Peter the 1st, the Cruel or the Fair?

Peter the 1st of Castile reigned in Castile and the territories conquered by his ancestors from 1334 until his death in 1369.

Before going deeper into one of the most picturesque kings of Spanish history, we must situate ourselves in situation:

In the 14th Century, Spain was still divided into different kingdoms: Castilla, Navarra, León and Aragón as Christian kingdoms. From the Muslim territories, three out of four kingdoms were conquered by Fernando the 3rd of Castile in 1248: Kingdom of Seville, Cádiz and Córdoba. The Kingdom of Granada was the last one standing.

Peter the 1st was the only legitimate son of Alfonso the 11th, his predecessor. Therefore, he was the heir to the throne of Castile and the territories that were conquered by his ancestor Ferdinand the 3rd.

 

Unlike other kings, Peter the 1st thought that anyone could do any kind of job and anyone had the same rights as others. Therefore, for him, Jews and Muslims could achieve the social position that was the result of their work and effort. This is the reason why he was called the fair. During his reign, Jews and Muslims lived freely, without having to pay more taxes or perform specific tasks because of their religion.

This did not please the church or the nobles because, from their point of view, Jews and Muslims were inferior to the Christians. And much less when Petr the 1st set out to take away the privileges of the clergy and the nobility.

The uncomfortable situation that existed between the social classes extended beyond the kingdom when Peter the 1st protected the Muslim king of Granada from the other Christian kingdoms.

I didn’t improve when, after the earthquake of 1356, most of the Blessing Palace (Muslim palace built in the 10th century in Seville, a few remains from that palace are currently part of the Royal Alcázar of Seville) is destroyed and Peter the 1st decided to build a new palace in Seville in a different style. The problem is that he will not build it in Christian style, but in Mudéjar style. Not enough with that, in addition, he asked for help to his friend, the King of Granada Mohamed V, to build it.

Full of Muslim scriptures and decoration, this decision shocked all the nobility and Christian society of the time.

If it seemed that he could not win more enemies, his ten bastard brothers, children of his father King Alfonso the 11th and his lover Leonor de Guzmán, convinced the clergy and the nobility to support Henry, the third of the bastards, in a war to overthrow the cruel king.

Henry was the third of the bastard children of Alfonso the 11th and his lover, but he was chosen to be the heir on the bastards’ side because Pedro Aguilar, the eldest of the brothers, had died at age 8 and his brother Sancho, 2 years older than Henry, was mute.

Thus, this is how the vicissitudes of the cruel or fair King began: war against the bastards, war with Aragon, Courts of Valladolid, the conflict with France after the death of Blanca de Borbón and many other open political fronts.

Not only in politics did Peter lead a complicated life, he also had a bumpy love life.

There are different chronicles, in which up to 3 wives are recognized, but the only one recognized by canon law is his wife Blanca de Borbón.

This marriage was the result of Pete r1st’s desire to maintain good relations with the French-speaking kingdom. However, his plans were frustrated when his wife arrived without a dowry and on the hands of his stepbrother Fabrique.

After some years, without having given him any son, Pedro the 1st decided to kill Blanca de Borbón for infidel. He called his stepbrother to the palace, who was then the Master of the Order of Santiago, and in the Royal Alcázar of Seville, with his own dagger, he killed Fabrique.

There is another wife of his, not recognized by the canon law, Juana de Castro. She was of the whims of the king, who was well-known being a womanizer and for his impossible loves

However, among all those women who stole his heart, the most famous and known love story of the monarch, was his relationship with Maria de Padilla.

Despite the king's passions and previous marriages, Maria de Padilla was the woman of his life. Their love was so strong that he asked the courts to recognize the marriage between them, even if it had never been celebrated, so that she would be recognized as his queen and the illegitimate children would be the heirs to the throne.

It is ironic that the only wife and queen of Peter the 1st is buried in the monastery of San Francisco of Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz), while her eternal lover is buried next to him in the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral Saint Mary of the See of Sevilla.

Unfortunately, despite his struggle, Peter the 1st was killed by his own half-brother, Henry, who became the first king of the Trastámara lineage, Henry the 2nd of Trastámara, being an illegitimate son.

Cruel or Fair?

It is difficult to position oneself on one side or the other of the scale, considering that Peter the 1st murdered anyone who was not in his side. He was a person with a harsh and severe character, although he presented many characteristics of a great king: equitable, strategist, little visceral.

What we can be sure of is that, throughout Spanish history, there has been no other king who thought that we are all human beings, regardless of what we believe in. Being a king from the 14th Century, he was ahead of his times.

Therefore, everything depends on the perspective: in the eyes of the nobility and the clergy, Peter was very cruel; for the Jews and Muslims who lived freely during his reign, Peter was very fair.

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