The Kingdom of León is an independent kingdom situated in the northwest region of the Iberian Peninsula. The Kingdom of Galicia is dynastically united with Leon. It borders to the east the Kingdom of Castile, south Almohad Empire and southwest the Kingdom of Portugal.
The Kingdom of Leon was founded in 910 when the Christian princes of Asturias along the northern coast of the peninsula shifted their capital from Oviedo to the city of León. The County of Portugal separated to become the independent Kingdom of Portugal in 1139. Briefly united with Castile in 1065–1109 and 1126–1157.
The Castilian-Leonese Wars
After the defeat of Alfonso VIII of Castile at the Battle of Alarcos (1195), Alfonso IX proceed to invade Castile with the aid of Muslim troops. Despite this, he had to return the lands he had gained. In 1212 notably absent were the Kings of León and Portugal, however, they allowed their vassals to join the battle. The defeat of Las Navas de Tolosa and death of Alfonso VIII gave the opportunity to Alfonso IX to proceed to retrieve by the arms what he considered his in Castile. However, Castile under the regency of Queen Eleanor Plantagenet engaged in a series of skirmishes to defend its possessions (The Castilian-Leonese Wars). At the end of these wars, the Peace of Valladolid (1230) granted León full control of Tierras de Campo and the towns of Carrión and Palencia and Placensia.
With the gains of Tierras de Campo, Fernando III gave out seigneuries to his subjects and the requisition of those that did not swear loyalty to Fernando III, who in its majority happened to be former Castilian lords. The towns of Carrión, Palencia and Placensia were given out fueros and representation in the Cortes. In his need to keep taxes and part of the wealth of Tierras de Campo in León, land and river tolls were installed near the boundary of Castile.
Berengaria of Castile, Alfonso IX's second wife, direct control over several castles and lands along the border of Leon-Castile, was damaged because the nobles that ran them in her name now had to seek justice from Fernando III and could not now seek it from either king of Leon or Castile in the event of being wronged by the other. Due to King Fernando's requisitions, part of Berengaria's lands were given to nobles loyal to the king and not her allies. In addition, Berengaria pushed for what she considered the better crown rights of her son Fernando the Castilian, the king's half-brother. So in 1233 nobles loyal to Berengaria and adversaries to the King proclaimed Fernando the Castilian as their rightful king. This dynastic challenge was crushed by Fernando III in due time in alliance with the lords of southern León and burghers of Tierras de Campo. Fernando the Castilian's brother, Alonso, is slain in the battle of Carrion (1235) and the royal pretender is taking prisoner. In exchange for his freedom, Berengaria, her son and most loyal nobles are exile to Castile and have to surrender their lands in Castile.
Assistance to Portugal
|In 1246 nobles in open rebellion invited Afonso, Count of Boulogne, to take the throne of his brother Sancho II of Portugal. With the kidnapping of the queen by his enemies and the arrival of Afonso to Lisboa and securing Santarem, Sancho II fortified in Coimbra called for help to Fernando III of Léón. An army lead by the Infante Ramiro came to his assistance in November 1246, winning most of the battles against Afonso's allies. After capturing Leiria, a brief truce was declared by Infante Ramiro the parties could work out a their differences. Sancho II agreed to step down with the prevision that the Cortes would name his successor to the Crown and the clergy accept the supremacy of the laws of the country and the end of most of their privileges. Afonso agreed to this and abdicated his rights to the county of Boulogne. He also agreed to divorced his first wife Matilda II of Boulogne (1253) and marry the illegitimate daughter of Fernando III, Beatrice of León. In 1248 he was named by the Cortes as Afonso III King of Portugal. The former king Sancho II settled in Leon where he died in 1260.
The Golden Age of León
In 1245, Fernando IV secured with the Almohad a 20-year truce and an alliance against the Castilians, recognizing the limits of the Tagus. Having secured an end to hostilities and raids in the south and along with the former no man's land of the shores of the Tagus, Fernando III and later Ramiro IV followed the polices of repoblación of their predecessors and gave out lands in the south, around Salamanca and Soria to nobles, colonizers and new fueros to the burghers. This new aristocracy and burghers, the southerners (los sureños), were to be the main political allies of the Crown in the years to follow and unconditionally raise armies on its calling.
However the shores of the Tangus, both in León and Castile, had occasional raids and military campaigns between the Christian Military Orders and the Muslim Rabidas around their fortresses.
The Cortes of León, under Ramiro IV began to annually meet and sureños faction established itself as the main political allies of the Court. Having ended the Crown of León the campaign against the moors for the time being, the royal treasury with the revenues of the de Campo and the southern lands was able to paid off debts and sustain a permanent army.
Fernando IV and his successors fostered the development of a cosmopolitan court that encouraged learning. Jews, Muslims, and Christians had prominent roles in the court. Ramiro IV generously endowed Salamanca and the formal title of "University" was granted by royal charter in 1254.
Kings of León
Oficial title: Rex Legionis et Gallaeciae (King of León and Galicia)
- ... (House of Borgoña, a cadet branch of the House of Ivrea)
- Alfonso IX (1171–1226) Reign 1188-1226
- Fernando III (1192-1252) Reign 1226-1252
- Ramiro IV (1215-1279) Reign 1252-1279
- Fernando IV (1233-...) 1279-...
Of importance is the University of Salamanca, founded in 1134 and recognized as a "General School of the Kingdom" by the Alfonso IX in 1218. In 1254 by royal chart of King Ramiro IV, it was granted the title of University of Salamanca and established the rules for organization and financial endowment.
- The future King Ramiro IV of León.