Infante Henry even suggested that Maria should remarry – in particular to Infante Peter, the brother of King James II of Aragon, who actively supported Sancho’s nephews for the throne still. Maria told him that she needed no protector, nor did she wish to share her regency with a husband as she was perfectly capable of governing the Kingdom. In the fall of 1301, while she was staying in Segovia, “letters from the court of Rome arrived granting legitimisation to the King and his brothers and sisters.”1 It was a huge relief for her and it came just in time for her son’s 16th birthday and his majority.
On 23 January 1302, Ferdinand married 13-year-old Constance of Portugal, and he was soon influenced by the wrong people – his uncle Infante John and Juan Núñez II de Lara. Maria withdrew to Valladolid as he had “chosen the false road in which he travels.”2 Just a short while later, Maria was also completely supplanted by her daughter-in-law as Ferdinand affirmed, “King Fernando, reigning in one with the Queen doña Constanza my wife.”3 Infante John and Juan Núñez II de Lara continued to conspire against Maria to separate her permanently from her son. Ferdinand naively believed false accusations his mother and appointed both men as his chief advisers. Maria wisely remained patient and silent.
Maria reappeared on the political stage a few years later and Ferdinand “would notice that thanks to doña Maria the sovereignty of his kingdom was preserved, and had been gravely threatened” by his imprudent counsellors.4 Slowly mother and son came together again.
Ferdinand and Constance went on to have two surviving children together, a daughter named Eleanor was born in 1307, followed by another short-lived daughter named Constance in 1308. A son and heir named Alfonso was born in 1311. Tragically, Ferdinand died at the age of 27 in September 1312 from tuberculosis – leaving one-year-old Alfonso as the next King. Once more, Maria was called to the regency. She wrote to King James II of Aragon, “Despite the death of my son… I’ll always work in the service of God and for the King don Alfonso… I’ll fight to do what I can so there is peace.”5 In the spring of 1313, Maria summoned a cortes where her grandson could be proclaimed King and the matter of the regency could be settled.
Maria and Constance were the first to arrive in April. The cortes settled the regency on Maria and Infante Peter, her second surviving son with the stipulation that the regency was reevaluated every two years. The boy King would be in the care of his mother at Ávila. This situation seemed to work until Constance died suddenly on 17 November 1313. The raising of her grandson now also fell back to Maria.
As she grew older, Maria grew tired and overwhelmed with the tasks before her. In 1319, Peter was killed in battle, but Maria’s reaction to her son’s death was not recorded. She had certainly lost one of her most faithful supporters. With continued plotting for the regency, it was perhaps no surprise that Maria herself became ill in April 1321. Realising that she was dying, she began to prepare for death and hoped the requests in her last will and testament would be honoured. On 29 June, she dictated, “In the name of God and Saint Mary… how I doña Maria, for the Grace of God, queen of Castile and León and señora of Molina, being in my understanding which God wanted me to give, and being suffering of the body and in my good memory, I order my soul to Jesus Christ… make my senior executors Infante don Felipe, my son, and doña Maria, my niece, wife of the late Infante Juan…”6
She asked that her executors take particular care in the guardianship and raising of the King. She then made a confession, received all the sacraments and dressed in the habit of the friar preachers. She died on 1 July 1321 at the age of 62 and was buried in the Santa María la Real de las Huelgas.
- Maria de Molina, Queen and Regent by Paulette Lynn Pepin p.90-91
- Maria de Molina, Queen and Regent by Paulette Lynn Pepin p.91
- Maria de Molina, Queen and Regent by Paulette Lynn Pepin p.92
- Maria de Molina, Queen and Regent by Paulette Lynn Pepin p.94
- Maria de Molina, Queen and Regent by Paulette Lynn Pepin p.105
- Maria de Molina, Queen and Regent by Paulette Lynn Pepin p.126
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