Gaudiosa of Asturias, the warrior Queen.

Gaudiosa (or Geodosia) Ferrández was born in Cosgaya around the year 695. Little is known about her as much is shrouded within the story of her future husband Pelayo, the first King of the kingdom of Asturias. Gaudiosa (which means joyful) was purportedly the daughter of Trasamundo, Count of Galicia. Some sources claim a family relationship to St Ildephonsus. She is thought to have been of blonde hair, born of half Asturian and half Visigothic descent. Other sources claim she was born of a non-noble Asturian Celtic, therefore native Hispanic, family. This is strongly disputed as her marriage to Don Pelayo would have been unacceptable had she not been Visigothic unless Pelayo himself was also a native which is also challenged by historians.

Little is known of the life of Gaudiosa until her marriage to Pelayo. Pelayo and Gaudiosa met at an annual fair for the buying and selling of cattle and horses. He was there to purchase some horses. The son of an assassinated Visigothic duke from Galicia, Pelayo and his family had arrived from Toledo after the fall of the city to Muslim forces. He arrived in Asturias with his family, the Bishop of Toledo and the rescued relics from the city. Upon the fall of Asturias to the armies of Islam, Pelayo became involved in several rebellions, captured and sent to Cordoba as tribute. Some sources claim that Gaudiosa accompanied him on all his travels. A legend has it that , while traveling through Muslim lands, some men asked Pelayo who Gaudiosa was, and to protect himself from being murdered so they would take his wife, he pretended she was his sister.  During this time, the local Muslim governor forcefully married Pelayo’s sister Adonsina and Pelayo swore revenge. He eventually escaped and took residence in the mountains of Covadonga and Cangas de Onís. During their marriage, Gaudiosa and Pelayo had two children who survived to adulthood. Their son, Favila, named after his paternal grandfather, would briefly succeed Pelayo as the second king of Asturias. Their daughter, Ermesinda, would marry Alfonso I and give up her rights as Queen of Asturias to her husband upon the death of her brother.

The famous Battle of Covadonga around the year 722 is where we meet Gaudiosa through the historical record but mainly legends. Her husband Pelayo, now the leader of the Astures, and his Christian army continued to take refuge in the mountains of Covadonga while the Muslim armies maintained their northerly assault in their attempt to reach France and Charles Martel. While attempting to reach the Christian men holed up in the mountains, the army of Al-Andalus was thoroughly defeated by Don Pelayo and his men in a geographical encirclement, a barrage of stones and amidst a vision of the Virgin Mary and the Cross. But, some of the Muslims attempted to escape.

Pelayo had left his wife Gaudiosa in the town of Liébana, near Cosgaya. Not one to sit back and wait for her husband’s return from war, Gaudiosa organized the population for resistance against the Muslims. As the army of Al-Andalus met its defeat in Covadonga, the escapees went in Gaudiosa’s direction. As they near Liébana, the townspeople routed them and they fell victim to a landslide, probably provoked by Gaudiosa and her band. The complete end of the Muslim army gave rise to the name of the area as Campos de La Reina, the field of the Queen. It is in this act that Gaudiosa joins her husband as one of the figures responsible for the beginning of the Reconquista on the peninsula.

After the Battle of Covadonga, Don Pelayo settled his administration  in Cangas de Onís. We know little about Guadiosa during this period. Pelayo dies after an illness in 737. Gaudiosa, now a nun at the Church of Santa Cruz founded by her son in Cangas, is said to have succumbed to the plague shortly thereafter. Both are buried together, alongside Pelayo’s sister, in the sanctuary in Covadonga.

Sources:

Maria Luisa Castellanos, Doña Gaudiosa, 1918, http://www.filosofia.org/hem/191/9180315.htm

Ignacio Gracia Noriega, Gaudiosa, esposa de Don Pelayo, 2005, http://www.ignaciogracianoriega.net/enh/20050523.htm

©2015 BEMonzon all rights reserved

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About bemonzon

Historian, Educator. My areas of interest are medieval Spain and England, the history of medieval women, Catholicism, popular religion and Anglo-Spanish relations.
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