Exciting news: in a few weeks, I'm off on a trip to Seville in southern Spain, and (almost certainly, time permitting) to Córdoba as well! Edward II's maternal grandfather King Fernando III of Castile and León aka San Fernando is the patron saint of the city of Seville, with his feast day on 30 May, the day he died in 1252 - and I'll be there to see the celebrations held in his honour in the cathedral where he's buried. *hugs self in excitement* Córdoba isn't far from Seville and I have to go that way with the train back to the airport in Málaga anyway, so I'm hoping I'll have a few hours to explore the city and especially the amazing Mezquita-Catedral, the Mosque-Cathedral. Late May should, I hope, be a great time of year to visit the area, hot but not excessively so, as it surely will be in July and August. (Excessively hot by my Northern European standards, that is.) As many of you will know, I'm really interested in Edward II's Castilian connections and get ridiculously thrilled at the knowledge that his grandfather was a Spanish saint, although Fernando wasn't canonised until 1671, long after his and his grandson's time. (It's interesting to note that Fernando III's first cousin Louis IX of France - their mothers Berenguela and Blanche of Castile were sisters - was also canonised, but much sooner after death, in 1295.) At any rate, even if Edward II had no way of knowing that his grandfather would one day be made a saint, he must surely have heard of Fernando's great military campaigns and his recapture of much of Andalusia. Edward I told a Castilian papal nuncio visiting England in 1306 that "he [the nuncio] should have a special affection for our dear son Edward, as he [Edward] is of Spanish descent." Edward II is one only of two English monarchs with a Spanish parent, the other being Mary I, born in 1516 as the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.
Seville, Córdoba and a large part of the Iberian peninsula were conquered by the Umayyad caliphate under the command of Tariq ibn Zayid in the 710s, and the cities were recaptured by Fernando III in 1236 (Córdoba) and 1248 (Seville) after more than half a millennium of Muslim rule. Fernando's grandfather Alfonso VIII of Castile (whose queen Eleanor was the daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine) and his fellow Christian kings Pedro II of Aragon, Sancho VII of Navarre and Alfonso II of Portugal won an emphatic victory over the forces of the Almohad caliphate at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In the twenty years after 1228, Fernando III recaptured most of the rest of al-Andalus or Andalusia, including Jaén, Úbeda, Arjona, Mula, Lorca, Badajoz, Mérida, Huelva, Écija, Lucena, Orihuela, Murcia and Cartagena. Granada, with its magnificent Alhambra, which sadly I won't have time to see on this trip (but it's a great excuse to go back to Andalusia sometime!), remained an independent emirate until captured by los Reyes Católicos Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492; Fernando III came to an agreement with the emir Mohammed ibn Nasr in 1238 that Granada would be allowed to remain independent on payment of an annual tribute to him.
Córdoba and Seville were the most important cities of Fernando's reconquista. Córdoba, an ancient Roman provincial capital, had also once been the capital of the Umayyad caliphate, and during its golden age in the tenth century was the greatest city in western Europe and the greatest Muslim city in the world except for possibly Baghdad, with half a million inhabitants, 500 mosques, 300 public baths, 50 hospitals, 70 libraries, street lighting and a reputation for advanced and enlightened scholarship in medicine, science, philosophy, arts, mathematics and astronomy (source: Jason Webster's Andalus: Unlocking the Secrets of Moorish Spain (2004), pp. 156-7).
The great city of Seville fell to Fernando III on 23 November 1248, following a sixteen-month siege, and Fernando entered the city in triumph on 22 December that year. I don't know if she did, but I'd love to think that Edward II's mother Eleanor of Castile, Infanta Doña Leonor de Castilla, Fernando's then seven-year-old daughter, took part in the triumphal procession into the city. Eleanor was present at her father's death-bed in Seville on 30 May 1252 and lived in the city with her mother the dowager queen Joan until her marriage to the future Edward I of England in Burgos, northern Spain in 1254 (source: John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (1995), p. 9).
Eleanor of Castile, queen of England, was the twelfth of Fernando III's fifteen children, the second eldest of the five he had with his second queen Joan, countess of Ponthieu (d. 1279). He had previously had ten children with his first queen Elisabeth or Beatriz of Swabia (d. 1235), who remarkably enough was the granddaughter of two emperors: Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor, and Isaac Angelos, Byzantine Emperor. Eleanor of Castile's biographer John Carmi Parsons (see above for citation) estimates her date of birth as late 1241, when Fernando III was forty and Queen Joan probably in her early twenties. Of Fernando's fifteen children, eleven were sons; of his four daughters, two died young and the other, Berenguela, became a nun, so that Eleanor was his only daughter to marry and have children. Fernando III and Queen Beatriz's eldest son Alfonso X of Castile and León (23 November 1221 - 4 April 1284) is, like his parents, buried in the cathedral of Seville, so I'll also get to see the tomb of one of Edward II's uncles, yippee. Another of Edward's uncles, Infante Don Felipe, was archbishop of Seville. So, I'm going to visit a city that has strong connections to his immediate family, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it. :) Given that Edward II can hardly have known his mother, who died when he was six and had spent more than three years of his childhood outside England and away from him, I really don't know how knowledgeable or interested he was in his Spanish heritage, but perhaps it's telling that he was keen to betroth his daughters Eleanor and Joan in 1324/25 to Spanish kings, Alfonso XI of Castile and the future Pedro IV of Aragon. He was certainly in contact fairly often with his kinsmen and women in Castile, and the family connection was always acknowledged on both sides, though it would take me an entire blog post to detail the correspondence.
Lots of pics to follow in a few weeks after my holiday! :-)