Medieval Spanish

Historical Overview Section

The Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, which changed hands regularly in a series of alliances, marriages and conquests, all whilst still fighting the Moors. Castile first emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century as the County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region. When Fernando I (who had united several kingdoms through conquest) died in 1065 he again split the various kingdoms between his sons and one daughter. Sancho II inherited the Kingdom of Castile; Alfonso VI, the kingdom of León; García, the kingdom of Galicia; and his daughter Urraca inherited the town of Zamora. Sancho II allied himself with Alfonso VI of León and conquered Galicia. Not being satisfied with Castile and half of Galicia, Sancho later attacked Alfonso VI and invaded León with the help of El Cid. Urraca permitted the greater part of the Leonese army to take refuge in the town of Zamora. Sancho laid siege to the town, but the Castilian king was assassinated in 1072 by Bellido Dolfos, a Galician nobleman. The Castilian troops then withdrew. As a result Alfonso VI recovered all his original territory of León, and now became the king of both Castile and Galicia. This was the second union of León and Castile, although the two kingdoms remained distinct entities joined only in a personal union.

The "Crown of Castile", as a historic entity covered by this list is usually considered to have begun in 1230 with the third and definitive union of the two kingdoms of León and Castile. Almost immediately after the union of the two kingdoms under Ferdinand III, the parliaments of Castile and León were united. It was divided into three estates, which corresponded with the nobility, the church and the cities, and included representation from Castile, León, Galicia, Toledo, Navarre and the Basque provinces. Initially the number of cities represented in the Cortes varied over the next century, until John I permanently set those that would be allowed to send representatives (procuradores): Burgos, Toledo, León, Sevilla, Córdoba, Murcia, Jaén, Zamora, Segovia, Ávila, Salamanca, Cuenca, Toro, Valladolid, Soria, Madrid and Guadalajara (with Granada added after its conquest in 1492).

On the death of Alfonso XI a dynastic conflict started between his sons, the Infantes Pedro and Henry, Count of Trastámara, which became entangled in the Hundred Years' War. Alfonso XI had married Maria of Portugal with whom he had his heir, the Infante Pedro. However, the King also had many illegitimate children with Eleanor of Guzman, among them the above-mentioned Henry, who disputed Pedro's right to the throne once the latter became king. In the resulting struggle, in which both brothers claimed to be king, Pedro allied himself with Edward, the Prince of Wales, "the Black Prince." In 1367 the Black Prince defeated Henry II's allies at the Battle of Nájera, restoring Pedro's control of the kingdom. The Black Prince, seeing that the king would not reimburse his expenses, left Castile. Henry, who had fled to France, took advantage of the opportunity and recommenced the fight. Henry finally was victorious in 1369 in the Battle of Montiel, in which he killed Pedro.

In 1371 the brother of the Black Prince, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, married Constance, Pedro's daughter. In 1388 he claimed the Crown of Castile in the name of his wife, the legitimate heir according to the Cortes de Seville of 1361. He arrived in A Coruña with an army and took the city. He then moved on to occupy Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra and Vigo. He asked John I, Henry II's son, to give up the throne in favor of Constance. John declined but proposed that his son, the Infante Henry, marry John of Gaunt's daughter Catherine. The proposal was accepted, and the title Prince of Asturias was created for Henry and Catherine. This brought an end to the dynastic conflict, strengthened the House of Trastámara's position and created peace between England and Castile.

In October 1469 Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon, married in secret in the Palacio de los Vivero in Valladolid. The consequence was a dynastic union of the Crown of Castile and Crown of Aragon in 1479 when Ferdinand ascended to the Aragonese throne. This union however was not effective until the reign of his grandson Charles I. Between 1478 and 1497 the monarchs conquered the Canary Islands of Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife. On the 2nd January 1492 the monarchs entered Granada's Alhambra marking the end of the Reconquest. Also in 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered the West Indies and in 1497 Castile conquered Melilla. After Castile's conquest of the Later Granadine Kingdom its politics turned towards the Mediterranean, and Castile militarily helped the Medieval Crown of Aragon in its problems with the Ordonnance French culminating in the reconquest of Naples for the Crown of Aragon in 1504.

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