1902 Encyclopedia > Henry II, King of Castile

Henry II, King of Castile

HENRY II. (1333-1379), king of Castile, surnamed el Bastarde- or de la Merced, was one of the six illegitimate sons of King Alphonso " the Avenger," and consequently half-brother to Pedro the Cruel, who legally succeeded to the throne of Castile in 1350. His mother was Leonora de Guzman. The extraordinary series of cold-blooded murders which earned for Pedro his unenviable surname encouraged Henry, then known as count of Trastamara, to lead repeated rebellions, in which, with the aid of the French under Du Guesclin, and in spite of the opposition of the English under the Black Prince, he was ultimately successful in 1369. He immediately proceeded to direct his arms against the most formidable of his numerous enemies, King Ferdinand of Portugal, and by four campaigns, during the last of which he forced his way to the very gates of Lisbon (March 1373), succeeded in establishing a favourable peace. At the same time he entered into a treaty with the king of Navarre, which sub-sisted, however, for only three years; in 1375 friendly relations with the king of Aragon were formed, which were cemented by the marriage of the daughter of the latter to Don Juan of Castile. The reign of Henry II., which was devoted rather to defensive than to aggressive warfare, was not marked by any of the usual exploits against the Moors, but it is distinguished in the annals of Castile by some noteworthy improvements in legislation and reforms in the administration of justice, sanctioned in the cortes of Toro in 1369 and 1372 ; and Spanish historians also mention with special pride the defeat of the English by the Spanish fleet at Rochelle in 1372. Henry died, of poison it is supposed, on May 30, 1379, and was succeeded by his son John (Juan) I.

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