17 –25th July– Princess of Castile

Joan of Kent – 15th July 1355

‘Alyse, we need to have another talk… about your parents. I have spoken to Lady Eleanor and she has told me that you are indeed a daughter of her sister Maria Padilla and King Pedro. You are, young lady, a princess of Castile and I will always regard you as such.

However, you were born in 1338 long before Pedro married Maria in 1353. Lady Eleanor is of the opinion it was better not to let you know who your parents were to avoid any possibility of you becoming embroiled in any dispute about the rightful Castilian succession. She was probably right, Castile has not a good record of dealing with contested successions’

Alyse interrupted. ‘So I became Lady Eleanor’s companion and effectively her servant! I think it might have been better to let me know my heritage and let me make up my own mind what to do about it.’

Joan nodded in what she hoped was a sympathetic manner.

Alyse continued. ‘There is another issue. My brother Juan, born in 1336 who until recently spent his life as Lady Eleanor’s troubadour, will discover that but for issues of legitimacy, he is heir to the throne of Castile.

Joan winced. ‘Yes except for issues of legitimacy. Alyse, it is an incredibly complicated situation. Two days ago you were introduced, as Ximene Trencavel, to Henri Trastamara.’

‘Yes I remember, a Castilian nobleman.’

‘Just a little bit more than that. He is your uncle, an illegitimate son of King Alfonso. Yes, illegitimate and yet he claims to be the rightful king.

‘According to him, your father was born in 1334 which he claims makes him older than your father. I am not sure how that would help him if he is illegitimate… Oh, of course! That is the whole point. His claim about your fathers birth would make it impossible for Pedro to be your father, Henri Trastamara is re-writing the records to strengthen his own claim. If both he and Juan are illegitimate then, in fact, Juan has the stronger claim. But if Juan was born to someone else… Juan has no claim.’

‘I had no idea who Henry of Trastamara was. Can we arrange to meet him again? Perhaps Juan could do a deal relinquish his claim in return for a Castilian honour?’

‘Well no… you can’t… talk to him that is.  The Prince has something of a history with Castile. During the reign of King Alphonso the Franks were supported by Castilian ships, first at the battle of Sluys in 1340 and then Winchelsea in 1350. The Prince was nearly drowned at Winchelsea where the Castilian fleets were commanded by Charles de la Cerda, another claimant to the Castilian throne. Since 1351 when your father took the throne this support of the Franks has ceased. 

The Prince asked Tramastara to guarantee there would be no further support of the Franks by Castillian ship. For reasons which escape me, considering he was asking for the Prince’s support, he refused to give the guarantee. He said he had no control of the ports in northern Castile.

Well, of course, he has no control now… he is not king.

The Prince told Trastamara that he wanted specific assurances. he refused to give them. The Prince gave him no encouragement, told him he recognises Pedro as the rightful king. I understand he has left for Paris to try his luck with the Franks.

Joan was silent for a moment. ‘Nevertheless, if Juan is interested; there might, in the future, be an opportunity. ‘

Joan looked at Alyse with new eyes. ‘Princess of Castile, Lady of the sun. What does the future hold for you? It is just possible that you and your brother might help solve the Prince’s Castilian problem?

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel