John I of Castile

John I of Castile bigraphy, stories - King of Castille and Leon

John I of Castile : biography

24 August 1358 – 9 October 1390

John I (in Spanish: Juan I) (24 August 1358 – 9 October 1390) king of the Crown of Castile, was the son of Henry II and of his wife Juana Manuel of Castile, daughter of Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena, who was a scion of a more recent branch of the royal house of Castile. He was the last Spanish monarch to receive a formal coronation.


His first marriage, to Eleanor of Aragon on 18 June 1375, produced his only known issue, including the future Kings Henry III of Castile and Ferdinand I of Aragon. In 1379, John I formed the short lived military order of the Order of the Pigeon known for its large feasts which included eating the organization’s namesake: the pigeon.

He ransomed Leon V, the last Latin king of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, from the Mamluks and out of pity granted him the lifetime lordship of Madrid, Villa Real and Andújar in 1383.

He had engaged in hostilities with Portugal. His first quarrel with the Portuguese was settled in 1382, and later, on 14 May 1383, he married Beatrice of Portugal, daughter of King Ferdinand I of Portugal. On the death of his father-in-law (22 October 1383), John endeavoured to enforce the claims of his wife, Ferdinand’s only child, to the crown of Portugal. The 1383-1385 Crisis, a period of civil unrest and anarchy in Portugal, followed. He was resisted by supporters of his rival for the throne John I of Portugal, and was utterly defeated at the battle of Aljubarrota, on 14 August 1385.

He also had to contend with the hostility of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, who claimed the crown of Castile by right of his wife Constance, the eldest daughter of Peter of Castile. The king of Castile finally bought off the claim of his English competitor by arranging a marriage between his son Henry and Catherine, daughter of Constance and John of Gaunt, in 1387.

King John was killed at Alcalá on 9 October 1390 when he fell off his horse, while he was riding in a fantasia with some of the light horsemen known as the farfanes, who were mounted and equipped in the Arab style. His tomb is in the Chapel of the New Monarchs of the Cathedral of Toledo in Spain.

At the beginning of 1383, the political situation in Portugal was volatile. Beatrice was the only child of King Ferdinand I of Portugal, and heir to the throne, after her younger brothers’ deaths in 1380 and 1382. Her marriage was the political issue of the day, and inside the palace, factions lobbied constantly. Ferdinand arranged and canceled his daughter’s wedding several times before settling for his wife’s first choice, King John I of Castile. John had lost his wife, Infanta Eleanor of Aragon the year before, and was happy to wed the Portuguese heiress. The wedding took place on 17 May at the Cathedral of Badajoz. Beatrice was only ten years old.

King Ferdinand died soon thereafter, on 22 October 1383. According to the treaty between Castile and Portugal, the Queen Mother, Leonor Telles de Menezes, declared herself Regent in the name of her daughter and son-in-law. The assumption of the regency by the queen was badly received in many Portuguese cities; Leonor was considered a treasonous interloper who intended to usurp the Portuguese crown for Castile and end Portugal’s independence. At the request of John I of Castile, when he had knowledge of his father-in-law’s decease, Leonor ordered the acclaim of Beatrice, although John I of Castile hadn’t expressly recognized her as the Regent. This was ordered first in Lisbon, Santarém and other important places, and some days after the assassination of Count Andeiro, in all the country. The national rebellion led by the Master of the Order of Aviz, the future John I, began immediately, leading to the 1383-1385 Crisis.

Crisis of 1383–1385

King John of Castile invaded Portugal in the end of December 1383, to enforce his claim to be king by right of his wife. The consequent war was effectively ended in 1385, with the utter defeat of Castile in the Battle of Aljubarrota. In the aftermath of this battle, John of Aviz became the uncontested King of Portugal. John of Castile and Beatrice no longer had a tenable claim to the throne of Portugal, but during the lifetime of John I of Castile, they continued to call themselves king and queen of Portugal.