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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Henry the Impotent and Juana La Beltraneja


[Sidenote:

Henry "the Impotent" and Juana "La Beltraneja."]

The evil of internal disorder which for so many years had been hanging over the Castilian monarchy came to a head in the reign of Henry IV "the Impotent" (1454-1474). If Juan II had been weak, Henry IV was weaker still, and he had no ?lvaro de Luna to lean upon. He commenced his reign with an act of characteristic flaccidity which was to serve as one of the pretexts for the insurrections against him. War was declared upon Granada, and the Castilian army reached the gates of the Moslem capital, when the king developed a humanitarianism which hardly fitted the times, declining to engage in a decisive battle lest it prove to be bloody. A more important pretext for rebellion arose out of a dynastic question. Failing to have issue by his first wife, Henry procured a divorce and married again. For six years there were no children by this marriage, wherefore the derisive name "the Impotent" was popularly applied to the king, but at length a daughter appeared, and was given the name Juana. Public opinion, especially as voiced by the nobles, proclaimed that the father was the king's favorite, Beltr?n de la Cueva, on which account the young Juana became known vulgarly as "La Beltraneja." The _Cortes_ acknowledged Juana, and she was also recognized as heir to the throne by the king's brothers and by his sister, Isabella, but the nobles formed a league on the basis of her supposed illegitimacy with the object

of killing the favorite. They directed an insulting letter to the king, demanding that his brother, Alfonso, should be named heir. Instead of presenting a bold front against these demands, Henry was weak enough to consent to them.

[Sidenote: The seigniorial program and the vacillation of the king.]

The dynastic question was far from being the principal one in the eyes of the nobles. By this time it was perfectly clear that the real struggle was political, between the elements of seigniorial independence and strong monarchy. Thus the nobles and their allies had insisted that the king's guard should be disarmed and that its numbers should be fixed; that the judges in royal towns and certain other royal officials should be deprived of their office and be replaced by the appointees of the league; that the king should be subjected to a council of state formed of nobles and churchmen, which body was to intervene in the affairs formerly handled by the king himself, including even the exercise of ordinary judicial authority; that all cases against nobles and churchmen should be tried by a tribunal of three nobles, three churchmen, and three representatives of the towns, and several of the members who were to compose the tribunal (all of them opponents of the king) were named in the document of these demands; and that there should be a right of insurrection against the king if he should contravene the last-named provision. After he had accepted the nobles' terms Henry realized the gravity of his act and changed his mind, declaring his agreement void. The nobles then announced the deposition of the king, and named his brother, Alfonso, in his stead, but the royal troops defeated them soon afterward, and Alfonso suddenly died. The nobles then offered the crown to Isabella, but she declined to take it while her brother was living, although consenting to do so in succession to him, thus retracting her previous recognition of Juana. On this basis the nobles offered peace to the king, and he consented, which for the second time put him in the position of acknowledging the dishonor of his wife and the illegitimacy of Juana. The queen protested, and in 1470 Henry again recanted, but at the time of his death, in 1474, he had not yet resolved the succession to the throne.


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