Henry II of Trastamara - Encyclopedia

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HENRY II. of Trastamara (1369-1379), king of Castile, founder of the dynasty known as "the new kings," was the eldest son of Alphonso XI. and of his mistress Leonora de Guzman. He was born in 1333. His father endowed him with great lordships in northern Spain, and made him count of Trastamara. After the death of Alphonso XI. in 1350, Leonora was murdered to satisfy the revenge of the king's neglected wife. Several of the numerous children she had borne to Alphonso were slain at different times by Peter the Cruel, the king's legitimate son and successor. Henry preserved his life by submissions and by keeping out of the king's way. At last, after taking part in several internal commotions, he fled to France in 1356. In 1366 he persuaded the mercenary soldiers paid off by the kings of England and France to accompany him on an expedition to upset Peter, who was driven out. The Black Prince having intervened on behalf of Peter, Henry was defeated at Najera (3rd of April 1367) and had again to flee to Aragon. When the Black Prince was told that "the Bastard" had neither been slain nor taken, he said that nothing had been done. And so it turned out; for, when the Black Prince had left Spain, Henry came back with a body of French soldiers of fortune under du Guesclin, and drove his brother into the castle of Montiel in La Mancha. Peter was tempted out by du Guesclin, and the half brothers met in the Frenchman's tent. They rushed at one another, and Peter, the stronger man, threw Henry down, and fell on him. One of Henry's pages seized the king by the leg and threw him on his back. Henry then pulled up Peter's hauberk and stabbed him mortally in the stomach, on the 23rd of March 1369. He reigned for ten years, with some success both in pacifying the kingdom and in war with Portugal. But as his title was disputed he was compelled to purchase support by vast grants to the nobles and concessions to the cities, by which he gained the title of El de las Mercedes - he of the largesse. Henry was a strong ally of the French king in his wars with the English, who supported the claims of Peter's natural daughters. He died on the 30th of May 1379.

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