Constanza of Castile

In this excellent blog post Kathryn Warner refreshes our understanding of Constanza, Duchess of Lancaster, with her usual eye for false myth.

However, one particularly interesting fact arising from the post (in that it relates to the House of York) is that Pedro I, King of Castile, (Constanza’s father) was six feet tall with light blond hair!

This will be a shock to those who mistakenly believe that all Spaniards are dark-haired. (They are not and never have been.) It is also an indication that Catherine of Aragon’s light colouring may not have come purely from her Lancastrian ancestors, but also from her Spanish ones.

Moving lightly on, we should recall, of course, that Constanza’s sister, Isabella, or Isabel, married Edmund of Langley, first Duke of York. So the House of York will have inherited these genes as well. (It seems likely that Langley himself was also blond or auburn-haired and he was almost 6ft tall himself.)

It seems strange then that it is often assumed that Edward IV inherited his (supposed) blond colouring and stature from the Nevilles. Especially as I have yet to see evidence that the Nevilles were particularly tall or particularly tall.

(Reblogged from The Yorkist Age.)


  1. Especially since we know Edward had brown hair, and there have been plenty of tall Plantagenets (Richard the Lionheart, Edward Longshanks, Edward II, Richard II, among others).

    Plus, while we don’t know how tall Richard, Duke of York was (for some reason*, many have decided that he was short, but there is no contemporary or near contemporary description of him), the oldest surviving description of Cecily Neville (by Hall) says she was short.

    * I’m guessing that the assumption comes from the fact that Richard III was said to resemble his father. But you can resemble someone without having the same height. Lots of people seem to think Richard Armitage resembles Richard III, and Armitage is 189 cm tall (6’2 1/2″).

    I always wonder where those assumptions about the looks of the York family and other historical figures of the time come from. In every novel, Edward is blond (even though it’s been known for a long time that the facts say otherwise), Richard is dark, most of his family are tall and blond, George is always tall, big and handsome even though we don’t actually know for sure what he looked like and there’s no contemporary description of him, Anne is always frail… Where did all of those things come from?


  2. Often it comes from one novelist following another. Or from one great novel establishing what I call ‘fictional truth’. The best example of the latter is perhaps Katherine by Anya Seton, which has created a ‘version’ of KS which is very hard to shift, because it lives in the minds of many, many readers.

    Some of course might say the same thing has been done for Richard. I would differ insofar that there are multiple fictional interpretations of Richard, some intensely hostile. But on physical characteristics and so on, novelists often follow suit.


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