Friday, 30 April 2010

And more treachery...

Fletcher (St. James' Catapult) doesn't really know what to make of the coronation in Compostela of young Alfonso Raimundez. He suggests that he might have been elevated to the position of "joint ruler" with his mother. Whatever was the case, after Alfonso was made "king" he set out across Galicia with Diego Gelmirez and Pedro Froílez de Traba to meet his mother at Leon.

Along the way the group and their armies beseiged the city of Lugo which was loyal to The Battler. Lugo always seems to have gone its own way. This time it capitulated and it is likely that a garrison was left there while the bishop, the noble, and the young king made their way to Leon.

But they never got there. Along the way they ran in to a rather annoyed Battler who captured Pedro Froílez. Diego Gelmirez with Alfonso Raimundez escaped and fled back to the safety of Compostela. Pedro was eventually ransomed.

Thus begins six years of rather tedious and "labyrinthine" wrangling between all the parties we have so far met during which without a score card you haven't much hope of figuring out who is on the side of whom. Ariás Pérez who had been such an avid supporter of Urraca when there was a castle to be taken turned out to be a turncoat and he and his "Brotherhood" of thugs began to make a lot of trouble in Galicia for Urraca in general, and Diego Gelmirez in particular. At one time we learn that the queen asked Diego Gelmirez to round up Ariás Pérez and in return she made "a handsome grant of lands and privileges to the cathedral church" of Santiago de Compostela.

Urraca herself meantime was on a serious fund-raising mission in her kingdoms to provide the money and resources needed to make war on her husband who seemed to be unable to understand that his presence anywhere west of Burgos was not welcome. In order to convince him of the obvious, a Galician army pursued The Battler across the Galician mountains as far as Carrion de los Condes. While initially Diego had accompanied them, he was forced to turn back at Triacastela to deal with a revolt which had broken out in his absence in Compostela. This was unlikely to have been the first, and as we shall shortly see, it was far from the last. Our bishop was not overly popular with his flock...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


"Unexpectedly available: Castle with nice views of Portugal and river, tastefully furnished in genuine mediaeval style and fully equipped, low maintenance security for immediate occupancy."

Well, what do you do when you have just acquired a nice piece of real estate in exchange for a few measly royal supporters? You move yourself and your wife in, that's what. And if you happen to have a royal prince around, you move him in too so that he'll be nice and close to his aunt and uncle.

What made the usually cautious Pedro decide to move his wife, Mayor, and little Prince Alfonso Raimundez into his newly captured castle is a bit of a mystery and we can only assume that he thought that Teresa and Henry were a safer bet when it came to establishing the prince's right to the throne.

Urraca was no longer allowing the Battler to lay waste to her dominions, but she showed no sign of handing Galicia over to her son who was, after all, only six at the time. To do so was to give part and parcel to Pedro Froilaz whose ambitions for himself as regent were only too clear.

Instead she sent one of her staunchest supporters, a Galician noble by the name of Arias Pérez, to lay siege to the castle. Pedro presumably came out on his best charger leaving his wife and the prince in the castle.

Diego Gelmirez by this time was beginning his flip-flopping between whoever appeared to be on the winning side. At this point and for some time, he had aligned himself with Urraca's supporters: in this case Arias Pérez and the so-called Brotherhood. But Urraca knew that Diego could just as easily have re-joined his old ally Pedro Froílaz and didn't trust him at all. Be that as it may, Pedro prevailed upon Diego to plead with the queen on his behalf. Diego did just that, but perhaps was already having his doubts about which horse to back; as soon as the seige was lifted, Urraca captured and imprisoned not only Pedro and his wife, but Diego Gelmirez himself, and even her own son!

Somehow or another, the four were released because by the autumn of 1111 we read in the Historia Compostelana that Diego and Pedro - who presumably having been cell mates were friends again - had young Alfonso crowned King of Galicia in Compostela.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Raimundez Party - By Invitation Only...

It was common in those days for the children of notables to be farmed out as wards to other families. Alfonso
"Raimundez" was no exception. His earliest years were spent alongside Pedro Froílez' ever-expanding brood by that windswept coast in the furthest north western reaches of Galicia. I won't even begin to give you the names of Pedro's many wives and concubines, let alone the number of children they produced. It would require another post to do so!

Between them Pedro Froílez and the bishop of Santiago de Compostela, Diego Gelmirez, founded what can only be consider a "Galician Front" around little Alfonso in the early years of his mother's reign and tempestuous 2nd marriage. The clearly stated ambitions of The Battler no doubt made that necessary. Alfonso was the legitimate heir to the throne; and while there was very little chance of an heir coming out of the Urraca/Battler battles, it was only too clear to the Galician guardian and the Bishop of Compostela that the little Prince Alfonso's interests needed closely watching and defending. At one point, they even had Alfonso pequeño crowned as King of Galicia in Santiago de Compostela.

Pedro and Diego Gelmirez were two of those who opposed the marriage on the grounds of "consanguinity": that is, the two monarchs involved shared a great-grandfather in Ferdinand I. Not only that, but it became pretty obvious in Galicia that The Battler was a Thug.

Within months of the marriage, Pedro Froílez rebelled against Urraca's authority. Alfonso the Battler's response was to enter Galicia with an army making a bee-line for the Traba lands which he systematically destroyed along with any idiot stupid enough to get in his way. This presumably did not include the count or his ward as later that year we hear that they had visited Urraca in Castrojeriz near Leon. Here they learned that Urraca had parted from her husband, only to be persuaded (highly unlikely she would have chosen this) to make peace with him again.

At this point, Pedro probably threw his noble hands up in the air and got on the mediaeval blower to Henry, husband of Teresa of Portugal (Urraca's half sister)and uncle of the now deceased Raimundo. Henry was a powerful man in the west of the kingdom (Portugal was not just yet a separate land). He advised Pedro to take capture the supporters of the queen who had journeyed back to Galicia with him. These captives, Pedro used to open negotiations with the queen: this lot for that castle on the border between Galicia and the Portuguese lands (or your friends get it!) The castle in question was Santa Maria de Castrello and it stood in a very strategic position - both for Pedro and the little prince, and for the prince's relative, "Uncle Henry".

It gets more complicated yet. But I'll let you digest this bit first...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Pedro Froílez de Traba

Had the marriage of Urraca and Alfonso the Battler been successful there is little doubt that the "Reconquista" would likely have taken place almost 400 years earlier. Both sovereigns were engaged in conflict with the Moorish kingdoms at their southern borders, and Urraca's fathers' advisors would have championed the marriage as the best way to avoid any further incursions into Christian territory. As it was it took Isabel of Castille's joining her kingdom to that of Fernando of Aragon's in marriage to accomplish that, the final blow to the Islamic rulers coming at the surrender of Granada in 1492 when the last Moorish king, Boabdil, was evicted from that glorious city and fled to Morocco.

Had Urraca have liked Alfonso even a little bit (and had Alfonso liked women at all) even the country we think of as Portugal would likely have had a different shape.

But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself.

Before we continue a little more with Urraca's marriage woes, it is time to look at another major player in this Feudal Drama, and that is Pedro Fróilez de Traba.

As we have already seen, with the disastrous attempt of Count Rodrigo d'Ovequiez and Bishop Diego Pelaez in 1085 to rebel against the rule of Alfonso VI (and perhaps create a little enclave of Normandy in Galicia?) many of the formerly noble houses seemed to disappear completely. By the time of which we have been writing (that is around 1110) the names of the aristocracy had changed. The first pre-requisite of maintaining favour in Galicia seemed to be friendship with Diego Gelmirez the Bishop. Second to that was currying favour with Urraca, and sometimes these two opportunities coincided. Often they did not.

Diego knew how to play both sides of the field. So did Count Pedro. They were not always on the same side and sometimes it is dizzying trying to sort out who was in bed with whom (so to speak). I'll try to save you the trouble here by not mentioning too much of the chops and changes.

If you go to Traba today, perhaps while walking from Finisterre to Muxia, you will see a glorious white sand beach, vast wetlands, and a tiny village on a low hill overlooking the Costa da Morte. There is little enough left of the great holdings of the great Counts of Traba.

But once, the landscape - both geographically and politically, was very different indeed.

For one thing, the little Prince Alfonso - Urraca and Raimundo's son who was to become the Emperor Alfonso VII - was brought up there.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Trubble at 'mill...

The trouble is we don't know whether Alfonso VI - the about to be ex-king - had suggested, sanctioned, or commanded the move. However, what was proposed was that Alfonso I of Aragon was marriage material for the unfortunate Urraca, who clearly had no say in the matter. She may not have liked it. We aren't advised one way or the other. She was a 12th century woman, princess or not. 12th century women did as they were told.

Urraca was told to marry or.., and the "union" took place.

The church certainly didn't like it. Urraca and Alfonso of Aragon were distantly related: they shared the same great-grandfather. (Look back at earlier posts if you are really interested but I am assuming you are not, so...)

The whole enterprise was on shaky ground from the first.

In 1109, Alfonso VI, by now the somewhat ineffectual monarch, died.

This left the question as to what role his new son-in-law (had Alfonso VI lived to comment - this is getting complicated...) would play. Was The Battler to be "King Consort" to Urraca's Queen?

Once again we don't know. What does become clear, and very quickly, is that Alfonso of Aragon wasn't likely to play second fiddle to anyone, least of all a "defenseless" woman. The succession was rushed through in the same hurry that the Aragonese marriage had been conceived.

In the end it raised far more problems than it solved.

Queen Urraca wasn't the pushover everyone expected and before long everyone would know it...

...including Bishop Diego Gelmirez in Santiago de Compostela who was having problems of his own.