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Alfonso II (Aragon) or Alfons I (Provence and Barcelona) (Huescamarker, 1157 – Perpignanmarker, 25 April 1196), called the Chaste or the Troubadour, was the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona from 1162 until his death. He was the son of Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona and Petronilla of Aragon and the first King of Aragon who was also Count of Barcelona. He is thus sometimes called, like his successors, especially by Catalan historians, the "count-king". He was also Count of Provence from 1167, which he acquired from the heiress Douce II, until 1173, when he ceded it to his brother Berenguer. His reign has been characterised by nationalistic and nostalgic Catalan historians, as l'engrandiment occitànic or "the Pyrenean unity": a great scheme to unite various lands on both sides of the Pyreneesmarker under the rule of the House of Barcelona.

Reign

Born Raymond Berengar (Ramon Berenguer), he ascended the united throne of Aragon and Barcelona as Alfonso, changing his name in deference to the Aragonese, to honour Alfonso I.

For most of his reign he was allied with Alfonso VIII of Castile, both againstNavarremarker and against the Moorish taifa kingdoms of the south. In hisReconquista effort Alfonso pushed as far as Teruelmarker, conquering this importantstronghold on the road to Valenciamarker in 1171. The same year saw him capturing Caspemarker.

Apart from common interests, kings of Aragon and Castile were united by a formal bond of vassalage the former owed to the latter. Besides, on January 18, 1174 in Saragossamarker Alfonso married Infanta Sancha of Castile, sister of the Castilian king.

Another milestone in this alliance was the Treaty of Cazorla between the two kings in 1179, delineating zones of conquest in the south along the watershed of the rivers Júcarmarker and Seguramarker. Southern areas of Valencia including Deniamarker were thus secured to Aragon.

During his reign Aragonese influence north of the Pyreneesmarker reached its zenith, a natural tendency given the affinity between the Occitan and Catalan dominions of the Crown of Aragon. His realms incorporated not only Provence, but also the counties of Cerdanyamarker and Roussillon (inherited in 1172). Béarn and Bigorre paid homage to him in 1187. Alfonso's involvement in the affairs of Languedoc, which would cost the life of his successor, Peter II of Aragon, for the moment proved highly beneficial, strengthening Aragonese trade and stimulating emigration from the north to colonise the newly reconquered lands in Aragon.

In 1186, he helped establish Aragonese influence in Sardinia when he supported his cousin Agalbursa, the widow of the deceased Judge of Arborea, Barison II, in placing her grandson, the child of her eldest daughter Ispella, Hugh, on the throne of Arborea in opposition to Peter of Serra.

Alfonso II provided the first land grant to the Cistercian monks on the banks of the Ebro River in the Aragon region, which would become the site of the first Cistercian monastery in this region. Real Monasterio de Nuestra Senora de Rueda was founded in the year 1202 and utilized some of the first hydrological technology in the region for harnessing water power and river diversion for the purpose of building central heating.

Literary patronage and poetry

He was a noted poet of his time and a close friend of King Richard the Lionheart. One tensó, apparently composed by him and Giraut de Bornelh, forms part of the poetical debate as to whether a lady is dishonoured by taking a lover who is richer than herself. The debate had been begun by Guilhem de Saint-Leidier and was taken up by Azalais de Porcairagues and Raimbaut of Orange; there was also a partimen on the topic between Dalfi d'Alvernha and Perdigon.

Alfonso and his love affairs are mentioned in poems by many troubadours, including Guillem de Berguedà (who criticized his dealings with Azalais of Toulouse) and Peire Vidal, who commended Alfonso's decision to marry Sancha rather than Eudokia Komnene that he had preferred a poor Castilian maid to the emperor Manuel's golden camel.

Marriage and descendants

Wife, Sancha of Castile, daughter of king Alfonso VII of Castile, b. 1155 or 1157, d. 1208

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