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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Henry III the Sickly 1390 1406


The Prince and Princess of Asturias.]

The reign of Juan I (1379-1390) was marked by two important events. Juan married the heiress to the Portuguese throne, and the union of Spain and Portugal seemed about to take place, but this arrangement did not suit the Portuguese nobility. A new king of Portugal was chosen, and the Castilian army was completely defeated at Aljubarrota in 1385. Shortly afterward, the Duke of Lancaster landed in Spain with an English army to prosecute the claims of his wife. This matter was settled by the marriage of the Duke of Lancaster's daughter, in 1388, to Juan's heir, Prince Henry. Thus was the conflict of Pedro I and Henry II resolved. Their descendants, though tainted with illegitimacy in both cases, had joined to form the royal family of Spain. The young prince and his consort took the titles of Prince and Princess of Asturias, which have been used ever since by the heirs to the Spanish throne.

[Sidenote: Henry "the Sickly."]

Henry III "the Sickly" (1390-1406), though already married, was only a minor when he became king, wherefore there occurred the usual troubled years of a minority. Despite the pallor of his complexion (whence his nickname) he was a spirited individual, and upon becoming of age (when fourteen years old) set about to remedy some of the evils which had been caused by the grants of favors to the nobles durng the regency and in

preceding reigns. He also adopted a vigorous policy in his relations with Portugal, Granada, and the pirates of the North African coast, and even went so far as to send two somewhat celebrated embassies to the Mogul emperor and king of Persia, Tamerlane. One event of capital importance in his reign may be taken as the first step in the Castilian venture across the seas. In 1402 Rub?n de Bracamonte and Juan de Bethencourt commenced the conquest of the Canary Islands under the patronage of Henry. The young king was also preparing to conquer Granada, when at the age of twenty-seven his life was unfortunately cut short.

[Sidenote: Juan II and ?lvaro de Luna.]

It seemed likely that the opening years of the reign of Juan II (1406-1454) would witness a fresh period of civil struggle, since the king was not yet two years old. That this was not the case was due to the appearance of a man who was both able and faithful to his trust, the regent, Ferdinand of Antequera, an uncle of Juan II. In 1412, however, he left Castile to become king of Aragon, and a few years later Juan's majority was declared at fourteen years of age. Juan II was the first truly weak king of Castile. In the history of Spanish literature he occupies a prominent place, and he was fond of games of chivalry, but he lacked the decision and will-power to govern. Fortunately he had a favorite in the person of ?lvaro de Luna who governed for him. On several occasions in the reign ?lvaro de Luna was able to win successes against Granada, but the fruits of victory were lost because of civil discord in Castile. During most of the reign the nobles were in revolt against ?lvaro de Luna, and the weak king occasionally listened to their complaints, banishing the favorite, but he could not manage affairs without him, and ?lvaro de Luna would be brought back to resume his place at the head of the state. By 1445 the position of ?lvaro de Luna seemed secure, when a blow fell from an unexpected quarter. He had procured a Portuguese princess as the second wife of Juan II, but she requited him by turning against him. She persuaded Juan to give an order for his arrest, and, since there was no cause for more serious charges, he was accused of having bewitched the king, and was put to death in 1453. This time Juan could not call him back; so he followed him to the grave within a year.

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