Berenguela of Castile

Berenguela of Castile

Berenguela (or Berengaria) (1180 – November 8, 1246), was briefly queen of Castile and León. The eldest daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Leonora of England, she was briefly engaged to Conrad II, Duke of Swabia, but he was murdered in 1196 before they could be married.


Berenguela married Alfonso IX of León in 1198, but this was annulled in 1204 by Pope Innocent III because they were second cousins. Berenguela and Alfonso had five children, including one who died in infancy, and when she returned to her father's court in Castile, she brought her children with her to Otella.

Berenguela often found herself politically at odds with her former husband. Alfonso had two daughters, Sancha and Dulce, by his first wife, Teresa of Portugal, and wished to disinherit Berenguela's children in favor of these daughters. To this end, he invited John of Brienne to marry his eldest daughter, Sancha, and thus inherit John's kingdom. Berenguela sabotaged this plan by convincing John of Brienne to marry her own daughter, Berenguela of Leon, instead. Later, on September 24, 1230 when Alfonso died, Berenguela and Fernando acted to set aside the rights of Sancha and Dulce by offering them a lifetime appanage, which they accepted. This was done so that, with Berenguela's aid, he could assume the Leonese throne.


When her brother Henry died by accident in 1217, Berenguela renounced her rights to the throne, in favor of her son Fernando. Thereafter she served as the king's motherly advisor; according to the "Cronica Latina," her "total intent and desire being to procure honor for her son in every way possible". Berenguela helped quell the rebellious nobles, and then arranged for Fernando to marry a high-born wife, Beatriz (Beatrix) of Swabia.

Berenguela maintained strong connections with her sister Blanca, who was Queen of France. It was Blanche who suggested sending Jeanne of Ponthieu as a bride for Fernando after his first wife's death.


Her children with Alfonso IX included:

*Leonor (1198/1199-October 31, 1210)
*King Fernando III the Saint (1200-1252)
*Alfonso, 4th Lord of Molina (1203-1272)
*Berenguela of Leon (1204-1237), married John of Brienne
*Constanza (May 1, 1200 or 1205-September 7, 1242), became a nun at Las Huelgas, Burgos, where she died


* Shadis, Miriam. "Berenguela of Castile's Political Motherhood", 1996

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