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Maria of Castile (1401–1458)

Maria of Castile (1401–1458)

Queen of Aragon, Naples, and Sicily, a talented monarch and an able administrator, who ruled Aragon successfully for a quarter of a century . Name variations: María of Castile; Mary Trastamara; infanta of Castile. Born on November 14, 1401, in Segovia; died on September 7, 1458 (some sources cite 1457), in Valencia; daughter of Catherine of Lancaster (1372–1418) and Enrique also known as Henry III (1379–1406), king of Castile (r. 1390–1406); married Alfonso or Alphonso V the Magnanimous (1396–1458), king of Aragon (r. 1416–1458), king of Sicily as Alphonso I (r. 1443–1458), in Valencia, Aragon, on June 12 or 13, 1415; children: none. Ferdinand or Ferrante I of Naples (b. 1423, r. 1458–1494) was Alphonso V's illegitimate son.

Her marriage contract negotiated between Castile and Aragon (1408); death of King Ferdinand I of Aragon (April 2, 1416); was viceroy of Aragon (1421–24); negotiated truce between the armies of Aragon and Castile (July 1, 1429); was viceroy of Aragon (1434–58); postponed permanent reunion with Alphonso due to illness (1437); urged neutrality in conflict between Navarre and Castile (July 1444); peace treaty with Castile signed (May 16, 1454); death of Alphonso V (June 27, 1458).

The daughter of Catherine of Lancaster and Henry III of Castile, Maria of Castile was born in 1401. In 1415, she wed her cousin Alphonso V, the future king of Aragon, in a ceremony presided over by Pope Benedict XIII. Alphonso ascended to the throne of Aragon in 1416. During a three-year absence from 1421 to 1424, Alphonso appointed his wife viceroy of Aragon. In 1429, Queen Maria negotiated a truce between the forces of Aragon and Castile. When Alphonso became king of Naples in 1434, Maria of Castile was again appointed his viceroy. With Alphonso in Naples, the two were never to see each other again.

Maria of Castile proved herself both on the battlefield and in the council chamber. She was a deft negotiator, and initiated policies which benefited the common people of Aragon and fostered economic growth. A generous patron of the arts, Maria of Castile also favored monastic reform.

Maria died on September 4, 1458, a few months after her husband. She had been a successful medieval monarch in every respect, save one. Plagued by ill health throughout her life, Maria of Castile failed to provide an heir. A period of political instability followed.

sources:

Bisson, T.N. The Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Ryder, Alan. Alfonso the Magnanimous: King of Aragon, Naples and Sicily. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.

suggested reading:

Miron, E.L. The Queens of Aragon: Their Lives and Times. Port Washington, NY: Hippocrene, 1970.

Hugh A. Stewart , M.A., Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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