Essays, novels or biographies about the Trastámara dynasty and its monarchs are profuse, deep and well documented. The success of César Cervera Moreno (Ávila, 34 years old) in The Catholic Monarchs and their follies (La Esfera de los Libros) is about turning the future of this crucial Castilian-Aragonese royal lineage into a kind of family story in which there is no shortage of greedy relatives, crazed grandparents, capricious children, adorable grandchildren or marriages broken by adultery. That is to say, the author does not overwhelm the reader with innumerable data, but rather undertakes the narration in a linear, simple way, which ends suddenly with the advent of Carlos I and his disproportionate jaw, which the writer attributes to Trastámara genetics. and not to the Habsburg, as usual. All of this interspersed with small humor pills that transform the essay into a pleasant narrative to read despite the bloody and ruthless human acts that it describes.

The family tree that the essay includes in its first pages is essential to follow the exciting plot. The vast majority of the members of this saga – which begins with Enrique II (1369-1379) and who ruled the peninsular kingdoms of Castile, Aragon and Navarra – were baptized with the repetitive names of Enrique, Juan, Juana, Alfonso and Fernando, Therefore, taking a look at the family map of marriages and births is necessary when homonymous kings and queens head different domains simultaneously.

The beginning of the dynasty could not be more terrifying. Enrique II assassinates his brother Pedro I thanks to a betrayal and remains with the kingdom of Castile. “The fighters roll on the ground with drawn daggers until the King of Castile (Pedro I) is on top, about to win, but then Bertrand du Guesclin sides with the one who fills his pockets with coins (Henry II). The king (Pedro I) falls to the ground after being tripped by the Frenchman, while Enrique insistently stabs him. “I do not remove or put a king, but I help my lord”, the unfaithful Gaul justified himself.

Cover of the book 'Los Reyes Católicos y sus locuras', by César Cervera.
Cover of the book ‘Los Reyes Católicos y sus locuras’, by César Cervera.

“However, after his defeat and death, Pedro I fell into the mists of history, where the villains and losers are, while Enrique rises as the enlightened founder of a royal dynasty called to do great things on the planet.” All the following reigns, up to a fortnight, thus become a succession of national and international battles ―in 1380 his army sacked the towns on the banks of the Thames and was left a few kilometers from London―, unexpected deaths, escapes, unlimited ambitions, accidents , murders, betrayals and extramarital children. The peak of this exciting story comes with Henry IV of Castile (1425-1474), “a generous king, with a good heart, simple, modest and conciliatory”, but with a serious reproductive problem. Whether or not these dysfunctions that animated the maledicent groups of the Court are true, on February 28, 1462 little Juana was born, initially his daughter and his wife Juana de Portugal. After her birth, the latter ended up hanging from the wall of the castle of Alaejos (Valladolid) in a basket and fleeing with her lover, at that time the nephew of the jailer of the fortress.

The German traveler Hieronymus Münzer maintained that, despite this, little Juana was the result of a precarious fertilization in vitro, the first of which there is evidence in history. If the baby was the daughter of Enrique or the mayordomo of the palace, Beltrán de la Cueva, over the years she became a state problem that ended up leading to a war between the Beltraneja and her aunt Isabel, who would be known as Catholic, and for which, until then, “the world had no great plans, except that it would reach marriageable age and be used as a bargaining chip for some marriage alliance.” She had other heirs ahead of her, both male and female, but they died at an early age.

The forbidden marriage between Isabel and Fernando is worthy of a novel, with a 17-year-old king who crosses Aragon and Castile “disguised as a mule boy and who has to take care of the most thankless tasks, such as taking care of the mounts or serving dinner to the rest, in case someone is watching from the shadows. Although it is difficult to distinguish it with the naked eye, it is the king of Sicily and Aragonese heir who moves through the mountains like a common bandit ”to meet his fiancée in Burgo de Osma. “Three hundred lances related to the princess of Asturias Isabel await her there” in her first meeting “shuttle to history …”

He, player, poorly educated, womanizer, with a thick background among men-at-arms, but at the same time icy, reserved and calculating; she, cultured and religious, a couple, who as soon as they met caused sparks of love to fly. Cervera says that the Catholic Monarchs “were not naive and were two predators in a world where the big fish not only eat the small one, but also later promote rumors about how rotten the fish that usurped the throne was. Not without reason, the chronicler Alonso de Palencia would once define Isabel as a teacher of deceit. As the ardent fiancés were cousins, they had no qualms about forging a papal bull to prevent someone from declaring the wedding void. “In case someone asked the late Pope if the letter and the text were his, it was guaranteed that he would keep an obligatory silence, as is the immemorial custom among the deceased.”

This couple, who lacked a fixed court in their kingdoms, is considered the most traveled of their time, “the most accessible to their subjects, and that was one of the secrets of their success, since they were everywhere and nowhere at the same time.” too much time”. More than a quarter of the kingdom’s annual budget was spent on transporting and feeding this floating government, made up of hundreds of people. “Fernando and Isabel unified their diplomacy and their military forces, gaining power and troops for the Crown, but each territory kept its institutions and its laws for itself. It was about uniting through variety. The germ of modern Spain was served on the table, although it was just that, a seed, as capable of growing upwards as it was of dying underground”.

Then came the conquests of Italy, of Granada, of America, the Inquisition and the expulsion of the Jews, the most important milestones of his reign, as well as an heir daughter, Juana, but without trial and dominated by a psychopath like Felipe I, the beautiful. It is impossible to summarize the history of the Spanish Late Middle Ages in 396 pages, but not to entertain the reader paragraph by paragraph with battles, conspiracies, discoveries, atrocities or glorious feats that make you reflect on the future of a family that undoubtedly changed the world. world thanks to a trip.

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By Nail

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