Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile

Last updated

Eleanor of England
Queen consort of Castile and Toledo
TenureSeptember 1170 – 5 October 1214
Born13 October 1161
Domfront Castle, Normandy
Died31 October 1214 (aged 53)
Burgos, Castile
Spouse Alfonso VIII, King of Castile
Berengaria, Queen of Castile
Urraca, Queen of Portugal
Blanche, Queen of France
Eleanor, Queen of Aragon
Henry I, King of Castile
House Plantagenet / Angevin [lower-alpha 1]
Father Henry II, King of England
Mother Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine

Eleanor of England (Spanish : Leonor; c.1161 [1] – 31 October 1214 [2] ), was Queen of Castile and Toledo [3] as wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile. [4] [5] She was the sixth child and second daughter of Henry II, King of England, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. [6] [7]


Early life and family

Eleanor was born in the castle at Domfront, Normandy c.1161, [1] 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.


The betrothal of Alfonso VIII of Castille and Eleanor of England. The betrothal of Alphonso of Castile and Eleanor Plantagenet.jpg
The betrothal of Alfonso VIII of Castille and Eleanor of England.

In 1170 Eleanor married King Alfonso VIII of Castile in Burgos. [1] 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. [8]

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. [9] 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. [10] 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. [11] 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. [12] 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. [13]

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. [14]

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 went sick and died only twenty-six days after her husband, and was buried at Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas. [15]


Berengaria Burgos,
1 January/
June 1180
Las Huelgas near Burgos,
8 November 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 1/16 December 1197 with King Alfonso IX of León as his second wife. [16] 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.
5 April 1181
26 July 1181Robert of Torigny records the birth "circa Pascha" in 1181 of "filium Sancius" to "Alienor filia regis Anglorum uxor Anfulsi regis de Castella". [17] "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 31 May 1181. [18] "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 13 July 1181. [19]
Sancha20/28 March 11823 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. [20]
Henrybefore July 1182before January 1184The dating clause of a charter dated July 1182 records "regnante el Rey D. Alfonso...con su mugier Doña Lionor, con su fijo D. Anric". [21] The dating of the document in which his sister Sancha is named suggests that they may have been twins.
Ferdinandbefore January 1184Died 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". [22]
Urraca 1186/
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.
Blanche Palencia,
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).
Ferdinand Cuenca,
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. [23] Ferdinand was returning through the San Vicente mountains from a campaign against the Muslims when he contracted a fever and died. [24]
Mafalda Plasencia,
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. [25] Betrothed in 1204 to Infante Ferdinand of Leon, eldest son of Alfonso IX and stepson of her oldest sister.
Eleanor 1200 [26] Las Huelgas,
Married on 6 February 1221 with King James I of Aragon. They became separated on April 1229 on grounds of consanguinity.
Constancec. 1202 [26] 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. [26]
Henry Valladolid,
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.

Later depictions

Eleanor was praised for her beauty and regal nature by the poet Ramón Vidal de Besalú after her death. [27] Her great-grandson Alfonso X referred to her as "noble and much loved". [28]

Eleanor was played by Ida Norden in the silent film The Jewess of Toledo . [29]


  1. Historians are divided in their use of the terms "Plantagenet" and "Angevin" for Henry II and his sons. Some classify Henry II as the first Plantagenet King of England; others place Henry, Richard and John in the Angevin dynasty, and consider Henry III to be the first Plantagenet ruler.

Related Research Articles

Ferdinand III of Castile King of Castile and Toledo

Ferdinand III, called the Saint, was King of Castile from 1217 and King of León from 1230 as well as King of Galicia from 1231. He was the son of Alfonso IX of León and Berenguela of Castile. Through his second marriage he was also Count of Aumale. Ferdinand III was one of the most successful kings of Castile, securing not only the permanent union of the crowns of Castile and León, but also masterminding the most expansive campaign of Reconquista yet.

Henry I of Castile King of Castile and Toledo

Henry I of Castile was king of Castile. He was the son of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile. He was the brother of Berenguela and Mafalda of Castile.

Ferdinand IV of Castile King of Castile and León

Ferdinand IV of Castile called the Summoned, was the king of Castile and León from 1295 until his death.

Alfonso IX of León King of León and Galicia

Alfonso IX was king of León and Galicia from the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1188 until his own death.

Alfonso VIII, called the Noble or the one of Las Navas, was the King of Castile from 1158 to his death and King of Toledo. He is most remembered for his part in the Reconquista and the downfall of the Almohad Caliphate. After having suffered a great defeat with his own army at Alarcos against the Almohads in 1195, he led the coalition of Christian princes and foreign crusaders who broke the power of the Almohads in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, an event which marked the arrival of a tide of Christian supremacy on the Iberian peninsula.

Henry II of Castile King of Castile and León

Henry II, called Henry of Trastámara or the Fratricide, was the first King of Castile and León from the House of Trastámara. He became king in 1369 by defeating his half-brother, Peter the Cruel, after numerous rebellions and battles. As king he was involved in the Fernandine Wars and the Hundred Years' War.

Berengaria of Castile Queen of Castile and Toledo

Berengaria was queen regnant of Castile in 1217 and queen consort of León from 1197 to 1204. As the eldest child and heir presumptive of Alfonso VIII of Castile, she was a sought after bride, and was engaged to Conrad, the son of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. After his death, she married her cousin, Alfonso IX of León, to secure the peace between him and her father. She had five children with him before their marriage was voided by Pope Innocent III.

Sancho III of Castile King of Castile and Toledo

Sancho III, called the Desired, was King of Castile and Toledo for one year, from 1157 to 1158. He was the son of Alfonso VII of León and Castile and his wife Berengaria of Barcelona, and was succeeded by his son Alfonso VIII. His nickname was due to his position as the first child of his parents, born after eight years of childless marriage.

Alfonso of Molina Son of King Alfonso IX of León

Alfonso of León, Lord of Molina was an infante (prince) of León and Castile, the son of King Alfonso IX of León and his second wife Queen Berengaria of Castile. He was the brother of King Ferdinand III of Castile and León, and father of Queen Maria of Molina, wife of King Sancho IV. He became Lord of Molina and Mesa after his first marriage to Mafalda González de Lara, the heiress of those lands.

Blanche of Portugal (1259–1321) Lady of Las Huelgas, Montemor-o-Velho, Alcocer and Briviesca

Blanche of Portugal, was an infanta, the firstborn child of King Afonso III of Portugal and his second wife Beatrice of Castile. Named after her great-aunt Blanche of Castile, queen of France, Blanche was the Lady of Las Huelgas, Montemor-o-Velho, Alcocer and Briviesca, the city which she founded.

Urraca of Castile, Queen of Portugal Queen consort of Portugal

Urraca of Castile was a daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England. Her maternal grandparents were Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Elisabeth of Swabia Queen consort of Castile

Elisabeth of Swabia, was a member of the House of Hohenstaufen who became queen of Castile and Leon by marriage to Alfonso X.

Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas monastery

The Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas is a monastery of Cistercian nuns located approximately 1.5 km west of the city of Burgos in Spain. The word huelgas, which usually refers to "labour strikes" in modern Spanish, refers in this case to land which had been left fallow. Historically, the monastery has been the site of many weddings of royal families, both foreign and Spanish, including that of Edward I of England to Eleanor of Castile in 1254, for example. The defensive tower of the Abbey is also the birthplace of King Peter of Castile.

Eleanor of Castile (died 1244) Queen consort of Aragon

Eleanor of Castile was a daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England. She was Queen consort of Aragon by her arranged marriage to James I of Aragon.

Eleanor of Castile (1307–1359) Queen consort of Aragon

Eleanor of Castile (1307–1359) was Queen of Aragon as the wife of King Alfonso IV from 1329 until 1336.

Blanche of Castile was by birth a member of the Castilian House of Burgundy. She was the only child of Infante Peter of Castile, Lord of Los Cameros and Infanta Maria of Aragon.

John of Castile, Lord of Valencia de Campos Lord of Valencia de Campos

John of Castile, called the "el de Tarifa" was an infante of Castile and León. He was engaged in a decades long fight for control over the Lordship of Biscay with Diego López V de Haro, the uncle of his wife.

Lope Díaz II de Haro Lord of Vizcaya

Lope Díaz II de Haro "Cabeza Brava" was a Spanish noble of the House of Haro, the sixth Lord of Biscay, and founder of the municipality of Plentzia. He was the eldest son of Diego López II de Haro and his wife, María Manrique. Lope was also a member of the Order of Santiago.

Álvaro Núñez de Lara (died 1218) Spanish noble

Álvaro Núñez de Lara was a Castilian nobleman who played a key role, along with other members of the House of Lara, in the political and military affairs of the Kingdoms of León and Castile around the turn of the 13th century. He was made a count in 1214, served as alférez to King Alfonso VIII of Castile, was the regent during the minority of King Henry I of Castile, and was mayordomo (steward) to King Alfonso IX of León. He opposed Queen Berengaria of Castile and her son King Ferdinand III and supported the King of León during the war between the two countries of 1217–1218. At the end of his life he was a knight of the Order of Santiago, in whose Monastery of Uclés he was buried.

Mafalda of Castile Spanish noblewoman

Mafalda de Castilla (1191-1204) was Infanta of Castile and the daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England and sister of Henry I of Castile and Berenguela of Castile.


  1. 1 2 3 Vann 1993, p. 128.
  2. Annales Compostellani
  3. Fraser 2000.
  4. Crónica Latina, Anales Toledanos
  5. Cerda 2012.
  6. José Manuel Cerda, The marriage of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Leonor Plantagenet: the first bond between Spain and England in the Middle Ages
  7. Gillingham 2005.
  8. Shadis 2010, p. 25-31.
  9. Shadis 2010, p. 31-32.
  10. Wheeler & Parsons 2002.
  11. Shadis 2010, p. 27-30.
  12. Shadis 2010, p. 38-39.
  13. Mila y Fontanels 1966, p. 112.
  14. Shadis 2010, p. 35-41.
  15. Arco y Garay, Ricardo (1954): Sepulcros de la Casa Real de Castilla. Madrid: Instituto Jerónimo Zurita. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, p. 248.
  16. New International Encyclopedia, Vol.13, (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1915), 782.
  17. Robert de Torigny, Vol. II, pp. 103–4.
  18. Colmenares, D. de (1846): Historia de Segovia (Segovia), Tomo I, p. 268.
  19. Berganza, F. de: Antiguedades de España (1721) Secunda parte, Appendice CLIII, p. 466.
  20. Castan Lanaspa, G. (1984): San Nicolás del Real Camino, un Hospital de Leprosos Castellano-Leones en la Edad Media (Siglos XII-XIV), Publicaciones de la Institución Tello Téllez de Meneses, no. 2, p. 136.
  21. Berganza, F. de: Antiguedades de España (1721) Secunda parte, Appendice CLVI, p. 468.
  22. Florez, H. (1770): Memorias de las reynas cathólicas, 2nd edn. Tomo I, p. 409, quoting Archivo de Arlanza letra S. n. 428, and Nuñez Alfonso VIII, p. 140.
  23. Vicaire, pp. 89–98.
  24. Osma 1997, p. 55-56, vol.20.
  25. Szabolcs de Vajay (1989): From Alfonso VII to Alfonso X, the first two centuries of the Burgundian dynasty in Castile and Leon – a prosopographical catalogue in social genealogy, 1100–1300, Studies in Genealogy and Family History in tribute to Charles Evans, edited Lindsay L Brook (Association for the Promotion of Scholarship in Genealogy Ltd, Occasional Publication no 2), pp. 379 and 406, note 72, quoting Arco y Garay (1954), p. 246.
  26. 1 2 3 Shadis 2010, p. 4.
  27. Mila y Fontanels 1966, p. 126.
  28. Shadis 2010, p. 48.
  29. Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile on IMDb


Spanish royalty
Preceded by
Richeza of Poland
Queen consort of Castile
Succeeded by
Mafalda of Portugal