Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile

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Eleanor of England
Queen consort of Castile
Tenure September 1177 – 5 October 1214
Born (1162-10-13)13 October 1162
Domfront Castle, Normandy
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Burgos, Castile
Burial Abbey of Santa Maria la Real de Huelgas, Burgos
Spouse Alfonso VIII, King of Castile
Berengaria, Queen of Castile
Urraca, Queen of Portugal
Blanche, Queen of France
Eleanor, Queen of Aragon
Henry I, King of Castile
House Plantagenet / Angevin[nb 1]
Father Henry II, King of England
Mother Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine

Eleanor of England (Spanish: Leonor; 13 October 1162[1] – 31 October 1214[2]) was Queen of Castile and Toledo[3] as wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile.[4][5] She was the sixth child and second daughter of King Henry II of England and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine[6] and received her first name as a namesake of her mother.[7]

Early life and family

She was born in the castle at Domfront, Normandy on 13 October 1162,[8] and was baptised by Henry of Marcy. Her half-siblings were Marie and Alix of France, and her full siblings were Henry the Young, Duchess Matilda, King Richard, Duke Geoffrey, Queen Joan and Prince John.


When she was 12 years old, in 1174, Eleanor was married to King Alfonso VIII of Castile in Burgos.[9][10] The marriage had been arranged with a betrothal in 1170 but, because of Eleanor’s youth at the time, and the uproar in Europe six months later of Archbishop Thomas Becket's murder implicating her father, the wedding was delayed. Her parents' purpose in arranging the marriage was to secure Aquitaine’s Pyrenean border, while Alfonso was seeking an ally in his struggles with his uncle, Sancho VI of Navarre. In 1177, this led to Henry overseeing arbitration of the border dispute.[11]

Around the year 1200, Alfonso began to claim that the duchy of Gascony was part of Eleanor's dowry, but there is no documented foundation for that claim. It is highly unlikely that Henry II would have parted with so significant a portion of his domains. At most, Gascony may have been pledged as security for the full payment of his daughter’s dowry. Her husband went so far on this claim as to invade Gascony in her name in 1205. In 1206, her brother John, King of England granted her safe passage to visit him, perhaps to try opening peace negotiations. In 1208, Alfonso yielded on the claim.[12] Decades later, their great-grandson Alfonso X of Castile would claim the duchy on the grounds that her dowry had never been fully paid.

Of all Eleanor of Aquitaine’s daughters, her namesake was the only one who was enabled, by political circumstances, to wield the kind of influence her mother had exercised.[13] In her own marriage treaty, and in the first marriage treaty for her daughter Berengaria, Eleanor was given direct control of many lands, towns, and castles throughout the kingdom.[14] She was almost as powerful as Alfonso, who specified in his will in 1204 that she was to rule alongside their son in the event of his death, including taking responsibility for paying his debts and executing his will.[15] It was she who persuaded him to marry their daughter Berengaria to Alfonso IX of León. Troubadours and sages were regularly present in Alfonso VIII’s court due to Eleanor’s patronage.[16]

Eleanor took particular interest in supporting religious institutions. In 1179, she took responsibility to support and maintain a shrine to St. Thomas Becket in the cathedral of Toledo. She also created and supported the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, which served as a refuge and tomb for her family for generations, and its affiliated hospital.[17]

When Alfonso died, Eleanor was reportedly so devastated with grief that she was unable to preside over the burial. Their eldest daughter Berengaria instead performed these honours. Eleanor then took sick and died only twenty-eight days after her husband, and was buried at Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.[18]


Name Birth Death Notes
Berengaria Burgos,
1 January/
June 1180
Las Huelgas near Burgos,
8 November 1246
Married firstly in Seligenstadt on 23 April 1188 with Duke Conrad II of Swabia, but the union (only by contract and never solemnized) was later annulled. Married in Valladolid between 1/16 December 1197 with King Alfonso IX of León as his second wife.[19] After their marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity in 1204, she returned to her homeland and became regent of her minor brother King Henry I. Queen of Castile in her own right after the death of Henry I in 1217, quickly abdicated in favour of her son Ferdinand III of Castile who would re-unite the kingdoms of Castile and León.
Sancho Burgos,
5 April 1181
26 July 1181 Heir of the throne since his birth, died aged three months.
Sancha 20/28 March 1182 3 February 1184/
16 October 1185
Died in infancy.
Henry 1184 1184? Heir of the throne since his birth, died either shortly after being born or in infancy. His existence is disputed among sources.
Urraca 1186/
28 May 1187
3 November 1220
Married in 1206 to Infante dom Afonso of Portugal, who succeeded his father as King Afonso II on 26 March 1212.
Blanche Palencia,
4 March 1188
27 November 1252
Married on 23 May 1200 to Prince Louis of France, who succeeded his father as King Louis VIII on 14 July 1223. Crowned Queen at Saint-Denis with her husband on 6 August 1223. Regent of the Kingdom of France during 1226-1234 (minority of her son) and during 1248-1252 (absence of her son on Crusade).
Ferdinand Cuenca,
29 September 1189
14 October 1211
Heir of the throne since his birth. On whose behalf Diego of Acebo and the future Saint Dominic travelled to Denmark in 1203 to secure a bride.[20] Ferdinand was returning through the San Vicente mountains from a campaign against the Muslims when he contracted a fever and died.[21]
Mafalda Plasencia,
Betrothed in 1204 to Infante Ferdinand of Leon, eldest son of Alfonso IX and stepson of her oldest sister.
Eleanor 1200[22] Las Huelgas,
Married on 6 February 1221 with King James I of Aragon. They became separated on April 1229 on grounds of consanguinity.
Constance c. 1202[22] Las Huelgas,
A nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa María la Real at Las Huelgas in 1217, she became known as the Lady of Las Huelgas, a title shared with later royal family members who joined the community.[22]
Henry Valladolid,
14 April 1204
6 June 1217
Only surviving son, he succeeded his father in 1214 aged ten under the regency firstly of his mother and later his oldest sister. He was killed when he was struck by a tile falling from a roof.

Later Depictions

Eleanor was praised for her beauty and regal nature by the poet Ramón Vidal de Besalú after her death.[23] Her great-grandson Alfonso X referred to her as "noble and much loved".[24]

Eleanor was played by Ida Norden in the silent film The Jewess of Toledo.[25]


Family of Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile
16. Fulk IV of Anjou
8. Fulk V of Anjou
17. Bertrade de Montfort
4. Geoffrey V of Anjou
18. Elias I of Maine
9. Ermengarde of Maine
19. Matilda of Château-du-Loir
2. Henry II of England
20. William the Conqueror
10. Henry I of England
21. Matilda of Flanders
5. Empress Matilda
22. Malcolm III of Scotland
11. Matilda of Scotland
23. Margaret of Scotland
1. Eleanor
24. William VIII of Aquitaine
12. William IX of Aquitaine
25. Hildegarde of Burgundy
6. William X of Aquitaine
26. William IV of Toulouse
13. Philippa of Toulouse
27. Emma of Mortain
3. Eleanor of Aquitaine
28. Boson II of Châtellerault
14. Aimery I of Châttellerault
29. Alienor de Thouars
7. Aenor de Châtellerault
30. Barthelemy de L'Isle Bouchard
15. Dangerose de l'Isle Bouchard
31. Gerberge de Blaison


  1. Historians are divided in their use of the terms "Plantagenet" and "Angevin" in regards to Henry II and his sons. Some class Henry II to be the first Plantagenet King of England; others refer to Henry, Richard and John as the Angevin dynasty, and consider Henry III to be the first Plantagenet ruler.
  1. Abbreviationes Chronicorum
  2. Annales Compostellani
  3. Fraser 2000.
  4. Crónica Latina, Anales Toledanos
  5. Cerda 2012.
  6. José Manuel Cerda, The marriage of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Leonor Plantagenet: the first bond between Spain and England in the Middle Ages
  7. Gillingham 2005.
  8. Weir 2008, p. 64.
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  10. Weir, 64.
  11. Shadis 2010, p. 25-31.
  12. Shadis 2010, p. 31-32.
  13. Wheeler & Parsons 2002.
  14. Shadis 2010, p. 27-30.
  15. Shadis 2010, p. 38-39.
  16. Mila y Fontanels 1966, p. 112.
  17. Shadis 2010, p. 35-41.
  18. Ricardo del Arco y Garay, Sepulcros de la Casa Real de Castilla
  19. New International Encyclopedia, Vol.13, (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1915), 782.
  20. Vicaire, pp. 89–98.
  21. Osma 1997, p. 55-56, vol.20.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Shadis 2010, p. 4.
  23. Mila y Fontanels 1966, p. 126.
  24. Shadis 2010, p. 48.
  25. Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile on IMDb


  • Cerdá, José Manuel, La dot gasconne d'Aliénor d'Angleterre. Entre royaume de Castille, royaume de France et royaume d'Angleterre, Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, ISSN 0007-9731, Vol. 54, Nº 215, 2011.
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  • Rada Jiménez, Rodrigo. Historia de los hechos de España.
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External links

Spanish royalty
Preceded by Queen consort of Castile
Succeeded by
Mafalda of Portugal