Violante of Aragón, the forgotten queen of Castile: mistreated by Alfonso X and by History
Both his bellicose father, James I the Conquerorking of Aragon, Valencia and Mallorca and count of Barcelona, like her notable husband, Alfonso X the Wise, have been the epicenter of a gigantic bibliography, of countless studies designed to analyze and reconstruct their exploits and decisions in detail. Between both colossi, under the shadow of oblivion, in a residual place of History, the figure of Violante of Aragonqueen and woman despised by medieval chroniclers, who has not received much attention from modern historians either.
In fact, the only biography that exists about this Castilian monarch, whose intervention in the life of the kingdom and in the ins and outs of politics was fundamental, was published recently, in 2017. Its author is Maria Jesus Sourceprofessor at the Carlos III University and researcher focused on studying medieval queens and making known the fascinating women hidden in history. The title is Violante of Aragon. Queen of Castile (Dykinson).
Born around 1236, she was the daughter of James I of Aragon and Violante of Hungary. Hardly any information is known about her childhood – there are very few archival sources that refer to her life -: she arrived in Castile while she was still a child and married in Valladolid at the end of December 1246 with the infante Alfonso, future king. The young woman he had barely reached the first decade of his life when the heavy burden of the succession of the kingdom was already placed on his small body.
And he did not solve it without setbacks: probably due to his extreme youth, Violante was not able to fulfill his obligation of getting pregnant. Alfonso Ferdinand III the Saint, in 1252 and his consequent ascension to the Castilian throne—which called Princess Christina of Norway. The monarch seriously considered repudiate his first wife requesting the Pope to annul the marriage in order to contract a second marriage.
But when the new candidate to act as queen of Castile arrived at court, Violante was already expecting her second daughter. The confirmation that it was not so much a fertility problem – since she would eventually produce a total of eleven offspring – but rather a problem of precocity. Confirmed your skills as a “container” for the monarch’s children, from her role as wife, mother and member of the royal family, Violante worked in politics for three decades, achieving government capacity and exercising it with some success. The only blemish in this sense is that she failed to manage a peaceful succession between her children.
Despite being sometimes called a “bad woman” or “murderer” when she was accused of the death of her sister Constanza, who was also married to another of the sons of Ferdinand III of Castile, Violante’s biography highlights her interventions as effective mediator in the internal tensions of the kingdom and with neighboring territories. She acted as a thermometer in the not very good relationship between her father Jaime and her husband Alfonso, and also calmed the discomfort of the Castilian nobles on various occasions.
Among his most brilliant actions is precisely the meeting held in 1273 with the exiled nobility and the representatives of the kingdom of Granada to solve a crisis situation that the kingdom had reached and put an end to the rebellion. Although just two years later his life would take a sharp turn: in 1275 he died Fernando de la Cerdathe firstborn of the royal couple, when he was on his way to face an Arab invasion.
According to the laws of the kingdom, the throne was to be inherited by the second male in the line of succession, that is, the future Sancho IV the Brave. However, Roman law introduced in the Code of the Siete Partidas established that the crown should correspond in this case to the descendants of Fernando de la Cerda. Violante opted for her grandchildren, the infants of La Cerda, rather than her son.
When the conflict broke out over who would take the throne of Castile upon the death of Alfonso He, however, did not agree to her company, fearing the consequences of confronting the monarch. Violante, after seeing her bet fail, returned to the Castilian kingdom around 1277. She would never cross paths with her husband again: if from the beginning the marriage had not been well agreed upon, from that moment on the relationship would be null, with irreconcilable and enmity positions.
Sancho IV would be proclaimed the new king, but he would die a decade later, in 1295. Violante, still alive, returned to claim the throne for the infantes of la Cerda instead of recognizing Ferdinand IV, son of Sancho and María de Molina. Although again he would not obtain the desired success. The queen of Castile would die in Roncesvalles, in the kingdom of Navarra, in 1301, shortly after having made a pilgrimage to Rome. She was buried in the Royal Collegiate Church of Santa María, but the whereabouts of her bones are currently unknown.
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