Spain History – The Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile

The reconquest

According to, the Christian kingdoms of the north took advantage of this division to begin the reconquest (fig. 2). These states were formed for the withdrawal, at the time of the Muslim invasion, of not a few indigenous people on the mountains of Asturias where, according to an uncertain tradition, King Pelagius would have beaten the Arabs (718) and organized the first Christian kingdom of Oviedo, became the kingdom of Asturias in 740; in the 9th century. the southern frontier was carried up to the Duero river and the capital transported to León (from 918 Kingdom of León). The victory of Ramiro II (931-51) over the Muslims at Simancas (939) had European resonance. In the following period, however, the Count of Castile made himself independent from the king of León and soon other powerful feudal lords followed his example: in the 10th century. there were the Christian kingdoms of Navarre (soon marginalized), of Castile and Léon (united in 1037) and of Aragon (which in 1137 joined the county of Barcelona), whose united forces pushed as far as Cordova (1010); but, after the first victories, the Christian penetration in the Muslim Spain suffered a halt. ● Invoked by the kings of Taifas, the Almoravid Berbers passed into Spain defeating Alfonso VI of Castile in Zallāqa (1086) and between 1091 and 1110 they reconquered much of the ancient Muslim lands, establishing a new regime of religious intolerance. Almoravid dominion collapsed by the Almohads (Mallorca, the last bastion of the Almoravids, fell in 1202) who, less intolerant than their predecessors, managed for some time to stop the advance of the Christian kings of Castile and Aragon (1195) but, weakened by dynastic struggles, suffered a decisive defeat in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). Having opened the way to the south, the Christian forces, towards 1270, reduced the Muslim dominion to the sole kingdom of Granada (➔ # 10132;), which however lasted until 1492.

The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile

The last phase of the struggle against the Muslims clearly shows that the whole Iberian Peninsula was under the influence of two great driving forces: the kingdom of Aragon and that of Castile. Aragon, detached from Navarre, ended up joining Navarre itself in 1076, keeping it until 1134; in 1137, the marriage between Raimondo Berengario IV, count of Barcelona, ​​and Petronilla, heir to the Aragonese throne, had allowed the union between Catalonia and Aragon in the Catalan-Aragonese confederation, later known as the kingdom of Aragon. Raimondo Berengario IV (1131-62), Alfonso II (1162-96) and Giacomo I (1213-76) conquered the kingdoms of Valencia, Murcia, the Balearics and settled the Aragonese borders. The monarchy of Castile and León, whose two crowns, united since 1037, split again in 1065-72 and 1157-1230, was instead the heir to the work of the Asturian monarchy: reached the Tagus line, threatened the southern Spain and finally, under Ferdinand III (1217-52), conquered Cordoba, Jaén, Seville, Andalusia and went as far as Cadiz (1236-48); at the same time the center of gravity moved towards the South (in 1085 the capital had been transferred to Toledo) and, in 1230, the unity was firmly constituted: since Castile was the most important part of the kingdom, this was soon called the kingdom of Castile. ● These two kingdoms, which became politically marginal the kingdom of Navarre (territorially reduced and entered the French sphere of influence) and that of Portugal (independent from Castile-León in 1263), remained to contend for hegemony. While the Castilian monarchy continued the policy of territorial expansion towards the south, Sicily, Sardinia, companies of the Catalan company in Greece and Asia Minor). However, both kingdoms were troubled (14th-15th century) by violent internal discords, often degenerated into civil wars, during which the dynasties also changed: on the throne of Castile, in 1369, there was the advent of the Trastamara with Henry II; on that of Aragon, in 1412, Martin I died without heirs, due to the compromise of Caspe, his nephew Ferdinando d’Antequera, son of John I, king of Castile, climbed: the establishment of a Castilian dynasty on the throne of Aragon constituted a first important step towards Spanish unity. ● In the second half of the 15th century, on the death of Henry IV (1474), a new civil war broke out in Castile between his sister Isabella I, wife of Ferdinand the Catholic, future king of Aragon from 1469, and the supporters of Joan of Portugal (la Beltraneja). With the definitive victory of Isabella (1479) a new phase in Spanish history began: in that same year her husband Ferdinand ascended to the throne of Aragon, a union was achieved between the two kingdoms divided up to that moment. It was still a purely personal union, destined to become definitive in the person of his nephew Charles (Charles V).

Spain History - The Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile