Berenguela of Castile

Queen of Leon, Granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine
Depiction of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Hulton Archive/The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

About Berenguela of Castile

Known for: role in the succession of Castile and Leon; regent of Castile for her brother Enrique I

Occupation: briefly, queen of Leon
Dates: January/June 1, 1180 - November 8, 1246
Also known as: Berengaria of Castile

More About Berenguela of Castile

Berenguela was born to King Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor Plantagenet, Queen of Castile. An arranged marriage to Conrad II of Swabia did not happen; he was murdered in 1196 before the marriage was held.

Berenguela's Marriage

In 1197, Berenguela was married instead to Alfonso IX of Leon, her dowry including lands were settlement of a conflict between Leon and Castile.

In 1198, the Pope excommunicated the couple on grounds of consanguinity. The couple had five children before they dissolved the marriage in 1204 to remove their excommunication. Berenguela moved back to her father's Castilian court, with her children.

Berenguela and Castile

When her father, Alfonso VIII, died in 1214, her mother Eleanor's grief was so great that Berenguela had to handle the burial of Alfonso. Eleanor died less than a month after her husband did. Berenguela then became regent for her young brother, Enrique (Henry) I.

Enrique died in 1217, killed by a falling roof tile. Berenguela, the eldest daughter of Alfonso VIII, renounced her own claim to the throne in favor of her son, Ferdinand III, later to be canonized as Saint Ferdinand.

Berenguela and Alfonso IX - Battles Over Succession

Berenguela's former husband, Alfonso IX, believed he had the right to rule Castile, and he attacked Berenguela and Ferdinand who won the battle.

Berenguela and Alfonso IX also fought over who would succeed Alfonso in Leon. He wanted his daughters by his first wife to be preferred in the succession.

Alfonso tried to marry one of these elder daughters to John of Brienne, a French nobleman and crusader who had been named King of Jerusalem. But John selected instead Berenguela of Leon, a daughter of Alfonso by his second wife Berenguela of Castile. Some of their descendents became England's House of Lancaster.

Unification Under Ferdinand

When Alfonso IX of Leon died in 1230, Ferdinand and his mother Berenguela negotiated a settlement with Ferdinand's half-sisters, and he brought Leon and Castile together.

Berenguela of Castile remained an active advisor of her son, Ferdinand III.

Background, Family:

  • Mother: Eleanor, Queen of Castile, a daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • Father: Alfonso VIII of Castile
  • Siblings included: Urraca of Castile, Queen of Portugal; Blanche of Castile, Queen of France; Mafalda; Constanza; Eleanor of Castile; Enrique (Henry) I of Castile

Marriage, Children:

  • Husband: King Alfonso IX of Leon (married 1197-1204)
  • Children:
    • Eleanor
    • Ferdinand III
    • Alfonso
    • Berengaria
    • Constance