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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

An exponent of the monarchical ideas of Alfonso X


Able rule of Alfonso XI in domestic affairs.]

Alfonso XI (1312-1350) shares with Alfonso X the honor of being the greatest Castilian king of this era, and he was by far more successful than his great-grandfather had been. Naturally, civil wars broke out at the beginning of the reign; a dispute over the regency served as one of the pretexts. Mar?a de Molina came forward again, and saved her grandson as she had saved his father, although she was unable to put down the insurrections. In 1325, when he was but fourteen years old, Alfonso was declared of age, and began his reign with an act which was characteristic of the man and his time. He summoned an uncle of his, his principal opponent, to a meeting at his palace, under a pretence of coming to an agreement with him, and when the latter came had him put to death. He tried the same policy with success against other leaders, and intimidated the rest so that he soon had the situation under control. Alfonso combined a hand of iron with great diplomatic skill, both of which were necessary if a king were to succeed in that period. An exponent of the monarchical ideas of Alfonso X, he proceeded by diverse routes to his end. Thus, in dealing with the nobles he made agreements with some, deceived others, punished still others for their infractions of the law, developed a distrust of one another among them, employed them in wars against the Moslems (in order to distract their forces and their attention),

destroyed their castles whenever he had a sufficient pretext, and flattered them when he had them submissive,--as by encouraging them in the practices of chivalry and by enrolling them in a new military order which he created to reward warlike services. In fine he employed all such methods as would tend to reduce the power of the nobles without stirring up unnecessary opposition. He was strong, but was also prudent. He followed the same policy with the towns and the military orders. For example, he promised that no royal town should ever be granted to a noble (or churchman),--a promise which was not observed by his successors or even by Alfonso himself. He was also successful in getting generous grants of money from the _Cortes_, which assisted him materially in the carrying out of his policy. He won the favor of the people by correcting abuses in the administration of justice and by his willingness to hear their complaints alleging infractions of the law, whether by his own officials or by the nobles. He procured the comparative security of the roads, and in other ways interested himself in the economic betterment of his people. Meanwhile, he enhanced his own authority in local government, and always maintained that the national legislative function belonged to the king alone, not only for the making or amending of laws, but also for interpreting them.

[Sidenote: The acquisition of ?lava and repulse of a Moslem invasion.]

Alfonso's great work was the political and administrative organization of the country, but there were two external events of his reign which are worth recording. In 1332 the Basque province of ?lava was added to Castile, although with a recognition of the jurisdiction of the law of ?lava. More important, perhaps, was a great conflict with Granada and the Benimerines of Morocco, who once more tried to emulate the successes of their coreligionists of the eighth century. The kings of Aragon and Portugal joined Alfonso to avert this peril, and a great battle was fought in 1340 at the river Salado, near Tarifa, where the Moslem forces were completely defeated. Though not yet forty at the time of his death Alfonso had already written his name in large letters on the pages of Castilian history.

[Sidenote: Pedro "the Cruel."]

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