ALPHONSO VIII. (1158-1214), king of Castile only, and grandson of Alphonso VII., is a great name in Spanish history, for he led the coalition of Christian princes and foreign crusaders who broke the power of the Almohades at the battle of the Navas de Tolosa in 1212. The events of his reign are dealt with under SPAIN. His personal history is that of many medieval kings. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Sancho, at the age of a year and a half. Though proclaimed king, he was regarded as a mere name by the unruly nobles to whom a minority was convenient. The devotion of a squire of his household, who carried him on the pommel of his saddle to the stronghold of San Esteban de Gormaz, saved him from falling into the hands of the contending factions of Castro and Lara, or of his uncle Ferdinand of Leon, who claimed the regency. The loyalty of the town of Avila protected his youth. He was barely fifteen when he came forth to do a man's work by restoring his kingdom to order. It was only by a surprise that he recovered his capital Toledo from the hands of the Laras. His marriage with Leonora of Aquitaine, daughter of Henry II. of England, brought him under the influence of the greatest governing intellect of his time. Alphonso VIII. was the founder of the first Spanish university, the studium generale of Palencia, which, however, did not survive him.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)