The (Attempted) Alliance of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Valdemar II of Denmark: the Infante Fernando’s Marriage Reconsidered
Kyle Lincoln (Saint Louis University)
Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East: Conference Paper, 8th Quadrennial Meeting, July (2012)
The Prince who organized the campaign which became the Crusade of Las Navas de Tolosa is usually only ever mentioned in the context of his father’s victory in July of 1212. The Infante Fernando was the heir to the kingdom of Castile at the time of his majority and the prospects of a marriage alliance between the prince and a daughter of a foreign crusading family presented considerable potential for the kingdom of Castile. This paper presents the evidence for a lost marriage alliance between Castile and Denmark, contextualizes the marriage within the larger framework of Alfonso VIII’s international relations, and finally, demonstrates that the match can help to underscore the importance of crusading lineages in the affairs of the Castilian royal family. In doing so, I hope to undergird more wide-ranging demonstrations of the interconnectedness of the Iberian Crusading fronts with the many other crusading movements and theaters.
Born in September 1189, Prince Fernando of Castile was called the “flower of youth, splendor of the kingdom, [and the] right-hand of his father”. He even appears with his father and mother in the protocol lines of a charter only two months after his birth. Fernando’s role as one of Alfonso VIII’s chief lieutenants has been well-documented, but it is clear that his place in the royal family was as more than just the guarantor of Alfonso’s legacy. The role played by Fernando in Castile was great enough that Alfonso VIII appears to have even let him take the lead in a papally-supported Crusade in 1210 in anticipation of the expiration of the kingdom’s truce with the Almohads. The Castilian scholar Julio Gonzalez went so far as to describe Fernando as something of a messianic figure for Castile in the decades after Alarcos. Gonzalez relates: “His parents relished him. He pleased them through his great strength and his fiery spirit. Alfonso VIII was pleased to have a helper in the affairs of the kingdom and in war, in which [Fernando] could replace him in part, and [the King] gave thanks to God for having given him such a child.” Fernando was to be the future of Castile.