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Alphonso Xi

ALPHONSO XI. (1312-1350) is variously known among Spanish kings as the Avenger or the Implacable, and as "he of the Rio Salado." The first two names he earned by the ferocity with which he repressed the disorder of the nobles after a long minority; the third by his victory over the last formidable African invasion of Spain in 1340. The chronicler who records his death prays that "God may be merciful to him, for he was a very great king." The mercy was needed. Alphonso XI. never went to the insane lengths of his son Peter the Cruel, but he could be abundantly sultanesque in his methods. He killed for reasons of state without form of trial, while his open neglect of his wife, Maria of Portugal, and his ostentatious passion for Leonora de Guzman, who bore him a large family of sons, set Peter an example which he did not fail to better. It may be that his early death, during the great plague of 1350, at the siege of Gibraltar, only averted a desperate struggle with his legitimate son, though it was a misfortune in that it removed a ruler of eminent capacity, who understood his subjects well enough not to go too far.

[Four other kings of Aragon, besides the Battler, bore the name of Alphonso. All these princes held territory in the south-east of France, and had a close connexion with Italy. ALPHONSO II. of Aragon (1162-1106) was the son of Raymond Berenger, Count of Barcelona, and of Petronilla, niece of Alphonso the Battler, and daughter of Ramiro surnamed the Monk. He succeeded to the county of Barcelona in 1162 on the death of his father, at the age of eleven, and in 1164 his mother renounced her rights in Aragon in his favour. Though christened Ramon (Raymond), the favourite name of his line, he reigned as Alphonso out of a wish to please his Aragonese subjects, to whom the memory of the Battler was dear. As king of Aragon he took a share in the work of the reconquest, by helping his cousin Alohonso VIII. of Castile to conquer Cuenca, and to suppress one Pero Ruiz de Azagra, who was endeavouring to carve out a kingdom for himself in the debatable land between Christian and Mahommedan. But his double position as ruler both north and south of the eastern Pyrenees distracted his policy. In character and interests he was rather Provencal than Spanish, a favourer of the troubadours, no enemy of the Albigensian heretics, and himself a poet in the southern French dialect. ALPHONSO III. of Aragon (12851291), the insignificant son of the notable Peter III., succeeded to the Spanish and Provencal possessions of his father, but his short reign did not give him time even to marry. His inability to resist the demands of his nobles left a heritage of trouble in Aragon. By recognising their right to rebel in the articles called the Union he helped to make anarchy permanent. ALPHONSO IV. of Aragon (1327-1336) was a weak man whose reign was insignificant. ALPHONSO V. of Aragon (1416-1458), surnamed the Magnanimous, who represented the old line of the counts of Barcelona only through women, and was on his father's side descended from the Castilian house of Trastamara, is one of the most conspicuous figures of the early Renaissance. No man of his time had a larger share of the quality called by the Italians of the day "virtue." By hereditary right king of Sicily, by the will of Joanna II. and his own sword king of Naples, he fought and triumphed amid the exuberant development of individuality which accompanied the revival of learning and the birth of the modern world. When a prisoner in the hands of Filipo Maria Visconti, duke of Milan, in 1435, Alphonso persuaded his ferocious and crafty captor to let him go by making it plain that it was the interest of Milan not to prevent the victory of the Aragonese party in Naples. Like a true prince of the Renaissance he favoured men of letters whom he trusted to preserve his reputation to posterity. His devotion to the classics was exceptional even in that time. He halted his army in pious respect before the birthplace of a Latin writer, carried Livy or Caesar on his campaigns with him, and his panegyrist Panormita did not think it an incredible lie to say that the king was cured of an illness by having a few pages of Quintus Curtius read to him. The classics had not refined his taste, for he was amused by setting the wandering scholars, who swarmed to his court, to abuse one another in the indescribably filthy Latin scolding matches which were then the fashion. Alphonso founded nothing, and after his conquest of Naples in 1442 ruled by his mercenary soldiers, and no less mercenary men of letters. His Spanish possessions were ruled for him by his brotherjohn. He left his conquest of Naples to his bastard son Ferdinand; his inherited lands, Sicily and Sardinia, going to his brother John who survived him.]

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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