seligenstadt on 23 April 1188 with Duke Conrad II of Swabia, but the union (only by contract and never solemnized) was later annulled. Married in Valladolid between 1/16 December 1197 with King Alfonso IX of León as her second wife.[6] After their marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity in 1204, she returned to her homeland and became regent of her minor brother King Henry I. Queen of Castile in her own right after the death of Henry I in 1214, immediately abdicated in favor of her son.


Infante Sancho Burgos, born 5 April 1181 to 26 July 1181 Heir of the throne since his birth, died aged three months.


Infanta Sancha 20/28 March 1182 to 3 February 1184/

16 October 1185 Died in infancy.


Infante Enrique (Henry) 1184 to 1184? Heir of the throne since his birth, died either shortly after being born or in infancy. His existence is disputed among sources.


Infanta Urraca 1186/28 May 1187 Coimbra to 3 November 1220. Married in 1206 to Prince Alfonso, who succeeded his father in 1212 as King Alfonso II of Portugal.


Infanta Blanca (Blanche) Palencia, 4 March 1188 Paris to 27 November 1252. Married in the Abbaye de Port-Mort near Pont-Audemer, Normandy on 23 May 1200 with Prince Louis, who succeeded his father in 1223 as King Louis VIII of France. Regent of the Kingdom of France during her son's minority (1226–1234) and during his absence on the Seventh Crusade.


Infante Fernando (Ferdinand) Cuenca born 29 September 1189 Madrid to

14 October 1211. Heir of the throne since his birth. On whose behalf Diego of Acebo and the future Saint Dominic travelled to Denmark in 1203 to secure a bride.[7] He died soon after returning from campaigning against the Moors.


Infanta Mafalda Plasencia born 1191 Salamanca, died 1211. Betrothed in 1204 to Infante Ferdinand of Leon, eldest son of King Alfonso IX and stepson of her oldest sister.


Infanta Constanza (Constance) born 1195 Las Huelgas, died 1243. A nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa María la Real at Las Huelgas in 1217, she later became Abbess of her community.


Infanta Leonor (Eleanor) born 1202 Las Huelgas, died 1244. Married in Ágreda on 6 February 1221 with King James I of Aragon. After her marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity in April 1229, she became a nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa María la Real at Las Huelgas.


King Enrique I (Henry I) of Castile Valladolid born 14 April 1204 Palencia, died 6 June 1217. Only surviving son, he succeeded his father in 1214 aged ten under the regency firstly of his mother and later his oldest sister Berengaria. Married in Burgos before 29 August 1215 with Infanta Mafalda of Portugal, the union was unconsummated and dissolved in 1216 on grounds of consanguinity. Soon after his divorce was betrothed with Infanta Sancha of León, eldest daughter of King Alfonso IX and stepdaughter of her oldest sister, but died when a tile came off a roof before the marriage could be solemnized.



1 Titles of the European kings

2 Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia, 61.

3 Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia, 61.

4 Foundation for Medieval Genealogy on Alfonso VIII of Castile, marriage and issues

5 Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia, 63.

6 New international encyclopedia, Vol.13, (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1915), 782.

7 Vicaire, pp. 89–98.



COSTA, Ricardo da. "Love and Crime, Chastisement and Redemption in Glory in the Crusade of Reconquest: Alfonso VIII of Castile in the battles of Alarcos (1195) and Las Navas de Tolosa (1212)". In: OLIVEIRA, Marco A. M. de (org.). Guerras e Imigrações. Campo Grande: Editora da UFMS, 2004, p. 73-94 (ISBN 85-7613-023-8).

Vicaire, M.-H. "Une ambassade dans les Marches," in Pierre Mandonnet, Saint Dominique: l'idée, l'homme et l'oeuvre Vol. 1. Desclée De Brouwer: Paris, 1938.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

MARRACHE, Abraham S. "La Historia de Fermosa, la amante de Alfonso VIII", Hebraica Ediciones, Madrid (2009)

Medieval Iberia: an encyclopedia, Ed. E. Michael Gerli and Samuel G. Armistead, Routledge, 2003.

New international encyclopedia, Vol.13, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1915.2


1Weis, Frederick Lewis & Sheppard, Walter Lee, Jr, "Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America before 1700: Lineages from Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Malcolm of Scotland, Robert the Strong, and other Historical Individuals". p 111, 110-27; 113, 113-27.