Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Alphonso
ALPHONSO, Alfonso, Alonzo, Affonso, or Ildefonso. This name, so famous in the annals of the Spanish peninsula, has been borne by no fewer than twenty-two of its sovereigns—viz., by ten of the Asturias and Leon, one of Castile when separate from Leon, five of Aragon, and six of Portugal.
1st, Asturias and Leon.—Alphonso I., surnamed “The Catholic,” King of the Asturias, the son of Pedro, duke of Biscay, was born in the year 693. On the death of Favila, the son of Pelayo, Alphonso, who had married Ormisinda, the daughter of the latter, was proclaimed king of Asturias. During his whole reign he was engaged in almost perpetual conflicts with the Moors, and is said to have wrested Leon, Galicia, and Castile from their hands. His zeal for the church, displayed in endowing and repairing monasteries and churches, gained for him his surname of “The Catholic.” Alphonso died at Cangas in 757, and was succeeded by his son Fruela I.
Alphonso II., surnamed “The Chaste,” King of the Asturias, the son of Fruela I., was but a child when his father was assassinated in 768, and consequently his claims to the throne were passed over in favour of Aurelio, who was probably a cousin of Fruela. Alphonso was invested with regal authority by Silo, the successor of Aurelio; on whose death, in 783, he became sole ruler. He was afterwards dethroned by his uncle Mauregato, and was compelled to retire into Biscay. Mauregato, after a reign of about five years, was succeeded by Bermudo, who, in 791, took Alphonso as his partner on the throne. Bermudo reigned for only about four years longer. A rebellion of many of the chief nobles in 802 compelled Alphonso to surrender his throne for the third time; but he was soon afterwards restored, mainly through the assistance of Theudius, one of his most faithful followers. In addition to having to defend himself against these internal dissensions, Alphonso was during the greater part of his reign at war with the Moors, obtaining, among other successes, a signal victory over Mohammed, governor of Merida, in 830. Alphonso died in 843, in the city of Oviedo, which he had greatly adorned and made the capital of his kingdom. He had some years previously abdicated in favour of Ramiro, son of Bermudo. His surname of “The Chaste” has been connected by some with the legend that he refused to pay the Moors their tribute of a hundred Spanish virgins, but is rather to be ascribed to his vow to preserve an absolute continence.
Alphonso III., surnamed “The Great,” King of the Asturias, was born in the year 848, and succeeded his father Ordono I. in 866. In the following year, Fruela, count of Galicia, disputed Alphonso's right of succession, and forced him to retire to Alava; but Fruela's tyranny so exasperated the people that he was assassinated before he had been a year in power, and they gladly recalled Alphonso to the throne. Other conspiracies marked the beginning of Alphonso's reign, but he soon felt himself tolerably secure at home, and turned his arms against the Moors. By 901, the year in which he gained a splendid victory at Zamora, he had, it is said, extended his empire to the banks of the Guadiana, and had, by founding and fortifying cities, made good his hold over a large part of the conquered territory. But Alphonso's victories abroad were greatly neutralised by discontent among his own subjects, who found it difficult to bear the heavy war taxes that had been imposed upon them. There was a rising under Ano in 885, and another under Witiza in 894; and in 907 a more formidable insurrection broke out, headed by Garcia, the king's eldest son. Garcia was defeated and taken prisoner; but as the greater part of the nation sided with the queen in demanding that he should be released, Alphonso, either wishing to prevent a civil war, or thinking that his cause was hopeless, resigned his crown to his son in 901. After his abdication, Alphonso, offering his services to his son in the true spirit of the age, led an expedition against the Moors, in which he gained fresh victories. He died towards the end of the same year (901). He was the last monarch who bore the title King of Asturias, his successors being called kings of Leon, from the new capital of the kingdom. It was in his reign that the counts of Navarre became independent. There is still extant a Latin chronicle, treating of the history of Spain from the Moorish invasion down to the death of Ordono, which is usually attributed to Alphonso.
Alphonso IV., “The Monk,” King of Leon, succeeded Fruela II., his uncle in 924. On the death of his wife, about six years afterwards, he resigned his crown to his brother Ramiro, and retired into a cloister; but soon growing weary of monastic life, he made an attempt to resume the sceptre. He was, however, taken prisoner at Leon, and confined in the monastery of St Julien, where he died, probably about two and a half years after.
Alphonso V. succeeded his father Bermudo II. in 999, being then about five years of age. Gonsalez, count of Galicia, and his wife, were, by appointment of Bermudo II., guardians of the young king; and on arriving at manhood he married their daughter Elvira. The regency is remarkable for the defeat and death of the famous Moor Almausur in 1002—a success that led ultimately to the conquest of Cordova by the Christians. Alphonso himself made war upon the Moors, recapturing Leon and other places that had been lost during his minority. Alphonso died at the siege of Viseo in 1028. He was succeeded in the kingdom of Leon by his son Bermudo III., while the hitherto dependent countship of Castile became a separate kingdom under the sovereignty of Sancho el Mayor, king of Navarre, and husband of the eldest daughter of the late count.
Alphonso VIII. of Leon (or VII., according to those who do not consider Alphonso of Aragon as properly a king of Leon) and II. (or III.) of Castile, often called Alphonso Raymond and “The Emperor,” was born in the year 1106. He was the son of Urraca, daughter of Alphonso VI., and Raymond of Burgundy, her first husband. In 1112 he was proclaimed king of Galicia, by whom it does not clearly appear; in 1122 he was associated with his mother in the government of Leon and Castile; and on her death in 1126 he became sole monarch. Soon after this event he made war upon his stepfather, Alphonso of Aragon, in order to recover the territories, properly belonging to Leon and Castile, which had been lost owing to his mother's misgovernment. The two kings came to an agreement about the year 1129, Alphonso of Leon having regained most of his possessions. In 1135, Alphonso, elated by the homage of the king of Navarre and the counts of Barcelona and Toulouse, caused himself to be solemnly crowned emperor of Spain. This dignity was, however, little more than a name, for Alphonso Henriquez of Portugal and Garcia Ramiro of Navarre declared war upon the new emperor almost immediately after his elevation. Intestine feuds between the various Christian princes of Spain, which resulted in no very definite gain to any of them, lasted until the advance of large Moorish armies under the Almohades compelled the Christians to turn against their common foe. Alphonso invaded Andalusia in 1150, and gained several victories, which contributed greatly to the extension of Christian territory in Spain. He died in 1157 at Tremada, on his return from an indecisive battle with Cid Yussef at Jaen; and was succeeded by his elder son, Sancho, in the throne of Castile, and by his younger, Fernando, in that of Leon. In 1156 he instituted the order of St Julien, afterwards so celebrated under the name Alcantara (q.v.)
Alphonso IX. (VIII.), King of Leon only, succeeded his father Fernando in 1188. In 1190 he sought to strengthen his position by marrying his cousin Teresa of Portugal. This marriage, being within the forbidden degrees, was pronounced null by the pope (Celestine III.), who excommunicated Alphonso and his queen until 1195, when they agreed to separate. In 1197 Alphonso a second time defied the papal authority by marrying his cousin Berengaria, daughter of Alphonso III. of Castile, with a view of putting a stop to the frequent quarrels between the two kingdoms. As before, the pope (Innocent III.) prevailed, and in 1204 the separation took place, Innocent, however, granting that the children already born should be recognised as legitimate. After the dissolution of the marriage the old chronic state of feud between the two kings returned, and was kept up, although with little actual warfare, until the death of Alphonso of Castile in 1214. In 1217, Fernando, the eldest son of Alphonso and Berengaria, became king of Castile. Alphonso, thinking that his own claims had been unjustly passed over, declared war upon his son; but finding that the people preferred Fernando, he relinquished his claims. The remainder of Alphonso's reign was chiefly spent in campaigns against the Moors. Along with his son, he captured Merida, Badajoz, and other cities; and in 1230 gained a brilliant victory over Mohammed Ibn Hud at Merida. He died in the same year, and was succeeded by his son Fernando, who thus finally united the kingdoms of Leon and Castile.
Alphonso XI., “The Avenger,” was an infant when he succeeded his father, Ferdinand IV., in 1312. During his long minority the kingdom was cruelly distracted by intestine warfare. Assuming the reins of government in 1324, he strove to repress the turbulent spirit of the nobility, and to put down that system of brigandage to which it had given rise, acquiring by his inflexible severity the title of “The Avenger.” He lost Gibraltar in 1329, but as commander of the allied armies of Catholic Spain, on the 29th Oct. 1340 he gained a complete victory over the kings of Morocco and Granada at the Salado. The slaughter was immense, and the booty so rich that the value of gold is said to have fallen one-sixteenth. In 1342 Alphonso laid siege to Algeciras, where cannon were employed for the first time in Europe by the Moors in defence of their walls. This siege had lasted two years, when the Moors capitulated on condition of a truce between the two nations for ten years; but the king of Castile broke his word a few years after by besieging Gibraltar, where he died of the plague on the 26th March 1350, aged 40. He was succeeded by his son, Pedro the Cruel. From this reign dates the institution of regidors or jurats, to whom was committed the administration of the communes; and these regidors became the exclusive electors of the Cortes, in which the people ceased to have a voice.
2d,—Castile.—Alphonso III.—(according to other enumerations, VIII. or IX.), surnamed “The Noble,” is the only king of Castile of the name who was not also king of Leon. He was born in 1155, and succeeded his father, Sancho III., in 1158. His minority was disturbed by the contention of the two powerful houses of Lara and Castro for the regency; but after his marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Henry II. of England, he was proclaimed sole ruler. After compelling the kings of Aragon, Navarre, and Leon to surrender the territories they had taken possession of during his minority, he turned his arms against the Moors, and at Alarcos, in 1195, sustained one of the most terrible defeats recorded in the annals of Spain. This disaster encouraged the kings of Leon and Navarre to renew their hostilities, which were carried on for several years with varying success. In 1211 the Moors again threatened Castile; but in the following year, Alphonso, along with Pedro II. of Aragon and Sancho VII. of Navarre, gained a most complete and splendid victory over them at La Navas de Tolosa. Alphonso died at Garci Muños in 1214, and was succeeded by his son, Enrique I. Alphonso was a patron of literature, and in 1208 founded a university at Palencia, the first in Christian Spain. This university was afterwards transferred to Salamanca.
3d,—Aragon.—Alphonso I., surnamed El Batallador, “The Fighter,” King of Navarre and Aragon, was the second son of Don Sancho Ramirez, and succeeded his brother Pedro I. in 1104. By his marriage in 1109 with Urraca, daughter and heiress of Alphonso VI. of Leon and Castile, he became her associate in the government of these kingdoms, and in the same year assumed the title of “Emperor of all Spain.” Misunderstandings soon arose between Alphonso and his wife, and he separated from her shortly after their marriage, an act which was confirmed by the council of Palencia in 1114. Alphonso, however, refused to give up his claims to the kingdoms of Leon and Castile, and maintained a constant struggle with Urraca till her death in 1126. Alphonso's chief victories were gained over the Moors. He laid siege to Saragossa for the first time in 1114, but the city was not captured until 1118, after several bloody battles had been fought in its neighbourhood. In 1120 his territories were menaced by a large force sent against him by Ali; but engaging the enemy near Daroca, he left 20,000 Almoravides dead on the field. Three years afterwards, while the king of Marocco was fully occupied at home by the rise of a dangerous sect of Almohades, Alphonso seized the opportunity to invade Valencia. In 1125 he undertook a new expedition against Granada in aid of the Mozarabes or Christian Moors. The Moors in their reprisals invaded Estremadura, and defeated the Castilians near Badajoz. The king of Aragon, so far from rendering his neighbour any assistance, determined to take advantage of the critical position of Alphonso Raymond, as well as of the troubles which the death of Urraca had occasioned in several parts of his dominions, but when on the point of battle the two kings came to an agreement. Alphonso next crossed the Pyrenees, and captured the cities of Bordeaux in 1130, and Bayonne in 1131. On his return to Spain he took Mequinenza from the Moors in 1133, and invested Fraga in 1134, where, during a sally from the town, he received a wound from which he died a few days after.
Alphonso II. was born in 1152, and in 1163 succeeded his father, Raymondo V., as count of Barcelona, his mother, Petronilla, daughter of Ramiro II., king of Aragon, at the same time resigning that kingdom to him. He was frequently at war with Raymondo of Toulouse, and also directed an expedition against the Almohades, from which the invasion of Aragon by Sancho of Navarre recalled him. He assisted Alphonso of Castile against Cuença, for which service he was relieved from doing homage to Castile. He died in 1196. He was a patron of the troubadours, and wrote some poems in the Provençal language.
Alphonso III., the son of Pedro III., was born in 1265, and in 1285, on the death of his father, being absent in Majorca on an expedition against his uncle Jayme, assumed the title of king without taking the oaths of adherence to the articles to which his predecessors had subscribed. When he returned in 1286, however, he was compelled to go through the usual coronation ceremony. In 1287 he signed the Privilege of Union, which permitted his subjects to have recourse to arms to defend their liberties, and invested the justizero with the power of citing the king himself to appear before the Cortes. Alphonso's chief wars were with Jayme of Majorca, Sancho of Castile, and the pope. He died in 1291.
Alphonso IV., son of Jayme II., was born in 1299, and ascended the throne in 1327. During almost the whole of his reign he was occupied in war with the Genoese about the possession of Corsica and Sardinia. He died in 1336.
Alphonso V. of Aragon, I. of Sicily and Sardinia, and latterly I. of Naples, was born in 1385, and succeeded his father, Fernando the Just, as king of Aragon and of Sicily and Sardinia, in 1416. In 1420 Joanna I. of Naples offered to make Alphonso her successor if he would assist her against Louis of Anjou. This he did; but, owing to misunderstandings, the queen revoked her adoption of Alphonso in 1423, making Louis of Anjou her heir. Recalled to Spain immediately after by an attack made by the Castilians upon his hereditary kingdom, he left his brother Pedro as his lieutenant at Naples, which he had taken by storm the year before. On his way to Spain he captured, but generously refrained from pillaging, Marseilles, a city belonging to his rival the duke of Anjou. After restoring peace at home, Alphonso again turned his attention to Naples, where his cause now appeared to be hopeless. Louis of Anjou died in 1434, and Queen Joanna the following year, leaving Naples to Louis's brother René, who had in his possession the whole kingdom except a few fortresses which still held out for Alphonso. In the same year (1435) Alphonso laid siege to Gaeta, but the siege was raised, and Alphonso himself taken prisoner by Philippe Maria Visconti, duke of Milan. Visconti, however, being greatly pleased with the high character and noble appearance of Alphonso, soon released him, and even made him his ally. Immediately on recovering his liberty, Alphonso made a third attempt upon the kingdom of Naples. The issue of the war at first was doubtful, but latterly the arms of Alphonso were nearly everywhere victorious. He laid siege to Naples, and after an obstinate resistance captured it in 1442. The States-General were then convoked, and solemnly proclaimed Alphonso king; his election being sanctioned by Pope Eugenius IV., who had previously promised that honour to René. Alphonso now fixed his residence at Naples, and devoted himself chiefly to the improvement of his kingdom; although he was also frequently involved in the wars and disputes of the Italian princes. He died at Naples on the 27th June 1458; and was succeeded in his kingdoms of Aragon and of Sicily and Sardinia by his brother John, and in that of Naples by his natural son Ferdinand. Alphonso was undoubtedly one of the best monarchs of his name. His bravery and generalship fitted him for the warlike enterprises he had to undertake; and it is evident that, from his generous and humane disposition, as well as from his love of literature and encouragement of law and justice, his rule would have been equally successful had it been his lot to live in more peaceful times.
4th,—Portugal.—Alphonso I., Enriquez, son of Henry of Burgundy, count of Portugal, and Teresa of Castile, was born at Guimaraens in 1094. He succeeded his father in 1112, and was placed under the tutelage of his mother. When he came of age he was obliged to wrest from her by force that power which her vices and incapacity had rendered disastrous to the state. Being proclaimed sole ruler of Portugal in 1128, he defeated his mother's troops near Guimaraens, making her at the same time his prisoner. He also vanquished Alphonso Raymond of Castile, his mother's ally, and thus freed Portugal from dependence on the crown of Leon. Next turning his arms against the Moors, he obtained, on the 26th July 1139, the famous victory of Ourique, and immediately after was proclaimed king by his soldiers. Not satisfied with this, however, he assembled the Cortes of the kingdom at Lamego, where he received the crown from the archbishop of Braganza; the assembly also declaring that Portugal was no longer a dependency of Leon. Alphonso continued to distinguish himself by his exploits against the Moors, from whom he wrested Santarem in 1146, and Lisbon in 1147. Some years later he became involved in a war that had broken out among the kings of Spain; and in 1167, being disabled during an engagement near Badajoz by a fall from his horse, he was made prisoner by the soldiers of the king of Leon, and was obliged to surrender as his ransom almost all the conquests he had made in Galicia. In 1184, in spite of his great age, he had still sufficient energy to relieve his son Sancho, who was besieged in Santarem by the Moors. He died shortly after, in 1185. Alphonso was a man of gigantic stature, being 7 feet high according to some authors. He has long been regarded as a saint by the Portuguese, who reverence him both on account of his personal character and as the founder of their kingdom.
Alphonso II., “The Fat,” was born in 1185, and succeeded his father, Sancho I., in 1211. He was engaged in war with the Moors, and gained a victory over them at Alcazar do Sal in 1217. He also endeavoured to weaken the power of the clergy, and to apply a portion of their enormous revenues to purposes of national utility. Having been excommunicated for this by the pope (Honorius III.), he promised to make amends to the church; but he died in 1223 before doing anything to fulfil his engagement. Alphonso framed a code which introduced several beneficial changes into the laws of his kingdom.
Alphonso III., son of Alphonso II., was born in 1210, and succeeded his brother, Sancho II., in 1248. Besides making war upon the Moors, he was, like his father, frequently embroiled with the church. In his reign Algarve became part of Portugal. Alphonso died in 1279.
Alphonso IV. was born in 1290, and in 1325 succeeded his father, Dionis, whose death he had hastened by his intrigues and rebellions. Hostilities with the Castilians and with the Moors occupied many years of his reign, during which he gained some successes; but by consenting to the barbarous murder of Iñez de Castro, who was secretly espoused to his son Pedro, he has fixed an indelible stain on his character. Enraged at this barbarous act, Pedro put himself at the head of an army, and devastated the whole of the country between the Douro and the Minho before he was reconciled to his father. Alphonso died almost immediately after, on the 12th May 1357.
Alphonso VI., the second king of the house of Braganza, was born in 1643, and succeeded his father in 1656. In 1667 he was compelled by his wife and brother to abdicate the throne, and was banished to the island of Terceira. These acts, which the vices of Alphonso had rendered necessary, were sanctioned by the Cortes in 1668. Alphonso died at Cintra in 1675.