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Daughter, wife, and mother of kings, Berenguela of Castile (1180-1246) was a key figure in the formation of medieval Castile-Leon. Queen of Leon from 1197-1204, regent for Enrique I of Castile briefly in 1214, and then Queen of Castile in her own right after 1217, she secured the thrones of Castile and Leon for her son Fernando III and enabled his crusades in al-Andalus. This study examines Berenguela''s use of authority and power, her legitimacy as a female ruler, and her motherhood and patronage in her efforts to maintain the thrones of Castile and Leon for her family.
The women in the family that ruled thirteenth-century Castile used maternity, familial and political strategy, and religious and cultural patronage to secure their personal power as well as to promote their lineage. Leonor of England, and her daughters Blanche of Castile (Queen of France), Urraca (Queen of Portugal), Costanza (a Cistercian nun of Las Huelgas) and Leonor (Queen of Aragon) provide the context for a study focusing on Berenguela of Castile, Queen of Leon through marriage and of Castile by right of inheritance, whose most significant accomplishment was to enable the successful rule of her son Fernando.