The Kingdom of Castile is a large and powerful state on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. It borders to the east the Kingdom of Navarre and Crown of Aragón, south Almohad Empire and to the west Kingdom of León.
Dynastic Crisis, Regency and War
Between 1072 and 1157 it was again united with León. Throughout the 11th century the Castilian kings made extensive conquests in the southern Iberia (Al-Andalus at the expense of the Islamic polities. Against the Almohads two important battles led by Alfonso VIII where Los Alarcos (1195) and Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). Both a complete disaster for Castile and her Spanish allies. In the last one an arrow strikes down Alfonso VIII and dies.
According to Alfonso VIII's will a regency for his son Enrique under his Queen Eleanor Plantagenet was established. Queen Leonor, already a political figure on her own, had to deal with her daughter's husband Alfonso IX of León invasions to regain lands ceded by pacts to Castile (The Castilian-Leonese Wars). Besides the Warr, Eleanor had to solve the conflicts between the various noble houses vying for ascendancy in the regency. Mainly the claims of the houses of Lara and Castro over the regency.
The regency successfully led the defense and campaigns against León. Between 1217 and 1222 the main battles were for the control of the fertile plains of Tierras de Campo. Enrique I of Castile ascended to the throne in 1219 in the middle of these key battles. At the end of the Wars Castile had lost control of Tierras de Campo and the towns of Carrión, Palencia and Plasencia.
Toledo, in possession of Castile since 1085, was retaken by the Moors and established a de facto frontier to the south of the Tagus in 1248. Previously Alcántara (1216), Uclés (1216) were won by the Almohad.
Reign of Enrique I
Enrique I had in his hands a rebellion of the nobles that opposed his rule and apparent lack of military skill in the loses of Tierras de Campo. However, the King had allies in the Cortes of Castile. This parliament, meeting at least once a year since 1214 in Burgos, had emerged with increasing power under the regency of Eleanor Plantagenet. Prelates, nobles and commoners remained separated in the three estates within the Cortes. The king had the ability to call and dismiss the Cortes, but, as the lords of the Cortes headed the army and controlled the purse, the King usually signed treaties with them to pass bills for war at the cost of concessions to the lords and the Cortes. However the nobles were experiencing very hard economic times due to the Wars, so now the bourgeoisie (Spanish burguesía, from burgo, city) had the money and thus the power. Also Enrique I sought it has a means to curtail the power of the nobles, specially the House of Lara and Castro.
So Enrique I started admitting more representatives (procuradores), as his mother Eleanor Plantagenet had done, from the cities to the Cortes in order to get more money for the Crown. The frequent payoffs were the "Fueros", grants of autonomy to the cities and their inhabitants.
Meanwhile in Leon, King Fernando's requisitions, affect part of Berengaria of Castile's lands that are given to nobles loyal to the king and not her allies. Also Berengaria pushed for what she considered the better crown rights of her son Fernando the Castilian, the king's half-brother. So in 1233 nobles loyal to Berengaria and adversaries to the King proclaimed Fernando the Castilian as their rightful king. This dynastic challenge is crushed. Fernando the Castilian's brother, Alonso, is slain in the battle of Carrion (1235) and the royal pretender is taking prisoner. In exchange of his freedom, Berengaria, her son and most loyal nobles are exile to Castile and have to surrender their lands to Fernando III of León. Until her death in 1246, Berengaria was one of the closest advisors to her brother Enrique I. She never gave up the re-unification of Castile and León, and supported all efforts in the Reconquista. She was a patron of religious institutions, personally checked the works of the Cathedral of Burgos, and supported the writing of a history of the two countries.
However Berengaria, a key upholder of Enrique in the early years of his reign provoked resistance from the House of Lara, which were major lords in Burgos and former regents.
The Leonese-Almohad truce (1245) left Enrique I with the possible threat from either Almohad raids or Leonese conquest campaigns. Though he could muster mercenaries trouble was how to gather money from the Cortes or lenders after the losing the Castilian-Leonese Wars.
Kings of Castile
- -... (House of Borgoña, a cadet branch of the House of Ivrea)
- Alfonso VIII (1155-1212) 31 August 1158 – July 1212
- Regency of Eleanor Plantagenet (1150-1223) July 1212- November 1219
- Enrique I (1204-1253) November 1219-1253
- Sancho IV (1230-...) 1253-...