The Taifa of Murcia came under Christian rule in 1243, when the successors of King Ibn Hud pacted with Fernando III to formally accept vassalage to Castile (see The Middle Ages in Murcia. The Muslim rule). In this post, we will briefly review what happened from then to the end of the Middle Ages, which in Spain is set in 1492.
In 1244, Fernando III’s son and heir to the throne, the future Alfonso X the Wise, occupied the region and conquered or made a covenant with the rebel towns of Lorca, Mula and Cartagena, which had not accepted the original agreement.
The Christians were only present in the castles from which they retained the control of the territory, the city of Murcia and the conquered cities. Part of the population of the last ones was expelled. Moreover, in the following years there was a growing migration of increasing intensity whose most frequent destination was the neighboring kingdom of Granada.
The Castilian crown encouraged the arrival of Christian settlers by granting lands, free or abandoned by their former Muslims owners. Few settled in a region bordering Granada and Aragon, with a overwhelmingly Muslim population that retained their institutions. General insecurity and higher attractiveness of the recently re-conquered zones of Andalusia did not help to migrate to Murcia.
Alfonso X's interest in the effective integration of the ancient kingdom of Murcia in the Castilian crown led to breaches of the agreed conditions. The Mudéjares (Muslim inhabitants of Christian kingdoms) rebelled in 1264. The Castilian conquest was completed in 1266, with the support of King Jaime I of Aragon, who was Alfonso X’s father-in-law. Quite people from Catalonia and Aragón remained in the area as subjects of Castile’s king. As saw years later, their presence was for Castile as having the enemy in home.
Murcia continued suffering raids from Granada. Moreover, particularly in the Campo de Cartagena and Murcia (historically, the boundary between them is set in the Rambla del Albujón) there was constant danger of attacks by pirates. Because of this risk, used as an excuse to justify political reasons, the diocese of Cartagena, which had been restored in 1250, moved its headquarters to the city of Murcia in 1291. However, the name of the “diocese of Cartagena” remained up to nowadays.
In 1295, the King of Castile Sancho IV, Alfonso X’s son, died. His widow and now Queen Regent Maria de Molina defended the rights of her under age son and heir to the throne, the future Fernando IV. These rights were threatened by the aspirations of the Infantes de la Cerda, supported by a part of the Castilian nobility. The King of Aragón Jaime II took advantage of the situation by supporting the Infantes, receiving as reward the former Taifa of Murcia that he occupied in 1296. Aragón had long coveted this territory.
The conflict ended in 1304 with the withdrawal of the invaders, negotiated by the weak King Fernando IV. Jaime II left the country devastated and also retained the northern part of the kingdom, more or less what nowadays is southern of Alicante province. Many Catalans and Aragonese residing in the area now under domain of Castile, and Castilians under domain of Aragón, had to sell off their properties and emigrate. The partition of Murcia left some not well defined boundaries what was a source of problems until mid-XV century, especially among the municipalities of Murcia and Orihuela.
|The Iberian Peninsula about 1305 (Source: Geacron)|
In the Campo de Cartagena and Murcia, the economic activity was mainly related to livestock transhumance of sheep and goats. Shepherds' interests were defended by La Mesta, an institution founded by Alfonso X (see The Honored Council of the Mesta). On the coast, Cartagena remained as the only important town. There was also a sparse population, usually clustered around some isolated fortified estates.
Throughout the XV century there were frequent “banderias” between families and Castilian nobility factions, authentic civil wars, especially since the regency of Catherine of Lancaster and the reign of her son John II (see Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile). Pressure from Granada declined somewhat after the battle of Alporchones in 1452 (see Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, Murcia and Lorca), but not piracy. The numerous grants of land made during the last years of the Middle Ages finally achieved some progress with colonization, prelude of the one to take place with intensity throughout the XVI century. The fortification and enabling of the harbors of Los Alcazares and Mazarron boosted economic activity.
In 1469 Isabel I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon become married. Isabel was daughter of Juan II of Castile and granddaughter of Catherine of Lancaster. The arrival of Fernando and Isabel to the throne of Castile in 1474 and that of Aragon in 1479 marked the beginning of the transition of Spain from Medieval to Modern world. Isabel and Fernando got the union of the crowns of Castile and Aragon and peace between the two kingdoms, which competed for territory and political influence. In 1496 Pope Alexander VI (the Borgia Pope) granted them the title of Catholic Kings.
Nearly 250 years after the arrival of Alfonso X to Murcia, the Catholic Kings took over Granada. It was after an eleven years war that laid the foundation of Spanish military power for the next century and a half. King Boabdil handed them the keys of the city on January 2, 1492. With this ceremony the last vestige of Muslim political power in the Iberian Peninsula disappeared. What did not mean Muslims did it. We will talk about this in a coming post.
|Alhambra de Granada. Court of the Arrayanes (Source: Wikipedia)|
The Dark Ages in Murcia. The kingdom of Theodemir
The Middle Ages in Murcia. The Muslim rule
History. The Honored Council of the Mesta
Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile
Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, Murcia and Lorca
History of Sucina and H. Riquelme. Berber pirates and religious orders
Atlas Histórico Digital de la Región de Murcia
Región de Murcia Digital. Historia de la Región de Murcia. Edad Media
Geacron, World History Atlas and Timelines
Thanks to Luis Lisón and Alfredo Vílchez for their reviews and corrections to the text.
Luis Lison is a member of the Royal Academy Alfonso X the Wise and Official Chronicler of Alguazas, Ojós and Sucina. He is the author of the book Historia de Sucina y comarca, the main documentary source used to write this post.
Alfredo Vilchez, PhD in History, is a specialist in Medieval Spain, a subject on which he has given many lectures.