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Rahel la Fermosa

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Title: Rahel la Fermosa  
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Subject: Alfonso VIII of Castile, Die Jüdin von Toledo
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Rahel la Fermosa

Rahel la Fermosa (Ladino for "Rachel the Beautiful"; originally Rahel Esra; c. 1165, Toledo – 1195, Toledo) was a Jewish woman who lived in Toledo, Spain in the twelfth century. She was the paramour of King Alfonso VIII of Castile, husband of Leonora of England, for almost seven years. Under her influence a number of Spanish Jews were appointed to positions within the royal court. This led to discontent among the clergy and nobility. Rahel's enemies had her murdered, together with those of her coreligionists in the court, in the presence of the king himself. This love-story, which had been relegated to the realm of fable by the Marquis de Mondejar (Memorias Historicas, xxiii. 67 et seq.) and other Spanish literary historians, is related as a fact by Alfonso X, grandson of Alfonso VIII, and by the latter's son Sancho IV.

In popular culture

The love affair between Rahel and Alfonso has been dramatized by Martin de Ulloa, Vicente Antonio García de la Huerta, and other Spanish writers, as well as by Franz Grillparzer in his play, Die Jüdin von Toledo. Die Jüdin von Toledo was also the name of a novel by Lion Feuchtwanger, based on the story of Rahel and Alfonso as is La Historia de Fermosa by Abraham Marrache.

She was portrayed in the 1919 film The Jewess of Toledo by Thea Rosenquist.


  • La Historia de Fermosa, Abraham S. Marrache, Hebraica Ediciones, Madrid 2009 :
  • Jewish Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls, 1901–1906, citing:
  • Rosseeuw Saint-Hilaire, Histoire d'Espagne, 1837, etc.; v. 181, 527 et seq.;
  • Amador de los Rios, Hist. i. 335 et seq.;
  • Kayserling. Die Jüdischen Frauen, p. 74.
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