Eleanor, Queen of Castile (1162 - 1214)

Daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine

Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas.
Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas. Quim Llenas / Getty Images

About Eleanor, Queen of Castile

Known for: wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile, daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, sister of kings and a queen; mother of several queens and a king. This Eleanor was the first of a long line of Eleanors of Castile.

Dates: October 13, 1162 - October 31, 1214

Also known as: Eleanor Plantagenet, Eleanor of England, Eleanor of Castile, Leonora of Castile, Leonor of Castile

Eleanor's Roots and Marriage

Eleanor, born in Normandy in 1162, was named for her mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. As a daughter of Henry II of England, her marriage was arranged for political purposes. She was paired with King Alfonso VIII of Castile, betrothed in 1170 and married sometime before September 17, 1177, when she was fourteen.

Eleanor as Queen

Eleanor was granted control in her marriage treaty of lands and towns so that her own power was nearly as much as her husband's.

The marriage of Eleanor and Alfonso produced a number of children. Several sons who were in turn expected heirs of their father died in childhood. Their youngest child, Henry or Enrique, survived to succeed his father.

Alfonso claimed Gascony as part of Eleanor's dowry, invading the duchy in his wife's name in 1205, and abandoning the claim in 1208.  

Eleanor wielded considerable power in her new position.   She was also a patron of many religious sites and institutions, including Santa Maria la Real at Las Huelgas where many in her family became nuns.

 She sponsored troubadours to court. She helped arranged the marriage of their daughter Berenguela (or Berengaria) to Leon's king.

Another daughter, Urraca, was married to the future king of Portugal, Alfonso II; a third daughter,Blanche or Blanca, was married to the future king Louis VIII of France; a fourth daughter, Leonor, married the king of Aragon (though their marriage was later dissolved by the church).

Other daughters included Mafalda who married her sister Berenguela's stepson and Constanza who became an Abbess.

Her husband appointed her as ruler with their son upon his death, and also appointed her executor of his estate. 

After Alfonso's Death

Although Eleanor thus became the regent for her son Enrique on her husband's death, in 1214 when Enrique was only ten, Eleanor's grief was so great that her daughter Berenguela had to handle the burial of Alfonso. Eleanor died less than a month after Alfonso's death, leaving Berenguela as her brother's regent. Enrique died at age 13, killed by a falling roof tile.

Background, Family:

  • Father: Henry II of England (Eleanor of Aquitaine's second husband)
  • Full siblings were William IX, Count of Poitiers; Henry the Young King; Matilda, Duchess of Saxony; Richard I of England; Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany; Joan of England, Queen of Sicily; John of England
  • Older half-siblings were Marie of France and Alix of France

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Alfonso VIII of Castile (married about September 1177)
  • children:
    • Berenguela (1180 - 1246) - she married Conrad II of Swabia but the marriage contract was annulled. She married Alfonso IX of Leon, but that marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity.  She became regent for her brother Enrique (Henry) I, and became Queen of Castile in her own right when he died in 1217. She abdicated right after that, and her son Ferdinand III of Castile brought together Castile and Leon.
    • Sancho (1181 - 1181) - briefly heir to Castile, died at three months
    • Sancha (1182 - 1185)
    • Enrique (1184 - 1184?) - heir during his very short life - there is some doubt that this child existed.
    • Urraca - Urraca of Castile, Queen of Portugal (1187 - 1220), married to Afonso II of Portugal.
    • Blanca - Blanche of Castile, Queen of France (1188 - 1252), married the future Louis VIII of France, crowned Queen in 1223. She served as regent of France after Louis died and before their son was of age.
    • Fernando (1189 - 1211). Died of a fever, heir to the throne at that time.
    • Mafalda (1191 - 1211). Betrothed to Ferdinand of Leon, stepson of her sister Berenguela.
    • Constanza (1195 or 1202 - 1243), became a nun at Santa Maria la Real at Las Huelgas.
    • Leonor - Eleanor of Castile (1200 or 1202 - 1244): married James I of Aragon but separated 8 years later, with consanguinity as the grounds.
    • Enrique I of Castile (1204 - 1217). He became king in 1214 when his father died; he was only 10. He died three years later, struck by a tile that fell from a roof.
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    Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Eleanor, Queen of Castile (1162 - 1214)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/eleanor-queen-of-castile-biography-4050568. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, March 7). Eleanor, Queen of Castile (1162 - 1214). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/eleanor-queen-of-castile-biography-4050568 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Eleanor, Queen of Castile (1162 - 1214)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/eleanor-queen-of-castile-biography-4050568 (accessed November 20, 2017).