María de Molina, Queen and Regent: Life and Rule in Castile-León, 1259-1321 by Paulette Lynn Pepin Book Review

(public domain)

This biography of Queen Maria de Molina thematically explores her life and demonstrates her collective exercise of power and authority as queen. Throughout her public life, Maria de Molina’s resilient determination, as queen and later as regent, enabled her to not only work tirelessly to establish an effective governing partnership with her husband King Sancho IV, which never occurred, but also to establish the legitimacy of her children and their heirs and their right to rule. Such legitimacy enabled Queen Maria de Molina’s son and grandson, under her tutelage, to fend off other monarchs and belligerent nobles. The author demonstrates the queen’s ability to govern the Kingdom of Castile-Leon as a partner with her husband King Sancho IV, a partnership that can be described as an official union. A major theme of this study is Maria de Molina’s role as dowager queen and regent as she continued to exercise her queenly power and authority to protect the throne of her son Fernando IV and, later, of her grandson Alfonso XI, and to provide peace and stability for the Kingdom of Castile-Leon. – From Amazon


The name Maria de Molina will perhaps not ring a bell with a lot of people. She was born as María Alfonso Téllez de Menezes circa 1265 as the daughter of Infante Alfonso of Molina and Mayor Alfonso de Menezes. In 1282 she married her second cousin, Infante Sancho, who was the second son of Alfonso X of Castile and León. They did so without papal dispensation. They had seven children over a period of ten years, though not all would live to adulthood. Alfonso’s elder brother Ferdinand had died in 1275, leaving behind a widow and two sons. Upon the death of Alfonso X, Sancho got the majority of the noblemen to declare for him, instead of Ferdinand’s eldest son and he was crowned in Toledo. Maria was now Queen of Castile and León. Sancho’s reign was to be short. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 36, just 11 years after usurping the throne. Before his death he granted the regency of his eldest son, Ferdinand, to his wife Maria and Sancho’s uncle, Henry of Castile.

Maria was to be victorious in the end. She was finally granted a papal dispensation, legitimizing her marriage and children. She was regent for her son and later also her grandson. Her two daughters became Queen of Aragon and Portugal. It seems strange that so little has been written about a woman who has accomplished so much.

Paulette Lynn Pepin, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Haven and she is the author of  “María de Molina, Queen and Regent: Life and Rule in Castile-León, 1259-1321”. As I expected, it is really well researched and provides an excellent look at this forgotten Queen’s life. There are quite a few notes after every chapter in the book. It saddens me that the price of this book will mean that it is not available to all those who might wish to read about this formidable woman, who secured the throne for her son. Right now, the US price is $80.00 and the UK price is £56.65. It seems like an over the top price, unfortunately this seems to be the norm for academic books. It’s a shame.

“María de Molina, Queen and Regent: Life and Rule in Castile-León, 1259-1321” is available now.

About Moniek Bloks 2662 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

1 Comment

  1. First, I want to say how happy I am that I found this wonderful website and blog full of royalty that I was not even aware of! I became fascinated with history (particularly royalty, especially midieval era) and became a HUGE Anne Boleyn fan. Anyhow, I said surely this can’t be the only woman that was different for her times. And surely she cant be the only woman that held such power or accomplished much by fighting out of the norms for women. And that is how I ended up on this site.

    So, many forgotten or aformentioned women of history that most of us have never even heard of that achieved so much and went outside of the norms for their time. Another example, is Queen Uraca (aka queen of all spains) as she referred herself. Now, that was a strong, accomplished, no man will control me, I don’t take any s*** kind of woman. I even love the painting of her. She has this smug, don’t even try to pull one on me look lol or you will bite the dust. She even fought against her husband in battle!! Honestly, you could make a strong comparison to her to Eleanor if Aquitane. I mean she left and fought her husband in battle. Her brother tried to kill their other half brother to take his kingdom and she drew up troops to help him and he died in battle. She even road in to battle in armour.

    I had a disagreement with my mother regarding women that were outspoken and brave and went against the norms. Now, it partly could have been stemmed from she is a Catherine of Aragon favorite and I love Anne B. Not, that I don’t think Catherine was just has strong and prideful as Anne though. Anyhow,the disagreement started when she said that Anne Boleyn was “ignorant” especially for her time and that was what caused her death. Because she wasn’t “suppose” to be outspoken or argue with Henry or meddle much in politics. Well, that just made me angry because maybe it possibly did play a role in her ending? Well, then Maybe that makes her a martyr then. Or maybe it was more because there is a fine line between Love and Hate? Maybe there are details that we will never know among the two lovers that caused her death and it was an impulsive decision on Henrys part. Maybe, Jane and the other enemies of Anne truly convinced Henry that she was planning on getting rid of him and was sleeping with others. And I even think Jane played a role. I believe there is SO MUCH more to the story that we will never really know and that historians will never, the same old story will continue to pass down.

    Anyhow, the point is. Had Anne Not been this type of woman then history would still be as it is for that time. If no woman in history ever stood up to the times through the decades then we would still be stuck in that unfair, barbarous period in regards to women.

    Maria de Molina accomplished so much especially because usually and many times woman in this situation are quickly dethroned and put to the side. She had to have been strong in order for that not to have happened. Especially since there were 2 other sons that should have been the king… And most likely of age to take it their self …

    Thanks for all the great articles like these and sorry for the lengthy comment.

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