Another king slain by a treacherous Henry….


Pedro I of Castile

“….During his life and in the years following his death, Pedro [I of Castile, 1350 to 1369] became a central figure in a wide range of historical narratives composed in Castilian, French, English, Catalan, Latin, and Arabic. These accounts present contrasting depictions of Pedro; however, as it is well known, the lasting image of the Castilian king would eventually be shaped by a chronicle written for his [illegitimate] half-brother, bitter enemy and murderer, Enrique de Trastámara.

“….Before his death in 1379, Enrique, better known to history as Enrique II of Castile (r. 1366-1367, 1369-1379), asked Pero López de Ayala to write the history of his reign as well as that of his predecessor. In this account, the Crónica del rey don Pedro y del rey don Enrique, su hermano, hijos de Alfonso Onceno (henceforth, CPE), Ayala constructed an argument that supported Enrique’s right to rule while de-legitimizing Pedro’s claim to the crown. In his attempt to justify Enrique’s rebellion, Ayala crafted an image of Pedro as a cruel and immoral tyrant who was defined by his sinful behaviour. Future writers, building upon this image, gave Pedro the epithet that would come to define him: Pedro el Cruel.1

1 According to Luis Vicente Díaz Martín, the epithet of “el Cruel” was coined in the fifteenth century by Lucio Marineo Sículo (14). Pedro’s supporters had preferred the term “el Justiciero”, but “el Cruel” has remained far more popular in subsequent accounts….”

Pedro was murdered in person by Henrique, in a most savage fashion, aided by Bertrand du Guesclin, the “Stanley” of the situation. The following is from here and is the generally accepted view of Pedro’s bloody demise:-

After the battle [of Monteil—]—Pedro fled to the castle at Montiel, from whence he made contact with du Guesclin, whose army was camped outside. Pedro bribed du Guesclin to obtain escape. Du Guesclin agreed, but also snitched to Henry who promised him more money and land if he would only lead Pedro to Henry’s tent. Once there, after heated accusations of bastardy, the two half-brothers started a fight to the death, using daggers because of the narrow space. At a moment when they fought on the floor, Pedro got the upper side and was about to finish Henry, but then Du Guesclin, who had stayed inactive, made his last-minute choice. He grabbed Pedro’s ankle and turned him belly-up, thus allowing Henry to stab Pedro to death and gain the throne of Castile. While holding Pedro down, du Guesclin is claimed to have said “Ni quito ni pongo rey, pero ayudo a mi señor” (I neither remove nor put a King, but I do help my Sire), which has since that moment become a common phrase in Spanish, to be used by anyone of lesser rank who does what he is ordered or expected to do, avoiding any concern about the justice or injustice of such action, and denying any responsibility.

The unfortunate Pedro, who was 34 at his death, was the grandfather of Richard of Conisbrough. Thus he was the great-grandfather of Richard, 3rd Duke of York, and great-great-grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III. So it is very interesting to see the same brutal lies being applied to his reputation that were later applied to his descendant, Richard III. And also to a third Richard…Richard II, who was usurped and killed by his first cousin, who became the first Lancatrian king, Henry IV.

Yes, history is indeed written by the victor. Henrique , Henry Tudor and Henry IV were all cast from the same guilty mould, and theirs are the lies that are still believed to this day. Three Henrys who stole the thrones of legitimate kings; two of said Henrys being helped at the pivotal moment by a traitorous toady. Henry IV also saw to the “necessary” death, of course, but just a little after he’d usurped his victim’s throne. The names of his treacherous toady/toadies remain unknown.

So, on assessing these facts, it’s my considered opinion that the real Pedro of Castile could only have been Pedro the Just. Anyone murdered for his throne by a louse called Henry just has to be the good guy!

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


  1. I’m not sure that I can support such /nominal/ moral logic…..but this parallel with Richard III is intriguingly close, as I’ve no doubt that he himself wished to be known as “the Just” by the manner of his reign.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I presented a paper to my local R3 chapter about the Visigoths, focusing on Reccared I and II. I also noted that usurpers stabbing the lawful monarch at the dinner table was a recurring theme. And before there was Bosworth, there was Guadalquivir…


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