The Wise King
All the world’s a chessboard
Prince Alfonso (b. 1221), heir to Castile and León, was tutored in the Arabic game of chess. But in medieval Spain’s complex game of power politics, even one’s own pieces could rebel.
For centuries, Alfonso’s name was associated with the scientific study of the stars. The intellectual waves of his reign (1252-1284) washed over Renaissance Italy, and back across the Mediterranean.
Wisdom is the love of all loves, the water of all fountains
Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews believed a king should lead his people in learning as in war. Alfonso modeled himself on the caliphs of Seville, the sophisticated city his father conquered in 1248.
Among the women who reshaped Alfonso’s world were his politically expert grandmother Queen Berenguela, his diplomatically skilled wife Queen Yolant, and his half-sister, Queen Eleanor of Castile.
Tragedy and alchemy
Alfonso’s eldest son died suddenly; another turned against him; his dream of continental power was beset with obstacles. But in art, writing and music, his struggles were alchemized into the sublime.