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H.M. King Alfonso X ( Toledo, Spain , November 23, 1221 April 4, 1284 in Seville, Spain ) was a Castilian monarch who ruled as the King of Castile, Leon and Galicia from 1252 until his death.

He also was elected King of the Germans (formally King of the Romans ) in 1257, though the Papacy prevented his confirmation. He established Castilian as a language of higher learning, founded universities ( Salamanca and Toledo ) and earned his nicknames "el Sabio" ("the Wise" or "the Learned") and "el Astrologo" ("the Astronomer") through his own prolific writings, including Galician-Portuguese poetry.

Life:

Alfonso was the eldest son of Ferdinand III of Castile and Elisabeth of Hohenstaufen, through whom he was a cousin of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor , to whom Alfonso is often compared. His maternal grandparents were Philip of Swabia and Irene Angelina.

 

Ruler:

 

As a ruler, Alfonso showed legislative capacity, and a wish to provide the kingdoms expanded under his father with a code of laws and a consistent judicial system. The Fuero Real was undoubtedly his work. He began medieval Europe's most comprehensive code of law, the Siete Partidas, which, however, thwarted by the nobility of Castile, was only promulgated by his great-grandson. Because of this, and because the Partidas remain fundamental law in the American Southwest, he is one of the 23 lawmakers depicted in the chamber of the United States House of Representatives.

 

Website: House of Representatives
Portrait at House of
Representatives
(USA)

Alfonso "turned to the vernacular for the kind of intellectual commitments that formerly were inconceivable outside Latin." He was the first king who initiated the use of the Castilian language extensively, although his father, Fernando III, had begun to use it for some documents, instead of Latin, as the language used in courts, churches, and in books and official documents.

Throughout his reign, Alfonso contended with the nobles, particular the families of Nuno Gonzalez de Lara, Diego Lopez de Haro and Esteban Fernandez de Castro, all of whom were formidable soldiers and instrumental in maintaining Castile's military strength in frontier territories. According to some scholars, Alfonso lacked 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. Others have argued that his efforts were too singularly focused on the diplomatic and financial arrangements surrounding his bid for Holy Roman Emperor.

Alfonso's descent from the Hohenstaufen through his mother, a daughter of the emperor Philip of Swabia, gave him a claim to represent the Swabian line. Alfonso's election by the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire in 1257 misled him into wild schemes that involved excessive expense but never took effect. 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.

Intellectual:

As an intellectual he gained considerable scientific fame based on his encouragement of astronomy , which included astrology at the time and the Ptolemaic cosmology as known to him through the Arabs . He surrounded himself with mostly Jewish translators who rendered Arabic scientific texts into Castilian at Toledo. His fame extends to the preparation of the Alfonsine tables, based on calculations of al-Zarqali, "Arzachel" . Because of this, the lunar crater Alphonsus is named after him. One famous apocryphal quote attributed to him upon hearing an explanation of the extremely complicated mathematics required to demonstrate Ptolemy 's theory of astronomy - "If the Lord Almighty had consulted me before embarking on creation thus, I should have recommended something simpler." The validity of this quotation is questioned by some historians.

From the beginning of his reign, Alfonso employed Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars at his court, primarily for the purpose of translating books from Arabic into Castilian, which had the effect of fixing the forms of the Spanish language. Most of these books survive in only one manuscript and were almost certainly created for the private use of Alfonso and his inner circle, which included Jewish and Christian courtiers. The first translation, commissioned by his brother, Fernando de la Cerda -- who had extensive experience, both diplomatic and military, among the Muslims of southern Iberia and north Africa -- was a Castilian version of the animal fable Kalila wa-Dimna, a book that belongs to the genere of wisdom literature labeled Mirrors for Princes: stories and sayings meant to instruct the monarch in proper and effective governance.

The primary intellectual work of these scholars centered on astronomy and astrology. The early period of Alfonso's reign saw the translation of selected works of magic ( Lapidario , Picatrix , Libro de las formas et las ymagenes ) all translated by a Jewish scholar named Yehudah ben Moshe (Yhuda Mosca, in the Old Spanish source texts). These were all highly ornate manuscripts (only the Lapidario survives in its entirety) containing what was believed to be secret knowledge on the magical properties of stones and talismans. In addition to these books of astral magic, Alfonso ordered the translation of well-known Arabic astrological compendia including, the Libro de las cruzes and Libro conplido en los iudizios de las estrellas . The first of these was, ironically, translated from Latin (it was used among the Visigoths), into Arabic, and then back into Castilian and Latin.

Alfonso also commissioned a compilation of chronicles, the Cronica general, completed in 1264. This work enjoyed renewed popularity starting in the sixteenth century, when there was a revival of interest in history; Florian de Ocampo published a new edition and Lorenzo de Sepulveda used it as the chief source of his popular romances. Sepulveda wrote a number of romances having Alfonso X as their hero.

Music

Alfonso X commissioned or co-authored numerous works of music during his reign. These works included Cantigas d'escarnio e maldicer and the vast compilation Cantigas de Santa Maria ("Songs to the Virgin Mary"), which was written in Galician-Portuguese and figures among the most important of his works. The Cantigas form one of the largest collections of vernacular monophonic songs to survive from the Middle Ages. They consist of 420 poems with musical notation. The poems are for the most part on miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary. One of the miracles Alfonso relates is his own healing in Puerto de Santa Maria.


Lineage:

Alfonso's eldest son, Ferdinand de la Cerda, Infante of Castile, died in 1275 when Morocco and Granada invaded Castile, leaving two infant sons. Alfonso's second son, Sancho, claimed to be the new heir, in preference to the children of Ferdinand de la Cerda, basing his claim on an old Castilian custom, that of proximity of blood and agnatic seniority. Alfonso preferred to leave the throne to his grandsons, but Sancho had the support of the nobility. A bitter civil war broke out resulting in Alfonso's being forced in 1282 to accept Sancho as his heir instead of his young grandsons. Son and nobles alike supported the Moors when he tried to unite the nation in a crusade; and when he allied himself with Abu Yusuf Yakub, the ruling Marinid Sultan of Morocco, they denounced him as an enemy of the faith. A reaction in his favor was beginning in his later days, but he died defeated and deserted at Seville, leaving a will, by which he endeavored to exclude Sancho, and a heritage of civil war.

 

Family:

In 1246, Alfonso X married Violante of Aragon , the daughter of King James I of Aragon and Yolande of Hungary in 1249, although betrothed already in 1246. Because of her young age (Violante was only 10-years-old at the time of the marriage), she produced no children for several years and it was feared that she was barren. Alfonso almost had their marriage annulled, but they went on to have ten children:

  1. Fernando, died in infancy, and buried in Las Huelgas in Burgos .
  2. Berengaria of Castile (1253 after 1284). She was betrothed to Louis, the son and heir of King Louis IX of France, but her fiance died prematurely in 1260. She entered the convent in Las Huelgas , where she was living in 1284.
  3. Beatriz of Castile (12541280). She married William VII, Marquess of Montferrat .
  4. Ferdinand de la Cerda, Infante of Castile ( October 23 , 1255 July 25 , 1275 ). He married Blanche, the daughter of King Louis IX of France, by whom he had two children. Because he predeceased his father, his younger brother Sancho inherited the throne.
  5. Leonor of Castile (12571275)
  6. Urraca of Castile (1256-?). She married Pedro Nunez de Guzman y Manzanedo .
  7. Sancho IV of Castile ( May 13 , 1258 1295)
  8. Constanza of Castile ( 1258 August 22 , 1280 ), a nun at Las Huelgas.
  9. Pedro of Castile (June 1260 October 10 , 1283 )
  10. Juan of Castile, Lord of Valencia (March or April, 1262 June 25 , 1319 ).
  11. Isabella, died young.
  12. Violante of Castile (12651296). She married Diego Lopez de Haro
  13. Jaime of Castile (August 1266 August 9 , 1284 )

 

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