The House of Trastámara was a dynasty
A dynasty is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Historians traditionally consider many sovereign states' history within a framework of successive dynasties, e.g., China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire...

 of kings in the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

, which first governed in Castile
Crown of Castile
The Crown of Castile was a medieval and modern state in the Iberian Peninsula that formed in 1230 as a result of the third and definitive union of the crowns and parliaments of the kingdoms of Castile and León upon the accession of the then King Ferdinand III of Castile to the vacant Leonese throne...

 beginning in 1369 before expanding its rule into Aragón
Aragon is a modern autonomous community in Spain, coextensive with the medieval Kingdom of Aragon. Located in northeastern Spain, the Aragonese autonomous community comprises three provinces : Huesca, Zaragoza, and Teruel. Its capital is Zaragoza...

, Navarre
Kingdom of Navarre
The Kingdom of Navarre , originally the Kingdom of Pamplona, was a European kingdom which occupied lands on either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean....

 and Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

They were a cadet illegitimate line of the House of Burgundy
The Anscarids or Anscarii or the House of Ivrea were a medieval Frankish dynasty of Burgundian origin which rose to prominence in Italy in the tenth century, even briefly holding the Italian throne. They also ruled the County of Burgundy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and it was one of their...


The line of Trastámaran royalty in Castile ruled throughout a time period of military struggle with Aragon. Their family was sustained with large amounts of inbreeding, which led to a series of disputed struggles over rightful claims to the Castilian throne. This lineage ultimately ruled in Castile from the rise to power of Henry II in 1369 through the unification of the crowns under Ferdinand and Isabella
Catholic Monarchs
The Catholic Monarchs is the collective title used in history for Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. They were both from the House of Trastámara and were second cousins, being both descended from John I of Castile; they were given a papal dispensation to deal with...


Peter I and the Rise of Trastámara

Upon the death of the Castilian King Alfonso XI
Alfonso XI of Castile
Alfonso XI was the king of Castile, León and Galicia.He was the son of Ferdinand IV of Castile and his wife Constance of Portugal. Upon his father's death in 1312, several disputes ensued over who would hold regency, which were resolved in 1313...

 in 1350, his eldest son, Peter, took control of the Castilian throne as Peter I of Castile. Peter was born to Alfonso and his wife, Maria of Portugal, but Alfonso lived out a long and public affair with Eleanor of Guzman
Eleanor of Guzman
Eleanor of Guzman or Leonor Núñez de Guzmán was a Castilian noblewoman and long-term mistress to Alfonso XI of Castile. She was the mother of King Henry II of Castile.- Life :...

. Alfonso’s illegitimate children that Eleanor had given birth to, known collectively as the Trastámaras, immediately became rivals of the newly crowned Peter. Because of a personal history including political murders, his enemies quickly tagged Peter with his nickname Peter the Cruel. Also increasing the hostilities between Peter and his half brothers was the act of Peter’s mother taking the opportunity of his power to have Eleanor of Guzman arrested and executed.

Peter first resisted an attempt at his crown by defeating a coalition led by Henry of Trastámara (for whom Peter’s half siblings derived their surname) in 1356. Peter again defeated his rivals at Nájera
Nájera is a small town located in the "Rioja Alta" region of La Rioja, Spain on the river Najerilla. Nájera is a stopping point on the Way of St James.-History:...

 in 1360 and had his half brothers Juan and Pedro executed. Having been protected by Aragon, Henry was forced to flee to France when the Castilian crown signed a peace treaty with Aragon in 1360.

Gaining support throughout Castile
Kingdom of Castile
Kingdom of Castile was one of the medieval kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. It emerged as a political autonomous entity in the 9th century. It was called County of Castile and was held in vassalage from the Kingdom of León. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region...

 because of his relation to Alfonso XI
Alfonso XI of Castile
Alfonso XI was the king of Castile, León and Galicia.He was the son of Ferdinand IV of Castile and his wife Constance of Portugal. Upon his father's death in 1312, several disputes ensued over who would hold regency, which were resolved in 1313...

 and Peter’s continuous military escapades, Henry built an alliance with Aragon
Kingdom of Aragon
The Kingdom of Aragon was a medieval and early modern kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula, corresponding to the modern-day autonomous community of Aragon, in Spain...

 and France, including mercenaries led by French constable
A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions.-Etymology:...

 Bertram Du Guesclin for another attempt at the Castilian crown in 1365. Peter gained the support of Edward, the Black Prince
Edward, the Black Prince
Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine, KG was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and his wife Philippa of Hainault as well as father to King Richard II of England....

, heir to the English throne and son of Edward III of England
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, to help defend his crown with the promise of territorial gains. On 13 April 1367, Peter and Edward's forces strongly defeated the armies of Francs, Aragonese, and Castilians led by Henry and captured Bertram Du Guesclin. As Edward fell ill and Peter failed to fulfill his land promises to England, the English withdrew their battlefield support of the Castilian Crown. In March of 1369, with the continued support of France and Aragon, and growing support in important cities in parts of Castile, Henry’s forces again invaded the Castilian Crown’s realm and defeated Peter’s army. Henry of Trastámara, himself, was responsible for the death of his brother, Peter I of Castile.

Reign of Henry II

Following his killing of his half brother, Peter I, Henry of Trastámara took control of the crown of Castile as Henry II. Under Henry, a new nobility rose in prominence to gain land grants of large estates and vast royal privileges. The public rise of this new class of nobles caused discontent and instability in Castile. This class of nobility was driven by their desire to reclaim family holdings and was generally compelled to use any means necessary. Despite the instability, Henry’s forces were able to withstand Portuguese, Navarrese
Kingdom of Navarre
The Kingdom of Navarre , originally the Kingdom of Pamplona, was a European kingdom which occupied lands on either side of the Pyrenees alongside the Atlantic Ocean....

, and Granadian
Emirate of Granada
The Emirate of Granada , also known as the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada , was an emirate established in 1238 following the defeat of Muhammad an-Nasir of the Almohad dynasty by an alliance of Christian kingdoms at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212...

 attempts to invade and take control of Castile.

Henry made an agreement with the ruler of Aragon, Peter IV, to have their children wed. Henry’s son, John, was married to Peter IV’s daughter, Eleanor, on 18 June 1375. This marriage by Henry’s son would eventually put the Trastámaras in control of both Castile and Aragon, comprising a majority of the Iberian Peninsula. After giving birth to three children, Eleanor died in 1382, after only seven years of marriage.

The Trastámaras rule in several realms

Upon Henry II’s death in 1379, his son John came to power as John I of Castile. During his reign, John took Beatrice
Beatrice of Portugal
Beatrice was the only surviving child of King Ferdinand I of Portugal and his wife, Leonor Telles de Menezes. She married King John I of Castile. In the absence of a male heir, she claimed the throne of Portugal, supported by her husband. This led to the 1383–1385 Crisis, in which the Portuguese...

, daughter of King Ferdinand I of Portugal
Ferdinand I of Portugal
Ferdinand I , sometimes referred to as the Handsome or rarely as the Inconstant , was the ninth King of Portugal and the Algarve, the second son of Peter I and his wife, Constance of Castile...

, as his second wife. Due to this marriage, John made an unsuccessful claim to the throne of Portugal upon Ferdinand I's death in 1383, a move that possibly could have led to the unification of all of the Iberian Peninsula. John died very unexpectedly in 1390.

Upon his untimely death, John’s eldest son Henry came to the throne as Henry III, at the very young age of twelve years old. He waited only two years to independently take power of the throne in 1393 at only fourteen years of age, amidst a great deal of violence being carried out against Jews throughout Castile. Among the young king’s accomplishments was his taking of control of the Canary Islands, providing Castile with a holding in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1406, amidst an invasion by Granada's forces in Murcia, Henry died while planning a response at the age of 27.

John II, Henry III’s son, was left as the only heir upon Henry’s death in 1406, but he was only two years old. Henry’s brother, Ferdinand, served as regent to the throne, along with John’s mother, Catherine of Lancaster
Catherine of Lancaster
-Coat of arms:The following are Armorials of the House of Lancaster under her father, John of Gaunt.-References:* Anthony Goodman: "Katherine of Lancaster" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 30 , p. 890-891....


During his time as regent, Ferdinand was chosen as the ruler of Aragon, due to his maternal relation to the Aragonese throne, through the Compromise of Caspe in 1412. The Trastámaras now ruled in both the realms of Castile and Aragon.

John II and Don Álvaro

John II came to power upon his mother’s death in 1418. He was now a cousin to the King of Aragon, as Alfonso ascended to the throne upon Ferdinand I’s death. John married Maria, the sister of Alfonso V of Aragon
Alfonso V of Aragon
Alfonso the Magnanimous KG was the King of Aragon , Valencia , Majorca, Sardinia and Corsica , and Sicily and Count of Barcelona from 1416 and King of Naples from 1442 until his death...

. Alfonso, himself, had already married John’s sister, Maria, making the two rulers both cousins and brothers-in-law twice over. John II was now also a cousin and brother-in-law to Alfonso’s brothers John
John II of Aragon
John II the Faithless, also known as the Great was the King of Aragon from 1458 until 1479, and jure uxoris King of Navarre from 1425 until his death. He was the son of Ferdinand I and his wife Eleanor of Alburquerque...

 and Henry
Infante Henry, Duke of Villena
Infante Henry of Aragon , 1st Duke of Villena, 4th Count of Alburquerque, 32nd Count of Ampurias, was the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago.- Childhood :...

, known collectively as the Infantes of Aragon
Infantes of Aragon
The Infantes of Aragon is an appellation commonly used by Spanish historians to refer to a group of 15th C. infantes of the House of Trastámara, specifically the sons of King Ferdinand I of Aragon and his wife Leonor Urraca, Countess of Albuquerque:* Infante Alfonso - became Alfonso V of Aragon...

, who had been given large amounts of land in Castile while their father worked as regent during John II’s childhood.

John II lacked widespread authority, and Castile became a battlefield for nobles to gain power and political influence. In 1420, just two years after coming to power, John was kidnapped by his cousin Infante Henry. Henry ruled on John’s behalf for much of the year until John was able to escape because of the help of his friend, and eventual royal favorite, Álvaro de Luna, who was known as Don Alvaro.

In 1429, Alfonso V ordered the Infantes to lead a joint attack on Castile. Now John II’s constable, Don Alvaro agreed to a basically victorious truce, as the Aragonese branch of Trastamaras was removed from Castile. John II’s authority continued to decline following this military engagement, and he eventually ceded all power to Don Alvaro, who created an oligarchy of nobles. Don Alvaro lost this power in 1439 to nobility which was allied with Alfonso V, and in 1443, John II was once again captured by Infante John of Aragon, throwing Castile near anarchy. This confusion was settled in 1445, when a group of nobles favoring the monarchy, led by Don Alvaro, won a battle at Olmedo. Infante Henry was killed as a result of this battle.

In 1453, Don Álvaro was publicly beheaded for charges of tyranny. In July of the following year, John II died and his son Henry became King Henry IV of Castile.

Henry IV and the rise of Isabella

Henry IV of Castile
Henry IV of Castile
Henry IV , King of the Crown of Castile, nicknamed the Impotent , was the last of the weak late medieval kings of Castile...

 was an unpopular ruler, largely in part because of his taste for Moorish fashion and his disagreement with military engagement with Granada. He was married at the age of 15 in 1440 to Infante John of Aragon’s daughter, Blanche. This marriage failed, however, as a result of Henry’s failure to consummate the marriage. He was remarried in 1455 to Joan of Portugal
Joan of Portugal
Joan of Portugal was Queen consort of Castile as the second wife of King Henry IV of Castile and a Portuguese infanta, the posthumous daughter of King Edward of Portugal and his wife Eleanor of Aragon...

. Queen Joan gave birth to Princess Joan in 1462, and she was recognized by the Cortes as Henry’s legitimate successor. In 1464, charges were raised by powerful noble families that Princess Joan was the daughter of one of Henry’s favorites, Beltran de la Cueva.

These powerful noble families eventually forced Henry to hand over power to his brother Alfonso in 1465, but Alfonso suddenly died a month later. Amidst the struggle to settle the ensuing claims to the throne, Henry’s wife Joan became pregnant again while being held as a hostage of a noble family. This sign of misbehavior further weakened her daughter’s claim to the throne, and paved the way for Infanta Isabella
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

 to take power.

Pact of the Toros de Guisando and War of Succession

The Pact of the Toros de Guisando
Treaty of the Bulls of Guisando
The Treaty of the Bulls of Guisando is the name of a treaty agreed on top of the hill of Guisando near the Bulls of Guisando on September 18, 1468, between Henry IV of Castile and his half-sister Isabella of Castile...

 was signed in 1468 and named Isabella
Isabella I of Castile
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor...

 heir to Henry’s throne, as she and the nobles renewed their allegiance to Henry in return. A quick marriage for Isabella was a condition of the agreement, however Henry objected to her 1469 marriage to Ferdinand, who was the King of Sicily and the heir to the Aragonese throne, as a breach of the pact. He once again named his daughter Joan as his heir, and a civil war ensued throughout the next decade. Isabella’s military factions were eventually victorious with the help of Aragon, making her queen and uniting the crowns of Aragon and Castile.

Family tree

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