Biography of Constanza de Castilla (1352-1394)

Spanish Princess, born in 1352 and died in 1394. She was the eldest daughter of King Pedro I of Castile, called the Cruel, and that was his companion during the greater part of his life: Doña María de Padilla. From this union were born four children: Constanza, Isabel and Beatriz and Alfonso.

After the death in 1361 of María de Padilla, the King solemnly declared in the Cortes assembled in Seville that had been his legitimate wife and got the Assembly to recognize him the dignity of Queen and granted legitimacy to their children. Pedro I wanted as well, in addition to the memory of María tried to make amends, solve the problem of his succession, since it lacked descendants of his legal marriage to Blanca de Borbón. However, his son Alfonso, who rested the hopes of succession to the throne, died shortly after, and Constance became the virtual heir to the Castilian Crown. But on she weighed the affront of political women be born, in addition, a Union not legitimized by the Church.

At the outbreak of the Guerra Civil Castellana in 1365, Constance and her younger sister, Isabel (Beatriz entered a convent), became precious objects of political exchange. Constance was the guarantee of the continuity of the lineage of Pedro I, who disputed the throne his half brother, Enrique de Trastámara, he as a result also of a natural union. Harassed by the trastamarista side, Pedro I signed in September 1366 Libourne, which established a military alliance with Eduardo, Prince of Wales, and Carlos de Navarra. Constance and her sister Elizabeth were handed over to the British hostage's compliance with the agreements, while his father returned to Castile to fight the Trastámara.

Constance remained since then in Bayonne, surrounded by the Group of exiles petristas with the hospitality of the anglo-aquitana Court. This was ruled by Juan de Gante, Duke of Lancaster, fourth son of King Eduardo III of England and one of the most powerful men of that country. After the death of Pedro I in the meeting of Montiel (1369) and the ascension to the throne of Castile Henry of Trastámara (Enrique II), the head of the exiled petristas in Bayona, Juan Gutiérrez, dean of Segovia, he proposed the marriage of Constance with the Duke of Lancaster, to allow this to become the new champion of the Spanish legitimist cause. Juan de Gante accepted this offer and, since then, the defence of rights of inheritance of Constance became his most precious dream, despite the growing weakness of petrista, cause every time that Enrique II rapidly consolidated his hold on the Kingdom.

The wedding took place in the aquitanian town of Mont-de-Marsan in September 1371. Constance was then almost twenty years and thirty-two of her new husband. This had married in first wedlock with Blanche of Lancaster, whose widow very soon, inheriting the title Doge, and with whom he had a son, the future Enrique IV of England. This dynastic union was, therefore, an Alliance of enormous potential for European policy, in the event that Constance and her husband were successful in defeating Enrique II. The agreement was reinforced with the marriage of Isabel, segundogenita of Pedro I, and one of the sons of Eduardo III: Edmund, Earl of Cambridge. Thus, when Constance died childless, their inheritance rights would remain in the British Royal household, through Elizabeth and her husband. In 1372, Constance and Juan de Gante proclaimed Kings of Castile, obtaining the recognition of the English Royal Council, which offered military assistance to the legitimist cause. The following year his daughter Catherine, was born in Bayonne, future Queen of Castilla.Constanza led exigua exiles loyal Court installed in Bayonne, with Juan Gutiérrez as Chancellor. Meanwhile, the Duke of Lancaster was strengthening ties with Aragon and Portugal to promote a new intervention in Castile. However, the naval deployment that Enrique II made gala, and the growing weakness of the cause petrista, forced both Constance and her husband to admit the failure of their efforts. In 1375, the Duke of Lancaster began peace talks with the Castilians, while therefore promote actions against Enrique II, taking advantage of periods of weakness of the Government. The negotiations culminated in the Treaty of Bayonne from 1388, following the military failures of Ghent in his new attempted invasion of Castile to overthrow the successor of Enrique II, Juan I. By this Treaty, Constance was forced to completely renounce their rights to the Spanish throne, as well as her husband. In return, he received compensation of 600,000 Gold, more an annual income of 40,000 francs; Constance, meanwhile, received only jurisdictional income from some villages of little importance, thanks to their rights as recognized then as a daughter of King don Pedro. In order to neutralize the lineage of Constanza, the agreement established in addition the marriage between his eldest daughter, Catherine of Lancaster, and the infante don Enrique, heir of Juan I of Castile, which was then granted the title of Prince of Asturias. In this way, the line of descent of Constance would reach the throne in the person of his grandson, King Juan II.

Relations between Constance and her husband were cold and often conflicting. The Duke of Lancaster spent long periods of time separated from his wife, which was as a mere political instrument. In reality, Juan de Gante was connected with the English lady Catalina Swinford, with whom he had sons soon marry Constance. After the death in 1394, the Duke of Lancaster was legally married to Catalina (1396) and legitimized the four children of this. Thus began the House of Beaufort.


ARMITAGE SMITH, k.: John of Gaunt, King of Castille and León, duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster. Westminster, 1940.

RUSSELL, for example: The English Intervention in Spain and Portugal in the time of Edward III and Richard II. Oxford, 1955.

SUÁREZ FERNÁNDEZ, l.: The Trastámara and the Catholic monarchs. Madrid, 1985.