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Ferdinand III of Castile

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Saint Ferdinand III (5 August 1199 – 30 May 1252), was the King of Castile from 1217 and King of Galicia and Leon from 1230. He was the son of Alfonso IX of León and Berenguela of Castile. Through his second marriage he was also Count of Aumale. He finished the work done by his maternal grandfather Alfonso VIII and consolidated the Reconquista. In 1231, he permanently united Castile and Galicia-León. He was canonized in 1671 and, in Spanish, he is Fernando el Santo or San Fernando.

Early life

Ferdinand was born at the monastery of Valparaíso (Peleas de Arriba, Zamora) in 1198 or 1199. His parents' marriage was annulled by order of Pope Innocent III in 1204, due to consanguinity. Berenguela took their children, including Ferdinand, to the court of her father. In 1217, her younger brother Henry I died and she succeeded him to the Castilian throne, but she immediately surrendered it to her son Ferdinand, for whom she initially acted as regent. When Alfonso died in 1230, Ferdinand also inherited León, though he had to fight for it with Alfonso's designated heirs, Sancha and Dulce, the daughters of his first wife. He thus became the first sovereign of both kingdoms following the death of Alfonso VII in 1157.


Early in his reign, Ferdinand had to deal with a rebellion of the House of Lara. He also established a permanent border with the Kingdom of Aragon by the Treaty of Almizra (1244).

St Ferdinand spent much of his reign fighting the Moors. Through diplomacy and war, exploiting the internal dissensions in the Moorish kingdoms, he triumphed in expanding Castilian power over southern Iberian Peninsula. He captured the towns of Úbeda in 1233, Córdoba in 1236, Jaén in 1246, and Seville in 1248, and occupied Murcia in 1243, thereby reconquering all Andalusia save Granada, whose king nevertheless did homage to Ferdinand. Ferdinand divided the conquered territories between the Knights, the Church, and the nobility, whom he endowed with great latifundias. When he took Córdoba, he ordered the Liber Iudiciorum to be adopted and observed by its citizens, and caused it to be rendered, albeit inaccurately, into Castilian.

The capture of Córdoba was the result of an uneven and uncoordinated process whereby parts (the Ajarquía) of the city first fell to the independent almogavars of the Sierra Morena to the north, which Ferdinand had not at the time subjugated.[1] Only in 1236 did Ferdinand arrive with a royal army to take Medina, the religious and administrative centre of the city.[1] Ferdinand set up a council of partidores to divide the conquests and between 1237 and 1244 a great deal of land was parcelled out to private individuals and members of the royal family as well as the Church.[2] On 10 March 1241, Ferdinand established seven outposts to define the boundary of the province of Córdoba.

On the domestic front, he strengthened the University of Salamanca and founded the current Cathedral of Burgos. He was a patron of the newest movement in the Church: that of the friars. Whereas the Benedictines and then the Cistercians and Cluniacs had taken a major part in the Reconquista up til then, Ferdinand founded Dominican, Franciscan, Trinitarian, and Mercedarian houses in Andalusia, thus determining the religious future of that region. Ferdinand has also been credited with sustaining the convivencia in Andalusia.[3]

The Primera Crónica General de España asserts that, on his death bed, Ferdinand commended his son "you are rich in lands and in many good vassals — more so than any other king in Christendom," probably in recognition of his expansive conquests.[4] He was buried within the Cathedral of Seville by his son Alfonso X. His tomb is inscribed with four languages: Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and an early incarnation of Castilian.[5] St Ferdinand was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. Several places named San Fernando were founded across the Spanish Empire.

The symbol of his power as a king was his sword Lobera.

First marriage

In 1219, Ferdinand married Elisabeth of Hohenstaufen (1203–1235), daughter of the German king Philip of Swabia and Irene Angelina. Elisabeth was called Beatriz in Spain. Their children were:

  1. Alfonso X, his successor
  2. Fadrique
  3. Ferdinand (1225–1243/1248)
  4. Eleanor (born 1227), died young
  5. Berenguela (1228–1288/89), a nun at Las Huelgas
  6. Henry
  7. Philip (1231–1274). He was promised to the Church, but was so taken by the beauty of Princess Kristina of Norway, daughter of Haakon IV of Norway, who had been intended as a bride for one of his brothers, that he abandoned his holy vows and married her. She died in 1262, childless.
  8. Sancho, Archbishop of Toledo and Seville (1233–1261)
  9. Juan Manuel, Lord of Villena
  10. Maria, died an infant in November 1235

Second marriage

After he was widowed, he married Jeanne of Dammartin, Countess of Ponthieu, before August 1237. They had four sons and one daughter:

  1. Ferdinand (1239–1260), Count of Aumale
  2. Eleanor (c.1241–1290), married Edward I of England
  3. Louis (1243–1269)
  4. Simon (1244), died young and buried in a monastery in Toledo
  5. John (1245), died young and buried at the cathedral in Córdoba


  1. 1.0 1.1 Edwards, 6.
  2. Edwards, 7.
  3. Edwards, 182.
  4. Edwards, 1.
  5. Menocal, 47.


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ferdinand III of Castile. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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