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negotiating of treaties

The second son of Ferdinand and Eleanor, John was first married to Blanche, Queen of Navrarre, by whom he had three children: Charles, Blanche and Eleanor. He married Joanna Enriquez in 1447, by whom he had two more children, Ferdinand and Joanna.

A born trouble-maker, but one of the most formidable politicians of the fifteenth cenrury, John’s early years were spent attempting to take over the government of Castile, often in concert with his brother Henry. His brother King Alfonso, known as ‘the Magnanimous’, lived in his conquered kingdom of Naples after 1435, partly as a way of keeping out of his brothers’ quarrels, leaving his estranged wife Maria to govern in his stead. 

John had also acted as his brother’s llochtenant (deputy) in Aragon and Catalonia before inheriting the crown at the age of sixty in 1458. His feud with his eldest son Charles was one of the causes of the Catalan civil war (1462-1472), in which a series of pretenders claimed the Catalan throne, whilst Aragon and Valencia remained mainly loyal to the king. In order to obtain the support of his younger daughter Eleanor and her husband Gaston de Foix, John arrested her elder sister Blanche, the rightful queen of Navarre, and handed her over to Eleanor, who imprisoned her in the Castle of Olite. Two years later, tired of her inconvenient house guest, Eleanor had Blanche posioned.

Despite his age and deteriorating eyesight, John battled the rebels with the help of his wife and younger son, eventually retaking Barcelona in 1472. He successfully underwent operations for removal of cataracts, and regained his sight at the age of 70. He was a very able diplomatist who formed alliances with England and Burgundy against his great enemy, France. John died on 20 January 1479, at the remarkable age of eighty. John was tough, intelligent and brave, but was also cold, calculating and ruthless. His greatest enemy, Louis XI of France, called him ‘The Wolf’.

Joanna Enriquez was the daughter of Frederick Enriquez, a leading Castilian nobleman of royal (and Jewish) descent, and his first wife, Mariana de Cordoba. Following her marriage to Prince John, she acted as his llochtenant in Navarre, which she came into conflict with her stepson Charles.
Accused (probably unjustly) of having ordered the poisoning of Charles who died in 1461, Joanna fled to Girona (Catalonia), where she was besieged with her nine year old son in the castle for two months by the rebel Count of Pallars. Joanna bravely organised the castle’s defences until their rescue by her stepson-in-law Gaston de Foix. This marked the beginning of civil war in Catalonia which lasted for ten years. Joanna played a major part, presiding over the corts (parliaments), leading armies and negotiating treaties. Her greatest wish was to have her son married to Infanta Isabella, half-sister and heiress presumptive of King Henry IV of Castile. However, Joanna died on 13 February 1468 from breast cancer, which she had fought for the previous five years, a year before the marriage occurred. She was survived by her husband, who never remarried and reigned until his death in 1479. The Aragonese historian Zurita described her as ‘a most excellent and valiant princess’