30 August, 1334 – the birth of King Pedro “el Cruel” de Castilla

     I meant to post this yesterday (as it was the 30th for me), but unfortunately I hit “save as draft” instead of “publish”. I am not a smart person sometimes.  Also, this is a very abbreviated entry of his life.  🙂

     It was August 30th, in the Year of Our Lord 1334, when María de Portugal, Queen of Castile, gave birth to a son, the heir to the Kingdom of Castilla, León, y Galiza.  The Queen had been moved to el Monestario de Santa María la Real de las Huelgas in Burgos, the capital of Castilla, to deliver her only child.  Her husband the King, Alfonso XI, used the birth as a sign that he no longer needed to pretend to care for his wife, and went on to ignore her until his death.

     Pedro was a handsome boy, supposedly tall and very fair in complexion like his granddaughter, Catherine of Lancaster.  There is of little doubt, being a king, that he was well educated in scholarly and military subjects from a young age, which only served to help when he became King at the age of 15, in early 1350.  King Jean of France desired an alliance against the English, as the two were in the throes of the Hundred Years War; the Castilian government agreed, and upon wrapping things up, the nineteen-year-old King was married to Jean’s niece Blanche de Bourbon. According to tradition, they spent two days together before Pedro, acting more like his father than I’m sure he would have loved to believe, abandoned his wife for his beautiful mistress (and possible wife) María de Padilla, with whom he would have at least two daughters, Constanza and Isabella; he would have Blanche locked away as he looked to annul his marriage (or waited for her to die), and she would mysteriously die eight years later.  The slight towards the French royal family certainly didn’t help his popularity, and is probably why his bastard half-brother Enrique de Trastámara had no problem gaining French support against him before and during the First Castilian Civil War.

     Pedro then set his sights upon the Aragonese border, which he proceeded to ravage.  The Aragonese king offered his support to Enrique as well, and with their backing Enrique and Bertrand du Guesclin took the opportunity to engage Pedro in battle, taking the throne in 1366, though by 1367 Pedro had retaken his crown at Nájera (thanks to the help of the Black Prince of England, who would gladly use any excuse to battle the French) and proceeded to try and chase Enrique back into French exile.  It did not work, and once again Pedro had turned tail, and the two armies clashed for a final time at Montiel.

     At Montiel, Pedro was led into a trap by du Guesclin, whom he thought he had bribed successfully, where the two kings ended up in a verbal and physical scuffle, using daggers of all things.  According to legend, it appeared Pedro was going to come out on top, for he had Enrique pinned down, when du Guesclin suddenly grabbed Pedro by the ankle and flipped him over.  When the betrayed man asked why, du Guesclin replied, “I neither put nor remove a King, but help my master.”  Pedro was stabbed multiple times and died minutes later, on 23 March, 1369, nearly nineteen years to the day since he had first been crowned.

Bibliography

  • “Peter”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.  Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web  <http://www.britannica.com/biography/Peter-king-of-Castile-and-Leon>.
  • Ayala, Pedro, and Eugenio Amirola. Cronicas De Los Reyes De Castilla: Don Pedro, Don Enrique II, Don Juan I, Don Enrique III. Madrid: La Imprenta De Don Antonio De Sancha, 1779. Print.
  • The Encylopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. 11th ed. Vol. 21. U, 1911. 292. Print.
  • Estow, Clara. Pedro the Cruel of Castile, 1350-1369. E.J. Brill, 1995. Print.
  • Vernier, Richard. The Flower of Chivalry: Bertrand Du Guesclin and the Hundred Years War. 1. Publ. ed. Boydell, 2003. 138-146. Print.
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