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Richeza of Poland, Queen of Castile

Richeza of Poland, Queen of Castile

Queen consort of Galicia, León and Castile, Countess consort of Provence and Countess consort of Everstein
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen consort of Galicia, León and Castile, Countess consort of Provence and Countess consort of Everstein
Gender female
Birth 1140 (Wrocław, Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland)
Death June 16, 1185
Mother: Agnes of Babenberg
Father: Władysław II the Exile
Siblings: Mieszko IV TanglefootBolesław I the TallKonrad Laskonogi
Spouse: Alfonso VII of León and CastileRamon Berenguer IICount of ProvenceRaymond VCount of Toulouse
Children: Sancha of CastileQueen of AragonFerdinand of CastilleDouce IICountess of Provence
The details

Richeza of Poland (also known as of Silesia) (Polish: Ryksa Polska or Śląska) (c. 1140 – 16 June 1185) was a Polish princess of the House of Piast in the Silesian branch. By her marriages she was Queen consort of León and Castile, Countess of Provence, and Countess of Everstein.

Richeza was the third child and only daughter of Władysław II the Exile, High Duke of Poland and ruler of Silesia, by his wife Agnes of Babenberg, daughter of Margrave Leopold III of Austria and half-sister of King Conrad III of Germany.


Queen of Castile and León

Born and raised for the first years of her life in Poland, Richeza accompanied her parents and brothers into exile in 1146. They established themselves first in Bohemia and later in Germany under the care of King Conrad III, who gave his deposed brother-in-law the Saxon district of Altenburg as his residence.

In 1151 came the news that the King Alfonso VII of León and Castile wanted to make an alliance with the Kingdom of Germany through a wedding. Richeza, niece of King Conrad III, was the most attractive candidate available. Between October and December 1152 Richeza and King Alfonso VII were married. Her first child, Ferdinand, was born in the city of Toledo one year later, in 1153. Two years later, in 1155, Richeza gave birth to her second child, Sancha. King Alfonso VII died suddenly in the middle of the war against the Moors in Sierra Morena on 21 August 1157. Apparently, Infante Ferdinand died soon before his father.

Countess of Provence

The late king divided his domains between his two surviving sons born from his first marriage to Berenguela of Barcelona: Sancho III obtained Castile and Ferdinand II received León. The relationship between Richeza and her stepsons wasn't good, especially after King Sancho III declared war on Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona, father of Alfonso (later King of Aragon), who was betrothed to Richeza's daughter Sancha. The unstable relations of King Ferdinand II with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (cousin of Richeza) and the Antipope Victor IV added further difficulties to the Dowager Queen, who finally decided to move to the Kingdom of Aragon in 1159.

At the court of Aragon, Richeza met Ramon Berenguer II, Count of Provence, nephew of Count of Barcelona. Although they soon fell in love, their union would be clearly political. Ramon Berenguer II supported Victor IV against Pope Alexander III, who, in turn, supported King Louis VII of France. The county of Provence was in a strategic location, between France and the Italian Peninsula. Frederick Barbarossa also wanted to win to his side Count Ramon Berenguer IV, who entered in an alliance with the kings of France, Castile and León. In contrast, Ramon Berenguer II, soon cousin by marriage of the Emperor, gained prestige and could face the pretentions of Count Hugh of Baux, who had just received the Imperial Provence as a fief.

Premarital negotiations lasted almost a year and a half. Between January and October 1161 Richeza and Count Ramon Berenguer II were finally married. They had only one daughter, Douce of Provence, born ca. 1162. Ramon Berenguer II was killed during the siege of Nice in 1166.

Soon after her second husband's death, plans for a new marriage for Richeza began. Apparently, she was betrothed to Raymond V, Count of Toulouse, by her cousin the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa around 1166; at the same time, the now Countess Douce II of Provence was engaged to the future Raymond VI. Count Raymond V wanted with this engagement to become more closely to the Hohenstaufen dynasty and took full control over the County of Provence. However, the firm opposition of King Alfonso II of Aragon (Richeza's future son-in-law) soon cancelled both betrothals, and with the help of the Genoese, began a war against Raymond V that lasted eight years.

Some sources stated that in fact Richeza and Raymond V were married, however this event is refuted by the majority of modern historians.

Countess of Everstein

By 1167, Richeza married her third and last husband, Count Albert III of Everstein, who fought at the side of Frederick Barbarossa in his wars against the Guelphs. She moved to Germany with her new husband. From this union were born two sons, Counts Albert IV and Konrad II of Everstein.

Little is known about the later life of Richeza. She died in 1185.

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