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Spanish Kings


Spanish Kings. From Alphonso I. (739-757) to Alphonso V. (999-1028) the personal history of the Spanish kings of this name is unknown and their very dates are disputed. ALPHONSO I. is said to have married Ormesinda, daughter of Pelavo, who was raised on the shield in Asturias as king of the Goths after the Arab conquest. He is also said to have been the son of Peter. duke of Cantabria. It is not improbable that he was in fact an hereditary chief of the Basques, but no contemporary records exist. His title of"the Catholic" itself may very well have been the invention of later chronicles. ALPHONSO II. (789-842), his reputed grandson, bears the name of "the Chaste." The Arab writers who speak of the Spanish kings of the north-west as the Beni-Altons, appear to recognize them as a royal stock derived from Alphonso I. The events of his reign are in reality unknown. Poets of a later generation invented the story of the secret marriage of his sister Ximena with Sancho, count of Saldana, and the feats of their son Bernardo del Carpio. Bernardo is the hero of a cantar de gesta (chanson de geste) written to please the anarchical spirit of the nobles.

The first faint glimmerings of medieval Spanish history begin with ALPHONSO III. (866-914) surnamed "the Great." Of him also nothing is really known except the bare facts of his reign and of his comparative success in consolidating the kingdom known as "of Galicia" or "of Oviedo" during the weakness of the Omayyad princes of Cordova. ALPHONSO IV. (924-931) has a faint personality. He resigned the crown to his brother Ramiro and went into a religious house. A certain instability of character is revealed by the fact that he took up arms against Ramiro, having repented of his renunciation of the world. He was defeated, blinded and sent back to die in the cloister of Sahagun. It fell to ALPHONSO V. (999-1028) to begin the work of reorganizing the Christian kingdom of the north-west after a most disastrous period of civil war and Arab inroads. Enough is known of him to justify the belief that he had some of the qualities of a soldier and a statesman. His name, and that of his wife Geloria (Elvira), are associated with the grant of the first franchises of Leon. He was killed by an arrow while besieging the town of Viseu in northern Portugal, then held by the Mahommedans. (For all these kings see the article Spain: History.)

With ALPHONSO VI. (1065-1109) we come to a sovereign of strong personal character. Much romance has gathered round his name. In the cantar de gesta of the Cid he plays the part attributed by medieval poets to the greatest kings, to Charlemagne himself. He is alternately the oppressor and the victim of heroic and self-willed nobles-the idealized types of the patrons for whom the jongleurs and troubadours sang. (For the events of his reign see the article Spain: History.) He is the hero of a cantar de gesta which, like all but a very few of the early Spanish songs, like the cantar of Bernardo del Carpio and the Infantes of Lara, exists now only in the fragments incorporated in the chronicle of Alphonso the Wise or in ballad form. His flight from the monastery of Sahagnn, where his brother Sancho endeavoured to imprison him. his chivalrous friendship for his host Almamun of Toledo, caballero aunique moni, a gentleman although a Moor, the passionate loyalty of his vassal Peranzules and his brotherly love for his sister Urraca of Zamora, may owe something to the poet who took him for hero. They are the answer to the poet of the nobles who represented the king as having submitted to take a degrading oath at the hands of Ruy Diaz of Bivar (the Cid), in the church of Santa Gadea at Burgos, and as having then persecuted the brave nian who defied him. When every allowance is made, Alphonso Vl. stands out as a strong man fighting for his own hand, which in his case was the hand of the king whose interest was law and order and who was the leader of the nation in the reconquest On the Arabs he impressed himself as an enemy very fierce and astute, but as a keeper of his word. A story of Mahommedan origin, which is probably no more historical than the oath of Santa Gadea, tells of how he allowed himself to be tricked by Ibn Ammar, the favourite of Al Motamid, the king of Seville. They played chess for an extremely beautiful table and set of men, belonging to Ibn Ammar. Table and men were to go to the king if he won. If Ibn Ammar gained he was to name the stake. The latter did win and demanded that the Christian king should spare Seville. Alphonso kept his word. Whatever truth may lie behind the romantic tales of Christian and Mahommedan, we know that Alphonso represented in a remarkable way the two great influences then shaping the character and civilization of Spain. At the instigation, it is said, of his second wife. Constance of Burgundy, he brought the Cistercians into Spain, established them in Sahagun, chose a French Cistercian, Bernard, as the first archbishop of Toledo after the reconquest in 1085, married his daughters, legitimate and illegitimate, to French princes, and in every way forwarded the spread of French influence-then the greatest civilizing force in Europe. He also drew Spain nearer to the papacy, and it was his decision which established the Roman ritual in place of the old missal of Saint Isidore-the so-called Mozarabic. On the other hand he was very open to Arabic influence. He protected the Mahommedans among his subjects and struck coins with inscriptions in Arabic letters. After the death of Constance he perhaps married and he certainly lived with Zaida, said to have been a daughter of "Benabet" (Al Alotamid), Mahommedan king of Seville. Zaida, who became a Christian under the name of Maria or Isabel, bore him the only son among his many children, Sancho, whom Alphonso designed to be his successor, but who was slain at the battle of Ucles in 1108. Women play a great part in Alphonso's life.

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

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