U is for Urraca of Aragon

Urraca was born in either 1079 or 1080. Since her father had no living sons, he had five other children, but they all died in either infancy or childhood. So Urraca became the heiress presumptive of her father’s titles. However, her father did have one living son, Sancho, by his mistress and he was named successor. In 1108 he died in battle giving Urraca the only legitimate claim to her father’s throne.

She was married to Count Raymond of Burgundy and despite being pregnant nine times, only two children lived: a daughter Sancha born sometime before 1095 and a son Alfonso in 1105. When her husband died in 1107, she also inherited his lands and Galicia. Widowed, her father, arranged her second marriage to Alfonso I of Aragon, her second cousin.

In 1109, her father died and she became the sovereign ruler of Leon and Castile. The church objected to her marriage on the grounds of limites of consanguinity. Even the nobles did not accept her marriage. She claimed Alfonso I was abusive. They put aside their differences and together repelled a Muslim invasion on Aragon from 1109 until 1110. Soon after this victory, they separated and the church annulled their marriage. Her husband, Alfonso I refused the churches ruling and seized Castile. However, Urraca took back Castile. Finally after thirteen years of battles between them, her husband consented to the annulment.

During the battles between Urraca, Alfonso I, and her son the First Crusaders fought to get out of Spain alive on their way to Israel.

Urraca died on March 8 or 9, 1126. Her cause of death is not known for certain; some speculate she died in childbirth. Urraca is credited with having several lovers after her separation from Alfonso I. Count Pedro Gonzalez of Lara attempted, with his brother, to seize her crown after her death, on the grounds he had been Urraca’s consort. Urraca’s son mustered his allies and they prevailed over Pedro Gonzalez; the son became king as Alfonso VII of Leon and Castile. Alfonso VII continued to fight against Alfonso I of Aragon. They signed a truce in 1128, the Peace of Tamara, confirming the separate boundaries of the two realms. Alfonso I died in 1134, with enough mystery surrounding his end that an imposter came forward years later impersonating him. Alfonso VII could not gain the support of the nobles of Leon and Navarre to succeed Alfonso I, ending the hope of uniting Aragon, Castile, Leon and the other territories then considered Spain, which Urraca’s second marriage was supposed to bring about.[1

There is a historical study that shows she was not merely a military figurehead, but Urraca made the key policy decisions herself. 2]


[1 http://womenshistory.about.com/od/spain/a/Urraca.htm

2] Uppity Women of Medieval Times by Vicki Leon

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