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Alfonso IX of León

Alfonso IX of León

Alfonso IX (15 August 1171 – 23 or 24 September 1230) was king of León and Galicia from the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1188 until his own death.

He took steps towards modernizing and democratizing his dominion and founded the University of Salamanca in 1212. In 1188 he summoned the first parliament reflecting the fullest representation of the citizenry ever seen in Western Europe, the Cortes of León.[6]

He took part in the work of the Reconquest, conquering the area of Extremadura (including the cities of Cáceres and Badajoz).

Alfonso IX
King of León and Galicia
Reign22 January 1188 – 24 September 1230
PredecessorFerdinand II
SuccessorFerdinand III
Born15 August 1171
Died23/24 September 1230(1230-09-24)(aged 59)
Villanueva de Sarria
Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Theresa of Portugal
(m. 1191; annulled 1196)

Berengaria of Castile
(m. 1197; annulled 1204)
among others...
Constance, Abbess of Las Huelgas
Ferdinand III
Alfonso of Molina
Berengaria, Latin Empress
HouseCastilian House of Ivrea
FatherFerdinand II of León
MotherUrraca of Portugal
ReligionRoman Catholicism


Alfonso was born in Zamora. He was the only son of King Ferdinand II of León and Urraca of Portugal.[6] His father was the younger son of Alfonso VII of León and Castile, who divided his kingdoms between his sons, which set the stage for conflict in the family until the kingdoms were re-united by Alfonso IX's son Ferdinand III of Castile.[7]


Alfonso IX had great difficulty in obtaining the throne through his given birthright. In July 1188 his cousin Alfonso VIII of Castile required the younger Alfonso to recognize the elder as overlord in exchange for recognizing the younger's authority in León.[8]

The convening of the Cortes de León in the cloisters of the Basilica of San Isidoro would be one of the most important events of Alfonso's reign. The difficult economic situation at the beginning of his reign compelled Alfonso to raise taxes on the underprivileged classes, leading to protests and a few towns revolts. In response the king summoned the Cortes, an assembly of nobles, clergy and representatives of cities, and subsequently faced demands for compensatory spending and greater external control and oversight of royal expenditures. Alfonso's convening of the Cortes is considered by many historians, including Australia's John Keane,[9] to be instrumental to the formation of democratic parliaments across Europe. Note that Iceland had already held what may have been what is Europe's first parliament, the Þingvellir, in 930 CE. However, the Cortes' 1188 session predates the first session of the Parliament of England, which occurred in the thirteenth century.

In spite of the democratic precedent represented by the Cortes and the founding of the University of Salamanca, Alfonso is often chiefly remembered for the difficulties his successive marriages caused between him with Pope Celestine III. He was first married in 1191 to his first cousin, Theresa of Portugal,[6] who bore him two daughters, and a son who died young. The marriage was declared null by the papal legate Cardinal Gregory for consanguinity.[10]

After Alfonso VIII of Castile was defeated at the Battle of Alarcos, Alfonso IX invaded Castile with the aid of Muslim troops.[6] He was summarily excommunicated by Pope Celestine III.[11] In 1197, Alfonso IX married his first cousin once removed, Berengaria of Castile, to cement peace between León and Castile.[12] For this second act of consanguinity, the king and the kingdom were placed under interdict by representatives of the Pope.[13] In 1198, Pope Innocent III declared Alfonso and Berengaria's marriage invalid, but they stayed together until 1204.[14] The annulment of this marriage by the pope drove the younger Alfonso to again attack his cousin in 1204, but treaties made in 1205, 1207, and 1209 each forced him to concede further territories and rights.[15][16] The treaty in 1207 is the first existing public document in the Castilian dialect.[17]

The Pope was, however, compelled to modify his measures by the threat that, if the people could not obtain the services of religion, they would not support the clergy, and that heresy would spread. The king was left under interdict personally, but to that he showed himself indifferent, and he had the support of his clergy.[10]

In 1211 Alfonso IX of León gave the castle of Alcañices to the Templar Order,[18] where inhabitants celebrated the great victories of the order.[19]


In 1191, he married Theresa of Portugal,[20] daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal and Queen Dulce of Aragon.[21] Between 1191 and 1196, the year in which their marriage was annulled, three children were born:

  • Sancha (1191 – before 1243)[22] unmarried and without issue. She and her sister Dulce became nuns or retired at the Monastery of San Guillermo Villabuena (León) where she died before 1243.

  • Ferdinand(1192/1193 – 1214),[23] unmarried and without issue.

  • Dulce (1193/1194 – 1248).[24]

On 17 November 1197 he married infanta Berengaria of Castile, daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and Leonor of England. Five children were born of this marriage:

  • Eleanor[25] (1198[26] – 11 November 1202[26]).

  • Constance (died in 1242),[27] became a nun at the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos, where she died.[25]

  • Ferdinand III of Castile (1199/1201[1] – 1252). King of Castile in 1217 after the death of Henry I of Castile and of León in 1230 after the death of his father.[25]

  • Alfonso (died in 1272), Lord of Molina due to his first marriage to Mafalda González de Lara.[25]

  • Berengaria of León (died in 1237), in 1224 married John of Brienne,[25]

Alfonso also fathered many illegitimate children. After the annulment of his first marriage and before wedding Berengaria, he had a relationship which lasted about two years with Inés Íñiguez de Mendoza, daughter of Iñigo López de Mendoza and María García,[30] with whom he had a daughter born around 1197:

  • Urraca Alfonso, the wife of Lope Díaz II de Haro, Lord of Biscay.[31]

He had another relationship afterwards with a noblewoman from Galicia, Estefanía Pérez de Faiam. In 1211, King Alfonso gave her lands in Orense where her family, as can be inferred from her last will dated 1250, owned many estates, as well as in the north of Portugal. She was the daughter of Pedro Menéndez Faiam, who confirmed several royal charters of King Alfonso IX, and granddaughter of Menendo Faiam, who also confirmed several diplomas issued in Galicia as of 1155 by King Ferdinand II of León. After the relationship ended, Estefanía married Rodrigo Suárez with whom she had issue. In her will, she asked to be buried in the Monastery of Fiães in northern Portugal.[32]

Alfonso IX and Estefanía were the parents of:[2]

  • Ferdinand Alfonso of León (born in 1211),[32] died young.

According to Spanish historian, Julio González, after his relationship with Estefanía, the king had a lover from Salamanca, of unknown origin, whose name was Maura and with whom he had: [34]

  • Fernando Alfonso de León (c. 1214/1218 – Salamanca, 10 January 1278), archdeacon of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela,[34] who had issue with Aldara de Ulloa.

Of his relationship with the noblewoman from Portugal, Aldonza Martínez de Silva, daughter of Martim Gomes da Silva and his wife Urraca Rodrigues,[35] which lasted from 1214 to 1218, three children were born:

  • Rodrigo (c. 1214 – c. 1268), lord of Aliger and Castro del Río, and Adelantado of the March of Andalusia, he married Inés Rodríguez, daughter of Rodrigo Fernández de Valduerna,[36] Lord of Cabrera and alférez of King Alfonso IX.

  • Aldonza (died after 1267). Married count Pedro Ponce de Cabrera,[37] and had issue. They are the ancestors of the Ponce de León family.

  • Teresa Alfonso of León, the wife of Nuño González de Lara el Bueno.[3]

King Alfonso's most long-lasting relationship, which began in 1218 and lasted until his death in 1230,[41] was with Teresa Gil de Soverosa.[42] A member of the Portuguese nobility, Teresa was the daughter of Gil Vasques de Soverosa and his first wife María Aires de Fornelos. They had four children, all of them born between 1218 and 1230:[43]

  • Sancha (d. 1270). Married Simon Ruiz, Lord of Los Cameros.[44] She later became a nun at the convent of Santa Eufemia de Cozuelos which she had founded.[44]

  • María (died after July 1275).[4] Her first marriage was with Álvaro Fernández de Lara. She was then the concubine of her nephew King Alfonso X of Castile and, according to the Count of Barcelos, her second husband was Suero Arias de Valladares.[44]

  • Martín (died 1268/1272), married to Maria Mendes de Sousa, founders of the Monastery of Sancti-Spíritus, Salamanca. There was no issue from this marriage.[45]

  • Urraca (d. after 1252). First married García Romeu,[44] and then Pedro Núñez de Guzmán.[44]

Although Alfonso IX is supposed to have had another son, Pedro Alfonso de León, there is no documentary proof that he was the king's son or that he was the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago.[5]


Alfonso IX of León died on 24 September 1230. His death was particularly significant in that his son, Ferdinand III of Castile, who was already the King of Castile also inherited the throne of León from his father. This was thanks to the negotiations of his mother, Berengaria, who convinced her stepdaughters to renounce their claim on the throne.[47] In an effort to quickly consolidate his power over León, Ferdinand III abandoned a military campaign to capture the city of Jaén immediately upon hearing news of his father's death and traveled to León to be crowned king. This coronation united the Kingdoms of León and Castile which would go on to dominate the Iberian Peninsula.



Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgKing Fernando's year of birth is not recorded. According to the Chrónica latina de los reyes de Castilla, he was 16 years old when he became king of Castile in 1217 which would mean that he was born in 1201. Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, a contemporary of Fernando, said that he was 18 years old in 1217 which would indicate that his birth was in 1199, two years after his parent's marriage. Rodríguez López 2004, p. 30. Flórez 1761, pp. 347-348.
Sep 25, 2019, 11:39 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgIt is possible that, besides Ferdinand Alfonso, they also had another son, John Alfonso, who appears in several documents with the children that Estefanía had with her husband Rodrigo Suárez. Calderón Medina 2011, p. 264 n.31.
Sep 25, 2019, 11:39 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgThere is controversy among historians and genealogists on her marriage to Nuño González de Lara. According to Pedro Afonso, Count of Barcelos, followed by other historians, Calderón Medina 2011, pp. 269. Nuño's wife was this Teresa, daughter of King Alfonso IX and Aldonza Martínez de Silva. Luis de Salazar y Castro believed that her father was Pedro Alfonso de León, supposedly an illegitimate son of Alfonso IX. Spanish historian Julio González González argued that Nuño's wife could have been the daughter of Urraca Alfonso, illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso IX, and her husband Lope Díaz II de Haro. Sánchez de Mora 2004, p. 633 and n. 8. Szabolcs de Vajay rules out these last two filiations since her patronymic would have been Pérez or López rather than Alfonso and suggests that she could have been an illegitimate daughter of Alfonso of Molina. Nevertheless, Teresa confirms her filiation and marriage in a sale that she made in November 1254 in which she declares that she is the daughter of King Alfonso, granddaughter of King Fernando II of León, and wife of Nuño González de Lara. Martínez Martínez 1997, Doc. 495, pp. 359–360.
Sep 25, 2019, 11:39 PM
Citation Linkacademia.galOn 4 July 1275, María donated a fourth part of Lougares to the Monastery of Santa María de Melón (document published by the Real Academia Gallega).
Sep 25, 2019, 11:39 PM
Citation Linkopenlibrary.org"...for Rades [Francisco de Rades y Andrada], in the space of time corresponding to the government of Fernando Pérez Chacín, there were really two Grand Masters: Fernando Pérez Chacín, who died or was removed a year after his election, and Pedro Alfonso, elected in 1225 who died a year later. For [Derek William] Lomax, there was only one Grand Master in this short period of time: Fernando Pérez Chacín. In fact, documentation proves that this historian is right, rather than the chronicler who mentioned a non-existent Grand Master, supposedly an illegitimate son of King Alfonso IX" (loose translation) Ayala Martínez 1997, p. 245 n.14.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.org, p. 54.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgShadis, Miriam (2010). Berenguela of Castile (1180–1246) and Political Women in the High Middle Ages. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-23473-7., p. xix.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.org, p. 53.
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Citation Linkwww.diariodeleon.es"Un anglosajón prueba que en León y no en Inglaterra nació la democracia". Diario de León (in Spanish). Londres. June 19, 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
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Citation Linken.wikisource.orgOne or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alphonso s.v. Alphonso IX.". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 735.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLower, Michael (2014). "The Papacy and Christian Mercenaries of Thirteenth-Century North Africa". Speculum. The University of Chicago Press. Vol. 89, No. 3 JULY., p. 605.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.org, p. 61-62.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgMoore, John Clare (2003). Pope Innocent III (1160/61-1216): To root up and to plant. Brill. ISBN 9781423712138., pp. 70-71.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgReilly, Bernard F. (1993). The Medieval Spains. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521394369., p. 133.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgTúy, Lucas (2003). Rey, Emma Falque (ed.). Chronicon mundi. Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN 9782503037417., p. 324, 4.84.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgWright, Roger (2000). El tratado de Cabreros (1206): estudio sociofilológico de una reforma ortográfica. London: Queen Mary and Westfield College. ISBN 9780904188592..
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgMartínez Díez, Gonzalo. Los Templarios en la Corona de Castilla (1st ed.). Burgos: La Olmeda, D.L. p. 103. ISBN 9788460462774.
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comHistoria (October 22, 2015). "Apéndice I. Los lugares del Temple". In Martínez, Gemma; Mínguez, Nines (eds.). Templarios. Del origen de las cruzadas al final de la Orden del Temple (1st ed.). Madrid: Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, S. A. U. p. 417. ISBN 9788401015731.
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