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Urraca of Castile (c. 1186–1220)

Urraca of Castile (c. 1186–1220)

Queen of Portugal. Born in 1186 or 1187 in Castile; died in 1220; daughter of Alfonso or Alphonso VIII, also known as Alphonso III (1155–1214), king of Castile (r. 1158–1214), and Eleanor of Castile (1162–1214, daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine); sister of Berengeria of Castile (1171–1246) and Blanche of Castile (1187–1252); married Alfonso or Alphonso II the Fat (1185–1223), king of Portugal (r. 1211–1223), in 1206; children: Sancho II (1207–1248), king of Portugal (r. 1223–1248); Alphonso III (1215–1279), king of Portugal (r. 1248–1279); Leonor of Portugal (1211–1231); Fernando or Ferdinand (1217–1246, who married Sancha de Lara); Vicente (b. 1219, died young).

Urraca of Castile was the daughter of Castilian King Alphonso VIII and Queen Eleanor of Castile . Her younger sister Blanca, or Blanche of Castile , became one of medieval Europe's most powerful women as queen-regent of France. It had been expected that Urraca, as the older, more attractive daughter, would be chosen to marry the heir to the French throne. However, their grandmother, the English queen Eleanor of Aquitaine , chose Blanche as the future queen of France. Her envoys, trying to justify the decision which had the Castilian court bewildered, explained that the French would have trouble pronouncing Urraca's name, but could easily pronounce Blanche's.

Alphonso eventually arranged a marriage between his older daughter and Alphonso (II), the heir of his powerful neighbor, the king of Portugal. Like Blanche, Urraca proved to be an excellent queen; she was popular among the people, pious, and a believer in the responsibilities inherent in kingship (or queenship). She involved herself in the daily functions of the administration, and presided over a large and intellectual court. She also used her own wealth to found hospitals and convents.

sources:

Gies, Frances, and Joseph Gies. Women in the Middle Ages. NY: Harper and Row, 1978.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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