Alfonso IX of León

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Alfonso IX (15 August 1171 – 23 or 24 September 1230) was king of León and Galicia from the death of his father Ferdinand II in 1188 until his own death. According to Ibn Khaldun, he is said to have been called the Baboso or Slobberer because he was subject to fits of rage during which he foamed at the mouth.

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Biography

Alfonso was born in Zamora, the only son of King Ferdinand II of León and Urraca of Portugal.[1] He took a part in the work of the reconquest, conquering the whole of Extremadura (including the cities of Cáceres and Badajoz). He was also the most modern king of his time, founding the University of Salamanca in 1212 and summoning in 1188 the first parliament with representation of the citizenry ever seen in Western Europe, the Cortes of León.[2]

One of the most important events of his reign will be the convening of the Cortes de León held in the cloisters of the Basilica of San Isidoro. The difficult economic situation at the beginning of his reign was necessary to raise taxes on the underprivileged classes who protested. The king summoned an assembly of nobles, clergy and representatives of cities who demanded compensatory and control expenditures of the crown. This assembly was included in the third state is considered by many historians, like Australia's John Keane[3]as instrumental in creating democratic parliaments in Europe to be the cortes de León before the parliament of England in the thirteenth century.

In spite of all the above - some of whose significance became evident only later - this king is often remembered mainly for the difficulties into which his successive marriages led him with Pope Celestine III. He was first married in 1191 to his cousin Teresa of Portugal,[2] who bore him two daughters, and a son who died young. The marriage was declared null by the papal legate Cardinal Gregory.

After Alfonso VIII of Castile was defeated at the battle of Alarcos, Alfonso IX invaded Castile with the aid of Muslim troops.[2] He was summarily excommunicated by Pope Celestine III. In 1197, Alfonso IX married his second cousin Berenguela of Castile to cement peace between León and Castile. For this act of consanguinity, the king and the kingdom were placed under interdict by Pope Celestine III.[4]

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