Spain, A History of

The History Of Spain To The Conquest Of Granada
Author: Hallam, Henry

Part I

Kingdom of the Visigoths - Conquest of Spain by the Moors - Gradual
Revival of the Spanish Nation - Kingdoms of Leon, Aragon, Navarre, and
Castile, successively formed - Chartered Towns of Castile - Military Orders -
Conquest of Ferdinand III. and James of Aragon - Causes of the Delay in
expelling the Moors - History of Castile continued - Character of the
Government - Peter the Cruel - House of Trastamare - John II. - Henry IV. -
Constitution of Castile - National Assemblies or Cortes - their constituent
Parts - Right of Taxation - Legislation - Privy Council of Castile - Laws for
the Protection of Liberty - Imperfections of the Constitution - Aragon - its
History in the fourteenth and fifteenth Centuries - disputed Succession -
Constitution of Aragon - Free Spirit of its Aristocracy - Privilege of Union -
Powers of the Justiza - Legal Securities - Illustrations - other
Constitutional Laws - Valencia and Catalonia - Union of two Crowns by the
Marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella - Conquest of Granada.

The history of Spain during the middle ages ought to commence with the
dynasty of the Visigoths; a nation among the first that assaulted and
overthrew the Roman Empire, and whose establishment preceded by nearly half a
century the invasion of Clovis. Vanquished by that conqueror in the battle of
Poitiers, the Gothic monarchs lost their extensive dominions in Gaul, and
transferred their residence from Toulouse to Toledo. But I will not detain
the reader by naming one sovereign of that obscure race. It may suffice to
mention that the Visigothic monarchy differed in several respects from that of
the Franks during the same period. The crown was less hereditary, or at least
the regular succession was more frequently disturbed. The prelates had a
still more commanding influence in temporal government. The distinction of
Romans and barbarians was less marked, the laws more uniform, and approaching
nearly to the imperial code. The power of the sovereign was perhaps more
limited by an aristocratical council than in France, but it never yielded to
the dangerous influence of mayors of the palace. Civil wars and disputed
successions were very frequent, but the integrity of the kingdom was not
violated by the custom of partition.

Spain, after remaining for nearly three centuries in the possession of
the Visigoths, fell under the yoke of the Saracens in 712. The fervid and
irresistible enthusiasm which distinguished the youthful period of Mohammedism
might sufficiently account for this conquest, even if we could not assign
additional causes - the factions which divided the Goths, the resentment of
disappointed pretenders to the throne, the provocations, as has been generally
believed, of Count Julian, and the temerity that risked the fate of an empire
on the chances of a single battle. ^a It is more surprising that a remnant of
this ancient monarchy should not only have preserved its national liberty and
name in the northern mountains, but waged for some centuries a successful, and
generally an offensive warfare against the conquerors, till the balance was
completely turned in its favor, and the Moors were compelled to maintain
almost as obstinate and protracted a contest for a small portion of the
peninsula. But the Arabian monarchs of Cordova found in their success and
imagined security a pretext for indolence; even in the cultivation of science
and contemplation of the magnificent architecture of their mosques and palaces
they forgot their poor but daring enemies in the Asturias; while, according to
the nature of despotism, the fruits of wisdom or bravery in one generation
were lost in the follies and effeminacy of the next. Their kingdom was
dismembered by successful rebels, who formed the states of Toledo, Huesca,
Saragossa, and others less eminent; and these, in their own mutual contests,
not only relaxed their natural enmity towards the Christian princes, but
sometimes sought their alliance. ^b

[Footnote a: [Note.]]

[Footnote b: Cardonne, Histoire de l'Afrique et de l'Espagne.]

The last attack which seemed to endanger the reviving monarchy of Spain
was that of Almanzor, the illustrious vizier of Haccham II., towards the end
of the tenth century, wherein the city of Leon, and even the shrine of
Compostella, were burned to the ground. For some ages before this transient
reflux, gradual encroachments had been made upon the Saracens, and the kingdom
originally styled of Oviedo, the seat of which was removed to Leon in 914, had
extended its boundary to the Douro, and even to the mountainous chain of the
Guadarrama. The province of Old Castile, thus denominated, as is generally
supposed, from the castles erected while it remained a march or frontier
against the Moors, was governed by hereditary counts, elected originally by
the provincial aristocracy, and virtually independent, it seems probable, of
the kings of Leon, though commonly serving them in war as brethren of the same
faith and nation. ^c

[Footnote c: According to Roderic of Toledo, one of the earliest Spanish
historians, though not older than the beginning of the thirteenth century, the
nobles of Castile, in the reign of Froila, about the year 924, sibi et
posteris providerunt, et duos milites non de potentioribus, sed de
prudentioribus elegerunt, quos et judices statuerunt, ut dissensiones patriae
et querelantium causae suo judicio sopirentur. l. v. c. 1. Several other
passages in the same writer prove that the counts of Castile were nearly
independent of Leon, at least from the time of Ferdinand Gonsalvo about the
middle of the tenth century. Ex quo iste suscepit suae patriae comitatum,
cessaverunt reges Asturiarum insolescere in Castellam, et a flumine Piscorica
nihil amplius vindicarunt, l. v. c. 2. Marina, in his Ensayo
Historico-Critico, is disposed to controvert this fact.]

While the kings of Leon were thus occupied in recovering the western
provinces, another race of Christian princes grew up silently under the shadow
of the Pyrenean mountains. Nothing can be more obscure than the beginnings of
those little states which were formed in Navarre and the country of Soprarbe.
They might perhaps be almost contemporaneous with the Moorish conquests. On
both sides of the Pyrenees dwelt an aboriginal people, the last to undergo the
yoke, and who had never acquired the language, of Rome. We know little of
these intrepid mountaineers in the dark period which elapsed under the Gothic
and Frank dynasties, till we find them cutting off the rear-guard of
Charlemagne in Roncesvalles, and maintaining at least their independence,
though seldom, like the kings of Asturias, waging offensive war against the
Saracens. The town of Jaca, situated among long narrow valleys that intersect
the southern ridges of the Pyrenees, was the capital of a little free state,
which afterwards expanded into the monarchy of Aragon. ^d A territory rather
more extensive belonged to Navarre, the kings of which fixed their seat at
Pampelona. Biscay seems to have been divided between this kingdom and that of
Leon. The connection of Aragon or Soprarbe and Navarre was very intimate, and
they were often united under a single chief.

[Footnote d: The Fueros, or written laws of Jaca, were perhaps more ancient
than any local customary in Europe. Alfonso III. confirms them by name of the
ancient usages of Jaca. They prescribe the descent of lands and movables, as
well as the election of municipal magistrates. The following law, which
enjoins the rising in arms on a sudden emergency illustrates, with a sort of
romantic wildness, the manners of a pastoral but warlike people, and reminds
us of a well-known passage in the Lady of the Lake. De appellitis ita
statuimus. Cum homines de villis, vel qui stant in montanis cum suis ganatis
[gregibus], audierint appellitum; omnes capiant arma, et dimissis ganatis, et
omnibus aliis suis faziendis [negotiis] sequantur appellitum. Et si illi qui
fuerint magis remoti, invenerint in villa magis proxima appellito, [deest
aliquid?] omnes qui nondum fuerint egressi tunc villam illam, quae tardius
secuta est appellitum, pecent [solvant] unam beccam [vaccam]; et unusquisque
homo ex illis qui tardius secutus est appellitum, et quem magis remoti
praecesserint, pecet tres solidos, quomodo nobis videbitur, partiendos. Tamen
in Jaca et in aliis villis, sint aliqui nominati et certi, quos elegerint
consules, qui remaneant ad villas custodiendas et defendendas. Biancae
Commentaria, in Schotti Hispania Illustrata. p. 595.]

At the beginning of the eleventh century, Sancho the Great, king of
Navarre and Aragon, was enabled to render his second son Ferdinand count, or,
as he assumed the title, king of Castile. This effectually dismembered that
province from the kingdom of Leon; but their union soon became more complete
than ever, though with a reversed supremacy. Bermudo III., king of Leon, fell
in an engagement with the new king of Castile, who had married his sister; and
Ferdinand, in her right, or in that of conquest, became master of the united
monarchy. This cessation of hostilities between the Christian states enabled
them to direct a more unremitting energy against their ancient enemies, who
were now sensibly weakened by the various causes of decline to which I have
already alluded. During the eleventh century the Spaniards were almost always
superior in the field; the towns which they began by pillaging, they gradually
possessed; their valor was heightened by the customs of chivalry and inspired
by the example of the Cid; and before the end of this age Alfonso VI.
recovered the ancient metropolis of the monarchy, the city of Toledo. This
was the severest blow which the Moors had endured, and an unequivocal symptom
of that change in their relative strength, which, from being so gradual, was
the more irretrievable. Calamities scarcely inferior fell upon them in a
different quarter. The Kings of Aragon (a title belonging originally to a
little district upon the river of that name) had been cooped up almost in the
mountains by the small Moorish states north of the Ebro, especially that of
Huesca. About the middle of the eleventh century they began to attack their
neighbors with success; the Moors lost one town after another, till, in 1118,
exposed and weakened by the reduction of all these places, the city of
Saragossa, in which a line of Mohammedan princes had flourished for several
ages, became the prize of Alfonso I. and the capital of his kingdom. The
southern parts of what is now the province of Aragon were successively reduced
during the twelfth century; while all new Castile and Estremadura became
annexed in the same gradual manner to the dominion of the descendants of
Alfonso VI.

Although the feudal system cannot be said to have obtained in the
kingdoms of Leon and Castile, their peculiar situation gave the aristocracy a
great deal of the same power and independence which resulted in France and
Germany from that institution. The territory successively recovered from the
Moors, like waste lands reclaimed, could have no proprietor but the
conquerors, and the prospect of such acquisitions was a constant incitement to
the nobility of Spain, especially to those who had settled themselves on the
Castilian frontier. In their new conquests they built towns and invited
Christian settlers, the Saracen inhabitants being commonly expelled or
voluntarily retreating to the safer provinces of the south. Thus Burgos was
settled by a Count of Castile about 880; another fixed his seat at Osma; a
third at Sepulveda; a fourth at Salamanca. These cities were not free from
incessant peril of a sudden attack till the union of the two kingdoms under
Ferdinand I., and consequently the necessity of keeping in exercise a numerous
and armed population, gave a character of personal freedom and privilege to
the inferior classes which they hardly possessed at so early a period in any
other monarchy. Villeinage seems never to have been established in the
Hispano-Gothic kingdoms, Leon and Castile; though I confess it was far from
being unknown in that of Aragon, which had formed its institutions on a
different pattern. Since nothing makes us forget the arbitrary distinctions
of rank so much as participation in any common calamity, every man who had
escaped the great shipwreck of liberty and religion in the mountains of
Asturias was invested with a personal dignity, which gave him value in his own
eyes and those of his country. It is probably this sentiment transmitted to
posterity, and gradually fixing the national character, that has produced the
elevation of manner remarked by travellers in the Castilian peasant. But
while these acquisitions of the nobility promoted the grand object of winning
back the peninsula from its invaders, they by no means invigorated the
government or tended to domestic tranquillity.

A more interesting method of securing the public defence was by the
institution of chartered towns or communities. These were established at an
earlier period than in France and England, and were, in some degree, of a
peculiar description. Instead of purchasing their immunities, and almost
their personal freedom, at the hands of a master, the burgesses of Castilian
towns were invested with civil rights and extensive property on the more
liberal condition of protecting their country. The earliest instance of the
erection of a community is in 1020, when Alfonso V. in the cortes at Leon
established the privileges of that city with a regular code of laws, by which
its magistrates should be governed. The citizens of Carrion, Llanes, and
other towns were incorporated by the same prince. Sancho the Great gave a
similar constitution to Naxara. Sepulveda had its code of laws in 1076 from
Alfonso VI.; in the same reign Logrono and Sahagun acquired their privileges,
and Salamanca not long afterwards. The fuero, or original charter of a
Spanish community, was properly a compact, by which the king or lord granted a
town and adjacent district to the burgesses, with various privileges, and
especially that of choosing magistrates and a common council, who were bound
to conform themselves to the laws prescribed by the founder. These laws,
civil as well as criminal, though essentially derived from the ancient code of
the Visigoths, which continued to be the common law of Castile till the
fourteenth or fifteenth century, varied from each other in particular usages,
which had probably grown up and been established in these districts before
their legal confirmation. The territory held by chartered towns was
frequently very extensive, far beyond any comparison with corporations in our
own country or in France; including the estates of private landholders,
subject to the jurisdiction and control of the municipality as well as its
inalienable demesnes, allotted to the maintenance of the magistrates and other
public expenses. In every town the king appointed a governor to receive the
usual tributes and watch over the police and the fortified places within the
district; but the administration of justice was exclusively reserved to the
inhabitants and their elected judges. Even the executive power of the royal
officer was regarded with jealousy; he was forbidden to use violence towards
any one without legal process; and, by the fuero of Logrono, if he attempted
to enter forcibly into a private house he might be killed with impunity.
These democratical customs were altered in the fourteenth century by Alfonso
XI., who vested the municipal administration in a small number of jurats, or
regidors. A pretext for this was found in some disorders to which popular
elections had led; but the real motive, of course, must have been to secure a
greater influence for the crown, as in similar innovations of some English

In recompense for such liberal concessions the incorporated towns were
bound to certain money payments, and to military service. This was absolutely
due from every inhabitant, without dispensation or substitution, unless in
case of infirmity. The royal governor and the magistrates, as in the simple
times of primitive Rome, raised and commanded the militia; who, in a service
always short, and for the most part necessary, preserved that delightful
consciousness of freedom, under the standard of their fellow citizens and
chosen leaders, which no mere soldier can enjoy. Every man of a certain
property was bound to serve on horseback, and was exempted in return from the
payment of taxes. This produced a distinction between the caballeros, or
noble class, and the pecheros, or payers of tribute. But the distinction
appears to have been founded only upon wealth, as in the Roman equites, and
not upon hereditary rank, though it most likely prepared the way for the
latter. The horses of these caballeros could not be seized for debt; in some
cases they were exclusively eligible to magistracy; and their honor was
protected by laws which rendered it highly penal to insult or molest them.
But the civil rights of rich and poor in courts of justice were as equal as in
England. ^e

[Footnote e: I am indebted for this account of municipal towns in Castile to a
book published at Madrid in 1808, immediately after the revolution, by the
Doctor Marina, a canon of the church of St. Isidor, entitled, Ensayo
Historico-Critico sobre la antigua legislacion y principales cuerpos legales
de los reynos de Lyon y Castilla, especialmente sobre el codigo de D. Alonso
el Sabio, conocido con el nombre de las Siete Partidas. This work is perhaps
not readily to be procured in England: but an article in the Edinburgh Review,
No. XLIII., will convey a sufficient notion of its contents.]

The progress of the Christian arms in Spain may in part be ascribed to
another remarkable feature in the constitution of that country, the military
orders. These had already been tried with signal effect in Palestine; and the
similar circumstances of Spain easily led to an adoption of the same policy.
In a very few years after the first institution of the Knights Templars, they
were endowed with great estates, or rather districts, won from the Moors, on
condition of defending their own and the national territory. These lay
chiefly in the parts of Aragon beyond the Ebro, the conquest of which was then
recent and insecure. ^f So extraordinary was the respect for this order and
that of St. John, and so powerful the conviction that the hope of Christendom
rested upon their valor, that Alfonso the First, king of Aragon, dying
childless, bequeathed to them his whole kingdom; an example of liberality,
says Mariana, to surprise future times and displease his own. ^g The states of
Aragon annulled, as may be supposed, this strange testament; but the successor
of Alfonso was obliged to pacify the ambitious knights by immense concessions
of money and territory; stipulating even not to make peace with the Moors
against their will. ^h In imitation of these great military orders common to
all Christendom, there arose three Spanish institutions of a similar kind, the
orders of Calatrava, Santiago, and Alcantara. The first of these was
established in 1158; the second and most famous had its charter from the pope
in 1175, though it seems to have existed previously; the third branched off
from that of Calatrava at a subsequent time. ^i These were military colleges,
having their walled towns in different parts of Castile, and governed by an
elective grand master, whose influence in the state was at least equal to that
of any of the nobility. In the civil dissensions of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, the chiefs of these incorporated knights were often very

[Footnote f: Mariana, Hist. Hispan. l. x. c. 10.]

[Footnote g: l. x. c. 15.]

[Footnote h: l. x. c. 18.]

[Footnote i: l. xi. c. 6, 13; l. xii. c. 3.]

The kingdoms of Leon and Castille were unwisely divided anew by Alfonso
VII. between his sons Sancho and Ferdinand, and this produced not only a
separation but a revival of the ancient jealousy with frequent wars for near a
century. At length, in 1238, Ferdinand III., king of Castile, reunited
forever the two branches of the Gothic monarchy. He employed their joint
strength against the Moors, whose dominion, though it still embraced the
finest provinces of the peninsula, was sinking by internal weakness, and had
never recovered a tremendous defeat at Banos di Toloso, a few miles from
Baylen, in 1210. ^j Ferdinand, bursting into Andalusia, took its great
capital, the city of Cordova, not less ennobled by the cultivation of Arabian
science, and by the names of Avicenna and Averroes, than by the splendid works
of a rich and munificent dynasty. ^k [A.D. 1236.] In a few years more Seville
was added to his conquests, and the Moors lost their favorite regions on the
banks of the Guadalquivir. James I. of Aragon, the victories of whose long
reign gave him the surname of Conqueror, reduced the city and kingdom of
Valencia, the Balearic isles, and the kingdom of Murcia; but the last was
annexed, according to compact, to the crown of Castile.

[Footnote j: A letter of Alfonso IX., who gained this victory, to Pope
Innocent III., puts the loss of the Moors at 180,000 men. The Arabian
historians, though without specifying numbers, seem to confirm this immense
slaughter, which nevertheless it is difficult to conceive before the invention
of gunpowder, or indeed since. Cardonne, t. ii. p. 327.]

[Footnote k: If we could rely on a Moorish author quoted by Cardonne (t. i. p.
337), the city of Cordova contained, I know not exactly in what century,
200,000 houses, 600 mosques, and 900 public baths. There were 12,000 towns
and villages on the banks of the Guadalquivir. This, however, must be greatly
exaggerated, as numerical statements generally are. The mines of gold and
silver were very productive. And the revenues of the khalifs of Cordova are
said to have amounted to 130,000,000 of French money; besides large
contributions that, 'according to the practice of oriental governments, were
paid in the fruits of the earth. Other proofs of the extraordinary opulence
and splendor of this monarchy are dispersed in Cardonne's work, from which
they have been chiefly borrowed by later writers. The splendid engravings in
Murphy's Moorish Antiquities of Spain illustrate this subject.]

It could hardly have been expected about the middle of the thirteenth
century, when the splendid conquests of Ferdinand and James had planted the
Christian banner on the three principal Moorish cities, that two hundred and
fifty years were yet to elapse before the rescue of Spain from their yoke
should be completed. Ambition, religious zeal, national enmity, could not be
supposed to pause in a career which now seemed to be obstructed by such
moderate difficulties; yet we find, on the contrary, the exertions of the
Spaniards begin from this time to relax, and their acquisitions of territory
to become more slow. One of the causes, undoubtedly, that produced this
unexpected protraction of the contest was the superior means of resistance
which the Moors found in retreating. Their population, spread originally over
the whole of Spain, was now condensed, and, if I may so say, become no further
compressible, in a single province. It had been mingled, in the northern and
central parts, with the Mozarabic Christians, their subjects and tributaries,
not perhaps treated with much injustice, yet naturally and irremediably their
enemies. Toledo and Saragossa, when they fell under a Christian sovereign,
were full of these inferior Christians, whose long intercourse with their
masters has infused the tones and dialect of Arabia into the language of
Castile. ^l But in the twelfth century the Moors, exasperated by defeat and
jealous of secret disaffection, began to persecute their Christian subjects,
till they renounced or fled for their religion; so that in the southern
provinces scarcely any professors of Christianity were left at the time of
Ferdinand's invasion. An equally severe policy was adopted on the other side.
The Moors had been permitted to dwell in Saragossa as the Christians had dwelt
before, subjects, not slaves; but on the capture of Seville they were entirely
expelled, and new settlers invited from every part of Spain. The strong
fortified towns of Andalusia, such as Gibraltar, Algeciras, Tariffa,
maintained also a more formidable resistance than had been experienced in
Castile; they cost tedious sieges, were sometimes recovered by the enemy, and
were always liable to his attacks. But the great protection of the Spanish
Mohammedans was found in the alliance and ready aid of their kindred beyond
the Straits. Accustomed to hear of the African Moors only as pirates, we
cannot easily conceive the powerful dynasties, the warlike chiefs, the vast
armies, which for seven or eight centuries illustrate the annals of that
people. Their assistance was already afforded to the true believers in Spain,
though their ambition was generally dreaded by those who stood in need of
their valor. ^m

[Footnote l: Mariana l. xi. c. I; Gibbon, c. 51.]

[Footnote m: Cardonne, t. ii. and iii. passim.]

Probably, however, the kings of Granada were most indebted to the
indolence which gradually became characteristic of their enemies. By the
cession of Murcia to Castile, the kingdom of Aragon shut itself out from the
possibility of extending those conquests which had ennobled her earlier
sovereigns; and their successors, not less ambitious and enterprising,
diverted their attention towards objects beyond the peninsula. The Castilian,
patient and undesponding in bad success, loses his energy as the pressure
becomes less heavy, and puts no ordinary evil in comparison with the exertions
by which it must be removed. The greater part of his country freed by his
arms, he was content to leave the enemy in a single province rather than
undergo the labor of making his triumph complete.

If a similar spirit of insubordination had not been found compatible in
earlier ages with the aggrandizement of the Castilian monarchy, we might
ascribe its want of splendid successes against the Moors to the continued
rebellions which disturbed that government for more than a century after the
death of Ferdinand III. [A.D. 1252.] His son, Alfonso X., might justly
acquire the surname of Wise for his general proficiency in learning, and
especially in astronomical science, if these attainments deserve praise in a
king who was incapable of preserving his subjects in their duty. As a
legislator, Alfonso, by his code of the Siete Partidas, sacrificed the
ecclesiastical rights of his crown to the usurpation of Rome; ^n and his
philosophy sunk below the level of ordinary prudence when he permitted the
phantom of an imperial crown in Germany to seduce his hopes for almost twenty
years. For the sake of such an illusion he would even have withdrawn himself
from Castile, if the states had not remonstrated against an expedition that
would probably have cost him the kingdom. In the latter years of his
turbulent reign Alfonso had to contend against his son. The right of
representation was hitherto unknown in Castile, which had borrowed little from
the customs of feudal nations. By the received law of succession the nearer
was always preferred to the more remote, the son to the grandson. Alfonso X.
had established the different maxim of representation by his code of the Siete
Partidas, the authority of which, however, was not universally acknowledged.
The question soon came to an issue: on the death of his elder son Ferdinand,
leaving two male children, Sancho their uncle asserted his claim, founded upon
the ancient Castilian right of succession; and this, chiefly no doubt through
fear of arms, though it did not want plausible arguments, was ratified by an
assembly of the cortes, and secured, notwithstanding the king's reluctance, by
the courage of Sancho. But the descendants of Ferdinand, generally called the
infants of la Cerda, by the protection of France, to whose royal family they
were closely allied, and of Aragon, always prompt to interfere in the disputes
of a rival people, continued to assert their pretensions for more than half a
century, and, though they were not very successful, did not fail to aggravate
the troubles of their country.

[Footnote n: Marina, Ensayo Historico-Critico, p. 272, etc.]

The annals of Sancho IV. [A.D. 1284] and his two immediate successors,
Ferdinand IV. [A.D. 1295] and Alfonso XI. [A.D. 1312], present a series of
unhappy and dishonorable civil dissensions with too much rapidity to be
remembered or even understood. Although the Castilian nobility had no
pretence to the original independence of the French peers, or to the liberties
of feudal tenure, they assumed the same privilege of rebelling upon any
provocation from their sovereign. When such occurred, they seem to have been
permitted, by legal custom, to renounce their allegiance by a solemn
instrument, which exempted them from the penalties of treason. ^o A very few
families composed an oligarchy, the worst and most ruinous condition of
political society, alternately the favorites and ministers of the prince, or
in arms against him. If unable to protect themselves in their walled towns,
and by the aid of their faction, these Christian patriots retired to Aragon or
Granada, and excited an hostile power against their country, and perhaps their
religion. Nothing is more common in the Castilian history than instances of
such defection. Mariana remarks coolly of the family of Castro, that they
were much in the habit of revolting to the Moors. ^p This house and that of
Lara were at one time the great rivals for power; but from the time of Alfonso
X. the former seems to have declined, and the sole family that came in
competition with the Laras during the tempestuous period that followed was
that of Haro, which possessed the lordship of Biscay by an hereditary title.
The evils of a weak government were aggravated by the unfortunate
circumstances in which Ferdinand IV. and Alfonso XI. ascended the throne; both
minors, with a disputed regency, and the interval too short to give ambitious
spirits leisure to subside. There is indeed some apology for the conduct of
the Laras and Haros in the character of their sovereigns, who had but one
favorite method of avenging a dissembled injury, or anticipating a suspected
treason. Sancho IV. assassinates Don Lope Haro in his palace at Valladolid.
Alfonso XI. invites to court the infant Don Juan, his first-cousin, and
commits a similar violence. Such crimes may be found in the history of other
countries, but they were nowhere so usual as in Spain, which was far behind
France, England, and even Germany, in civilization.

[Footnote o: Mariana, l. xiii. c. II.]

[Footnote p: Alvarus Castrius patria aliquanto antea, uti moris erat,
renunciata. - Castria gens per haec tempora ad Mauros saepe defecisse visa
est. l. xii. c. 12. See also chapters 17 and 19.]

But whatever violence and arbitrary spirit might be imputed to Sancho and
Alfonso was forgotten in the unexampled tyranny of Peter the Cruel. [A.D.
1350.] A suspicion is frequently intimated by Mariana, which seems, in more
modern times, to have gained some credit, that party malevolence has at least
grossly exaggerated the enormities of this prince. ^q It is difficult,
however, to believe that a number of atrocious acts unconnected with each
other, and generally notorious enough in their circumstances, have been
ascribed to any innocent man. The history of his reign, chiefly derived, it
is admitted, from the pen of an inveterate enemy, Lope de Ayala, charges him
with the murder of his wife, Blanche of Bourbon, most of his brothers and
sisters, with Eleanor Gusman, their mother, many Castilian nobles, and
multitudes of the commonalty; besides continual outrages of licentiousness,
and especially a pretended marriage with a noble lady of the Castrian family.
At length a rebellion was headed by his illegitimate brother, Henry Count of
Trastamare, with the assistance of Aragon and Portugal. This, however, would
probably have failed of dethroning Peter, a resolute prince, and certainly not
destitute of many faithful supporters, if Henry had not invoked the more
powerful succor of Bertrand du Guesclin, and the companies of adventure, who,
after the pacification between France and England, had lost the occupation of
war, and retained only that of plunder. With mercenaries so disciplined it
was in vain for Peter to contend; but, abandoning Spain for a moment, he had
recourse to a more powerful weapon from the same armory. Edward the Black
Prince, then resident at Bordeaux, was induced by the promise of Biscay to
enter Spain as the ally of Castile; and at the great battle of Navarette he
continued lord of the ascendant over those who had so often already been
foiled by his prowess. [A.D. 1367.] Du Guesclin was made prisoner; Henry fled
to Aragon, and Peter remounted the throne. But a second revolution was at
hand: the Black Prince, whom he had ungratefully offended, withdrew into
Guienne; and he lost his kingdom and life in a second short contest with his

[Footnote q: There is in general room enough scepticism as to the characters
of men who are only known to us through their enemies. History is full of
calumnies, and of calumnies that can never be effaced. But I really see no
ground for thinking charitably of Peter the Cruel. Froissart, part i. c. 230,
and Matteo Villani (in Script. Rerum Italic. t. xiv. p. 53), the latter of
whom died before the rebellion of Henry of Trastamare, speak of him much in
the same terms as the Spanish historians. And why should Ayala be doubted,
when he gives a long list of murders committed in the face of day, within the
recollection of many persons living when he wrote? There may be a question
whether Richard III. smothered his nephews in the Tower; but nobody can
dispute that Henry VIII. cut off Anna Boleyn's head.

The passage from Matteo Villani above mentioned is as follows: - Comincio
aspramente a se far ubbidire, perche temende de' suoi baroni, trovo modo di
far infamare l' uno l' altro, e prendendo cagione, gli comincio ad uccidere
con le sue mani. Il in brieve tempo ne fece morire 25 e tre suoi fratelli
fece morire, etc.]

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