Ferdinand II of León

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Ferdinand II (1137 – 22 January 1188) was King of León and Galicia from 1157 to his death.

Born in Toledo, Castile, he was the son of King Alfonso VII of León and Castile and of Berenguela, of the House of Barcelona. At his father's death, he received the León and Galicia, while his brother Sancho received Castile and Toledo.[1] Ferdinand earned the reputation of a good knight and hard fighter, but did not display political or organising faculty.

He spent most of his first year as king in a dispute with his powerful nobles and an invasion by his brother Sancho III.[2] In 1158 the two brother met at Sahagun, and peacefully solved the heritage matters. However, Sancho died in the same year, being succeeded by his child son Alfonso VIII, while Ferdinand occupied parts of Castile.[3] The boundary troubles with Castile restarted in 1164: he then met at Soria with the Lara family, who represented Alfonso VIII, and a truce was established, allowing him to move against the Muslim Almoravids who still held much of southern Spain, and to capture the cities of Alcántara and Alburquerque. In the same year, Ferdinand defeated King Afonso I of Portugal, who, in 1163, had occupied Salamanca in retaliation for the repopulation of the area ordered by the King of León.

In 1165 he married Urraca, daughter of Afonso of Portugal. However, strife with Portugal was not put to an end by this move. In 1168 Afonso again felt menaced by Ferdinand II's repopulation of the area of Ciudad Rodrigo: he then attacked Galicia, occupying Tui and the territory of Xinzo de Limia, former fiefs of his mother. However, as his troops were also besieging the Muslim citadel of Badajoz, Ferdinand II was able to push the Portuguese out of Galicia and to rush to Badajoz. When Afonso saw the Leonese arrive tried to flee, but he was disabled by a broken leg caused by a fall from his horse, and made prisoner at one the city's gates. Afonso was obliged to surrender as his ransom almost all the conquests he had made in Galicia in the previous year. In the peace signed at Pontevedra the following year, Ferdinand got back twenty five castles, and the cities of Cáceres, Badajoz, Trujillo, Santa Cruz and Montánchez, previously lost by León. When in the same years the Almoravids laid siege to the Portuguese city of Santarém, Ferdinand II came to help his father-in-law, and helped to free the city from the menace.

Also in 1170, Ferdinand created the military-religious Order of Santiago de Compostela, with the task to protect the pilgrim travelling to the tomb of the apostle James in the cathedral of Compostela. The order had its seat first in Cáceres and then in Uclés.

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