PEDRO The Cruel and María DE PADILLA

PEDRO The Cruel. (Pedro el Cruel, Pedro the Lawful, El Justiciero). King of Castile from 1350 to 1369.
Born on 30 August 1334; son of ALFONSO XI and Maria of Portugal, daughter of Alphonso IV of Portugal.

He earned for himself the reputation for monstrous cruelty that is indicated by the accepted title. In later ages, when the royal authority was thoroughly established, there was a reaction in Pedro'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). Apologists were found to say that he had only killed men who themselves would not submit to the law or respect the rights of others. There is this amount of foundation for the plea, that the chronicler Lopez de Ayala, who fought against him, has confessed that the king's fall was regretted by the merchants and traders, who enjoyed security under his rule. Pedro began to reign at the age of sixteen, and found himself subjected to the control of his mother and her favourites.

Pedro was to be married to Joan Plantagenet, the daughter of Edward III of England, but on the way to Castille, she travelled through cities infested with plague, ignoring townspeople who had warned her not to enter the town. Joan soon contracted the disease and died.

He was unfaithful to his wife, as his father had been. But Alfonso XI did not imprison his wife, or cause her to be murdered, which Pedro did. He had not even the excuse that he was passionately in love with his mistress, Maria de Padilla; for, at a time when he asserted that he was married to her, and when he was undoubtedly married to Blanche of Bourbon, he went through the form of marriage with a lady of the family of Castro, who bore him a son, and then deserted her. Maria de Padilla was the only lady of his harem of whom he never became quite tired.

At first he was controlled by his mother, but emancipated himself with the encouragement of the minister Albuquerque and became attached to Maria de Padilla. Maria turned him against Albuquerque. In 1354 the king was practically coerced by his mother and the nobles into marrying Blanche of Bourbon, but deserted her at once. A period of turmoil followed in which the king was for a time overpowered and in effect imprisoned. The dissensions of the party which was striving to coerce him enabled him to escape from Toro, where he was under observation, to Segovia.

From 1356 to 1366 he engaged in continued wars with Aragon, in which he showed neither ability nor daring. It was during this period that he perpetrated the series of murders which made him odious. In 1366 began the calamitous Castilian Civil War which would see him dethroned. He was assailed by his bastard brother Henry of Trastamara at the head of a host of soldiers of fortune, including Bertrand du Guesclin and Hugh Calveley, and abandoned the kingdom without daring to give battle, after retreating several times (first from Burgos, then from Toledo, and lastly from Seville) in the face of the oncoming armies. Peter fled, with his treasury, to Portugal where he was coldly received by his uncle, King Pedro I of Portugal, and thence to Galicia, in northern Spain, where he ordered the murder of Suero, the archbishop of Santiago, and the dean, Peralvarez.

Henry continuously depicted Pedro as "King of the Jews," and had some success in taking advantage of Castilian anti-Semitism. He instigated pogroms, beginning a period of anti-Jewish riots and forced conversions in Spain that lasted approximately from 1370 to 1390. Peter took forceful measures against this, including the execution of at least five leaders of a riot by boiling and roasting.

In the summer of 1366 Peter took refuge with Edward the Black Prince, by whom he was restored to his throne in the following year after the Battle of Najera. But he disgusted his ally by his faithlessness and ferocity, 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 Spain. When left to his own resources, Peter was soon overthrown by his brother Henry, with the aid of Bertrand du Guesclin and a body of French and English free companions. After Pedro's decisive loss at the Battle of Montiel, he was murdered by Henry in du Guesclin's tent on March 23, 1369.

Pedro's daughters by Maria de Padilla, Constance and Isabella, were each married to sons of Edward III, king of England, Constance to John of Gaunt and Isabella to Edmund of Langley.

The great original but hostile authority for the life of Pedro the Cruel is the Chronicle of the Chancellor Pedro Lopez de Ayala (Madrid 1779-1780). To put it in perspective there are a brilliantly written Life by Prosper Merimée, Histoire de Don Pedro I, roi de Castille (Paris, 1848), and a modern history setting Peter in the social and economic context of his time by Clara Estow (Pedro the Cruel of Castile (1350-1369), 1995); Liceus El Portal de las Humanidades [1] has published in Internet: "El Rey Don Pedro el Cruel" and "King Peter the Cruel" Peter the Cruel.pdf a Tragedy in Spanish and English versions, by Santiago Sevilla.

Strictly speaking, Pedro was not defeated by Henry but by the opposing aristocracy; the nobles accomplished their objective of enthroning a weaker dynasty (the House of Trastámara), much more amenable to their interests. Most of the bad stories about Pedro are likely to be colored by Black Legend, coined by his enemies, who finally succeeded in their rebellion. The Chancellor Lopez de Ayala, the main source for Pedro's reign, was the official chronicler of the Trastámara, a servant of the new rulers and of Pedro'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 between the Castilian monarchy and aristocracy lasted more than three centuries and only came to an end under Charles I of Spain, the grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragon (Ferdinand V of Castile) and Isabella of Castile (The Catholic Kings), in the first quarter of the 16th century.

María de PADILLA
Born about 1335 in Padilla, Spain. She died Jul 1361 in Seville.

  1. ISABELLA of Castile. born 1355 She married EDMUND of Langley, son of Edward III, King of England. She died 23 Nov 1393.
  2. Constance OF CASTILE. Born in 1354 in Castro Kerez, Castile. Constance married John OF GAUNT, Duke of Lancaster on Jun 1371 in Roquefort, Aquitaine. She died 24 Mar 1394 in Leicester, Leicester, England and was buried after 24 Mar 1394 in Newark, Leicester, England.