Peter of Castile, King of Castile and Leon

Peter of Castile, King of Castile and Leon

Male 1334 - 1369  (34 years)

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  • Name Peter of Castile 
    Suffix King of Castile and Leon 
    Born 30 Aug 1334  Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Died 23 Mar 1369  Montiel, Toledo, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Buried Cathedral of Seville, Seville, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I45444  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 11 Jan 2017 

    Father Alfonso XI, King of Castile, Le‚on and Galicia,   b. 13 Aug 1311, Salamanca Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Mar 1350, Gibraltar Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years) 
    Mother Maria of Portugal,   b. 0___ 1313, Lisbon, Portugal Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 18 Jan 1357, (Lisbon, Portugal) Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 44 years) 
    Married 0___ 1328  (Lisbon, Portugal) Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Family ID F16578  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Maria de Padilla,   b. ~ 1334, (Seville, Spain) Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 0Aug 1361, Seville, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 27 years) 
    Married 0___ 1353  [2
    • in secret...
     1. Isabel Perez, Princess of Castile-Leon,   b. 0___ 1353, Morales, Tordesillas, Valladolid, Spain Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 Dec 1392, King's Langley, Hertford, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 39 years)
    Last Modified 24 Feb 2020 
    Family ID F16576  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 30 Aug 1334 - Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas, Burgos, Spain Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 23 Mar 1369 - Montiel, Toledo, Spain Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Cathedral of Seville, Seville, Spain Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Peter, King of Castile and Leůn
    Peter, King of Castile and Leůn
    Alabaster sculpture of Peter the Cruel, from 1504...

  • Notes 
    • Peter the Cruel (Spanish: Pedro; 30 August 1334 - 23 March 1369), also known as the Just, was the king of Castile and Le‚on from 1350 to 1369. He was the son of Alfonso XI of Castile and Maria of Portugal, daughter of Afonso IV of Portugal. Peter was the last ruler of the main branch of the House of Ivrea.

      Early life

      Peter was born in the defensive tower of the Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas in Burgos, Spain.

      According to chancellor and chronicler Pero L‚opez de Ayala, he had a pale complexion, blue eyes and very light blonde hair; he was tall (1.83 m) and muscular. He was accustomed to long, strenuous hours of work, lisped a little and "loved women greatly". He was well read and a patron of the arts, and in his formative years he enjoyed entertainment, music and poetry.

      Peter began his reign when almost sixteen years old[3] and subjected to the control of his mother and her favourites. He was to be married to Joan, daughter of Edward III of England; on her way to Castile, however, she travelled through cities infested with the Black Death, ignoring townspeople who had warned her not to enter their settlements. Joan soon contracted the disease and died.[4]

      Peter of Castile

      Though at first controlled by his mother, Peter emancipated himself with the encouragement of the minister Alburquerque.[5] Becoming attached to Mar‚ia de Padilla, he married her in secret in 1353. Mar‚ia turned him against Alburquerque, who fled to Portugal.[6]

      In the summer of 1353, the young king was practically coerced by his mother and the nobles into marrying Blanche of Bourbon; he deserted her at once. This marriage necessitated Peter's denying that he had married Mar‚ia, but his relationship with her continued and she bore him four children. He also apparently went through the form of marriage with Juana de Castro, widow of Don Diego de Haro, convincing her that his previous marriage to Queen Blanche was a nullity. The bishops of Avila and Salamanca were asked to concur, and were afraid to say otherwise.[6] Peter and Juana were married in Cuellar, and Jane was proclaimed Queen of Castile.[3] After two nights he then deserted her. (She bore him a son who died young, after Peter's death.) A period of turmoil followed in which the king was for a time overpowered and in effect imprisoned. The dissension within the party striving to coerce him enabled him to escape from Toro, where he was under observation, to Segovia.[5]

      In 1361, Queen Blanche died at Medina Sidonia. Legend claims that Peter murdered her: one version of the story says she was poisoned, another that she was shot with a crossbow.[7] Also that year Maria de Padilla died in Seville, possibly of the plague.[6]


      Henry II kills his predecessor Peter, in an early illustration to Froissart's Chronicles
      In the summer of 1366, Peter took refuge with Edward, the Black Prince, who restored him to his throne in the following year after the Battle of N‚ajera. But he disgusted his ally with his faithlessness and ferocity,[5] as well as his failure to repay the costs of the campaign, as he had promised to do. The health of the Black Prince broke down, and he left the Iberian Peninsula.[5]

      Meanwhile, Henry of Trast‚amara returned to Castile in September, 1368. The cortes of the city of Burgos recognized him as King of Castile. Others followed, including C‚ordoba, Palencia, Valladolid, and Ja‚en. Galicia and Asturias, on the other hand, continued to support Peter. As Henry made his way toward Toledo, Peter, who had retreated to Andalusia, chose to confront him in battle. On 14 March 1369, the forces of Peter and Henry met at Montiel, a fortress then controlled by the Order of Santiago. Henry prevailed with the assistance of Bertrand du Guesclin. Peter took refuge in the fortress, which, being controlled by a military order of Galician origin, remained faithful to him. Negotiations were opened between Peter and his besieger, Henry. Peter met with du Guesclin, who was acting as Henry's envoy. Peter appealed to du Guesclin's well-known treacherous side. He offered du Guesclin 200,000 gold coins and several towns, including Soria, Almazan, and Atienza to betray Henry. Ever opportunistic, du Guesclin informed Henry of the offer and immediately bargained for greater compensation from Henry to betray Peter.

      Having made a deal with Henry, Du Guesclin returned to Peter. Under the guise of accepting his deal, du Guesclin led Peter to his tent on the night of 23 March 1369. Henry was waiting. The historian Lopez de Ayala described the encounter as follows:

      Upon entering du Guesclin's tent, Henry "saw King Peter. He did not recognize him because they had not seen each other for a long time. One of Bertrand's men said 'This is your enemy.' But King Henry asked if it was he and ... King Peter said twice, 'I am he, I am he.' Then King Henry recognized him and hit him in the face with a knife and they ... fell to the ground. King Henry struck him again and again."

      Having dispatched his half-brother, Henry left Peter's body unburied for three days, during which time it was subjected to ridicule and abuse.

      Legacy and reputation[edit]
      From The Monk's Tale
      O noble, O worthy PETRO, glorie OF SPAYNE, Whom Fortune heeld so hye in magestee,
      Wel oughten men thy pitous death complayne!
      Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee,
      And after, at a seege, by subtiltee,
      Thou were bitraysed and lad unto his tente,
      Where as he with his owene hand slow thee,
      Succedynge in thy regne and in thy rente.

      Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
      Popular memory generally views Peter as a vicious monster. Much but not all of Peter's reputation comes from the works of the chronicler Pero L‚opez de Ayala, who after his father's change of allegiance had little choice but to serve Peter's usurper. After time passed, there was a reaction in Peter's favour and an alternative name was found for him. It became a fashion to speak of him as El Justiciero, the executor of justice (the Lawful).[10] Apologists were found to say that he had killed only men who would not submit themselves to the law or respect the rights of others.[5] Peter did have his supporters. Even Ayala confessed that the king's fall was regretted by many, among them the peasants and burghers subjected to the nobles by late feudal gifts and by the merchants, who enjoyed security under his rule.

      The English, who backed Peter, also remembered the king positively. Geoffrey Chaucer visited Castile during Peter's reign and lamented the monarch's death in The Monk's Tale, part of The Canterbury Tales. (Chaucer's patron, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, had fought on Peter's side in his struggle to reclaim the throne.)

      Peter had many qualities of those later monarchs educated in the centralization style. He built a strong Royal administrative force ahead of his times. He failed to counter or check all the feudal powers that supported his rivals, however illegitimate and opposite to the principles of aristocracy they represented themselves. But his moral superiority was reduced too by the violent means, including fratricides, by which he sought to suppress opposition; he at times was extremely despotic and unpredictable, even by the standards of his age. In this he was preceded by his father Alfonso XI, who since the crisis at the death of Alfonso X had faced multiple rebellions against royal authority.

      The death of King Peter ended the traditional alliance of Castile and Navarre with England, which had been started by the Plantagenets to keep France in check. The alliance was later renewed by the Trast‚amaras and Tudors.


      Peter's beheading, from a 14th-century French manuscript.
      Peter's children by Mar‚ia de Padilla were:

      Beatrice (1353Ė1369), nun at the Abbey of Santa Clara at Tordesillas
      Constance (1354Ė1394), married John of Gaunt[11]
      Isabella (1355Ė1392), married Edmund of Langley[12]
      Alfonso (1359Ė1362), Crown Prince of Castile and Le‚on (Tordesillas, 1359 Ė 19 October 1362). Peter forced the Cortes to recognize Alfonso as his legitimate heir on 29 April 1362. However, Alfonso, a very sickly child, died at the age of three, months from his recognition as Crown Prince.
      Peter had one son with Juana de Castro, daughter of Pedro Fern‚andez de Castro:

      John (1355Ė1405), married došna Elvira de Eril, had issue
      Peter had a daughter with Teresa de Ayala, a niece of Pero Lopez de Ayala:

      Maria de Ayala, who with her mother had long careers at the Dominican convent of Santo Domingo el Real in Toledo and maintained a friendly correspondence with the Trastamaras[13]
      The great original but hostile authority for the life of Peter the Cruel is the Chronicle of the Chancellor Pedro L‚opez de Ayala (1332Ė1407).[5] To put that in perspective are a biography by Prosper M‚erim‚ee, Histoire de Don Pedro I, roi de Castille (1848) and a modern history setting Peter in the social and economic context of his time by Clara Estow (Pedro the Cruel of Castile (1350Ė1369), 1995).

      Strictly speaking, Peter was not defeated by Henry but by the opposing aristocracy; the nobles accomplished their objective of enthroning a weaker dynasty (the House of Trast‚amara), much more amenable to their interests. Most of the bad stories about Peter are likely to be colored by Black Legend, coined by his enemies, who finally succeeded in their rebellion. The Chancellor L‚opez de Ayala, the main source for Peter's reign, was the official chronicler of the Trast‚amara, a servant of the new rulers and of Peter's aristocratic adversaries.

      The change of dynasty can be considered as the epilogue of the first act of a long struggle between the Castilian monarchy and the aristocracy; this struggle was to continue for more than three centuries and come to an end only under Charles I of Spain, the grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragon (Ferdinand V of Castile) and Isabella I of Castile (The Catholic Monarchs), in the first quarter of the 16th century. [2]

  • Sources 
    1. [S9082] "Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York" biography,,_1st_Duke_of_York, retr.

    2. [S9110] "Peter of Castile" biography,, retrieved March 4, 2016 by David A. Hennes.

    3. [S9112] "Afonso IV of Portugal" biography,, retrieved March 4, 2016 by David.

    4. [S9114] "Alfonso XI of Castile" biography,, retrieved March 4, 2016 by David.