21 March 2015

Today's Princess: Beatrice Alfonso of Castile

By Antonio de Hollanda via Wikimedia Commons
When arranging most royal marriages, the following is usually true: neither is already married to someone else and neither is illegitimate. Both, however, were true when King Alfonso III of Portugal married Beatrice Alfonso of Castile (c. 1242-1303), daughter of King Alfonso X the Wise and his longtime mistress Mayor Guillen de Guzman. So desperate was Alfonso III to solidify his power as the Portuguese king that he was willing to divorce his wife, Matilda II Countess of Boulogne, and agree to marry the bastard daughter of his overlord--never mind the fact that Beatrice was about 10 years old! At 43, the bridegroom was more than a decade older than his new father-in-law.

Castilian King Alfonso X was attentive to all of his children, legitimate or otherwise, and it is widely believed that Beatrice was his favorite child of all. Of his seven daughters, she was the only one to marry a king. As part of the marriage agreement, he also granted numerous estates to her firstborn son. Beatrice became even richer when her mother died a decade later and she inherited her expansive lands. Despite bride's wealth, many in Portugal found the whole thing distasteful, not the least of which was the repudiated wife, who accused her husband of bigamy. Her complaint made it to the Pope, but it was forgotten when she died a few years later.

Once she was a little older, Beatrice became a very productive queen. She gave her husband eight children, including two who were born in the same calendar year!

Given their great age difference, it is not surprising that Beatrice outlived her husband. Because her oldest son, the new King Denis, was only 17, she assumed some of the royal authority. Denis did not like this and it was not long before the rift between them grew unbearable. Beatrice returned home to Castile and her still-doting daddy showered her with even more lands, including the Kingdom of Niebla, which had been wrested from the Muslims just a few decades before. All of this was in recognition of her unwavering support of her father, when many of her half-siblings had turned against him. Completely devoted, she remained by him even on his deathbed.

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