Dr. Paulette Pepin

"María de Molina: A Queen of Indomitable Spirit"
Monday, November 26, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in the Marvin K. Peterson Library, upper level


This presentation is the story of a nearly twenty year struggle in which María de Molina (1259-1321) fought courageously to obtain recognition of her marriage and the legitimization of her children as rulers of Castile. María was not only her husband, Sancho IV’s principal counselor and partner during his reign, but also as regent for her son, Fernando IV, and later her grandson, Alfonso XI, but she was also continuously faced with the challenge of stabilizing the kingdom and securing the throne by repulsing predatory nobles, sullen prelates, resolute townsmen, Moorish insurgents as well as foreign interlopers.

In the midst of these persistent turbulences, María and Sancho had to confront one other major obstacle, the legitimization of their marriage and children. There were several factors that made Sancho and María’s marriage illegitimate under Church law. First the Church considered Sancho a bigamist because he had been betrothed earlier, the only marriage the Church recognized, and secondly, he and María were second cousins. Both of these impediments violated the canonical laws of affinity and consanguinity.

What also complicated this problematical situation was the fact that María and Sancho had not obtained a papal dispensation before they wed. Therefore, until Sancho’s untimely death in 1295, they had battled tirelessly to secure papal approval. Then working alone for six years María finally was able to have her children legitimized by the Church, thus securing the Castilian throne for her son and grandson.

Biographical Information

Paulette Pepin is an Associate Professor of History who teaches primarily European history and courses in western civilization. This semester she is again teaching in the Honors Program as well as a new cross-college course, Tolerance in America, with Criminal Justice Professor, David Schroeder.


Paulette did her graduate work at Fordham University, under the director of her mentor, renowned historian of medieval Spain, Joseph F. O’Callaghan. The main focus of her current research is on María de Molina, queen and regent of the Kingdom of Castile-León (1284-1321), and her struggles to maintain the throne for her son, Fernando IV and her grandson, Alfonso XI. The culmination of her research will be a biography of this indomitable queen.


Dr. Paulette Pepin's web page.

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