23 September, 2010

Edward II's Castilian Cousins (1)

I've already written posts about Edward II's Castilian uncles and cousin Sancho IV, his Castilian grandfather Fernando III and his great-grandmother Queen Berenguela and her siblings - here's the first part of a part about two of his Castilian first cousins.

Juan Manuel, lord of Peñafiel, Escalona and Villena (5 May 1282-13 June 1348)

It's a little-known fact that a first cousin of Edward II was one of the greatest Spanish writers of the Middle Ages, author of, among much else, El Conde Lucanor (available on Amazon), El Libro de los Estados and El Libro del Cavallero et del Escudero. Don Juan Manuel was born in Escalona on 5 May 1282 as the son and heir of Infante Don Manuel, seventh son of Fernando III of Castile and then in his late forties, by his second wife Beatrice of Savoy. Beatrice was the first cousin of Edward II's grandmother Eleanor of Provence, so Juan Manuel was Edward's second cousin once removed through that connection as well as his first cousin. Juan Manuel succeeded his father as a baby - the Infante Manuel died on Christmas Day 1283, several months before the death of his eldest brother Alfonso X - and grew up at the court of his and Edward II's cousin Sancho IV. (On the subject of whom, Edward may have had a vile temper and been vindictive, but he never went nearly as far as Sancho, who in 1286 clubbed to death a royal judge who had disobeyed him and murdered his kinsman and supporter Don Lope Díaz de Haro in a fit of rage in 1288.) [1]

Don Juan Manuel became politically and militarily active at the tender age of twelve in 1294, when the Moors invaded his lands in Murcia, the frontier between the Christian and Muslim kingdoms in Spain. [2] The death of his cousin Sancho IV the following year triggered massive unrest in Castile: Sancho had seized the throne in 1284 from the young sons of his dead elder brother Fernando de la Cerda ('of the Bristle'), for which his father Alfonso X cursed him on his deathbed, and it was said that Sancho's marriage to María de Molina was irregular and that his nine-year-old son and successor Fernando IV was therefore illegitimate; Sancho and María were first cousins once removed and do not seem to have received a papal dispensation for consanguinity. Juan Manuel was one of those who claimed the throne of Castile in the subsequent struggle over the succession, and it was only thanks to the strenuous efforts of Fernando IV's remarkable mother Queen María, one of the great women of the age, that the boy-king kept his throne.

Don Juan Manuel continued to claim the Castilian throne and cause as much trouble for the young king as possible, and an exasperated Fernando IV, at one point, ordered his death. Teófilo F. Ruiz has described Juan Manuel as "an ambitious and perennial troublemaker" who spent more than four decades in open rebellion against his kinsmen Fernando IV and Fernando's son Alfonso XI. [3] In 1303, he allied himself with King Jaime II of Aragon against Fernando, and was betrothed to Jaime's daughter Constanza to seal the alliance. Constanza of Aragon was born on 1 April 1300, so the wedding had to wait for a few years: she married Juan Manuel the day after her twelfth birthday, 2 April 1312. Fernando IV died on 7 September that year, not yet twenty-seven, leaving a thirteen-month-old son to succeed him as Alfonso XI (if you find all these Castilian kings confusing, I wrote a list of them here), which plunged Castile into anarchy. In 1319 Juan Manuel was appointed one of the regents for the young Alfonso, but the regents found it impossible to work together and spent more time fighting each other and engaging in power struggles than ruling Castile. The political situation deteriorated still further in 1321 with the death of the dowager queen María de Molina, Alfonso XI's grandmother.

Edward II wrote to his Castilian relatives fairly frequently in 1324/26; he was then at war with his brother-in-law Charles IV of France and the Spanish kingdoms were useful allies, and Edward's letters demonstrate that he and his advisors had a pretty good handle on the political chaos reigning in his mother's homeland and who was regent at any given time. The king betrothed his elder daughter Eleanor of Woodstock to Alfonso XI, his elder son the future Edward III to Alfonso's sister Leonor, and his younger daughter Joan of the Tower to the future Pedro IV of Aragon, grandson of the reigning king Jaime II, in 1324/25. (None of the marriages went ahead.) Edward addressed Juan Manuel in letters of March 1324 and February 1325 as 'Sir John Manuel, son of the Infant Manuel de Ispania, the king's kinsman'. On the latter occasion, Edward wrote rather effusively "The king has received his [Juan Manuel's] letters with joy, from which the king knows that the due of John's nature is fully acknowledged, since he not only shows himself ready and prepared for the king's will and pleasure, but also asserts that nothing more pleasing or desirable could be offered to him than to perfect and and execute those things that are to the king's advantage or honour, according to the king's desire." In the same letter Edward apologised for not sending to Juan Manuel his 'pupil' Bernard Peregrini, Edward's sergeant-at-arms, "as the king has sent him to other parts for other of the king's affairs." Edward also wrote, rather intriguingly, that he was "sending to John shortly certain of his most special interpreters to explain to John certain of his secrets, to whom John is desired to give credence." [4]

Although Alfonso XI was betrothed to Edward II's daughter Eleanor of Woodstock, Juan Manuel appears to have arranged a match between the young king and his even younger daughter Constanza in 1325; the FMG site says that the couple actually married in November that year and that their marriage was later annulled. (I haven't found any reaction of Edward II's to the news of this supposed betrothal or marriage.) Alfonso XI declared himself of age when he turned fourteen in August 1325, and subsequently, in 1327 or 1328 - so after Edward II's deposition when the political situation in England had altered completely - infuriated Juan Manuel by repudiating Constanza and marrying instead his first cousin Maria of Portugal, with whom he had all four grandparents in common (his father Fernando IV of Castile and her mother Beatriz were siblings; his mother Constança and her father Afonso IV of Portugal were siblings). Juan Manuel, probably understandably, was furious and spent most of the next few years in open rebellion against the king, though they were finally reconciled in 1340 and Juan Manuel led the Castilian army into Algeciras after it fell to Alfonso in 1344. Edward II's kinsman Henry of Grosmont, later the first duke of Lancaster, was with Alfonso during the siege.

Don Juan Manuel died on 13 June 1348, aged sixty-six. Two of his daughters were queens: Juana married Alfonso XI's illegitimate son Enrique of Trastamara, who killed his half-brother King Pedro the Cruel in 1369 and became king of Castile, and Constanza, Alfonso XI's spurned fiancée, married Pedro I of Portugal. (Who preferred his mistress Doña Ines de Castro and supposedly had her dead body dug up and crowned queen of Portugal.) Don Juan Manuel was thus the grandfather of King Juan II of Castile and King Fernando I of Portugal. Somehow he found the time in the middle of all the fighting against his kinsmen to write numerous works of literature, some of which are still widely read today. To quote Clayton J. Drees, many of Juan Manuel's stories "were fantastic farces derived from Eastern (probably oral) sources and reflect the sort of practical morality Don Juan exemplified. Many scholars today consider Don Juan Manuel a precursor of both Geoffrey Chaucer and Niccolò Machiavelli." [5]

Beatriz, queen of Portugal (1242-27 October 1303)

Edward II's first cousin though a whopping forty-two years his senior, Queen Beatriz was the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso X, Eleanor of Castile's eldest half-brother, and was born in 1242 (so was only slightly younger than her aunt Eleanor) when her father was twenty-one. Her mother was a Castilian noblewoman named Doña María (or Mayor) Guillén de Guzmán. Alfonso X had several other illegitimate children, including the abbot of Valladolid, and a daughter from an incestuous relationship with his half-aunt María, one of the many illegitimate children of his grandfather Alfonso IX of Leon. The daughter was named Berenguela after Alfonso IX's wife, Edward II's great-grandmother.

Beatriz was married, in 1253 when she was only eleven, to King Afonso III of Portugal, who was born on 5 May 1210 and thus was forty-three at the time of the wedding. His first marriage to Mathilde de Dammartin, countess of Boulogne and Mortain and the great-granddaughter of Stephen, king of England, had been annulled earlier that year. (Mathilde's first cousin Jeanne de Dammartin, countess of Ponthieu and Aumale, married Beatriz's grandfather Fernando III of Castile in 1237 and was the mother of Eleanor of Castile.) Beatriz and Afonso III's eldest child Branca, later abbess of Las Huelgas in Castile, was born on 25 February 1259 when Beatriz was sixteen or seventeen, her eldest son Fernando was born in 1260 and died young, and her second son King Diniz I of Portugal was born on 9 October 1261. Beatriz bore eight children in total, of whom at least three died in infancy.

Afonso III of Portugal died in Lisbon on 18 May 1279 in his late sixties, leaving his teenaged son Diniz as his successor. Beatriz, then thirty-seven, returned to Castile for several years, attempting to reconcile her father Alfonso X and her warring brothers. She died on 27 October 1303 and was buried at the monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça in central Portugal. King Diniz, who lived until January 1325, is known to history as Rei Lavrador, the Farmer King; something which might have endeared him to his kinsman Edward II, had the two men ever met. Diniz's son Afonso IV (1291-1357) married another Castilian cousin of Edward II, also Beatriz, daughter of Sancho IV and thus Queen Beatriz's niece. Afonso IV was keen to arrange a marriage alliance between his daughter Maria, born in February 1313, and Edward II's son the future Edward III, in 1325/26; Edward had to explain to Afonso and the younger Queen Beatriz in April 1326 that his son was betrothed to Alfonso XI of Castile's sister Leonor, but as he "desires a treaty of perpetual friendship to be established between his house and that of Alfonsus," he was willing to arrange another marriage between their children. [6] Maria of Portugal ended up marrying her first cousin Alfonso XI of Castile, as above.

I'll post the second part of this, with lots more info about some of Edward II's other Castilian first cousins, in a couple of days!


1) H. Salvador Marta-Nez and H. Salvador Martínez, Alfonso X, the Learned: A Biography, pp. 376-377; Malcolm Vale, 'Ritual Ceremony and the 'Civilising Process': The Role of the Court, c. 1270-1400', in Steven J. Gunn and A. Janse, eds., The Court as a Stage, p. 27; Teófilo F. Ruiz, The City and the Realm: Burgos and Castile 1080-1492, p. 144.
2) Clayton J. Drees, The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary, p. 319.
3) Teófilo F. Ruiz, Spain's Centuries of Crisis 1300-1474, p. 59.
4) Calendar of Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 175-176, 350-351; Foedera 1307-1327, pp. 549, 587.
5) Drees, Late Medieval Age, p. 320.
6) Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 556-557.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't it rather unusual for Beatriz to make such a brilliant marriage when she was illegitimate?

Anerje said...

I'm just astonished by your research! It's always amazingly detailed. Congrats on another fascinating post!

Kathryn said...

Thank you, Anerje! :-)

Anon, it was an excellent match for Beatriz - maybe the king of Portugal was so keen on an alliance with Alfonso X he was willing to overlook her illegitimacy?