Page:EB1911 - Volume 01.djvu/779

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735
ALPHONSO

first husband. The intervention of Pope Calixtus II. brought about an arrangement between the old man and the young. Alphonso the Battler won his great successes in the middle Ebro, where he expelled the Moors from Saragossa; in the great raid of 1125, when he carried away a large part of the subject-Christians from Granada, and in the south-west of France, where he had rights as king of Navarre. Three years before his death he made a will leaving his kingdom to the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Knights of the Sepulchre, which his subjects refused to carry out. He was a fierce, violent man, a soldier and nothing else, whose piety was wholly militant. Though he died in 1134 after an unsuccessful battle with the Moors at Braga, he has a great place in the reconquest.]

Alphonso VII., “the Emperor” (1126-1157), is a dignified and somewhat enigmatical figure. A vague tradition had always assigned the title of emperor to the sovereign who held Leon as the most direct representative of the Visigoth kings, who were themselves the representatives of the Roman empire. But though given in charters, and claimed by Alphonso VI. and the Battler, the title had been little more than a flourish of rhetoric. Alphonso VII. was crowned emperor in 1135 after the death of the Battler. The weakness of Aragon enabled him to make his superiority effective. He appears to have striven, for the formation of a national unity, which Spain had never possessed since the fall of the Visigoth kingdom. The elements he had to deal with could not be welded together. Alphonso was at once a patron of the church, and a protector if not a favourer of the Mahommedans, who formed a large part of his subjects. His reign ended in an unsuccessful campaign against the rising power of the Almohades. Though he was not actually defeated, his death in the pass of Muradel in the Sierra Morena, while on his way back to Toledo, occurred in circumstances which showed that no man could be what he claimed to be— “king of the men of the two religions.” His personal character does not stand out with the emphasis of those of Alphonso VI. or the Battler. Yet he was a great king, the type and to some extent the victim of the confusions of his age— Christian in creed and ambition, but more than half oriental in his household.

Alphonso VIII. (1158—1214), king of Castile only, and grandson of Alphonso VII., is a great name in Spanish history, for he led the coalition of Christian princes and foreign crusaders who broke the power of the Almohades at the battle of the Navas de Tolosa in 1212. The events of his reign are dealt with under Spain. His personal history is that of many medieval kings. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Sancho, at the age of a year and a half. Though proclaimed king, he was regarded as a mere name by the unruly nobles to whom a minority was convenient. The devotion of a squire of his household, who carried him on the pommel of his saddle to the stronghold of San Esteban de Gormaz, saved him from falling into the hands of the contending factions of Castro and Lara, or of his uncle Ferdinand of Leon, who claimed the regency. The loyalty of the town of Avila protected his youth. He was barely fifteen when he came forth to do a man's work by restoring his kingdom to order. It was only by a surprise that he recovered his capital Toledo from the hands of the Laras. His marriage with Leonora of Aquitaine, daughter of Henry II. of England, brought him under the influence of the greatest governing intellect of his time. Alphonso VIII. was the founder of the first Spanish university, the studium generale of Palencia, which, however, did not survive him.

Alphonso IX. (1188-1230) of Leon, first cousin of Alphonso VIII. of Castile, and numbered next to him as being a junior member of the family (see the article Spain for the division of the kingdom and the relationship), is said by Ibn Khaldun to have been called the “Baboso” or Slobberer, because he was subject to fits of rage during which he foamed at the mouth. Though he took a part in the work of the reconquest, this king is chiefly remembered by the difficulties into which his successive marriages led him with the pope. He was first married to his cousin Teresa of Portugal, who bore him two daughters, and a son who died young. The marriage was declared null by the pope, to whom Alphonso paid no attention till he was presumably tired of his wife. It cannot have been his conscience which constrained him to leave Teresa, for his next step was to marry Berengaria of Castile, who was his second cousin. For this act of contumacy the king and kingdom were placed under interdict. 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. Berengaria left him after the birth of five children, and the king then returned to Teresa, to whose daughters he left his kingdom by will.

Alphonso X., El Sabio, or the learned (1252-1284), is perhaps the most interesting, though he was far from being the most capable, of the Spanish kings of the middle ages. (His merits as a writer are dealt with in the article Spain: Literature). His scientific fame is based mainly on his encouragement of astronomy. It may be pointed out, however, that the story which represents him as boasting of his ability to make a better world than this is of late authority. If he said so, he was speaking of the Ptolemaic cosmogony as known to him through the Arabs, and his vaunt was a humorous proof of his scientific instinct. As a ruler he showed legislative capacity, and a very commendable wish to provide his kingdoms with a code of laws and a consistent judicial system. The Fuero Real was undoubtedly his work, and he began the code called the Siete Partidas, which, however, was only promulgated by his great-grandson. Unhappily for himself and for Spain, he wanted the singleness of purpose required by a ruler who would devote himself to organization, and also the combination of firmness with temper needed for dealing with his nobles. His descent from the Hohenstaufen through his mother, a daughter of the emperor Philip, gave him claims to represent the Swabian line. The choice of the German electors, after the death of Conrad IV. in 1254, misled him into wild schemes which never took effect but caused immense expense. To obtain money he debased the coinage, and then endeavoured to prevent a rise in prices by an arbitrary tariff. The little trade of his dominions was ruined, and the burghers and peasants were deeply offended. His nobles, whom he tried to cow by sporadic acts of violence, rebelled against him. His second son, Sancho, enforced his claim to be heir, in preference to the children of Ferdinand de la Cerda, the elder brother who died in Alphonso's life. Son and nobles alike supported the Moors, when he tried to unite the nation in a crusade; and when he allied himself with the rulers of Morocco they denounced him as an enemy of the faith. A reaction in his favour was beginning in his later days, but he died defeated and deserted at Seville, leaving a will by which he endeavoured to exclude Sancho and a heritage of civil war.

Alphonso XI. (1312-1350) is variously known among Spanish kings as the Avenger or the Implacable, and as “he of the Rio Salado.” The first two names he earned by the ferocity with which he repressed the disorder of the nobles after a long minority; the third by his victory over the last formidable African invasion of Spain in 1340. The chronicler who records his death prays that “God may be merciful to him, for he was a very great king.” The mercy was needed. Alphonso XI. never went to the insane lengths of his son Peter the Cruel, but he could be abundantly sultanesque in his methods. He killed for reasons of state without form of trial, while his open neglect of his wife, Maria of Portugal, and his ostentatious passion for Leonora de Guzman, who bore him a large family of sons, set Peter an example which he did not fail to better. It may be that his early death, during the great plague of 1350, at the siege of Gibraltar, only averted a desperate struggle with his legitimate son, though it was a misfortune in that it removed a ruler of eminent capacity, who understood his subjects well enough not to go too far.

[Four other kings of Aragon, besides the Battler, bore the name of Alphonso. All these princes held territory in the south-east of France, and had a close connexion with Italy. Alphonso II. of Aragon (1162-1196) was the son of Raymond Berenger,