Henry II of Castile

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Henry II
Enrique II de Castilla.jpg
Henry II.
King of Castile and León
Reign 1366–1367
Coronation 29 March 1366 (Las Huelgas)
Predecessor Peter
Successor Peter
King of Castile and León
Reign 1369–1379
Predecessor Peter
Successor John I
Consort Juana Manuel
among others...
John I
Eleanor, Queen of Navarre
Infanta Joanna
House House of Trastámara
Father Alfonso XI of Castile
Mother Eleanor de Guzmán
Born (1334-01-13)13 January 1334
Died 29 May 1379(1379-05-29) (aged 45)
Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Burial Cathedral of Toledo
Religion Roman Catholicism
Coins minted by Henry II.

Henry II (13 January 1334 – 29 May 1379) was the first King of Castile and León from the House of Trastámara. He became king in 1369 by defeating his half-brother, King Peter, after numerous rebellions and battles. As king he was involved in the Ferdinand Wars and the Hundred Years' War.


Henry was the fourth of twelve illegitimate sons of King Alfonso XI of Castile and Eleanor de Guzmán, a great-granddaughter of Alfonso IX of León. He was born as a twin, and was the first boy born to the couple that survived to adulthood. His twin brother was Fadrique Alfonso, Lord of Haro.

At birth, he was adopted by Rodrigo Álvarez de las Asturias. Rodrigo died the following year and Henry inherited his lordship of Noreña. His father later made him Count of Trastámara and lord over Lemos and Sarria in Galicia, and the towns of Cabrera and Ribera, which constituted a large and important heritage in the northeast of the peninsula. It made him the head of the new Trastámara dynasty, arising from the main branch of Burgundy-Ivrea.

While Alfonso XI lived, his lover Eleanor gave a great many titles and privileges to their sons. This caused discontent among many of the noblemen and in particular the queen, Maria of Portugal, and her children, Peter, known as Peter the Cruel and the Just.

They had a chance for revenge when Alfonso XI died unexpectedly from a fever in the siege of Gibraltar in March, 1350. They pushed Eleanor, her sons and their supporters aside, and Henry and his brothers fled and scattered. They were fearful of what their brother, the new king, could do to them. The late king had not even been buried.

Although Eleanor and her sons reached an agreement with Peter to live peacefully in his court, the situation remained unstable. Henry and his brothers Fadrique, Tello and Sancho staged numerous rebellions against the new king. Also, to strengthen his position and gain allies, Henry married Juana Manuel, the daughter of Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena, adelantado mayor of Murcia and Lord of Villena, the most prosperous nobleman of the realm. In 1351, the King took counsel from Juan Alfonso de Alburquerque, María of Portugal's right-hand man. He became convinced that his father's lover was the instigator of the uprisings, so he ordered Eleanor to be incarcerated and finally executed in Talavera de la Reina.

After that, Henry fled to Portugal. He was pardoned by Peter and returned to Castile, then revolted in Asturias in 1352. He reconciled with his brother, only to rebel against him again in a long, intermittent war, which ended with Henry's flight to France, where he entered the service of John II of France.

Shortly after, Henry and his men spent time in Peter IV of Aragon's army in their war against Castile (1358). During that conflict, he was defeated and held prisoner in Nájera (1360). He was liberated (with the help of Juan Ramírez de Arellano, among others) and exiled himself to France once more.

Then Peter IV of Aragon attacked Castile again. Henry agreed to help him on condition that he would lend his support to destroying his brother, Peter of Castile. This became the Castilian Civil War. The attack combined Henry's Castillian allies, the Aragonese and the French (a company of Bertrand du Guesclin's mercenaries, expelled by Peter, who had taken refuge in Guyenne). Henry was proclaimed king in Calahorra (1366). In return, he had to reward his allies with titles and riches for the help they had provided. This earned him the nickname el de las Mercedes.[clarification needed]

During this time, Peter I organised a Castilian invasion of the English domains to the north of the Pyrenees. Edward, Prince of Wales (also known as the Black Prince) fought back with a huge army of knights and archers.

Peter I then defeated Henry in the Battle of Nájera, but Henry escaped.[1] Henry returned to France under the protection of Charles V of France. They reorganised their army at Peyrepertuse Castle. Then, with the help of many Castilian rebels and Bertrand du Guesclin's Frenchmen, they defeated Peter at the Battle of Montiel on 14 March 1369. Henry killed "the Cruel King," now a prisoner, with his own hand. This definitively won him the Castilian throne and the name of Henry II.

Before being consolidated in his throne and being able to hand on power to his son John, Henry had to defeat Ferdinand I of Portugal. He embarked on the three Ferdinand Wars. Ferdinand's main ally in these wars was John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, the husband of Constance of Castile, Duchess of Lancaster, who was Peter I's daughter. Henry was allied with Charles V of France. He put the Castilian navy at Charles' disposal and they played a key part in the siege of La Rochelle, and the Battle of La Rochelle where the admiral Ambrosio Boccanegra completely defeated the English side.

Henry recompensed his allies, but he still had to defend his interests in the kingdom of Castile and León. Consequently, he denied the King of Aragon the territories that he had promised him in the difficult times.

Henry then went to war against Portugal and England in the Hundred Years' War. For most of his reign he had to fight off the attempts of John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III of England, to claim the Castilian throne in right of his second wife, Peter's daughter, Infanta Constance of Castile. In his domestic policy he started to rebuild the kingdom; protected the Jews even though he had fought against them in the civil war;[2] sped up the transformation of the royal administration; and held numerous courts. He also permanently set up the Lordship of Biscay after the death of his brother Tello. In foreign policy, he favoured France over England.

Henry was potentially the first ruler since the Visigothic King Ergica to implement anti-Jewish policies in the Iberian Peninsula.

He died on 29 May 1379 in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. His son John I of Castile succeeded him on the throne.


The tomb of Henry II of Castile.

After Henry's death, his body was transported to Burgos, then to Valladolid, then finally to Toledo where he was buried in Capilla de los Reyes Nuevos de Toledo[3] His remains are still there today. His grave is in the choir stalls at one side of the church and it is in the Plateresque style. The box is adorned with the shields of Castille and León, and the lower interior part has three panels decorated with trophies. There are two cherubs over the panels, holding the cartouche on which the king's epitaph is displayed. The inscription translates to:[4]

Here lies the most adventurous and noble knight and king, the sweetly remembered Don Henry, son of the late noble king Don Alfonso, who came from Benmarin and ended his life in Santo Domingo de la Calçado, he just died gloriously on the XXX day of May, in the year of our saviour Jesus Christ MCCCLXXIX.

There is a recumbent statue of Henry II on top of the tomb. It is made from polychromed alabaster. It depicts the king wearing his royal robes, with his sword in his left hand and his girdle decorated with the lions of Castile. His right hand holds the sceptre, the upper end of which rests on three pillows that support the monarch's head. The king wears slippers and his feet rest on a recumbent lion.

The king's entrails are buried in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

Partners and children[edit]

Statue of Henry II at the Royal Palace of Madrid.

On 27 July 1350, Henry married Juana Manuel, the daughter of Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena, head of a younger branch of the royal house of Castile. They had three children:

He had several children outside wedlock, some of which he mentioned in his will dated 29 May 1374:[5]

  • Alfonso Enríquez de Castilla (1355-1398), a son of Elvira Íñiguez,[note 1] Count of Noreña and Gijón
  • Juana de Castilla (1367–¿?), daughter of Elvira Íñiguez. Her father mentioned her in his will, and said that if she did not marry Pedro de Aragón then she would inherit Urueña. Pedro was the Marquis of Villena (1362—Aljubarrota, 1385) and son of Alfonso de Aragón y Foix.[note 2]
  • Fernando Enríquez de Castilla (1365-1438). His father describes him as the son of Beatriz Fernández.
  • Beatriz de Castilla (?-1409), daughter of Beatriz Ponce de León y Jérica and Lady of Niebla. She married Juan Alonso de Guzmán in 1370 or 1371. He was Lord of Sanlúcar de Barrameda and the first Count of Niebla. Later he became a monk in the San Clement Monastery in Seville, where he was buried.[note 3]
  • Isabel Enríquez de Castilla (?-c.1419), daughter of Juana de Cárcamo. She married Gonzalo Núñez de Guzmán, however, this marriage was dissolved by Pope Clemente VII. Later she entered the monastery of Santa Clara la Real de Toledo where she became its abbess and was buried.
  • Inés Enríquez de Castilla (?-c.1443), daughter of Juana de Cárcamo, also an abbess of the monastery at Santa Clara la Real de Toledo where she was buried.[note 5]


By the end of his reign, he bore the titles of the King of Castile, Toledo, León, Galicia, Sevilla, Córdoba, Murcia, Jaén, the Algarve and Lord of Molina.



  1. ^ Although she is called Inés Díaz de la Vega in some genealogies, King Henry II mentions her several times in his will as Elvira Íñiguez. This could be an error transmitted from one genealogy to another or perhaps it refers to another mistress and mother of one or more of his illegitimate issue.
  2. ^ Her marriage was celebrated in 1378 by Enrique de Villena among others, master of the Orden de Calatrava, Count of Cangas and Tineo, and husband of María de Albornoz, Lady of the Infantado.
  3. ^ She is not mentioned in her father's will.
  4. ^ He is not mentioned in his father's 1374 will.
  5. ^ Both sisters feature in the monastery's documents, receiving various favours from their uncle the king Henry III of Castile.


  1. ^ Sumption, Jonathan (1999). The Hundred Years War Volume II: Trial by Fire. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. p. 554. ISBN 9780812235272. 
  2. ^ Abraham Zacuto (1452 – circa 1515), in his book Sefer Yuchasin, Cracow 1580 (q.v. Sefer Yuchasin, p. 265 in PDF) makes mention that in the year 5130 anno mundi (corresponding with 1369/70 of our Common Era) there was a time of great disturbance all throughout the Jewish communities of Castille and Ṭulayṭulah (Toledo) and that 38,000 Jews were killed in the ensuing wars between the two brothers, King Henry (Don Enrico) and King Peter (Don Pedro).
  3. ^ Elorza 1990, pp. 63–64
  4. ^ Elorza 1990, p. 64
  5. ^ See Crónicas de los reyes de Castilla D. Pedro I, D. Enrique II, D. Juan I, D. Enrique III, Tomo II, pp. 106-121 de Pedro López de Ayala [1]
  6. ^ Del Arco y Garay 1954, p. 310


  • Arco y Garay, Ricardo del (1954). Instituto Jerónimo Zurita. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas., ed. Sepulcros de la Casa Real de Castilla [Tombs of the Castilian Royal Family] (in Spanish) (1ª ed.). Madrid. OCLC 11366237. 
  • Elorza, Juan C.; Lourdes Vaquero; Belén Castillo; Marta Negro (1990). Junta de Castilla y León. Consejería de Cultura y Bienestar Social, ed. El Panteón Real de las Huelgas de Burgos. Los enterramientos de los reyes de León y de Castilla [The Royal Pantheon of the Huelgas de Burgos. The graves of the monarchs of León and Castile] (in Spanish) (2ª ed.). ISBN 84-241-9999-5. 
  • López de Ayala, Pedro (1994–1997). Buenos Aires, ed. Crónica del rey don Pedro y del rey don Enrique, su hermano, hijos del rey don Alfonso Onceno [A chronicle of the kings Peter and Henry, his brother, sons of the king Alfonso Onceno] (in Spanish). OCLC 489686613.  (critical edition and notes by Germán Orduna; a preliminary study by Germán Orduna and José Luis Moure)
  • Valdeón Baruque, Julio (1996). Palencia. Diputación Provincial de Palencia, ed. Enrique II. ISBN 84-8173-051-3. 
Henry II of Castile
Born: 13 January 1334 Died: 29 May 1379
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Castile and León
Succeeded by
King of Castile and León
Succeeded by
John I