Civil Wars of the Christian Kingdoms

1054 to 1474
Christian Princes — versus — Christian Princes

Wars of the Sons of Ferdinand I — 1066-1072      Wars of Peter the Cruel — 1356-1375     
Civil Wars of Portugal — 1385-1385      War of the Castilian Succession — 1467-1476     


During the eleventh century, the united Kingdom of Castile and Leon, under Alfonso VI became the predominant Christian kingdom within Spain. With his loyal knight "El Cid", Alfonso made the first great strides in the reconquest of Spain from the Moslem Moors, but it was not until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, about 300 years later, that the last of the Moors were finally driven from the Iberian Peninsula. During these four centuries, from about 1054, when Ferdinand the Great, the father of Alfonso, divided his kingdom between his sons, and 1474, when Isabella gained the throne of Castile amid an on-going civil war, numerous wars were fought within between the Christian kingdoms, usually relating to disputed successions.

Wars of the Sons of Ferdinand I : 1066 to 1072

castilian wars
Ferdinand the Great was an important king of Castile who reigned from 1029 until 1065. His dominions were joined by marriage with that of Leon, and during his long reign he did much to expand his territories by waring with his Christian neighbors in Navarre and Galacia, and also with the Moorish kingdoms in Northern Spain, such as Saragossa. He gained such predominance over his neighbors that he was eventually recognized by the pope as an independent emperor Hispania, which meant that he did not have to do homage to the Holy Roman Emperor. Instead of leaving his kingdom to his eldest son, Sancho II, however, he divided it at his death, which lead to several years of civil war. Sancho recieved Castile, Alfonso received Leon, and the youngest brother, Garcia received Galacia. From the death of Ferdinand I in 1064 until the murder of Sancho, in 1072, the brothers were always at war, and at one point Alfonso fled to the Moorish king of Toledo for protection. The wars generally went in favor of Sancho, and he won several important victories over his siblings and was close to consolidating his kingdom when he was assassinated. Since Sancho had no heir, his kingdom went to Alfonso, so it was Alfonso, rather than Sancho, who became the next emperor of Spain.

The most notable character in these wars was El Cid, the famous knight of Castile, who later spent much of his career fighting the Moors. In his early years however, he was first recognized as a champion under Ferdinand I, and fought for Sancho II in his wars against his brothers. On the death of Sancho, Cid served Alfonso VI, but although Cid won great victories for Alfonso, and did nothing to defy or rebel against his soverieign, Alfonso was always suspicious of El Cid, and frequently persecuted him. In spite of these indignities, Cid served Alfonso loyally, and aided him in many of his conquests against the Moors. The poem, The Song of El Cid, recounts the entire career of El Cid, including his role in the wars between the sons of Ferdinand I, and delves into his complicated relationship with his distrustful sovereign.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Atapuerca (Sons of Ferdinand I ) Castilians victory
Fought September 1, 1054 between and army of Castilians under Ferdinand I, and Navarrese under King Garcia of Navarre. The Castilians were victorious and King Garcia was killed. As a result of this battle, Ferdinand annexed considerable territory to his domains.
Battle of Graus (Sons of Ferdinand I ) Castilians and Zaragoza victory
Fought May 8, 1062, between the Aragonese under Ramiro I, and the Moorish forces of Zaragoza under king al-Muktadir, who were allied with a Castilian army led by Prince Sancho, heir to the Castilian throne. The victory went to the Zaragoza and Castilian forces and king Ramiro I was killed. The battle is notable for being the first combat of El Cid, who fought under Sancho.
Battle of Llantada (Sons of Ferdinand I ) Castilians victory
Fought July 19, 1068, between the Castilian forces of Sancho II, and Alfonso VI of Leon. The victory went to Sancho, largely due to the efforts of El Cid, who fought for Castile.
Battle of Golpejera (Sons of Ferdinand I ) Castilians victory
Fought Jan, 1072 between the forces of Castile, under Sancho II and El Cid, and Alfonso VI of Leon. The victory went to Sancho II and Alfonso fled to Toledo. Shortly after the battle, however, Sancho II was assassinated, and Alfonso inherited the kingdoms of Leon and Castile.

Short Biography
Ferdinand the Great Soverign who united the Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, and Galacia, and won territory from the Moors.
Sancho II of Castile Son of Ferdinand the Great, who warred with his brothers for control of Castile and Leon.
El Cid Legendary Spanish hero of chivalry. Loyal to Alfonso VI in spite of treachery. Conquered Valencia.
Ramiro I of Aragon Aragon king who was defeated by Sancho II of Castile at the battle of Graus.
Alfonso VI King of Castile who with his great warrior El Cid, reconquered Toledo and much other territory from the Moors.

Book Links
Story of the Cid for Young People  by  C. D. Wilson

Story Links
Book Links

Wars of Peter the Cruel : 1356 to 1375

castilian wars
For several hundred years after the rise of the kingdom of Castile under Alfonso VI, the Christians contented themselves mainly with fighting the Moors. During these years all of the Christian kingdoms, including Portugal, Castile, and Aragon gained territory, especially after the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the early thirteenth century. In the mid fourteenth century however, England and France became involved in a long struggle known as the Hundred Years War, and when the kingdom of Castile became embroiled in a conflict between the monarchy and the barons, France and England took opposite sides in the struggle, and what started as a dispute between half-brothers evolved into a wide-scale civil war.

The central character in this drama was Peter the Cruel, whose claim to the throne was disputed by his half-brother, Henry of Trastamara. Henry allied himself with the kingdoms of Aragon and France, and also a number of disgruntled Castilian nobles. Peter, on the other hand, allied himself with Genoa, Navarre, and England. The early battles were fought mainly on the border between Castile and Aragon, but in 1366 Peter ended up being dethroned, and at that point, approached Edward, the Black Prince, who was at the time the Duke of Aquitaine. This resulted in the battle of Navarrete, which is often considered an important battle in the Hundred Years War because it pitted the English Black Prince, against the French hero of the day, Bertrand du Guesclin. The victory went to the English, and Peter was successfully re-enthroned, but he continued to rule poorly, and failed to pay his heavy war debts to England. His success was short lived however, a few years later his enemies attacked again, and this time he was murdered at the battle of Campo de Montiel. The crown of Spain returned to Henry of Trastamara and Spain became an ally of France.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Algheri (Pedro the Cruel ) Aragonese victory
Fought 1353, between the Aragonese under Pedro IV and the Genoese. Pedro won a complete victory, driving the Genoese out of Sardinia, the whole of which island became an appanage of the crown of Aragon.
Battle of Montiel (Pedro the Cruel ) French victory
Fought 1369, between the French, under Bertrand du Guesclin, and the Spaniards, under Pedro II of Castile. Pedro was routed and taken prisoner, and Henry of Trastamare placed on the throne of Castile.
Battle of Navarrete (Pedro the Cruel ) English(Pedro) victory
Fought April 3, 1367, between 24,000 English, under Edward the Black Prince, and 60,000 French and Spaniards, under Bertrand du Guesclin and Henry de Trastamare. The English, mainly owing to the skill of their archers, completely defeated their opponents, with heavy loss, du Guesclin being made prisoner. This battle is also known as the Battle of Najara.

Short Biography
Pedro of Castile King of Castile with reputation as dishonorable, murderous tyrant. Eventually deposed by half-brother Henry Trastamara.
The Black Prince Excellent general and leader who ruled alongside his father, Edward III. Victor at the Battle of Poitiers.
Bertrand du Guesclin French commander during the Hundred Years war, who harassed the English rather than seeking pitched battles.
Peter IV of Aragon King of Aragon who was allied with Henry Trastamare against Peter the Cruel.
Henry Trastamare Defeated Peter the Cruel, and assumed the throne of Castile. Founded the Trastamare dynasty.

Story Links
Book Links
Spain a Battle-field  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott

Civil Wars of Portugal : 1385 to 1385

castilian wars
The kingdom of Portugal rose to power under Afonso Henriques, in the twelve century, when he declared its independence from Leon, and made good his declaration by defeating his mother, the countess Theresa, at the Battle of Sao Mamede. He followed up this success with two major victories over the Moors, first at Ourique and later at Lisbon. Each of these victories gave Portugal great gains in territory, and firmly established its independence.

The dynasty founded by Afonso survived for over 200 years, until the year 1383 when Ferdinand I of Portugal died without a male heir. The throne was then disputed between Beatrice, the daughte of Ferdinand, who was betrothed to the Castilian King, and her cousin John I of Portugal. There would likely have not been a succession problem if Beatrice had not been engaged to the king of Castile, but the Portuguese nobles, led by John I, feared the Portugal would become a vassal state of Castile, and rebelled at the union. After two years without any crowned king, John I, defeated the king of Castile at the battle of Aljubarotta, and soon afterward, was crowned king of Portugal. It was during the reign of the Aziz dynasty, founded by John I, that Portugal rose to prominance as a sea-faring country, and the empire of Portugal was established.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Sao Mamede (portugal ) Portuguese victory
Fought June 24, 1128 between the forces of Afonso I, a grandson of Alfonso VI of Castile, and those of his mother, Countess Theresa of Portugal. Afonso, supported by many Portuguese nobles who desired independence from Leon, defeated the armies of Galacia and Leon. He shortly afterward declared himself King of Portugal.
Battle of Atoleiros (Portuguese Civil War ) portuguese victory
Fought April 6 1384 between the Portuguese, under Nuno Pereira and a force of Castilians under John I of Castile. At the time Portugal was without a king and John of Castile was betrothed to the princess of Portugal, but opposed by many of the Castilian nobles. The battle went in favor of the Portuguese, but was indecisive.
Battle of Aljubarotta (Portuguese Civil War ) portuguese victory
Fought August, 1385, between the Castilians, under John I, in support of the claim of Beatrix of Castile to the throne of Portugal, and the Portuguese under the Regent John. The Portuguese inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Spaniards, and John I was compelled to withdraw his troops, and renounce his sister's claim.

Story Links
Book Links
Close of the Portuguese War  in  Isabella of Castile  by  Oliver Otis Howard

Short Biography
John I of Portugal Founded the Aziz monarchy in Portugal after defeated the forces of his cousin Beatrice.

War of Castilian Succession : 1467 to 1476

castilian wars
During the youth of Isabella of Castile, her claim to the throne was not clearly established. A daughter had been born to her brother elder brother, Henry of Castile, but many nobles questioned the paternity of the princess, and disliked Henry, whose court was very corrupt. A large faction of the nobles, led by the powerful Archbishop of Toledo, favored the cause of Isabella's younger brother Alfonso, and led an army against Henry. In the ensuing battle, Alfonso was killed. They rebellious nobles then attempted to place Isabella on the throne, but she refused to align herself with the rebels, and swore fealty to Henry. Henry then forswore the Princes Juana, and stipulated that his sister Isabella should succeed him. Isabella, however, did not appear to many in Henry's court as easy enough to control, so a marriage was arranged between the disowned princess Juana, and the Prince of Portugal. From that point on, Portugal, and many of the nobles loyal to Henry favored Juana's cause. Henry tried to arrange a marriage of his liking for Isabella, but instead she married Ferdinand of Aragon. The conflict and scheming continued even after Isabella was crowned Queen of Castile, until Ferdinand soundly defeated the forces of Portugal at the battle of Toro.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Olmedo (Castilian Succession ) Castilians victory
Fought 1467, between the Spanish adherents of the Infante Alfonso, a claimant to the throne, under the Archbishop of Toledo, and the Royal troops, under Henry of Castile. After an action which began late in the afternoon, and lasted for three hours, without any very decisive result, the Archbishop, who was considerably inferior in numbers, withdrew his troops, leaving Henry in possession of the field.
Battle of Toro (Castilian Succession ) Castilians victory
Fought March 1, 1476, between the Portuguese, and the Spanish supporters of Joanna for the throne of Castile, 8,500 strong, under Alfonso of Portugal, and the adherents of Isabella, about equal in numbers, under Ferdinand the Catholic. Ferdinand, after a long march, attacked the Portuguese at 4 p.m., and at the end of two hours' fighting, signally defeated them with heavy loss.

Short Biography
Ferdinand of Aragon King of Aragon who ruled united Spain with Queen Isabel. Drove the Moors out of Granada.
Isabel of Castile Pious and stalwart queen of Spain, unified diverse kingdoms, reformed finances, conquered Granada, financed Columbus.
Archbiship of Toledo Friend and supporter of Isabella of Castile who fought to place her on the throne.
Henry of Castile Elder half-brother of Isabella of Castile who tried to deny her succession to the throne.
Alfonso of Portugal Portuguese prince betrothed to Juana, a claimant to the throne of Castile.

Book Links
Isabella of Castile  by  O. O. Howard

Story Links
Book Links
Chivalry and Crime  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Conspiracies of Villena  in  Isabella of Castile  by  Oliver Otis Howard
Old Alfonso at Toro  in  Isabella of Castile  by  Oliver Otis Howard

Image Links

Pedro III of Aragon watching the flight of the French
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

Death of Pedro the Cruel
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain

Henry of Castile defied by the friends of Isabella
 in Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain