Alfonso IX of León

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Alfonso IX
TumboA Alfonso.jpg
Depiction on the Tumbo A cartulary of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
King of León and Galicia
Reign 22 January 1188 – 24 September 1230
Predecessor Ferdinand II
Successor Ferdinand III
Born (1171-08-15)15 August 1171
Died 23/24 September 1230(1230-09-24) (aged 59)
Villanueva de Sarria
Burial Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Consort Theresa of Portugal
Berengaria of Castile
among others...
Constance, Abbess of Las Huelgas
Ferdinand III
Alfonso of Molina
Berengaria, Latin Empress
House House of Ivrea
Father Ferdinand II of León
Mother Urraca of Portugal
Religion Roman Catholicism

Alfonso IX (15 August 1171 – 23 or 24 September 1230) was king of León and Galicia from the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1188 until his own death. According to Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), he is said to have been called the Baboso or Slobberer because he was subject to fits of rage during which he foamed at the mouth.[citation needed]

He took steps towards modernizing and democratizing his dominion and founded the University of Salamanca in 1212. In 1188 he summoned the first parliament reflecting full representation of the citizenry ever seen in Western Europe, the Cortes of León.[1]

He took a part in the work of the Reconquest, conquering the area of Extremadura (including the cities of Cáceres and Badajoz).[citation needed]


Alfonso was born in Zamora. He was the only son of King Ferdinand II of León and Urraca of Portugal.[1] His father was the younger son of Alfonso VII of León and Castile, who divided his kingdoms between his sons, which set the stage for conflict in the family until the kingdoms were re-united by Alfonso IX's son, Ferdinand III of Castile.[2]


Alfonso IX had great difficulty in obtaining the throne through his given birthright. In July 1188 his cousin Alfonso VIII of Castile required the younger Alfonso to recognize the elder as overlord in exchange for recognizing the younger's authority in León.[3]

The convening of the Cortes de León in the cloisters of the Basilica of San Isidoro would be one of the most important events of Alfonso's reign. The difficult economic situation at the beginning of his reign compelled Alfonso to raise taxes on the underprivileged classes, leading to protests and a few towns revolts. In response the king summoned the Cortes, an assembly of nobles, clergy and representatives of cities, and subsequently faced demands for compensatory spending and greater external control and oversight of royal expenditures. Alfonso's convening of the Cortes is considered by many historians, including Australia's John Keane,[4] to be instrumental to the formation of democratic parliaments across Europe. Note that Iceland had already held what may have been what is Europe's first parliament, the Þingvellir, in 930 CE. However, the Cortes' 1188 session predates the first session of the Parliament of England, which occurred in the thirteenth century.

In spite of the democratic precedent represented by the Cortes and the founding of the University of Salamanca, Alfonso is often chiefly remembered for the difficulties his successive marriages caused between him with Pope Celestine III. He was first married in 1191 to his first cousin, Theresa of Portugal,[1] who bore him two daughters, and a son who died young. The marriage was declared null by the papal legate Cardinal Gregory for consanguinity.

After Alfonso VIII of Castile was defeated at the Battle of Alarcos, Alfonso IX invaded Castile with the aid of Muslim troops.[1] He was summarily excommunicated by Pope Celestine III. In 1197, Alfonso IX married his first cousin once removed, Berengaria of Castile, to cement peace between León and Castile.[5] For this second act of consanguinity, the king and the kingdom were placed under interdict by representatives of the Pope.[6] In 1198, Pope Innocent III declared Alfonso and Berengaria's marriage invalid, but they stayed together until 1204.[7] The annulment of this marriage by the pope drove the younger Alfonso to again attack his cousin in 1204, but treaties made in 1205, 1207, and 1209 each forced him to concede further territories and rights.[8][9] The treaty in 1207 is the first existing public document in the Castilian dialect.[10]

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 Theresa, to whose daughters he left his kingdom in his will.


Alfonso's children by Theresa of Portugal[11] were:

  • 1) Ferdinand (ca. 1192 – August 1214, aged around 22), unmarried and without issue
  • 2) Sancha (ca. 1193–bef. 1243), unmarried and without issue. She and her sister Dulce became nuns or retired at the Monastery of San Guillermo Villabuena (León) where she died before 1243.
  • 3) Dulce, (1194/ca. 1195 - ca./aft. 1243), unmarried and without issue

Alfonso's children by Berengaria of Castile were:[12]

Alfonso also fathered many illegitimate children, some fifteen further children born out of wedlock are documented.

Alfonso's children by Aldonza Martínez de Silva[13][14] (daughter of Martin Gomez de Silva & Urraca Rodriguez), later married to Diego Froilaz, Count of Cifuentes:

  • 9) Pedro Alfonso de León, 1st Lord of Tenorio (ca. 1196/ca. 1200–1226), Grand Master of Santiago, married N de Villarmayor, and had issue
  • 10) Alfonso Alfonso de León, died young
  • 11) Fernando Alfonso de León, died young
  • 12) Rodrigo Alfonso de León (ca. 1210 - ca. 1267), 1st Lord of Aliger and Governor of Zamora, married ca. 1240 to Inés Rodriguez de Cabrera (ca. 1200-), and had issue
  • 13) Teresa Alfonso de León (ca. 1210-), wife of Nuño González de Lara el Bueno, lord of Lara
  • 14) Aldonza Alfonso de León (ca.1215–1266), wife, first, of Diego Ramírez Froilaz, nephew of her stepfather, without issue, and then before June 1230 married Pedro Ponce de Cabrera (bef. 1202-between 1248 and 1254), and had issue, ancestors of the Ponce de León family.

Alfonso's child by Inés Iñíguez de Mendoza (born c. 1180) (daughter of Lope Iñiguez de Mendoza, 1st Lord of Mendoza (ca. 1140–1189) and his wife Teresa Ximénez de los Cameros (ca. 1150-)):

Alfonso's child by Estefánia Pérez de Limia, daughter of Pedro Arias de Limia and wife, subsequently wife of Rodrigo Suárez, Merino mayor of Galicia, had issue):

  • 16) Fernando Alfonso de León (born c. 1211), died young

Alfonso's children by Maua, of unknown origin:

Alfonso's children by Teresa Gil de Soverosa (born aft. 1175) (daughter of Gil Vasques de Soverosa and first wife Maria Aires de Fornelos):

  • 18) María Alfonso de León (ca. 1190/1200/1222 - aft. 1252), first married Álvaro Fernández de Lara, without issue, married as his second wife Soeiro Aires de Valadares (ca. 1140-) and had issue and later mistress of her nephew Alfonso X of Castile
  • 19) Sancha Alfonso de León (1210/ca. 1210–1270), a nun at the convent of Santa Eufemia in Cozuelos de Ojeda after divorcing without issue Simón Ruíz, Lord of Los Cameros
  • 20) Martín Alfonso de León (ca. 1210/ca. 1225-1274/ca. 1275)
  • 21) Urraca Alfonso of León (ca. 1210/1228 - aft.1252), married twice, first to García Romeu of Tormos, without issue, then Pedro Núñez de Guzmán, son of Guillén Pérez de Guzmán and María González Girón, with issue.


Alfonso IX of León died on 24 September 1230. His death was particularly significant in that his son, Ferdinand III of Castile, who was already the King of Castile also inherited the throne of León from his father. This was thanks to the negotiations of his mother, Berengaria, who convinced her stepdaughters to renounce their claim on the throne.[15] In an effort to quickly consolidate his power over León, Ferdinand III abandoned a military campaign to capture the city of Jaén immediately upon hearing news of his father's death and traveled to León to be crowned king. This coronation united the Kingdoms of León and Castile which would go on to dominate the Iberian Peninsula.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gerli 2003, p. 54.
  2. Shadis 2010, p. xix.
  3. Shadis 2010, p. 53.
  5. Shadis 2010, p. 61-62.
  6. Moore 2003, p. 70-71.
  7. Reilly 1993, p. 133.
  8. Shadis 2010, p. 78-84.
  9. Túy 2003, p. 324, 4.84.
  10. Wright 2000.
  11. Echols 1992, p. 400-401.
  12. Gerli 2003, p. 162.
  13. Ruano 1779, p. 34.
  14. Doubleday 2001, p. 158.
  15. Shadis 2010, p. 3.


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Further reading

  • Florez, Enrique. Reinas Catolicas, 1761
  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). [ "Alphonso" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Szabolcs de Vajay, "From Alfonso VIII to Alfonso X" in Studies in Genealogy and Family History in Tribute to Charles Evans on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday, 1989, pp. 366–417.
  • Sánchez Rivera, Jesús Ángel, "Configuración de una iconografía singular: la venerable doña Sancha Alfonso, comendadora de Santiago", Anales de Historia del Arte, nº 18 (2008), Madrid, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, pp. 167–209.
Alfonso IX of León
Born: 15 August 1171 Died: 23/24 September 1230
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ferdinand II
King of León and Galicia
Succeeded by
Ferdinand III