Eleanor of England (Spanish: Leonor; c. 1161 – October 31, 1214), was the Queen of Castile and Toledo as wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile. She was the sixth child and second daughter of King Henry II of England, and Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Early life and family
Eleanor was born in the castle at Domfront, Normandy c. 1161, as the second daughter of Henry II, King of England and his wife Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, and was baptised by Henry of Marcy. Her half-siblings were Countess Marie and Countess Alix, and her full siblings were Henry the Young King, Duchess Matilda, King Richard, Duke Geoffrey, Queen Joan and King John. Eleanor had an older brother, William (17 August 1153- April 1156) the first son of Henry II, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He died of a seizure at Wallingford Castle, and he was buried in Reading Abbey at the feet of his great-grandfather Henry I.
In 1170 Eleanor married King Alfonso VIII of Castile in Burgos. Her parents' purpose in arranging the marriage was to secure Aquitaine's Pyrenean border, while Alfonso was seeking an ally in his struggles with Sancho VI of Navarre. In 1177, this led to Henry overseeing arbitration of the border dispute.
Around the year 1200, Alfonso began to claim that the duchy of Gascony was part of Eleanor's dowry, but there is no documented foundation for that claim. It is highly unlikely that Henry II would have parted with so significant a portion of his domains. At most, Gascony may have been pledged as security for the full payment of his daughter's dowry. Her husband went so far on this claim as to invade Gascony in her name in 1205. In 1206, her brother John granted her safe passage to visit him, perhaps to try opening peace negotiations. In 1208, Alfonso yielded on the claim. Decades later, their great-grandson Alfonso X of Castile would claim the duchy on the grounds that her dowry had never been fully paid.
Of all Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughters, her namesake was the only one who was enabled, by political circumstances, to wield the kind of influence her mother had exercised. In her own marriage treaty, and in the first marriage treaty for her daughter Berengaria, Eleanor was given direct control of many lands, towns, and castles throughout the kingdom. She was almost as powerful as Alfonso, who specified in his will in 1204 that she was to rule alongside their son in the event of his death, including taking responsibility for paying his debts and executing his will. It was she who persuaded him to marry their daughter Berengaria to Alfonso IX of León. Troubadours and sages were regularly present in Alfonso VIII's court due to Eleanor's patronage.
Eleanor took particular interest in supporting religious institutions. In 1179, she took responsibility to support and maintain a shrine to St. Thomas Becket in the cathedral of Toledo. She also created and supported the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, which served as a refuge and tomb for her family for generations, and its affiliated hospital.
When Alfonso died, Eleanor was reportedly so devastated with grief that she was unable to preside over the burial. Their eldest daughter Berengaria instead performed these honours. Eleanor then became sick and died only twenty-six days after her husband, and was buried at Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.
|Las Huelgas near Burgos,
November 8, 1246
|Married firstly in Seligenstadt on 23 April 1188 with Duke Conrad II of Swabia, but the union (only by contract and never solemnized) was later annulled. Married in Valladolid between December 1/16, 1197 with King Alfonso IX of León as his second wife. After their marriage was dissolved on grounds of consanguinity in 1204, she returned to her homeland and became regent of her minor brother King Henry I. Although Queen of Castile in her own right, after the death of Henry I in 1217, Berengaria quickly abdicated in favour of her son Ferdinand III of Castile who would re-unite the kingdoms of Castile and León.|
April 5, 1181
|July 26, 1181||Robert of Torigny records the birth "circa Pascha" in 1181 of "filium Sancius" to "Alienor filia regis Anglorum uxor Anfulsi regis de Castella". "Aldefonsus...Rex Castellæ et Toleti...cum uxore mea Alienor Regina et cum filio meo Rege Sancio" donated property to the bishop of Segovia by charter dated May 31, 1181. "Adefonsus...Rex Castellæ et Toleti...cum uxore mea Alienor Regina et cum filio meo Rege Sancio" donated property to the monastery of Rocamador by charter dated July 13, 1181.|
|Sancha||20/28 March 1182||3 February 1184/
16 October 1185
|King Alfonso VIII "cum uxore mea Alionor regina et cum filiabus meis Berengaria et Sancia Infantissis" exchanged property with the Templars by charter dated 26 January 1183.|
|Henry||before July 1182||before January 1184||The dating clause of a charter dated July 1182 records "regnante el Rey D. Alfonso...con su mugier Doña Lionor, con su fijo D. Anric". The dating of the document in which his sister Sancha is named suggests that they may have been twins.|
|Ferdinand||before January 1184||Died young, ca. 1184?||The dating clause of a charter dated January 1184 ("V Kal Feb Era 1222") records "regnante rege Alfonso cum uxore sua regina Eleonor et filio suo Fernando".|
28 May 1187
3 November 1220
|Married in 1206 to Infante dom Afonso of Portugal, who succeeded his father as King Afonso II on 26 March 1212.|
4 March 1188
27 November 1252
|Married on 23 May 1200 to Prince Louis of France, who succeeded his father as King Louis VIII on 14 July 1223. Crowned Queen at Saint-Denis with her husband on 6 August 1223. Regent of the Kingdom of France during 1226–1234 (minority of her son) and during 1248–1252 (absence of her son on Crusade).|
29 September 1189
14 October 1211
|Heir of the throne since his birth. On whose behalf Diego of Acebo and the future Saint Dominic travelled to Denmark in 1203 to secure a bride. Ferdinand was returning through the San Vicente mountains from a campaign against the Muslims when he contracted a fever and died.|
|Szabolcs de Vajay says that she "died at the point of becoming the fiancée of the Infante Fernando of León" (without citing the primary source on which this information is based) and refers to her burial at Salamanca Cathedral. Betrothed in 1204 to Infante Ferdinand of Leon, eldest son of Alfonso IX and stepson of her oldest sister.|
|Married on 6 February 1221 with King James I of Aragon. They became separated on April 1229 on grounds of consanguinity.|
|Constance||c. 1202||Las Huelgas,
|A nun at the Cistercian monastery of Santa María la Real at Las Huelgas in 1217, she became known as the Lady of Las Huelgas, a title shared with later royal family members who joined the community.|
14 April 1204
6 June 1217
|Only surviving son, he succeeded his father in 1214 aged ten under the regency firstly of his mother and later his oldest sister. He was killed when he was struck by a tile falling from a roof.|
Eleanor was played by Ida Norden in the silent film The Jewess of Toledo.
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