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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Alfonso reduced the tribute due from Granada


and will power, which caused

him to be unnecessarily stubborn and extremely variable. He engaged in a number of campaigns against the Moslems, and made some minor conquests, but these wars were of slight consequence except as they bore on his struggles with the nobles. The same thing may be said for Alfonso's European policy, which aimed not only at the aggrandizement of Castile but also at his acquisition of the title of Holy Roman Emperor. The kings of Castile had long claimed the throne of Navarre, and Alfonso now attempted to invade that realm, but desisted when it seemed that this might lead to complications with Jaime I of Aragon. He also had a legal claim to the Basque province of Gascony, which had come to the throne of Castile as the dowry of the wife of Alfonso VIII, and planned to incorporate it into a _de facto_ part of the kingdom, but he renounced his rights to England upon the marriage of his sister to Prince Edward, the later Edward I, of England. In 1257 the imperial electors chose Alfonso X as Holy Roman Emperor, but many German princes supported the pretensions of an English earl of Cornwall, and on the latter's death those of Count Rudolph of Hapsburg. For sixteen years Alfonso endeavored to get possession of the imperial title, going to great expense in wars for that purpose, but the opposition of the popes, wars with Granada and with his own nobles, and a general lack of sympathy with the project in Castile combined to prevent him from even making a journey to Germany in order to be
crowned. In 1273 Rudolph of Hapsburg was formally chosen emperor, and Alfonso's opportunity passed.

[Sidenote: Causes of his strife with the nobles.]

Meanwhile, influenced by the Roman law, Alfonso had been enunciating monarchical doctrines which were at variance with the selfish and unscrupulous designs of the nobles, who fought the king at every turn. Other causes for strife existed, but they were not fundamental. These were, especially, the unwise measures employed by Alfonso to procure funds for his sadly depleted treasury, and on the other hand his extravagant liberality. Alfonso reduced the tribute due from Granada, debased the coinage, increased the salaries of court officials, expended enormous sums in celebration of the marriage of his eldest son, and was responsible for other acts of a like character. In line with his claim of absolute royal power he ceded the province of Algarve to the king of Portugal, renounced his right to homage from that king, and as already noted gave Gascony to England, all of which he did on his own authority. These acts were alleged by the nobles, who fought him themselves, or even went so far as to join the Moslems of Granada and Morocco against him. The most serious period of the struggle was reserved for the last years of the reign. This was precipitated by a fresh appearance of the Moslem peril.

[Sidenote: War of succession between Alfonso and Sancho.]

The Almohades had been succeeded in their rule of northern Africa by the Benimerines, who were invited by the Moslems of Granada to join them in a war against Castile. The invitation was accepted, but, although the Benimerines landed and were for a time victorious, the danger was averted. Its chief importance was that the king's eldest son, Fernando de la Cerda, was killed in battle in 1275, thereby precipitating a dynastic question. According to the laws of succession which Alfonso had enacted the eldest son of the dead prince should have been next heir to the throne, but this did not suit Alfonso's second son, Sancho, who alleged the superiority of his own claim. He did not fail to support his pretension by promises of favors to disaffected nobles, which procured him a backing strong enough to persuade Alfonso himself to name Sancho as his heir. Later, Alfonso decided to form a new kingdom in the territory of Ja?n, though subject to Castile, for the benefit of his grandson. Sancho objected, and persisted even to the point of war, which broke out in 1281. The partisans of Sancho, who included nearly all of the nobles, the clergy, and most of the towns, held a _Cortes_ in Valladolid in 1282, and deposed Alfonso. The latter soon won over some of Sancho's followers, and continued the war, but died in 1284, disinheriting Sancho, leaving Castile to his grandson and smaller kingdoms in southern Spain to two of his younger sons.


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