Her name is undoubtedly less familiar than that of her
grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, or that of her famous conqueror
son, Fernando III, yet during her lifetime, Berenguela of Castile
(1180-1246) was one of the most powerful women in Europe. As
queen-consort of Alfonso IX of León, she acquired the troubled
boundary lands between the kingdoms of Castile and León and forged
alliances with powerful nobles on both sides. Even after her
marriage was dissolved, she continued to strengthen these
connections as a member of her father's court. On her brother's
death, she inherited the Castilian throne outright-and then,
remarkably, elevated her son to kingship at the same time. Using
her assiduously cultivated alliances, Berenguela ruled alongside
Fernando and set into motion the strategy that in 1230 would result
in his acquisition of the crown of León-and the permanent union of
Castile and León.
In The Queen's Hand, Janna Bianchini explores Berenguela's
extraordinary lifelong partnership with her son and examines the
means through which she was able to build and exercise power.
Bianchini contends that recognition of Berenguela as a powerful
reigning queen by nobles, bishops, ambassadors, and popes shows the
key participation of royal women in the western Iberian monarchy.
Demonstrating how royal women could wield enormous authority both
within and outside their kingdoms, Bianchini reclaims Berenguela's
place as one of the most important figures of the Iberian Middle
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