Before we had the formidable Isabel I of Castile, we had Urraca of León and Castile who dared to claim the title Empress of All the Spains. She was born in April 1079 to Alfonso VI of León and Castile and his second wife Constance of Burgundy. Alfonso was married five times, and he fathered several children, though only three legitimate daughters survived. He also had an illegitimate son, Sancho, who he dared to appoint as his successor, usurping the rights of Urraca.
Fortunately for her, it never came to a head as Sancho would die in battle in 1108. Before the appointment of Sancho as Alfonso’s heir, Urraca was his heiress presumptive, and she was thus a very interesting bride. She was married off to Raymond of Burgundy when she was just eight years old. The marriage was probably consummated when she was 13 years old as she suffered a stillbirth when she was 14. This was the reality of such young brides. She would have two more children by Raymond, a daughter named Sancha and a son named Alfonso who was to become Alfonso VII. Raymond would die shortly after Alfonso’s birth in 1107. Urraca was only 28 years old and an attractive party for remarriage. Her father already had a new husband in the form of Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre lined up when he suddenly died in 1109. She reluctantly followed her father’s wishes, but the marriage soon turned sour. She accused him of physical abuse, though we don’t know if this is true. They separated a year later.
Urraca soon took a lover in Gómez González, but he died in 1111 in the Battle of Candespina. She took another lover named Pedro González de Lara, and they would have two illegitimate children together. A son Fernando Pérez Furtado and a daughter Elvira Pérez de Lara. By 1112 the marriage between Urraca and Alfonso was annulled.
Urraca’s illegitimate half-sister Theresa and her husband occupied Zamora and Extremadura while Urraca’s former husband Alfonso occupied a big portion of Castile. She would spend many years trying to recover these lands which were rightfully hers. Luckily she had a great support system in Castile. She would die in 1126 of unknown causes, leaving Castile and León to her son Alfonso. She is buried in the Basilica of San Isidoro in Spain.
I’ve just received the book Reilly, Bernard F., The Kingdom of Leon-Castilla under Queen Urraca, 1109-1126, Princeton University Press, 1982, which looks like an interesting read and as far as I can tell it’s the only in-depth book written about Urraca. A review will be posted at a later date, of course.