Zaida of Seville

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Zaida of Seville was a refugee Muslim princess, who was a mistress and then perhaps queen of Alfonso VI of Castile.[1]

She is said by Iberian Muslim sources to have been the daughter Al Mutamid, the Muslim King of Seville, as mentioned in the Chronicle of Pelayo de Oviedo which is one of the most important proofs of this:

“Hic (Adefonsus VI) habuit V. uxores legitimas: primam Agnetam; secundam Constanciam Reginam, ex qua genuit Urracam Reginam, coniugem comitis Raimundi, de qua ipsi genuit Sanciam et Adefonsum Regem; tertiam Bertam, Tuscia oriundam; quartam Helisabeth, ex qua genuit Sanciam coniugem comitis Roderici, et Geloiram quam duxit Rogerius Dux Cicilie; quintam Beatricem, que, mortuo eo, repedauit in patriam suam. Habuit etiam duas concubinas, tamen nobilissimas, priorem Xemenam Munionis, ex qua genuit Geloiram, uxorem comitis Raimundi Tolosani, patris ex ea Adefonsi Iordanis, et Tarasiam, uxorem Henrici comitis, patris ex ea Urrace, Geloire et Adefonsi; posteriorem nomine Ceidam, filiam Abenabeth Regis Yspalensis, que babtizata Helisabeth fuit uocitata; ex hac genuit Sancium, qui obiit in lite de Ocles.”

Translation: “This (Alfonso VI) had five legal wives: first Agnes; second Queen Constance of whom was born Queen Urraca, who married Raymond, of whom in turn were born Sancha and King Alfonso; third Berta of Tuscany; fourth Elizabeth, of whom was born Sancha the wife of Count Rodrigo, and Elvira whom Roger, Duke of Sicily, [took?]; and fifth Beatrice, who, [returned to her father after his (Alfonso’s) death?]. He also had two concubines, who also were nobles, first Jimena Munoz, (of whom was born Elvira, wife of Count Raymond of Tolosan, father of Alfonso of Jordan, and Teresa, wife of Count Henry, father of Urraca, Elvira, and Alfonso) and the last was named Zaida, daughter of Abu Abbad, King of Sevile, who was baptized Elizabeth [fuit uocitata?], and from her was born Sancho, who died in the Battle of Ucles.”

Other sources describe her as wife of his son Abu al Fatah al Ma'Mun, Emir of Cordoba,[2] (d. 1091). Later Iberian Christian chroniclers call her Al Mutamid's daughter,[3] but the Islamic chroniclers are considered more reliable.[4] With the fall of Seville to the Almoravids, she fled to the protection of Alfonso VI of Castile, becoming his mistress, converting to Christianity, and taking the baptismal name of Isabel.[4]

She was the mother of Alfonso VI of Castile's only son, Sancho,[4] who, though illegitimate, was named his father's heir but was killed in the Battle of Uclés of 1108 during his father's lifetime. It has been suggested that Alfonso's fourth wife, Isabel, was identical to Zaida,[5] but this is still subject to scholarly debate, others making Queen Isabel distinct from the mistress[3][6] or suggesting that Alfonso had two successive wives of this name, with Zaida being the second Queen Isabel.[7] Alfonso's daughters Elvira and Sancha, were by Queen Isabel, and, hence, may have been Zaida's.[8]

She died in childbirth, and it is unclear whether the child being delivered was Sancho, Sancha, or Elvira (the younger of the two if Zaida is indeed identical to Queen Isabel, their order of birth not being known), or an additional child, otherwise unknown.[9] A funerary marker once at Sahagun bore the inscription:

H.R. Regina Elisabeth, uxor regis Adefonsi, filia Benabet Regis Sevillae, quae prius Zayda, fuit vocata
("Queen Isabel, wife of King Alfonso, daughter of Aben-abeth, king of Seville; previously called Zayda.")

The tomb was later moved to Leon where the sepulchre and inscription can now be found. A second inscription memorializes Queen Isabel, making her daughter of Louis, King of France (although there was no such king in the generation prior to Queen Isabel). Both memorials are non-contemporary and neither is generally viewed as credible.[4]


  1. Bernard F. Reilly, The Contest of Christian and Muslim Spain, 1031-1157, (Blackwell, 1995), 92.
  2. Cawley, Medieval Lands; Canal Sánchez-Pagín; Lévi-Provençal; Montaner Frutos; Palencia; Salazar y Acha
  3. 3.0 3.1 Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser VIII. "Spanien". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1968, p. 194. (German).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Canal Sánchez-Pagín; Montaner Frutos; Palencia; Salazar y Acha
  5. Martínez Díez; Salazar y Acha
  6. Canal Sánchez-Pagín; Montaner Frutos; Palencia
  7. Reilly
  8. Canal Sánchez-Pagín; Palencia; Reilly; Salazar y Acha
  9. Canal Sánchez-Pagín; Palencia; Salazar y Acha


  • José Maria Canal Sánchez-Pagín, "Jimena Muñoz, Amiga de Alfonso VI", Anuario de Estudios Medievales, 21:11–40 (1991).
  • Évariste Lévi-Provençal, "La 'Mora Zaida' femme d'Alfonse VI de Castile et leur fils l'Infant D.Sancho", Hesperis, 18:1–8,200-1 (1934).
  • Gonzalo Martínez Díez, Alfonso VI: Señor del Cid, conquistador de Toledo (2003).
  • Alberto Montaner Frutos, "La Mora Zaida, entre historia y legenda (con una reflexión sobre la técnica historiográfica alfonsí)" in Historist Essays on Hispano-Medieval Narrative: In Memory of Roger M. Walker, 272–352 (2005).
  • Clemente Palencia, "Historia y Legendas de las Mujeres de Alfonso VI", in Estudios Sobre Alfonso VI y la Reconquista de Toledo, 281–90 (1988).
  • Bernard F. Reilly, The Kingdom of León-Castilla under King Alfonso VI, 1065–1109 (Princeton University Press, 1988)
  • Jaime de Salazar y Acha, "Contribución al estudio del reinado de Alfonso VI de Castilla: algunas aclaraciones sobre su política matrimonial." Anales de la Real Academia Matritense de Heráldica y Genealogía, 2:299-336 (1992–1993).
  • Jaime de Salazar y Acha, "De nuevo sobre la mora Zaida." Hidalguía: la Revista de Genealogía, Nobreza y Armas. 54:225–242 (2007).