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Alfonso VI Ferdinandez, King of Leon and Castile

Alfonso VI Ferdinandez, King of Leon and Castile[1]

Male Bef 1040 - 1109  (~ 69 years)

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  • Name Alfonso VI Ferdinandez 
    Suffix King of Leon and Castile 
    Born Bef Jun 1040 
    Gender Male 
    Acceded 27 Dec 1065 
    Died 29 Jun 1109 
    • Acceded: 27 DEC 1065

      some sources say died 20 June 1109. Emperor of Spain.
      Suceeded Castile 6 Oct 1072. Conquered Toledo 25 May 1085, Madrid 1085,
      Lisbon 1093.«b»


      «/b»Alfonso VI (before June 1040 \endash June 29/July 1, 1109), nicknamed the Brave (El Bravo) or the Valiant, was «u»King of León «/u» from 1065, king of «u»King of Castile «/u» and «i»de facto«/i» «u»King of Galicia «/u» from 1072, and self-proclaimed "«u»Emperor of all Spain «/u»". Much romance has gathered around his name.

      Marriages and children

      Alfonso married at least five times and had two mistresses and a fiancée:

      «tab» In 1067, two brothers from Iberia are said to have competed for the hand of «u»Agatha «/u», one of the daughters of «u»William I of England «/u» and «u»Matilda of Flanders «/u» and formerly fiancee of «u»Harold Godwinson «/u». Alfonso proved successful, and was betrothed to Agatha. A nun at the time, Agatha is said to have prayed for death rather than being forced to marry Alphonso, and she died before the marriage could take place.

      «tab» In 1069, Alfonso married «u»Agnes of Aquitaine «/u», daughter of «u»William VIII of Aquitaine «/u» and his second wife Mateoda. They last appear together in May 1077, and then Alfonso appears alone. This suggests that she had died, although «u»Orderic Vitalis «/u» reports that in 1109 Alfonso's 'relict' Agnes remarried to «u»Elias I of Maine «/u», leading some to speculate that Alfonso and Agnes had divorced due to «u»consanguinity «/u». It seems more likely that Orderic gave the wrong name to Alfonso's widow, Beatrice. Agnes and Alfonso had no children.
      «tab»Apparently between his first and second marriages he formed a liaison with «u»Jimena Muñoz «/u», a "most noble" («i»nobilissima«/i») concubine "derived from royalty" («i»real generacion«/i»). She appears to have been put aside, given land in Ulver, at the time of Alfonso's remarriage. By her Alfonso had two illegitimate daughters, «u»Elvira «/u» and «u»Teresa «/u».
      «tab» His second wife, who he married by May 1080, was «u»Constance of Burgundy «/u», daughter of «u»Robert I, Duke of Burgundy «/u». This marriage initially faced papal opposition, apparently due to her kinship with Agnes. Her reign as queen brought significant «u»Cluniac «/u» influences into the kingdom. She died in September or October, 1093, the mother of Alfonso's eldest legitimate daughter «u»Urraca «/u», and of five other children who died in infancy.
      «tab» Either late in Constance's reign or shortly after her death, Alfonso formed a liaison with a second mistress, «u»Zaida of Seville «/u», said by «u»Iberian Muslim «/u» sources to be daughter-in-law of «u»Al Mutamid «/u», the Muslim King of Seville. She fled the fall of Seville for Alfonso's kingdom in 1091, and soon became his lover, having by him Alfonso's only son, «u»Sancho «/u», who, though illegitimate was apparently not born of an adulterous relationship, and hence born after the death of Constance. He would be named his father's heir. Several modern sources have suggested that Zaida, baptised under the name of Isabel, is identical with Alfonso's later wife, queen Isabel (or that she was a second queen Isabel who he married in succession to the first). Zaida/Isabel died in childbirth, but the date is unknown, and it is unclear whether the child being delivered was Sancho, an additional illegitimate child, otherwise unknown, or legitimate daughter Elvira (if Zaida was identical to Queen Isabel).
      «tab» By April 1095, Alfonso married Bertha. Chroniclers report her as being from «u»Tuscany «/u», «u»Lombardy «/u», or alternatively, say she was French. Several theories have been put forward regarding her origin. Based on political considerations, proposals make her daughter of «u»William I, Count of Burgundy «/u»or of «u»Amadeus II of Savoy «/u». She had no children and died in late 1099 (Alfonso first appears without her in mid-January 1100).
      «tab» Within months, by May 1100, Alfonso again remarried, to Isabel, having by her two daughters, Sancha, (wife of «u»Rodrigo González de Lara «/u»), and «u»Elvira «/u», (who married «u»Roger II of Sicily «/u»). A non-contemporary tomb inscription says she was daughter of a "king Louis of «u»France «/u»", but this is chronologically impossible. It has been speculated that she was of «u»Burgundian «/u» origin, but others conclude that Alfonso married his former mistress, Zaida, who had been baptized as Isabel. (In a novel twist, Reilly suggested that there were two successive queens named Isabel: first the French (Burgundian) Isabel, mother of Sancha and Elvira, with Alfonso only later marrying his mistress Zaida (Isabel), after the death of or divorce from the first Isabel.) Alfonso was again widowed in mid-1107
      «tab»By May 1108, Alfonso married his last wife, «u»Beatrice «/u». She, as widow of Alfonso, is said to have returned home to France, but nothing else is known of her origin unless she is the woman Orderic named as "Agnes, daughter of William, Duke of Poitou", who as relict of Alfonso, («i»Agnetem, filiam Guillelmi, Pictavorum ducis, relictam Hildefonsi senioris, Galliciae regis«/i»), remarried to Elias of Maine. If this is the case, she is likely daughter of «u»William IX of Aquitaine «/u» and niece of Alfonso's first wife. Beatrice had no children by Alfonso.
      One other woman was reported by later sources to have been Alfonso's lover. The historian Abu Bakr Ibn al Sayraff, writing before 1161, stated that Alfonso abandoned Christianity for Zoroastrianism and had carnal relations with his sister Urraca, but then repented and was absolved, making pilgrimages to holy sites as penance. This has been followed by some later historians but others dismiss it as propaganda or misunderstanding.

      Alfonso's designated successor, his son Sancho, was slain after being routed at the «u»Battle of Uclés «/u» in 1108, making Alfonso's eldest legitimate daughter, the widowed «u»Urraca «/u» as his heir. In order to strengthen her position as his successor, Alfonso began negotiations for her to marry her second cousin, «u»Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre «/u», but died before the marriage could take place, Urraca succeeding.


      Some sources say he died 20 June 1109. Emperor of Spain. Suceeded Castile 6 Oct 1072. Conquered Toledo 25 May 1085, Madrid 1085, Lisbon 1093.

      King of Leon (1065-70) and king of reunited Castile and Leon (1072-1109), who by 1077 had proclaimed himself "emperor of all Spain" (imperator totius Hispaniae). His oppression of his Muslim vassals led to the invasion of Spain by an Almoravid army from North Africa (1086). His name is also associated with the national hero of Spain, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (El Cid), who was alternatively his enemy and indifferent supporter.

      Alfonso was the second son of King Ferdinand I and his wife Sancha; he was educated by Raimundo, later the bishop of Palencia, and by Pedro Ansúrez, the count of Carrión. On his death in 1065, Ferdinand left to Alfonso the kingdom of Leon together with tribute paid by the Muslim kingdom of Toledo. These possessions aroused the envious hostility of Alfonso's elder brother, Sancho II, who had inherited the kingdom of Castile and the tribute of Saragossa. Alfonso was defeated by his brother in two battles; after the defeat at Llantada (1068) he managed to retain his kingdom, but after that at Golpejera (1072) he was captured and exiled, living for a short while at the court of his vassal Ma'mun, the Muslim king of Toledo. Soon Alfonso's sister Urraca stirred up a rebellion in Leon, and Sancho besieged her in the walled city of Zamora. During the siege, he was killed, perhaps at Urraca's instigation. She was clearly on Alfonso's side, and some modern historians have even suggested that they had an incestuous relationship.

      With Sancho's death, Alfonso recovered his own kingdom of Leon and inherited (1072) that of Castile. He also occupied Galicia, which Sancho had kept from their younger brother García; Alfonso kept García in prison until his death. A late story, in which it is alleged that Alfonso took an oath in St. Gadea's Church, Burgos, that he had had no share in Sancho's murder, probably reflects Castilian reluctance to accept him as king.

      Alfonso's reign now entered on a period of success. He seized the Rioja and the Basque provinces and received the feudal homage of Sancho Ramírez for the region of Navarre to the north of the Ebro River. By 1077 he had assumed the title imperator totius Hispaniae, in which role other Christian kings accepted him. He then began the conquest of Toledo and, after a long siege, occupied it in May 1085. This was a vital conquest, which recovered for Christian Spain one of the most important historical, strategic, and cultural centres of the peninsula, one that had been in the possession of the Muslims since the early 8th century.

      During this period Alfonso regularly exacted parias, heavy financial tributes, from the Muslim ta'ifah kingdoms in return for protection against their other enemies. By thus depriving them of their wealth, he hoped to weaken them so that they would eventually cede their independence without fighting. As a result of his exactions, Christian Spain was flooded with Muslim gold, which was spent on warfare and donations to shrines, churches, and monasteries. The demand for tribute caused the ta'ifah kings to tax their subjects heavily, producing popular discontent and disturbances and contributing to the weakness that caused the surrender of Toledo. The Muslim ruler al-Mu'tamid of Seville took a desperate decision and called for the help of Yusuf ibn Tashufin, the Almoravid (Berber) amir of North Africa, and his Saharan tribes. The Amir disembarked in Algeciras at the end of July 1086 and a few months later, on October 23 at Zallaqah, near Badajoz, inflicted a terrible defeat on Alfonso VI. Alfonso appealed for help to the rest of Christendom, and a small crusade was organized as a result; the crusaders did not reach Alfonso's lands but wasted their energies and resources in an unsuccessful siege of the Muslim outpost of Tudela.

      The defeat at Zallaqah seriously lessened Alfonso's influence over the ta'ifah kingdoms. It also led to a reconciliation with Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid. Their relationship had been difficult from the start, because El Cid had taken a prominent part in the campaigns of Sancho against Alfonso; although El Cid at first attended Alfonso's court, suspicions deepened, and since 1081 he had been in the service of the Muslim king of Saragossa. Alfonso entrusted El Cid with the occupation and defense of eastern Spain, and Rodrigo carried out this task with great success. Between 1086 and 1109 Alfonso suffered constant defeat by the Almoravids; in the last battle, that of Uclés in 1108, he lost his only son, Sancho. It was characteristic of his indomitable spirit that he at once arranged for his daughter, Urraca, to marry Alfonso I of Aragon so that the war against the Almoravids should be continued after his death, even though it meant that Leon and Castile would be ruled by an Aragonese prince.

      Though his reign was politically unsuccessful, Alfonso VI carried out an important cultural task by Europeanizing his dominions. Alfonso married Constance of Burgundy, and influences from across the Pyrenees showed themselves in the introduction of the Romanesque style in art, the adoption of the Roman instead of the Mozarabic liturgy, the replacement of Visigothic by Carolingian script, and the energetic support that Alfonso gave to Cluniac monasticism, as well as in his reconstruction and safeguarding of the pilgrim road to Santiago.
    Person ID I5627  Glenn Cook Family
    Last Modified 19 Jun 2013 

    Father Ferdinand I the Great of Castile Sanchez, King of León,   b. Abt 1017,   d. 27 Dec 1065  (Age ~ 48 years) 
    Mother Sancha of Leon, Queen of Leon,   b. 1013,   d. 7 Nov 1067  (Age 54 years) 
    Married 1032 
    Family ID F3082  Group Sheet

    Family 1 Agnes of Pointou,   b. 1052,   d. Abt 1078  (Age 26 years) 
    Married 1069 
    Divorced 1077 
    Last Modified 2 Nov 2012 
    Family ID F1822  Group Sheet

    Family 2 Constance of Burgundy,   b. 1046,   d. 1093  (Age 47 years) 
    Married 8 May 1081 
     1. Urraca of Castile, Countess of Castile,   b. 1081,   d. 8 Mar 1126, Saldana Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 45 years)
     2. Elvira de Castile,   d. Young
    Last Modified 19 Jun 2013 
    Family ID F1823  Group Sheet

    Family 3 Bertha of Burgundy,   d. 1097 
    Married 1093 
    Last Modified 30 Nov 2006 
    Family ID F3084  Group Sheet

    Family 4 Zaida (Isabella),   b. Alicante, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1107 
    Married 1098 
     1. Sancho de Castile,   b. 1098,   d. 29 May 1108, Uclés Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 10 years)
     2. Sancha de Castile,   b. Abt 1101,   d. Bef 1125  (Age ~ 23 years)
     3. Elvira, Queen of Sicily,   b. Abt 1100,   d. 8 Feb 1135  (Age ~ 35 years)
    Last Modified 1 Nov 2009 
    Family ID F3085  Group Sheet

    Family 5 Jimena Muñoz,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 1094 
     1. Elvira,   d. Aft 1151
     2. Teresa of Castile, Countess of Portugal, Queen of Portugal,   b. 1080,   d. 11 Nov 1130  (Age 50 years)
    Last Modified 19 Jun 2013 
    Family ID F4757  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Alfonso VI. A 12th century painting at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
    map Spain 1065
    Map Spain 1065
    Political situation in the Northern Iberian Peninsula around 1065:
    Garcia II´s domains (Galicia)
    Badajoz, owing tribute to Garcia
    Seville, owing tribute to Garcia
    Alfonso VI´s domains (León)
    Toledo, owing tribute to Alfonso
    Sancho II´s domains (Castile)
    Zaragoza, owing tribute to Sancho

  • Sources 
    1. [S36] Directory of Royal Genealogical Data, Brian Tompsett, Dept of Computer Science, University of Hull, England([email protected]), (This work is Copyright b 1994-2002 Brian C Tompsett).